Monday, February 23

Cocoa Toasted Cauliflower (Paleo/Whole 30 Approved)

Photo from The Clothes Make the Girl (link at left)
When I picked up Melissa Joulwan's Well Fed and Well Fed 2 cookbooks, I was a little skeptical of her recipe for roasting cauliflower with cocoa. Honestly, I haven't ever been much of a fan of cauliflower and have had a hard time wrapping my head around the apparent Paleo obsession with it.

However, having some frozen cauliflower on hand I gave it try anyway... and it was really good! Very different than anything I've had before, and not quite what I expected, but super easy and excellent.

Get the recipe free online at her site The Clothes Make the Girl.

(It's Whole 30 approved, so you know it's clean!)

Friday, February 20

Happy National Handcuff Day

Did you know that today is National Handcuff Day?

As I did last year, I would like to take this opportunity to suggest that you take a moment to go read the excellent post from ITS Tactical on how to escape from zip ties (which you're much more likely to be bound with than you are to be snapped into handcuffs in the event of a home invasion or other illegal attack).

Escaping From Zip Ties @ ITS Tactical

And, because no reference to handcuffs would be complete with a mention of the Doctor and his beautiful River:

Thursday, February 19

Alternative Pizza Crust Roundup

Since going wheat-free in December, I've been pleasantly surprised to discover that it was less difficult than I anticipated. (Albeit mostly because I can get decent rice-based pasta so I didn't have to completely give up my repertoire of last-minute back up recipes when I'm in a pinch.)

The biggest challenge has been figuring out what to do about our long-standing tradition of Pizza Fridays. I have been trying to avoid buying GF flours because I seriously doubt the quality of what I can get around here. I am capable of making my own, but officially too lazy to get into that right now. (Although a friend did send me a tried and true recipe if I find some good flour and decide to give it a go.)

Eggplant Pizzas - photo by Eat Good 4 Life
So, I scoured the web and looked at my alternatives. I finally settled on trying crusts made from cauliflower spinach, and eggplant. The verdicts?

Cauliflower: Good, but not a substitute for pizza crust. Might be a nice alternative breadstick option, but just didn't have the right consistency to work for pizza.

Spinach: Similar to the cauliflower, this was pretty good but not a substitute for pizza crust. Interestingly, I was way more impressed with this the next day when eaten cold.

Eggplant: I actually thought these would be great party appetizers. They were very cute, easy to put together and yummy. They were not, however, a substitute for pizza.

The end result of all this testing? We're switching Pizza Fridays to Cabonara Fridays until I find/break down and make decent GF flour to try my friend's recipe with. I'll make an occasional pizza with my beloved wheat crust for my husband, because he loves it and I love making the dough - I'll just do it when I don't plan to be home for dinner, or when I've got something else I'll enjoy just as much to eat.

Although not appropriate as pizza substitutes, all the recipes linked above were healthy, delicious, cheap, and tasted good. (And can be topped with any combination of things that sounds good.) So if you're looking to change up your recipes or try something new, give them a go!

Tuesday, February 17

South Dakota Calls on Congress to Abolish the U.S. Department of Education

Ask people how they feel about the state of education in American, and you're almost guaranteed to get unhappy answers. Though what any given person might choose to claim as their biggest source of dissatisfaction will vary, overall there's a general disapproval over how things are being run.

The South Dakota House of Representatives decided to make their complaints formal a few weeks ago by passing a resolution calling on Congress to get rid of the federal Department of Education. As with most such plans, it's more about making a statement than actually expecting anything to come of it, but I thought it was rather telling.

Given the extravagant sums of money tied up in the federal Dept. of Education, eliminating it would substantially improve our national budget issues - assuming, of course, that spending didn't just get shifted to another department to keep funding the same nonsense under other names.

Personally, I don't believe that education was ever intended to be administrated from the federal level. Nor do I believe that the experiment in allowing it to be run from level has benefited us at all. Although it would be a massive (and initially messy) undertaking to dismantle it and return all power to the states, the potential positive consequences of such an action are fascinating to consider.

I'm not naive enough to think that state control will fix all of the problems with our educational system, but I can't help but wonder if it wouldn't have to improve things to a noticeable somewhat by default, simply by removing so many layers of political nonsense and ending the litany of unfunded mandates.

What do you think?

Sunday, February 15

150 Years and 3 Dead Crews... A.K.A. How to Keep Boys Interested At a Musuem:

Back when I gave tours at the Air Museum, we often had groups of kids come through as part of a school trip, pursuing Scout badges, and through other structured group activities. There was almost always an "expert" in the group somewhere - the kid that LOVED planes and was very knowledgeable about them. But most of the kids were just wired to be out and about, and capturing and keeping their attention took intentional effort.

However, my mother has been a teacher since before I was born, and I babysat extensively before I was old enough to get a "real job", so I wasn't unprepared. True to my suspicions, the surest way to capture and keep attention - particularly among groups that were mostly boys - was to start talking about the weapons, the danger, and the death related to any particular exhibit. The Glider Era? So many famous inventors died after face-planting because their glider ripped and went down. The "Golden Age" of aviation? People died all over the place! Fell to their deaths while "Wing Walking", spiraled into the ground when a wing came off (early construction had its issues), or went up in flames when their engine blew out. One of my favorites was talking about WWI aircraft - throwing bricks at each other from open aircraft, trying to shoot at each other without hitting your own wing or propeller, losing entire squadrons at a time - I had their rapt attention for a solid hour!
The remains of the H.L. Hunley.

Given this background, perhaps it isn't unreasonable that my first response when reading about the ongoing restoration efforts on the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley was to think how very lucky some North Carolina museum docents are going to be when the sub is finally ready for display. After all, what can compete with a little boy's imagination and attention when he's looking at an actual submarine that sank an entire battleship? Casually toss in the fact that it's had not one, but three crews of dead men scraped out of it, and you're golden! That tour group will be giving you gold stars and telling everyone they know to come see you!

There's no word on when some lucky museum will get to put it on display, of course. Fifteen years after it's recovery from the ocean floor the sub is still being chiseled free of its rock-solid coating of muck and investigated for evidence of why it sank that final time. But it's still fascinating to think and read about, and hope that when it does make it on display, schools, scout troops and others will take advantage of the incredibly opportunity that rare pieces like this offer to truly engage kids in history and encourage them to explore history on their own outside the pale, bland shadows of what is taught in schools.

Tip: There's an excellent book on the creation, operation, and loss of the Hunley titled Raising the Hunley. Your library should have it, if you want to check out this story for yourself or use it to engage some kids in your life in the magic of American history!  Please note that it does in fact include (non graphically) the scraping out of the dead bodies of the sub's first two crews, so it may not be appropriate for young or very sensitive kids.

Friday, February 13

Jailhouse Doc

I am a huge fan of Amazon's daily Top 100 Free Ebooks list. It's a zero-risk, zero-clutter way to find and collect all kinds of random, amazing reading material that I would probably never have found otherwise (can certainly wouldn't have shelled out money to take a risk on). Some of them are duds, but since they were both free and digital I have no qualms about leaving them two-star reviews, deleting them, and moving on. Some are awesome, and I celebrate having found a new author to enjoy!

One of my recent finds was Jailhouse Doc by Dr. William Wright. If you know any nurses and routinely get a laugh (or shake your head in disbelief) at the stories they can tell about crazy patients and how screwed up the medical system can be, multiply that a few times, and you'll have this book! After retiring from his work as a specialist in private practice, Dr. Wright took a job in a maximum security state prison (chronicled in his other book Maximum Insecurity which is now on my to-read list). From there, he was recruited to work in a very large county jail - and Jailhouse Doc tells the story of those misadventures.

Hilariously funny and occasionally gross, the book is relatively short and a very easy read. Both entertaining and informative, it's a great read and I highly recommend it! I don't necessarily agree with his suggestions in the last chapter or two for how we might improve our corrections system, but the stories of what he lived through in his time there are totally worth while.

Tip: Both Dr. Wright's books are available for free through the Amazon Prime Lending Library and KindleUnlimited!!

Thursday, February 12

Yay! Something We Can Agree On!

I don't tend to agree with a lot of government agency recommendations. Although I fully believe that most of them mean well, they simply aren't well informed and are boxed in on all sides by the interests of money, politics, and other pesky things that tend to get in the way of sorting out fact from fiction.

So imagine my delight when I read that The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force "issued a statement saying vitamin D tests are not needed for everyone."

Admittedly, their approach is based on the fact that there aren't hard and fast "approved" minimum levels of Vitamin D, so there's really not much point in testing. It doesn't really help to know where you stand if you don't know where you want to be, right?

I come from the alternate school of thought which is that nearly everyone could use additional Vitamin D! I won't go into the details here, there's a lot of misinformation going around about how we actually get Vitamin D, and in what quantities. Suffice it to say that the vast majority of us do not get nearly enough. We aren't outside during the peak times of day/year for making it ourselves (or practically at all for many of us), we aren't getting the healthy fats that are so critical to the process, we wear sunscreen... the list goes on.

The Task Force speaks disparagingly about doctors recommending Vitamin D to people without having tests evidencing that they need it, but as Dr. William Wright (more on him in an upcoming post) points out (paraphrasing here), if basic clinical investigation leaves a 95% certainty that an intervention is the correct one and the proposed intervention is not going to be harmful even if it isn't the right one, you don't need to spend crazy amounts of money to rule on that 5% potential error unless or until you've tried the most likely intervention and seen it fail. Common sense, anyone?

So please join me in celebrating the reality that a government agency has actually made a helpful, realistic recommendation to the American public (even if their motivations were a bit misguided)!!

Tuesday, February 10

"Smart" Technology

AI Black Box "BB" - the epitome of snark
When we read the Halo series (fantastic, by the way!), it was impossible not to love Black Box ("BB") the
snarky, uber-intelligent AI who watches over his humans with single minded devotion.There was pretty much nothing that BB didn't know or couldn't do - unless it required hands, of course. But that's what crew is for, right?

Although smart technology is advancing by leaps and bounds, I am sadly not nearly as in love with the prospect of its current and anticipated applications. Rural Revolution recently posted about a smart mattress cover (currently in development) that wirelessly integrates with and controls your other devices ranging from televisions to lights to coffee makers to the thermostat. Simultaneously, NBC News posted about Samsung's smart tv. 

Beyond the inevitable "bugs" that need to get worked out of such systems - RR readers had some hysterical comments on that aspect of things - there is the minorly alarming reality that with the installation of such devices/systems everything you say and do in your own home is recorded and forwarded to third (and fourth and fifth and, well you get the idea) parties!

Current implications are bad enough:  Have an argument with your spouse in the same room as the tv? It's recorded, stored, and will be provided to authorities on request! Bash the occupant of the White House? Don't be surprised if Homeland Security shows up to have a "chat" about your being a terrorist.

Future applications are far worse. How long before our national healthcare system, horrifically overburdened and looking to cut costs, starts using the information from your smart mattress against you? "I'm sorry, Mr. Smith, but we can't pay for any additional treatments. You're getting less than six hours of sleep a night, and continuing to consume caffeine - it says right here you have a full pot of coffee auto-brewed every morning! If you're not going to abide by the basic health recommendations (eight hours of sleep a night, limited caffeine), you simply aren't eligible for additional care on our dime."

I fully appreciate that these things are technological marvels, and that there may legitimately be useful applications for them - for someone recovering from serious injuries or with otherwise limited mobility, being able to fully control their space without leaving their bed might be both extremely helpful and cost-effective (by reducing the need for human assistance).

However, the nutritionist in me is appalled at the larger implications of this. We already know that our extensive exposure to electromagnetic pollution (or "dirty electricity") has a vast array of negative consequences on the body. What happens when we double, triple or quadruple our exposure by surrounding ourselves literally every waking moment in homes and offices saturated with integrated "smart" technology? 

Anyone who has ever read science fiction knows what happens when the seemingly minor glitches cause the complete collapse of electronically dependent facilities and/or civilizations. I'd wager each of us has dealt with the nightmares caused by this at the small-scale level - a presentation or project lost, the mistyping of a decimal point - or seen it play out on the news (tip: taking a selfie with a dead body on your smart phone is a super dumb idea). 

Although I'm sure someday we won't even be able to buy non-smart phones, I will be holding my ground on purchasing, installing or allowing anything more "smart" and "integrated" than that in my home! I'd encourage you to do the same...

Saturday, February 7

Why Marriage Rates Are Down

Have you ever read something so absurd that you had to re-read it because you thought for sure you must have misunderstood?

That was my reaction when I saw a news headline linking to a PBS article about how to collect on your exes' social security, even if you're not on speaking terms.

This is what we consider news?! This is even possible?!

No wonder marriage rates are down and divorce rates are up! Stay married too long and your spouse can ditch you, take half of everything you own in perpetuity - including your retirement and your social security. 

This is both disgusting and appalling, but I'm posting it because the longer I think about it, the more I appreciate that people who never get married may have legitimate and hard-core logic behind their decision. I love being married, and still believe that honest, loving marriages are happening. But crap like this makes it exceptionally clear why they are in the minority these days!!

Thursday, February 5

The Inconvenient Truth About the Whole Messy Vaccine Debate

As the ongoing measles outbreak continues to rate seemingly endless media coverage, I once again find myself unimpressed. So much sound and fury, so much wasted energy. All because no one wants to talk about the basic, terribly inconvenient truth underpinning the whole hoopla:

In all but the tiniest percentage of cases, vaccination itself isn't what people are opting out of. They're opting out of the (completely arbitrary and unnecessary) system, as it currently exists. Change the unnecessary crap tied into the vaccination system, and the problem all but goes away!

If you genuinely listen to what "anti-vaxxers" actually say, you'll realize that the vast majority aren't against exposing their children to measles, mumps, or rubella as a preventative measure. They protest the way its done - 
  • Vaccinating children at a year old, before their immune systems are fully developed (when they're at a higher risk for everything, and don't yet have all the mechanisms by which vaccines are supposed to work)
  • Exposing children to a three-fold assault (MMR) rather than doing them one at a time
  • Injecting their children with formaldehyde, highly allergenic proteins, and all the other nonsense that gets stuffed into vaccines besides the intended infectious agent 
  • The pressure by medical establishments to regulate what they do, rather than to help them understand the full range of options and select the one that's best for their child, with his/her specific medical history, genetics, and risk factors
There are more, but by now I'm sure you've gotten the picture. Pharmaceutical companies and physicians could nearly eradicate people's motivations for not vaccinating their children through a variety of very simple steps: reformulating vaccines to remove toxins and potential allergens, offering more vaccines individually so that they can be delivered in staggered doses, and offering parents an opportunity to sit down with their doctor (or PA, RN, etc.) to look at their baby's specific health and risk factors, review the recommended standard for vaccinations, and either decide they're comfortable with or create an alternative schedule together that doesn't put either the infant or others at unnecessary risk.

Why does this happen? Why doesn't it even get mentioned or considered? Money.

Insurance companies don't want to have to pay for extra visits. Pharmaceutical companies don't want to spend the money to reformulate, retool, or otherwise inconvenience themselves. Why bother when they can just whip up hysteria and quietly sit it out?

To their credit, there are already physicians and practices doing this. They tend to be quiet about it, and their clientele tend to be willing to pay more for the options and service, but it is happening. Proof of concept is already among us. We don't have to repeat these media tempests and Facebook hate fests. 

We could do better and, frankly, our children deserve better. We deserve better.

So next time someone posts something vicious online, or plays the blame game, consider gently suggesting that we could get a lot further if we all worked together to channel our frustration where it belongs - at the people who perpetuate this myth of "vaxxers vs anti-vaxxers" - and demand real change where it would make a difference.

Tuesday, February 3

When Did We Start to Expect Criminals to be Treated with Kid Gloves?

I have been baffled several times in recent months to read news stories about parents wailing and lamenting the treatment of their children by the Police… their violent, criminal children in the aftermath of a crime.

For example, a woman whose son held up a gas station and was shot and killed by a cop in the ensuing confrontation was beside herself because they left his body on the pavement where it fell for several hours. She kept insisting to the news reporter following the case that “he was just on his way to his girlfriend’s house” and terribly offended that his body stayed where fell was while the Police went through the standard post-incident procedures and documentation of evidence.  

(I’m not sure which part bothered me more – the fact that she wasn’t horrified that her “boy” had held an had to leave the body there while they did a lengthy investigative and documenting process specifically because so many crazy people just like her insist that there was foul play, corruption, etc. if every t isn’t crossed and every i isn’t dotted.)
innocent person at gunpoint, and then gotten into a shootout, or the ugly irony that Police

Another mother brushed off her daughter’s attempt to run over two cops with a stolen car (!!) with a breezy “okay, so she shouldn’t have taken the car”. In the same breath she railed at the cops for firing on the vehicle (which subsequently crashed), pulling her injured daughter out, and handcuffing her instead of immediately summoning an ambulance to get her medical attention. Attempting to run someone over is a violent crime.

The first thing you do with violent criminals for the safety of everyone – law enforcement and innocent bystanders alike – is subdue and confine violent criminals to ensure they can’t hurt anyone else! Every other consideration comes after that. When did this stop being common sense, and become open for debate? Why are news organizations even publishing these people’s rants instead of politely pointing them toward psychiatric help for having such a clearly limited grasp on reality?

I appreciate that losing a child is horrific, no matter what the circumstances, and I’m sure it is both terrifying and mortifying to have someone so close to you turn to violent crime – particularly if you are the parent, and you can expect some of the blame to fall on you for raising someone capable of such a thing. But if you become a criminal, you get treated like a criminal, and I have a hard time understanding why even in the midst of such horror and mortification people think the rules shouldn’t apply to their “baby”.

Is Law Enforcement always right? Of course not. They’re human, just like the rest of us.

Is this about race? No, the same laws apply to everyone – and if you break them, you’re still a criminal, whether you’re black, white, or purple.

What it is about is common sense: if you don’t want your child to end up dead in the street, then raise them to understand the difference between right and wrong. Make it clear early on in life that bad choices have consequences. It won’t make you popular, but it will prevent you from standing on a sidewalk whining to the media about how “unfair” life is while their twenty-something body rots in the street because of their own ignorance and arrogance.