My Quickest Thursday Thirteen Yet

by Steve, March 28th, 2007

Wacky Mommy said I take too damn long writing these things, and I need to learn to just dash shit off. So here ya go, Internet, Thirteen Random Thoughts From a left-wing hockey nut in the Pacific Northwest.

  1. There is much intrigue in Hawkey Town, as Portland Winter Hawks owner Jim Goldsmith has taken over hockey operations. The big questions now, buzzing around both the Oregon Live Winter Hawks forum, e-mail lists and blogs, is this: What does the future hold for long-time G.M Ken Hodge, head coach Mike Williamson, and the rest of the hockey staff? No matter how you cut it, this has got to sting for Hodge, a broadly respected figure in major junior hockey.
  2. There is even more intrigue in Washington D.C., as George W. Bush careens into his first real collision with the newly Democratic congress. Will he negotiate with the Democrats, or will he remain on a collision course?
  3. There is intrigue in the Portland Public Schools (what else is new?) as rumors begin to circulate about another round of school closings, and Neighborhood Schools Alliance founder Ruth Adkins challenges incumbent Doug Morgan for his school board seat. I’m proud to support Ruth, who has long advocated for a community voice in important school decisions, and for a reasonable school size policy.
  4. Oh man, that’s just three, and I’m definitely not dashing! Okay, here goes, quick like a bunny!
  5. Spring is in the air. Man, I love spring because I love sumer even more.
  6. I joined a hockey league. So far we’re 2 and 0.
  7. Everything’s better when you put on a sweater.
  8. Coffee tastes good.
  9. Especially a good double shot of espresso, straight up, baby!
  10. It’s spring break, and I’m taking a day and a half of to hang out with the family. Nice. Wish it were more.
  11. Wacky Mommy has turned into a serious hockey chick. I can’t get into details here, but let’s just say I’m shocked at the times she brings up hockey.
  12. Damn, I’m already 3 minutes over my self-imposed deadline… quick here’s number 13:
  13. I’m not so good at dashing shit off. And I probably cuss too much.

Okay, only five minutes over. Good. Night.

My Whole Wheat Bread Recipe

by Steve, March 27th, 2007

Did I mention I love to cook? And bake? Well, I do. I’m a crunchy granola type from way back. Shut up! I heard that! Now, listen, I’ve got a lot of fond memories of childhood, but right up there among the best is getting a slice of my Mom’s whole wheat bread, right out of the oven, slathered with butter. The heel is the best part. So when, as an adult, our bread machine finally let us down, after years of reliable service, I thought I’d get back to doing it the old fashioned way.

Here’s the thing about bread machines: They are freakin’ awesome in many ways. In five minutes you can load the thing up with ingredients before bed, and awake to a fresh loaf in the morning. Many people poo-poo them because they are “cheating”. Well fuck that. To them I said, “How many times a week do you have fresh, home-made bread in your house?” In our house it has been once or twice a week for several years. We loved our bread machine. But it never quite had that taste I remember. Oh, sure, I tinkered with the recipe. I tried to get it close to the good ol’ Beard on Bread whole wheat. But it just never was quite right. And then there’s the big gaping hole in the bottom of the loaf from where the paddle tears out. And the fact that it always lets the dough rise the exact same amount of time, regardless of how active the yeast is, or how warm the room is, which means sometimes you’d get these big puffy loafs (always puffier at the top) that crumble when you slice them, or little bricks that are shorter than they are wide.

Still, our daughter developed a taste for home-made bread early, and absolutely refuses to eat store-bought bread. Except the fancy hearth style, which is referred to simply as “white bread” in our home. So when the paddle shaft blew a gasket and started oozing oogy black grease onto the dough (and we’d already replaced the pan/paddle combo once), we decided it was time to move on. Which brought me to you, dear internet, in search of that perfect whole wheat bread recipe.

I found one that was reasonably close, and tinkered with it until I got it closer. Two things an old baker friend taught me about whole wheat bread: use barley malt for a rich, earthy flavor, and oats for a moister loaf. So here’s what I’m working with, to the satisfaction of me and my daughter (my wife and son still prefer store-bought, bless their hearts!):

1 Tbsp. active dry yeast
2 c. warm water
1/4 c. vegetable oil
3/8 c. barley malt
1 tsp. salt
5 c. flour mixture*

Mix water and yeast thoroughly. In a large mixing bowl, combine oil, barley malt and salt and mix well. Add yeast/water mixture to this, and mix well. Add flour mixture a little at a time. Knead on a floured surface for 8-10 minutes. (Critical step! Don’t under- or over-knead!) Grease the mixing bowl and put the dough ball back in there, and cover it up with a tea towel. Let it rise until it doubles in size. Rising time will vary widely based on the quality of yeast, temperature, etc. Be patient. When it’s really double in size, punch it down and give it a few minutes to rest. Grease two bread pans, then shape the dough into two loaves. Cover with the tea towel and let it rise again. Be patient! It will take at least an hour in the best of conditions to rise to it’s full size, even more this time of year in Portland. When it has risen into what look like loaves of bread (what you see is basically what you’re going to get!), bake at 375 for 35 minutes.

*Flour mixture: I started with 3 cups of whole wheat and 2 cups of white. That’s the basic proportion. Then I replaced about a half cup of flour with oats. If you want more whole wheat and less white, you might want to add wheat gluten to make sure it can rise. If you want 100% whole wheat, you definitely want to use some gluten (even though it’s not technically whole wheat then, is it?). You can try 100% whole wheat without gluten, but you’re going to get a pretty flat loaf.

While the whole production takes basically all day, most of that time the yeast is doing the real work. It takes me about 15 minutes on Sunday mornings to mix and knead. Then I’m free to do household chores, do the shopping or hang out with the family. Later, it’s just a few minutes to punch down and shape into loaves, and then you just have to come back in a few hours to throw it into the oven. I throw one loaf in the freezer (after it cools) and keep the other loaf ready for my daughter’s lunch Monday morning.

The best secret about baking bread is this: It really ain’t all that difficult. All you have to do is commit to being around the house for a day. And boy howdy is it worth it!

Would Che Have Skated?

by Steve, March 21st, 2007

I told Wacky Mommy, if Che had been Canadian, he’d have been out at the rink with the guys, smacking pucks around. She thinks I’m nuts.

So I thought I’d make a t-shirt design with Che as a skater. It would say something like “Left Winger”. But it turns out Cafe Press will have nothing to do with selling images of Che, at least not that one famous one in particular. Back in 2000, Alberto Diaz Gutierrez (a.k.a. Alberto Korda) claimed copyright to the famous image which is based on his original photograph. There’s a lot of convoluted debate about fair use, not to mention the fact that Fidel never signed on to international copyright accords. Nevertheless, Korda successfully claimed copyright in British court, and stopped Smirnoff from using the image in a vodka ad. Which I think is a good thing. (Korda said it never bothered him when people used the image in solidarity with Cuba, just when it was used against Cuba or to sell something. Which I guess is what I wanted to do, so…..)

So since Cafe Press said no, and my research made me feel a little guilty about wanting to sell t-shirts with that (ahem) maybe a tad tasteless image, my wacky shirt idea has transformed into a minor site redesign. Hope you like it, and find the irony in it. In case you don’t, here is my Thursday Thirteen, all about irony.

  1. Che probably never played hockey. But he looks good on skates, no?
  2. I am a pacifist, and this is an anti-war site. Yet Che Guevara made his name as a warrior.
  3. I am a vegetarian, pacifist hockey addict.
  4. The longer I live the more I see the pure, unadulterated truth that lies at the heart of every contradiction.
  5. I’m a socialist, yet I sell crap on my crappy Web site.
  6. I don’t think I’m going to make it
  7. to thirteen tonight.
  8. And I hope you don’t care
  9. if I just go to bed
  10. and bid you farewell
  11. and
  12. Good
  13. night.

Penguins to Stay in Pittsburgh

by Steve, March 13th, 2007

Finally — it’s official — the Penguins are staying in Pittsburgh (where they belong). After a game of chicken that included Penguins officials visiting Kansas City and Las Vegas to discuss relocation, a deal is expected to be announced this afternoon to build a new arena and keep the Pens in Pittsburgh for 30 years.

13 Ways Bush’s Goose is Cooked

by Steve, March 7th, 2007

It’s not a great time to be a Bush fan in America, as evidenced by near rock-bottom approval ratings (even before the Libby verdict was read). As the wheels start to fall off of the Bush administration, I thought it would be appropriate to take stock of the state of things. So here are just a few things that aren’t going so hot for our Chimp in Chief.

  1. Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney’s former #1 confidant and adviser, is a convicted liar and obstructer of justice. Libby was one of the highest ranking and most influential members of the Bush administration, and his trial and conviction have exposed criminal corruption all the way to the top of the Bush administration. There can be no doubt, from testimony given and evidence presented, that Scooter Libby lied to take the fall for Dick Cheney and Karl Rove (and ultimately Bush). Juan Cole has an excellent illustrated history of the Cheney/Rove/Libby/Wilson affair.
  2. If congress convenes hearings about the Valerie Wilson affair, the malfeasance of all major administration figures could be cast in a most unflattering light.
  3. The White House response to the Libby verdict of continued stonewalling has brought criticism from the most unlikely of places: Scott McLellan. The man most famous for his non-answers to the Washington press corps now says this: “I would be advising the White House to get out there and find some way to talk about this in enough detail to answer some of questions that . . . are still hanging out there.”
  4. Oversight. The firing of federal prosecutors for questionable reasons (to put it in the best possible light) is just the beginning of what real congressional oversight will bring to light. That’s government working, folks.
  5. The mistreatment of wounded soldiers at DOD and VA hospitals has shown the flagrant disregard the Bush administration has for our troops. It also further exposes the lack of planning that went into the war in Iraq. All administration predictions had it ending long ago. Remember, we were going to be greeted as liberators! Flowers and candy bars! USA! USA! Somehow Bush didn’t plan on there being a little something called civil war erupting between ethnic factions once the strong man was gone. (Somehow the neocons neglected to read any history of the region before trying to remake it to their liking.)
  6. Iraq is going from bad to worse. More attacks every day in a growing civil war, and Bush remains in denial, committed to sending still more troops to fight and die in what most Americans now view as an unwinnable war.
  7. Which brings us to polls. The USA Today/Gallup Poll published Monday shows a solid majority of nearly two-thirds disapprove of Bush’s handling of his job as president.
  8. 59% of Americans believe going into Iraq was a mistake.
  9. Only 28% of Americans have any confidence the US will “win” in Iraq.
  10. Fully 84% of Americans think we need to withdraw from Iraq.
  11. One in five Americans think we should withdraw immediately.
  12. The members of our armed services have been used, abused and stretched to the breaking point. Members of the National Guard and Reserve, citizen soldiers who signed up for a weekend a month and a few weeks a year have had their lives upended with repeated and extended tours of duty in war zones. With so many communities touched in some way by this extended morass, it’s not surprising that…
  13. …only 13% of Americans think we should send more troops to Iraq.

If so many lives weren’t at stake, it might be enjoyable to see the chickens coming home to roost for the Bush administration. But the shameful truth is that they tipped off a series of events that have destroyed hundreds of thousands of lives. Millions of people will continue to be affected by the long-term devastation that the Bush doctrine has wrought.

This damage will take many years to repair. But perhaps things have bottomed out. It’s difficult to imagine things getting much worse under Bush, so maybe — just maybe — we are beginning to see signs of the pendulum swinging back in the other direction. We can only hope.

Skating Outdoors

by Steve, March 6th, 2007

Living in Portland, Ore., outdoor ice skating is a novelty concept. When I first moved here in 1989, they had a rink set up in Pioneer Courthouse Square, completely enclosed in a large tent. That was the last year they did that. I remember taking a few turns around the tiny little rink that first winter here, then pretty much hanging up the blades until just a few years ago.

I learned to skate outside, on the pond at City Park in Iowa City, as well as on Lake MacBride and the Coralville Reservoir. Also on the flooded and frozen parking lot at Mercer Park, where my dad broke his leg ice skating. We had no indoor rink in Iowa City, though the city council used to talk about building one from time to time.

I never skated on an indoor rink until my Mom started working for Parks and Rec in Littleton, Co., and we’d go to South Suburban Ice Arena occasionally, where some famous figure skaters trained and my cousin played powder-puff hockey.

I remember the last time I skated at City Park. I was a young adult; it must have been the winter of ’86-’87. I showed up at the pond pretty much at the exact moment one of my coworkers coincidentally showed up. The city had a big old stop sign with the words “thin ice” printed beneath “stop”, cut in half with hinges so it could be folded up when the ice was safe. My friend and I looked at the sign, and looked at the ice. It had been cold, and it was hard to imagine there would be a problem. He went ahead and folded the sign, and we laced up our skates. He was a far better skater than I, and we casually stroked around the pond. It wasn’t long before a cop showed up and accused us of folding up the sign and sent us on our way. (Having discovered our mutual love of ice, we later took a road trip up to Minnesota to see the North Stars play at the venerable old Met Center in Bloomington.)

Though I remember every winter hearing of snowmobiles or 4x4s crashing through the ice on Coralville Reservoir or Lake MacBride, I never heard of skaters going through the ice. Since I’ve been away from it for so long, outdoor skating has a romantic allure to it. The crisp, fresh air, hot cocoa in the warming hut, and strange little things like large goldfish (carp) frozen near the surface of the ice. I’ve conveniently forgotten about the horrible, pitted, chipped ice surface (which will trash your blades as quick as walking on concrete), the bone chilling cold, and the massive pressure cracks that grab you by the ankles and send you sprawling.

Then today, I read this. Wacky Mommy always says, no way is she going to skate on a pond. Now I know I’ll never convince her it’s safe. And now that Iowa City has an indoor rink (well, Coralville, anyway), there’s no need to trash your blades on the pond at City Park if we move back to Iowa City.

But I still have my memories.

OK Hosers, Watch This

by Steve, March 2nd, 2007

From Salon’s Video Dog, a friggin’ hilarious video staring former Winter Hawk Nicholas Vachon:

War Must End (and Thirteen Imaginings for a Better World)

by Steve, March 1st, 2007

Note that I don’t say the war. I said War Must End. It’s the 21st century. Killing children as means to political ends can no longer be rationalized by sane humans. The future of civilization is at stake. We are at a crossroads.

There can be no disputing that the Bush Doctrine has been a complete and total disaster. Hundreds of thousands of men, women and children dead, many more wounded, many, many more displaced, shattered and weary. Hundreds of billions of dollars (more than enough to insure our own nearly 50 million uninsured and fix our broken public schools) squandered on a futile war and its disastrous after-effects. And let’s not forget the equally disastrous side-effect: A recent study finds a nearly seven-fold increase in terrorism due to what it calls the “Iraq Effect”.

And right when you think it can’t get any worse, you find out much of the intelligence on Iran and North Korea is bunk, too.

The neoconservative doctrine of preemption may perhaps best be described as a cataclysmic failure of imagination.

It is time to stop the madness. All leaders who would attack another country unprovoked should be deposed. Let’s get past this bullshit and spend our treasure fixing what’s broke in our own house, not destroying our neighbor’s.

But that’s not what I’m here to talk to you about. It’s still Thursday (at least in Portland), and Thursday Thirteen has been handed off and resurrected before it even hit the ground. Thanks to Carol and all the crew over at TT central for keeping this crazy blog meme thing going. In the spirit of hope and confidence, I give you Thirteen Imaginings for a Better World.

  1. Imagine a sudden outbreak of peace.
  2. Imagine that people will no longer tolerate spending two billion dollars — that’s two thousand million dollars — every week in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  3. Imagine we no longer need fossil fuels. We know we are surrounded by untapped, limitless energy.
  4. Imagine we know how to tap it. Cleanly, safely.
  5. Imagine you wake up one day and know there is no war anywhere on the planet.
  6. Imagine that same day realizing that much of what you knew yesterday is wrong. The things you were most certain about: those are the things you are most wrong about.
  7. Imagine discovering, suddenly and certainly, that you are much larger than your corporeal self, and have a direct, deep and literal connection to many people on Earth you’ve never met, and some you have, as well as to the Earth itself.
  8. Imagine the entire globe as a single, living organism working together, for once and forevermore, in harmony.
  9. Imagine that power.
  10. Imagine using all that power to reforest deserts, clean up all pollution, and feed and house all of humanity comfortably.
  11. Imagine that there is no hunger, no poverty, no crime.
  12. Imagine all these things actually will happen. Put yourself there and feel it.
  13. Imagine looking up at the sky, past billions upon billions of stars, deeply into the universe, and seeing — with perfect clarity — yourself.

    Watching yourself.

    Are you doing the right thing?

And with that, I bid you Good Night.