Is he smarter than a 5th grader?

In an op-ed over at Bloomberg about Trump’s failed stunt with the Bible, I was struck by the man’s pronouncements. Even if the purpose of the stunt was only to showcase his Mussolini-esque (-ish?) strength, you might think that he would deliver a rousing speech, something inspirational, like exhorting his cult followers to go burn down the Reichstag.

This is what he said:

“We have a great country, that’s my thoughts,” he said. “The greatest country in the world. We’ll make it even greater. We will make it even greater. It won’t take long. It’s not gonna take long. You see what’s going on. It’s coming back. It’s coming back strong. It will be greater than ever before.”
“Okay. Thank you very much. We have the greatest country in the world. We’re gonna keep it nice and safe.”

Oh.

Even more than usual I was struck by the gobsmackingly simple-minded vocabulary. How is this man the President of the United States?

Being a retired elementary media specialist, it occurred to me to head over Lexile.com and see what reading level our president (who is impeached and has botched the pandemic response) speaks. Lexile has positioned itself as an arbiter of readability for books; every book these days has a Lexile score. The idea is that your student will have a range of Lexile scores within which they are comfortable reading, and that for best growth the student should read somewhere near the middle of that range, if not lower.

(I was constantly having to teach parents of gifted kids that no, it was not beneficial for the kids to read at the high end. After all, I would point out, if the parents read at their Lexile level, they could just chuck the Tom Clancy out and stick to St. Thomas Aquinas or Kierkegaard.)

So over to the Analyzer I hopped, and this is the Lexile level of Trump’s “oration”:

I think it’s a hoot that the longest sentence is the longest only because of the editorial he said.

And the recommended books?

And most ironically of all:

The question remains: what grade level are we talking about? Have a chart:

Here we have the End Of Year Lexile level for each grade level, both for the absolute middle of the road kids (50th percentile) and the very bright kids (90th).

By the end of first grade, the brightest kids have already outstripped Trump’s Lexile level.

By the end of second grade, even the most average kids are reading beyond Trump’s “best words.”

So is the president (who is impeached and has botched the pandemic response) smarter than a fifth grader? Honey, please. He’s not even smarter than a second grader.

Meal prep strategy

I’m pretty sure most people who cook have some similar system in place, but just in case you find it frustrating to throw a meal together and have all the components come out ready to serve at the same time, here’s how I do it.

I had a soy sauce glaze that I had made (to replace a missing ingredient in a Blue Apron shipment) and wanted to use up, so I decided on sautéed shrimp, roasted broccoli, and rice for the meal. Each element is going to take a different time to prepare, so the idea is to break that time down into chunks and set kitchen timer “checkpoints.”

Step 1

(Preheat the oven, of course.)

Get a sticky note and write your elements at the top of the sheet, with the actual cook time involved. (If something requires a long prep, like marinating, etc., you might want to include that as one of your time chunks.)

Clearly I will need to start the rice in the rice cooker first.

A little basic math, and now we have our first timer setting: 21 minutes before the broccoli has to go in the oven.

Do that again with the shrimp:

Now we have our timer settings.

And there we have it:

I scribble all of this down and put the sticky note on the counter where I can keep track of it. If this were a set of instructions in a cookbook, it would be like this:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°.
  2. Start the rice in the rice cooker, setting the timer for 35 minutes.
  3. SET THE OVEN TIMER FOR 21 MINUTES.
  4. Prep the broccoli and the shrimp. Chop the lovage to add to the rice when it is done.
  5. When the timer goes off, PUT THE BROCCOLI IN THE OVEN.
  6. SET THE TIMER FOR 6 MINUTES.
    1. When there are a couple of minutes left, preheat the pan. (You could break up the timer in to 4 and 2 minute chunks, of course.)
  7. Put the shrimp in the pan.
  8. SET THE TIMER FOR 3 MINUTES.
  9. Turn the shrimp
  10. SET THE TIMER FOR 3 MINUTES.
  11. Add the glaze.
  12. SET THE TIMER FOR 2 MINUTES.
  13. Stir the shrimp to coat with the glaze.
  14. And ding! everything’s done. Plate and serve.

And that’s my good deed for the day.

Cocktails: Lemony goodness

Yesterday a friend emailed me with a request: he really liked this nice tonic water with a lemon taste, but it’s expensive. Did I have a substitute/workaround?

Probably. Not having tasted this particular brand, I wasn’t sure what we were looking for, nor could I find it during my ramblings during the morning.

So we improvise.

First, I got a bottle of pure lemon extract and gave that a whirl. For a lowball glass full of tonic water, one drop is enough to give it a strong lemon taste. (Ingredients are lemon oil, alcohol, and water; you could dilute it with more alcohol.) (Also, remember those ingredients.)

Next, I prepared an oleo saccharum. (I have a killer sour mix that’s an oleo saccharum.)

It’s easy. Use a vegetable peeler to peel a lemon.

You can leave them whole; this time I cut them into strips.

Put them in a bowl with one teaspoon of sugar and muddle them. If you don’t have a cocktail muddler, use a wooden spoon or something similar.

Let it sit for 4–6 hours. The lemon’s oil will ooze out and collect. Add two tablespoons of lemon juice and one of vodka, strain into a container. You have basically just created pure lemon extract from the store, but fresher and a little more balanced (with the sugar) for your cocktail.

One or two drops of this in your tonic water is effective.

Thirdly, you could just use lemon bitters.

There you go. That’s my civic responsibility for the day.

Replies, but no answers, Drew Ferguson edition

Guys, I would never suggest our congresscritters are evil and lying when Occam’s Razor offers us the simplest solution: they have no way to respond to constituents in this day and age when everything is automated.

However.

Here are the two recent blog posts that I asked my congresscritters to respond to, to take a clear stance in support of (which is the default position) or in opposition to the president (who is impeached and has botched the pandemic response)’s recent actions.

  1. Trump threatens to kill Democrats; GA congresscritters okay with that.

  2. Trump extorts Michigan; GA congresscritters OK with that

Here are two emails I just received from Rep. Drew “Who?” Ferguson:

And…

There was more blah blah about all the stuff that the (Democratic-led) House of Representatives did.

So here’s your challenge: exactly what message from me was Rep. Ferguson replying?

As far as I can tell, Rep. Ferguson’s positions on my two blog posts (and ResistBot messages to him) remain the default: He supports the idea of killing Trump’s political opponents; and it’s fine with him for the president (who is impeached and has botched the pandemic response) to extort states who do not kiss his ass.

New Cocktail: Cedar & Sorghum

I’m not wild about the name. As you will see, I could also name it the Cedar & Sassafras. Or I could find another gemstone/crystal to name it after, like the Smoky Topaz, the Smoky Quartz, and the Jasper. Time will tell. In the meantime, here’s the new cocktail, which I am wild about.

Quick background: Years ago I made a stab at mixing my own bitters, choosing to create tinctures of all the ingredients and mix proportionately with those (as opposed to dumping all the herbs, etc., into a jar and not being able to adjust anything).

Yesterday, while musing about clearing out two decades of software installation disks, I came across the jar of cedar shavings, still soaking away. Hm, I thought, and began to experiment. (ABORTIVE ATTEMPT)

Manhattan + 1/4 oz of the cedar stuff was astringent. (GESTALT)

I modified. (SUCCESSIVE APPROXIMATION)

Cedar & Sorghum

  • 2 oz rye
  • 3/4 oz sweet vermouth
  • 1 barspoon cedar tincture
  • 1 barspoon bourbon-barrel maple syrup
  • 2 dashes WoodfordReserve Sassafras & Sorghum bitters

Stir over ice, strain into glass. Garnish with orange peel.

To make the cedar tincture, find “cedar papers,” the kind used for grilling. Break up 3–4 of them into chips and place in a jar. Add vodka, let steep for a week or so, until it’s a dark amber color. Strain and filter. You’re not going to need a lot.

The drink is good: the woodiness and astringency of the cedar is still there, but doesn’t overwhelm your palate on the aftertaste. The maple syrup mellows the overall front of the drink while still contributing to the woodiness. The bitters bolster the flavor of the syrup and provide one more layer to the drink.

Enjoy!

Trump threatens to kill Democrats; GA congresscritters okay with that.

And here we are.

Here’s a good article on the naked authoritarianism of Trumpism. It is worth your time to read it, especially given yesterday’s events.

There’s an organization called Cowboys for Trump, and it’s about what you’d expect. Its founder is a Arizona politician named Couy Griffin, and on Tuesday he was videoed making a speech. He tweeted it himself, and the first line in the video is, “The only good Democrat is a dead Democrat.” Here’s the link.

And here’s the screenshot in case it’s taken down. (It’s been up since Tuesday, and Griffin is claiming that he didn’t mean literally killing his political opponents.)

By late last night, the president (who is impeached and has botched the pandemic response) retweeted it.

I hied myself to Resistbot and wrote my congresscritters: Sen. David “Not the Chicken Guy” Perdue, Sen. Kelly “Inside Trader” Loeffler, and Rep. Drew “Who?” Ferguson.

Arizonan Couy Griffin, founder of Cowboys for Trump, was videoed saying “The only good Democrat is a dead Democrat.” He claims it was taken “out of context,” but he said what he said. Moreover, he tweeted the video himself. Moreover, the president (who is impeached and has botched the pandemic response) retweeted the video.

I will be blogging about your response to this at dalelyles.com. I will presume you support Griffin’s statement unless I hear a denunciation from you.

This is not free speech. It is not metaphorical. It is a murderous threat coming from someone to whom the phrase “Boogaloo” is not unknown. Your silence tells the nation that you are completely on board with this authoritarian movement and support killing your political opposition.

Anything less than a denunciation from you is a “Heil, Trump!”

We see you.

I now await their non-responses, but I’m not getting my hopes up. The truth is, they’re all Nazis.

Fund your schools, you cowards

I was minding my own business, swimming through the hellsite known as Twitter, when someone tweeted about a media specialist in Hampton, GA, begging for bucks on DonorsChoose.org so that her Title I students could each get a book to read over the summer to get a headstart on the Helen Ruffin Reading thing that many schools do.

Sure, I thought, and I headed over to chip in a little. While there, I decided to see if anyone in Newnan had asked for help.

Oh yes.

So I chipped in there, too.

Here’s the thing, though: WHY ARE TEACHERS HAVING TO BEG FOR BUCKS FOR BASIC CLASSROOM ITEMS?

Every time some conservative grotesquerie rants about being taxed and about overreaching gubmint, I remind them that this is the result. Oddly, it does not abash them. Instead, they froth at the mouth and say that this is RIGHT AND JUST because this way people support our children’s needs voluntarily.

To which I reply: screw you. Screw you and your privileged life that had your education handed to you both by well-funded schools and comfortable middle-class parents. (And if that was not the case for you, then SCREW YOU EVEN MORE: you should know better.)

Yes, the government should take your money (in taxes) to fund our nation’s schools. They should tax the rich more. (And if you don’t understand how marginal tax rates work, go educate yourself. And if you’re feeling sorry for the poor billionaires, disabuse yourself of that ignorance, too.)

No teacher should ever have to buy pencils or headphones or books, and no teacher should ever have to beg for others to do so. We as a nation should be paying for all of it.

All. Of. It.

Pro tip: Do not go to donorschoose.org and poke around. It will drive your blood pressure through the roof.

Trump extorts Michigan; GA congresscritters OK with that

Click-bait hed, but bear with me here.

This morning, the president (who is impeached and has botched the pandemic response) tweeted these two tweets:

Notice that he tags his budget director and chief of staff: put this on the agenda.

As usual, the president (who is impeached and has botched the pandemic response) is wrong about nearly every aspect. Lying or stupid? Probably both.

Here’s the Michigan Secretary of State responding:

Benson — a Republican — wasn’t having any of it. She notes that they didn’t send out ballots, they sent out absentee ballot applications. Not only that, but Michigan voters overwhelmingly approved, via referendum, voting by mail, so it was hardly “illegal.”

The main point, though, is that Trump’s response is simply “Stop giving [all] people the opportunity to vote, or I will cut off funding allocated to you by Congress.”

In other words, “Nice state ya got there, be a shame if somethin should happen to it.”

Trump is extorting the state of Michigan.

So I thought I’d check in with my congresscritters: Sen. David Perdue, Sen. Kelly “Inside Trading Spaces” Loeffler, and Rep. What’s-His-Name Ferguson. Here’s what I sent via Resistbot:

Good morning.
The president (who is impeach ed and has botched the pandemic response) tweeted this message to Michigan this morning:
“Breaking: Michigan sends absentee ballots to 7.7 million people ahead of Primaries and the General Election. This was done illegally and without authorization by a rogue Secretary of State. I will ask to hold up funding to Michigan if they want to go down this Voter Fraud path!..”
1. He’s wrong about the ballots: Michigan SOS Jocelyn Benson sent applications for absentee ballots to their voters.
2. The people of Michigan voted overwhelmingly by referendum to allow voting by mail.
3. Trump is explicitly extorting Michigan: either stop the voting by mail or lose funding.
I have to assume that you approve of this straight up quid pro quo, since you have approved of every other move made by Trump, and that’s what I will be telling readers of my blog. If you don’t, please reach out to me and tell me so pointblank.
Cheers.

Done and done.  I will update this space if any of the critters respond with anything other than a form email. (Perdue’s automated server has already replied with his BS blah-blah.)

UPDATE, 5/22/20: Loeffler auto-punts, doesn’t answer the question. Status: We must still assume she supports Trump’s extortion.

UPDATE: Others are already on this: https://www.vox.com/2020/5/20/21264821/trump-michigan-nevada-funding-cares-act-unconstitutional

A parable

The people came to a wise man and asked, “Tell us, who is good?”

The wise man said:

There were three men, each of whom was building a fire.

The first man has enough wood to build his fire, plus enough to keep it going until bedtime. His fire starts slowly, but soon it is crackling merrily. He is sure to be warm.

Sometimes the flame is high and hot; other times it flickers and is warm. The man makes adjustments as needed, moving logs and adding more to keep the fire going.

He knows that eventually it will be bedtime — should he add an other log to keep it warm, or should he let it die down? He knows there is an end to the fire and to the evening.

The second man has a very large woodpile, enough for months of fires. He uses lighter fluid to start his fire — his father gave him that — so his fire starts explosively, high and hot, and he expects it to stay that way.

He adds logs to the fire constantly, piling on even when the logs beneath have barely started to burn. He will always have more logs.

The third man, alas, has only two or three logs and not very much to start his fire with —some twigs, perhaps some cardboard. His fire starts slowly, oh so slowly, and it never becomes what you would call high or hot. In any case, it will not burn for very long.

The wise man turned to the people and asked — “Which of these men is good?”

A message for my county commissioner

Personal to Coweta County commissioner Al Smith, who said re: a request for a “farm distillery ordinance”, and I quote,

“Since Coweta County is considered a dry county, why would we want this? If we don’t have this now and we never had it, why would we want this?”

and

“People are getting enough alcohol as it is. I don’t see how anybody is being restricted from getting whatever they want.”

If I have ever heard a more reductive “If’n it wuz good enough for my Pappy, it’s good enough for all y’all,” I don’t remember it. Jebus H. Cthulhu, even those of us who grew up here know that Coweta County is not what it was even ten years ago, much less back when you had a flat stomach.

Do you really think that the quality of life in our community is enhanced by this dog-in-the-manger approach to governance? Do you really think that it’s the best interest of our citizenry to make them drive twenty minutes in any direction to stock their home bar?

Or do you live conveniently near the county line, where of course there is a liquor store right over that line, sucking Coweta County’s revenue straight down its gullet?

And how is it even possible that, in the home of Walking Dead and Alan Jackson and Murder in Coweta County, you do not understand the importance of tourism to our bottom line?

I can’t even. And from a Democrat, too.

Tell you what—you come sit out in my labyrinth with me and let me serve you a cocktail and let’s talk about this. If I’m an hour late, it’s because I had to run out and get a bottle of whiskey.

Signed,

An unamused constituent