Monday, January 30, 2006
Why the Coal Miners Didn't Have to Die 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Esterhazy Mine, SaskatchewanUPDATE: Two more miners have died in West Virginia; one in a shaft collapse, the other in a strip mine gas fire. In addition, a group of workers was evacuated from yet another mine following a safety inspection that revealed carbon monoxide levels five times higher than permitted by OSHA. In light of the recent spate of incidents, West Virginia governor Joe Manchin has called for a industry stand-down to allow a major safety inspection and overhaul. Yes, accidents do happen; but four deadly occurrences in as many weeks speaks to something being very wrong under the current system.

High-profile U.S. mining disasters have made headlines recently, but a similar incident this weekend in Esterhazy, Saskatchewan involving 70 miners ended very differently. According to news reports, all the Canadian miners survived primarily because the mines were equipped with refuge stations, which can be used as sealed shelters in case of fire or explosion. These stations contain food, water, and most importantly, 24 to 36 hours' worth of oxygen. Canada is one of many nations that mandate the use of mining safety measures like refuge stations. Inexplicably, the U.S. does not. Professors Derek Apel and Larry Grayson of University of Missouri-Rolla point out these international discrepancies in an editorial piece for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
While other nations have seen a significant drop in the fatality rate of underground coal miners in recent years, the United Sates has seen a 15-percent increase between 1998-2000 and 2001-2003. The recent Sago Mine accident in West Virginia, in which 12 miners lost their lives, now brings this disparity in safety performances into scrutiny and prompts the question: Why doesn't the United States lead the world in mining safety?

Other mining-rich areas of the world, such as New South Wales in Australia, have aggressively pursued new regulations while also creating industry-government partnerships for funded research aimed at better analyzing mine-monitoring information and developing automated mining processes. In the United States, however, similar research was abandoned with the elimination of the U.S. Bureau of Mines nearly a decade ago.
Government and industry in the United States would do well to follow the examples of some other countries by implementing some or all of the following measures. They could have made the difference between life and death for the Sago miners. At the very least, they could have increased their chances of survival. [read full article]
Apel and Grayson detail several measures used in Britain, Australia and Canada - nations, which like the U.S., rely heavily on mining for energy - such as two-exit-per-shaft minimums, refuge and tracking stations (including portable stations that can be transported as work areas shift), and portable explosion barriers that help reduce danger to workers in case of a blast.

Davitt McAteer, former assistant secretary for mine safety and health for the Department of Labor spoke with National Public Radio January 4th, shortly after the Sago disaster. McAteer seems completely unaware of the safety technologies available north of the border, claiming that the one-hour personal oxygen tanks in use in mines like Sago are "the best [technology] we have right now":
NPR: As part of their safety training, underground miners are required to carry self-rescue kits. What are they and how do they work?

McAteer: They're called Self-Contained Self-Rescuer units, or SCSRs, and they come in two types: oxygen bottles and canisters. Those devices give you an hour's worth of protection, which is meant to be enough for you to get to a place where there's fresh air. The SCSRs aren't ideal, but lives have certainly been saved since they became required equipment.

NPR: An hour of oxygen doesn't seem like much when miners are sometimes trapped for days, like the miners in the Sago mine accident. Do the SCSRs offer enough protection?

McAteer: Well, they're the best we've got right now. There's been a lot of innovation in the industry, but it's mostly been on the production side.
Clearly not true; "You're doing a heckuva job, Brownie." Contrary to McAteer's assertions, better safety technology is available now, and if we took advantage of it we would have fewer scenes of heartbreak like the ones we saw the day those miners scrawled their dying words to loved ones, deep beneath the West Virginia soil.

Corporations may cite tight profit margins and grouse at the cost of implementing new equipment, but as our country returns increasingly to energy sources like coal, we owe American workers and their families the basic level of safety miners in other nations count on. The initial blast at Sago may have been an accident, but the subsequent 12 deaths by carbon monoxide poisoning were an avoidable tragedy. After seeing those Esterhazy miners' grateful faces emerge from underground, I challenge the American mining industry to tell the Sago families that it's just too expensive to implement safety devices that would have brought their sons, brothers, and fathers home alive.

Friday, January 27, 2006
Disposing Of The Body: A Christmas Story 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
[Originally posted in farkleberries January 2003. Just for the record, real trees are no longer used. -- Ed.]

You may not think so, but disposing of a Christmas tree almost a full two months behind schedule is no mean feat; in fact, the logistics are similar to the clandestine disposal of a corpse. For a host of reasons we just could not bring ourselves to discard this symbol of holiday bliss, letting it mummify in our living room to a crispy-dried, half-bald skeleton of its former self. It was a present, shipped from a certain upscale homewares and clothing company that specializes in delivering the illusion of genteel countrification to urbanites...oh, hell, it was from L.L. Bean's. But first, let me tell you the story of the tree's arrival.

Packed tightly wrapped in a cardboard carton, the tree came bound with that super-strength yellow plastic strapping of the sort used to restrain war protesters being arrested en masse. It was about five feet high, and in its compacted state roughly one foot across - but after the restraining tape was cut off (and the new owner's fingers almost were, as well), it was still, discouragingly, only one foot across. This might be an interesting-looking tree. Fortunately, inside the box the bound-up balsam came in, there were instructions on a white sheet of paper:
"after removal of packing tape, cut off about one inch from the base of tree to allow water to be absorbed properly. When mounted upright, tree will relax into its natural shape."
Now, cutting off an inch of solid wood from a six-inch diameter tree trunk is easier said then done, especially when you live in a city apartment and the sharpest sawing tool you have is a steak knife. That simply would not do, so a quick search of my big yellow toolbox uncovered a more appropriate set of cutting implements - an old one-inch chisel, a rubber mallet, and safety glasses. One can't be an impromptu Dahmer of the Trees without proper precautions.

Laying the tree on its side in the hallway, I began to hack away at the trunk ineffectively, chipping off tiny pieces of the pitchy green stem, covering my chisel and gloved hands with sticky fragrant goop that would require half a can of WD-40 to remove. After the better part of an hour, I had managed to chop away enough old stem that the tree might possibly suck up enough fresh water to live a week or two...or so we thought.

Needless to say, the tree did "relax into its natural shape" after a day of soaking. It was now as wide as it was tall, a squat five-foot-by-five monster more resembing an Alaskan tumbleweed than anything seen on the cover of Better Homes and Gardens. It was so relaxed, it looked like it wanted a cigarette. We managed to decorate it nicely with ornaments both new (lights and a few glass globes from Target) and old (some vintage bells and balls from the local antique markets), with no coherent theme. An Adirondack wooden moose shared the branches with a Polish green glass pickle and a 3-inch mirrorball from India. Yes, it was a fine, fine international Christmas tree. So fine, we couldn't bring ourselves to take it down for almost three months.

Cut to present day: This past Saturday, after much thinking of the Rhode Island nightclub tragedy and visions of this fatwood disaster waiting to explode into flames dancing in our heads, the decision was made. After all, weren't martyrs burnt upon stakes and smeared with pitch to better feed the holy flames? That tree would have to go.

But where? The last of the trees disposed of in our courtyard apartment had been dragged to the alley dumpsters back in the first few weeks of January - surely, the telltale trail of needles coming from our back stairs through the alley would give our crime away, especially after reading the stern notice all the tenants received with their December invoices:
Solution? We had to Jimmy Hoff-ize the body. We laid the tree on an old blue checkered blanket, and repeatedly stepped on its spine. The dried branches snapped with a sickening crunch that sounded awfully close to breaking bones...."Yo, Jimmy, where's da money? We told'ja we'd be around Tuesday for da balance! (snap) Ya gonna tell us where da money is?" A few tortured bootcrunches later most of the remaining needles fallen away, and our tree lay in a ruined pile on the floor. I actually felt bad for it, the poor thing.

We'd planned on disposing of the remains after nightfall, since the forecast called for clouds and possible snowfall, and the roar of the passing "L" train would mask the noise. Naw, the hell with it. We dragged it out back and brazenly left a trail of tree-gore five feet wide to the dumpster. By morning, it was gone, and a fresh duvet of virgin snow concealed our tracks. We got away with it - this time.

Now we'll have to watch our backs and screen our calls for the Chicago Christmas Tree Mafia.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006
The World's Worst Tuna Sandwich 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
First of all, when making a tuna sandwich, don't use leftover mayonnaise packets from that freebie catered box lunch you had last weekend but didn't discard because you're so environmentally conscious - and you didn't want to add fuel to the burgeoning kitchen drawer where you normally hide them.

Second, if you're adding dried cranberries and mustard because you're adventurous in the kitchen, don't compound the problem by adding dried onion flakes to your tuna salad because you're fresh out of fresh onions.

Last, and perhaps most important, don't use that ancient whole wheat bread you found in the back of the fridge that has fuzzy mold spots you won't discover until you take your third bite.

Music: "Is This The Way That Tigers Do?" by His Name Is Alive, and
"Little Fuzzy Vegetables" by Mark Mandel
After this debacle, I discovered that Whole Paycheck Foods now offers a Tuna Salad with Cranberries. Mercy.

Monday, January 23, 2006
Howdy, Partner 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Recently, in conversation, someone commented that using the word "partner" to indicate "significant other" implictly assumes a same-sex relationship. I disagreed, since I personally know several heterosexual women who refer to their long-term boyfriends as their "partners." The response? "No way. A straight person would never use the term 'partner,' because everybody knows that's code for 'gay'."

Hmmm. After giving it some thought, I realized that we might both be right, in a sense. At least in my experience, there seems to be a recent shift in the term's use falling along gender, political, and socio-economic lines. While I personally haven't encountered men who use the term "partner" to refer to a female significant other, I do know of some and I'm convinced they exist - at least in Blue States. My observations: women who use "partner" to refer to a male significant other tend to be:These women would also fall into the category of what's known as "straight but not narrow" - that is, heterosexual but supportive and accepting of those who may not be. I would also describe them as women who believe in an egalitarian view of heterosexual relationships. What they are doing is taking a risk and stretching the boundaries of public expectation by calling their guys "partners."

Go ahead: call it a "yuppie feminist thing." Maybe if more straight women begin to use the word "partner," some brave men might follow suit and call their female significant others "partners." At least it's a hell of a lot better than the term demographers coined in the 80's to refer to unmarried heterosexuals living together: POSSLQ's (Persons of Opposite Sex Sharing Living Quarters). That's pronounced "poss-əl-cue." And if you happen to know of any straight men who call their girlfriends "partners" (and I don't mean when they're referring to 'sex'- hyphen - partners), feel free to tell them they're on the vanguard. And let me know, just in the interest of academic research. :)

Friday, January 20, 2006
The Crocuses Love January Like Monkeys Love Wine 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
I don't have a picture yet, unfortunately - and tonight's predicted snowfall may obscure the exidence - but something is definitely strange in the Midwest right now. Our weeks of unseasonably mild January weather have acted as an artificial "forcing" environment on the local flora, and the crocuses (croci?) of Hyde Park are beginning to show their fresh green tips above the bare soil. In January.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the globe Muscovites are freezing - literally. A severe cold spell in Russia (temperatures have dropped as low as -30°F for days) has officially caused the death of several dozen people, pehaps many more. According to Russian news source RIA-Novosti, even the zoo animals need some "liquid warmth":
At a zoo in Lipetsk, south of Moscow, director Alexander Osipov said monkeys would be given wine three times a day "to protect against colds," the RIA-Novosti news agency reported. Rossiya television said a circus sea lion was being treated for pneumonia with brandy body rubs.
And yes, I did doctor the monkey picture to include the wine bottle. However, trying to Photoshop a sea lion receiving a cognac body rub seemed excessive. I do wonder what sort of tipple these Soviet simians prefer?

Bradgelina, Russian Webglish-Style 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Post-Communism, the Rossiya RUTV television news agency in the former Soviet Union seems just as celebrity-obsessed as any stateside tabloid. However, when you translate the pages using a automated web utility like AltaVista's Babelfish™, much Engrish-style hilarity ensues. Here's their take on the Bradgelina, complete with the oddly appropriate choice of pronoun, "it":
Bradgelina!Film star andzhelina Joly officially declared, which awaits child from Breda Of pitta. And the now most popular and most fascinating Hollywood pair by seven-mile steps dvizhetsya to the marriage, especially as Pitt there was recently zastukan in the jewelry store of Rodeo- drive with the purchase of engagement rings. There remains only to be surprised: why it was necessary so much time to hide its relations from the public?..

30- summer Of endzhi with the straightness characteristic of it stated: "yes, 4 beremenna!" But the general friend of future parents added: "Bred is madly happy, because he always wanted family. They declared to friends, that the child must be borne by summer ". Not is less happy, according to the evidence of the same friends, and Andzhelina: "it not was never happier. This is the woman, for whom its children - most important in the life. And now it assembles real durable family". Therefore, the assertion of the former mistress Of endzhi of Schimizu's spinning jennies about the fact that its friend never will calm down in the marriage, they were erroneous.

By Joly she attempted to hide its pregnancy, for what it hid for some time its splendid figure into awkward plat'itsa. But several days ago pierced in the Dominican republic, where it is removed in film The Good Shepherd together with Robert de niro and Mettom Deymonom, after appearing its noticeably rounded off stomach. Furthermore, it became known that the actress during December passed inspection in one of the clinics of California.

Let us recall that this is the first biological pregnancy for active Andzheliny, which already twice became mother - her receiving children excellently themselves feel. With that time Of pitt of podal documents to the official adoption of 4- summer Meddoksa and year old Zakhary. All children will bear Joly -Pitt surname.

Certainly, news about the pregnancy of Joly - present impact for the former wife Of breda Of dzhennifer Of eniston, who learned about the fact that Pitt will become dad personally from it. The four year old marriage Of dzhen and Breda ended during October of past year. And although Pitt denied, that the divorce was caused by the unwillingness Of eniston to have children, now already the reasons of the crash of their family to doubt it does not be necessary. However, it is necessary to return proper Dzhen - it followed no commentaries from its side.

But here the father Of andzheliny actor John voyt stated: "Endzhi - my daughter, and I always support that which is better for it".

The friends of starry pair assume that the ceremony of marriage takes place into Malibu and will pass in the traditions of Buddhism, to which Joly's priverzhena.

RUTV based on materials The Sun and People
Apparently the Russian-to-English algorithm adds the obligatory "of" prefix to most proper names, leading to terminology like "the former mistress Of Endzhi of Schimizu's spinning jennies," "Mettom Deymonom" (Matt Damon), and "Breda Of pitta" - which is not the IKEA™ version of pita bread, but rather, "Brad Pitt." Also, note that the Russian transliteration of "j" (as in jelly) is written dzh: "dzhennifer Of eniston."

Friday Random Ten: The Hold Your Licor(ice) Edition 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Liquorice logs, or nuclear fuel pellets?Okay - since you asked, an explanation is in order regarding the correct spelling of the candy/flavouring associated with chewy black strings or pariah jellybeans. Yesterday I mentioned I didn't care for liquorice. The "quo" variant is actually the British/Canadian spelling, whereas the "co" spelling is one used here in the U. S. of A. Case in point: the liquorice candies shown at left are sold by an online sweetshop as "soft liquorice cakes." From the picture, they could easily be mistaken for fire-damaged coffee cans, nuclear fuel pellets, or cylindrical tar babies.

A topic for another post entirely, but just as I tend to prefer avoiding liquorice, I often prefer British/Canadian spellings. They just seem more proper and correct, somehow. Perhaps it's the amount of time I spent living near - and working in - Canada (one develops a hankering for things moosey and English, although the Canadian maple flavoured tea found at duty free shops is just frightening). Perhaps I had a past life in Jollye Olde Englande. Maybe an over-hearty dose of BBC and PBS during my formative years. Who knows.

Consider this: maybe "licorice" looks more normal that "liquorice" to American eyes, but which do you prefer - "licor" or "liquor"? Had George III prevailed, we might have learned the proverb "bier then licor, never sicor." Ugh.
  1. Village People - "In The Navy"
  2. Ladytron - "Fighting In Built Up Areas"
  3. REM - "Pretty Persuasion"
  4. Duke Ellington - "Take It Easy"
  5. The New Pornographers - "Mystery Hours"
  6. Brian Eno - "Lantern Marsh"
  7. Utah Saints - "New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84)"
  8. The Heinz Kiessling Orchestra - "Senhorita"
  9. Mike Oldfield - "Angelique"
  10. Joan Jett and the Blackhearts - "Real Wild Child"

Thursday, January 19, 2006
Feds Want to Know If You're Googling Porn 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
UPDATE: BoingBoing has an update that explains the DoJ search subpoena would not - at this time - request information that would reveal the identities of websearchers, nor their IP address. There, a quote from SearchEngineWatch that makes a valid point:
The government apparently wants to estimate how much pornography shows up in the searches that children do. Here's a thought. If you want to measure how much porn is showing up in searches, try searching for it yourself rather than issuing privacy alarm sounding subpoenas. It would certainly be more accurate.
Who wants your Google search information? Marketers, sure...but now the gubmint wants to see if you've been naughty online. This in from ZDNet News:
Federal prosecutors defending the Child Online Protection Act, a controversial Internet pornography law, are demanding that Google hand over a million [randomly selected] search records. In court documents, the Bush administration asked a federal judge to force Google to comply with a subpoena for the records, which would reveal the search terms of a broad swath of Google's visitors.
PDF versions of the scanned subpoena available at ZDNet. More at Bloomberg.com, TechDirt and CNet. TechDirt offers this telling - and troubling - scoop:
...[I]n the original defense before the Supreme Court, Solicitor General Theodore Olson tried to use the Google results count for "free porn" as proof of why the law was needed. As we noted at the time, the Justices saw through that argument immediately, pointing out that just because there are search results on that term, it doesn't mean they're all pornographic - meaning such numbers don't prove much. However, it appears the government's lawyers have figured out that superficial evidence from Google isn't enough - so they might as well get a lot more detailed info, in the form of one whole week's worth of search results. This is worrisome, in part, because by hiding this behind the "protecting kids from porn" argument will distract from the real issue, and could set a bad precedent. It's also worth noting that the government claims other search engines had no problem at all turning over similar data - which may be the most worrying point.
Well, had Solicitor General Olson Googled farkleberries for the term "free porn," he would have received several hits. Obviously, we bear more watching. ;)

farkleberries Links du Jour 134 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Ray Nagin's "Chocolate City"? 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Mayor Ray Nagin is catching flak for his comments on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day that New Orleans will once again be a "chocolate city":
On Monday, Nagin said God wanted New Orleans to be predominantly black and said he didn't care what the predominantly white Uptown section of the city had to say about it. "I don't care what people are saying Uptown or wherever they are. This city will be chocolate at the end of the day," he said. "This city will be a majority African-American city. It's the way God wants it to be."
Yesterday, Nagin engaged in some serious - and I mean fudge-smooth - backpedaling.
After the statement, [Nagin] insisted he wasn't being divisive. "How do you make chocolate? You take dark chocolate, you mix it with white milk, and it becomes a delicious drink. That is the chocolate I am talking about," he said. "New Orleans was a chocolate city before Katrina. It is going to be a chocolate city after. How is that divisive? It is white and black working together, coming together and making something special."
Oh, please...I can almost hear the strains of "Ebony and Ivory" or Three Dog Night's "Black and White":
The milk is White
The chocolate is Brown
Together they make
A luscious town
Now, it may sound racist to say this, but can you imagine the uproar if Nagin were a white mayor, and he declared New Orleans at "the end of the day" would be a "vanilla city" because that's "the way God wants it to be"?

It probably was just an off-the-cuff statement more intended to express solidarity with the city's African-American community than any attempt to stir up racial divisiveness. In reality, yes, the "chocolate" comment made by an African-American mayor has a very different tenor than the converse statement made by a white politician. The average, low-to-moderate-income New Orleans resident - regardless of race, although statistics show that average resident is very likely to be Black - has good reason to worry that Katrina set the stage for a spectacular gentrifying land-grab by wealthy residents and out of town opportunists. We saw exactly how starkly the color lines were drawn in the hurricane's aftermath, but Nagin would gave been more politic expressing the city's concern and solidarity with the "common man" regardless of skin color.

In any case, Nagin should really lay off the colorful 'dairy' metaphors, lest he curdle the "chocolate milk" further.

Friday, January 13, 2006
Friday Random Ten: Kuvia! 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
The University of Chicago Kuviasungnerk Festival Polar Bear RunKuviasungnerk/Kangeiko (Kuvia for short), the annual weeklong winter festival designed to get students’ adrenaline running and boost their morale during these long cold months, derives its name from the Inuit word for happiness. If you’re version of happiness is to wake up at 5 a.m., walk through the cold winter air to get to Henry Crown Field House and participate in Kangeiko, a daily exercise event, then this event is for you. If you’re happy sleeping in and laughing at those people participating, this event is also for you. Those who make it to all five Kangeiko mornings, including, the “salute to the sun” at the Point on Friday, get a free cool t-shirt. The Council on University Programming (COUP) has other Kuvia activities, including ice skating and the infamous Polar Bear Run, where students dash through the Quads wearing the bare essentials, or less—sorry parents, but at college, we take advantage of any chance for public nudity.
Yep. A gaggle of coed winter-pale University of Chicago übergeeks future Nobel Laureates streaking through the quads while onlookers (many with cameras, natch) whoop and holler at their shortcomings. It is January, after all. Note: this is a shot from last year's Kuvia; it's 40 degrees outside right now and muddy as heck.
  1. The Early November - "The Course of Human Life"
  2. Carlos Montera de Souza - "Estamos Ai"
  3. U2 - "When I Look At The World"
  4. The Dave Brubeck Quartet - "Koto Song"
  5. XTC - "Making Plans for Nigel"
  6. Paul Desmond - "To Say Goodbye"
  7. Hawkwind - "Sonic Attack"
  8. Magnetic Fields - "For We Are The King of the Boudoir"
  9. The Killers - "Mr. Brightside"
  10. The Smiths - "Work Is A Four-Letter Word"

Thursday, January 12, 2006
farkleberries Links du Jour 133: The Fetus Carpool Edition 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Tuesday, January 10, 2006
Midwestern Musings: Notes on Iowa City 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
  1. Drove back from a business trip to Iowa City last night. I'd treated myself to a pre-birthday present from a delightful shop called Iowa Book - a signed first printing copy of Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys, one of a limited edition of 5000 - all of which Neil apparently did sign himself.
  2. Over the two days we spent in Iowa City, we randomly crossed paths around town (on the UI campus, downtown, in a mall) no less than six - yes, six - times with an unusually-garbed young (early 20's) couple who seemed to have stepped off the set of The Matrix or Hellraiser. During college break, the town's population is roughly 35-40,000, larger than Plattsburgh, New York or Burlington, Vermont, which are similar town-and-gown communities. Oddly, neither we nor the Young Man and Woman in Black seemed particularly surprised by these chance encounters. Is it just me, or would that qualify a genuinely statistically improbable occurrence?
  3. Taking into account places like Iowa City, IA; Galena and Lemont, IL, the Midwest is really not as flat as it's reputed to be.
  4. If you find yourself in Iowa City, take a moment to check out Masala, a vegetarian Indian restaurant located at 9 South Dubuque Street. Finding a good Indian dining spot in a small town is always a nice surprise: the premises are colorful, fragrant and inviting, and both food and service are excellent and reasonably priced. Plus, their spicy, cardamom-laced chai will melt winter's still in a jiffy.
  5. If you're going to IKEA in the Shopping Hell that is Schaumburg, Illinois, go late on a Monday night. It's refreshingly empty of the usual swelling throngs of shoppers, and you can play silly games with their 7-foot long green toy snakes without catching frightened glances from fellow shoppers.

Friday, January 06, 2006
Friday Random Ten: The Dubya's In Da House Edition 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
The President is in Chicago today: I knew those dozens of Chicago PD cruisers, four-wheel ATV's, paddy wagons (and scattered groups of protesters) I saw along Michigan Avenue had to be there for some reason this morning. As my bus was winding its way through the city and down Columbus Avenue, the University of Chicago Hospitals UCAN emergency medical 'copter was circling the waterfront and Loop area a few times...just in case, you know.

Later, at the Chicago Board of Trade, President Bush declared our economy hale and hearty as it "heads into 2006 with a full head of steam."
  1. Jimmy Smith - "Refractions": Jimmy was the master of the jazzy Hammond Organ.
  2. Mud - "Dynamite": Underappreciated early 70's UK Chinn-Chapman glam with the sparkly crunch of Sweet, the Glitter Band, even Suzi Quatro
  3. Stellastarr* - "Love and Longing"
  4. Isao Tomita - "Arabesque No. 1": the true ancestor of the "X-Files" theme song, a.k.a. the theme from Jack Horkheimer's "Star Gazer/Star Hustler." An old favorite of all who watched PBS stations sign off after "Dr. Who."
  5. The Brello Cabal - "The Margarine-Flavoured Pineapple Chunk": Makes me long for reruns of Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In
  6. Donna De Lory - "Govinda Jaya Jaya": A fascinating hybrid of millenial "chick rock" stylings and devotional Indian raga
  7. The Georges Arvanitas Jazz Quartet - "Night in Tipasa": Mid 70's "French library jazz," from the late Monsieur Arvanitas
  8. Q-Unit - "This is How We Bite the Dust": Brilliant Queen/50 Cent mashup that will have the RIAA's panties in a knot shortly. Get it while you can, man.
  9. Air Remixed (Everybody Hertz) - "How Does it Make You Feel (Adrian Sherwood version)": Dub meets Gallic electro-squeezebox spacepop
  10. Cyndi Lauper w. Shaggy - "All Through the Night": Did it all start with Alanis' acoustic reworking of "Jagged Little Pill"? Maybe, but Cyndi's 2005 retooled greatest hits collection "The Body Acoustic" does more that unplug'ger - it sets her still-potent vocals to fresh, "adult" grooves. Nice.

Thursday, January 05, 2006
Cheese Pizza 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Traditional and comforting.
You focus on living a quality life.
You're not easily impressed with novelty.
Yet, you easily impress others.

What's Your Pizza Personality?

Yes indeed. A plain cheese pizza - New York style, thank you - is my favorite kind. It's pizza stripped to its irreducible triune essence of crust, sauce and cheese, and if any one of these is subpar the pizza just don't woik. We'll conveniently ignore that fact that the message sounds suspiciously Engrish, and the second half makes no sense at all. [Check out Pizza Marketing Quarterly's feature on "The Many Different Types of Pizza"]

The Fine Art of Chlebíčky 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
The winter holidays are traditionally the time my family prepare and consume trayfuls what we know as "open-face Czech sandwiches," or chlebíčky, though their and ingredients and structure tend to suggest a Nordic origin befitting a groaning smörgasbörd. Strangely enough, the best image I was able to find of them appears on a Japanese website called Cheko.jp, along with other Bohemian memorables like goulash and dumplings. (see 4th image from the top). Some variants with cheeses, tomatoes, and tuna or chicken salads can be seen here.

You've say you've never heard of an open-face Czech sandwich? They may sound odd to the unitiated, but they are delicious. (I must confess, my mom and dad taught me everything I know about these.) One of the pleasures of living in Chicago is being able to walk into a little deli on Devon Avenue's International Marketplace, request "meat for open-faced Czech sandwiches," and without further ado be presented with proper slices of šunka and salám perfect for these party treats. You'll need:First you hard-boil half a dozen eggs, allow them to cool, chill them for a few hours in the refrigerator (or on your windowsill) and peel them carefully. Then, take a long loaf of sliced white Italian bread, arrange the slices on a large circular platter, and spread each slice thinly with mayonnaise. On each piece of bread place a slice of hard salami on once half of the bread, then overlap on the other side with a slice of ham (Virginia honey ham is quite nice). Using an egg slicer (or a very sharp non-serrated knife), cut each egg crosswise into about ten round slices. Most of the slices will have yolk in the center; you'll place one of them on the center of the hard salami sections of the sandwiches. Reserve the white egg ends and yolkless slices, and mash them in a small bowl with a fork to make little egg bits.

Can you picture them yet? Next, place one (or two if small) drained slice of sweet bread-and-butter pickle on the center of each ham section; don't use regular dills, as the flavor won't be quite right. Now, using a fork or spoon, sprinkle a few bits of mashed boiled egg white over each finished sandwich. Voilà!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006
farkleberries Links du Jour 132 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink]