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Obama Star Party

[Cross-posted from 44.]

President Obama, having spent much of the day pondering Afghanistan, spent a few seconds Wednesday night looking through a telescope at a double-star system roughly one quadrillion miles away.

The South Lawn of the White House was littered with some 20 telescopes and what might be called portable planetariums -- inflated tents with images of the universe projected on the ceiling. This was the Obama "star party," a night for astronomy with 150 Washington-area students.

It was 400 years ago, the president told the students, that Galileo built his first telescope and began probing the universe.

"Galileo changed the world when he pointed his telescope to the sky. Now it's your turn," Obama said. "Don't let anyone tell ya that there isn't more to discover."

Also on hand: two 15-year-old amateur astronomers, who discovered, respectively, a new supernova and a rare type of ultra-dense star known as a pulsar. Moonwalker Buzz Aldrin. Former astronauts Sally Ride and Mae Jemison, and current astronaut John Grunsfeld, the Hubble telescope repairman. The night was blessed by clear skies, though the light pollution of the city ensured that the South Lawn would not have the same kind of "seeing" as a remote mountaintop.

Among those providing the instruments was Doug Hudgins, a NASA planetary scientist who built a homemade telescope (a Dobsonian reflector with a 24-inch mirror, for those who keep track of such things). It's an impressive contraption, a bit larger than your average battlefield cannon. He usually keeps it in his garage, dismantled, but Wednesday it sat on the White House grounds.

"The Wild Duck Cluster is up," Hudgins said as reporters toured the telescopes in the afternoon. "It's an open cluster of stars in the Milky Way in the constellation of Scutum, I believe. It's beautiful."

At that moment, with the sun still out, he had his telescope aimed at an American flag atop a building a couple of blocks away. Through the eyepiece, the flag's stars loomed so large you could almost see the sunspots.

The event was dreamed up as an effort to promote science literacy. Museums and planetariums across the country were scheduled to take part remotely.

"Middle school is right when we start to lose kids in science and technology," said Ride, the first American woman in space. This program, she said, was designed to "remind them that science is really cool."

Jemison said that when she was growing up, she assumed she'd be working in space by this point -- and not just in low Earth orbit. "I always assumed that I'd be working on Mars or the moons of Jupiter," she said.

The star-gazing came amid tremendous uncertainty and anxiety in the American space program. NASA's strategy of human space exploration is now very much up in the air. Later this month, a review panel appointed by the White House and led by retired aerospace executive Norm Augustine will deliver a detailed report on the options for human space flight.

The gist of the Augustine committee's executive summary, released last month, is that there's not nearly enough money in present and future budgets to carry out a robust exploration program that would include a return of astronauts anytime in the near future. NASA had set 2020 as a target date for astronauts returning to the moon, but the panel dismissed that as implausible and suggested that it would take an additional $3 billion a year to carry out the mission as originally envisioned by the space agency.

On Friday morning, NASA will crash a spacecraft and a rocket booster into a shadowy crater at the moon's south pole in an attempt to see if frozen water lurks there beneath the lunar surface. Such water would be highly useful to a lunar base should astronauts return to the moon. But it's not clear if the moon is still a destination for NASA in the near term, and the president's science adviser, John Holdren, did not clear up the issue as he toured the telescopes on the South Lawn.

Asked by a reporter what he would say if a middle school student asked him if America is returning to the moon, Holdren said simply, "We will certainly go back to the moon at some point."

And would the administration be willing to put another $3 billion into human exploration?
"We'll be looking at that," he said.

By Joel Achenbach  |  October 7, 2009; 9:56 PM ET
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Next: LCROSS Takes Aim At the Moon


Three billion bucks is chump change, less than twenty bucks per working US citizen.

Posted by: bobsewell | October 7, 2009 10:08 PM | Report abuse

Maybe Michelle Obama will hold an event where she serves peas to celebrate Gregor Mendel? What will the White House do to observe, in a few weeks, the 150th anniversary of the publication of "On the Origin of Species"?

Posted by: laloomis | October 7, 2009 10:09 PM | Report abuse

Sounds fun, although we really should do something about that light pollution.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | October 7, 2009 10:16 PM | Report abuse

Miss Sasha or Miss Malia on the White House lawn tonight:

Posted by: DNA_Girl | October 7, 2009 10:20 PM | Report abuse

Oh, loomis, didn't you hear? They're going to have the Dalai Lama bless a pastafarian meal, and then serve it to Cindy Sheehan, to strengthen her in her attempt to work evolutionary change upon Washington D.C.

Welcome to the jungle, Cindy! Take a little time off to view the night sky.

Posted by: bobsewell | October 7, 2009 10:21 PM | Report abuse

Love it, DNA_Girl. Bet she knit them herself.

Posted by: seasea1 | October 7, 2009 10:29 PM | Report abuse

Good one, Bob! Don't you just wish they would do that, though? Just to watch the wingnuts' heads explode. Michelle Malkin would turn into a spittle-spewing whirling dervish and just spin off down the road. It would be fun!

Posted by: Wheezy11 | October 7, 2009 10:29 PM | Report abuse

The star party sounds nice. A favored Florida spot for new-moon weekend parties is Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park, so isolated that the night skies are reasonably black.

Mendel's been under suspicion because of too-perfect data. I suspect the poor monk's data management was normal and proper back then, before statistics became such an important science.

Could the President visit the British Embassy for Darwin Day?

The Brits might also host a Statistics Day honoring Ronald (R.A.) Fisher, Sir Richard Doll, and Sir Richard Peto. Not that Fisher liked Doll's work on the health effects of tobacco.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | October 7, 2009 11:01 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of orreries (anyone who caught my comment at the tail end of the last 'boodle knows that I was), I haven't seen this one mentioned in a while:

Posted by: bobsewell | October 7, 2009 11:06 PM | Report abuse

Oops - My previous link was related, but not actually about the already-completed orrery. Feel free to try this one:

Posted by: bobsewell | October 7, 2009 11:16 PM | Report abuse

The Dobsonian telescope has nothing to do with J.R. "Bob" Dobbs.

Posted by: Jumper1 | October 7, 2009 11:26 PM | Report abuse

I'm not so much for orreries, but Orangeries in Great Houses? That's my natural habitat. Naturally

Posted by: Yoki | October 7, 2009 11:34 PM | Report abuse

The Obamas host the coolest WH events.

Spent the evening painting the bathroom. Wish I had a nickel for every hour of my life spent painting or wallpapering bathrooms. But, this is my favorite shade of celadon that I've been meaning to use for a bathroom for about 20 years so it was time well spent.

Dinner 0 (left overs, but from that expensive lunch so I'm not sure how to deal with it)

Toodles boodle and good night.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | October 7, 2009 11:48 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: Jumper1 | October 8, 2009 12:13 AM | Report abuse

DNA girl, I tried that once - to colour coordinate my socks and my scarf, but it didn't take. The joke among knitters is how can you pick knitters out in a crowd? Look for people with many pieces of knitting on them, none of them matching.

It's like a secret handshake.

Posted by: --dr-- | October 8, 2009 12:18 AM | Report abuse

Do jewelrymakers also wear lots of jewelry but none matching in style?

That would explain somebody I know. She definitely strikes me as a woman with a guilty secret like that.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | October 8, 2009 12:30 AM | Report abuse

My experience of jewelers is that they know precisely what blends, but doesn't match. They balance colour, light, weight and length.

But maybe that's just me.

Posted by: Yoki | October 8, 2009 12:43 AM | Report abuse

i think the distraction option for asteroids of doom is something along the lines of putting another object in orbit around the asteroid to alter its trajectory. an astronomer once told me something like that, but i might be misremembering. scitim?

Posted by: LALurker | October 8, 2009 3:44 AM | Report abuse

Just watched Olbermann's hour long special comment about the Health Care Crisis

It was a very good synthesis of the issues.

I wonder if anyone would bother to take a look up from their work over at the Senate Finance Committee at the comment.

Posted by: russianthistle | October 8, 2009 4:55 AM | Report abuse


Can't we just sell the asteroid in theoritical question to Rush?

Posted by: russianthistle | October 8, 2009 5:25 AM | Report abuse

Good Morning All
I have been very busy with things,some good and some bad,but that will be for another day.

I enjoyed this article very much and intend on seeing the movie when it come around.

I have very fond memories of the Colts band,and having been in a marching band in high school,know just how much work goes into a halftime show.Also it was never to much fun playing a trumpet when the temperature was cold.I have enjoyed all of the Barry Levinson's movies especially 'Diner".

Another movie I want to see is Bright Stars,My mother underlined a passage of one of his poems back when she was in grade school.It just so happens that passage was in the newspaper last week and she showed me both.So Mom and I will have a date in the future to see both films.

Posted by: greenwithenvy | October 8, 2009 6:10 AM | Report abuse

Interesting and fruitful use of our FBI...

They go after PHISHING sites and indict dozens. There are people in Egypt who are also running. There was a large scheme going on to get people to log into their fake bank to turn over their username and password to the perps.

This could be 20 years in the big house for that one. This falls under wire fraud.

Posted by: russianthistle | October 8, 2009 6:15 AM | Report abuse

One other thing about the Colts,on our Ravens bus for the tailgating.The toilet has a picture Robert Irsay in it,so does the 5 gallon bucket that it all goes into.

Now that is all the Colts bashing I am doing,at least until about a week before their game in Baltimore!!!

Have a Great day everyone!!!

Posted by: greenwithenvy | October 8, 2009 6:21 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, all! Cassandra, we're still missing you...

Weed, that phishing story got play around here, since there were seven arrests in NC in the scheme. Good to see cybercrime getting some resources and some arrests.

Loved the Sinfest, DNA_Girl. There is always an apropros cartoon, isn't there?

Today I'll get to walk. It's been actually raining, or threatening, for the last three days, so I've had to ride the exercycle. It's not as much fun as taking the walk.

Posted by: slyness | October 8, 2009 6:53 AM | Report abuse

slyness, I am trying to fight a cold that has been sitting on me for about 3 days. This morning, I woke up with a desire for a bit pot of soup.

Other than the usual suspect, what would you recommend?

Posted by: russianthistle | October 8, 2009 6:57 AM | Report abuse

I got that same type pish last week from a guy who called himself the Nigerian national bank security chief that noticed that nigeria still owed me a lot of money for 'contract' work I had performed for them?
I just needed to reply with my screen name and a copy of my passport and he would arrange to have a courier deliver it to me in a pouch marked sensitive photographic film so the pouch wouldn't be open by customs.

Posted by: bh72 | October 8, 2009 7:08 AM | Report abuse

Speaking of Darwin-Award-category criminals:

*off-to-a-daylong-workshop Grover waves* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | October 8, 2009 7:35 AM | Report abuse

Morning all... it's been a busy week and as it's my month to drive the school carpool, I've decided not to climb back into bed this morning, but stay up and do some much-missed Boodling.

The Obama's stargazing party sounds very cool. I love that our president is not only embracing science and knowledge but encouraging it.

Posted by: -TBG- | October 8, 2009 7:42 AM | Report abuse

Sorry RT and Mudge for the colds. I must have faxed some hot germs over on the cold bread pudding I intended to make for breakfast last week. Sorry. For fortifying soup, something thin and brothy -- cabbage and garlic? Then, dose with the hot sauce of your choice.

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | October 8, 2009 7:54 AM | Report abuse

Oh, and this is cross-posted on "44," and only a few trolls in the comments...


Posted by: Scottynuke | October 8, 2009 8:06 AM | Report abuse

CqP, I had a recipe for cabbage and white bean soup that seemed to appeal before your mention. I might go with it. Hot sauce, as well. Something has to say hello to my body.

Posted by: russianthistle | October 8, 2009 8:23 AM | Report abuse

Frosti -- about a month ago, I painted a small closet bathroom that especial green. While working on a grant proposal.

However, the paint shade, in that room, ended up with an overcast of blue. Nice, but not quite the bleached jade of celedon I aimed at. Will do, though, will do.

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | October 8, 2009 8:28 AM | Report abuse

Bonjour les Boodleurs!

It is finally spring here. Today's forecast, 89 degrees F. A sort of dramatic change from two days ago, which was overcoat weather.

Saw pictures of Pluto kerschplonkered with craters. It tells me Earth's weather events have erased the marks of most collisions and that life on Earth has been wiped out more than once.

Haff a good day, everyone.

Posted by: Braguine | October 8, 2009 8:31 AM | Report abuse

Weed, Frosti's butternut squash soup from a couple of boodles ago appeals to me.

I finally figured out how to make my veggie soup taste good: add a healthy dollop of barbeque sauce. Doesn't matter what kind, just whatever's on hand will do.

It's a perfect morning for a brisk walk, and I enjoyed mine. Now, on to the day!

Posted by: slyness | October 8, 2009 8:34 AM | Report abuse

rt-Hot and sour soup, loaded in the fax now.

Good morning boodle! Heading back to Chez Frostbitten today, but probably not until noon. Have to finish painting the bathroom (wish I had a dollar for every hour I've spent painting bathrooms over the years).

Breakfast .18 Instant oatmeal of the Target store brand "less sugar" variety, bought on sale. One of my usual breakfasts even when not on the $15 challenge.
Week 6.96

I have to shop this afternoon on my way up north. Vegies and fruit will not be had as cheaply up there and I must have some of each to make it through the week.

gwe-thanks for pointing out the story on the Colts band. I wouldn't have read it otherwise, now I plan to watch the movie.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | October 8, 2009 8:48 AM | Report abuse

I realize last night I said I wish I had a nickel for every hour....but it is morning now and I am sore and of course the "one coat" paint isn't quite.

CqP-the bedroom adjoining this bathroom is painted a slightly darker (on the chip) color but has that blue cast of which you speak. It's all about the light, and I've given up trying to control it too much but switching to cfl bulbs in the bedside lamps helped.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | October 8, 2009 8:54 AM | Report abuse

slyness and Frosti! yes.... I was also thinking about making some pho. I may need an item or two and some vermicelli.

Posted by: russianthistle | October 8, 2009 8:55 AM | Report abuse

Oh, Bob, didn't you hear (re: you 10:21)? Gotta keep up with the news! The snub of the Dalai Lama part of Obama's China appeasement strategy...

A graf: "It means Mr Obama will become the first president not to welcome the Nobel peace prize winner to the White House since the Dalai Lama began visiting Washington in 1991."

Speaking of Buddhists, sad news, learned about it after we returned from vacation, the death of this local Buddhist occurring the Sunday I was packing for the trip. Brain cancer took the Helotes mulch fire mayor.

Excerpt: [Jon] Allan narrowly lost his bid for re-election in 2007. He also was one of the few Buddhist mayors, if not the only one, in the country. ...In the mid-1980s, he did his postdoctoral work at the Harvard School of Public Health, where he worked on the team that identified HIV as the key cause of AIDS.

Posted by: laloomis | October 8, 2009 9:10 AM | Report abuse

Frosti, whenever I choose paint I always ask them to tell me the formula. That way I know what colors go into the mix. If there is a color involved that I don't want to show under certain light conditions, I go with another similar chip that doesn't contain that color. Finding the right color means having quite a few chips in hand that are somewhat akin and driving the paint dept. person a bit nuts, but it's worth it for the end result.

Slyness, I made vegetable soup yesterday, a Julia Child recipe that uses a 'pistou' as a finishing flavor booster. It contains garlic, tomato paste, basil and grated cheese. This mixture is the difference between a pale dishwater tasting soup and something quite nice.

Posted by: badsneakers | October 8, 2009 9:23 AM | Report abuse

Dak you, TheeP.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | October 8, 2009 9:24 AM | Report abuse

The nasty Chinese:

Excerpt: Their [Han Chinese] spiritual leader is the Dalai Lama, whom Beijing blames for stoking the deadly riots in Lhasa last March. Although he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, the Dalai Lama is routinely described in [Chinese]official state media reports as a wolf in monk's clothing, an evil and dangerous separatist. In December, China stunned European leaders by canceling a summit on the economic crisis because the E.U. president had planned to meet the Dalai Lama the same week.

Again, as I mentioned yesterday, an op-ed from the NYT in which Kaplan, the author explains that we send American troops to Afghanistan to make the area "safe" while China has its eyes on some of world’s last untapped deposits of copper, iron, gold, uranium and precious gems in Afghanistan. We have an Afghan exit stragtegy (I hope) while China wants to stay and extract materials. Since China holds so much of our outstanding debt, are our hands bound?

Posted by: laloomis | October 8, 2009 9:26 AM | Report abuse

Headline: World's Most Obscure Ex-Romanian Novelist No One Ever Heard Of Wins Nobel Prize, Of Course, While Dozens Of Major Writers Continue To Go Unrecognized By Swedish Academy.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | October 8, 2009 9:26 AM | Report abuse

sneaks-a very good strategy, and one I try to follow. Celadon green is trickier than average though. It needs a bit of blue for depth, and to keep from straying into the olive category.

In the Hip Urban Loft the fault is the light (or lack thereof) not the paint. On the bright side (or dim as it were) Mr. F has determined it's time to get serious about lighting here. As much as I hate shopping for clothes I love designing lighting and looking for just the right thing. This could take years-and I mean that in a good way.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | October 8, 2009 9:43 AM | Report abuse

rt, i think the appropriate question is whether limbaugh would work as the orbit-changing satellite?

Posted by: LALurker | October 8, 2009 9:49 AM | Report abuse

LALurker! Only if he too were surrounded by a large ring of dirt.

Posted by: russianthistle | October 8, 2009 9:55 AM | Report abuse

This cold has made it hard for me to keep my news stories straight.... There may only be one long run-on news story.

Posted by: russianthistle | October 8, 2009 9:56 AM | Report abuse

'morning all.
What's wrong with her Mudge? She's the best writer the German-speaking minority of Romania ever produced.
Frau Mueller is positively scary in most of the pictures I've seen. Her beautiful green eyes even make her creepy. I think she should try this smiling thing one day, just to see if it works.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | October 8, 2009 10:02 AM | Report abuse

I will forward this to our organization's press officer.

The coffee has arrived!

Posted by: ScienceTim | October 8, 2009 10:10 AM | Report abuse

Joel, everyone here was speculating that Jupiter would be a prime target for the "star" party. Did those danged stellar astronomers hog the show?

Posted by: ScienceTim | October 8, 2009 10:11 AM | Report abuse

Not necessarily news, but with regard to paint color you really need to take the sample chips home and look at them in the lighting of the room you are going to paint. Looking at them in the store, especially if the store uses flourescent tube lighting, will not give you an accurate rendition. The colors will appear different under incadescant lighting (which is yellowish) and different again under CFL's. All this is predicated on the chip itself being an accurate rendition of what actually comes out of the paint can.

Posted by: ebtnut | October 8, 2009 10:19 AM | Report abuse

Here are maps of the Seven Deadly Sins in the USA.

Posted by: Jumper1 | October 8, 2009 10:37 AM | Report abuse

For Tumbleweed Mike and his run-on news stories, a thought...pratitya-samutpada.

Posted by: laloomis | October 8, 2009 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Bright Star was an impressive film, very intimate, splendid photography. Nearly everything seemed a bit worn, even the daffodils. I wonder at walking from east London to Hampstead Heath. It was a fairly long trip by bus.

The house used for the film is quite a bit different from the real one, which was new and evidently quite fashionable, to judge from the refurbished interiors.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | October 8, 2009 10:54 AM | Report abuse

Hey, Joel, would you please inform the WaPo graphics people that they cannot use a World War I war bonds poster to illustrate a story about WWII bonds? That artwork they are running right now, the Third Liberty Loan drive, is from 1917. It's a pretty famous Howard Chandler Christy painting ( To people like me who study this stuff, Christy's work is very famous and stands out; it'd be like doing an article about Van Gogh and illustrating it with a piece by Renoir.

I realize that somewhere in the graphics department there is some 23-year-old who thinks World War I and World War II were all kinda the same thing (being pre-Internet, and all), but they were actually two different events. World War I started when the Japanese fired on Fort Sumpter, whereas World War II involved the assassination of Rudolph Valentino and Alice Ghostly at Sarajevo.

(And even though they got the JPEG from the American Art Museum, I think I would have credited the original source, which was Forbes Magazine, although I admit this question is nothing but a hornet's nest.)

(I'd love to see the Post run this famous Christy poster, and see the firestorm that develops:

If they want a WWII poster, here's one:

And here's a whole passel (119, to be precise) of 'em: http(colon)//library(dot)duke(dot)edu/digitalcollections/adaccess/browse/warbonds1942-1943/

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | October 8, 2009 11:11 AM | Report abuse

ebt-bring the chips home! I should be so lucky as to stop there. No, I tend to collect, or buy, the entire color wheel produced by a paint company. I am not beyond painting a whole room, or two, and living with the color for a while just as a "sample." The color must be right in natural and artificial light, morning and evening, etc. By right I don't mean the same, just harmonious and beautiful. It's not that much to ask of paint, is it?

Posted by: frostbitten1 | October 8, 2009 11:18 AM | Report abuse

And 137 more:

I think this one might be pretty representative:

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | October 8, 2009 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Ah, Mudge, I had this conversation, differently focused, with a colleague yesterday. Of course the WaPo graphics people CAN run a WWI poster to promote a WWII story. Just look at the picture. What you mean is that they should not have done so, and that such a mistake violates whatever is left of journalism's standards of accuracy (at the least). They were wrong to do so, and appear foolish at best. Less flattering interpretations include lazy, ignorant and undiscriminating. Were you or I in charge (do they have editors any more?) we would correct the mistake. We know that just because you can do something doesn't mean you should do it.

Posted by: Ivansmom | October 8, 2009 11:26 AM | Report abuse

frosti, CqP, I painted my powder room celadon a while back. At first, it was a bit much. Then I toned it down by painting the vanity and mirror frame white and adding some white and blue accessories. Ended up with a bit of a beach-y look.

frosti, I admire your $15 challenge and enjoy hearing about it. For myself, I need to take the "Eat up all the #@%&* in the freezer before you buy anything else!" challenge.

Posted by: Raysmom | October 8, 2009 11:32 AM | Report abuse

But this one not so much:

Got a few problems of its own. So does this one:

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | October 8, 2009 11:36 AM | Report abuse

Quite true, Ivansmom; I used "cannot" in the normative sense.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | October 8, 2009 11:40 AM | Report abuse

Hee hee. I'm Ivansmom and I'm a pedant.

Posted by: Ivansmom | October 8, 2009 11:53 AM | Report abuse

he-he-he-he. JA said "Scutum". he-he-he-he.

Posted by: -PresterJohn- | October 8, 2009 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Sweet ooglie-booglie, a troll with the monicker of a 12th century cleric who knows our "Joel said..." schtick.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | October 8, 2009 12:29 PM | Report abuse

We've had PresterJohn here before. Hello!

Posted by: Yoki | October 8, 2009 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Sir Curmudgeon, I am a long time lurker since the days of the dearly departed Error Flynn. And I am sorry that my remark failed to amuse. So I guess I'll just fade away, knowing that the "troll" scarlet letter has been applied. Bye, oh by the by the last time I posted was to lament the passing of Billy Mays.

Posted by: -PresterJohn- | October 8, 2009 1:19 PM | Report abuse

No no, PresterJohn, he meant that in the best possible way, I'm sure. I remember you too. Tarry with us, please.

Posted by: Ivansmom | October 8, 2009 1:21 PM | Report abuse

Hey Yoki! How is life today? Everything in its place already? Pictures, woman, we need pictures!

Posted by: slyness | October 8, 2009 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Everything is pretty much in its place, and I am very pleased. The moving crew is going to pick up all the empty boxes this afternoon, and then I shall take pictures and post them conveniently.

I'm just in time to host the family Thanksgiving (Cdn) dinner!

Posted by: Yoki | October 8, 2009 1:27 PM | Report abuse

PresterJohn, please don't go. Post more often.

Posted by: Yoki | October 8, 2009 1:28 PM | Report abuse

I really did mean it in the best possible way, Prester--sorry if it sounded like something else. And it did amuse. Really. No offense intended. I just didn't remember your seeing your handle before.

Anybody who knows our various schticks (and even better, can do them) is always welcome.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | October 8, 2009 1:31 PM | Report abuse

Oh, dear. Significant sadness at the passing of Ben Ali, the founder of Ben's Chili Bowl. I have never been there, but I think it would be a cool place for an IBPH sometime. I'll even eat a half-smoke, to fulfill my "meat eating index" of maybe once/decade. He was 82.

Now, answers, affirmative defenses and counterclaims await my drafting thereof. Please excuse my absence (you know, as you usually do . . . . *snort*).

Hey Yoki -- when all is in order (or at least in semblance of order), give yourself a break -- mint chip ice cream, perhaps? Or, um, maybe a cognac?

Posted by: -ftb- | October 8, 2009 1:58 PM | Report abuse

We tolerate your absolutely inexcusable absence, ftb, somehow... :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | October 8, 2009 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Pulling out a chair for PresterJohn, sit down have a coffee and join in the conversation.

Yoki, Shriek and dr, love to hear about your thanksgiving feasts, ours will be low key just the kids and us, we will be selecting the pumpkins this weekend and decorating outside. Our neighbour is painting a watercolour of our house and has requested some decoration outside to provide colour.

To any cornbread experts, I would love to make some, but will admit I prefer the more dessert cornbread than anything too gritty. Anyone have a good and simple recipe, it would be much appreciated.

Posted by: dmd3 | October 8, 2009 2:17 PM | Report abuse

It took me 10 seconds to unravel that bit I read on a news ticker.

"The father of Sarah Palin's grandson set to pose naked for playgirl"

Levi Boy!

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | October 8, 2009 2:20 PM | Report abuse

I have a great cornbread recipe at home and dead simple too, but it has no sugar - not as sweet as some Yankee cornbreads. I made it recently and Ivansdad was moved to appreciation. He said it was hard to make scratch cornbread that was better than the standard mix (which is perfectly adequate, I was just in the mood to cook from scratch).

Posted by: Ivansmom | October 8, 2009 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Peeking in for a nanosecond (or two) to thank Snuke, snortfully, and to ask Ivansmom if she puts jalapeno peppers in her cornbread. (or is that "?"). Of course, I think that jalapeno peppers are terrific in anything, but, well, that's just me. . . .

Going back to the mines.

Posted by: -ftb- | October 8, 2009 2:32 PM | Report abuse

There will be turkey, that's the only thing I know. I scored a 16-pounder last weekend, I don't know yet what I'll do with it. I was thinking of doing my potato, prune and porto stuffing but it may be too ambitious. A quick spatchcocking will be much less labour intensive.
Because of the bad weather during the past weekends I have accumulated a huge backlog of yardwork. Mrs. D being off somewhere else 2-4 days a week for the last four weeks didn't help. So I expect to be on leaf raking, lawn mowing, tree felling, garden clearing and pool closing detail most of the weekend.

Witch no.2 comes back from France tomorrow night. Believe it or not, today, on their last day of activity, they went to EuroDisney in Paris' suburb. I suspect she'll sleep the weekend off.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | October 8, 2009 2:36 PM | Report abuse

The school group has done something I want to do some day though. As most of their touring was centered around Normandie they went to Omaha beach and the American cemetary (cemetery maybe?) and then Juno beach and the Canadian cemetary. As the date of birth of identified soldiers are marked on the Canadian monuments the kids saw first hand that these soldiers were barely older than they were.
I'll probably add Vimy and Ypres to my itinerary as well. Why not throw Verdun in while I'm at it, that's the worst masscre of them all isn't it.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | October 8, 2009 2:49 PM | Report abuse

I don't have any special cornbread recipe, we just usually use the box recipe. However, my wife would insist that the ONLY way to make it according to her rigid Tennessee Gal standards is to bake it in a well-greased heavy-duty cast iron frying pan placed in the oven. No square pans or cupcake pans for her.

I, being the somewhat more reasonable and laid-back gender in our household, am not so perfectionist.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | October 8, 2009 2:53 PM | Report abuse

I might, but this last time I didn't. I did put in fresh corn kernels.

Posted by: Ivansmom | October 8, 2009 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Depends on how ya want to count, shriek. The Somme had the highest one-day total, ever. Chemin-des-Dames received more total shells than Verdun over time and acreage. But yup, Verdun was bad enough all right.

Can I come along? (But we've got to see Pointe du Hoc) and Zeebrugge.)

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | October 8, 2009 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Cornbread mixes are not that common around here, sadly.

Shriek, one of my uncles was part of the delegation that went back for the 50th anniversary of Dieppe - at his funeral there was a photo album put together of the invites he received and then pictures of the ceremonies - very moving.

Posted by: dmd3 | October 8, 2009 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Yoki's Corn Bread

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup whole milk
1/4 cup melted unsalted butter

Oven 425

Grease a 9x9 cake pan or equivalent size cast iron skillet.

Whisk together all the dry ingredients.

In a separate bowl, lightly beat eggs and then beat in milk and melted butter.

Warm the pan in the oven while finishing the batter. It should be *hot* when the batter goes in.

With a light hand, rapidly mix the wet and dry ingredients until just smooth (do not overwork). Working quickly, remove the skillet from the oven, and add a generous dollop of unsalted butter so that it melts and spreads over the bottom of the pan. Turn the batter into the hot pan, lightly smooth the top, and return to the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until the bread is cooked through (cake tester comes out clean) and the top is brown. Eat immediately.

Yoki notes just for dmd:

If you buy "polenta" cornmeal at an Italian grocery (or the supermarket) it is generally more finely milled than North American standard, which will make it less gritty. You could pour the cornmeal into a food processor with a metal blade and grind the heck out of it to make it even finer.

You can add more sugar if you wish, up to 1/2 cup.

If you want something cakier, rather than breadier, don't heat the pan or add more butter to it. Just pour the batter into the cold greased pan. The hot pan/butter combo makes a crunchy brown crust on the bottom side of the bread.

Posted by: Yoki | October 8, 2009 3:12 PM | Report abuse

Thanks Yoki, forgive the cooking 101 basics required but cornmeal and corn flour different? Yes, I am that sad!

Recipe sounds delicious.

Posted by: dmd3 | October 8, 2009 3:20 PM | Report abuse

Why corn kernels? So that you can calculate the Mean Sojourn Time through your system?

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | October 8, 2009 3:21 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: dmd3 | October 8, 2009 3:22 PM | Report abuse

Not the same; corn flour is as finely ground as all-purpose, meal is much larger, and has a cornier taste and colour. Corn starch is another thing altogether :)

Posted by: Yoki | October 8, 2009 3:29 PM | Report abuse

I'll be looking forward to this movie about Secretariat:
Diane Lane, John Malkovich and Fred Thompson - interesting. Ignore the captions on the photos - the copy editor did!

SD, when I read the news about Levi's photo shoot, the snarky writer noted that Levi should know that women don't read Playgirl. (Is that true? I certainly never have, so it rings true to me.)

Posted by: seasea1 | October 8, 2009 3:40 PM | Report abuse

NukeSpouse would hit me with a cast-iron frying pan if I didn't use a cast-iron frying pan to make cornbread...

Posted by: Scottynuke | October 8, 2009 3:46 PM | Report abuse

They still publish playgirl?

FYI - Presidents Cup underway in San Francisco - glad I have a relaxing day today to watch as I will be busy tomorrow and Saturday.

Posted by: dmd3 | October 8, 2009 3:46 PM | Report abuse

I think it's just sooooo unfair that Yoki won't adopt me. I've begged, I've pleaded, I've groveled. But no. I even asked if I could be a permanent live-in food taster on some sort of foreign exchange work-study plan. But no.

Of course, I'd weigh 700 pounds and die prematurely. But it would be so worth it.

I like corn kernels in cornbread, too, especially white Silver Queen. Roughage.

(How come roughage is good for you, but smoothage isn't. You'd think smoothage would be...well...OK, never mind.)

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | October 8, 2009 3:53 PM | Report abuse

Gosh, I haven't seen Playgirl since Burt Reynolds posed. I was in college so we're talking more than three decades. I had no idea it was still around.

Yoki, I like your recipe but around here cornbread calls for buttermilk instead of plain milk. I have some fancy stone-ground cornmeal in the freezer I use only at Thanksgiving. The recipe on the bag specifies buttermilk, IIRC.

I planted sage so I'd have some for Thanksgiving dressing. It merely hung on to life all summer but is looking somewhat better now that I've gotten rid of the zinnias that were in front of it. I think they blocked the sunlight it needed.

Posted by: slyness | October 8, 2009 3:54 PM | Report abuse

Missing me some Cassandra, I'll tell ya that much.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | October 8, 2009 3:54 PM | Report abuse

I'd like a little colonel in my corn bread.

Posted by: -TBG- | October 8, 2009 4:05 PM | Report abuse

Sanders? Potter? North?

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | October 8, 2009 4:23 PM | Report abuse

me too Mudge, me too.

The R household will be gathering for a ceremonial food burning on Monday afternoon. It will not feature turkey, unless a certain someone heads off to find one in the next three minutes. Since the likliehood of that is very very small, we will be having some schnitzel and some fine yet to be determined German Whites. I'm dithering about providing desert.

Posted by: --dr-- | October 8, 2009 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Slyness, that's the last time I looked at a Playgirl, too. I thought it had gone the way of (*sob*) Gourmet a long, long, long time ago. I used to have a subscription to Gourmet in the 80s, and I've kept all of them. For what, dunno. Like old New Yorkers. It seems a shame to pitch them, really.

Posted by: -ftb- | October 8, 2009 4:43 PM | Report abuse

We're doing a bog-standard turkey dinner with mashed potatoes and bread/onion/sage dressing, gravy, two veg. Just Himself and #2 and me. Physics-boy's parents are invited, but haven't said yet whether they are able to come. Sunday afternoon is prime time chez Yoki.

We all *love* to eat turkey sandwiches afterwards, though #2 is more on the hot turkey and gravy on toast side of the table. Me, I stand up for a homemade white bread, dark meat, dressing and cranberry sauce cold sandwich.

'mudge, you don't need to be adopted to be invited, you know.

Posted by: Yoki | October 8, 2009 4:46 PM | Report abuse

Drooling at the thought of your dressing Yoki, same type mom used to make.

Posted by: dmd3 | October 8, 2009 4:50 PM | Report abuse

Same type as my grandmother's, too. Oh, yum.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | October 8, 2009 5:00 PM | Report abuse

I have cornbread recipes which call for buttermilk or sour milk (Southern) and which mix flour with cornmeal. It's all good. However, here's my simple go-to recipe, courtesy of Huntley Dent's "Feast of Santa Fe" (an excellent cookbook):

Yellow Cornbread

1/2 cup melted butter or margarine
2 cups yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup milk
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 425 degrees (F). Melt the butter in an 8-inch round cake pan in the oven. Mix cornmeal, salt and melted butter in bowl. [Note: recipe calls for brief blend in food processor, but by hand or mixer works fine.] Pour in boiling water and mix briefly to make a smooth batter. Scrape the bowl with a spatula, pour in remaining ingredients and blend briefly. Batter will be thin.

Pour into prepared cake pan and bake at 425 in upper third of oven for about 30 minutes. Bread is done when center is firm and edges draw away from the sides of the pan. For a brown top crust, run under a broiler flame for about thirty seconds. Let cool about 5 minutes before cutting.

NOTES: This bread is not sweet cornbread. If you want it a little sweet add a splurge of sugar. This can also be made in a small heavy iron skillet. I use skim milk because it is what I have, and it works fine. In my oven this bread takes much less than 30 minutes. Two variations: (1) add about 1/4 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels or (2) a 4 oz chopped green chilies.

Baking note: I always use homemade baking powder. Recipe courtesy of Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock: 1/4 cup cream of tartar and 2 tablespoons baking soda. Sift together 3 times. Transfer to clean, tight-sealing jar. Store at room temperature out of sunlight for up to 6 weeks. This has no chemical additives and doesn't have that aluminum-sulfate aftertaste, and is very easy to keep around.

Posted by: Ivansmom | October 8, 2009 5:02 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom just pwned me. I'm delighted!

Posted by: Yoki | October 8, 2009 5:05 PM | Report abuse

The Lewis/Peacock baking powder and their angel food cake recipe are the only things I bother to sift anymore (other than confectioner's sugar for icing). It really makes a difference.

That baking powder foams up in the hot-water cornbread batter like nobody's business!

Posted by: Ivansmom | October 8, 2009 5:06 PM | Report abuse

Thanks,Yoki, but there was no pwning there! Just good clean cornbread.

It is past raining amphibians here, to the cat and dog stage and coming close to gods and little fishes.

Posted by: Ivansmom | October 8, 2009 5:16 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom, I just copied that recipe into my file. No flour! I'm going to give it a try, but may add a tablespoon of sugar just because.

Posted by: slyness | October 8, 2009 5:19 PM | Report abuse

Imagine my distress, after Ivansmom posted her recipe, to find I have no cornmeal. I always have cornmeal. I can't think how this happened. And it would have been great with my supper. *Sigh*

Posted by: Yoki | October 8, 2009 7:08 PM | Report abuse

Faxing Yoki some corn meal.

Our dogs are pretty big, and they've dug a lot of holes in the yard they use as bunkers - on most days you just see their big heads sticking out. All the holes are now full up with water. Glug. Glug.

Posted by: Ivansmom | October 8, 2009 7:23 PM | Report abuse

Poor dogs. When even a scrape fills up, that's *rain.*

Posted by: Yoki | October 8, 2009 7:36 PM | Report abuse

We're doing our own little version of Asteroid of Doom, finally...

Do I smell a new Kit??

Posted by: Scottynuke | October 8, 2009 7:39 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom, I sympathize on the rain - we're getting it after you, and it looks as if we'll be getting it for the next 14 hours. Already the ground is so saturated there are small lakes all over my yard. It's times like these that remind you that you meant to seal the garage sill in the summer, when it was nice and dry, to keep the garage floor from getting wet. At times like these. Oh well.

I made a pumpkin pie for dessert today - I had forgotten how easy those things are!

Posted by: Wheezy11 | October 8, 2009 7:53 PM | Report abuse

Food on the cheepie report:

three boys on the couch eating from Pyrex mixing bowls (survived my family's use from the 60s)

I think they used 9 boxes of Kraft M&C.

The discontinued shapes were 50 Cents per box during the summer. I bought a boatload.

Carbo-loading of teen boys who swim = a lifestyle.

This is a post-lude to dinner and a pre-lude to some oatmeal or ice cream or Triscuits/cheddar slices: the snack of Elevenses. In the PM.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | October 8, 2009 8:08 PM | Report abuse

Ohh to have the metabolism of a swimmer again, I remember those days CP, sis and I would astound our older brother with the quantities of food we could consume

Posted by: dmd3 | October 8, 2009 8:12 PM | Report abuse

Shiny, too, that crisped hair and sheen....and well, they consider the pool a complete bathing system.

Two of three munching in some fabulous apple from my CSA coop...will have to figure out the variety. CPBoy NOT eating apple. Sigh, I fear that yet again, we have not met the

five alive

goal for fruits and veggies. Put a check in my poor-mother deportment column.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | October 8, 2009 8:26 PM | Report abuse

Scotty, just to be safe, I have been spraying the seats with that new leather smell in a can.

Posted by: russianthistle | October 8, 2009 8:26 PM | Report abuse

Joel, so this is what you get when you buy that big kit in the back of the Estes catalog for $80 million?

Posted by: russianthistle | October 8, 2009 8:28 PM | Report abuse

New kit!

Posted by: DNA_Girl | October 8, 2009 8:41 PM | Report abuse

New car smell is toxic!

The end of the world as we know it..

BTW if one uses buttermilk (acidic) in cornbread (or biscuits for that matter) the cream of tartar (alternate acidic) is not necessary and baking soda will provide the other half of the equation.

Posted by: Jumper1 | October 8, 2009 8:43 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for posting

Posted by: craigspr | October 11, 2009 1:11 AM | Report abuse

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