September 21, 2022

A Fetterman Rally

Pennsylvania lieutenant governor and senatorial candidate John Fetterman was in Indiana, Pennsylvania, for a brief rally yesterday. Fetterman is running against Republican surgeon, snake-oil huckster, and carpetbagger Dr. Mehmet Oz. Electing Fetterman will replace a Republican senator with a Democratic one and, one can hope, contribute to an actual Democratic majority in the Senate.

Indiana County definitely leans Republican, but a good crowd turned out for the event, which was held in the lobby of the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Center on the Indiana University of Pennsylvania campus. The Indiana Gazette described the crowd as consisting of “more than 500 supporters.” I was hardly in a position to count bodies, but the lobby was certainly packed.

The event began with various local Democratic speakers, after which Gisele Barreto Fetterman, wife of the candidate, was called upon to introduce her husband. Gisele Fetterman has played an especially prominent role in the campaign ever since Fetterman suffered a stroke just before the primary election. I was eager to see for myself if the candidate exhibited visible signs of cognitive impairment.

When the candidate took to the podium, he acted more or less like any other candidate, though he certainly didn’t look like a candidate from Central Casting. Fetterman is big, with a bald head and goatee. He wore a black hoodie with sleeves partially rolled up, exposing tattoos on his right forearm consisting of a series of dates. The dates memorialize violent deaths in Braddock, Pennsylvania, during his time of mayor there. From time to time, the tattoo on his right forearm could be seen. It is “15104,” the Zip Code of Braddock. Fetterman spoke of his stroke but showed no sign of its affecting his performance.

Despite his decided workingman appearance, John Fetterman has earned two graduate degrees, a Master of Business Administration from the University of Connecticut and a Master of Public Administration from Harvard University. He is an AmeriCorps alumnus and was mayor of Braddock before being elected lieutenant governor.

Fetterman’s address excited the crowd, but it contained no surprises. He said he wants to get rid of the filibuster in the Senate, protect reproductive rights, raise the minimum wage, and promote good union jobs. He took a few jabs at opponent Dr. Oz.

After his brief speech, Fetterman shook hands with people in the crowd. His wife did the same and took selfies with people who requested them.

The photos below capture the feel of the event.
 

Line of people waiting to enter the Kovalchick Center
People arrived early for the event and were allowed in shortly after the
official 5:30 pm start time.
 

Crowd inside
From my vantage point in front of the stage, this was the view to my right.
 

Crowd inside
And this was the view to my left.


Gisele Fetterman
Gisele Fetterman introducing her husband


John Fetterman
John Fetterman


John Fetterman
John Fetterman


John Fetterman
John Fetterman


John Fetterman with crowd
Pressing the flesh


A goodbye wave
A final wave to the crowd

September 4, 2022

A New Battery for My Honda CR-V

I remember the days when automobiles were often a bit slow to start, even requiring several tries before getting them going. My 2018 Honda CR-V (and most relatively new cars) start almost instantly when the Start button is pressed.

A few days ago, the car started with perhaps half a second additional delay, and that delay began growing with each trip. When I went to the usual Friday wine tasting at the local liquor store Friday, I worried about my ability to start the car for the return home. In fact, the car started, but the delay had become really worrisome.

At that point, I concluded that I probably needed to replace the car battery, but late on the Friday of a long Labor Day weekend was not an opportune time to be seeking auto service. I did get home, however, and I left the car out of the garage for easy access to the engine compartment.

I had recently received e-mail from AAA promoting their battery service and decided that AAA was my best option to get a new battery—if indeed I needed one—and to assure that I could reliably drive to and from church on Sunday.

The AAA message included a link to a Web page where I could fill in information about my car, since different cars need different batteries. On Saturday morning, I followed this link. Oddly—very oddly indeed—the page would not let me actually enter any information at all! I switched to my phone and encountered the same problem. For plan C, I opened the AAA app on my phone. There was no provision for requesting road service specifically for a battery problem, so I was careful to enter the information I knew would be needed from the defective Web page.

In about an hour, a small AAA van labeled for battery service showed up. I expressed my surprise that a tow truck was not sent. The technician, Michael, explained that his vehicle uses less gas than a tow truck, an important consideration in this time of high gas prices. That made perfect sense, though, ironically, Michael left the van running the entire time he was servicing my car!

Michael made a quick check of the battery with a meter and asked me to try to start the car. It did actually start, but he concluded that the battery indeed needed replacement. He placed some device inside the car—I realized later that this was to power such devices as the radio so as to preserve custom settings—and proceeded to remove the old battery and to swap in the new one. The process was quick, as Michael had specialized tools to make the job easier. 

It was not long before the job was done and I was asked to start the car. It turned over instantly. I was advised to let it run for a few minutes before turning it off. Michael packed up and left, though not before I wrote him a check for the new battery. I had planned to pay by credit card but was told there would be a 4% additional charge for using a credit card. This was the second time in a fortnight that I paid for a repair by check to avoid a surcharge. Have these now become common?

A bit later Saturday morning, I started the car again to make a quick trip to the farmers’ market. Immediately, the instrument panel displayed warning lights I was unused to seeing and showing various messages about car functions that were not working. I experience a moment of panic and regret that I let Michael get away before I had assured myself that that car was fully restored to its normal state.

The infotainment system displayed the Honda logo. This was not normal either, but I remembered how to reboot the system. The reboot seemed to work fine. My discomfort was not relieved, however, when my attempt to recalibrate the tire pressure sensors—they were the subject of one of the warning messages—failed. I decided to just sit and wait for a while. Sure enough, systems slowly began coming online. After a time, everything looked normal, though I did need to change the radio to the NPR station I most frequently listen to. My trip to the farmers’ market and later to the liquor store for another wine tasting seemed completely normal.

This morning (Sunday), I found the driver’s side door unlocked when I went to open it. This was not normal, as the car generally locks itself when I walk away and only unlocks when someone with the proper key fob touches the special spot on the door handle. Although I had earlier checked many settings for the car, usually choosing the defaults, turning on the automatic locking feature was apparently not a default setting. It took me a bit of hunting around to find the screen on which to restore the feature. I finally accomplished the change, and the car now seems to work like it did before the new battery was installed.

If you have a late-model car with lots of fancy features, be warned that replacing your battery may be a more troublesome activity than you might have expected. 

The new battery
The new battery 

August 30, 2022

My Multigrain Bread Recipe

I first began baking bread about 50 years ago, having been given a white bread recipe by the wife of a fellow Army bandsman. For years, I baked bread often, but I eventually got out of the habit. In the past couple of years, however, I got back into baking and began experimenting with different styles of bread.

Some time ago, I bought a bag of rye flour without having a specific idea of what I was going to do with it. (Finding rye flour in a supermarket was rare back then, so I grabbed it when I had the chance. My own experience suggests that rye flour is still a bit hard to find.) I began experimenting with breads containing rye, though not actually recognizable as rye bread.

The recipe below has been developed over many batches (and bags of rye flour). It produces tasty, slightly sweet bread. It has become my everyday bread recipe.

A couple of notes on the recipe: Active dry yeast can be substituted for instant dry yeast. The baking time was determined in an oven whose temperature regulation was quite accurate. The time may need to be adjusted for other ovens.

 

Lionel Deimel’s Multigrain Bread

Yield: 2 loaves

Ingredients:

4¼ c (655 g)Unbleached white bread flour
1⅔ c (208 g)Rye flour
⅔ c (83 g)Whole wheat flour
1½ Tbs (16 g)   2 packets instant dry yeast
2 cWater between 100⁰F and 115⁰F
¼ cGranulated sugar
⅓ cDark brown sugar
⅓ cCrisco
2 tspSalt
Additional Crisco and butter

Instructions:

1. Mix all flours well in a large bowl.
2. Dissolve yeast in water in a second bowl.
3. When yeast is dissolved (or at least well distributed), add granulated sugar, brown sugar, Crisco, salt, and 3½ c of the flour mixture.
4. Mix all ingredients until the Crisco is blended in.
5. Add another 2½ c of the flour mixture and mix well.
6. Flour work surface with some of the remaining flour mixture.
7. Turn out dough on work surface and knead until it is smooth and elastic and form it into a ball. Add more flour mixture as necessary to prevent the dough from being sticky.
8. Place dough in a large bowl coated with Crisco. Turn the dough to coat it all over with Crisco.
9. Cover the bowl with waxed paper and a towel, and let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free location until it is doubled in size, about 80 min.
10. Coat two loaf pans with Crisco and set aside.
11. Flour work surface lightly with remaining flour, adding bread flour if necessary.
12. Divide the dough into two equal-weight pieces.
13. Knead each piece to make a smooth ball and roll the dough into a rectangle with the long side slightly longer than the loaf pan. Roll up dough tightly from the long side, folding the ends under. Smooth the edge with the seam as much as possible and place the dough in a prepared loaf pan, seam side down.
14. Cover the loaf pans with waxed paper coated in butter and a towel. Let dough rise in a warm, draft-free location for approximately 70 minutes.
15. Preheat oven to 400⁰F.
16. Bake loaves in the oven for 37 min.
17. Turn out loaves onto cooling racks. Let bread rest for at least 10 min. before slicing.


Completed loaves
The finished product


August 26, 2022

The Catholic Court

The makeup of the Supreme Court that recently declared that the right to seek an abortion is not protected by the Constitution is atypical in that its members are predominately Roman Catholic. Historically, this situation is highly unusual. Justices more often than not have been Protestants. According to Wikipedia, “[f]or its first 180 years, justices were almost always white male Protestants of Anglo or Northwestern European descent.”

The first Roman Catholic justice was Roger B. Taney, who was appointed Chief Justice by Andrew Jackson following the death of the incumbent, John Marshall. He served as Chief Justice from 1836 until his death in 1864. Taney is best known for his notorious opinion in Dred Scott v. Sandford. It isn’t clear that his Catholicism can be blamed for that decision, which was decided with only two dissenting justices. Taney, after all, was born into a wealthy, slave-holding Maryland family. No other Catholic was appointed to the court for 30 years after Taney’s death when, in 1894, Edward Douglass White joined the court.

Supreme Court
Home of the Supreme Court
Until recently, there have seldom been as many as two Roman Catholics on the court. Now, however, the court is dominated by Catholics. The court comprises one Jew, Elena Kagan; one Protestant, Ketanji Brown Jackson; one justice reared Catholic but attending an Episcopal Church, Neil Gorsuch; and six bonified Catholics (John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayor, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett). All the Catholic justices except Sotomayor were appointed by Republican presidents.

Nominations to the court have doubtless been made for a variety of reasons. In most cases, religion was likely not a primary consideration. One suspects, however, that Barrett’s nomination may have been an exception. She is something of an über-Catholic and was appointed by a president who promised to appoint justices who would reverse Roe v. Wade.

Senators are reluctant to make too much of a nominee’s religion, lest they open themselves to charges of prejudice. On the other hand, Americans have become increasingly sensitive to the need for diversity in both public and private institutions. The white/black and male/female mix of justices on the Supreme Court are not conspicuously objectionable. On the other hand, there are no Muslim, Native American, or LGBT justices. And why are there so many Roman Catholics? Should not senators show more concern for diversity in an institution as important as the Supreme Court?

For many disputes brought before the justice system, the Catholicism of a judge is of little consequence. In fact, there is a strong social justice concern among many Catholics that many would not label “conservative,” a label often applied to the current court supermajority. Unfortunately, that concern does not seem to apply to pregnant women. Just as belief in the perverse myth that the 2020 presidential election was stolen by Democrats has become a rock-bottom foundation of contemporary Republicanism, opposition to abortion, at least in the United States, has become a rock-bottom foundation of Catholic Christianity. It is not a topic on which the Church or its most rabid adherents are inclined to compromise. The Catholic majority on the Supreme Court made the decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization inevitable. Ironically, the Dobbs opinion is bad law argued more poorly than Judge Alito believes Roe had been.

The religious makeup of the Supreme Court is clearly a problem, one likely to affect other decisions related in some way to sex, a topic with which Catholicism seems obsessed. This court also seems to value religious freedom, construed in a way it has never before been understood, above all other freedoms. The court makeup is not easily or quickly changed. This is by design. The court is expected to provide long-term stability and to not be subject to the temporary whims of the populace. What we have discovered, however, is that on a wildly unbalanced court—one with too many Roman Catholic justices, for example—stability can be sacrificed for narrow philosophical or religious ends.

Court watchers are expecting that the coming court term is likely to see even more regressive decisions likely to disrupt the nation we thought we knew. It is time to consider changes to the court that will make it less subject to the whims of an unanticipated philosophical majority. Adding more justices to the court is the most obvious and simple check, though perhaps not the most likely or effective change. Barring that, the best we can hope for is the death of justices while the presidency and Congress are controlled by Democrats. In any case, presidents and senators should pay more attention to religious diversity in selecting Supreme Court justices.

Alas, our future with the current Supreme Court is not bright.

August 24, 2022

Schroeder Goes to His New Home Today

I have been asking everyone I know and everyone I run into if (1) they would like to adopt a cat, and (2) if not, would they ask other people they know if they would like to adopt a cat. The day before yesterday, a friend was over to pick up some things, have some wine and snacks, and enjoy conversation. Expecting the usual negative reply, I made my standard pitch to find a home for Schroeder. To my surprise, Jacque said she would adopt my rescue! She is a single mom—probably the most impressive supermom I have ever known—with two pre-teen sons.

I spent hours yesterday collecting cat stuff to give Jacque along with Schroeder and writing out information and advice for a new cat owner. Today, Jacque and I had lunch together, after which we returned to my home to collect Schroeder and all his cat paraphernalia for the car ride to his new home. The boys, I am told, are excited about meeting their new pet.

Schroeder, upholding cat tradition, did not want to be caught and put into his carrier. When I tried to pick him up, he ran under a bed. We were able to lure him out with Temptations treats. Eventually, we confined him to the office, a relatively small area. Jacque blocked his access to one of his usual hiding places, and, after chasing the cat around the room a bit, I grabbed him while he was on the back of a couch. Wearing my leather gloves, I pried him off the furniture with some difficulty. Jacque put the carrier on the couch, and Schroeder entered without further drama.

Jacque & Schroeder
After loading the cat paraphernalia into the car and before trying to put
Schroeder into his carrier, Jacque had some time to bond with her new cat.
 

Jacque & Schroeder


Jacque & Schroeder

I will miss Schroeder, of course, but I never intended to adopt him myself. I am just happy to have finally found him a forever home where I’m sure he will be loved.


NOTE: The story of Schroeder from when I first saw him until today can be read here.

August 11, 2022

Our Democracy Is About to be Tested

It is likely that our democracy is about to undergo a serious stress test.

If, as seems likely, former president Donald Trump stole—there is no other word for what he apparently did—secret documents that could compromise national security, how will he be dealt with?

There is no question that a low-level government employee who did the same thing would be treated harshly and would soon be in prison unless he or she managed to flee the country.

Will Mr. Trump receive the same treatment as that hypothetical low-level functionary? Is it true that no one is above the law, that justice is meted out uniformly to all citizens regardless of station? Does anyone believe that?

If Mr. Trump is guilty, as it seems he may be, of theft of government property (or even treason), will he be punished as any other equally guilty citizen would expect to be punished?

Unless Mr. Trump is dealt with as the law demands, our democracy will have failed an existential test and may not be long for this world.

August 4, 2022

Schroeder: A Cat Who Needs a New Home

Schroeder
Schroeder

It’s time to find a forever home for my rescued cat Schroeder. I already have two cats, and I brought Schroeder in from the cold for his protection. I expected to return him to the wild eventually, but he took well to domesticity. I will be moving soon, and doing so with three cats is not an option. (You can see the story of how Schroeder came to be with me here. Some additional recent photos can be seen here.)

Schroeder
Schroeder looks onto deck in the late afternoon
I named this cat Schroeder for consistency. My other two cats are named for Peanuts characters: Charlie and Linus.

Schroeder is a neutered brown mackerel tabby, sort of what comes to mind when you think “cat.” He is a domestic shorthair of unknown parentage and age. My vet’s best guess is that he is between 2 and 3 years old. He is a medium-size cat, weighing 9 pounds or so. He is a very quiet cat; his seldom-heard meow is more of a soft squeak. He is not much of a climber. He manicures his claws on a scratching post and not on the furniture. His coat is fairly smooth, and he sheds very little. He shows no interest in being a lap cat, but this might change if he is given more attention than I have been able to provide. He plays with cat toys, both with and without catnip. He is in excellent health, fully vaccinated, and chipped.

Although Schroeder isn’t keen on being picked up, do not think him standoffish. When I show up in a room where he is, he immediately comes to me and likes to be scratched, especially on his head. In general, he likes to be petted. He follows me around, sometimes getting underfoot when he gets too close. I’ve not stepped on him yet, however. He has never bitten or scratched me or anyone else.

If you live in or near Indiana, Pennsylvania, you can come see Schroeder in his current home. I am willing to deliver cat and cat paraphernalia to an adopter in the Pittsburgh area or elsewhere not too far from Indiana. Schroeder comes with a carrier, litterbox, food and water bowls, dry food, a few toys, and documentation. (You needn’t take all the cat stuff if you don’t need it.)

If you would like to adopt Schroeder (or at least consider doing so), please e-mail me as soon as you can at cat@deimel.org. (Schroeder comes free, of course.)

As a parting shot, here’s a short video of Schroeder playing with one of his favorite toys: