Androp Gerard has never appeared in a picture with The Grinch, because they are the same person.
This year, the Christmas season progressed as usual: from broken routines to creeping unease to swirling confusion and uncertainty, followed by debilitating anxiety and brief incapacitation.
Fleeting Norman Rockwell-esque moments were centered around the grandchildren cooking with Mom and Yaya.
Androp’s job was to buy a large basket of groceries. Androp’s chef knife was used during the cooking process by people other than him, and it was treated with disrespect, but without apparent harm. This is proof of God.
Finally, an unblemished goat was again sacrificed this year to ensure that days will get longer and spring will come. The same goat as last year was sacrificed. Recall that the sacrifice consists of shouting, “Bad goat! Bad, bad goat! You are a bad girl!” until she is thoroughly servile and obsequious. The short, cold, gloomy days should now not persist. You are all welcome.
January 26: Ready to Eat Again: The Strike is Over
Androp Gerard is ending his hunger/non-blogging strike that began in protest to the election of he who must not be named. To blog followers: sorry for not announcing the beginning of the strike. But this is the end of it. Resistance will continue. Life goes on.
The older child went on a cruise and the wife and Androp had three grandchildren and two extra dogs for 10 days. The grandchildren were delightful. The dogs were as much fun as a visit to the dentist. (Androp despises dentists).
Here’s an interesting note: these grandchildren are all younger than 7. Yet, they understood that they were to stay with us for an extended period. Consequently, their behavior around the house as longer-term guests was immediately strikingly different versus their behavior during frequent visits. Even young humans can be remarkably smart and perceptive. Startling.
Recall that the goat sacrifice worked, and days continue to lengthen. In anticipation of warmer weather, serious research on youth bikes has ensued. The two older grandchildren need bike up-grades: both learned to ride last fall. They need lighter, youth-specific bikes:
Adult Weight (me): 215 lbs
My Bike: 28 lbs
Kid Weight (7 YO) 55 lbs
Kid Bike (mainstream maker) 28 lbs
Woom and Islabikes are the two youth-specific bike makers that seem best based on review of web sites. Spawn has mainly boys bikes. Cleary will not publish the weight of their bikes. Trek may have one model worth looking at, but Jamis, Specialized, Giant, Diamondback, Schwinn, and Kona have no reasonable youth bikes.
In nature news, four white-tailed deer were attracted to a pile of corn the neighbors put out during a cold spell. During a snap of colder weather, bird activity at the feeders and bird bath increased. Eastern Bluebirds are seldom seen unless all water in the area is frozen, save what is in our bird hot tub. The most abundant species this year has been Goldfinches; White-throated Sparrows seem down from last year. A presumed nesting pair of Barred Owls have been heard hooting back and forth on several occasions these past 10 days.
Finally, in politics: this blog will attempt to address this subject only on the rare occasion in the future. Androp Gerard needs to practice better coping mechanisms to maintain personal resilience. Avoidance of news is one strategy. The most striking recent revelation seems to be increasing paranoia in he who must not be named.
“You’d be paranoid too, if everyone was out to get you.” – Frank Burns, M*A*S*H
December 29, 2016: Christmas: Caution, Androp Gerard is Scrooge
Christmas, 2016, is past. Androp Gerard has already progressed to trepidation about the impending Christmas 2017. Here’s the reality: in the USA, many tend to want more than they can possibly get at Christmas, in every way. Disconnection from expectations rooted in reality is widespread. Acute, pervasive, near-insanity is the outcome.
The progression of the seasons can be marked by Nature’s schedule: nobody knows the date of the first blooming daffodil of the spring, first singing Cicada of the summer, or first returning White-crowned Sparrow of the fall. None of these come with unrealistic expectations of personal fulfillment and family bliss. Maybe that is why they are delightful, even joyful.
Christmas is just the opposite: too much is planned and too much is expected.
December 15, 2016: Costa Rica & Australia Travel Comments; Humans Do Not Benefit from a Sunny Disposition
Androp Gerard, the wife, and another couple traveled to Costa Rica in January and Australia in July this past year. Even though travel logs are profoundly dull and tedious, these trips will now be briefly documented with non-annotated comments.
First, an observation on selfies of people pretending to have fun on Facebook: those types of snapshots were born tiresome, and can get irritating quickly. Hint: your friends know your life is not one profoundly jubilant moment after another. Stop bragging on Facebook. Get a real life.
This leads to a comment on human disposition: brains evolved to keep us alive and ensure reproduction. A naturally sunny disposition probably does not help in this regard. A moderately glum affect does not hurt. Androp Gerard advises humans who are not generally about-to-pee-your-pants joyful from minute to minute to stop worrying.
Persistence and resilience are certainly adaptive to a point. These qualities seem not to be tightly linked with disposition. Glum people seem to carry on the same as sunny people. Overly positive people may risk over-estimating their ability:
“A man’s GOT to know his limitations.” – Harry Callahan, MagnumForce, said through clenched teeth just after he blew up the bad guy.
Birding and other general nature watching were Androp Gerard’s primary objectives during the Costa Rica and Australia trips. The following comments apply:
Costa Rica is easier to reach than Australia, and is set up for nature tourism. That country is recommended. If going to Australia, you need a month, at least. Recovery from jet lag (circadian dysthythmia) is harder than can be expressed via words forming sentences.
Androp Gerard takes guided nature tours. For anyone with any level of anxiety, this is recommended.
In Costa Rica, Monte Verde (cloud forest) and Tortuguero (rainforest) are must-see. Arenal volcano has large, posh resorts. Carara park and the Tarcoles river are where people go to see crocodiles.
In Australia, the Daintree Rainforest and Great Barrier Reef are both World Heritage Sites, and share a common border along the NE Australian border, N of Port Douglas. Do not miss those. The Great Ocean Road SW of Melbourne is worth a look.
Finally, a note on politics: Androp Gerard is avoiding this subject for the most part, as a coping mechanism. The objective realities in this arena could not be more grim. As an index, note that at least one member of the electoral college from Texas has stated he will not vote for Trump. A movement to convince 36 others to not vote Trump has emerged. If a good number of leading Republicans would come out in favor of this movement, it could succeed. But that will not happen, even if the orange anus shot someone in the face on 5th Ave. in NYC.
December 12, 2016: Post 2 – Humans, Wealth, and Politics
The big political news seems to center around Putin loving Trump so much that Russia tried to ensure his election. Some of these humans know why, or at least have a very good idea, but nobody is talking openly yet.
Trump is selecting a murderer’s row of multi-national corporate leaders supplemented by overt racists in key positions. Nothing unexpected is happening.
A new report on income and wealth came out and went somewhat under the radar. The ultra-rich are getting richer, but most people end up with about the same real income as their parents.
For people born in 1940, there was a 92% chance that they would make more than their parents by the time they were in their 30’s. Now that chance is 50%. In other words, half the people in their 30’s are doing worse than their parents did in their 30’s.
That means (1) the pie is remaining the same size relative to our population, or if the pie is growing, (2) ultra-rich people are eating more of the pie. Based on the data, both things seem to be happening.
Some humans think the poor people are eating too much of the pie. However, they had no pie in 1950, 1960, 1970, and so on. They have even less today than ever. To assert that you do not have enough because the poor people have too much is to say this: you would have more pie if all of the poor people who are not you were dead. This seems immoral.
Here is something that is objectively true and not that profound: the world is finite. The pie cannot continue to grow in size.
It should be noted that when Androp Gerard was born, there were about 175 million humans in the USA, and there are about 320 million now. More humans are taking a slice of the pie. Globally, those numbers are 2.5 billion humans 60 years ago and 7.5 billion humans now.
Global resource disputes among humans and extinctions of other species seem almost certain to intensify as long as the human population continues to trend upward. This cannot continue forever though. The current uber-tribalism in the USA might be explained by simple resource shortages: too many of us are not doing as well as our parents, and we are blaming each other. That trend seems likely to continue for the near future, but who knows?
In cooking news, I made two dishes: a linguini with shrimp and clams in a cream sauce, and a classic pot roast. Both dishes were very simple, and they both turned out great. For the seafood pasta:
3/4 C whipping cream
1 C clam juice
1/3 C Chardonnay wine
3 tbl butter
Half a chopped onion
One clove crushed garlic (strictly for the fragrance)
1 lb shrimp
2 cans chopped clams
1 tsp salt
1 tbl flour
½ tsp basil
1 short tbl dried parsley
Thaw shrimp. Hint: unless you are on the coast, buy frozen shellfish. The stuff under the glass behind the counter has been frozen then thawed out. It sits back there in the open with all the other rotting fish. Avoid it.
Cook shrimp in hot butter. Hint: do not cook it much. It is easy to overcook fish of all kinds. When in doubt, consider it done. The shrimp should turn from shiny to white with pink lines, barley. Remember: you can eat it raw. People pay a lot to eat raw seafood in Japan. Remove the barely-cooked shrimp from the pan.
Drain pan, wipe pan (there will be water in that pan, you don’t want it). Cook onion in 2 tbls hot butter until it starts to brown, then add garlic for no more than one minute. Add 1 tbl flour. Hint: you want to cook that flour a bit, because raw flour tastes doughy (duh).
Add the liquid ingredients and the clams and the rest of the spices. Heat until bubbling and bubble for 2 minutes. Add the shrimp back. Stir, remove from heat, cover. Let stand for up to 10 minutes.
Meanwhile cook the linguini. Hint: it will clump unless you stir it. Add some oil to the water you are boiling the pasta in, and pull the pasta up through the oil when stirring. Be sure to add a tbl of salt to the water. You do not need sea salt. Just use kosher salt, or regular salt.
Ladle the sauce over the pasta and serve with fresh parmesan cheese as a topping. Drink the rest of the Chardonnay with the meal. Hint: white wine needs to be chilled, but if not chilled, never add ice to it.
For classic pot roast, I will not give a complete recipe. Here are some hints though:
Use red potatoes, they hold together better, and do not cut them up much
I like to add a few turnips or parsnips; they add a slight peppery flavor to the au jus
Use less Worcestershire sauce than most recipes recommend; substitute apple cider vinegar; do not be afraid of using two tablespoons of vinegar
Drink a medium to high tannin red wine while preparing the pot roast, and with the meal; Androp Gerard always selects Cabernet Sauvignon
Use a good quality 8 inch / 20 cm chef’s knife at all times
Under the heading of birding, Androp Gerard went with a friend and participated in a two-person Christmas Bird Count. Temperatures hovered around freeze-your-butt-off but above oh-shit-it-really-is-too-cold. No visual evidence of the sun’s existence was noted, although it was light enough to see. Two sites were visited, and a total of 27 species were seen:
Site 1, traveling 2.67 miles, 26 species:
Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) 6
Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) 1
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) 1
Barred Owl (Strix varia) 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) 11
Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) 9
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) 5
Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata) 22
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) 3
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) 13
Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor) 4
White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) 11
Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) 8
Golden-crowned Kinglet (Regulus satrapa) 2
Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) 24
Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus) 1
Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata) 1
Fox Sparrow (Passerella iliaca) 1
Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis) 72
White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) 37
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) 49
Swamp Sparrow (Melospiza georgiana) 57 Juncos, song , white-throated, and swamp sparrows were common in the grasslands. Swamp sparrows were seen sometimes in groups of 10.
Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) 17
Purple Finch (Haemorhous purpureus) 8
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis) 3
By tradition, the tiring field survey was followed by consumption of a fried catfish sandwich and beer. Androp Gerard’s pinkie fingers and his often- and recently-broken index finger were still tingling after the post-meal shower.
December 5, 2016: Sporks, Laundry, Why People Are Poor
In culinary comments: the most versatile utensil is the spork. Armed with a spork, a knife (see November 20 Journal entry), a cup, and hands, any food can be eaten. Titanium is the optimal spork-compliant material, but even plastic will do.
Under laundry: recall that Anrdop Gerard suggests that no drier is needed (see November 20 Journal entry). Laundry has been sorted into piles for cleaning mainly by him for decades. He still has no real grasp of this task. Here is an exchange from this past week-end:
Me, picking up an article of dirty laundry, “Lights pile?”
The wife, “Yes.”
Me, next article, so on, until, next article “Darks pile?”
Her, “Light-darks. There is a light-darks and a dark-darks pile.”
Me, “I have been doing this for 30 years, and never have had a light-darks pile. You are just messing with me.”
Me, “Geezus. Wait, what about brights? When I first started this, there was a brights pile, right?”
Her, ** silence **
Me, “Am I right? There used to be a brights pile, right?”
Her, “I keep trying new ways to explain it.”
Me, ** pause, pondering ** “Because I am that stupid? Is it like trying to train a monkey to do calculus?”
Her, **pause** “Basically right.”
Me, ***stare into space***
Her, “It is all about bleeding.” **pause** begins to speak, stops.
Me, next article, “Light-darks?”
Her, “No. That is a light.”
Me, shakes head, left to right **stare into space** then softly, “Jesus Christ.”
Finally, under whypeoplearepoor: this is the wrong question. Some people are just not as able as others (intellectually, emotionally, etc.). Some have a combination of inability and circumstance that is unfortunate for them.
Here is the right question: what do the less able humans deserve? Humans in whom empathy is stronger than selfishness say the less able deserve a reasonable share of the pie. Humans who are more selfish than empathetic say the less able deserve almost nothing. In the USA, the former group are called “Democrats” whereas the latter group are called “Republicans.” Ironically, among white people, more of the less able are Republicans than are Democrats.
Final note on Androp Gerard’s typical “not much happened” week-end, the following occurred Saturday:
Climbing in attic to get down Christmas tree, etc. – without injury
Putting up decorations inside and outside
Making dinner for the wife and younger child: steak and potatoes.
Then on Sunday:
Additional grocery shopping for extended family.
Shopping for a light-activated timer for the outside lights.
Making chili, from dried beans. Salt, sweet (brown sugar), tart (apple cider vinegar), and hot (New Mexico green chilis) were added.
Making cinnamon bread from scratch (use basic challah recipe from Betty Crocker; add 25% more of everything so loaves are bigger. Note: Algebra is used in real life). This was eaten warm, with a lot of butter – hence fat was added, as well as salt and sweet.
Meal and dishes followed by interactions among 8 humans, three under 7 years of age, in a space of approximately 800 square feet. For those who have never done this: imagine being on an elevator with a brass band. That would be about half as chaotic. Imagine the brass band is a stirred-up hive of hornets. That would be twice as chaotic. PS: always kill any flying insect that may sting you. More on this later.
Here is something that has bothered me: Trump’s talk about crotch grabbing and trying to have sex with a married woman was dismissed as “locker room talk” during the campaign. The notion was that “all men talk like that.”
That notion is totalbullshit. Rational humans know it.
Androp goes to the gym four to six days a week when he is ‘on routine’ and around town. This has occurred for more than 15 years. Here are examples of ‘gym talk’ and ‘locker room talk:’
Me, “Good job. You got here.”
Him, “Ya. One. More. Day.”
Many variations occur on this theme.
Or, him, pointing at me, “That is a stud right there.”
Me, “Oh ya. True fact.”
Him, talking to the person next to me, “He looks good for a 90 year old man does he not?”
Many variations occur on this theme, too.
Or, me, to a person sitting on a weight machine, “You cannot go to sleep.”
Him, “What? … –pause–… Hey, where is the server?”
Him, “I have been sitting here 20 minutes, and nobody has even asked me if I want coffee. How do you get service around here?”
Or, him, “Add some more weight to that.”
Me, “I do not want to break the machine.”
Him, “Oh right. Those machines are not made for men like you.”
Being too strong for the machines is a recurring theme.
Or me, “Hey, watch me get on this step machine. I want to be the oldest guy ever to use this and not die of a heart attack.”
Him, “What? Oh no way, I already have the record.”
Or him, “Well, they are going to have to operate on my — insert troublesome body part —”
Me, “Ya? Not good.”
Him, “Yessir. I am up for a full body transplant.”
Me, “Maybe brain. Brain transplant.”
Injuries are a recurring theme. Hips, knees, shoulders, and backs are discussed in approximately equal proportions.
Him, “Hey. We have not seen you for a couple of days.”
Me, “Ya. I went to Australia for a month.”
Him, “Oh. Good deal. Hope you had fun. We thought you were dead.”
Whenever anyone is gone from the routine, the regulars suggest they thought the missing person might be dead.
So here is the point: nobody at the gym or in the locker room talks about grabbing crotches or having sex with married women. That never happens.
Trump is not excused for being a vulgar misogynist because he is ‘just like all other guys.’ He is not.
November 29, 2016: A Note on Pets; and Androp Gerard is not quite an Idiot Savant
“Our house, is a very, very fine house with two cats and a dog….” exactly like the line in the Crosby, Stills & Nash song. As an aside, regarding that quote, Androp Gerard has consumed precious little pop culture in his life, but he remembers more of what he has consumed than he wishes to. This includes lyrics of songs and lines and scenes from movies. He is somewhat of an idiotsavant along these lines. He fails to satisfy the definition by not being nearly enough of a savant and not being quite enough of an idiot. Possibly, the vivid recall of movie scenes accounts for Androp’s aversion to violent movies: he relives every horrifying, emotionally distressing detail. Disturbing images are being suppressed as this is written.
Here is the question: why do so many humans keep and love pets? In broad terms, it seems like this might be because (1) people imagine they have human to human relationships with their pets, and (2) pet care occupies a human’s mind, and provides purpose.
Pets can be imagined as children. For example, a sibling of Androp Gerard named their dog “Baby.” Or pets may serve as friends. It seems easier to think of a dog as a child than a cat. Cats serve the role of non-needy friendly acquaintances. After all, cats can leave and go feral at any time but dogs need their human associates (“parents?”), at least in the USA.
Talking to a pet occupies a human mind, so is more or less like mindfulness, or medication. And caring for a pet is a job, so provides purpose.
Me, before light, early A.M., dog getting out from under covers, shaking, “It is too early. Goddamit. Go back under the covers.”
Dog, from my imagination, “Okay, I am going to jump down now and piddle on the carpet.”
Me, dog licking my hand, “Jesus H. Christ. I am going to get up and pee myself now. Stay on the bed.” I point a menacing finger at the dog and look it in the eye.
Dog, from my imagination, “You have 60 seconds. Then I am going to jump down and piddle. I will select as spot you will certainly step on.”
So that gets me out of bed every morning to walk the dog before it piddles on the rug. Then I have to feed the two cats and the dog. Then, lovely espresso/lattes.
It is never a problem of wondering why to get out of bed in the morning if you own a dog. Dog pee cannot be effectively removed from carpet and the associated backing.
November 28, 2016: Why Thanksgiving is My Favorite Major Holiday
Thanksgiving is my favorite major holiday mainly because (1) it is (or can often be) more or less non-religious, and (2) it is not that explicitly commercialized. Retailers try to sell merchandise for Christmas on and after Thanksgiving, but not so much for Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving to me is basically a pagan-style ritualistic gorging, which I strongly favor. Plus, it is always on the same day of the week, and it always necessitates a four-day week-end, at least.
It was great to see everyone although I seldom know what is going on. Here is a typical conversation:
Me, walking into a room after drowsing in a recliner for an unspecified period of time: “….—listen briefly then make attempt at some relevant comment—- …”
Them: silent tipping of chins toward chests in a universal sign of disapproval.
My interpretation: “…Donny, you have no frame of reference here ….” (quote from Walter to Donny in The Big Lebowski.
Me: move away slowly, in silence, with an abundance of caution.
One down side to Thanksgiving: other people wander into, and use, Androp Gerard’s kitchen. Grave anxiety results from these invasions. Sometimes, someone will pick up his chef’s knife. Hint: any chef’s knife costing less than $80 and with less than an 8 inch blade is not very useful. Treat your chef’s knife well, and it will treat you well. Do not get one with too hard of steel: they are too difficult to sharpen. Wulsthof is a good brand, but many will do. Some are right handed or left handed: avoid these (most of these are Japanese – they also tend to have steel that is too hard).
Never touch a chef’s knife without consulting with the owner first. Just do not do it. This is serious advice.
We had the meal on Sunday rather than Thursday and the wife and I went to a noon showing of Magical Beasts and Where to Find Them on Thanksgiving, which is highly recommended. On Friday, three of us went to a college football game and had a deeply spiritual experience as our team came back from far behind to win.
Under random facts about Androp Gerard: I am a bicycle rider. I went on a typical rails-to-trails bike ride on Thanksgiving Day in the afternoon. A Sharp-shinned Hawk flushed from tree to tree in front of me for about a kilometer. I have recorded 1293.6 miles bicycling on 63 trips for calendar 2016. When I do not ride, I go to the gym five or six days a week, and participate in 50 minutes of aerobic exercise, plus something less than 15 minutes of weight lifting. Mental health outcomes are greatly improved via these activities. A team of exercise physiologists and neurologists might know why, but that is no sure thing. A great deal more will be written about bicycling in up-coming posts.
Under Politics, the big news seems to be the recount, and Trump’s claim that he would have won the popular vote if not for millions of illegals voting for Clinton. Someone was asked about Trump’s strategy in making the claim. Here’s the thing: Trump has no strategy beyond reacting like an 8 year old. Analysts often talked about his “strategy” during the campaign. Jesus H. Christ: he has no adult-compliant thoughts, just the childish schemes of a self-centered bully. That, of itself, does not make him a dangerous person. His election as POTUS is what makes him dangerous.