Category Archives: Bishop James Ussher

Hot Air

Say Cheese

Some stories about formaggio, käse, queso, جبن, fromage, tupí, or whatever you wish to call it (just don’t say Velveeta®).

Street Bouquet

My old neighbors up in Wisconsin have found yet another use for one of the byproducts of cheesemaking. As you know, winters in America’s Dairyland last anywhere from six months to seven and a half years at a time. Driving, of course, can be hazardous when the pavement becomes icy.

Lo and behold, the solons who run this holy land’s beer capital have turned to cheese brine to treat the city’s streets in wintry weather. I’ve whipped out my trusty copy of Cheese Primer by Steven Jenkins (a must for any complete home library). Jenkins begins his scholarly tome by describing the cheese-making process in loving detail. You can actually do it at home, honest.


Yet Another Use For Cheese

Anyway, cheese brine is a salt bath that many wheeled cheeses soak in for several hours. The brine, according to Jenkins, “dehydrates and slows, or controls, ripening rates, retarding the action of starter bacteria so that a cheese can be aged for a longer period to achieve the desired flavor and texture. Without salting, cheeses would very quickly become over-ripe and spoilage would set in.”

So, cheesemakers use this brine and then, once the proto-cheese is removed, must do something with it. Funny story: hundreds of years ago in the old principalities of Italy, cheesemakers would dump their used cheese brine and whey (the semi-transparent liquid that results after cheese curds are formed) into city sewers. Natch, the sewers got all clogged up. Officials of the various cities leaned on cheesemakers to do something about the problem and were promptly told by said perpetrators to mind their own goddamned biz. Demonstrating, of course, that business interests have forever been opposed to pro-environmental action.

Eventually, the clogged sewers became unbearable even for those who were making scads of pre-lire on the process that created the trouble in the first place. So, the cheesemakers came up with a solution: They would take the whey and brine and cook it once again, gelling the remaining casein (solid cheese protein) in it, and creating a new kind of cheese. They called it ricotta, which means, literally, recooked.

One tucked-away county in Wisconsin began treating its icy streets with cheese brine five years ago, combining it with the more familiar street salt and sand. The county, apparently, has saved a lot of scratch in this manner since then. Milwaukee, which wants to save bread as much as the any other municipality, tried using beet juice a few years ago (swear to god). But the red stuff, mixed with rock salt, became a gooey mess, so that was out.

Enter cheese brine. Milwaukee’s street crews have been using it on bridges for almost a decade and now are spreading it on the city’s general roadways.

There is one drawback to cheese brine. It smells like, well, cheese.

America's Dairyland

Now, a lot of people (me, for one) would have no problem with city streets smelling like parmesan (the American knock-off of Parmigiano-Reggiano) or Emmenthaler (what we normally refer to as Swiss cheese). Others, though, are victims of a certain hyper-sensitivity to the heavenly aromas of things like garlic, anchovies, or cheese, the poor dopes.

I figure the olfactory canaries of Milwaukee will get used to the odor soon enough. In fact, the city can use this slogan (that I just made up):

Milwaukee: We Provolone Our Streets for Your Safety!

Cheese Is Christ

Now, here’s a crazy cheese story.

[First, let me preface this by saying a young women went to journalism school, spending tens or even hundreds of thousands of her and/or her family’s hard-earned dollars on this vocational dream, and then pursued a career in reporting, finally landing a job on a big Gannett newspaper. Sounds like a great American success story, no? That is, until you realize her editor assigned her to direct her formidable talents toward the coverage of this story. Is it any wonder we live in an age of depression and melancholy?]

Anyway, the cheese story, yes. Journalist Krystle Henderson of AZCentral reported on X-mas day that a local family had made a cheesecake and, after it had cooled, removed the wax paper from the top of it and guess what they found?

Image from AZCentral


Yup, a crucifix. The image of the very one, in fact, that the creator of the Universe in human form was executed upon in Jerusalem some 2000 years ago (or one-third of the entire history of all creation, acc’d’ng to Bishop Ussher). Which reminds me of a line by Lenny Bruce: If Jesus Christ had lived in modern times, all the Christian kids would be walking around with little electric chairs on chains around their necks.

Back to the Arizona cheesecake. The family has said it won’t eat the cake but will sell it. See, that family isn’t the only one in this holy land that sees mythological divine beings in pastries. Apparently, tons of other religionists will want to spend big dough to possess an item that is sure to go bad, even refrigerated, within a couple of weeks. That is, unless the cross that appears on it really is a sign from the putative most powerful being in all of existence. Say the cheesecake miraculously stays fresh and fluffy for months or even years. Wouldn’t you drop to your knees, spread your arms, and shout to the Big Daddy-o in the Sky, Ya, hey d’ere, I’m wit’cha, Dude!

Or, the new owner of the cheesecake might have invested in an expensive industrial blast cooler, thereby preserving the cake for something approaching posterity. Either way.

Sharon Hill of the skeptic website Doubtful News speculates on how she’d have reacted had she made the cheesecake in question:

I would have been like ‘Oh man, am I dumb, I ruined the surface. Hope I learned something here.’ Funny how others think so differently.

Funny, indeed.

BTW: Why couldn’t the stigma on the cheesecake have been the handiwork of Papa Bear George S. Halas who, many Chicago football fans believe, must surely be in heaven? Halas invented something called the T-formation, wherein the quarterback stands here and the halfback stands there and the eighthback…, oh wait, there’s no such thing. Anyway, a bunch of fractional players stand here and there before the snap of the ball and, way back in the 1930s, this innovation caused the eyes of opposing coaches to roll toward the backs of their heads.

In fact, a line in the Bears’ fight song, “Bear Down, Chicago Bears,” goes:

We’ll never forget the way you thrilled the nation with your T-formation….

Which proves, I suppose, that the nation was quite easily thrilled way back in the 1930s.

Couldn’t Saint George Halas be trying to communicate with his team who, coincidentally, are playing the Green Bay Packers this afternoon for supremacy in their division? Couldn’t the message be that cheesecake is superior to a cheesehead?

Or something like that.

Either way.

Geeky, Science-y Hot Air

Danger, Will Robinson

You gotta hear this:

I’m lucky; I don’t get robot calls on my flip phone. Maybe that’s an unintended benefit of refusing to get a smartphone. In any case, I do get robot calls at the Book Corner. I know immediately I’m getting a robot call because I interrupt and the caller doesn’t fumble for a moment trying to figure out what the heck I’m saying, as a human would. Invariably I hang up, often with a two-word send-off.

Scene from "Sleeper"

Stop Calling Me!

Robot calls (or robo-calls) come in a range of high-tech-iness. The most basic robo-calls come from schools or police departments, standardized messages warning receivers of some impending news, like a weather emergency. A more advanced robo-call utilizes something called personalized audio messaging, which is what you’re hearing in the above track.

Why, for pity’s sake, anybody would listen to a robo-call that isn’t about a tornado or a mass jail break is beyond me. It’s as senseless as reading an entire email sent from somebody whose niece is a wealthy princess and is being held captive in some central African hellhole.

Oh, Wow!

I don’t know if you caught this but last week headlines screamed that scientists have concluded that the universe may be nothing more than a hologram. In fact, some news outlets went way beyond “may be” and simply trumpeted the “fact” that everything is, in reality, a geeky picture.

Scene from "Star Wars"

OMG! George Lucas Was Right!

It all sounds so scientific and far out. Funny thing is, mostly left-leaning media seem to have glommed onto the “story.” (The links above are from Huffington Post and Raw Story.) I suppose that’s because left-leaning readers and viewers have a little bit of scientific knowledge. They know, for instance, what a hologram is and are somewhat aware that cutting edge cosmology concerns itself with incredibly counter-intuitive hypotheses. Not even the most imaginative science fiction author could have conjured string theory or an infinite number of universes.

Right-leaning readers seem stuck trying to figure out if the world is six- or seven-thousand years old and if humans rode dinosaurs.

Telling them all of existence is merely a mathematical representation encoded on a boundary of space would be like trying to tell a bandicoot all about modern advances in neurosurgery.


… The Color Of The Laser Beam Must Be Adjusted To….

In this case, those who are planning a summer visit to the Creation Museum are just a tad better off than those who proudly display the Stephen Hawking book, A Brief History of Time, on their coffee tables (albeit unread). A little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing. Add to that the fact that headline writers are notorious drama queens and next thing you know, everybody who’s anybody “knows” the universe is a hologram.

There not only is no proof that existence is a picture, there’s no actual evidence of it either. The mathematicians who released the paper that started all the hubbub essentially were just playing around with numbers. This piece in Doubtful News dumps a bucket of cold water on the idea.

The author of the debunking piece, Nathan Miller, concludes, “It’s this sort of result-hyping that leads to a disillusioned public.”

Just a little something to think about when you think you know all you need about GMOs or childhood vaccinations.

…With Some Black Guys And Some Blow!

With a mere nine days left until the birthday of he who died for our right to bear arms, it’s time for The Pencil’s annual rip-off of The Family Guy‘s vid, “All I Really Want for Christmas.

Yellowcake and a ball, indeed!

That’s all for today. Peace, love and soul.

The Pencil Today:


“You can safely assume you’ve created god in your own image when it turns out that god hates all the same people you do.” — Anne Lamott


Now I’m worried.

Generally, when there’s a controversy over the teaching of evolution in a school district, we can be certain it’ll be raging in some tucked away rustic corner of this holy land.

We, the intellectually superior citizens of these Great United States, Inc., can snort derisively at the yahoos, rubes, and Jethro Bodines across America who wish to shove sinners like scientists and other bookish commies out of the curriculum-making process.

The New School Board Member Relaxes With His Dog, Duke

Not any more, babies.

The city of New York, bastion of the intellectual elite, homosexuals, abortion-profiteers, Jews, Muslims, Atheists, women-who-don’t-retch-at-the-very-thought-of-sex, and all the rest, is now the locus of an evolution controversy.

Folks, we have officially gone to holy hell, thanks to the theocrats who’ve taken over the USA.

The New York City Department of Education has banned the use of the term dinosaur in its standardized tests. Yup. The word, the department says, is dangerous.


Not slaughter, or hate, or ethnic cleansing, or rape, or racism, or even Lady Gaga — all of which are terms describing horrifying aspects of the human condition. Words that might make sensitive young test-takers shiver under the covers after being forced to confront them on a test that day in school.

And that’s why the NYC education ministry is banning dinosaur. A spokesperson for the schools says the word could “evoke unpleasant emotions in the students.”

The horror.

Apparently, the invertebrates who oversee New York’s schools have a whole list of terms that are to be avoided in the drawing up of these standardized tests. The words include birthday — it may offend Jehovah’s Witnesses who don’t recognize birthdays; Hallowe’en — it reeks of paganism; and even pepperoni — the mention of which may turn the stomachs of kids whose parents frown on eating such a delicacy for religious reasons.

Dangerous Pizza

Most of the words — hell, virtually all of them — got nixed because of the fear that some religious group or another might throw a hissy fit should it get wind that these subjects are broached in NYC schools.

If I believed in god, I’d pray for him to help us.

The NYC Department of Education is not saying precisely why words like dinosaur are being excised but it’s safe to assume the anencephalics who populate the fundamentalist Christian world might begin juddering in their square-toed shoes if they hear or read it. The term dinosaur, you see, might conjure the idea of evolution, which is almost as sinful as enjoying sex.

Dangerous Enjoyment

So what in heaven’s name is acceptable to teach and test the kids about?

The sciences, obviously, must be avoided at all costs. Wanna teach kids about the valiant researchers attempting to find a cure for AIDS or the latest flu strain? No way. Those hell-bound souls depend on the concepts of genetic mutation and natural selection — underpinnings of evolution theory — to do their work successfully.

How about geography? No, geographic understanding relies upon the plate tectonics and continental drift theories. These hold that the Earth is ancient — hundreds of millions of years old, as opposed to Bishop Ussher’s estimate that our little globe is a mere callow youth.

Okay then, math. How can you go wrong with numbers? They’re as simple as two plus two equals four.

Hold it right there, you godless demons. Nowhere in the Bible is two plus two equals four mentioned. Ergo, it ain’t true.

I suppose the only thing left is to teach our dear little ones that George Washington could not tell a lie.


Only the incident with the cherry tree never happened.

Man, we are an effed-up nation, my friends.


This clip from the movie, “On the Town,” features two of the greatest American performing artists of the 20th Century — Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra.

The third guy is Broadway song-and-dance man Jules Munshin.

Leonard Bernstein scored the original Broadway production of “On the Town” but the film’s producers saw his music as too complicated and operatic, so Roger Edens wrote new music. The lyrics are by Betty Comden and Adolph Green.

I still get goosebumps watching this scene. I wonder, will we ever see naked joy and childlike wonder portrayed in movies again? Probably — everything comes around again. But it ain’t gonna happen this year.

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