Archive | May 2012

spaghetti with felafel balls

Just thought I’d share a delicious and incredibly easy recipe I cooked up last night and intend to cook up on a lot more nights to come.  The beautiful thing about it is that you can make ahead and freeze individual portions as well (and here in Israel, the felafel balls can be bought already frozen).  Mine was a meal born of a need for some form of pizazz because unfortunately the cats got into the veggies I’d planned to add into my spaghetti sauce.  Yeah, I found a chewed on and much-batted about zucchini in the bedroom and my green pepper looked like it had been attacked by Rudy Eugene..  What to do, what to do?  I stared into the freezer for inspiration and the felafel caught my eye.  Hmmm, what if I…?  The rest is to be consigned (and consumed) on a regular basis to future history.

Here’s how simple it is:

Step 1: Cook and drain a pile of spaghetti noodles the size of your head.  Toss a bit of olive oil into it and set aside. (Ok, you can do steps 1-3 simultaneously if you are lucky enough to have more than one burner)

Step 2: In a little oil saute a finely chopped onion and chopped garlic (as many garlic cloves as you personally like, for me, it would be 4 but most people would probably prefer one or two).  Cook about 3 minutes.  If your cats haven’t mauled your veggies, you can add chopped peppers, zucchini or any other favourite veggie du jour at this point and saute until tender.

Step 3:  Add in your tomato paste, a pat of butter, a bit of water if needed, and spices such as salt, pepper, oregano and parsley to the sauteed vegetables.

Step 4: Heat up your frozen felafel balls in the toaster oven for 3 minutes or microwave for about 1 minute.  Add them to the tomato sauce, Spin them around a bit so they get sauce covered, cover the pan and let cook for about 5 minutes on low heat.

Step 5: Pour the sauce with felafel balls over the spaghetti, toss, and SCARF!

The Big Felafel beats the Meatball any and every day.

Freezing: You can freeze any leftovers but I’d suggest consuming the felafel balls you put in in your first chow down and adding new felafel balls when reheating any leftovers.  My goal tonight is to cook up about 6 servings worth of spaghetti, wrap each serving size in plastic warp, then bag into small freezer bags that are then re-bagged into a jumbo freezer bag (reduces freezer burn).  After I acquire new veggies tomorrow, to make up the sauce and freeze it in individual servings.  Then I can just reheat a serving of pasta, a serving of sauce, and however many felafel balls I’m in the mood for and mix together for a 5-minute, super inexpensive and healthy  meal.


NYC to ban sale of 16 ounce bottles of soda, juice, and tea –for your own good you fat folks

New York City is moving beyond Nanny State into Prisoner Populace.  They are banning the sale of “large beverages” at all food establishments (restaurants, street vendors, fast-food places), stadiums, and movie theatres in order to “fight obesity.”  Are they next going to limit how many of those 12 oz cans of soda an individual can purchase?  Because, see, someone who wants a bigger size soda, say a 16 oz or 20 soda, will now buy two 12 oz cans –and thus consume 24 oz instead of 16 or 20.  And pay a lot more for it in the bargain.

What’s next, refrigerator police coming to check that you’ve got healthy food stocked in your pantry?  Or perhaps they’ll announce that buying your kid a soft pretzel from street vendors is junk food child abuse and take your kid away?

People laughed and said it was ridiculous when the Senator asked if forcing everyone to buy health insurance meant the government could also force everyone to purchase and eat broccoli.  Take a look at where New York City is heading and that scenario suddenly doesn’t seem so ridiculous anymore.

Planned Parenthood helping with gendercide of baby girls in America

Don’t want a girl baby?  This Planned Parenthood is happy to help you get rid of it.  This Planned Parenthood clinic in Austin, Texas advises a young woman to wait until 5 months to have an abortion, when the gender can be detected –but also, as the clinician notes, a point where the baby is fully developed “brain, pretty much everything” in her words.  She assures her that if it is determined that it is a girl she can come to them for termination with no problem.  She advises her not to tell her OB that she is planning to abort if it is a girl.  She also tells her how she can get on pregnancy Medicaid so she can have the gender detection done free.  This is one of the most shocking videos I’ve seen.  I’m honestly just speechless.

Better late than never: Medal of Freedom for Jan Karski, hero of epic proportions

Sadly, it is a posthumous honouring as Jan Karski died in 2000.  Jan Karski’s life story and heroic actions were of mythic proportions but were no myth.  Think of every action hero movie and the breath-taking escapes, catapulting into danger at every turn, and trying to save the world –then quadruple those scenarios and you get something approaching the real life deeds of Jan Karski.

Jan was raised a Catholic in a predominantly Jewish neighbourhood in Lodz, Poland.  When Germany and Russia invaded Poland, he was recalled to the military (he had been a commissioned officer before attending university and entering the diplomatic corp) but his unit was quickly captured by the Red Army.  He managed to escape the mass murder of Polish officers in the Katyn Forest by pretending to be an enlisted soldier and then, en route to a POW camp in Russia, managed to jump from the fast-moving train and escape –heading directly to Warsaw where he joined the Resistance.  He was just getting warmed up.

With native-tongue level fluency in several languages and a photographic memory, he served as a courier carrying dispatches to and from the Polish government in exile.  He made numerous dangerous trips to Paris and London as a courier for the Resistance.  He was captured by the Nazis in Slovakia, and tortured extensively and severely but refused to disclose any information.  When he feared he was at the breaking point, he attempted suicide, slashing his wrists, preferring death to breaking under torture and compromising comrades and operations.  The Nazis hospitalized him, in order to get him back in condition to torture him for information further but, while hospitalized, the Resistance planned a daring rescue.  They made a distraction attack on the hospital and Karski jumped, completely naked, from a third floor window into the snow and made his escape.  (Why was he naked?  He had no idea that an attempt to rescue him was in progress–and such was his humility that he couldn’t imagine a rescue attempt being orchestrated on his behalf –he’d been preparing to be bathed when he heard the noise and took advantage of the situation.  The second part of the rescue operation was never enacted because he essentially rescued himself!)  He still wasn’t done.

After he recovered from his injuries he returned to active Resistance duty.  Karski had himself twice smuggled into the Warsaw ghetto, disguised as a Jew, where he witnessed the atrocities taking place there –the starving children, the corpse-littered streets, boys from the Hitler Youth randomly shooting down pedestrians, and himself narrowly escaped being gunned down during an “Action.”  He then disguised himself as a Latvian guard and went to the Belzac concentration camp where he witnessed first hand the mass murder of Jews.

Then he took the information he had gathered, along with blue prints of Auschwitz and several other extermination camps,  and made the dangerous trip to London to give an impassioned, eloquent, and desperate plea to the Polish Government in Exile, British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden, and everyone else he could get his hands on to do something to stop the horrors he had witnessed.  When he found every door closed to taking action, he boarded a ship to America and brought the evidence before President Roosevelt, Jewish leaders, Secretary of State Cordell Hull, and Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter.  They also did nothing and that was something that haunted him through all of his years.

He intended to return to Poland and continue his work with the Resistance but received word that he had become the Nazi’s Public Enemy No. 1 and his superiors in the Resistance told him to stay put.   He remained in the U.S., eventually gained citizenship, and became a college professor.  He remained haunted by the horrors he had witnessed, by the inaction of the world leaders, and by what he perceived to be his failure to put an end to the genocide.

Jan Karski takes the meaning of hero to new levels.

Yaeli goes back to school (free!)

I’m about to head off to pick up Tzeekada from the vet.  She pulled through the surgery and is doing fine, thank goodness!!  While I was waiting to hear she’s ready to collect, I signed up for some online courses that sound interesting.  Through Coursera I’ve signed up for a course on Basic Behavioural Neurology that is taught through U Penn (it is the identical course that students attending the university get, only with the free version you don’t get an official  grade or transcript etc).  Through Udacity I’m taking CS101: Build a Search Engine -Learn key concepts in computer science and build a search engine like google!  Sounds awesome.  The course is taught by the former Stanford professor (he left official academia in order to start up the free Udacity courses) who is the inventor of the Google self-driving car.   You can do the courses at your own pace, making it excellent for us folks with busy schedules.

Where a grade of “A” stands for average in college

I am so glad to see the discussion of grade inflation making waves again among academics and well done to the professor who has taken up the charge.   “A University of Minnesota chemistry professor has thrust the U into a national debate about grade inflation and the rigor of college, pushing his colleagues to stop pretending that average students are excellent and start making clear to employers which students are earning their A’s.”

“I would like to state my own alarm and dismay at the degree to which grade compression … has infected some of our colleges,” said Christopher Cramer, chairman of the Faculty Consultative Committee. “I think we are at serious risk, through the abandonment of our own commitment of rigorous academic standards, of having outside standards imposed upon us.”

A study has shown that starting in about 1998, the letter grade A became the most common college grade.  There is no denying the fact that coursework that would have earned a C in the 1960s now is awarded an A or a B+ (average 3.3 at private colleges on a 4-point scale compared to the 2.27 it would have earned back in the day).  I’d actually argue that work that is routinely given high marks today would have earned a grade lower than a C in 1960, 1970 etc.  and that is because students today spend half as much time studying as they did back then.  They are getting higher grades for doing and knowing less.

I grade on a strict normal curve with an average of 78 but that is not to say that those grades aren’t inflated.  They are.  In the academic world I grew up in, those C’s would have been barely passing and, as it is, I often have to add ‘factors’ as they are called here –giftie points to get the average up to a 78.

A big part of the argument is that tuition-inflation is the cause of grade-inflation –that students feel like they paid a lot of money and so should at least come away with a good grade.  That may be part of it.  Not too long ago when I gave a reading assignment I had a student yell out in class  that he didn’t see the point of making them read a bunch of stuff that they didn’t care about and were just going to forget 15 minutes after the final exam.  Since this was a core course in his chosen specialization area, I asked what he meant when he said he didn’t care about the information –didn’t he choose this area because he was interested in it and wanted to work in this area?  His response was, “I just want the piece of paper (e.g. diploma) so I can get a job.  I’m paying a lot of money for it. ”  He then came right out and said that if he wanted to be hassled for a good grade he would have gone to a school that didn’t cost so much.

Another piece of the problem –a bigger piece, in my opinion — is that schools are more and more being run like businesses where the students are the customers.  The problem with this model is that, unlike say manufacturing a product where a happy customer is one that gets a high quality product that functions as it should–they plunk their money down, walk off with the gizmo and it does its thing — education is not something you just pick up and walk off with.  It requires input from the user and the user’s performance with the education gizmo  is evaluated.  What makes most students happy and satisfied customers is getting their ‘education product’ with the least effort on their part along with a good evaluation of their work.  You can’t blame them, it is simple human nature.  So when they evaluate courses, the “easy A” courses and “easy-going instructors” are given top marks and they pan the more difficult courses or ones which require more effort on their part.  This puts non-tenured professors in a very vulnerable position because if students are panning their courses, they are going to be out of a job.  There is thus a high incentive to pass out A’s like candy and to make the courses as ‘painless’ as possible for the students.  It becomes a popularity contest.

Employers are becoming increasingly fed up with the grade-inflating system.  They can no longer trust that the student arriving for a job interview with a string of As attached is actually a top-flight candidate.  According to a recent study, the trend in the U.K. is to hire graduates from India and other places rather than graduates of British schools because of exactly this problem — they hire someone from home turf who looks excellent on paper and end up with someone who is only mediocre or doesn’t have the grounding in the field they expected and so they are preferring to hire from places where the competition for good grades is still fierce, the coursework is still intense, and the grades aren’t inflated.



Another Kimberlin attack? Police show up at Redstate Editor’s home yesterday

It is either a Kimberlin crony or a copy-cat.

Erick Erickson, CNN political contributor and editor-in-chief of Red State, was one of many to openly participate in Brett Kimberlin Day.

In a move that fits the pattern of previous suspected attacks by Brett Kimberlin, Erickson is claiming that the police arrived at his house on Sunday following a call that someone had been shot at his address.

“Sheriff is at my house.  Someone spoofed my phone number and said someone had been shot at my house,” Erickson wrote on Twitter.

He continued: “We’re ok.  After I started writing about #BrettKimberlin I informed the local sheriff’s office to expect this to happen,” and, “More importantly, I have an unlisted phone number someone was able to [track] down.”