Friday, March 31, 2006

Scalloped Cabbage

So there's this place in Albia called the Main Street Cafe. It's one of those true Iowa places that simply cannot be properly described.

Years ago, when I was little, it was a Maid-Rite. I'm talking one of the old time Maid-Rites of yesteryear. That hamburger steamer chest thing with the "M R" on the lid is still there.

But now it's the Main Street Cafe, and instead of Maid-Rites, they have "Main Rites"...you get the picture.

It's a half block from my office. There is only room for about 15 people to sit comfortably in this place, but it's usually full every day for breakfast and lunch.

I often have the lunch special, which is not a loose meat sandwich, it's a home style meal. And I mean real home style food. Stuff like my grandma makes.

I'm especially fond of one of the side dishes that sometimes is part of the lunch special: Scalloped Cabbage. What the heck is that, you ask? Don't you worry. It is everything your heart has ever desired and more. Okay, I'm exaggerating, but it really is good.

Anyway, I made it a personal quest to figure out how to make this divine side dish for myself. And I was successful. Not only was I successful, I think I even improved upon it. And now I will share it with you, so you can enjoy this wonderful, wonderful thing.

Scalloped Cabbage
1 small head cabbage, chopped
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
2 1/2 cups milk
1 cup cubed muenster cheese
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups buttered cracker crumbs

Heat oven to 350 degrees
In a large pot, cook chopped cabbage in boiling water for approximately 5 minutes, until tender. Drain.
In a separate pot, make a roux with the butter, flour and milk (melt butter, stir in flour, cook for several minutes, add milk, bring to a boil, stirring constantly) add salt, and then add the cheese and stir until a thick cheese sauce is created.
Grease a baking dish and place half of the cabbage in it. Pour half of the cheese sauce over the cabbage. Add the rest of the cabbage and top with the remaining cheese sauce. Cover with the cracker crumbs and bake for 30 minutes or until bubbling and the crumbs are nicely browned on the top.

Trust me, you'll like it.

Soup suppers

Long time no update. Sorry. I've been doing other things. Let's see...what's happening out there...

So somebody is planning a publicity stunt, to serve soup while Nussle rakes in the cash with Bush.

I actually attended a fantastic soup supper yesterday right here in Albia. It was for our local food bank, the Monroe County Helping Hands Center. They had a fund raiser to help offset the costs of a remodeling project on their building. They served soup during lunch and in the evening. I went for both. They had chili, cheesy potato and ham and beans. I had cheesy potato for lunch, and it was so good I decided to come back for more. They raised a whole bunch of money, and I was happy to play my part.

But anyway, Blouin is in a hotly contested battle for second place, so he really needs some free publicity. He's planning a big photo-op event to happen at the same time Nussle has his fund-raiser with Bush. I wonder which event Blouin's running mate will attend (hehee, get it?).

But enough of that. I have had a truly transcendent experience that I must share. I will explain in my next post.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Ill Communication

I cannot remember the last time I was as sick as I was this week.

Since my last post, I've been very much under the weather.

I was all fine and dandy last Friday at the St. Pat's stuff (Georgetown won Best of Parade). It was fun.

On Saturday, the Irish revelry continued. I went to a party where there was some awesome corned beef and other tasty treats. I had a bit too much Jameson, but nothing out of the ordinary for a guy of my intestinal fortitude. The next day I didn't feel well, but I assumed it was just a mild case the Brown Bottle Flu. Or was it the Boogaloo Flu?

Anyway, it didn't go away. It got worse, and worse, and by late Sunday night, I was shivering and sweating at the same time. On Monday I went to work, but I really don't remember much. I even sat through an Albia City Council meeting, and wrote a good story the next day, but I barely remember any of it. I went to bed and slept. My boss was sick, too. It sucked. We both decided to work through it. It was a rough week.

But it has passed. I'm all better now.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

ERIN GO BRAGH

"May you live as long as you want and never want as long as you live" -- an old Irish blessing...
Tomorrow is St. Patrick's Day, a time when we of Irish American heritage join together to do some of the things we do best (merry-making and carrying-on).
I'll be going to the big parade in Des Moines. A big group of people from Monroe County are going to participate in the parade, lots of folks from Georgetown and Melrose. I am a proud member of the Georgetown variety.
Judge is an Irish name, you ask? Yep, it sure is (Dien is not an Irish name, however. It's Vietnamese, but that's another story).
There are many, many Judges in our big extended family, and we can all trace our heritage to Ireland.
Specifically, I've been told that our family comes from Westmeath County, Ireland. They left during the Potato Famine, and came to America seeking a better future. This is documented in a fascinating, extensive family tree in a book at my Mom and Dad's place.
Our branch of the family settled in the western part of Monroe County, Iowa, and they quickly became successful farmers and leaders of the community.
They helped build the historic St. Patrick's Catholic Church at Georgetown, the oldest church in the county today. Part of our family Century Farm is directly west of the church grounds, and borders on the south and west sides of St. Patrick's Cemetery. That cemetery is where many of my ancestors are buried.
The name means...well, it means "judge" of course. It's an Anglicized version of the old Gaelic name Mac an Bhreitheamhain, or the later version Mac an Bhreithimh, which literally means son of the judge.
I've been told that we of the Judge family are probably related to people who have any of the following surnames: Brain, McBrain, Brehany, McBrehan, Brethany and even more surnames that are just different Anglicized versions of Mac an Bhreitheamhain.

Anyway, I hope the weather is nice for the parade. I'll try to take some photos during and after the parade, and I'll post them over the weekend.

Right on

I don't normally do this kinda thing, but I liked this latest release from my favorite U.S. Senator, I just decided I had to post it:

Harkin Praises Nation's Farmers, Rural America on National Agriculture Day

WASHINGTON, DC ­--Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today praised America's farm families and rural communities for their hard work and dedication in providing an affordable and abundant supply of food, energy and other goods for the nation. In celebrating National Agriculture Day, Harkin called on all Americans to recognize the vital role of agriculture in meeting everyday needs ­ from food and fiber to renewable energy and biobased products.

"U.S. agriculture is the most productive in the world, meaning a steady supply of reasonably priced food and other products," Harkin said. "The strength of our agriculture is a stabilizing force in the American economy ­ and that strength is rooted in the people who make American agriculture what it is today."

America's farmers are currently leading the way in producing renewable energy. Farmers have been greatly expanding America's production of ethanol, biodiesel, windpower and also have begun using farm-based commodities in producing industrial greases, lubricants, plastics and many other products traditionally made from petroleum. Just last week, USDA moved forward with a program Harkin established in the farm bill that requires government agencies give preference to purchase industrial (non-food) biobased products as long as they are available, perform well, and are not unreasonably priced. "It's an exciting time for American agriculture," said Harkin. "Today, farmers and rural Americans are not only meeting the nutritional needs of Americans at the dinner table, but also supplying farm-based renewable energy and fuels while improving our environment. The sky is the limit with what America's agriculture can do to reduce our country's dependence on foreign oil and boost our energy security."

"Our farmers remain good stewards of the land," Harkin said. "We in Washington must do more to reward sound stewardship and encourage even further environmental gains. Much has been done, and more needs to be."

Amen, brutha.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Drove down to Ottumwa this morning

Wow, what a beautiful day. I'm not about to waste it sitting in front of a computer.

But I do want to put up a quick post about what I did this morning. I drove over to Ottumwa this morning and briefly stopped by the Wapello County Dems convention. I split after the gubernatorial candidate speeches.

When I got there I quickly found the Culver crew had just arrived and I introduced myself to some of the guys I hadn't met before. I had a quick minute to chat with Chet about the campaign, and then it was time for him to go in and visit with the Wapello County Democrats.

There was a nice crowd assembled, and I was pleased to see a clear majority of Culver/Judge signs and lots of Culver stickers around the room.

KTVO had a camera set up.

Denise O'Brien said hello, and she recognized me from when I met her at the Jefferson-Jackson dinner last fall. She is very personable and friendly, and we had a nice chat about her campaign for Secretary of Agriculture.

I also chatted for a minute with Ed Fallon before the meeting was called to order. I told him that he had exceeded my expectations and he was making waves with his campaign. He was wearing a suit and tie, for those of you out there keeping score of that kind of stuff.

Gubernatorial candidate speeches were the first item of business. Apparently they drew numbers for order of speeches. Chet was first.

Chet gave a great speech, emphasizing his priorities of pushing renewable energy and making Iowa number one again in education. Overall it was a well-polished, fantastic speech. He stuck in a jab to another gubernatorial candidate who is on record as saying the minimum wage is meaningless and irrelevant. I think most of the crowd knew what he was talking about. He emphasized the fact that he is a proud progressive, and a fifth generation Iowan. Lots of nice jabs at Nussle, and a mention about how the Culver campaign is already beating Nussle in the polls. He'll protect women's rights to make their own health care decisions, and push for stem cell research. The Wapello County crowd reacted very positively to Chet's message.

Fallon was up next, he gave his standard speech that we've become familiar with. Campaign finance reform and stuff like that. He mentioned that Nussle has already spent a million bucks, and we can't even tell what he's spent it on. Also mentioned that he has never even seen Nussle at any candidate forum or event so far in the campaign. Talked about how corporate welfare is wrong (read: the Grow Iowa Values Fund). He had a minor slip of the tongue when he was listing his heroes...Paul Wellstone, Tom Harkin, Howard Hughes...oops, Harold Hughes. Heheh. He corrected himself immediately and laughed about it. Overall the speech was not too shabby.

Blouin drew the coveted finishing slot. He started off by saying, "Isn't it a great day to be a Democrat?" and the crowd clapped. The first thing that popped into my head was...dude, I'm a Democrat every day. He joked around a lot and got some laughs at Nussle's expense. I must admit the "bag too small for head now" joke really is a knee-slapper. I didn't catch any mention of his Democrat-Since-2005 running mate. Maybe I just missed it. Honestly, it was a good speech. Lots of great Nussle one-liners that I wish I'd thought of first.

Friday, March 10, 2006

BSG season finale

That was quite a finale for Battlestar Galactica tonight. The show had a little bit of everything, I must say I was pleased but also saddened that I now have to wait until October for more. It certainly ended differently than I predicted. This season has definitely had its weak episodes, but the finale really delivered.

One of the highlights: Chief gave a speech that would have made John L. Lewis proud. I need to watch the show again, write that speech down and memorize it.

Oh, and ya gotta love Adama's cool mustache.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Switch grass test burn

What was the only good thing Bush said in the State of the Union speech? That's right...switchgrass.

I put an article in the paper today about a switch grass test burn that is being conducted at the Ottumwa Generating Station. It's really cool stuff.

There is a group called the Chariton Valley Biomass Project that has been conducting these tests at the power plant for the last few years. This new test is the final stage of the process, and it sounds like everything is working beautifully.

They basically take huge bales of switch grass hay and grind them into a dust. That dust is mixed with pulverized coal and burned to create some of the electricity you are using right now to read this on your computer. You can read more about it here.

In 2001, I was invited to tour the plant and see the test equipment during the first phase of the test. It's one of those news assignments that I'll never, ever forget. Truly one of the most fascinating stories I have covered in my six and a half years as a news reporter.

It's really, really promising research, and I gotta give everybody involved due credit for working hard on this project, including the folks at Alliant Energy. Of course, making switch grass work as an alternative to fossil fuels is not exactly perfect yet. But it is the research that is most important right now. And they are gathering vast amounts of information on one of the possible alternative fuels of the future.

It's also really cool to me because the Ottumwa Generating Station, and this cutting-edge research in renewable fuels, are only about six miles from my house.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Monroe County Democratic Party Convention Report

(Updated from earlier post)
We had a nice morning at the courthouse for the county convention. It was great to see a lot of friends in attendance.

After the delegates were seated, we approved our platform positions. I don't have them word-for-word, but here's the gist of them:
1. Simplify the Medicare prescription drug program, making it easier for senior citizens to obtain their needed medications.
2. Sentencing reform: Make Iowa sentencing laws conform with the federal Truth in Sentencing law, providing an honest and accurate measure of the actual time an inmate will spend in prison.
3. Our National Parks must never be sold to loggers, oil drillers or mining companies.
4. The U.S. Constitution must be interpreted by the Supreme Court, and any elected official who does not conform to that interpretation must be removed from office (including the President of the United States).
5.Push for a paper printout capability on electronic voting machines.

We were asked if we wanted to break into preference groups. No motion for preference groups was made, so it died for lack of a motion.

Candidates for public office had the opportunity to speak.

The first speaker was Buzz Malone (yes, his real name is Buzz), from Chariton. He's running for the Iowa House of Representatives. I'd never met him before, but I'm very happy to see we finally have a Democratic candidate for this race. And Buzz is going to be a great candidate. He was funny, passionate, and he's got a great background. He's just the type of candidate we need at the Statehouse.

The next speaker was Connie Terry, wife of Dusky Terry. Dusky Terry is seeking the office of Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, which is the office my mom has held since she made history in 1998. Connie was very nice, and she visited with everyone. She sat by my grandpa.

Next up, was...ME! My mom was unable to attend because she was traveling around central Iowa to other conventions, so I took the opportunity to speak on behalf of the Culver-Judge ticket for Iowa Governor. I honestly did not know I was going to be doing this until this morning, so I didn't have a speech prepared. I just emphasized Chet Culver's strengths as a Democrat, and Mom's strengths and long record of service. I said that Mom and Chet are the only candidates in the race who have a record of winning statewide elections. I said that they have a proven record, over a long period of time, of being on the Democratic Party's side of the issues. I said that they are both well known throughout the state. And I said that there is never any question about where they stand on the issues. When Mom or Chet tell you something, they mean it. And the last point I emphasized strongly was the fact that they have both proven their dedication to the Democratic Party, unlike any of the other candidates in the race. I'd never given that kind of speech before, but I actually think I did alright. My wife said it was great.

In came Dodie Boswell! She is always fun. She started off by asking all of us in the room to take a really deep breath, look at the person next to us, exhale, and say "My...you look good today!" Of course everybody laughed and we tried to do it, but it was basically just a big laugh. She gave a very informal talk about her husband, Rep. Leonard Boswell, and even sang us a song. The song was called "The Hills of Southern Iowa," which she wrote long ago when they were in Portugal. She said that he is working really hard right now, and that he has been through a tough time with his health but he's doing well. We all need to really work hard for Leonard and make sure he wins in November.

Then it was time for some of our great county officials. Monroe County Recorder Tracy Casady spoke, then Monroe County Supervisor Denny Ryan, County Attorney Steve Goodlow, and County Treasurer Sandy Clark. It's a great set of officials, and I'm sure they'll win re-election this November. (Steve Goodlow was really funny. He was sitting next to Denny Ryan, and he said he just couldn't bring himself to look at Denny and say "My...you look good today!")

Later on, Matt Paul from the Blouin campaign came in. He gave his speech for Blouin, and hung around a while before leaving. He was polite.

Time to elect delegates to the Third District and State Conventions.

Monroe County gets four delegates. The first nominee approved was my brother, Joe Judge. The second nominee approved was my wife, Steva Havick Judge. The third nominee was Doran Haywood, but he graciously declined the nomination. Then, Eleanor Barnhill was nominated and approved. The fourth nominee that was approved was moi. Alternates will be my grandma, Lois Poole; my brother's fiancee Allison Paulk; and Betty Stewart.

After we adjourned, there was a county central committee meeting. My brother Joe was elected county party chairman.

Then we went to Granny's and had lunch.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Fun facts

There's been a lot of news this week about the campaign, and lots of spin. I'm not going to spin what's already been spun.
What I think would be helpful, rather, would be for me to discuss Mom's past political successes. Mom has won many tough elections. The other candidates seeking the office of Iowa Lt. Governor have won a grand total of zero elections. The opponents and their shadowy blogger operatives can spin that all they want, but they cannot change the fact that she has a proven track record of winning by proudly saying what she believes.

Now, I'm going to repeat some things that I have posted before, but I think this is a good time to emphasize this stuff.

Some details:
In 1992, after serving several years as the chair of the Monroe County Democratic Party, Mom was recruited to run for an open Iowa Senate seat that had been created after the 1990 re-districting. It was Senate District 46, and at that time it was the largest Senate district in sheer square miles in Iowa. The district covered Monroe, Appanoose, Davis, Wayne, Lucas and Clarke counties, with a small part of Van Buren County as well.

There was a Democratic Primary that year, and she faced a candidate named Dave Rinehart from Wayne County. I got involved in the process, too. With the help of some of my good friends, I created my own stencil system and hand painted approximately 50 4x8 sheets of plywood. They were bright red, with big white letters that read "Patty Judge State Senate." I still have several shirts, pairs of jeans and other things that are covered in red and white paint Jackson Pollock style. I helped drive these big signs all over the place, standing them up with steel fence posts. She soundly defeated Rinehart in the June election, receiving the first 3,196 votes of her political career. She knew the issues that were important to the people of southern Iowa, and she knew how to communicate her message.

That November, Bill Clinton won the presidency. Mom defeated Republican Richard Arnold and was seated in the Iowa Senate. She received 13,269 votes in that election. Part of her success was the fact that she told people exactly what she believed, and she meant everything she said.
Fast forward to 1996. There was no challenger in the Democratic Primary for Mom's office. She received 3,607 votes in that primary. Later that fall, she was challenged by Republican Claude Neill of Clio. It was a strong victory when she won re-election, receiving 14,181 votes.

In 1998, she was ready for another challenge. Democrats were preparing to take back Terrace Hill after the Branstad years. Mom decided to do what no other woman had ever done, and that was to win the office of Iowa Secretary of Agriculture. She received 85,757 votes in the 1998 June Democratic Primary. Then Sen. Tom Vilsack, who had also entered the Iowa Senate after the 1992 election, became the Democratic nominee for governor.

That summer, I got the chance to be in a TV commercial. It was a very weird experience.

Tom Vilsack's positive message resonated that year, and Mom's straight talking style also appealed to the voters of Iowa. It was another great victory in November. She received 451,715 votes and defeated Republican Dan Brown. And she made history. She broke the glass ceiling on the office of ag secretary in Iowa. No matter what happens in the future, no one can ever take that away.

By 2000, she had become well-known in the national Democratic Party, and was invited to speak at the 2000 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles. She served as party parliamentarian at the convention.
Fast forward to 2002.

Time for the re-election campaign. In the June Primary, she received 73,938 votes. (side note: Republican Bob Vander Plaats received 63,077 votes in the Republican gubernatorial primary). In November, Mom was challenged in the 2002 General Election by a Republican named John Askew, as well as several alternative party candidates. Mom won, receiving 490,561 votes.

In addition to her work in the ag department, she continued to be an active voice in the Democratic Party. She was once again invited to speak at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, where she declared on the stage in Boston that quality health care is a right, and not a privilege. She also had the honor of serving on the Democratic Party Platform Drafting Committee with other leaders from around the country.

In her political career, Mom has received an overall grand total of 1,136,274 votes of support. The two other candidates seeking the office of Lt. Governor have received 63,077 votes, and zero votes, respectively.

And in clear contrast to the other candidates, Mom's dedication to the Democratic Party is unquestionable.
I sincerely thank you for your time.
Dien