General Archive

 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Car Ride

Here's a stop motion animation my daughter made today. She calls it, The Car Ride.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

National Essential Tremor Awareness Month 2014

March is National Essential Tremor Awareness Month

March is National Essential Tremor Awareness Month. Essential tremor is also referred to as familial tremor, benign essential tremor, or hereditary tremor. If you are unaware of this disorder, here is a description from a recent press release from the International Essential Tremor Foundation (IETF).

Essential tremor is a neurological condition that causes shaking of the head, hands and voice. An estimated 10 million people in the United States have essential tremor (ET). While not life threatening, ET is a serious and progressive condition that can significantly affect a person's quality of life - socially, professionally and emotionally. People with ET often have difficulty with everyday activities such as getting dressed, eating, drinking, speaking or writing. And despite the large number of people directly affected by ET there is still very little awareness of the disorder.

While ET is most prevalent in people in their 60s and older, it can occur at any age, even in newborns. And despite being the most common movement disorder, existing medications are only effective in about 60% of people who suffer from the disorder.

If you would like to help or learn more about essential tremor, below are several links to more information on the IETF website.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Happy Fastnach Day 2014

Happy Fastnacht Day! My daughter and I woke up before dawn this morning to make our fastnachts this year, and you can see the results below.

Our 2017 Fastnachts - A Double Batch

I usually try to put these posts up before Fastnacht Day to remind people to make them this morning, but I forgot this year. Still, if you stop by the grocery store on your way home today to pick up buttermilk and maybe a few other ingredients you might not have, you can still make them tonight in time for the holiday. If you don't know what fastnachts are, read on. (As a quick note, since there's not much to change in these entries from year to year, this entry is just a slightly reworked version from years past.)

Depending on where you are in the world, you may call today something else, like Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake Day. But from where I'm from in Pennsylvania, it's called Fastnacht Day (here's a link to the Wikipedia article). Traditionally, you make potato based donuts, called fastnachts, on the morning of Fastnacht Day, supposedly as a way to empty your larder of all the fatty, sugary foods in preparation for the Lenten fast. My elementary school even used to give out donuts with the lunches on this day. In celebration of Fastnacht Day, and so others can join in, here's my family's recipe for making them:

You're supposed to wake up early to make the fastnachts on Tuesday morning (they're freshest that way), but a few times I've made them the night before, and they're still okay. They keep pretty well in a brown paper lunch bag. I also like to put a little bit of powdered sugar into a ziploc bag, and a mix of granulated sugar and cinnamon into another one, to coat the fastnachts just before eating them.

To see just how popular fastnachts are back up in Pennsylvania, go have a look at this article, Fastnacht reminder -- order yours before Tuesday, with a photo showing some of the 2800 fastnachts that a local church made, or this article, Frying fastnachts for pre-Lenten splurge, about a fire company that made 42,000 of them for a rundraiser. Here's an article from this year, Fastnacht day is here!, with a few more pictures showing different ways of making fastnachts, including a church with a rolling fastnacht cutter to cut dozens at once (we use pint glasses and shot glasses).

I took a few pictures last year while we were making the fastnachts (the only picture I got this year is the one up above after they were done). The first one below is my daughter rolling out the dough to cut more fastnachts. The second is the first batch frying up in the pan. The scene this morning was pretty much the same. Like last year, we doubled the recipe again this year, so the picture up top is twice as much as what you'd normally get from my family's recipe. But all three of us (my wife, daughter, and I) take them in with us to work/school to share them, so the double batch still goes quickly.

Alex Rolling Out the Fastnacht Dough Frying the Fastnachts

A guy I worked with from Chicago mentioned a similar tradition up there - paczkis, from the Polish immigrants. But instead of a hole in the middle like my family's fastnachts (not all fastnachts have the hole), they have a filling, usually jelly or creme. I guess lots of groups have invented traditions to allow indulgence before a 40 day fast.

Monday, December 30, 2013

@%^$#!$ Steelers, Part II

SteelersA little while back, I wrote a post called @%^$#!$ Steelers, where I complained about the team's less than stellar performance to start off the season, and resigned myself to expecting them to lose every game from then on out. Well, they couldn't just stay horrible. They had to become just good enough to get my hopes up and then dash them.

Two weeks ago, the Steelers playoff chances looked pretty long indeed. It had to be right phase of the moon with all the planets aligned - they had to win out, and multiple teams had to lose each of the last two weeks. Well, it looked like the planets were all coming together, with it all coming down to one game between the Chargers and the Chiefs. If the Chiefs won, the Steelers were going to the playoffs. But alas, it wasn't to be. I suspect it was Pluto that spoiled it all, upset about its recent demotion to 'dwarf' planet. With only a few seconds left in the game, the Chief's kicker missed a 41 yard field goal that would have put them ahead and almost surely won the game. After that, the game went to overtime, and the Chargers came out ahead. To see just how close the field goal attempt was, plus Succop's reaction, take a look at the article, The Pittsburgh Steelers missed the playoffs by *this* much.

Now, if I was bitter, I might complain about the Chargers playing their last game against a bunch of second stringers, instead of the starters like every other team in the NFL, or about the missed penalty on the last play of the game that would have given the Chiefs a second chance at winning the game, or the bizarre non-call on the fumble in overtime that would have given the Chiefs the winning touchdown, or even the spot on that play (okay, maybe I'm a little bitter). But the truth is, if your playoff chances are in the hands of fate in the final week, then you didn't do a good enough job throughout the season. The Steelers had a dismal 0-4 start to the season, and a lot of close games that they should have won if they were a championship caliber team.

On the plus side, going from 0-4 to 8-8 is a decent turnaround. At least they didn't have a losing record. And they finished out the season pretty well - a lot better than their meltdown last year. Maybe next season will be a good one, and they can climb the 'Stairway to Seven'.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

When Happy Holidays Isn't Good Enough

ScroogeI've written about the Salvation Army before, in the appropriately named entry, The Salvation Army - To Give, or Not to Give?. Now, I have reservations about that organization, and I've personally decided to donate to other, more deserving groups, but as I wrote in that entry, "I do think the Salvation Army does much more good than harm. So, if the only way you would donate would be to drop your change into one of their kettles, then don't hold back! Most of your money will go to helping people, and it's better than doing nothing at all." I certainly wouldn't advocate hostility towards the group, but here's an example of a Christian who was none too happy with one of the bell ringers, Salvation Army bell ringer says 'Happy Holidays' led to assault. Yes, you read the headline correctly. The bell ringer was wishing people 'happy holidays', and was assaulted because of it. Here's how she put it.

"The lady looked at me," said Vindiola. "I thought she was going to put money in the kettle. She came up to me and said, 'Do you believe in God?' And she says, 'You're supposed to say Merry Christmas,' and that's when she hit me."

How petty and small minded can you get? Here's a person volunteering their own time to collect money for a Christian organization helping the poor, and another person is angered to the point of violence over their choice of wording in well wishing? It's absurd. And it's not even like saying 'happy holidays' is always (or even usually) a deliberate downplay of Christmas. I remember when it used to be the standard greeting on Christmas cards in lieu of wishing 'Merry Christmas and a happy New Year' simply because it was shorter. Or do these people hate New Year's so much that only Christmas should be mentioned in holiday greetings?

Granted, some people do say 'happy holidays' deliberately to avoid only Christmas wishes, because there are other holidays that people celebrate around this time of year. But that's meant to be more inclusive to those other people, not as some sort of hostility towards Christians. What type of person does it take to get upset at somebody extending good will towards a larger group of people?

It's kind of ugly, but here's a good chart I came across showing the proper response to different holiday greetings depending on the particular affiliation of the people involved.

Holiday wishes flow chart

If you can't read it, the appropriate response in every case is:

"Thank you! You too!"

...because honestly, if you can't see past the words of the wish to its good intent, then it's not the holiday well-wisher who's broken, it's you.

So, happy holidays to everyone out there who's celebrating some sort of holiday right around now. And if you're not celebrating anything, then just have a nice day.

Image Source: Imgur