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The Sagan File

We moved offices, and I began to purge files, stuff I don't need and haven't looked at in years. Digging deep, I came across a fat file marked "Sagan." The astronomer died in December 1996.

Save? Throw away?

From the documents, a voice emerged.

"Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that there is anyone who will come and save us from ourselves."

Carl Sagan! You could hear those explosive consonants. Who else could utter a phrase, with a straight face, like "the great enveloping cosmic dark"? Sagan insisted that we think bigger. Look upward and outward, he said. Get cosmic.

It's something you don't hear so much these days, and not just because the space program is in a funk. Our concerns are extremely terrestrial: war, disease, hatred, poverty. The preoccupying figure of this decade is not the astronaut but the terrorist.

Sagan cared about earthly subjects, too. He was your basic progressive liberal, a college professor, a peace advocate. But he saw our human obsessions as trivial in the grand scheme of things. The universe isn't about us, he would say. He railed against human arrogance, against "our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe."

And yet the voice in the file is that of a person who liked human beings, who rooted for them. Perhaps because Sagan had seen so many desert worlds out there in our solar system, so many cold, airless, sterile planets and moons, he appreciated the one place where we know life has proliferated, and where intelligence has somehow appeared. Here's Sagan explaining why he wouldn't ban all medical research using animals: "I'm sure if I were a lizard, I would be arguing about sacrificing the humans so we can get better medicine for the lizards. I'm sorry. I can't help it. I'm a human."

Throughout his career, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Sagan was fascinated with life beyond Earth, a subject that carries with it the hazard of sounding very silly. In a Scientific American article, he wrote, "If a silicon-based giraffe had walked by the Viking Mars landers, its portrait would have been taken." Sagan didn't actually think there might be silicon Martian giraffes, but he was glad that the Viking landers would be ready to take pictures of any animals bounding around.

Here's a 1981 letter from Sagan to someone who thought alien life forms would be very much like creatures on Earth. Sagan disagreed:

"We have a worrisome tendency to think that what we see is all that can be. . . But why five fingers? Why fingers rather than tentacles? Why the agonizingly slow data processing in our neurological systems? Why not multi-spectral infrared sensing? It's easy to think of a wide range of anatomies, physiologies and sensory modalities that have not been adopted by humans or indeed by any other creatures on the Earth."

Which is a much more elaborate response than simply, "Thank you for your interesting letter."

Sagan would be so useful today, what with all the debates about science and religion. By most definitions he would be called an atheist, but he hated the term. "An atheist has to know a lot more than I know. An atheist is someone who knows there is no god. By some definitions atheism is very stupid."

He didn't think science drained any of the majesty from the universe, but quite the opposite.

"The very act of understanding is a celebration of joining, merging, even if on a very modest scale, with the magnificence of the Cosmos."

Here's Sagan's text for a statement he persuaded President Jimmy Carter to include on the Voyager Record, a disc designed to be heard by an alien civilization should it ever intercept the Voyager spacecraft:

"This Voyager spacecraft was constructed by the United States of America, a community of 240 million human beings among the 4.2 billion who inhabit our planet Earth. We are still divided into nation states, but are rapidly becoming a single global civilization which covers our tiny but very beautiful world . . . We are attempting to survive our time so we may live into yours. We hope someday, having solved the problems which face us, to join a community of galactic civilizations."

We haven't solved our problems. Some people on Earth aren't even fully ready to join human civilization, far less a galactic one. Sagan would be saddened by much of what he sees today.

But he'd be out there fighting for science and the human future, imploring us to be smarter, braver, more cosmic. So the Sagan file will stay. Some people you need to keep around forever.

[This is my column in the Sunday magazine.]

By Joel Achenbach  |  April 23, 2006; 7:40 AM ET
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I'm glad Sagan realized that any advanced beings who might have found Voyager would speak English.

Posted by: TBG | April 23, 2006 8:19 AM | Report abuse

Actually TBG, I think Sagan indirectly made your point. He stressed that what was most intelligible to us would doubtless be least intelligible to the space aliens. Of course, all this implies we know something about extraterrestrial cognitive psychology. Further, I think the message was mostly for us.

I have a troubled relationship with Sagan. He always seemed too much a child of the 70s for me - a bit too preachy and smug. You know, the kind of college intellectual with a poster of Bertrand Russell who liked to rant while listening to "Rush" and smoking pot. Plus, I found his book "Contact" to be more of a political and philosophical treatise than a novel.

Nevertheless, it would be peevish not to recognize what a huge force he was both as a scientist (Please refer to the seminal work "Captured by Aliens by J. Achenbach for more) and as a popularizer of science. Many friends of mine got into science because of Carl, and that is no small achievement.

Maybe it's just that I've always been a huge fan of Timothy Ferris. I'm still a little bitter over that whole "Ann" business.

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 23, 2006 9:21 AM | Report abuse

There are 10 kinds of people in this world: those who understand digital technology and those who do not. Carl Sagan was a member of the first group, and also understood that language is always a vehicle for, never an obstacle to, communication. Despite weaknesses, he inspired a generation by drawing attention to all there is to live for and aspire to in this universe. He was a master of the big picture, and a valiant crusader against superstition, pseudo-science, prejudice, and xenophobia. Achenbach's admiration of Carl is well-placed. Would that there were more like him among our world leaders today.

Posted by: TomEM | April 23, 2006 9:28 AM | Report abuse

Gotta heart Bertrand Russell.

"The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatever that it isn't utterly absurd. Indeed, in view of the silliness of the majority of mankind, a widespread belief is more likely to be foolish than sensible."

-- Bertrand Russell

"If the world in which we live has been produced in accordance with a Plan, we shall have to reckon Nero a saint in comparison with the Author of that Plan."

-- Bertrand Russell, in "The Scientific Outlook"

Posted by: Dreamer | April 23, 2006 10:05 AM | Report abuse

Yes TomEM. I agree. Its a shame digital ignorance isn't one of the 111 deadly sins....

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 23, 2006 10:14 AM | Report abuse

This is sort of creepy. A friend of mine just got the complete **Cosmos** boxed set on DVD, and I watched the last two episodes this morning. Coincidences like this force me to step back, take a deep breath, and repeat several times, "Life is not a Thomas Pynchon novel."

I don't think that any human being could live up to the standard set by the narrator of **Cosmos**. No one could be so tolerant, knowledgeable, inquisitive, enthusiastic and spirited, not every moment of the waking day. What human brain, encumbered by its reptilian ancestry, could so perfectly marry skepticism and wonder the way Sagan's specter does for thirteen full episodes? If Sagan fell short of his persona, or if it took him decades of growth to approach that point, I can scarcely complain.

Posted by: Blake Stacey | April 23, 2006 10:49 AM | Report abuse

When I was growing up, one of the major inspirations for me to become a scientist was reading Carl Sagan (as well as Isaac Asimov, Roy Chapman Andrews, Timothy Ferris, and a few others). The Cosmos series came out when I was in middle school, and I didn't miss an episode. One of my aunts bought the book for me for Christmas in 1981 (I couldn't afford it). It's still on my bookshelf, with the cover so worn that the title is almost invisible on the spine. I even bought the soundtrack (on vinyl!).

Posted by: Dooley | April 23, 2006 10:51 AM | Report abuse

Off-topic, but I just wanted to point out that the coverage of alleged CIA leaker Mary McCarthy is vastly different at the NYT this morning, versus the coverage of the story by the Washington Post. In the NYT article titled "Colleagues Say C.I.A. Analyst Played by the Rules," a McCarthy's colleague, Larry Johnson, calls the 61-year-old CIA officer a "sacrificial lamb."

But some former C.I.A. employees who know Ms. McCarthy remain unconvinced, arguing that the pressure from Mr. Goss and others in the Bush administration to plug leaks may have led the agency to focus on an employee on the verge of retirement, whose work at the White House during the Clinton administration had long raised suspicions within the current administration.

Jane Hamsher at the blog asks some interesting questions in regard to confidentiality agreements in the top tier of government as well as media coverage of the naming of McCarthy and what goverment entity is truly in charge of investigating the leak:

And how does a non-disclosure form used at the CIA differ from, say, the Classified Information Nondisclosure Agreement signed by White House employees?

Mitchell [Andrea/Mrs. Alan Greenspan on NBC Evening News on Friday] is reporting that the CIA has referred the case to the Justice Department for investigation, but they [the CIA] went ahead and fired the employee [Mary McCarthy] anyway. Is this how it always works? I'd very much like to know.

Obviously, there is a lot more reporting that needs to be done on the story about Mary McCarthy and the U.S.'s Eastern European prisons used to conduct "extraordinary rendition" (Bob Herbert, op-ed columnist at the NYT has done the most reporting on the prisoner torture abuses, I think), just as I believe there is lot more reporting that needs to be done on Joby Warrick's story about the only correct report on the trailers in the Iraqi desert once suspected by the administration of being biological weapons laboratories.

Posted by: Loomis | April 23, 2006 10:53 AM | Report abuse

Frau Loomis,

Wie ist Ihre Augenkrankheit?

Too much to do today to comment on Sagan --other than the fact that he inspired me greatly.

That he could even conceive of humanity as unencumbered by its reptilian brain, however farfetched the concept seems, especially today, was, for me, in keeping with his vision of unlimitd possibility.

I mourned when he died.

Posted by: nelson | April 23, 2006 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Shouldn't that Sagan file be scanned and put on a computer disk?

I hope everybody is having a nice weekend. The lawn is calling me.

Posted by: Bayou Self | April 23, 2006 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Ah, languages -- so many and so little time to learn them all. I recall a column by George Will (mostly don't ever read him, but this one caught my eye) along the lines of that he thought that so-called "languages" with only a few people speaking them aren't really languages (or something along those lines) -- or that languages which are not written aren't really languages. Um. Well, it does demonstrate the true degree of his constipation approach to life.

I love languages, and I pick them up pretty quickly. I ask cab drivers all the time how to say "thank you" in their respective languages. I've surprised many a Nigerian or Tanzanian. I've forgotten how to say "thank you" in Thai, however (not enough practice) -- gotta go to more Thai restaurants (the food of which I love). I'm hoping to dig into more of the tribal languages of some African countries.

Languages are used to communicate and to *not* communicate, too. The flexibility (for those not too constipated to exercise whatever language they are in at any particular time) of languages is a wonderful tool.

Gotta go -- gonna make a luscious lentil stew with glorious new Spring veggies. Good thing to do (and eat) on a gloomy rainy Sunday.

Go Pistons! and Go Red Wings!

Now I'm done. Thank you for your attention.

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | April 23, 2006 12:18 PM | Report abuse

> Sagan would be so useful today,

Richard Feynman too.

Posted by: TexLex | April 23, 2006 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Hello, everyone. I hope your Sunday and Saturday have been good, and that you've enjoyed them to the fullest. Had a nice time at the conference, although it rained something awful, but we need the rain.

Once when I was younger, my family and I went to Camden, South Carolina. We went to visit a friend that worked in our hometown but he live in Camden. When we arrived we weren't quite sure of where he lived so we stopped and asked some folks for directions. And when they opened their mouths to talk, I fell in love. They spoke English, but it was mixture of something else, some bits of language from way back in their past. And it was beautiful, like music to the ears. One had to stop and listen carefully to get the meaning of what was said. It was bits of a language that had survived years and years of combining with another language, English. I had never heard this before, and I constantly asked questions so they would talk and keep talking because I loved the sound and nuance of this new English that I heard. These were African-Americans, and I believe those bits of language dated back to their homeland in Africa. There is so much to learn in this world, and so much of it can be beautiful.

Posted by: Cassandra S | April 23, 2006 3:23 PM | Report abuse


I suspect the language you heard was Gullah, common in the Low Counties of South Carolina. (Of course, I have heard speakers of standard English from South Carolina where I couldn't understand what the hell they were saying.)

Here's the Wikipedia listing on Gullah. You can also Google Gullah to get lots of listings.

Posted by: pj | April 23, 2006 3:37 PM | Report abuse

I read Aschenbach every day, and never comment (except in my mind) and I don't even read the comments because I do that on Dave Barry's blog and how much time is there in the day anyway but since there were few comments here and also because I was moved and scared by one of the Sagon quotes, here I am.
Sorry for the long build up.
The quote: probably true and frightening to me:

there is no hint that there is anyone who will come and save us from ourselves."

*wonders if html stuff works here*

Posted by: Eleanor | April 23, 2006 3:41 PM | Report abuse

I like Sagan's description of athiesm. Ferris posits something similar in one of his books - "Coming of Age in the Milky Way" I think.

One of my favorite Feynman quotes came after he was asked to look into those who believe in life elsewhere in the universe. He said it told him more about the irrationality of terrestrial life than the rationality of extra-terresterial life.


I don't know Roy Chapman Andrews. Thanks for mentioning him. Any particular recommendations in his work?

Posted by: pj | April 23, 2006 3:46 PM | Report abuse

Roy Chapman Andrews was a paleontologist at the American Museum in New York in the 1920s to 1950s or so. He led the expedition to Mongolia that was the first to discover fossil dinosaur eggs; these expeditions also resulted in the discovery of the dinosaurs Protoceratops, Oviraptor, and Velociraptor. He was also the inspiration for "Indiana Jones", so I have heard.

To help fund his expeditions, Andrews published a series of childrens science books, the "All About..." series, aimed at upper elementary/middle school kids. I remember checking "All About Dinosaurs", "All About Strange Beasts of the Past", and "All About Whales" out of my elementary school library. The last is the only one that I own. I first read it in (I think) second grade, and it's one of the reasons I work on whales now.

Andrews also published several adult books about his expeditions--the most famous is "On the Trail of Ancient Man" which I have not read. (Andrews went to Mongolia looking for human ancestors, but found dinosaurs instead.)

Posted by: Dooley | April 23, 2006 4:51 PM | Report abuse

(I fully endorse Joel's Aliens book. Then again, I fully endorse any book that quotes me, even if I never remember saying what it claims that I said...)

Something that I've been wondering about lately is how much of Sagan's success at communicating can actually be attributed to Johnny Carson. Carson had Sagan on his show numerous times, and they seemed to have a certain rapport. That kind of connection doesn't seem to happen these days. For instance, Jon Stewart is openly dismissive of space exploration. His response to the reported discovery of water on Mars was "So what?"

As for the "English" on the Voyager record, there were actually greetings in many different languages on that record, along with a pictogram indicating how to play the record. We consider records to be primitive technology today ("Really? You carved grooves in a disk? With what, a stick?"), but if you think about it, it is probably a remarkably stable way of preserving information over a long period of time. No electrons to vanish and ruin the recording.

But even if the Voyager record is never found, or if it is found and never understood, or simply blown up by Klingons, it will have served its primary purpose. It was not a communication. It was a eulogy.

Posted by: DDAY, Washington, DC | April 23, 2006 5:12 PM | Report abuse

pj- that's exactly what they're called, geechees, and the language has a beautiful sound even if one cannot understand it. I've never been to the low country in South Carolina but would love to visit this place. I could listen to them talk all day, I just love the way they do English. Thanks for the information.

Posted by: Cassandra S | April 23, 2006 5:36 PM | Report abuse

I've been spending most of today doing glorious weeding and thinking about plant life and how little we (at least I) know about it. Why is it that grass knows to seed itself among the irises and daffodils and alliums so that it's impossible to pull it without destroying them too, and thus deterring me from rigourous eradication? (Note to self: do not plant ornamental grass that is green, which means I cannot tell the "good grass" from the "bad grass"). How did some weeds, like dandelions and shot weed, get smart enough to make me do the work of spreading their seeds when I'm trying to destroy them? How did ivy get to be so diabolical, with its leaves that easily rip off, but a stem that hides amongst other vegetation, with little feet that clamp stubbornly on to anything, and a root system that gets reinvigorated when yanked? Why do plants that I eagerly planted become weeds over time when they are too vigorous and invasive, and why do they have innocent names like sweet woodruff and mountain bluet? Why is the honeysuckle threatening to engulf unsuspecting children and small dogs, but not producing the sweet flowers that remind me of Virginia? And why won't my mock orange (a native plant here - named after Meriwether Lewis) bloom?

And if some of you scientists out there would find a way to use dandelions to solve the energy crisis, I know where you could find an endless supply. (Actually I just saw a story on CNN about Brazil using sugar cane to make ethanol, and how they are close to becoming energy independent.)

Posted by: mostlylurking | April 23, 2006 5:49 PM | Report abuse

You are welcome, Cassandra. That's a whole different world down there. I think that's where the Foxfire series of books came from.

Dooley, many thanks for the info. I Googled Andrews and Indiana Jones and got some good info. It sounds like something Science/StorytellerTim might have fun with.

Posted by: pj | April 23, 2006 6:01 PM | Report abuse

Many years ago I went to the top of Haleakala, the extinct volcano on Maui. 10,023 ft. above sea level and what was growing there - dandelions. Right then I decided that there are things over which I will never have any control and weeds are right up there near the top of the list.

Posted by: Bad Sneakers | April 23, 2006 6:42 PM | Report abuse

60 Minutes is doing a piece on Starbucks at this moment.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | April 23, 2006 7:39 PM | Report abuse

A piece on Starbucks?

Posted by: Dreamer | April 23, 2006 7:49 PM | Report abuse

Fan Forever...

Carl Sagan's series continues to be on reruns. I saw one recently on PBS -- or maybe Discovery. Sagan will always be relevant. He was pure. And while, as Joel points out, not much has changed regarding wars and hatred and destruction here on our dear planet...there are many positives. We must not forget the good in life!

Posted by: FF | April 23, 2006 7:58 PM | Report abuse

Coincidentally [see Blake Stacey? It's not so creepy -- happens all the time], Sagan was drawn to my attention just a couple of days ago by the cantankerous Paul Edwards, who wrote the critique of reincarnation that I'm currently reading. (I'm still trying to figure out why this guy has spent so much energy investigating and writing about something he thinks is pure nonsense.)

Edwards writes, "It is only fair to add that at least one well-known and respected scientist has taken [Stanislov] Grof's theories about birth traumas seriously. In the last chapter of Broca's Brain (1979) entitled "The Amniotic Universe" Carl Sagan not only endorses Grof's perinatal theories but engages in wild and wooly speculation about how perinatal experiences may cause cosmologists to adopt different theoretical models. There is also an extremely confused discussion of the existence of God claiming that atheism is no more tenable than belief in God. [There it is!] I admire some of Sagan's work, but this chapter must [sic] be regarded as an aberration." [From "Reincarnation: A Critical Examination"]

And if you think Edwards is being tough on Sagan, you should see what he has to say about Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. I'm not even going to go there.

Posted by: Dreamer | April 23, 2006 8:20 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: Dreamer | April 23, 2006 8:22 PM | Report abuse

It's okay, you can go there, Dreamer -- just remember to go in stages: denial, avoidance, bargaining, depression, acceptance...

Maybe Paul Edwards is spending so much time on the subject because he's desparately hoping somehow to stumble across something that proves he's wrong, and in fact he will come back in a next life as a coyote. Which, as far as I can tell, is the only life form not named Trump that currently can afford to acquire real estate in the Washington metropolitan area.

Posted by: Snarky Squirrel | April 23, 2006 8:30 PM | Report abuse

You could be right, Snarky.
I don't think he'll find the evidence he's looking for, though, because he's examining non-physical phenomena with reference to a physical framework. He's not thinking sufficiently outside the box. In the words of Wayne Dyer, you can't solve a problem with the same mind that created it.

But enough of Edwards, and reincarnation. [Sound of collective sigh of relief]
I do apologize. Today the Kit and Kaboodle belong to Sagan!

Posted by: Dreamer | April 23, 2006 8:42 PM | Report abuse

Thanks to Dooley for bringing up the "All About" childrens' science books. I think these were still current when I was a kid in in the late 50's. In retrospect, some great stuff was available back then. I certainly knew about Roy Chapman Andrews' Gobi Dinosaurs at the Flaming Cliffs. And I got to read Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring" when it came out. I work for her employer, so reading the book must have had some effect.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | April 23, 2006 8:49 PM | Report abuse

And thinking of Sagan, Cornell still has the amazing Thomas Eisner, author of "For love of insects" and "Secret weapons," both from Harvard University Press.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | April 23, 2006 8:51 PM | Report abuse

Even though Carl Sagan never really clicked with me, I realized while weeding the wet soil today that his influence at work is profound. One of his mantras was that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. This has filtered into my everyday experience, where I frequently deal with outlandish technical claims. There are people who feel that the laws of physics are subjective regulations, like the drinking age, passed down from some arbitrary authority figure. Sagan has provided me with a strong conceptual framework for dealing with this. There is a checklist in use lifted straight from one of Sagan's articles. This checklist has probably saved the Government untold money, which, in theory, can then be used for more worthwhile things. This is no small achievement, and Sagan's contribution to this is well worth celebrating.

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 23, 2006 9:32 PM | Report abuse

I came across a paragraph about dreams in Doctorow's The March that made me think about you. What an excellent book - I'm just heading into the South Carolina part.

Posted by: mostlylurking | April 23, 2006 9:33 PM | Report abuse

While Sherman was marching on Savannah (which surrendered for Christmas and paid a ransom in cotton), Hood's troops were attacking and being slaughtered near Nashville. A strange end-of-war.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | April 23, 2006 10:26 PM | Report abuse

Didn't know that 60 Minutes was doing a segment in Starbucks, but did know of the Drumheller segment that led the show, so I watched for only 20 minutes or so.

(CBS) When no weapons of mass destruction surfaced in Iraq, President Bush insisted that all those WMD claims before the war were the result of faulty intelligence. But a former top CIA official, Tyler Drumheller -- a 26-year veteran of the agency -- has decided to do something CIA officials at his level almost never do: Speak out.

He tells correspondent Ed Bradley the real failure was not in the intelligence community but in the White House. He says he saw how the Bush administration, time and again, welcomed intelligence that fit the president's determination to go to war and turned a blind eye to intelligence that did not.

"It just sticks in my craw every time I hear them say it's an intelligence failure. This was a policy failure," Drumheller tells Bradley.

Drumheller was the CIA's top man in Europe, the head of covert operations there, until he retired a year ago. He says he saw firsthand how the White House promoted intelligence it liked and ignored intelligence it didn't.

Posted by: Loomis | April 23, 2006 11:02 PM | Report abuse

as to your inquiry about my Augenkrankheit... I can see broad shapes, movement, and color with my left eye, but no detail--either with or without glasses. And there is no depth perception in my left eye. My right eye is truly doing all the work.

The inflammation is gone from both eyes. I probably need to hydrate both eyes about every 15 to 30 minutes to alleviate the feeling of sand or grit in my eyes, particularly the left one. I can't wait for the optometrist appt. on Thursday. I think what is apparent is that I shall require glasses for reading from this point forward in time.

Posted by: Loomis | April 23, 2006 11:08 PM | Report abuse

We're still carrying on the good fight. I'm at the frotn lines right now -- tomorrow, a middle school; the next day, their teachers.

Posted by: ScienceTim | April 23, 2006 11:47 PM | Report abuse

Sagan was a great teacher. Who else could teach the theory of relativity to 3rd graders? He seemed like a child to me, the cosmos being an endless playground, physics was just another toy to play with. Like every child (including me), he loved dandelions, which is a very cool weed. they pop out of the lawn like nature's lollipops. The kids take the seed pods and twirl around and watch as the seeds float in the wind and disperse themselves... hopefully they will land in the neighbors yard that has the least.

Posted by: Pat | April 24, 2006 3:22 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, friends. Can't sleep so I'm up annoying those of you that are in the same position, can't sleep either. Not too many comments under this kit. I guess everyone is busy finishing up their weekend or in the case of me, not familiar with the subject. I know every time I post a comment, I'm subjecting myself to close scrutiny that allows everyone and anyone to know my ignorance of the most basic information. I'm sorely afraid of heights, perhaps the reason for lack of interest in space and beyond, although I do love the pictures taken from out of space of earth and other planets. I'm also very interested in pictures and information about the planet Mars.

Nani, if you're listening, hope the move is going okay. Hurry back, we miss you.

May God bless each and every heart, and give each and everyone more than they can imagine through His Son, Jesus. Have a good day guys, and know that you are truly loved.

Posted by: Cassandra S | April 24, 2006 4:32 AM | Report abuse

As if a living room wall full of scientific tomes wasn't enough, "Cosmos" came along as I, too, was in middle school. It was appointment television for me. The hardcover book has always had a place of honor in my bookcase and in the "DO NOT HANDLE ROUGHLY" boxes during many moves.

We probably can't properly comprehend how much we need Carl today. Extraordinary claims (take your pick from infomercials, politics, etc) demand the extraorindary evidence we never see anymore. *SIGH*

Posted by: Scottynuke | April 24, 2006 7:38 AM | Report abuse

Sagan, yeah, harkens back to a more simple time--seems so long ago. There's a great opinion piece today, by Arthur Schlesinger Jr. How can a country let one man, who wasn't even legitimately elected the first time around, run the richest most prosperous country into the ground so thoroughly? The current gasoline prices are a direct result of his lunatic rhetoric about Iran. Sorry this is off topic, but I think we're all fiddling while Rome burns.

Posted by: Dave | April 24, 2006 7:39 AM | Report abuse

jw's Best Example of Responsible Use of Anonymous Sources of the Day:

"'I think it's great girls come out and have an event where they don't have to look perfect,' she said, declining to give her name because, she said, her sorority prohibits students from talking to the media."


Posted by: jw | April 24, 2006 8:01 AM | Report abuse

I sometimes refer to "Cosmos" as Hawkings for Dummies, and I mean that in a good way. I made it through A Short History of Time, but Carl managed to bring the concepts down to where we had some idea of what it really meant. And of course Sagan's little gold record on the Voyager was the centerpiece of the first Star Trek movie.

Posted by: ebtnut | April 24, 2006 8:59 AM | Report abuse

Back from a nice weekend...

Like many of you, I consumed Sagan's works when I was a younger man. I'd heard of him from my grandfather and others when I was young, and friend bought me a new hardback of "The Dragons of Eden" when I was in high school. Great stuff, I thought at the time. Then "Cosmos", "Broca's Brain", and heck, even "Contact". Sagan still whispers to me from time to time, though I never knew the man.

I'm glad to hear that Carl's still talking to Joel.

On a related note, I noticed this in today's Post:

Two final quick notes:
- DDAY, nice to see you drop back in.
- jw, you're angling for a parking space, too, aren't you?


Posted by: bc | April 24, 2006 9:06 AM | Report abuse

Hey, I can respect that girl wanting to remain anonymous. I mean, revealing her identity could endanger her standing in the sorority and leave her open to serious penalties including double-secret probation, permanent beer-b*tch status, and supenas from the Greek council. Maintaining the priviledge of anonymity is an important journalistic tradition and must be protected and treated with the utmost respect, lest a journalist's ability to report on the presence of WMDs (weapons of mass drinking) such as funnels, beer-pong tables, and tube tops is threatened.

Posted by: jw | April 24, 2006 9:32 AM | Report abuse

I'm going to take this in-between-Kit time as an opportunity to remind everybody about the Achenboodleweddingshower for jw and Kristen and for Sara and the OTHER Jeremy, to take place throughout this week (I think?)

Hopefully Nani -- who came up with the wedding shower idea -- will be able to join us soon to post her chicken & dumplings recipe. In the meantime, she wanted us to get things started, since Sara will be around this week.

So chime in, at your convenience -- amid other on-topic and off-topic discussions -- with recipes, songs, poems, anecdotes, good wishes, etc., for the happy couples. Horror stories should be kept to a minimum.

Me, I've been searching the AchenArchives for evidence of the 'boodle's attempts to match Sara and jw up with *each other* and the subsequent blossoming of totally different romances over which we -- inconCEIVably -- had no influence. I seem to recall a story about jw going to a baseball game with a dolled-up computer in lieu of the geographically distant Sara -- but that was before he started mentioning a "lady friend" (who eventually became "the old lady"), which was around about the same time Sara started mentioning a "man friend." Yada yada yada, congratulations, guys!

To jw and Kristin!
To Sara and Jeremy!

Posted by: Tom fan | April 24, 2006 9:34 AM | Report abuse

Haha...Tom fan, Kristen still teases me about my imaginary internet girlfriend from time to time. Ah, those were the days!

Posted by: jw | April 24, 2006 9:36 AM | Report abuse

[My apologies to those who have just joined us who have absolutely no idea what I'm talking about.]

Posted by: Tom fan | April 24, 2006 9:37 AM | Report abuse

Kristen, not Kristin. (I got it right the first time but wasn't able to sustain it. Sorry.)

Posted by: Tom fan | April 24, 2006 9:40 AM | Report abuse

Ha! "I got it right the first time but wasn't able to sustain it." I love it. Great editing line.

I'll dig through my Hints from Heloise files to find the perfect ones for Kristen, Sara and the two Jeremies.

In the meantime, feel free to copy down my recipe in the previous boodle for Greek Easter Soup. I don't know if Heloise has any good recipes to use for the other half of the lamb's head. I'd hate to see half a head go to waste.

Posted by: TBG | April 24, 2006 9:46 AM | Report abuse

Loomis, I too thought the Drumheller interview was both riveting and (in a normal world) one more nail in the Bush run-up-to-Iraq coffin, but somehow that thing refuses to die. In a normal world, there'd be Watergate-type congressional hearings by now, with people being led off in handcuffs. Maybe after November.

I only mentioned the Starbucks thing only because they are competitors of our own Carbucks Brand(TM), and the boodle's known fondness for coffee. (I still prefer my own $1.19 20-oz. WaWa or 7-11 basic house java, w/ half-and-half and two Splendas. But then, as perky as I may be, I've never been very trendy.)

Hope your eye gets better soon.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | April 24, 2006 9:53 AM | Report abuse

TBG, I think the phrase is, "I'd hate to se a PERFECTLY GOOD half-a-lamb's-head go to waste"--at least, that's the way my mother always said it.

Posted by: kbertocci | April 24, 2006 9:54 AM | Report abuse

I'm probably demonstrating my ignorance with this question, but:
Would half a lamb's head lend itself to the manufacture of head cheese? Or not really?

["Sure, I like head cheese . . . It's good!" -- from "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre"]

[I probably should go to bed. My mother would say I'm over-tired.]

Posted by: Tom fan | April 24, 2006 10:05 AM | Report abuse

We've gone from Carl Sagan to half a lamb's head.
The poor guy would roll in his grave if he knew he'd been reduced to that.

[Yep. I'm definitely over-tired.]

Posted by: Tom fan | April 24, 2006 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Ok, Thanks, TBG. Thanks alot. Now I've got images of 1/2 of a lamb's head embedded in my brain. Like a scene from The Godfather. And I haven't had my coffee yet...

Posted by: CowTown | April 24, 2006 10:14 AM | Report abuse

Tom Fan: Sweet dreams! Talk to you later!

Posted by: CowTown | April 24, 2006 10:15 AM | Report abuse

Headcheese is the first thing I thought of too, Dreamer. Yes lamb can be used for the manufacture of same. TBG, if you made the soup you are up to making the head cheese. I would admire the effort, but no way would I eat the result. (This really needs to be followed by a smiley emoticon)

I've already found several recipe's and just for both of you, Sara and jw, I am not posting them here, lest they scare you out of the kitchen permanantly.

Posted by: dr | April 24, 2006 10:16 AM | Report abuse

One more comment on jw's item:

I spent a lot of time in that particular establishment when it operated under the name "Rendezvous Inn", or simply (and perhaps infamously), "The Vouz".

Some things haven't changed, though there is no mention of what folks' shoes looked and smelled like after an evening there.

Folks back in the day had "Vous shoes" that were only worn in there (well, there and other places that were within stumbling distance), and were hosed off the Day After, then left to dry in the sun. You didn't wear those shoes anywhere else. You wouldn't *want* to.

Some things haven't changed, though perhaps they should. However, students' money is just as green now as it was back then.


Posted by: bc | April 24, 2006 10:17 AM | Report abuse

I'd be willing to bet the Sagan would find the confluence of head cheese and his work quite acceptable, in the 'head-cheese-is-very-environmentally-friendly-food-its-just-not-edible' sort of way. Falls under the effiecient use of everything rule that our immigrant nations grew under.

Otherwise ditto what Curmudgeon said.

Posted by: dr | April 24, 2006 10:20 AM | Report abuse

Get your official Achenboodleshower invitation here:

Posted by: TBG | April 24, 2006 10:33 AM | Report abuse

For Kristen, Sara, and the two very lucky Jeremys (Jeremies?)

A Jeremiad steak sauce recipe:

While one or both Jeremiesezes is/are out in the backyard performing the manly task of applying intense flame to pieces of steak (New York strip preferred, but any kind will do) on the barby, inside and out of the weather you may continue to bedazzle them with a nice steak sauce, as follows:

Chop up 2-3 shallots, one clove of garlic (or just use about a half a teaspoon of pre-chopped garlic out of a bottle), and one piece of sugared ginger (chopped as fine as your dainty fingers can do it) (you can get it at any Safeway, and always keep some on hand). In a small frying pan/sauce pan, heat a tablespoon of olive oil. When the olive oil is hot, add the shallots et al., as well as 1 heaping tablespoon of capers (including the vinegar from the bottle) and cook about 2-3 minutes. With heat on medium, add ½ cup cooking sherry (or port) and 1/2 a cup of whatever wine is available (I used a white zinfandel Friday night, because that was what my wife and our dinner guests were drinking at the moment, but I'd have used a red or a white if it was open). Add one teaspoon beef stock base (or one beef boullion cube) (I recommend Minor's beef stock base, which comes in a pint container, and is quite useful in all sorts of things), and let bubble gently and reduce. When reduced about 50%, add one pat of (real) butter, stir, and then slowly sift in one tablespoon of flour to thicken. Sauce should be thickened to about creamy or ketchup-like consistency by now, and the Jeremies should have torched the steaks by this time. After applying Ungentine to any burns the fellahs might have acquired while performing their manly steak-charring duties, spoon sauce over the steaks and serve.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | April 24, 2006 10:33 AM | Report abuse

Nice, TBG.

I'm thinkin'....


Posted by: bc | April 24, 2006 10:44 AM | Report abuse

I looked in the one Sagan book that I own, "Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors" for the one index listing on atheism, to see that Sagan discusses both atheism in conjunction with the sickle cell anemia trait on page 66. The page tells the story of how Dutch traders in the 17th century took slaves out of present-day Ghana and transported them to Curacao in the Caribbean and Surinam in South America. Since there was no malaria in Curacao, the slaves suffered anemia, but since malaria is endemic in Surinam, the sickle cell trait in the transported slaves meant the differnce, many times between life and death. Some 300 years later, the slaves' descendants in Curacao show little incidence of the trait, while it remains prevalent in Surinam.

In Curacao , the trait was "selected against," while in Surinam, as it West Africa, it was "selected for." Sagan points out that natural selection operates on very short time scales, even in slowly reproducing mammals such as humans.

Sagan concludes the page by writing:
"Evolution in no way implies atheism, although it is consistent with atheism. But evolution is clearly inconsistent with the literal truth of certain revered books. If we believe the Bible was written by people, and not dictated word-for-word to a flawless stenographer by the Creator of the Universe, or if we believe God might on occasion resort to metaphor for clarity, then evolution should pose no theological problem. But whether it poses a problem or not, the evidence for evolution--that it happened, apart from the debate on whether uniformitarian natural selection fully explains how it happened--is overwhelming."

On the genetic mutant news front, the NYT had coverge on Sunday of the discovery of the mutated gene that causes fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva. Since my rare genetic disorder also affects my bones, the story of FOP has been on my radar screen since about 2000, when we lived in southern Indiana. I spoke with an author at the time who had done an early, important and long feature story on FOP and Dr. Frederick Kaplan. For people with FOP, the body does not shut down its building of skeleton.

NEW YORK (AP) -- Scientists have discovered a mutant gene that triggers the body to form a second, renegade skeleton, solving the mystery of a rare disease called FOP that imprisons children in bone for life.

The finding, reported Sunday, may one day lead to development of a drug, not only to treat the rare bone disorder, but more common bone buildup related to head and spine trauma, and even sports injuries, the researchers said.

"We've reached the summit," said Dr. Frederick Kaplan, an orthopedist whose team at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine pinpointed the cause of FOP, or fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva. The disease is believed to afflict only 2,500 people worldwide.

The article continues and says the FOP research may also one benefit those with osteoporosis.

A skeletal photo of the disorder may be seen here:

Posted by: Loomis | April 24, 2006 10:45 AM | Report abuse

Friends, I'm doing that thing again where I'm out of time and a worthless slacker-blogger, though I DID write a kit on the train but have no time to post it until much much later in the day. I have to be careful that I don't slap stuff onto the blog and get accused of being the kind of blogger who "slaps stuff up on the blog." I like to revise. I know, a weakness. Unbloggerly behavior. But also, fyi, I read through the boodle last night and was enjoying the Sagan comments etc. and don't want to cut that off yet. I will check back at the end of the day and possibly post that train-kit. Everyone please behave. You know The Full Rules. And by the way: I broke down and told the Schemer about the typo that Tom Fan found. Sorry.

Posted by: Achenbach | April 24, 2006 10:58 AM | Report abuse

That was a pretty good piece Fred Kaplan had on Rumsfeld in Slate, which has popped up in one of the boxes on some pages at the left (or at

Could we not condense "slacker-blogger" into just "slogger"? Or perhaps "slobber"?

For some reason, the contents of this boodle so far have failed to prompt any interesting ads in the Google box, below. I think we may need to tickle it's search engine a bit. Here goes:

bustiere, bustiere, bustiere, bustiere, bustiere, bustiere, bustiere, bustiere, bustiere, bustiere, bustiere, bustiere, bustiere, bustiere, bustiere, bustiere, bustiere, bustiere, bustiere, bustiere, bustiere, bustiere, bustiere, bustiere, bustiere, bustiere, bustiere, bustiere.

Let's see if that does anything.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | April 24, 2006 11:27 AM | Report abuse

"Cosmos" by Carl Sagan (or "Dad" as I call him [just kidding]) gets my vote for the most readable science book of all time.

Thanks to bc for bringing back some repressed memories in the discussion of shoes worn only to certain establishments. Specifically, I'm now recalling the sound of shoes on sticky floors. Why so sticky? Beer? Shooters? Just stop thinking, man.

Also thanks to jw for that link. SO many comments that could be made ("BILL-ions and BILL-ions"? Back to dear old Dad).

Curmudgeon, what's your opinion on the various garlic options for your recipe? Is a clove best? Is minced in a bottle as good as diced?

TBG, do you have a deadline for submissions?

PS I actually had this all typed out previously and somehow accidentally closed out. Jack Bauer: "dammit"!

Posted by: SonofCarl | April 24, 2006 11:40 AM | Report abuse

oooo... a new Achenword in the making.

a word with the definition "worthless slacker-blogger". Have to think about that one.

Posted by: SonofCarl | April 24, 2006 11:48 AM | Report abuse

Sagan did not say atheism is stupid, he said "by some definitions....".
I use B. Russells teapot analogy. While it is impossible to prove that there is not a teapot orbiting Mars I am not going to live my life as if there were.
If Sagan had to deal with the Evangelical and other faith based attacks on science I suspect he might sound more like Richard Dawkins.

Posted by: Boko999 | April 24, 2006 11:51 AM | Report abuse

To Sara and her love- best wishes and many blessings on your new beginning, and may God bless and keep you, and yours, and all through your life may the sadness always end in joy and gladness, and you love one another forever. This is my wish for you and for the other couple too. I don't have recipes, but I have a lot of goodwill.

Posted by: Cassandra S | April 24, 2006 11:53 AM | Report abuse

I've talked to several people here at work whose knowledge of Sagan is pretty much restricted to the televison show "Cosmos." Many of these people saw it as teenagers, and viewed it as vaguely subversive. I wonder how much of Sagan's appeal with teens was because he tapped into some sense of rebellious teen angst. That is, was Carl Sagan the Elvis of science? (But, thankfully, without the hip gyrations.)

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 24, 2006 12:00 PM | Report abuse

I'm so glad I stopped in today! There are recipes and well-wishes and memories galore!

I had completely forgotten about the dolled up computer at the baseball game comment. I remember actually laughing at my desk. Ahh, the boodle is my internet home. Such warm memories.

I'm going to copy and paste everything and put it in my scrapbook of showers. And, of course, the recipes are going into my recipe books.

But right now, I have a staff meeting.

Posted by: Sara | April 24, 2006 12:01 PM | Report abuse

So where was Sagan stonger--in print or in broadcast?

Posted by: Loomis | April 24, 2006 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Recipe for the getting married group:

This recipe is so easy you must never let anyone see you make it --- just pretend you really are a cook.

Also, this makes enough to feed two people for several weeks, and needs a giant six or eight quart pan. Try making half!

Taco Soup

2 lbs. (2 packages) ground turkey or beef
1 large chopped onion
Brown the above and add 1 tsp. salt, several grinds of pepper, and garlic powder if you wish.

Then put in pan with the following, undrained:
3 cans (10 oz.) Ro-Tel brand tomatoes - ("original recipe" is the mildest - good)
1 can (16 oz) chili beans
1 can (16 oz) kidney beans
2 cans Mexicorn (11 oz. each)
1 pkg. Taco seasoning (1 oz.)
1 pkg. Hidden Valley Ranch salad dressing mix (about 1 oz.)
2 C. water

Simmer 1 hour. Sprinkle grated cheddar on top, serve with taco chips.
Can use hot tomatoes and beans if you wish, and/or add cayenne.

Posted by: nellie | April 24, 2006 12:19 PM | Report abuse

SofC, a clove (or cloves) is/are almost always best.

Loomis, I think Sagan was slightly stronger in broadcast, only because of the sheer numbers of viewers involved, compared to book purchasers. (I have three or four of the books, but don't remember them all that well, but still remember the TV series as well as the Carson appearances.)

Somebody wondered about his appeal to younger people. I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that Sagan didn't "look" like a stereotypical "scientist." He usually wore a turtleneck, and that was about 70% of it right there--you could be a nerd and look cool at the same time. The tweedy jacket gave him credibility with the older people who needed to see a coat for credibility's sake. And he was boyishly good-looking, and not an old codger type. (I suspect old codger types are an acquired taste, like olives; I was always quite fond of Jacob Bronowski's "The Ascent of Man" series, which I wish they'd bring back, and there was a mathematician who was always on PBS with a raspy voice, whom I always liked a lot. And I was a great, great fan of James Burke and his two series, though he is/was merely colorfully eccentric and not a codger.)

Posted by: Curmudgeon | April 24, 2006 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Just remembered the mathematician's name: Philip Morrison.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | April 24, 2006 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Good question LindaLoo. I never found his books especially engrossing. They were interesting, but they didn't really connect with me in the way that the writings of Ferris or Gould (or Achenbach for that matter) do. The television show, "Cosmos", on the other hand, was very engrossing, if, perhaps, only in a "Have you ever really looked at your hand, man" kind of way. They played to Sagan's showmanship. I suspect it is the show "Cosmos" that was responsible for much of his fame. Certainly that is what people I have talked to remember him for.

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 24, 2006 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Curmudgeon, the PBS series "The Day the Universe Changed" stands out in my mind too. I reread the companion book last summer, and it has held up pretty well, although I don't think Burke fully appreciated the way nature can bite back.

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 24, 2006 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Sara and jw, from the 50's cookbook my mother sent off for, one of my favorites:

Quick biscuits

2 c flour
1 T baking powder
1 t salt (I usually use about half that)
2/3 c milk
1/3 c oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Mix the dry ingredients; pour the milk and oil in together and stir until a sticky dough forms. Turn the dough out on a floured surface and knead till it is elastic and not sticky. Roll out with rolling pin and cut with biscuit cutter. Bake 10 minutes on ungreased baking sheet, or until golden brown on top. Serve hot. Makes about 16 one-inch biscuits.

Recipe can be halved.

For drop biscuits, drop tablespoon of unrolled dough on baking sheet.

Posted by: slyness | April 24, 2006 12:33 PM | Report abuse

I fell pray to the chocolate doughnut at staff meeting. I'm hopeless. I thought to myself, "Don't eat it Sara. You had eggs for breakfast. A nice bit of protein to start off the day. The sugar will only bring you down!" And then the doughnuts were passed.

I've started copying and pasting comments and recipes. I'll be around most of the week. I have a full day of finals tomorrow and Wednesday, but I'll be back on Thursday and I'll catch up on any recipes I miss. So feel free to throw them out there. I really am hopeless when it comes to recipes. I have the Joy of Cooking. It's just daunting. It's much too big.

Posted by: Sara | April 24, 2006 12:37 PM | Report abuse

Further, if I remember correctly Sagan's speculations on perinatal phenomenon was just putting forward a possisble natural explantion for the "near death experience".
This has been expained to my satisfaction by experiments at NASA.
As Fighter pilots and astronuats brains are starved of oxogen in the training centrifuge they experience a loss of peripheral vision (tunnel of light), unconciousness, then as conciousness is regained normal sight and a feeling of euphoria.
For an out of body adventure I reccommend 250 mg. of acid.
Or just gibber at the sky while slicing the throats of yummy lambs.

Posted by: Boko999 | April 24, 2006 12:38 PM | Report abuse

Just Googled Morrison to learn that he was not so much a mathematician as a physicist and astrophysicist at MIT. I connected him to mathematics because he worked on the Manhattan Project (Atom Bomb)(he was the guy who delivered the plutonium trigger to the bomb test site, riding with it in the back seat of a car).

He had a great 6-part PBS series called "The Ring of Truth," 1987; he and his wife wrote the series companion book, "The Ring of Truth: An Inquiry Into How We Know What We Know" (Random House, 1987).

Good obituary/biography of him at

I could watch an endless loop of Sagan's series, Bronowski, Morrison, Burke, Joseph Campbell, and a lot of Bill Moyer's interviews, and then start the loop all over again at the beginning. Wait a minute: throw in some Ken Burns series and anything David McCulloch did.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | April 24, 2006 12:38 PM | Report abuse

Without the TV show, Sagan was a guy who showed up occasionally on Carson, if one of your tv channels carried Carson. He was quoted, and to be truthful, I had no idea he was alive at the same time I was. People who were quoted were most often dead.

I grew up Carson-less, and when American network talk shows started airing, I had already discovered as a mother of infants, the beauty of un-interrupted sleep.

I'm sure I could have received Sagan books through the public library, but it's pool of books catered to a less sophisticated audience, largely women, who were just looking for something to take them out of the post partyline world that small towns and small farms were.

Post small town, he is an interesting read.

Posted by: dr | April 24, 2006 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Sara, a dynamite "can't-miss" salad, for the first time you have the in-laws over for dinner (and it's the deadest of dead-simple):

Lettuce (any type, but red-leaf lettuce is colorful), with fresh strawberries that have been cut in half and allowed to "marinate" for a while in the refrigerator in their own juice and a teaspoon or so of sugar (or even Splenda). Sprinkle crushed walnuts (from a bag) over them. Serve with raspberry vinaigrette dressing (only).

To die for.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | April 24, 2006 12:44 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, Curmudgeon! I may try that this weekend for Sunday dinner.

Posted by: Sara | April 24, 2006 12:47 PM | Report abuse

Oooh, Mudge, that does sound good. I'll try it myself!

Posted by: slyness | April 24, 2006 12:51 PM | Report abuse

I liked the Cosmos series, but I always preferred the books (but then, I almost always do).

When I was in middle school, my family took a trip to DC to see Sagan and Asimov speak on consecutive days. The difference was striking. While Sagan's content was always fantastic (I saw him several times), he was not a fantastic public speaker--his voice was soft, and could kind of lull you to sleep unless you were really interested in the material (I was). Asimov was hilarious speaker, no matter what the topic was.

As I recall, after Sagan became a big enough star that he could dictate his teaching schedule at Cornell, the only course he taught was an undergraduate class on how to distinguish between science and pseudoscience (essentially the topic of "The demon-Haunted World"). Definitely a class we need to see more often.

Posted by: Dooley | April 24, 2006 12:54 PM | Report abuse

Don't forget all the recipes posted in a previous boodle:

I think the next K&B might have some more as well (after that one not this one).

Posted by: omni | April 24, 2006 1:22 PM | Report abuse

oops, mistypo: probably after this K&B as we'll probably be posting recipes all week.

And Sara, I would like to say about "The Joy of Cooking" Don't think of it as a cookbook but more as a reference book. I hardly ever use my copy for recipes, but to look up things I don't understand in the cookbooks I do use as cookbooks.

Posted by: omni | April 24, 2006 1:29 PM | Report abuse

I'm not sure I'm making any sense here.

Posted by: omni | April 24, 2006 1:30 PM | Report abuse

I've started using it that way, omni. There's too many recipes there to ever get through them or pick one, so when I need to know how long to bake chicken breasts with bones in them, Joy of Cooking is where I go.

Posted by: Sara | April 24, 2006 1:32 PM | Report abuse

Philip Morrison also wrote book reviews for Scientific American. As I recall they were both learned and witty - a tough combination to pull off successfully. I remember that series with him that Mudge talked about. It was well done.

Posted by: pj | April 24, 2006 1:37 PM | Report abuse

To Sara and Jeremy, jw and Kristen:

I wish you all the joy and love in the world as you begin your lives together.

= = = = = = = = = = = =

I'm not much of a cook, but once in a while I come up with a winning combination--this is my most recent creation, it's easy and nutritious.

[nellie's taco soup is Southwestern cuisine. This is Southeastern, see if you can tell the difference:]

Florida Mexi-Cuban Chicken

One cup uncooked rice

2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1 onion
1 tomato
1 can Ro-tel tomatoes with chilies (milder, original, or extra hot, you choose)
1 can black beans
1 can corn
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 cup grated cheddar cheese

Start the rice cooking (boil 2 c water, add the rice, lower heat and cover).
Cut up the chicken, onion and tomato and sauté altogether, then stir in the garlic salt. Add the (now cooked) rice, beans, corn and canned tomatoes and stir. Add the cheddar cheese on top and continue to heat until the cheese melts. Easy one-pot meal; holds up well as left-overs, too.

Posted by: kbertocci | April 24, 2006 1:43 PM | Report abuse

'Mudge, you've got all kinds of talents, huh?

For my part, I can use all the help I can get, as far as cooking goes. Kristen just got me past an intense fear of preparing my own meat (I thought I wouldn't cook it enough and make myself sick or something).

Although, for someone who doesn't really cook at all, I do make an amazing chicken pesto pizza all from scratch.

Posted by: jw | April 24, 2006 1:44 PM | Report abuse

jw, I'm intensely afraid of cooking chicken. I've gotten pretty good, though. Haven't killed either of us, yet.

Good chicken juicy-ness tip: Rub olive oil into and over both sides--makes it juicy and browns it nicely. If you use orange or lemon olive oil, it adds a nice citrus flavor, too. My personal favorite is lemon olive oil, lemon pepper and rosemary chicken. It's good.

Last night I made cracked pepper steak. Mix 1 tbsp cracked black pepper with 1/2 tsp rosemary in a bowl and coat both sides of the stead with it. Then cook in a skillet coated with olive oil and 1 tbsp of butter, then add cooking wine halfway through. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes for medium steak. it's good.

Posted by: Sara | April 24, 2006 1:50 PM | Report abuse


omni is right about Joy of Cooking, as you have figured out. The most recent version of it is really big and bulky. The older one was smaller and easier to use. Especially for the highly desirable lessons in how to cook squirrel or woodchuck. (Why didn't they include armadillo?)

You should get a basic cookbook like Betty Crocker or Better Homes and Garden (if either of them still exists) and also look at a family cookbook that came out last Christmas from America's Test Kitchens. I recall it getting good notices in the papers around then.

Posted by: pj | April 24, 2006 1:50 PM | Report abuse

SCC: steak. Not stead.

And SCC: It's. With an uppercase "I."

Posted by: Sara | April 24, 2006 1:51 PM | Report abuse

My grandmother puts together a family cookbook for all new or incoming brides in the family. It's a lifesaver. It has all the newer family recipes plus my Great Grandmother's recipes. She was an amazing cook, especially when it came to desserts.

Posted by: Sara | April 24, 2006 1:53 PM | Report abuse

As far as chicken goes, I have learned to embrace the Foreman grill. I'll try the olive oil trick.

Posted by: jw | April 24, 2006 1:59 PM | Report abuse

Sara & Jeremy & Kristen & jw -

I wish all of you the best of luck and happiness as you begin your lives together.

"Remember to marry a good cook. The sex will wear off, but you'll *always* be hungry."
-Rodney Dangerfield


Posted by: bc | April 24, 2006 2:00 PM | Report abuse

I use the Foreman. I just got a Foreman grill/griddle. Great for breakfasts.

Posted by: Sara | April 24, 2006 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Oooh, I'm jealous. I just have the baby Foreman. Is yours the one with the waffle iron? That one is sweet!

Posted by: jw | April 24, 2006 2:08 PM | Report abuse

No, I have a separate waffle iron. This just has a griddle connected to the grill. It fits four pieces of chicken on the grill and four small pancakes on the griddle. It's a nightly staple. And a weekend morning staple. Pretty darn cheap at Shopko if you watch and get it on sale. That's the only way I could have justified the purchase.

Posted by: Sara | April 24, 2006 2:11 PM | Report abuse

I'm off to study for finals. Joy.

Posted by: Sara | April 24, 2006 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Sara and jw,
It's so nice to have you both here in the boodle!

All the best to the both of you! The best piece of advice I got as I was starting my life with my soon-to-be-husband was from my mom when she told us:
Take care of each other.

That pretty well sums it up. And remember, flowers are a wonderful way to express love (especially when there is no "occasion").

As for recipes, I stick with chocolate chip cookies - use the recipe on the back of the chocolate chip bag. My mom always used 1/2 cup shortening and 1/2 cup margarine, so that's what I use. Almond extract is a nice variation, in place of vanilla.

Brownies are great too - quick, easy, yummy.

Hope you all have fabulous adventures!

Posted by: mostlylurking | April 24, 2006 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Moving over to kbertocci's side of the US --- (I'll try that soup next time!)

Charleston Chicken Pilau

3 stalks sliced celery
1 chopped onion
1 diced green pepper
1 Tbsp. oil
2 C. chicken bouillon
1 C. tomato juice
1 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes
1 tsp. salt (none if bouillon powder)
1 bay leaf
3/4 C. Uncle Ben's regular rice

2 - 4 chicken breast halves, skinned, boned, cut in thin strips bite size

Cook celery, onion, and green pepper in oil in a large pot for about 5 minutes, until tender, but not browned. Stir in the chicken and cook until no longer pink.

Add all other ingredients, bring to a boil, then lower heat and cook about 30 minutes, until rice is tender and most of liquid is absorbed. Do not let dry out. Serves 2 - 4.

Posted by: nellie | April 24, 2006 2:47 PM | Report abuse

Funny, I was reading one of your chapters on Sagan while waiting for my carpool this morning. Wishing that I could think as beautifully as he spoke and wrote.

Posted by: Liz | April 24, 2006 2:48 PM | Report abuse

mostlylurking--I'm going to pull a Loomis with your last comment!

I went to Whitman-Hanson High School in Whitman, MA, and did you know that Whitman is the birthplace of the "tollhouse" cookie? There was actually an inn in Whitman, located at the site of one of the country's first highway tolls, called the Tollhouse. And the innkeeper decided one day to dump some semi-sweet chocolate chunks into her cookie batter. She thought they would melt completely, but instead the stayed relatively firm after baking, and the chocolate-chip cookie was born! The recipe on the back of the chocolate chip bag is actually the original recipe from the Tollhouse!

Posted by: jw | April 24, 2006 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Glad to see that you are willing to master the culinary arts. Your wife will so appreciate time off from the daily kitchen grind. She will be happier for it; therefore, so will you. All of her girlfriends will be green with envy at the sight of a guy up to his elbows in dirty dishwater. They will go absolutely weak-in-th-knees at the sight of a guy slinging a mop on the kitchen floor. She will be happier for it; therefore, so will you.

Yeah, brother, this is all about you. Work at keeping her happy; and so you will be, also.

Don't forget those four most important words: "Whatever you say, dear..." And don't forget that Neanderthals may have had their day, but they died out in the end.

May God richly bless you.

Posted by: Don from I-270 | April 24, 2006 2:55 PM | Report abuse

I can't say that Sagan made any difference in my life, but I caught a number of the Cosmos shows as they originally aired and they were great. I'm not sure about the "cool" turtleneck though, that would be more of a deterrent rather that an atractor to science for me...
BTW Curmudgeon, I tried the onion in foil with the bouillon cube and butter. The Vidalia onions were yummy, all five were consumed in minutes by the Denizens, without help from the Garburator. The Garburator is an old very large black Lab that has kept a solid appetite.
Here is my cooking contribution.
Onions with balsamic vinegar: slice one onion per person, a large sweet onion of the Spanish/Bermuda/Vidalia type. Roast on alow/medium heat in a very slightly oiled vegetable basket until they are soft and golden-brown. Put a a service dish, squirt with some olive oil and sprinkle with a few drops of balsamic vinegar. Serve warm. Great with anything roasted. Vegetable baskets (with non-adhesive coating) are a must if you want to get out of the "BBQ is for meat" conundrum.

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | April 24, 2006 2:59 PM | Report abuse

Curmudgeon's salad sounds wonderful - throw some crumbled bleu cheese in there too. Wowsers. The dryness of the cheese and walnuts combined with the sweetness of the berries and the texture of the lettuce.....I guess I've decided what's for dinner tonight.

I surprised myself by tearing up when I read Joel's comments on Sagan. Do we ever need him now . Sagan's ability to fire up the latent scientific joy and wonder in people was unparalelled.

Posted by: mcnich | April 24, 2006 3:03 PM | Report abuse

SCC of the one that really annoys me : *than an attractor*.

BTW roasting vegetables , including these sliced onions, takes time. Starts waay before you put the meat to the fire. Roast veggies on law-medium but don't forget to raise the heat for the meat.

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | April 24, 2006 3:08 PM | Report abuse

Ahh, cooking. My mom put together some tried and favorite family recipes-- although she refused to type up that rocky road brownie recipe.
(Brownies with caramels, chocolate chips, amd marshmallows... best tasting pure sugar, flour, chocolate, and fat that you'll ever have.)

Anyway, I do use all those cookbooks as guidelines... i.e. I look for a recipe that explains how to cook what I want in the way I want. I look at a few to get an idea of what's supposed to work, and then do what I want.

This is due to:
1) a full pantry, including lots of spices.
2) hatred of wasting money or food.
3) an cast-iron stomach and a wide palate.

I live by the ironclad rule:

Once you start chopping, never do any more food shopping, and every time I follow a cookbook recipe slavishly it seems like I'm running out the door exclaiming... "oh I need celery hearts, rabbit ears, monkey paws, and cat whiskers..."

The original Lewis Carrol quote was:
"Oh my paws and whiskers! I'm late making dinner for the Queen!"

Posted by: Wilbrod | April 24, 2006 3:32 PM | Report abuse

Shrieking Denizen,
How thick you make the vegetables matters in cook time. Which is why a good chopper is indipensible to vegetarian cooking.

That said, oven roasting of vegetables can take considerable time. I'd drizzle with some oil. A very easy roasted vegetable recipe is as follows:

Turmeric, at 2-3 tbsp
Potatoes, sliced, with onions
OR broccoli with onions
Paprika or red chili (ground)-- around 1/2 the amount of turmeric maximum
Salt to taste

Spread thinly on a large baking sheet. Add spices on top of vegetables, drizzle with canola oil (olive is Ok I guess), bake for at least 40 minutes.

Ideally the broccoli edges should be singed, but not burnt. This level of incineration makes it platable to broccoli-haters.

The potatoes should be throughly cooked. This is good with just potatoes as well, by the way. My sister in law asked for the recipe which surprised me.

Truly an easy way to make vegetables that aren't tepid, bland american fare.

But the broccoli does shrink considerably in cooking-- a bagful can turn into around 1-2 pints of broccoli.

Posted by: Wilbrod | April 24, 2006 3:40 PM | Report abuse

OK... here's my absolute favorite Chinese food recipe:

(703) 591-0525

That's the number of Yen Cheng restaurant in Fairfax. They deliver.

Posted by: TBG | April 24, 2006 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Shriek, one of us is betraying our age (and it's probably me), but there was a point in time when turtlenecks were just the coolest thing going. I imagine they originally came from sailor's sweaters, but by the 1950s they had adapted into the Beatnik culture (and in the 1950s there was NOTHING cooler than that). Then, in the 1960s (when I started wearing them) they jumped to the Folk era (look at a bunch of old Foly albums from that era--Kingston Trio, Highwaymen, Brothers Four, etc.) and see how often somebody is wearing a turtleneck. In the later 50s and early 60s, they even made turtleneck "dickies" (I am not responsible for this word; feel free to snort if you wish), which was a fake turtleneck collar and bib arrangement you wore under a regular (button-down, of course) shirt, to make it look like you were wearing a full turtleneck. (The de rigeur color, of course, was black, although I often wore fire-engine-red or Navy blue.)

But, yes, absolutely, Shriek: a turtlneck was once the epitome of coolitudinousness. (And it was what marked the cool, "hip" college professors like Sagan from the earlier generation, or from the leather-elbow-patch wearing types. Turtlenecks were cool, and University of Chicago/Berkelely/NYU, whereas leather elbow patches on tweed were Ivy (beggin' yer pardon, Joel, and don't give me any grief that Sagan was Cornell; I know he was, but he dressed Berkeley).)

And then along came Hippies, and that wiped out all the rules that preceded them.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | April 24, 2006 3:47 PM | Report abuse

LOL here, TBG

Posted by: Curmudgeon | April 24, 2006 3:49 PM | Report abuse

I'm in lockdown at NIH this week, so the only recipe I can type in from memory is this one:

Greek Yogurt and Apricot Dip

2 Cups Greek yogurt (Trader Joe's has this, but if you can't find something that specifically has the word "Greek" on it, you can use regular, full-fat unflavored yogurt. Dump into a cheesecloth and suspend over a bowl to drain for a couple of hours.)

Mince 3 or 4 cloves of garlic. Add to yogurt.

Chop 10 or 15 dried apricots. Add.

2 or 3 Tbsp of honey can be mixed in- this is optional, but I like it better.

Serve with pita chips (I make my own with pita tossed in good olive oil and sea salt, baked for 10 minutes or so.)

The dip is best if it has an hour or two to sit and allow the flavors to blend.

Posted by: Pixel | April 24, 2006 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Easy medieval pork for Sara.
Marcella has a version in her books, but I got it from a medieval recipe book. The author may have been a certain Curmud___, the late part of the name had faded away.
Pick a pot that could just barely contain your pork roast. The roast could be shoulder, ham, rolled hock, whatever. A large shoulder with skin removed works best for me. The pot should be suitable for frying and low temperature oven.

Sauté chopped onion (2-3 medium, to taste)in butter until soft and it has turned light gold. This takes some times.
Color the pork on each side in the same pot.
Add milk (at least 1%, better 2%) to cover the meat.
Cover and put in oven at 265 Fº for about 3 hres. The fork tender meat will be swimming in a golden brown sauce. Serve with noodles or boiled potatoes with green veggies.

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | April 24, 2006 3:57 PM | Report abuse

While cleaning drawers at home this weekend, I came across a story my dad told me about my Great grandfather.

When my dad was a young the only highschool was a long trip to town by horse and caboose away. When the weather was bad they stayed in at great grandpa's house in town. Great Grandpa was a widower and really enjoyed the company of his grandsons. Dad remembers one occasion when Grandpa asked them what they wanted for supper, and then decided to look for the cookbook. He rifled around the cupboard for a few minutes, and then turned to the boys and told them he just remembered he threw out the cookbook. The boys obligingly asked why, and grandpa replied " All the recipes started the same way: Take a clean pan..."

Posted by: dr | April 24, 2006 4:09 PM | Report abuse


How's it going over there? I hope it's not too unpleasant. You're doing a good thing.

Posted by: kbertocci | April 24, 2006 4:20 PM | Report abuse

No wonder you turned out so well, coming from the hometown of Tollhouse cookies! I just remembered, we called them chocolate "bit" cookies when I was a kid...

All these recipes are making me hungry and wanting to cook. A rare thing these days (wanting to cook, that is - I can always eat). My husband has pulled cooking duty for many years now. He's the one who stayed home while I went to work, and he's also a much more adventurous, imaginative cook.

Posted by: mostlylurking | April 24, 2006 4:22 PM | Report abuse

Did I ever tell you the REAL story of Tollhouse ... oh, never mind. I got nuthin'.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | April 24, 2006 4:34 PM | Report abuse

I am duty-bound to call everyone's attention to this wonderful paragraph in Frank Deford's "The Writing Life" colyum in Book World (

"Also, it [1972] was the end of an era. There was the last gasp of antebellum romance to it. And, truth be told, I was lucky to catch the tail end. Bells still rang on the AP wire. Stories had to be written on mimeograph copy books. There was great camaraderie, most of it exhibited in bars, where we drank prodigious amounts of hard brown liquor, communicating through smoke as thick as that given off by those smudge pots that save orange trees from frost. I was The Kid, listening wide-eyed to tales of men who had fought and written during World War II, who had ridden in sleeper cars and known (what was always called) the depths of the Depression. We were all men. We were behaving exactly the way I had heard writers were supposed to behave. I had stepped into the past, and it was wonderful."

Posted by: Curmudgeon | April 24, 2006 4:47 PM | Report abuse

sara and jw:
congratulations! I hope that both of you will be extremely happy in the years to come. God bless.
Unfortunately, i can't give any favorite recipes, b/c i come from a family where the only recipes are "a little more of this," "that looks about right," and "do you think that's done?" great cooks all, but highly unorganized.

I must confess, I have never read any of Sagan's stuff. I think its probably a generational thing. Although i did see part of Cosmos, part of the DVD set. One of those things i should/would like to do. Alas, finals are looming and any non-scholastic reading (other than Boodle-skimming) must take a backseat.

Posted by: tangent | April 24, 2006 4:54 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps (cough cough) I should also mention that Deford graduated from Princeton, rather like a certain other noted writer (no, not F. Scott Fitzgerald, though him, too) who shall remain nameless, being that he is a slacker-blogger.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | April 24, 2006 4:56 PM | Report abuse

Mudge thinks this is part of a great paragraph:
"We were all men. We were behaving exactly the way I had heard writers were supposed to behave. I had stepped into the past, and it was wonderful."

Oh, please, Mudge, gag me with a rag.

Posted by: Loomis | April 24, 2006 5:02 PM | Report abuse

haha Loomis. I was going to write and say that I thought I'd stepped into a Hemingway novel.

"Then we ate red meat, as we were meant to do, the lean, taut muscles of the old newsmen rippling in the mid day sun. And then they died."

I had a spare moment, so here is my attempt at the new Achenword:
Ne'er-bood-well: noun. a worthless slacker/blogger

Posted by: SonofCarl | April 24, 2006 5:18 PM | Report abuse

I don't accept the "We were all men" part myself, but it was in the middle of the graf, so it stayed. But the rest...yes. That's how it was in 1972 for Deford (and 1969 for me). He's not talking about sexism, he's talking about camaraderie.

A few sentences later there is this: "We all argued about writing and writers. I'm sure we took writing more seriously there in the bar than in any pantywaist salon or college seminar. Writing was never honored more."

It was a great paragraph because that's how it was for a certain group of people, at a certain time and place, when "The Kid" (him or me, doesn't matter) listened to the old WWII guys talk about newspapers and writing, and the AP wires machine had bells (and I was an ex-wire room clerk myself). You can't take that away just because you don't like part of the content, LindaLoo.

And Deford is a great writer. No question about it.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | April 24, 2006 5:23 PM | Report abuse

As I read the Deford passage (and fyi I am currently at his old stomping grounds of Princeton, which didn't let "coeds" enroll until about 1970 as I recall), he was characterizing a gathering of dinosaurs -- the all-male nature of the event being a key sign of its Mesozoic quality, along with the talk of the depths of the Depression. He's spoofing it a bit, no? I don't think he's advocating a return to those times.

Posted by: Achenbach | April 24, 2006 5:36 PM | Report abuse

I've been in a meeting and a seminar all day and have missed whatever has been going on in what students call the Real World. I will post a kit tomorrow. Thanks everyone for the recipes and comments today. Revelation from the seminar: In a room of non-fiction writing students, not a single one raised his or her hand when I asked who would like to work for a newspaper someday. Even "journalist" got almost no response. "Writer" resulted in a large show of hands. Perhaps they think newspapers won't be around much longer. That they're part of the past. Like one of those Frank Deford things. Buncha old guys drinking whiskey in a bar and telling lies about the Golden Age.

Posted by: Achenbach | April 24, 2006 5:42 PM | Report abuse

Skimming through the boodle reminds me that, a few computers, back I owned one of the original BHA machines. Apple Computer, like many manufacturers, had internal code names for products under development. At one time there were three new computers in development named Sagan, Piltdown, and a third name I cannot remember--although it may have, like Piltdown, been associated with a well known fraud. After some discussion of the products in the trade press, Apple received a letter from Carl Sagan's lawyers ordering them to cease and desist from the use of the name Sagan in their internal documents. Apple responded that thereafter their development products would be referred to by alpha-numeric codes and that, in particular, the Sagan machine was assigned the code BHA. Word then somehow leaked to the trade press that, in fact, BHA stood for Bu** Head Astronomer.

Posted by: gah | April 24, 2006 6:04 PM | Report abuse

Er, maybe I'm a rube, but don't a lot of those hot-shot razzle-dazzle "writers" start off as journalists? Seems like a good way to make your name--after all, if you can add some flare to your reporting of the PTA meeting, the skies the limit, right?

There are certain people working at the Post who I read whenever they have a column, regardless of what it's about, because they consistently find the interesting in what others might dismiss as ordinary. They always have the right quote, they notice the right details, they find the story. I guess that's what good reporting is. And I have no doubt that somewhere down the line, these lowly newspaper reporters are going to be big-time hot-shot writers with book signings and movie deals and all that. Because they always know where the story is.

Posted by: jw | April 24, 2006 6:19 PM | Report abuse

Heck darn right TBG. Their Orange Flavored Chicken is no stranger to the Padouk dinner table. Perhaps paired with a delightful bottle of Friexnet. Living large in Fairfax...

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 24, 2006 6:21 PM | Report abuse

I doubt that it's that simple Joel. They are young and have ideas filled with how great it is and how 'writers' are rich and famous and have massive book contracts and make millions and millions of dollars. They have not faced rejection yet. Its possible they would as a group (massive generalisation alert) not consider a journalist as a 'real writer'.

They needed to read Gene's story on the fellow who wrote the original Hardy Boys novellas.

I don't think that newspapers are a dying media, but I do think they face a change in delivery methods. We still need good researchers and solid investigators who can write about, and occasioanlly interpret what is happening in the big wide world. Its the first warning system the public has for pretty much everything going on around us.

Posted by: dr | April 24, 2006 6:24 PM | Report abuse

PS--It's jambalaya night! (granted, it's a mix, but still...)

Posted by: jw | April 24, 2006 6:28 PM | Report abuse

I see an increasing bifurcation in the news business between instantaneous information sans much in the way of interpretation, and more thoughtful analytical pieces. In this world the difference between journalism and non-fiction writing will blur even more. Sort of a grand convergence of the written word. There will always be a market for those who can make sense out of it all. Perhaps, in the end, that is why so many people worshipped Carl Sagan. He helped them understand things. We all like to understand.

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 24, 2006 6:52 PM | Report abuse

Wow, they fixed the typo in The Rules.
I feel so . . . Powerful!
[Sad, eh?]

I love the invite you made for the shower. And what a treat to see all those recipes streaming in.

"Ne'er-bood-well" -- Ha!
(I just love the word "ne'er-do-well" -- it's one I try to use as often as possible, along with "shenanigans" and "beseech.")

Posted by: Tom fan | April 24, 2006 7:10 PM | Report abuse

Love is affirmation seasoned with passion. It is a heady brew, but be warned. For without proper care it can turn bad and produce some wicked dry heaves. With proper care, however, it can keep a 100 years or more.

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 24, 2006 7:31 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of dry heaves, and relevant to your interest in teas of the world, I recently tried some Chinese herbal tea from a local street vendor. It was so strong and pungent, I could only get half of it down, and for the next hour or so my stomach felt like it had been tied in a knot. After that, though, I felt Achentastic. I don't know *what* they put in that stuff. (Apparently they periodically come up with different concoctions to ward of the latest flu strains. Although it's possible I got the wrong end of the stick as far as that story goes.)

I have acquired some more pleasant teas for use at home -- a fragrant "jasmine pearl" as well as a "premium phoenix danchong," which tastes like lychees. (I'm really developing a taste for lychees -- lychee martinis, lychee gelato . . . actually, I probably should stick with the tea.)

Posted by: Tom fan | April 24, 2006 7:51 PM | Report abuse

. . . or the actual lychee fruit.
*There's* a concept.

Posted by: Tom fan | April 24, 2006 7:53 PM | Report abuse

Here I am back in the office waiting on the local city council meeting. I see from the AP a story regarding black holes. It appears that they are the most energy-efficient "engines" in the universe. I do, however take some pause at the description of the black hole spewing out the energy jets. It is my understanding that the energy jets are a result of the massive energy conversion going on at the event horizon that excites the surrounding gases and matter which in effect are the opposite action of the matter being drawn past the event horizon. ScienceTim, Joel, comments?

Posted by: ebtnut | April 24, 2006 8:07 PM | Report abuse

Jeez, Joel, sounds like you were lecturing to a class of content providers. I can think of nothing more dis-spiriting.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | April 24, 2006 8:20 PM | Report abuse

Ah yes, "The Demon-Haunted World," I knew there was another Sagan favorite of mine!

And ebtnut, let me give the black hole issue a try... You're quite right in that once you hit the event horizon, that's the whole shootin' match for that piece of matter, further deponent sayeth not. The staggering gravitational fields involved, however, can indeed excite matter enough to reach escape velocity, which if you're in the general vicinity of said event horizon, is close enough to the speed of light it's not worth quibbling about. In short, the physical object called a black hole doesn't generate the jets, but its effects on space-time do.

*awaiting vociferous condemnation from those who really know whereof they speak*


Posted by: Scottynuke | April 24, 2006 8:43 PM | Report abuse

Sounds like my kind of tea, Tom Fan. I recently bought this dark tea that contains snibbles from a flower. The tea smells a bit like like marshmallow. Anyway, it takes a few sips to get used to the flavor, but once the tea kicks in even the blaring of Fox News becomes tolerable. Somehow caffeine borne of tea seems more blessed than that from coffee.
At least I hope it's just the caffeine....

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 24, 2006 8:53 PM | Report abuse

Also, I must admit I have never tasted a lychee. There is so much in life to do.

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 24, 2006 9:00 PM | Report abuse

Anybody watching Helen Mirren on her way to her third Emmy, tearing up the scenery in Elizabeth I on HBO? Wow. And the script gets an Emmy, too.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | April 24, 2006 9:15 PM | Report abuse

Lychees and ice-cream was the standard dessert at Chinese restaurants in Australia when I was growing up. (Usually they were tinned, aka canned. The fresh ones, which have a bright-red prickly skin, are much better.) Sometimes these restaurants would also offer a slice of Sara Lee cheesecake or, if you were really lucky, deep-fried ice-cream. (I've noticed that in the U.S. the latter tends to be served at Mexican restaurants, not Chinese ones. Go figure.)

There would also be a small section of the menu devoted to "Australian meals," for people who didn't like Chinese food but found themselves at a Chinese restaurant under duress. Usually there were two choices: T-bone steak and chicken Maryland.

Oddly, I never came across chicken Maryland while living in the States, not even *in* Maryland. This extremely unhealthful dish consists of deep-fried breaded chicken accompanied by a slice of bacon, a deep-fried breaded banana, a deep-fried breaded pineapple ring, and, occasionally, deep-fried corn fritters. Nothing green in sight. Do not try this at home (says she, who actually *did* make it at home once -- from a recipe in an Australian Women's Weekly cook book).

Posted by: Tom fan | April 24, 2006 9:36 PM | Report abuse

That chicken Maryland sounds, as the expression goes, like a heart-attack on a plate! A nutritional nightmare! Shocking in its total disregard for Healthful Eating!

Gosh I wish I knew where to get some.

Sorry if this is well covered territory Tom Fan, but where in Australia did you grow up? Long ago I used to work with a man from Adelaide who despised Perth and another man from Perth who despised Adelaide. I have no idea if this animosity was typical, or if it was just them. Or maybe they were just pulling a fast one on me.
It's been known to happen.

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 24, 2006 9:50 PM | Report abuse

Even after Mudge's attempt to manipulate the Google ads below with his bustiers, the only ad I've had all day is this one:

Sales Managers Conference
Join Selling Power on June 15, 2006 for a Sales Leadership Conference

Can we just imagine what those Sales Managers will be wearing?

Posted by: TBG | April 24, 2006 9:58 PM | Report abuse

However, Rule 6 still has "exclusive" in it...

Posted by: Dooley | April 24, 2006 10:05 PM | Report abuse

Good points on the turtle necks Mudge. I remember a high school teacher making a valiant attempt at staying cool at 35-40, ca. 1973, wearing one of those cool turleneck in bright yellow. The portly gentleman nickname's was the 200lbs canary within the student population.
"Content providers" for "writer", sheesh. I hear you Mudge. In my days at the navy's HQ ships and subs became "naval platforms", what a joke. They were ships and submarines, both perfectly good names.

Do not taste fresh lychee if you are not in a tropical fruit intensive area, it quickly becomes an addiction that is expensive. Go for it if you are in HK or other tropical locale.
Tom fan, I was looking for the name of that stinky melon-like fruit, the one that airlines forbid for transport. It's very popular in HK, what's the name of that thing ? The stink is horrible but the taste heavenly, pretty much like Époisse cheese.

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | April 24, 2006 10:12 PM | Report abuse

I was born in Sydney but grew up in Canberra (lived there from the age of 4 to the age of 25). I still have a lot of relatives in Sydney and love to visit. My brother and his wife now live there.

I'm not aware of any Adelaide/Perth animosity. They *could* have been kidding -- indulging in a little healthy competitiveness, sort of like the good-natured ribbing that goes on between fans of opposing football teams.

There is some (usually mock) animosity between Aussies and New Zealanders -- a lot of distasteful sheep jokes that I won't go into here.

Posted by: Tom fan | April 24, 2006 10:20 PM | Report abuse

Shrieking Denizen:
That fruit is the durian.

Posted by: Tom fan | April 24, 2006 10:22 PM | Report abuse

Thanks a lot Tom fan, that's the prickly melon I remember. The Spousal Unit insisted this was the Jack fruit. Jacks' are huge, taste good but are no durian.

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | April 24, 2006 10:27 PM | Report abuse

They're taking umbrage in the Enron trial:

"Lay acknowledged that some of the executives expressed concerns about Enron's accounting, to which company accounting chief Richard Causey took such umbrage, he struck the table with his fist and rebuked the accusers, growing red in the face, Lay testified."

Posted by: mostlylurking | April 24, 2006 10:39 PM | Report abuse

TBG: Sorry that it has taken so long to get back here to respond to your query about colleges. I skimmed the boodle on
Friday and saw that slyness recommended Queens Univ. in clt. I was a member of the first class to recieve The MEd conferred by Queens, so I'm partial to alma mater. I also favour small schools, thus (as if you didn't get enough feedback the first time around), I would recommend the following: Queens, Newberry College (SC), Presbyterian College (SC), Roanoke (Va) College, Winthrop Univ (SC), and Belmont-Abbey College (NC). You probably know this as well: an application service exists that , for a price, will allow application to a pool of colleges upon completion of a single form. I know little about this, as I read of it only recently, but it sounds like a money saver. Glad to be back...the irreverence of late is a refreshing break from the testing madness that has gripped our building, along with the frivolties associated with spring fever. We have also been quite busy with dog shows, acquiring a sweet 69 beetle, repairs to the house (which never seem to end since we've started this restoration), formal dances and (aaack) yardwork. My hands are adorned with the first large blisters and assorted gashes of the season. The payoff is large though. I wrestled with installation of a door in the back of the house (measure once, cut fifty times to make the doot fit a 100 year old jamb)and scored a victory when the mortises I hand cut for the hinges were perfect the first time. Sagan was right about the power of he limbic operates quite well when you miss a cut.

Posted by: jack | April 24, 2006 11:17 PM | Report abuse

Good morning, friends. I hope a good day is to be had by all. I'm up and moving about, that's always a good sign that I'm alive. Said my prayers, and prayed for you too. Love you all.

Mudge, I've seen snatches of the movie on HBO, can't seem to sit down to watch the whole thing, but she is good. I suspect an emmy is on the way. That salad sounds delicious, I want to try it.

I've read Robinson's take on the Duke scandal this morning, I really do love that man's writing. He always seems to hit the nail on the head, and he certainly has it right on the Duke mess.
Also read the op-ed piece on Ted Kennedy. Sounds a little critical to me, but perhaps the writer is a Republican, and they all hate Kennedy. I suspect Kennedy is trying to do something in the form of work, when many of his colleagues are sitting back waiting for the other shoe to drop. Washington really is a nightmare now, and so many people seem to be content that it is. I pray for our country every day because as a citizen of this country, I love America, and I just don't think we're helping ourselves much with the direction that things seem to be going. People are suffering real bad, and now that gas looks like it knows no end to how high it will go, more and more will suffer. Somebody needs to take charge, and I agree with Bush when he says there is no magic wand, but we did not get to this place with a magic wand either. My car sits in the parking lot most of the week. I'm not able to do my missionary work of going around to visit the sick or praying with the sick. I know that something will work out, but maybe we all need to let these cars sit, except to go to work and do our grocery shopping, and doctor's appointments. Just necessary stuff. We're too dependent on oil, and dependency on anything is not good, it's like a drug addiction, and I'm sure all of us know how that goes. I still pray for the sick, just do it at home, and that's what I do anyway.

Posted by: Cassandra S | April 25, 2006 7:22 AM | Report abuse

Hey Joel---that was very touching. I loved Sagan when I was growing up because he had so much conviction and passion about science. He was like David Suzuki that way... cut from the same cloth. It's very sad that he died and we didn't hear too much from him in his later years. I hope he will not be forgotten... he was a great man in his own way. Cheers!

Posted by: Miss Toronto | April 25, 2006 7:23 AM | Report abuse

Thanks Tom fan. I have never been to Australia, but it's on my list. My brother and his wife visited both Australia and New Zealand a few years ago. He related some of that sheep business. Eventually I will forgive him for that.
I always wondered if the Perth/Adelaide thing was a put on. Both of these guys were very dry wits. I have been lead to believe that is a national characteristic. Another reason I want to visit one day.

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 25, 2006 7:47 AM | Report abuse

Joel, it's a good thing for you to stay in communication with Hal--for one thing, it gives you opportunities to mention that your people want ITALICS. So here's another typo, from rule 2:

Nevertheless, may monitor the any user-generated content as it chooses

It is minor compared to the Rule 3 error, but still not up to (i)Washington Post(/i) standards of perfection.


Does Hal also have the power to activate the Rough Draft links? ( Deborah Howell apparently does not have the necessary influence to get that done.

Posted by: kbertocci | April 25, 2006 7:54 AM | Report abuse


One word: E-bay. I'm sure Sagan would've wanted it that way...! :-)

Also, when are you going to weigh in on the Duke scandal? You could head down, look around, eat lots of North Carolina BBQ (Eastern-style, not Lexington... but both are true delicacies), and wax eloquent on some underappreciated aspect of the case.... like, for instance, how good students would have had a party with beer and BBQ, not beer and exotic dancers. The lesson: stick to BBQ in life, and only good things will happen.

Posted by: Huntsman | April 25, 2006 8:33 AM | Report abuse

I don't know, Cassandra:

"...he is a dogged, pragmatic practitioner of the legislative arts."

"Between the antics of the leaders on both sides -- You're wrong. No, you are. Well, you started it. -- and the prospect of crafting a legislative compromise, put me down in Kennedy's column."

"Kennedy is 'a throwback,' says one longtime Democratic strategist who uses the term admiringly (and who has never worked for the senator). 'He grew up in an era when you tried to get things done. Now we try not to get things done, on the theory that somewhere down the line, if we take over, we'll be able to get things done.'"

"If Kennedy is a dinosaur, we should all -- Republicans and Democrats alike -- lament the arrival of a new political ice age in which the ability to legislate is frozen and bipartisanship extinct."

Rather than being critical of my senior senator, sounds like the author has a little bit of a crush on him.

Posted by: jw | April 25, 2006 9:00 AM | Report abuse

I'm no expert on black holes and X-ray jets, though I have stayed at a Holiday Inn.

The way I try to get my head around it is imagining a black hole as a drain in a bathtub. Imagine matter as water draining the tub with the floor of the tub as the acretion disk at the equator of the balck hole. As water starts going down the drain, a vortex forms directly over the center of the drain (which would correspond to the axis of rotation of the 'hole). Ever notice that you can stick your finger into the vortex well below the surface of the water and not touch the air/water boundry in there? Seems to me that this would make a nice little area for some of the energy that's at the event horizon of a black hole to escape the "normal" effects in that region and jet off at the speed of light, like energy tends to. The fact that the vortex is a narrow area that's rotating could also act like the rifling in a gun barrel for the engergy, encouraging it to remain in a unnaturally tight beam, rather than scampering off willy-nilly, as unfocused energy is wont to do.

I'm intentionally ignoring stuff like relatvistic effects, frame dragging, high energy states, etc. here, to try to keep things simple.

As far as I know, all objects in the universe with significant gravitational and magnetic fields with rotation (including the earth) have similar vortex regions in their poles. Aurora borealis is an effect of Earth's, as high energy particles from the sun leak in through the 'sunroof' and interact with the atmosphere.

Significant polar jet activity is noted when an object has a large acretion disk of material, which is why our sun (for example) does not exhibit such effects continiously.

Cassandra, I read Eugene Robinson's item first thing this AM, and I'm glad you read it too.

I'm chuckling at 'mudge and others' snorty boodling about "content providers" made on this blog's comments.


Posted by: bc | April 25, 2006 9:23 AM | Report abuse

SCC: No I didn't preview, and yes, I know that mistakes were made. Thousands, maybe.

I accept full responsibility for them. Now, off to meetings.


Posted by: bc | April 25, 2006 9:25 AM | Report abuse

bc, since you've FINALLY admitted mistakes were made and taken responsibility for them, perhaps you should take the appropriate corrective action the American people expect and demand: fire your press secretary to make sure it doesn't happen again.

I liked Robinson's column, too.

I am so [steamed]. I watched all two hours of Elizabeth I, Part 1, and was watching part 2 last night (also 2 hours), when with 15 minutes left in the entire 4-hour show, I got an important phone call I couldn't dodge, and missed all but the last minute or so. So I have seen 3 hours and 47 minutes of a 4-hour drama. Yeah, yeah, I can catch the repeat, but it's just not the same thing.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | April 25, 2006 9:42 AM | Report abuse

Saw a TERRIBLE movie last night: American Dreamz. Just horrible.

But the worst part was the fact that it followed the trailer of the movie United 93. The United trailer was actually quite good, focusing on the movitation for making the movie rather than plugging the movie itself for its story or action.

And then comes American Dreamz, which features a stupid, incurious president who is so close to the truth that the joke was not funny AND then a scene about the taping of training videos at a terrorist camp in Afghanistan. It was actually kind of jaw-droppingly unfunny.

The movie just got worse from there.

The only good thing was that the theme song to the TV show American Dreamz includes the line, "....'Dreamz' with a 'z'."

Posted by: TBG | April 25, 2006 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Tivo, 'mudge, Tivo. It will revolutionize your life.

Posted by: jw | April 25, 2006 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Mudge where I live, about five miles north, or perhaps it's more like ten, there's a strawberry farm with so many strawberries one would think they've died and gone to heaven. And they are so delicious. I haven't been able to go this year because the crunch with gas. Everybody picks their own or someone will pick them for you. It's like a dream come true.

Posted by: Cassandra S | April 25, 2006 10:12 AM | Report abuse

jack... THANKS!

We are following lots of the boodle college advice and planning a tour of the south this summer. That will include a couple of days in Charlotte, so I'm hoping you and slyness and any other Charlotte-area boodlers will be available for a BPH in August.

Posted by: TBG | April 25, 2006 10:15 AM | Report abuse

TBG, we'll be out of town the third weekend, but otherwise should be around for a southern edition of the BPH...and I look forward to it!

Posted by: slyness | April 25, 2006 10:29 AM | Report abuse

Eh, I saw "Thank You for Smoking" this past weekend.

I'd read Buckley's book, so I came away from the movie amused but disappointed at the oversimplified movie plot. The great cast is underutilized, with the bewildering exception of Katie Holmes, who is just plain miscast.

TBG, thankz for the headz up on "America Screamz".



Posted by: bc | April 25, 2006 10:41 AM | Report abuse

Oops, forgot to mention it earlier:

'Mudge, you're fired.

Back to meetings.


Posted by: bc | April 25, 2006 10:43 AM | Report abuse

Well, I HAVE wanted to spend more time with my family. No, wait a minute. You don't know my family.... Let's make that, "I want to pursue opportunities in the private sector." Yeah, that's it.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | April 25, 2006 10:52 AM | Report abuse

On an unrelated topic, here's this week's check-in from Art Buchwald, who remains staunchly on this side of the afterlife.
And I'm thankful for that.

"It's a game we play at the hospice all the time, and I give it a lot of thought."


Posted by: bc | April 25, 2006 11:02 AM | Report abuse

I have posted a new kit, about trains.

Posted by: Achenbach | April 25, 2006 11:05 AM | Report abuse

'Mudge, what did you think about Elizabeth I, from the 3 hours and 47 minutes that you saw? The first biography I ever read was about her, and I've been hooked ever since. We don't have HBO on our DirecTV lineup, so I was out of the loop.

Posted by: slyness | April 25, 2006 11:10 AM | Report abuse

Carl Sagan started me on my search for a spiritual anchor. He led me to other men who could communicate the wonder of the universe in language I could grasp.
Thanks to science, I "know" where I came from (the atoms in the Big Bang), and I "know" where I am going (into the cosmic recycle bin).
Thus, the matter that I consist of has "always" existed, and "always" will. Who knows how many lives I may have in a trillion years?

Posted by: Travis | April 25, 2006 4:39 PM | Report abuse


Thanks for the retrospective on Sagan. When I was a Syracuse student, we didn't like to admit how we envied Cornell because they had Sagan. He could be an easy target to make fun of, but as you say, he thought big, and he challenged us to think big. I miss his writing, and his voice.

Posted by: FGC | April 25, 2006 8:36 PM | Report abuse

This is cool, you have to try it. I guessed 70815, and this game guessed it! See it here -

Posted by: Allison Trump | May 23, 2006 10:46 AM | Report abuse

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Posted by: Gina | July 17, 2006 7:45 AM | Report abuse

Well done! |

Posted by: Gabriel | July 17, 2006 7:45 AM | Report abuse

Rugby players spend a lot of time physical training Compared to other form of sports.I have read the
Rugby laws mentioned on this site. It's a gripping sport which targets the grip strength and the active mindedness of a player. American football and rugby league are also primarily collision sports, but their tackles tend to terminate much more quickly. For professional rugby, players are often chosen on the basis of their size and apparent strength and they develop the skill and power over the passage of time. In modern rugby considerable attention is given to fitness and aerobic conditioning as well as basic weight training.

Posted by: Rugby Fan Steve | August 24, 2006 5:15 PM | Report abuse

Rugby players spend a lot of time physical training Compared to other form of sports.I have read the
Rugby laws mentioned on this site. It's a gripping sport which targets the grip strength and the active mindedness of a player. American football and rugby league are also primarily collision sports, but their tackles tend to terminate much more quickly. For professional rugby, players are often chosen on the basis of their size and apparent strength and they develop the skill and power over the passage of time. In modern rugby considerable attention is given to fitness and aerobic conditioning as well as basic weight training.

Posted by: Rugby Fan Steve | August 24, 2006 5:16 PM | Report abuse

Rugby players spend a lot of time physical training Compared to other form of sports.I have read the
Rugby laws mentioned on this site. It's a gripping sport which targets the grip strength and the active mindedness of a player. American football and rugby league are also primarily collision sports, but their tackles tend to terminate much more quickly. For professional rugby, players are often chosen on the basis of their size and apparent strength and they develop the skill and power over the passage of time. In modern rugby considerable attention is given to fitness and aerobic conditioning as well as basic weight training.

Posted by: Rugby Fan Steve | August 24, 2006 5:17 PM | Report abuse

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