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Wednesday 2020.11.25

Happy and Safe Thanksgiving Tomorrow

Tomorrow is the Thanksgiving holiday here in the USA. It is usually a time for family, friends, and relatives to gather together and feast on turkey and side dishes. I usually get invited somewhere for dinner. I received an invite this year, but it was given with the proviso that I can freely stay home without hurting anyone's feelings. People know we're not supposed to have social gatherings. However, this is probably the only holiday season that will be impacted by the pandemic.

There was information in the news that said something about returning back to normal in May. Vaccines are on the verge of being released in large quantities to vaccinate those at greatest risk — hospital workers, first responders, people in retirement homes, teachers, etc. The first doses could be available before the end of December. I probably won't quality for early vaccination, even though I'm nearly 70 years old, but that's okay. I can wait. I've been isolating myself for nearly ten months. A few more won't, hopefully, endanger me.

Curfew

We're currently under a curfew here in California. No going out between 10:00 PM and 5:00 AM. I'm not sure what good that will do. Those hours are well outside the open times for Costco and most grocery stores. Maybe the curfew is to keep people out of bars. As you know from reading my previous blogs, Costco is my biggest fear. Unlike a local grocery store, Costco attracts shoppers from a wide area.

Between Thanksgiving day gatherings and Black Friday shopping, we expect to see a spike within a spike. We only need to get through winter, maybe four more months, and then we will hopefully see things really begin to get back to normal as more and more people get vaccinated. Meanwhile, hunker down. If we must go out, let's wear a mask.

Cooking

Thankfully I have projects to keep me occupied at home. In Sunday's blog I mentioned having made chicken stock in my Instant Pot. There are pros and cons.

On the negative side, the capacity of the Instant Pot is six quarts. There is a "PC MAX — 2/3" line inside the pot. PC is for Pressure Cooker. So when using the pot to make stock, the maximum capacity is four quarts. My stock pot is 12 quarts. Figure 10 quarts to allow some room at the top, even though the pot is not a pressure cooker. And, for comparison, my Kuhn Rikon pressure cooker is 7 liters, about 7.4 quarts.

On the positive side are temperature and speed. Water heated to boiling never exceeds 212°F (100°C). In a pressure cooker the boiling point of water is raised to 250°F (121°C). Food cooks more swiftly and more thoroughly. This was beneficial for me because I had twice the number of bones needed to fill the pot.

The first batch of stock tasted fine, but it was just average flavor. I wanted a more concentrated stock. So I removed all the bones and vegetables and put the other half of the bones in the stock with more carrot and celery, then ran the pot for another hour. The result was a well flavored gelatinous stock. After cooling, I portioned it into one-cup plastic cups for freezing. I put 10 cups of stock away for cooking soups this winter.

And Speaking of Soups

My next cooking video project was Tuscan White Bean and Barley Soup, which I did yesterday. I saw the recipe in a UnitedHealthcare Renew magazine. It looked easy and satisfying, and I could use some of the chicken stock I just made. It required a quick trip to the grocery store. I only needed a carrot, an onion and a can of tomatoes. I rode my bike and I spent as little time as possible in the store. I also went early in the morning when the college students were still at home in bed.

If you want to watch the video, here is a link:

Or CLICK HERE. This soup will be Sunday's feature recipe and video.

Sunday 2020.11.22

The Taste of Success

I haven't been happy with my cooking skills lately. Sometimes I wonder if I'm losing my touch. There have been too many failures. Some have not only been bad enough to be useless for a video, but the food went into the trash, not even good enough to save and maybe use in soups.

This week's Feature Recipe, Pasta Fagioli al Forno, was, thankfully, a success. It not only turned out well, but the end product was delicious. The recipe made a lot too. I put seven generous portions in the freezer.

Container Gardening

I am shocked by how rapidly garlic cloves grow. Each day the green leaves, or stalks (I call them) are longer and greener. The roots are developing so rapidly they're practically pushing the cloves out of the little cup in which I started them. I'll plant them in a prepared pot (new potting mix) this week.

The carrot, although growing more slowly, continues to develop green fronds. I'm not sure when it will go into soil, but I'll reserve room in the garlic pot for the carrot, which only needs to develop flowers and seeds. I'll plant the seeds next year to grow carrots.

Meanwhile, the Roma tomato plant continues to lose leaves. There are five tomatoes in various stages of development. I'm not sure if any will mature to be fully ripe and red. The largest one is looking a little bit yellow. Maybe that one will ripen. The others will be no loss if they fail. I didn't pot the tomato plant for a harvest. It is one of my early experiments.

And the onions continue to do well. I expect them to go somewhat dormant during the winter, then grow rapidly in the spring and summer. I might be able to harvest a few onions next year. Meanwhile, I used a store-bought onion in the Pasta Fagioli al Forno. I saved the bottom portion and it is now sitting in water. After only 24 hours it is already growing roots.

Sonic Boom

We were told to expect it here in California. A rocket was launched from the Vandenberg Air Force Base near Lompoc yesterday morning. I could hear the rocket as it lifted off. They have a distinctive rumble as they climb. And, sure enough, several minutes later I heard the sonic boom, actually three of them, a signature sound of the reusable rocket booster that returns to earth faster than the speed of sound.

Instant Pot Chicken Bone Stock

But first, I had to look this up on the internet. Technically, broth is made from meat, stock is made from bones.

Go onto YouTube and search for how to make chicken stock in an Instant Pot. I did, and mostly I saw cooks putting whole pieces of chicken — wings or sometimes a whole chicken — in their Instant Pot. Is that bone stock or meat broth? I guess it's a little of both.

I had some chicken drumsticks from Costco that I bought to make Finger Lickin' Chicken. A friend said he saw something about making chicken stock in an Instant Pot, using it as a pressure cooker. He said the process makes a better, more gelatinous stock. So, I decided to debone the drumsticks and use the meat for boneless Finger Lickin' Chicken (which I prefer) and use the bones for stock.

It works, and it makes me want to do a cooking video to fill the gap left by those other YouTube content creators who really, in my opinion, are mostly making chicken broth.

Wednesday 2020.11.18

Herbs

Some people have expressed an interest in seeing my litte herb garden, which is nothing more than a collection of pots. You might be someone who is thinking of starting your own.

Here is my herb garden, such as it is:

From left to right in the back: Green onions (see below), basil, Italian (flat leaf) parsley, sage, marjoram, and rosemary. The front row: Oregano, thyme, and mint.

The green onions are obviously not an herb. They were growing in a neighbor's garden and he wanted to get rid of them. I took some and stuck them in a pot. They live a long time and grow much larger than the ones sold in the grocery store. They don't need to be pulled up from the soil. I can snip off a stalk about an inch above the soil and use it for cooking. Leave the root end in the ground and keep it watered. It will grow new stalks and be usable again. Eventually flowers will appear and grow seeds. Consider that the end of the life cycle. Harvest the seeds and plant them next season.

This being the colder time of the year, the plants are surviving, but not thriving. I don't expect much from them during the winter months. I recently pulled up the thyme, pruned it back, and replanted it. It needed thinning and I don't use much thyme anyway. A little goes a long way.

As for economy, forget it. The cost of glazed pots far exceeds the cost of fresh herbs in the store. If the grocery store doesn't have what you want, a visit to the garden center of a hardware store might yield what you need. My herbs are for decoration around my home as well as for use in my cooking videos; therefore, I don't mind spending the money for attractive pots.

I have one empty pot remaining. I haven't decided what to plant in it. Maybe chives. Like the green onions, they can be left in the soil. The tops can be snipped off as needed. They'll regrow. Or maybe I'll stick some garlic cloves into soil and see what happens. Or maybe I'll put both in the same pot. It's large enough.

A word about mint: It's invasive. Don't plant it in a garden. It will take over. I got mine from another neighbor who has it growing all over her yard. It started from one little plant. Grow mint in a pot and you'll avoid an infestation. Make sure the pot is tall enough to keep the branches off the ground. They'll root and start to spread.

Meanwhile…

I decided to try starting some garlic, inspired by some videos I watched on YouTube. I used two small plastic cups, 4 fl. oz. (118ml) each. I tried to drill drainage holes in the bottom of one cup, but the plastic was too brittle. It broke. However, a sharp pointy thing (like a nail) heated in the flame of the stove was enough to melt a hole. I discarded the broken cup and got another, into which I made three holes. Then I put potting mix in that cup and nested it in a solid cup. I didn't think there was enough space between the cups; so I put three small pebbles in the bottom of the lower cup, which I will call a "catch cup" to catch excess water. Water the soil and embed three garlic cloves. Then wait.

It's okay if the catch cup has some water in it. In one video I watched on YouTube the garlic cloves (only started in water) grew long fronds in only about a week. I've seen videos in which vegetable scraps are started in wet potting mix and they do better.

So here's the plan. I'll take a new photograph each week — some inside and some outside after the rooted bulbs are transferred to a pot. When I have enough photos to show the progress and, hopefully, my success, I'll do a Kitchen Vlog video about my experience.

Tomatoes

I'm getting excited about the prospect of growing a long tomato vine. As I've said repeatedly, I live in a mobile home in a trailer park. I don't have an acre of land on which to have a garden. I'm not planning to sustain myself on my future harvest. But I like the idea of having something green and ornamental living in my yard that is fun to watch grow, and maybe gather a few pieces of fruit along the way.

Here's the plan: I mentioned earlier the possibility of buying a "tomato cage" at the local Home Depot store. Start a tomato plant, either from seed or buy a small plant. Get an "indeterminate" plant that will grow and grow. During spring, probably during the month of March, start the plant growing in a five-gallon bucket. Anchor the cage in the soil. As the plant grows, favor the best stalk and start training it over to the cage. Other stalks can be trimmed back. As the vine continues to grow, train it around the cage, securing it in place. If there are two good vines, maybe train them both, maybe in opposite directions.

For securing the plant to the cage, I ordered some UV resistant plastic zip ties. (Standard wire ties can degrade in sunlight.) The ties don't need to firmly fasten the vine. A loose loop is enough to help hold the plant in place and be open enough to allow the vine the increase in girth. If the cage gets really heavy with vine and fruit, a fence post driven into the ground behind the bucket might be necessary to secure the cage and prevent the container from tipping over.

Seeds or seedling? A package of seeds is more economical, but I only need one plant. It might be better to spend a few dollars more to purchase a plant that appears to be starting in the right direction.

Like the garlic project above, I'll try to be regular about taking photographs and eventually shoot a Kitchen Vlog video about the project.

And How About That Carrot?

It continues to show miniscule progress developing green shoots around the top. They're very small still, but they are definitely showing signs of life. In another week I expect to see some leafy fronds developing.

I shot this with my camera's "AF-S Micro Nikkor 105mm 1:2.8G ED" lens.

I'm not sure when this might be ready to plant, but there is plenty of time. It's only November.

Sunday 2020.11.15

It's That Time Again

If you've been following this blog for a long time, you know that I have two desktop computers, both of which I built myself. They are simply named Computer-1 and Computer-2.

Computer-1 is my daily-use computer, used for email and going onto the internet to read the news and research recipes. It's the one I use to prepare e-books for reading before loading them onto my tablet. I use it for lots of stuff.

Computer-2, the one I'm typing on right now, is used for only two purposes — to update my web site (the files for which I keep locally on this computer) and to produce the videos you see on YouTube. I create or update the files here, copy them to a flash drive, then copy them onto Computer-1 to upload to the internet. I've been doing that for ten years.

Why? I consider the files on this computer too important to risk. I do keep regular backups, but I take no chances. Computer-2 is not connected to the internet; therefore, there is no danger of a virus attacking my files.

Every six months Microsoft releases a major update to Windows 10. And those are the only times this computer goes online. Get the updates, then take the computer off line gain. That task was completed on Thursday morning; so I'm good for another six months.

It's a little amusing because when I check for updates, Microsoft warns me, in red, "This computer is missing critical updates and fixes." Yeah, I know. But if the computer remains permanently off line, those updates aren't necessary.

There's another, maybe a little nefarious reason to keep this computer off the internet. I use software that I technically do not own. When I had a job, one of my occasional tasks was to update the department's publications. I worked from home occasionally, so they let me install the software on my home computer using the department's installation code. I retired nearly ten years ago. The software, although ten years outdated, still works. My concern is that installation code. The software calls home every time it is opened and what if that code is no longer valid? Would the software disable itself? I take no chances.

A Few Follow-Ups

The Onions:

You will remember from a few months ago I started some sweet onions rooting and then I planted them in a container outside. Two of them continue to grow. One is finally starting a stalk. It might survive. I also started a common yellow onion and it continues to do well. Two of the original starters stay green, but no stalks are developing yet.

If I understand onions, the bulb will be smaller than the original, but some might produce seeds. Harvest those and start a crop next season.

The Roma Tomato Plant:

Leaves continue to wither. As I mentioned in Wednesday's blog entry, it's a one-season plant. It doesn't survive from year to year. I am curious to see what will happen with the one large tomato. Will it ripen in time? There are smaller tomatoes developing, but I doubt they'll survive the winter.

The Carrot

Back on the 8th of this month I stuck the top inch of a carrot in wet soil and kept it watered. It was supposed to develop roots and grow green fronds. It looks like the first few shoots are beginning to develop from the top of the carrot. As mentioned earlier, this won't grow a new carrot. Carrots are two-year plants. The first year produces carrots; the second year produces flowers and seeds. The seeds are used to start a new crop.

When the carrot has full green fronds on top, I might discard one of those dormant onion tops and plant the carrot in its place and wait for it to produce flowers and seeds. That's the plan.

Covid and Me

I continue to live an isolated, almost hermit lifestyle. It took a while to become accustomed to the "cabin fever," but I'm feeling okay now. On warm days I sit outside on the deck and read where I can occasionally wave to a neighbor who might walk by. If we talk at all, we keep our distance. I still worry a little, but I consider it a healthy level of concern.

I need to make it through this winter. California is the second state in the USA to log more than one million confirmed cases of the coronavirus. That is total cases, not those currently ill with the virus. Where I live, the last report I saw said there are 28 current cases. The number fluctuates a lot, probably because many of the cases are students who go home to other parts of the state to recover. On the positive side, California, along with New York, have the best record of testing, contact tracing, and mask wearing. Texas was the first state to record one million cases and we know how they feel about masks there.

Maybe by summer or fall of next year an effective and safe vaccine will be available. I'll feel a lot safer going shopping when I get the vaccine, although I'll still wear a mask if recommended. Currently, I try to limit my shopping to once a month or every other month, purchasing some groceries on line instead.

Wednesday 2020.11.11

Happy Veterans Day

Today is a day to honor those who served in our military. My father served in the Army during World War II. I believe he never served in Europe. He probably remained stateside. When asked, he would never talk about it. I never learned the reason why, and now that he is gone I never will know.

Never Too Old to Learn

One important factor I learned when researching container gardening is the importance of sunlight. I have herbs on my back deck, but the need for sun never occurred to me. Out there they were in the shade of a tree nearly all the day. At best, they might catch a few rays later in the afternoon. The vegetables I've been reading about require full sun all day, at least eight hours.

This week I've been cleaning up the potted herbs, pruning dead or dying branches. I cut the thyme and sage way back — those were doing the worst — and I moved the pots to an area alongside my home where they'll enjoy full sunlight all day. It's especially important this time of year when the sun is low in the sky as we approach the winter solstice.

A few people have asked me about my herb garden. Some have expressed an interest in starting one of their own. They want to see the "garden" in a video. So it was time to get the herbs cleaned up and situated where they can grow properly. One of these days I'll take some pictures of the herbs, especially when they show signs of thriving, and include them occasionally in my cooking videos.

Basil is my next focus. I have a few plants, and they are surviving, not thriving. I also have a rectangular planter that could hold three or four basil plants. The issue I learned with basil is water. They like a lot of it, watering as often as every other day in dry periods, especially when planted in a pot or other container. Now that I think of it, a five gallon bucket in a deep dish for added water might be an ideal way to grow several basil plants. Maybe after the Roma tomato plant passes.

Learning More About Tomatoes

What is the life span of a tomato plant? It depends. I did not know that "determinate" indicates more than the size of the plant. It also defines how long the plant will live.

My Roma tomato plant was put into soil late in the season. Although I live in Southern California where frost is rarely an issue, winter pretty much spells the end of the line for a Roma tomato plant. Although flowers are still blooming and a few new tomatoes are developing, the leaves are starting to die off. There is only one tomato that looks like it might survive to harvest; otherwise, the plant seems prepared to give up its ghost.

I'm okay with that. I never expected the plant to yield a crop I might enjoy. It has been a learning experience. It was also fun to watch it grow from a small plant bought at the Garden Center to a plant nearly four feet tall.

February/March seem like the best months to buy a determinate tomato plant. Keep them watered indoors for a few weeks, then plant to soil after the last forecast of cold weather and frost. I'll put a note on my 2021 calendar.

I'd like to try growing an indeterminate tomato plant in a five gallon bucket. The local Home Depot store sells those metal supports for holding up the plant. It might be fun to try training one or two vines round and round the support until it looks like a huge bush. Indeterminate tomato plants do not die off after producing fruit. Frost or blight might kill the plant; otherwise, the vines just keeps growing.

And Learning More About Onions

Several months ago my new neighbors had onions growing in their garden, planted by the previous owner. They didn't want them; so I took some and planted then in a pot. I thought they were chives. To be honest, I knew nothing about onions.

It turns out they are green onions. I thought green onions were young onions, harvested before a bulb develops. They are completely different. A few things I learned:

Chives are more like an herb. They're related to onions, but only the green grass-like stalks are edible. They are always used raw, often as a garnish, such as with sour cream on a baked potato. Cooking destroys their flavor. They are perennial. You can harvest stalks indefinitely.

Green onions are also related to onions, of course, but they never develop much of a bulb. The white and green part of the plant are used in cooking. You probably don't need me to tell you more than that. They grow to maturity and when the green stalks start the turn brown, you harvest them and use them right away, mostly in cooking.

Bulb onions have bulbs, obviously enough. There are many varieties, from common white and yellow onions sold in stores, Spanish red onions, sweet varieties, etc. Like green onions, they have one life span, but they can be stored after harvest and used later. They can be eaten raw, such as a slice on a hamburger or chopped and arranged on a hotdog, but more commonly they are use as an ingredient in cooking.

Although I enjoy the oncoming winter — a time for soups — I look forward to spring when I can put some of this agricultural knowledge to use.

Sunday 2020.11.8

Well, We Made It

And when I say "we" I don't mean Democrats or Republicans, I mean Americans. We arrived at the end of what seemed like a very painful counting process of late ballots. We knew it would require patience. Because of some state laws, it was announced well in advance that the final tallies probably wouldn't be known until several days after election day.

Personally, I had enough mood swings to make me wonder about my own psychological health. One minute I might feel confident that the final outcome would be fine; an hour later I was giving up all hope. I will admit to being, maybe, a little too obsessive about the count. I kept a spreadsheet open on one computer and I tracked every update of the swing state votes. I think the spreadsheet helped keep me sane.

Yesterday I tried to watch college football, but I couldn't. I kept switching back to the news channels to enjoy the people celebrating. No one here in the trailer park was dancing in the streets, and I would have looked silly dancing out there alone, but I wanted to be a part of the jubilation; so I watched it on TV.

After Trump won in 2016, there was no dancing in the streets. There was a Woman's March in protest. The celebrations this weekend demonstrate how Americans feel about this president.

The sycophants (Ted Cruz et al.) are still claiming Joe Biden hasn't won the election yet, but they're just wasting their breath.

Trump promised to challenge the results in the courts. I haven't heard anyone say he might succeed (although I am not listening to the talking heads on Fox). Trump is just howling at the moon at this point. Those who report on past requests for recounts say the most votes gained, if any, are only a few hundred. A recount won't erase thousands of votes, and sometimes the count improves for the other side.

I recorded a Kitchen Vlog about my impressions of the election. You can watch it with this link:

Or CLICK HERE.

Now the healing can begin. I am looking forward to the books that will be written about the past four years. I think more books were written about this president during his administration than any previous president. I've said it before: I think future historians who write about this period will say Trump was the worst president in U.S. history.

I also look forward to turning on the TV news in the evening and not hearing about Trump everyday. It will feel good to hear how the rest of the world is doing.

Biden's expected first actions in office will undo much of the damage Trump did. Trump tried, and often succeeded, to erase the legacy of Barack Obama. Biden has already announced he will erase the legacy of Trump, joining the Paris Climate Accord, restoring the USA to the World Health Organization, support of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, etc.

Learning About Carrots

I continue to research ways to create a container garden. This week I learned about carrots. Like parsley, they have a two-year life span. The first year the carrot develops under the ground. That's the piece you buy in the grocery store. Leave the carrot in the ground and during the second year the green top will develop seeds. The seeds can then be used to start another crop of carrots.

Supposedly, they're easy to grow by using the top of the carrot you normally discard. I saw two ways to start the rooting. Place the top in a dish of water, or in a container of wet soil. The soil method worked better in the videos I saw; so that was my choice for this experiment. It cut about ¾ of an inch from the top and pushed it down into a little bowl of organic potting mix. I've been keeping it watered.

Then wait. It might take a few weeks, but green shoots should develop from the top. We'll see.

Finally, A Little Weather

We finally saw a little rainfall this past week. Where I live only 1/100th of an inch was recorded. In the northern part of the county as much as 1/3 inch was reported. It isn't much, but it's the first storm of the season and the indication that the rainy season has begun.

Wednesday 2020.11.4

Election Day

Today's blog entry might seem a little scattered. I didn't get much sleep last night and the shifting numbers among the battleground states has my head in a whirl.

It seemed like a long slog. I anticipated this election day more than any other in the past. They were always amusing times. It was fun to see the tallies reported in the evening news. We almost always knew who would win. The 2016 outcome is the only surprise I remember. I looked back in my YouTube My Kitchen Vlog catalog of videos and found the vlog I recorded the day after that election. I purposely wore a black shirt.

Yesterday evening I watched the news with more interest that I'd ever had during an election. And, for the first time in decades, I even voted this year, despite the fact that California is a deep blue state and therefore my vote would be one of millions that probably wouldn't have mattered in the long run. I voted because I cared. It seemed like something more to do besides reading all the books I read about Trump, 23 so far this year alone.

I was not expecting a declared winner, although I heard on the news earlier that Trump would declare victory if there were any signs he might take the lead at some point. With so many mail-in ballots to be counted, and some states — Pennsylvania — promising not to count them until after election day, the final tallies might be days away. However, early in the reporting Biden emerged as the leader, if not the winner, as expected.

I look forward to the books that will be published in 2021. Some will explain how Trump lost the election. Others will provide the details about the legal jeopardy Trump will be in when he is no longer a sitting president after January 20th. There has been some speculation about what Trump might do about those possible legal entanglements.

One suggestion is that he will now resign, making Mike Pence the interim president, who will then pardon Trump of all crimes. Pence can pardon him for federal crimes, but not state crimes. The state of New York will continue their investigations and likely indict him soon after he leaves the White House. There has even been some speculation that Trump might leave the country, maybe move to Moscow and live the remainder of his life in exile. That seems a little too extreme.

Meanwhile, Trump spoke from the White House late last night, promising to use his boot lickers on the Supreme Court to deny enough Americans their Constitutional right to vote so that he can be the president for four more years (and avoid the indictments that are pending in the courts). If he succeeds, I suspect future historians will write books about "The Rise and Fall of the United States of America," naming Donald J. Trump as a pivotal character causing the ruination of this once-great nation.

However, as I write this blog, if Trump were to stop the counting now, Biden would win because with the states where either candidate is ahead Biden has 270 electoral college votes. Those states haven't been declared yet. They're either too close to call or too early to call. Actually, it depends on where you look for the numbers. Fox declared Nevada for Biden. CNN and MSNBC declared Wisconsin for Biden.

The counting continues. Biden has more electoral college votes. Neither candidate has 270 yet. Supposedly the count will be finalized by Friday, if not sooner (or later?). I'm not anxious. Late in the evening some persons — James Carville, Jon Meacham, Michael Steele, among others — advised Americans to take a deep breath, relax, and be patient. The system is working and those commentators believed quite strongly that Biden would emerge as the winner of the election.

Going Out On a Limb a Little

I need to get this blog onto the server. I don't want to wait all day. Given the current trending, it appears Pennsylvania will end up in Biden's column. Georgia is shifting toward Biden, but there is no guarantee yet. By the end of the week we might see Biden with 306 electoral college votes, a clear victory over Trump and one that would be difficult for Trump to challenge.

Okay, enough already. To the server.

Sunday 2020.11.1

Standard Time

If you live in one of the areas of the USA that switches to Daylight Saving Time each spring, you switched back to Standard Time today. I saw an amusing political cartoon about the change. A woman tells her husband, "We get an extra hour." The man responds, "Who wants another hour of 2020?"

Critical Times

The election is on Tuesday. I've been hearing most people who intended to vote have already cast their ballot in early voting. I did.

It seems like the shenanigans to rig the election have been worse that I ever saw in the past. Of course, there is cheating on both sides, but it appears to me that one side is a lot more guilty than the other.

Why is such cheating necessary? One of the books I read described it as the shrinking of the conservative class. As young people mature to voting age, they tend to vote liberal. As America sees its minority population increase (and the white majority decreasing), people of color are more likely to vote as Democrats. Older conservatives are passing away. What can conservatives to do maintain their grip on power?

Maybe you read the book Animal Farm by George Orwell. If so, you probably remember the line "All animals are equal but some are more equal than others." Orwell's book was a satirical allegory of Russia under the dictatorship of Stalin. It might very well describe the USA today under Donald Trump and, especially, Mitch McConnell.

I've seen bad times. One was the 1960s when we were fighting a war against a war. I worried about being drafted and sent to Vietnam. Thankfully, as I've said before in these blogs, my draft number was too high. I wasn't called up. The years under Richard "Tricky Dick" Nixon were bad because of Watergate, but he promised to bring the troops home from Vietnam and he did.

The second worst has been the four years under the authoritarian rule of Donald Trump. The America I love seemed lost in the very swamp Trump promised to drain. Maybe the draining will finally begin on January 20th of next year. I'm hoping. This has been a very discouraging time, but I try to remain optimistic.

Books such as Jon Meachum's The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels helps. He reminds us times have been worse. One limitation of the human perspective is our life span. I am nearly 70 years old, but I can look back at about 60 of those years. My childhood perspective was different. The biggest enemy was a neighborhood bully named Charlie.

Meachum, a historian, can look much further back. He tells us about the time this country was at war with itself — the Civil War. There were two world wars and the Great Depression. So maybe four years (hopefully only four years) of Donald Trump aren't so bad. If Trump is indeed voted out of office, I'll feel a lot better with Biden in the White House. Even the fighting that will be instigated by Trump after the election will seem like a minor kerfuffle by comparison.

Halloween

It was a quiet Halloween here in the trailer park. Although it isn't a seniors-only park, there are very few children. Half a dozen candy bars would probably have been enough. However, I turned out all the lights, closed all my drapes, and stayed in my office to watch a couple movies on my computer.

Phew!

I feel like I dodged a bullet. I did a Kitchen Vlog on Thursday. I wrote the script on Wednesday and in it I said "six days to the election." After shooting the video in the evening (the sun was down; so no need to cover the windows with blackout fabric) I edited the video and then watched The 11th Hour With Brian Williams on MSNBC. He said "five days to the election." Oh crap! My script said six.

I sat down to re-edit the video. I didn't want to shoot it again. Maybe there was a way I could fix it. Phew! I had said, "only a few days to the election." Only an easy edit of the thumbnail, changing "Six Days" to "Final Days" was necessary. Then I uploaded the video to YouTube.

You can watch the video with this link:

Or CLICK HERE.

I'll be watching the election returns on Tuesday. I'll probably do a post-election Kitchen Vlog, like I did in 2016. We might not have a final victor until several days later, but maybe enough votes will be counted during the first 24 hours to project a winner.

Phew, Again!

I dodged another bullet. I mentioned in the Kitchen Vlog my trip to Costco. I only went in for a flu shot — no shopping. If you ever go into Costco for a prescription, you know the policy. Even if it was called in earlier in the day, they'll say, "It will be ready in about 20 minutes." They want you to wander around the store for a while and hopefully do some impulse shopping.

There was a Vitamix Road Show booth set up. I was attracted to a new attachment. It's a food processor that fits on top of the Vitamix base. It comes with a blade and two discs. I wanted it. The price was $159 at the store. Thankfully I had to pick up an order at Best Buy and I was riding my bike that day. I couldn't leave an expensive item in my bike while I was in the store. So I waited.

That gave me time to think about it. I already have a high-end Cuisinart "Limited Edition Metal" food processor. It can do everything the Vitamix attachment can do. So I changed my mind. Money saved and one less bulky item to store somewhere.

Container Garden

My Roma tomato plant and onions continue to grow. The tomato plant started to lean over; so I found a four-foot dowel in the shed. After sharpening one end, I pushed it down into the soil and loosely secured the plant stem to it in several places. The plant is now 28 inches (71cm) tall. The one tomato is still there. Several more flowers are blooming and I've noticed a bee visiting the plant.

As for the onions, three of the original "keepers" are doing nothing. They're green, but there is no sign of growth. Two others continue to grow green stalks. And the new one I added this past month is thriving with several new stalks developing.