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Geezer Gil the rationalizer

Today, once again, it was so clear to me that I have a lifelong trait of self-justification. It's not that I hide it from myself or don't know it when I see it. I do give myself an excuse for it; whether that's valid or not, who knows?

Now, don't scoff at the mundane nature of today's situation; all people have petty tasks that they do and have to do. On my to-do list for the day, I had "Tidy bedroom." Yesterday, I had thrown stuff from my file cabinet all over the bedroom floor looking for a serial number of some software, which I never found. What I ended up doing today was to bring all the stuff from the bedroom floor into the living room, where it is in three neat piles, ready to go through for tossing, keeping, and shredding. The self-justification part came when I crossed off "Tidy bedroom" from my to-do list.

So what's my excuse? I grew up, the only child of a hypercritical (no, not hypocritical ... I'd have to think about that) mother. No matter what the situation, she found fault with anything I did, whether it was a household chore, a birthday or other gift that I had bought her, schoolwork, anything! As I grew older, I gradually lost the ability to do anything happily or willingly because I knew I'd only be criticized. My mother also raved and ranted that I never "offered" to do something that needed doing. Well, duh! Why would any rational being offer to do something for which he was going to be given grief?

It's easier to find excuses not to do boring tasks when one reaches 80 years of age: there's the low energy level; the aches and pains that accompany any activity, even ones that are not particularly strenuous; and the fact that one has been doing these tasks for so many years. No one is openly giving me grief these days for the rationalization; it's just become a habit.

Health-care Nazis

Today, I just want to provide links to two articles that everyone in this country should get the chance to read. The first one is "How Doctors Stymie the Wishes of the Elderly" The second one, posted yesterday, is "The Elderly As a Source of Profit". Read them and weep.


Considering the number of really toxic materials that food companies are adding to their products these days, I often wonder if there is someone out there trying to convince those companies that, if they'd just add some strychnine or belladonna to their products, it would greatly increase the shelf life.

The testing that's done on additives comes up with results that indicate that the levels are so low as to be safe. Right. If you were to only eat one serving of the product once in your life, that is probably true. However, the additive effect of eating so many toxins in so many products each day, the combinations of them, and the number of servings of any one product over a month's or year's time ... well, that has not been tested for.

You'd be wise to read the labels on everything you buy at the grocery store and to buy organic fruits and vegetables. Further, you can find valid information on the Internet if you do solid research that lets you know what to avoid. I know that there is a lot of misinformation on the Web, but if you look at a number of sites, you will be able to tell when there is meaningful disagreement about any given additive.

If you go to bed with a belly full of BPA, EDTA, BHA, carrageenan, artificial flavor, artificial color, high fructose corn syrup, and hydrogenated oils, along with dozens or hundreds of other additives, you're probably going to get cancer at some point in your life.

When you are in your 80's as I am, it is almost inevitable that memory, emotion, nostalgia, daydreams, and everything related to those will have some impact on your life, frequently if not daily. Today, I was relaxing in my recliner when, for no apparent reason, my memory came up with "Andrea McArdle." She played Annie in the Broadway play of that name. Although she was about 15 years old at the time, she did look much younger. When she sang "Tomorrow" on TV at that time, I was, as they say in 2014, blown away. The purity, beauty, and awesome power of her voice brought a lump to my throat then, and listening to videos of her singing it today has the same effect. I can still listen to her sing it at 15 with awe and appreciation. If she were here with me right now at age 50, I'd have to give her a serious hug.

Not all old sayings are valid

Most of my friends have heard the expression, "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose," loosely translated, "The more things change, the more they remain the same." That appears to me to be true of politics, education, and religion but not necessarily of everyday objects. This morning, I had some tea biscuits with quince jelly on them. The jelly was ridiculously expensive because it was imported from Germany, but I really like quince and guava jellies because of having had them when I was a boy. My mother was on a very tight food budget, so I know that she wasn't buying those jellies at a premium price; that must mean that they were more readily available, made in the U.S.A., and fairly reasonable in price compared to apple, grape, and raspberry jellies in the 1940's and 1950's. That's just one example of a noticeable change that has occurred in my lifetime. Another would be the shopping environment, especially in large department stores, which used to employ enough staff to actually be visible and accessible. Just thought I'd mention the jelly thing this morning.

In search of the perfect sticky bun

It's been a very long time since I posted on LJ, but I have realized within the past few days that it might help me overcome a tendency to be depressed if I get back to regular, daily I hope, postings. The topic today is, for a restart, admittedly pedestrian; but it's something about which I can get moderately enthusiastic.

I usually have sticky buns for my Sunday breakfast and rarely eat them on any other day. I have been searching for four years for the best possible sticky buns. Of course, each person would define "best possible" differently, so this is only my own idea about what a great sticky bun would be.

Most bakeries proceed similarly when constructing the raw ingredients, and most roll out the dough, spread it with varying mixtures of cinnamon, other spices, and sugar and then roll it up so that, from the top, it looks like a spiral; it's similar to the way a jelly roll is made. Then they cut the rolled dough into 1- to 2-inch slices, depending on how big they want to make the finished buns. Finally, they put the "sticky" with or without raisins and/or nuts on top of each bun.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd rank most of the sticky buns I've bought in Bucks County, PA, about 5. A few years ago, after a friend raved about those made by a bakery in the southern part of the county, I drove down there to try them out. They had a sweet, cream-cheese-based icing on them; and I knew before even tasting them that this was not even a sticky bun by my definition. It was a pretty good breakfast bun, but I wouldn't make the trip down there again if I were going specifically for sticky buns and probably wouldn't go that far for those particular buns anyway.

Okay. So how would I construct a sticky bun. First, I'd make the dough with more shortening than most bakeries use so that the bready part of the finished product would have a lighter texture. Second, rather than just spreading the rolled-out dough with a spice/sugar mixture, I would also put some of the raisins and/or nuts and some of the sticky-making mixture on the rolled-out dough before rolling it up. Otherwise, the finished buns are going to be too dry and boring inside, with only the tops having some character. Finally, and I am not expert enough to know what to suggest, only what not to use when it comes to the aforesaid sticky-making mixture. It should not be syrupy to begin with nor should it turn to a liquid form when heated; the buns I had this morning suffered from having that feature. I hesitate to use the word "gelatinous," but of those sticky buns that I have tried, the best toppings (which, as I said, should also be spread inside the spiral as well) did not change their texture or consistency during heating, were not gritty, had some flavor beyond just sweetness (maybe a little vanilla or sweetener other than plain sucrose), and were of ample amounts to justify the word "sticky." If raisins and/or nuts are being used, there should be enough used on top of the pan of buns to be tasted, with the nuts (which I can no longer have) chopped fairly finely, not in large chunks.

There you have it, the parameters for Gil's sticky bun quest. I'll keep trying.

Ethnic ethics

I think that citizens of the U.S. are under the impression that concepts of right and wrong are universal among the planet's billions. I can tell you from firsthand experience that such is not the case.
The people who are under suspicion of helping the Boston Bomber Brothers brought this to mind.
When I was in the Peace Corps in Kabul, Afghanistan, I was teaching English as a second language at a technical high school on the campus of the university. I realized fairly soon that there was absolutely no way of evaluating the students' progress by tests and examinations, because the Afghan concept of friendship is that, regardless of what a friend asks of you, you provide, including the answers to test questions. When I brought this up to the local, Afghan teachers, they looked at me as if I were not right in the head. They understood completely that a student would give his friend the answer to a test question. I think that may be the dynamic underlying the after-the-crime assistance that was possibly rendered by those now in trouble with U.S. authorities. In other words, our ideas about cheating and about the obligations of friendship are completely at odds with the ideas of Afghans (and probably other cultures in that part of the world) regarding those same concepts.
Another example of a cultural gap was brought home to me when I was staying for a few months in Sukothai, Thailand. I bought a few things from a local shop that sold everything from shoes to mirrors to cloth, almost anything small that was manufactured. One of the things I bought was a mirror to use when shaving. The lady who was the sole proprietor and sole salesperson of the shop (and who lived in a small room at the rear of the salesroom) laughed at me the next time I was there because I had paid too much for the mirror. I guess I was expected to bargain with her, but the price seemed so ridiculously cheap to begin with that the thought never even crossed my mind. In other words, she openly bragged to me about having ripped me off (as she saw it). Maybe that is why so many Chinese products were so shoddy for so long; they may have thought it amusing that they could get away with producing poor goods and get the gullible Americans to actually buy the stuff.
I'm just trying to clarify the point that acceptable behavior is not universally defined around the world. Just because you think something is right or wrong doesn't mean that someone in Asia or Africa or even Europe will agree with you, and whether you like it or not, it doesn't mean your way is better than theirs, hard as that is to swallow.

Fuzzy science

I am not the only person to have been cynical about the so-called "safe levels" of various pollutants, food additives, and other chemicals. I have heard radio interviews and read articles in which people have pointed out that stating something safe up to a given amount is all well and good but does not take into consideration the barrage of bad materials in combination that we take in through the atmosphere, foods, and other ways.

Here is a partial list of items that comprise that combination:

  • Artificial colors and flavors in foods
  • Pollutants in the air we breathe
  • BPA in can linings
  • the chemicals in plastic drink and food containers that leach out of the plastic and into our stomachs
  • The hormones and antibiotics fed to the animals we eat(cows, chickens, turkeys, pigs, fish)
  • Pollutants in drinking water
  • Food additives
  • Active and inactive ingredients in medications (over-the-counter, prescribed, and injected)
  • Leachate from aluminum cookware and aluminum foil
  • aerosol sprays in common use around the house and workplace

I repeat, any one of these might not lead to Alzheimer's or autism or life-threatening food allergies, but considering the combined amounts of these and other dangerous items in our daily environment, any number of health problems might be caused.

Value buying

As I was cooking breakfast this morning, I remembered a visit to relatives in another state, during which visit the gentleman of the house attempted to whip up a quick Sunday evening supper of omelets. He was using what was, I think, supposed to be a nonstick frying pan; but the eggs stuck fast to the pan, resulting in more of a plate of scrambled eggs than an omelet. He was not a happy camper at all.

The reason this came to mind this morning, while I was making an omelet in one of my three pricey nonstick pans, was that I suspected he and his wife thought, "A nonstick frying pan is a nonstick frying pan." I can almost hear him saying, "Pay $125 for a damned frying pan; I think not!" Well, if one buys a $29.95 (or less) frying pan made in China and labeled as "nonstick," the pan, if one is lucky, will last a few months before the surface not only doesn't perform as it is supposed to but will be worse by far than a standard frying pan with a plain metal surface. That means one will pay the $29.95 (plus tax) over and over and over, replacing pans and throwing out the useless old ones.

This is just a suggestion to pay top dollar for items that are supposed to last for a number of years, if not a lifetime. They will not only save you money in the long run; they will make you smile every time you use them and they do so magnificently what they are intended to do.

An unusual event

That subject line was just to draw you in; the event isn't anything very interesting. For the first time in three years, I'm sick with a respiratory infection. I know it has been three years because I was just getting over the shingles exactly three years ago this month. Since then, I have had aches and pains ... what late-70's person doesn't? ... but nothing that qualifies as "sick." The friend whose family, last Saturday, passed on the microörganism from which I'm suffering phoned me this morning to let me know that all four of them have come down with similar ailments since Sunday. Suspecting that I had probably fallen prey to the bug, as well, she kindly called to inquire after my health.

I really hope I won't be increasingly prone to colds and such infections for the rest of my life; I don't mind coping with my wonky digestive system, my sometimes gouty feet, or my achy lower back. Those don't prevent me from doing things I need or want to do during any given day, but this sort of thing really lays me low.