HELLO FROM EAU CLAIRE, WISCONSIN:

HELLO FROM EAU CLAIRE, WISCONSIN - city of big bottoms and small minds.

Friday, July 30, 2010

LET'S GO DOWN TO THE BROKE SPOKE AND GIT SOME OF THEM GLOW IN THE DARK GULF SHRIMP


And here's the latest good news:

Scientists have found signs of an oil-and-dispersant mix under the shells of tiny blue crab larvae in the Gulf of Mexico, the first clear indication that the unprecedented use of dispersants in the BP oil spill has broken up the oil into toxic droplets so tiny that they can easily enter the foodchain.

Marine biologists started finding orange blobs under the translucent shells of crab larvae in May, and have continued to find them "in almost all" of the larvae they collect, all the way from Grand Isle, Louisiana, to Pensacola, Fla. -- more than 300 miles of coastline -- said Harriet Perry, a biologist with the University of Southern Mississippi's Gulf Coast Research Laboratory.

And now, a team of researchers from Tulane University using infrared spectrometry to determine the chemical makeup of the blobs has detected the signature for Corexit, the dispersant BP used so widely in the Deepwater Horizon

"It does appear that there is a Corexit sort of fingerprint in the blob samples that we ran," Erin Gray, a Tulane biologist, told the Huffington Post Thursday. Two independent tests are being run to confirm those findings, "so don't say that we're 100 percent sure yet," Gray said.

"The chemistry test is still not completely conclusive," said Tulane biology professor Caz Taylor, the team's leader. "But that seems the most likely thing."

With BP's well possibly capped for good, and the surface slick shrinking, some observers of the Gulf disaster are starting to let down their guard, with some journalists even asking: Where is the oil?

But the answer is clear: In part due to the1.8 million gallons of dispersant that BP used, a lot of the estimated 200 million or more gallons of oil that spewed out of the blown well remains under the surface of the Gulf in plumes of tiny toxic droplets. And it's short- and long-term effects could be profound.

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BP sprayed dispersant onto the surface of the slick and into the jet of oil and gas as it erupted out of the wellhead a mile beneath the surface. As a result, less oil reached the surface and the Gulf's fragile coastline. But more remained under the surface.

Fish, shrimp and crab larvae, which float around in the open seas, are considered the most likely to die on account of exposure to the subsea oil plumes. There are fears, for instance, that an entire year's worth of bluefin tuna larvae may have perished.

But this latest discovery suggests that it's not just larvae at risk from the subsurface droplets. It's also the animals that feed on them.

"There are so many animals that eat those little larvae," said Robert J. Diaz, a marine scientist at the College of William and Mary.

Oil itself is of course toxic, especially over long exposure. But some scientists worry that the mixture of oil with dispersants will actually prove more toxic, in part because of the still not entirely understood ingredients of Corexit, and in part because of the reduction in droplet size.

"Corexit is in the water column, just as we thought, and it is entering the bodies of animals. And it's probably having a lethal impact there," said Susan Shaw, director of the Marine Environmental Research Institute. The dispersant, she said, is like " a delivery system" for the oil.

Although a large group of marine scientists meeting in late May reached a consensus that the application of dispersants was a legitimate element of the spill response, another group, organized by Shaw, more recently concluded "that Corexit dispersants, in combination with crude oil, pose grave health risks to marine life and human health and threaten to deplete critical niches in the Gulf food web that may never recover."

One particular concern: "The properties that facilitate the movement of dispersants through oil also make it easier for them to move through cell walls, skin barriers, and membranes that protect vital organs, underlying layers of skin, the surfaces of eyes, mouths, and other structures."

Perry told the Huffington Post that the small size of the droplets was clearly a factor in how the oil made its way under the crab larvae shells. Perry said the oil droplets in the water "are just the right size that probably in the process of swimming or respiring, they're brought into that cavity."

That would not happen if the droplets were larger, she said.

The oil droplet washes off when the larvae molt, she said -- but that's assuming they live that long. Larvae are a major food source for fish and other blue crabs -- "their siblings are their favorite meal," Perry explained. Fish are generally able to excrete ingested oil, but inverterbrates such as crabs don't have that ability.

Perry said the discovery of the oil and dispersant blobs is very troubling -- but not, she made clear, because it has any impact on the safety of seafood in the short run. "Unlike heavy metals that biomagnify as they go up the foodchain, oil doesn't seem to do that," she said. Rather, she said, "we're looking at long-term ecological effects of having this oil in contact with marine organisms."

Diaz, the marine scientist from William and Mary, spoke at a lunchtime briefing about dispersants on Capitol Hill on Thursday.

Dispersant, he explained, "doesn't make the oil go away, it just puts it from one part of the ecosystem into another."

In this case, he said, "the decision was to keep as much of the oil subsurface as possible." As a result, the immediate impact on coastal wildlife was mitigated. But the effects on ocean life, he said, are less clear -- in part because there's less known about ocean ecosystems than coastal ones.

"As we go further offshore, as the oil industry has gone offshore, we find that we know less," he said. "We haven't really been using oceanic species to assess the risks, and this is a key issue."

(Similar concerns have been expressed about the lack of important data that would allow scientists to accurately assess the effects of the spill on the Gulf's sea turtles, whose plight is emerging as particularly poignant.)

Diaz warned of the danger posed to bluefin tuna -- and also to "the signature resident species in the Gulf, the shrimp." He noted that all three species of Gulf shrimp spawn offshore before moving back into shallow estuaries.

Diaz also expressed concern that dispersed oil droplets could end up doing great damage to the Gulf's many undersea coral reefs. "If the droplets agglomerate with sediment," he said, "they could even settle to the bottom."

Nancy Kinner, co-director of the Coastal Response Center at the University of New Hampshire, said the use of dispersants in this spill raises many issues that scientists need to explore, starting with the effects of long-term exposure. She also noted that scientists have never studied the effects of dispersants when they're injected directly into the turbulence of the plume, as they were here, or at such depth, or at such low temperatures, or under such pressure.

She also said it will be essential for the federal government to accurately determine how much oil made it out of the blown well. A key data point for scientists is the ratio of dispersant to oil, she said, and "if you don't know the flow rate of the oil, you don't know what you dispersant to oil ratio is."

After a series of ludicrous estimates, the federal government settled last month on an official estimate of about 20,000 to 40,000 barrels a day, but BP is widely expected to contest that figure and some scientists think it is still a low-ball estimate.

There seems to be no doubt that history will record that the use of dispersants was good for BP, making it harder to tell how much oil was spilled, and reducing the short-term visible impact. But what's less clear is whether it will turn out to have been good for the Gulf.

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Dan Froomkin is senior Washington correspondent for the Huffington Post. You can send him an e-mail, bookmark his page; subscribe to his RSS feed, follow him on Twitter, friend him on Facebook, and/or become a fan and get e-mail alerts when he writes.


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So let me get this straight. BP dumped one point eight MILLION gallons of a dispersant into the ocean so that the oil will "disappear" from the surface and I guess as long as its out of sight it's out of mind.

Yeh, break the oil down to miscroscopic droplets so everybody can share the poison - not just birds and fish! wht a great idea!

Man, this just gets better and better!

Red Lobster for dinner, anyone?

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Speaking of the gulf, shrimp, the broke spoke and drama queens:

For the third straight summer, no one knows what Brett Favre will decide. Will he return? Will he retire? He is dragging out the process, yet again. Now, even Favre's own agent, Bus Cook, is tired of the drama. According to Men's Journal, Cook angrily ranted to Favre about him contacting ESPN's Ed Werner to state that he needs ankle surgery to play in 2010.

"Now why did he do that," Cook said to Men's Journal. "...Goddammit, why does he have to be such a goddamned drama queen? Play, don't play, goddamn, people are getting sick of it. I'm getting sick of it!...You got problems with surgery, talk to your wife. Why talk to goddamned Ed Werder?"

Favre's decision process is progressing at the usual pace: very slowly. The QB threw to Mississippi high school football players at the start of the month -- which he has also done the last few seasons.

According to ESPN, Minnesota Vikings head coach Brad Childress visited Favre in Mississippi. The reason for his visit: "You can fill in the blanks," Childress said. At the ESPYs, Favre said that his decision rides on his ankle.

The Vikings training camp starts on July 30, but no decision is expected that early. Last year, Favre decided to join the Vikings in mid-August. He was traded to the New York Jets the year before in early August.

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Ah, the Bretster.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

FILTH IS IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER

I was performing at "The Sanctuary" in Iowa City, Iowa, quite a few years ago. It was during the time I had to closely monitor my high blood pressure so I went down to the Drug Town Drug Store where for 25 cents you could attach the cuff to your arm and get an accurate reading.

As I was sitting I noticed an entire section of one wall dedicated to condoms. I was totally impressed because when I was young there was one brand and one brand only - Glad Wrap. In fact that's why I thought they named it Glad Wrap - because you were glad you had it in the glove compartment of the car when needed. I kid! It was Trojans.

One of the brands caught my eye immediately because it came in a bright blue box with a Disney-style cartoon duck wearing a thirties style hat - and holding a thumb up. Then I saw the name: "Rubber Ducky Condoms"
and I thought to myself: "these have had to have been designed for the first group of kids that grew up watching Sesame Street, so I bought a box, purely for research, took them back to my hotel room, studied the packaging for a while and wrote the following tune:

Introduction: I used to spend my nights alone
Crying in my beer
With all the new disease about
No women would come near
The specter of infection
Had dampened all desire
Acquired Immune Deficiency
Had quenched the lustful fire

But hope on the horizon (ta ta da!)
Raised it's rosy head ( ta ta da!)
Since you've come into my life
There's no more fear or dread

Because ...

Rubber Ducky You're the one
You make bed time so much fun
Rubber Ducky I'm awfully fond of you
(and you and you)

Rubber Ducky for the fun of it
Rubber Ducky, exceptional fit

Rubber Ducky I'm awfully fond of you

bridge added:

Individually tested, government inspected
Approved by USDA
Lubricated, expiration dated
And sanctioned by the EPA

Rubber Ducky You're my friend
Seamless latex, reservoir end
Rubber Ducky I'm awfully fond of you

Rubber Ducky, emission control
Put one on before you rock n roll
Rubber Ducky I'm awfully fond of you

bridge added:

It's not scary when it's sanitary
It can save you from the ultimate burn
And like your favorite diet soda
There's no deposit, no return

When I'm with my turtle dove
I always wear the one I love
Rubber Ducky, I'm awfully fonda
I can hardly wait to get my hands on Rhonda
(Help me Rhonda, help, help me Rhonda!)
Rubber Ducky I'm awfully fond of you. (Doobie dobbie doobie doo!)

So I have been using this song as part of my show for years - and at one point the nurse and health director at UWEC asked for a recording to play for college freshmen.

Then I got a call to do a "Medical Luncheon" in Madison, Wisconsin, hot bed of liberalism. After I had signed the contract, the powers that be stipulated that all my material must refer to health.

What?

So I dug around for some doctor jokes and then thought "Oh! They will love the "Rubber Ducky" - so I closed with it.

The next day I get back to my office to find an e mail from the Madison agency that hired me for the gig saying that the "health workers" - turns out they were bean counters - wanted an apology in writing for my unseemly show.

What?

I did it at a Christmas party for dental employees in Mondovi, Wisconsin and they loved it. so much for Madison - hot bed of liberalism.

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While picking up four more wonderful pop over cups from David Caradorri, I noticed a Subaru Forester out front. Turns out it belongs to a lovely young art teacher with the Eau Claire schools.

My son, Jonathan had a Subaru Legacy for many moons until it got hit and ran in the middle of the night in Brooklyn. I was telling the story of how when John quit the circus he stopped in Eau Claire and I helped him find the car.

Well, she thought that "quit the circus" was the funniest thing she'd heard in a long time - and that reminded me of how my other son David, when in grade school used to love it when his teacher would ask him would his dad did for a living and he would say that his dad was a comedian.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

STEVE MARTIN DOES NOT DISAPPOINT EAU CLAIRE AUDIENCE

I looked forward to Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers last night at the State Theatre, down town Eau Claire and he didn't disappoint in the least. He is an incredibly agile five string banjo player backed by an equally incredible band of North Carolina pickers. Not only that, Steve is a hell of a writer as witnessed with his recent Emmy winning tune.

and his wild and crazy sense of humor is alive and well! Using the ruse of tuning his banjo, he kept me laughing out loud all evening long.

At one point he started talking about his pants - how the seat of his pants never appeared to wrinkle - he asked if any of the band had been ironing them - weeks went by and then he figured it out - Steve stated:: "I realized I have a steamy hot ass."

He introduced the Emmy winner by saying "I walked off with an Emmy with this next song - and was very surprised to find out two weeks later that I had won the award."

After leaving the stage to give the band a chance to really show off their chops by singing a great old gospel tune in tight accapella four part harmony (which brought the house down), Steve came back to sing a gospel tune for Athiests as they have no music of their own.

They were dearly loved by the Eau Claire audience who got them out for three encores, including King Tut.

The only annoyance for the evening was the fact that we had paid good money for the seats that are right before an area where two rows of seats have been removed and some young yahoos crept down the aisle - and took up a squatting position to take pictures (which shouldn't he been allowed) and of course, he was about six three and with all the hullabaloo we missed some great dialogue.

so I have been happily recalling the show all day today - good thing I had this positive ammunition. I came over to the office to find that last night's storm had pulled the electrical wiring leading to the meter out of its moorings and the wire (thankfully just a ground wire) was hanging so low it was in the bushes near the structure.

I called Eau Claire Electric Cooperative and Keith told me that according to records that wiring had been put in in 1951 - two years before Kim was born!

I am assured that it will be repaired at no expense to us. It's always something though, isn't it?

Took the Xb to the car wash and noticed that their was a kind of "frost network" at the bottom of the speedometer clear plastic cover. I attempted to wash it off and it suddenly smeared the network into a solid mass of etched plastic. so I took it to the dealership and found out from the young man in detailing that I must have gotten Armorall mist on the plastic bezel - The part will cost me nearly $37.00 and then there will be installation.

So that's my ":take some advice" for today. Don't let any Armorall or chemicals designed for glass get on your clear plastic or you are screwed!

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Robert "One Man" Johnson and lovely wife Margie took time out of their busy schedule to breakfast with us recently. Robert and Marge are probably my oldest and dearest friends as Bob and I met as sophomores at then Eau Claire State College. He is a well established international musician - if you ever get a chance to see and hear him play, don't miss it. I say SEE and hear because he is an amazing one man band.

I was telling him about the absolute hijacking of my muse (by life in general I guess) - not having written much - and he offered me the following to add to the song parodies:

To Tune of Eric Clapton's "Cocaine"

If yer hair's fallin' out
Makes you wanna shout
ROGAINE

If yer gettin' fat
But yer hair's gettin' thin
ROGAINE

it grows hair,
It grows hair,
It grows hair --
ROGAINE

Some years ago he wrote this one:

To the Tune of "Thank God I'm a Country Boy"

Some people stand
Some people sit
Some people miss
Some people hit
Some people urinate
And other people deficate

THANK GOD FOR THE TOILET BOWL!

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Hoping that this evening will be rain shower free as I talked a couple of buddies into tail gating at the Cavaliers baseball game tonight. I talked 'em into some male bonding before the game so I gotta be at the park at 6PM to get my grill fired up.

I've done nothing but snack today so the smell of those Festival Foods "own" brats that I have steamin' with chopped onion in a pot with Leinenkugel's Amber is making my stomach rumble.

So it's time to load up my tail gate supply!

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Friday, July 16, 2010

BEAM ME UP, SCOTTY

Disenfranchised.

That's not a good feeling. Prior to the 2008 Presidential Election I had a different attitude than I have now. Back then, I read the news daily and was involved in electronically signing a plethora of online protests.

But America is way too crazy for me to deal with anymore. From Tea Baggers to Our Ladies Warriors, Wall Street greed to the Vatican's insane stance on pedophile priests and the frosting on the cake of madness: (again brought on by greed) British Petroleum's obscene death of the Gulf.

The news that at least a temporary stoppage of crude oil has been accomplished doesn't even make a ripple when you consider that with 84 million gallons of oil already in the Gulf, the fishing industry is now officially dead - forever. All those generations of people who made their living shrimping and fishing are no longer fishermen.

And nobody seems to care. I'm talking even locally. To see idiots pumping fuel at a BP station is totally puzzling and ultimately sickening!

If there was any justice in America, BP should have to pay every one of those now unemployed fishermen's annual salary based on what they were making before this disgrace happened. Every year!

It's enough to make a guy turn to drink.

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My cousin Jack called me from Woodbury, Minnesota - in town only briefly. He has bought a canoe/kayak supply house in northern Minnesota. Somewhere near the end of our visit he said he's been reading up on all the "good Christian" blogs and how hateful they are in the name of Christ.

He gave me some of the addresses to look at and they are as he said.

" Judge not lest you be judged." Isn't that what he said?

I did pick up a great line to add to my monologues when I perform:

"Buying a book about sexuality written by a priest and a nun is like buying a book about auto mechanics written by the Amish."

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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

JULY 6 -- IT'S KIM'S BIRTHDAY!

Today is my lovely Kim's 57th birthday. Since her very favorite cake is angel food, I got out my fluted pan and made her one from scratch. It has been a few years since I made my last home made angel food and I was a little nervous about the operation as I vaguely remembered that it involved a lot of "putzing" around to do it right.

The egg whites (a full dozen!) have to be brought to room temperature before you begin at all. the cake flour and sugar have to be sifted from heights about six times to incorporate air into the flour, and there is a lot of spooning, whipping, folding involved.
Turned out there was no need to worry. As you can see from the photos she came out pretty darn good for my not having baked one in a while.

We went out for birthday lunch at The Olympic Flame, one of Kim's all time favorite local haunts, then stopped, bought some road side strawberries, stopped at Festival Foods and got a big can of Reddi Whip, and returned home.

As you can see, we two did some damage to the cake, accompanied by fresh strawberries and whipped cream. i don't think there is any dessert that can outdo a freshly made home made angel food cake, topped with fresh strawberries and whipped cream.

At any rate, Happy Birthday Ms. Wilson! and many more!

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Friday, July 2, 2010

IN SEARCH OF THE PERFECT POP OVER

For the pst month or so I have been experimenting in the kitchen in search of the perfect pop over.

My wife, nor I , for that matter, do not like pop overs that are gooey inside and of course, no one likes a pop over that doesn't really rise magnificently. Overcoming pop overs that didn't actually "pop" was my first exercise in problem solving. I started by experimenting with different kinds of receptacles for the pop overs to bake in. I tried custard cups, miniature "flower pots" and finally the black metal pop over cups that come six to a rack.

I was not happy with any of the above. The black metal tins produced the best pop overs as far as size is concerned, but it seemed no matter how much I seasoned the cups, they had a tendency to stick and really stick badly.

Then I had a very good pottery expert, David Carradori, fashion me two sets of kiln fired cups, large in size and that was a good start.

Even so, at first I had trouble with the pop overs sticking, especially at the bottom, even though I would butter the cups liberally before pouring the batter into them.

Then I found "Baker's Joy", a "no stick baking spray with flour" which is fat free and comes in a white tubular can with a blue cap. This has solved the sticking problem entirely!

I also discovered that to lessen the chances of the pop overs failing to "pop over", there were several important steps to be taken:

1. Always use very fresh eggs and milk.
2. Do not over fill the cup - fill to about two thirds, maxImum.
3. Do not over mix the ingredients. ( I use an ordinary fork to gently beat the ingredients together until there is a mixture that holds together but not entirely smooth.
4. Start with a cold oven.
5. Set your temp at 400 degrees.

In addition to the flour, milk, eggs, salt, and melted butter, I also add about a teaspoon of granulated sugar before sifting the dry ingredients. This helps to brown the pop over magnificently and adds a little bit of sweetness to the finished product.

How do you know when a pop over is done? I don't use a set time. I use my nose as my first indication that they are close. After that, I keep the oven light on and check every few minutes to see how the browning is coming along.

The final step is to pull the oven grate out, take a fork and aggressively puncture the top of each pop over and then return them to the still heating oven for an additional three to five minutes. this allows the inside of the pop over to dry out and produces a very crispy pop over.

I serve pop overs with plenty of butter at room temperature as I like to slather my pop overs with butter! Pop overs are delicious with just butter - or my two favorite condiments - honey and strawberry or blueberry jam.

Thus endeth my little baking lesson for the day!

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