Disaster in Texas

BBQ Relief

Operation BBQ Relief is mobilizing assets and securing resources to address the impending destruction that currently is in the path of Hurricane Harvey. We are prepared to feed the first responders and people affected by this monster storm. However, we will need your help. Yes you. We will need volunteers and donations to fill the need that Harvey will cause. If you can give some time, we will need it. If you can give money or donations in kind, we need that too. Please click on the link above and give whatever you can. We appreciate and respect your time and money.

This is a good organization that provides food for people dealing with disasters. Help out if you can.

Chile Mash!

Happiness is the August arrival of chiles from The Hatch Chile Store in New Mexico. Usually I order “Big Jim” Hatch Chiles for fire roasting on the charcoal grill. This year I ordered five pounds of “Lumbre X-Hot” Hatch Chiles for pureeing into a pepper mash.

Chile - 1To the left of the Hatch chiles are various chiles including sweet, red serrano and padron chiles, most from my garden. The chiles are washed, dried, then chopped and put in a food processor. They are pureed into a mash. At this point I do not remove the seeds. I wear eye, nose/mouth, and skin protection for this part of the process. These chiles are hot! After processing the mash is weighed. This batch weighed 2,053 grams. I added 4% pickling salt by weight (82.12g). The salt will create a brine by drawing out the natural moisture in the chiles.

Chile - 2 The mash was stored overnight in a 1/2 gallon mason jar with a Pickle Pipe that allowed extra brine to drain onto the plate.

Chile - 3 Chile - 4 The next morning the mash and brine were placed inside my Korean kimchi fermenting container. As you can see in the first picture just above, there is an internal lid that seals in the pepper mash with a hole to release brine. The pepper mash will be watched daily for about a week. After that it will ferment for several months.

Danger Zone: The Kitchen Sponge

Kitchen Sponge, Public Domain, 2006

Your kitchen sponge is very likely the most contaminated object in your home. This is not news. What is news is the research reporting that trying to decontaminate it might result in allowing the proliferation of dangerous bacteria.

Regular cleaning of sponges, indicated by their users, significantly affected the microbiome structure. … Our study stresses and visualizes the role of kitchen sponges as microbiological hot spots in the BE (note: background environment), with the capability to collect and spread bacteria with a probable pathogenic potential.

Microbiome analysis and confocal microscopy of used kitchen sponges reveal massive colonization by Acinetobacter, Moraxella and Chryseobacterium species
Nature, July 2017

The New York Times picked up on this Nature research article and discussed it twice.

Stop. Drop the sponge and step away from the microwave.

That squishy cleaning apparatus is a microscopic universe, teeming with countless bacteria. Some people may think that microwaving a sponge kills its tiny residents, but they are only partly right. It may nuke the weak ones, but the strongest, smelliest and potentially pathogenic bacteria will survive.

Cleaning a Dirty Sponge Only Helps Its Worst Bacteria, Study Says
New York Times, Aug. 4, 2017, by Joanna Klein

The second New York Times article is worth reading. The author talks again with researchers whose paper was published last month in Nature, along with a several other experts in the world of food safety. The gist of the recommendations is that sponges are very difficult to clean well. If they start to smell, discard them. A Norwegian microbiologist recommends replacing them on the daily basis if someone in the house has cancer. The people most vulnerable to pathogens are infants, the elderly, and anyone with a compromised immune system. I’m sure we haven’t heard the last of this!

Here We Go Again, Another Dam

Source: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

The United States Army Corps of Engineers have given a water agency in Colorado’s Front Range the green light to build a large dam and reservoir to divert and store water from the Colorado River – the first such project that has been permitted in decades.

The $400 million Chimney Hollow dam and reservoir is designed to “firm” water supply to nearly a dozen quickly growing communities in Colorado’s Front Range communities, north of Denver. In water parlance, firming refers to making a variable water supply secure.

Feds Issue Permit for Large Dam on Colorado River Headwaters, Water Deeply, May 31 2017, by Mary Catherine O’Connor

I’ll start off by saying, “This is insane!” Gary Wockner, director of Save the Colorado River,  points out that the Colorado River “is already the most dammed, drained, depleted river on the planet – with every drop drained before it reaches the Gulf of California.” The Colorado River provides water to over 40 million people in the Southwestern states. Currently its two major reservoirs, Lakes Powell and Mead, are already only half full. The Colorado River use to drain into the Gulf of California providing for a rich farming area in northern Mexico. Those days are long gone.

The purpose of the dam is to provide water to the Front Range communities north of Denver. While it is true that these communities are growing at a fast rate and will need water, there are other alternatives available. As a former Californian experienced in living with droughts, I have been living in a Front Range community for 10+ years. I have not witnessed my water district supporting any education about water use. If I ask people around here to describe their water shed, I’m met with blank stares. These Front Range communities have large green lawns and enjoy generous maximum water usage amounts before a higher tiered rate is applied.

In times of drought, water use restriction have been mild compared to what I dealt with in California. Before we dam an over-taxed river, there needs to be some eduction in Colorado. The accelerated rate of building residential properties should take into consideration our existing water supply and restrict building that exceeds the current capacity. Damming rivers is a last resort, not a first resort. Below is a picture of the headwaters area of the Colorado River. A dam and the infrastructure required to built a dam does not belong in this remote area.


Kawuneeche Valley, Rocky Mountains, Colorado River, USA (cc) Darekk2


Fox Watching the Henhouse

Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

There are many insidious ways to undermine the body politic. The current U.S. Administration has used political appointments to formerly apolitical government agencies to create chaos. Here are a few examples:

Lobbyist Who Once Sued Interior Named To Be Department’s No. 2 Official
His name is David Longly Bernhardt, and he’s worked as the top lobbyist for California’s Westlands Water District, the largest agricultural entity of its kind in the nation. He’s sued the Interior Department and helped write legislation on behalf of his client. Largely because of his services, Westlands has paid Bernhardt and the law firm where he works $1.27 million since 2011.

Fresno Bee, April 28, 2017, by Steven Leavenworth

For those familiar with California water issues, the Westlands Water District is a well-known player in thwarting efforts to reduce selenium and other toxic chemicals in California’s irrigation water.

Trump Friend and Climate Foe Sam Clovis Is Up for a Big job at the USDA
The post, undersecretary of research, education, and economics, sets the Agriculture Department’s scientific course. Clovis’s background as a professor of economics fits with the econ and ed parts of the job, but reports of his pending appointment is drawing criticism because he has no experience with scientific research.

Grist, May 15, 2017 by Nathanael Johnson

Clovis was also a Trump campaign advisor and a conservative talk show radio host in Sioux City, Iowa. Surely that makes him qualified to be Chief Scientist for the USDA.

Trump’s New Bank Regulator: Lawyer Who Helped Banks Charge More Fees
Keith Noreika helped big banks avoid state laws protecting consumers. As head of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, he now has the power to override those state laws.

ProPublica, May 15, 2017, by Cezary Podkul

EPA’s Climate Change Page


“We are currently updating our website to reflect EPA’s priorities under the leadership of President Trump and Administrator Pruitt.” Given that statement, I guess the EPA’s Climate Change page will remain in a state of being updated for quite some time.

However, the City of Chicago has published the EPA’s former Climate Change page and the underlying archive of information.


You can visit the City of Chicago/EPA Climate Change page and obtain current information about climate change and how it affects us. It is being hosted on the City of Chicago’s website.