Archive for November, 2013

These guys know how to tailgate like a boss.


These photos were not taken in The South… but they should have been!


Happy Thanksgiving! Happy Hanukah!


The X-Grill  is Breakaway‘s own giant mobile barbeque grill. The Brain Child of the Dr. of Grillology Ken Foster, and brought to life by Gary Webb. The X-Grill began its life as an Oil Delivery Truck for us here at Hall Oil and the Oil Peddler, and has been reborn as a mobile barbeque.

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Ah, those darling damsels in distress.


I can’t get enough of them. Then there are days when I wish they’d think first. Just for once! 🙂

When I do work as a public defender, many of the people I represent are girls between the ages of 12 and 17.


Some are kids who were at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Others are kids who make rotten choices when it comes to friends.


Some girls are devastated having spent a night in jail.

Some think it’s cool that they’ve spent some time in a juvenile detention centre.


And for a few sad cases, they don’t mind being in custody because the group home they’re housed in is a heck of a lot better than life at home. These girls are in no hurry to leave.

On the odd occasion, a brush with the law does the job and the kids straighten themselves up. Too few. Too far between.

For all of their nonsense, I really do enjoy helping these young people. I just wish they’d smarten up.


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Thanks to intrepid science reporter Danielle Elliot!

As she reports in the Weird & Wild section at the National Geographic, an influx of emus is starting to take over a town in Queensland, Australia.

Shopkeepers in any downtown area love foot traffic, right? It’s the key to business.

But what if that traffic isn’t full of potential shoppers. What if, instead, it’s a flock of large birds strutting their stuff down the sidewalks?

That’s the scene these days in Longreach, Queensland; an influx of emus (Dromaius novaehollandiae) is starting to take over the town.

“They were waltzing up and down the street, drinking from the puddles and having a nibble in the garden beds at a council redevelopment site down the road. They were making themselves right at home,” gallery and coffee shop owner Deb Scott told The Australian.

Local experts say the emus are looking for food, but drivers are more concerned that they’re going to end up as road kill—someone forgot to teach them to look both ways before crossing the street.

“They are taking absolutely no notice of the people, or the cars or dogs,” Longreach Mayor Joe Owens told the Australian Broadcasting Company. “When they are crossing the street, people have to stop for them. They just toddle across as they please.”

And that’s posing a challenge for drivers, considering their long legs allow them to sprint at 31 miles per hour and cover up to nine feet in a single stride. The largest bird native to Australia, they have soft brown feathers, but they never take flight. (Related: “The Great Emu Caper.”)


The emus have been circling the outlying areas of town for a few months, the ABC reports, but this is the first time they’ve ventured into the more densely populated town center.

Under normal conditions, emus stick to the brush, feasting on seeds, grass, and insects. They can last several weeks without a meal, but higher-than-average temperatures and an extended drought have left them on the hunt.

“The [kangaroos] and the emus are just desperately seeking something to eat and a bit of greenery, so they are marching in and getting it wherever they can,” naturalist Angus Emmott told ABC.

As the drought continues, there’s no telling when the emus will leave the main areas of town, but one thing’s for sure: It’s not every day that you get to share a sidewalk with an emu.


Danielle Elliot is a multimedia producer and writer who earned her chops reporting and producing for networks, start-ups, and everything in between. A graduate of the University of Maryland, she covered tennis and Olympic figure skating for a few years before earning an M.A. in Science and Health Journalism at Columbia University.

Follow her on Twitter.

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English is not an easy language.

Having said that, while English is not my first language (Italian is), I am glad I was born and raised in an English speaking country.


I would hate to have to learn English coming from another country and language.

My mother did it and I really admire her for it. Well done, Ma!

My daughter teaches English in Israel, and manages the Netanya learning centre for Wall Street English. I don’t know how her students master English and not go crazy.


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The combination of sweet potatoes and white potatoes are a great variation on the traditional latke. I usually make both types and alternate them on a platter around a bowl of French onion sour cream dip. Use chilled applesauce for a pareve dipping option.



3 sweet potatoes, peeled
3 Yukon potatoes (or Russet), peeled
6 eggs
1 scallion or green onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Oil for frying

  • Grate potatoes finely and mix with remaining ingredients in a large bowl.
  • Preheat a large frying pan with about a half an inch of oil.
  • Drop batter by tablespoonful into the frying pan.
  • Fry 3 to 4 minutes on each side, until brown and crispy.
  • Remove from oil and drain on paper towels to absorb extra oil.

Yield: 12 latkes




2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 extra large Vidalia onion or two regular sweet onions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp onion soup mix (without MSG) dissolved in ½ cup hot water
¼  tsp freshly ground black pepper
8 oz whipped cream cheese
2 cups sour cream (light works just as well)

  • Heat olive oil in a large pot. Add onions and garlic. Let cook on medium heat for 10 minutes until soft and slightly browned. Add dissolved onion soup mix and black pepper and let cook for 5 more minutes or until water has evaporated. Remove from heat and cool slightly.
  • Meanwhile, mix cream cheese and sour cream together in a large bowl. Add cooked onion mixture and combine very well. (I like to smooth out the texture with a few pulses from an immersion blender.) Refrigerate up to 3 days.


Chag sameach!


I actually found the above recipe in Toronto Family Magazine, Vol. 2, Issue 12.

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There, Their, They’re…


Why is this so hard, people!?


I mean really!


But use them properly… and I just melt!


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My dear friend and professional colleague, EM, and I were sitting in a courtroom the other day, discussing simple homespun adages from The South.

We both have a soft spot for pithy precepts and little aphorisms that gladden the heart and give us words by which to live.

A well-coined phrase from south of the Mason-Dixon line [1] speaks to our depths.

Here’s an example…

Those who stir the shit… should be made to lick the spoon!


Someone should put that one on a doily.  Ah’m serious!


[1] The Mason–Dixon line (or Mason’s and Dixon’s line) was surveyed between 1763 and 1767 by Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon in the resolution of a border dispute between British colonies in Colonial America. It is a demarcation line among four U.S. states, forming part of the borders of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, and West Virginia (then part of Virginia). (Wikipedia)

In popular usage, the Mason–Dixon line symbolizes a cultural boundary between the Northeastern and the Southern United States (Dixie).

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And by awe-inspiring, I sometimes mean creepy!

Shrouded Forest, Slovakia

shrouded-forest-slovakia(Image: via bluepueblo.tumblr.com)

And I don’t mean creepy in a negative way. I mean creepy in a delightfully goose-bumpy way!

Love it!


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Sitting at the Dock of the Bacon!

Well, boys and girls… bacon-eggs

Here we are again.


The American and Canadian obsession with bacon!


Now that Halloween is over…

monster-bacon-loafAnd with American Thanksgiving and Christmas on the horizon…


The  popular imagination turns to thoughts of ham…


And more specifically… bacon.


The thought of a world without bacon gives some people the heebie-jeebies!


Some people try to pit bacon against wealth.


Some people try to mix bacon with other physical pleasures!


And some people try a fusion of bacon and Art.


Many history buffs do not ignore bacon’s glorious past.


Some people have gone so far as to threaten roughhousing at the thought of having their bacon burgled.


And then, there are the hopeless romantics.


Those of us with a fondness for and/or an attachment to The South have our own way to put a cultural spin on things.

chickenfried-bacon(Chicken fried bacon)

And to some, thoughts of bacon are as ingrained as thoughts of sex


So whether you like your pig candy as a bold fashion statement


Or not…


… until next time, I will leave bacon where it best belongs…


On a plate, waiting to kill you.


Thanks a million to my readers and myriad alleged friends who continue to send me bacon-related photos, videos and articles.

I can only say… You’re all sick and need to seek good professional help! 🙂


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The geeks and nerdlings over at ScienceDaily.com have once again failed to disappoint!

How Common Are Habitable Planets? One in Five Sun-Like Stars May Have Earth-Size, Potentially Habitable Planets

Yes, boys and girls, we may not be the ‘one of a kind’ world we once thought!

It seems there are a whole bunch of Earth-size planets out there. And by ‘a whole bunch,’ I mean several tens of billions. That’s getting up there, for sure.

The article begins, “NASA’s Kepler space telescope, now crippled and its four-year mission at an end, nevertheless provided enough data to answer its main research question: How many of the 200 billion stars in our galaxy have potentially habitable planets?”

The article continues, “Based on a statistical analysis of all the Kepler observations, University of California, Berkeley, and University of Hawaii, Manoa, astronomers now estimate that one in five stars like the sun have planets about the size of Earth and a surface temperature conducive to life. Given that about 20 percent of stars are sun-like, the researchers say, that amounts to several tens of billions of potentially habitable, Earth-size planets in the Milky Way Galaxy.”

Before we start jumping into our silver Flash Gordon outfits, let’s keep one thing in mind… Earth-size does not automatically mean habitable!!

habitable-planets(Credit: Petigura/UC Berkeley, Howard/UH-Manoa, Marcy/UC Berkeley)

The team cautioned that Earth-size planets in orbits about the size of Earth’s are not necessarily hospitable to life, even if they reside in the habitable zone around a star where the temperature is similar to that on our planet.

Yes, habitability is a fairly important factor when we’re talking about Earth-like planets. We have to take the Goldilocks Approach. Some are too hot, some are too cold… and some are just right!

“Some may have thick atmospheres, making it so hot at the surface that DNA-like molecules would not survive. Others may have rocky surfaces that could harbor liquid water suitable for living organisms,” Marcy said. “We don’t know what range of planet types and their environments are suitable for life.”

“The primary goal of the Kepler mission was to answer the question, ‘When you look up in the night sky, what fraction of the stars that you see have Earth-size planets at lukewarm temperatures so that water would not be frozen into ice or vaporized into steam, but remain a liquid, because liquid water is now understood to be the prerequisite for life?'” the researchers said. “Until now, no one knew exactly how common potentially habitable planets were around sun-like stars in the galaxy.”

A bit of a side-note here. Amazing scientists are usually lumped together and tagged with general labels like ‘scientists,’ ‘researchers,’ ‘the team’ or, my personal favourite, ‘the study says.’

Let’s take a minute to give credit where credit is most certainly due.

  • Erik Petigura, UC Berkeley graduate student  who led the analysis of the Kepler data.
  • Andrew Howard, a former UC Berkeley post-doctoral fellow who is now on the faculty of the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii; and
  • Geoffrey Marcy, UC Berkeley professor of astronomy.

These really smart and hard-working men, will publish their analysis and findings this week in the online early edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Well done, gentlemen. Well done.


Journal Reference:
Erik A. Petigura, Andrew W. Howard, and Geoffrey W. Marcy.
Prevalence of Earth-size planets orbiting Sun-like stars.
PNAS, November 4, 2013 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1319909110

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