A Christmas Memory

I posted this on Facebook, but, on reflection, I kinda like the story, so I’m going to post it here as well.

One year when I was, I don’t know, about 12 I guess, someone outside the family gave Mom and Dad a game—one of those, “Read the question from the card and guess how the other person will answer” games. We played it, I think, Christmas afternoon. The question came up between Mom and Dad (I don’t even remember of whom it was originally asked) “How important is your job in making you happy?” and whoever did the guessing got it wrong, and was very surprised, and, it being a batch of Brusts, discussion ensued.

In the end, it came out that Dad’s position was that a person shouldn’t have to devote hours every day to something hateful and oppressive, but rather everyone should be able to do work that was rewarding and personally satisfying, and that was one reason he was a socialist.

Mom, on the other hand, thought that the job you held was unimportant, what mattered was the fight for socialism; being a revolutionary socialist was her profession, and her day job didn’t matter at all while that work was still to be carried out.

Just a matter of perspective.

That was Christmas in the Brust household. Merry Christmas, and long live the Fourth International.

Some thoughts on my father

Various things over the last couple of days have brought my father to mind.  There are things that are hard for me that I believe he would have found easy (and, no doubt, vice versa).  I’ve mentioned before that his most extreme term of disapprobation was “unscientific.”  Going along with that, he had an almost pathological hatred for subjectivity.  Maybe to a degree that wasn’t entirely healthy—there are times, after all, when being subjective is appropriate.

I remember when we learned he was dying.  He took it as he had lived: calmly, objectively, with his mind focused on what work he could complete in the time he had left, and making sure he said good-bye to everyone he needed to, and seeing to it that we were all in agreement about the funeral arrangements. During the entire six months, I didn’t hear a single word escape his lips that could possibly be construed as self-pitying, except once.  One day he said, “I won’t be able to read the rest of Steve’s books.”

It broke my heart.


The Tonito Burrito™

You had cute nicknames for your kids, didn’t you? I mean, at least some of them, some of the time? I used to call Toni, “Toni Toni Tonito, of the Tonito Burrito.”  Yeah, yeah, it’s all cute and stuff.  The point is, I recently realized I had never actually made a Tonito Burrito.  So Toni and I put our heads together for what Toni’s Perfect Burrito would be.  I’m setting it down here so I don’t forget.


Three cups cooked white rice
1 Anaheim pepper, seeded and finely diced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely diced
Two pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed.
1 tablespoon minced garlic
mushrooms of choice (we used baby Portabella), sliced
bell peppers of choice (we use yellow and orange), sliced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
juice of 1 lime
large tortillas
A lot of turmeric
sweet and hot paprika
crushed red pepper
Tabasco sauce
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper (viz Alton Brown)
olive oil
your favorite salsa (for moisture and tomato component)
sharp cheddar cheese (or whatever you prefer)
1 red onion, diced
optional: sliced lettuce, sour cream



In a saucepan over high heat, fry the rice in olive oil.  When it’s about done, stir in more turmeric than you think it needs.  Mix well, remove from heat, put in a bowl and set aside.

Dust the chicken with salt, pepper, and sweet paprika.

Heat up the saucepan over high heat, then put in olive oil to cover.  Throw in the Anaheim and jalapeno pepper.

Quickly saute over high heat, then add the chicken.

When the chicken is almost done* add in garlic, mushrooms, onions, bell peppers, and quickly saute

Add lime juice, a sprinkle of hot paprika, and a bit of oregano, basil, a dash of Tabasco sauce, crushed red pepper, cayenne, and marjoram.  Not too heavy on the oregano or it’ll taste like marinara sauce, and you don’t want that.


Building the burrito:

Preheat the tortillas.  If you live in the southwest, you have no excuse for not using good ones, preferably corn, but in Minnesota we take what we can get.

Spoon in some of the fried rice, then the chicken mixture until it looks about right.  Play with the quantities of each until it seems good.

Add salsa, diced red onion, finely shredded sharp cheddar, lettuce, and sour cream if desired but Toni doesn’t like it.


*If one of the people you’re cooking for is a vegetarian, finish the chicken, set it aside in a covered bowl, and then proceed with the rest of the rest of recipe, so the chicken can be omitted.


Tonnito Burritos are good, but the best thing about them is DOGS DON’T GET ANY!

(Sucks to be you, Tuli.  HAHAHA)

Second update on my sister’s condition

Things were scary–terrifying–48 hours ago.  It was looking like multiple-organ failure (or, possibly, there was a game of “telephone” making it sound like that by the time I got the news–I’m still not clear).  In any case, things are worlds better.

It was not a matter of rejection; it was a blockage in an artery.  We’re still waiting for the biopsy, which will tell us how healthy the heart muscle is (thanks, Bets), but, in the meantime, here is her state:

A device to help her heart beat has been removed.

A device to help her breath is running at 75% instead of 100% (ie, she requires less assistence).  There is hope that this device could be removed entirely as soon as today (although I’ve been cautioned not to worry if that doesn’t happen).

Pulse and blood pressure are exactly in the target zone.

She is intubated and has an ng tube for nourishment and she is heavily sedated, though she partly comes out of it from time to time enough to recognize and respond to us.  If it were me, I’d rather remain sedated until the tube is removed (can you imagine me unable to talk?), and that is, I believe, what they plan on doing.

The University of Minnesota medical center has provided wonderful care and (with a couple of possible and minor exceptions) done a great job of keeping us informed.

We have to remember that there could still be a turn for the worse, but, for now, we have reason to be hopeful.



Update on my sister’s condition

My sister, Cynthia (68), was admitted to the hospital this morning after what seemed to be a mild heart attack and congestive heart failure. I’m still not sure if there was a heart attack.  Near as we can tell, her transplanted heart is doing some rejecting things.  They checked it, and today is, by coincidence, day 7000 of the new heart, which is pretty good.  The rejection is taking the form of a buildup of antibodies in her blood.

Treatment is as follows:

1. Strong diuretics to relieve the buildup of fluids in lungs, arms, legs, &c.

2. An interesting procedure where they will pull out her blood, separate the plasma (which contains the anti-bodies), and restore it with new plasma or albumen.

3.  Anti-rejection drugs.

She is only in mild discomfort, at this point, caused by having to stay in bed too long and moving too little.  I’ll be going back tomorrow.

That’s what we know so far.


Edited: Right.  68, not 78.