March 20, 2017: Cold Bike Ride; Signs of Spring; Kid Soccer; Brussels Sprouts; Androp’s Famous Sauce; Forming Society

March 20, 2017: Cold Bike Ride; Signs of Spring; Kid Soccer; Brussels Sprouts; Androp’s Famous Sauce; Forming Society

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Frost-nipped cheeks resulted from cold riding.  Henbit (top) and a cave with an Eastern Phoebe (bottom) were signs of spring.

Androp ventured on a bike ride on a bright, sunny morning with the temperature at 44 F and a 12 mph wind.  Feet went numb and cheeks felt mild frost bike.  Pedaling was slow.  Hint: bright sunshine will not very much counteract the impact of cold air temperatures.

Signs of spring: Western Chorus Frogs were singing, despite the cold, from a shallow pond along the bike trail.

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Western Chorus frogs make a big sound for a small animal.  Eastern Phoebe’s arrive early in the spring.  Henbit (a mint) is among the first annuals to bloom in abundance.

Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule) was abundant in last year’s soybean fields.  And an Eastern Phoebe was seen and heard defending a nesting site in the mouth of a cave.

In culinary notes, brussels sprouts and chicken quarters were cooked on the gas grill for one meal.  The sprouts were almost good. Almost.  Steak, potatoes, baked pears, corn on the cob, and steamed asparagus were made for Sunday.  Androp’s famous white sauce was made to couple with asparagus:

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These brussels sprouts were made edible by halving, buttering, and cooking on the grill.  The chicken was delicious.

-1/3rd cup each of Greek yogurt and mayonnaise,

-one tsp each of dill and paprika,

-two tsp of lemon juice,

-1/4th tsp salt

This simple white sauce goes well with fish, asparagus, and really, pretty much anything.  It is so often requested that it is called “Androp’s famous sauce” around the house.

The youngest grandchild was taken to “organized” soccer practice.  This is how that goes, with 2 and 3 year old kids:

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Young children do not much benefit from coaching.  Squashing the ball (left) and scoring (right).

Coach, “This class is adult-help.”

Adults, to selves “Oh.  Holy Crap. Buck up.  Strap in.”

Coach, “Take your little rings.  Sit in your rings.”

Team, Pick up rings, toss, use as hoola hoop, hit other kids in head.

Coach, “Where are you ears?  Touch your listening ears.”

Team, No Reaction. Continue to play with ring.

Coach, “Where are your soccer feet? Touch your soccer feet.”

Team, No Reaction.  Continue to play with ring.  Fidget.  Struggle against adults who are frantically restraining movement.

Androp, to self, “Geezus. This is senseless.  These kids do not know the coach exists on earth.  Just let them run……Please…. open revolt is possible…Just. Let. Them. Run!”

Mercifully, the Coach said,  “Okay. Run (a “toward something” was stated by Coach, but that part was inconsequential).”  This was the highlight of practice for every child.

Finally, Androp has pondered how humans, a species of small troupe primate, have been able to form societies with millions of members.  Foremost is the recognition that humans  are smart buggers: they can learn, and can pass on knowledge, so they have been able to find ways to ensure the growth of a large, essentially pan-earth population (7 billion, and counting).  Stream of thought includes:

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Among humans, in-groups and out-groups can be defined by color.  Not so much for sheep, apparently.
  1. Cooperation at some level is an advantage; the individual needs the troupe
  2. Selfishness and the attainment of high social status may have been an evolutionary advantage at times: the sultan/king has a lot of off-spring out of that harem/stable of concubines. Never mind Joseph Smith and Brigham Young: light weights.
  3. Populations of both in-groups and out-groups have increased: small troupes cannot compete in a pastoral, agricultural, or industrial age.
  4. Large in-groups have to maintain internal order or break apart, leaving themselves susceptible to attack by larger out-groups. This is manifest in the establishment of governments and institutions.
  5. He who must not be named in the USA has explicitly re-defined a limited in-group (that does not include all humans in the USA) and made them frightened of both internal (other USA citizens) and external out-groups. This will tend to destabilize and fragment the original in-group (the USA as a whole).

 

 

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March 13: Lawns, Urban Burning, Spring, Brown Sauce, Envy

March 13: Lawns, Urban Burning, Spring, Brown Sauce, Envy

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A good urban lawn (left, Androp’s; note bare ground), a bad lawn (right, note evidence of fertilization, herbicides, and gasoline mower).  Reasonable urban space management (below): prescribed fire applied to native plants.

Humans spend excessive time and energy on maintenance of tame grasses they call “lawns.”  Nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, and gasoline are all used in abundance on these largely useless grassy areas.  They are pollution pits and wastes of fossil fuels.  The tendency to try to manage the environment seems universal among humans, but urban lawns are a particularly radical, and way too popular, example.  City ordinances sometimes preclude reasonable people from doing the right thing: they force the pollution and waste that goes with lawn maintenance on homeowners.  Androp favors those humans getting over it.  Late winter burning of unfertilized native plants seems more reasonable.

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Decorative magnolias and Bradford pears always bloom before the last cold snap.

The decorative magnolia trees and Bradford pears bloomed two weeks ago, so this last blast of freezing temperatures in town was due.  The return of cold corresponded with a return to Daylight Savings Time, so confusion and disorientation resulted.

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Photodocumentation of cold snap, and what made the unicorn’s butt wet.

DST was adopted nationally by most states in 1966.  The primary result was supposed to be energy savings.  Now, nearly nobody approves of switching time twice a year, and no real energy savings result.  However, switching back to not switching time would take an act of Congress, and everyone knows that will not happen.

The culinary note involves a brown sauce (gravy), in this case, made for serving over rice and seared scallops.

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Stages of brown gravy making: browning flour in butter with onions, garlic, and milk waiting to added (left), bubbling gravy (top right), and gravy over seared scallops and rice (bottom right).

The easiest way to make gravy is to put equal parts flour and butter in a pan, brown a bit, and then add whatever is desired for flavor.  In this case, onions were browned, then some crushed garlic was added.  Those were removed, then scallops were seared.  Finally, 1 tbl butter and 1 tbl flour (plus salt and pepper) were added and the flour was browned.  Then 1 c milk and the browned onions and garlic were added back and heated until bubbly.  Hint: for white gravy, the flour is not browned, but this results in a somewhat doughy-tasking gravy.  Androp prefers to brown the flour.

Finally, under humans are strange, Androp has been considering the source of envy.  Probably, recognition of good resources is adaptive, and a desire to take those away from other troupes of humans could be seen as adaptive.

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The once-adaptive tendency for humans to recognize and acquire resources to enhance survival and reproduction is now manifest in desires for useless objects, like fancy cars and huge mansions.

Modern humans manifest this desire for resources a yearning for material goods such as automobiles and houses.  Ironically, survival and reproduction of modern humans in the developed world is not enhanced by owning these types of resources.  High social status might also have improved fitness throughout most of our evolutionary history, but not any longer in the developed world.  The current desire for high social status may partly explain our fascination and admiration of celebrities.  Possibly, this explains partly the election of he who must not be named.  Humans are an exceptionally strange species, and possibly are becoming more and more ill-adapted to the environment they have created for themselves.

March 7, 2017: Dangerous Cats, Biking in Wind, Broken Glass, Muffin Bread, Spring, Carrion

March 7, 2017:  Dangerous Cats, Biking in Wind, Broken Glass, Muffin Bread, Spring, Carrion

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Cats are a danger to humans: tripping and diseases are hazards.

Cats serve humans as surrogate non-needy friends, or as substitute children.  Setting aside the disagreeable task of cleaning their litter boxes, they do pose significant actual dangers to humans.  They get underfoot and can trip the unsuspecting and cause broken wrists, broken hips, and brain-threatening concussions.  Even when falling is avoided, they trigger emotional distress when humans step on them and make them yowl.

“Gawdamit!  Sorry, cat!  I did not mean to step on you.  Stoopid cat.  Get out from under my frisking feet.”

Some seconds later, when panic begins to fade, to self, muttering, “Geezus I hope I did not break that cat’s leg.  Crimony.  Not my fault.  Fricking cat.”

Most concerning are the cat-born diseases.  Toxoplasmosis can be transmitted by felines and is a parasite that may negatively impact risk assessment.  No human needs to be worse at risk assessment: their skill level is horrible in the modern world.  Infection rates among adult humans in the USA are about 18%.to 19%.  Look it up.  Approximately 60 million adults in the USA are/have been infected with Toxoplasmosis.  This figure roughly corresponds with the number of humans who voted for he who must not be named.  Coincidence?

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Wind is the biker’s enemy

Androp went biking in winds that hovered near 12 mph on an overcast, 50 F morning.  Riding out into the wind was brutal.  Riding back was a breeze (pun intended).  Hint: ride out into the wind, and back with the wind.  Pay attention.  Also, when a rider reaches 8 to 10 mph on a bike, nearly all of the riding resistance comes from wind.  The weight of the bike matters little: given a human weighting 200 lbs, pedaling a bike that weights 35 lbs versus 25 lbs only add 4.4% to the load.  Riding resistance is impacted even less.  Likewise, tire tread and tire circumference add little riding resistance.  Google Sheldon Brown (insert biking subject) for more information.

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Puddles of crushed glass are hard in bicycle tires.  Garbage trucks have been leaking.

Speaking of biking and broken glass: the wife successfully sleuthed the source of puddles of broken glass that appear on the street in our cul-de-sac: garbage trucks.  This is bad news for biking, especially for non-puncture-resistant youth bike tires.  Bummer.

The culinary notes are sparse: Androp made pulled pork, coleslaw, baked beans, green beans, and fresh English muffin bread this week for the family Sunday meal.  Pulled pork and coleslaw on buns is yummy.  Cook the pork slowly for tenderness: in the oven at about 310 for 4 hours.  Use a fatty roast, such as “butt roast” or “Boston Butt” or “shoulder roast.”  These are all from the shoulder area.  Pork loin sucks for pulled pork: too lean.  English muffin bread (also called toasting bread) is probably the easiest yeast loaf to make for the first-time baker.  No kneading, no stand or hand mixer needed, and only one rise required.  The loaves are firm and can be sliced thin for toasting.  All recipes for this loaf are similar.  Pleasing, bigger loaves will result if the baker adds about 25% to all ingredients from most recipes.

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English muffin bread (one loaf partially consumed, above) is easy for first-time bakers.  Pulled pork requires a fatty roast, slow cooked.

 

Signs of spring are abundant in Androp’s home town: decorative magnolia trees and Bradford pears are in bloom.  Generally, this means one more freeze on the year.

Finally, Androp has a friend who feeds carrion to Turkey Vultures in his back year.  They need to eat, too.  An interesting note: no wintering Turkey Vultures were recorded in Androp’s home town during the Christmas bird counts until the 1990’s.  More than a dozen were observed along Missouri River bluffs during Saturday’s bike ride.  The reason is unknown, but the appearance of vultures does correspond with the building of sewage ponds, and of wildlife conservation ponds, in the area.  Could dead ducks have attracted the wintering vultures?  The curious await a better explanation.

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Photodocumentation of carrion being fed to a Turkey Vulture in a suburban back yard.  All birds have to eat.  Vultures were going to get this dead animal anyway.