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Archive for the ‘Death by Fork’ Category

Logorrhea

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

I Wish I had a Deformed Cat

Yesterday I got curious and looked around the web to see how hard writing is for other people. When I worked for my law school paper, I saw people lock up when they were asked to write a couple of hundred words, and when I was blogging and dealing with bloggers who wanted to write books, I knew people who couldn’t get more than a few pages done. Clearly, my situation is not like that.

On the web I saw people talking about the goal of writing a few hundred or a thousand words per day. It was like they were talking about learning to run ten miles per day; they seemed to consider it difficult enough to make achieving the goal unlikely.

This Saturday, I cranked out something like 3000 words just to relax. If I had to write 4000 per day as a 40-hour job, I would think nothing of it. I once wrote a 48-page legal brief in a day. I believe it was 48. Anyway, it was over 40. It made the judge mad. It was too long.

I wonder what the purpose of this facility is. The fact that you have an ability doesn’t mean you know what to do with it.

Whenever I’m with my dad, and we hear Rush Limbaugh on the radio, my dad says the same thing: he can’t believe a person can talk for three hours a day without running dry. Someone who used to have a radio show once complained to me about this. Apparently, this person dreaded having to come up with material.

It wouldn’t be a problem for me. There is always something to say or write. Life is a constant flow of experiences, insights, and ideas. You can’t say you lack stimulation.

You can’t choose your talents. If I had been given a choice, I would have held onto writing, but I would have traded cooking for something else. I have really enjoyed cooking extraordinary food, but it’s not an important gift. It’s trivial. And you can’t use it all the time. I get up every day and eat the same boring stuff: homemade vegetable soup. I almost never cook anything good for lunch. I grab a protein bar or a sandwich. If I really cooked, I would weigh 400 pounds, and it would slice two hours out of every day.

I am fairly good at a number of things, but the older I get, the more it looks like writing and cooking are the only areas where I really shine. It’s like being good at theoretical physics and tiddly winks. One gift that can have an impact on the world, and another which is more or less a novelty.

I envy people who have gifts that guarantee them a livelihood. Songwriters, in particular. If you write one hit song, you can retire. Even if you go into a coma right after you publish it, the money will continue coming in, and your heirs will also be able to benefit from the copyright.

Doctors are also fortunate. Their incomes may wax and wane, but no one will ever tell a doctor his job has been rendered obsolete. And doctors are welcome everywhere. Back when Haiti was in an uproar over the earthquake, people I knew were going there as volunteers, but I stayed here. I figured the Haitians could do anything I could do, just as well, except for practicing law. What was I supposed to do over there with my legal skills? Sue people? If I had been a doctor, I would have flown over and made myself useful. There would have been a purpose in it.

I can write, but cashing in on it is not that easy. I got some silly books published, but they did not make me rich. I have worked as a copywriter, but that kind of work comes and goes. I used to write for a newspaper magazine, but even if I had done that full-time, I would have pocketed a maximum of $800 a month.

To sell books, you have to write books people want. There has to be a waiting market. That’s not hard if you write novels; people will always want something to kill time on airplanes. But other types of books are harder to sell. And of course, editors are buried in complete garbage. People who absolutely cannot write refuse to stop sending their horrible manuscripts, so it’s hard to rise above the noise.

It’s not easy to cash in on cooking, either. Restaurants are a nightmare to run. There is a ton of regulation. There are piles of paperwork. You have to deal with cooks and waiters, who are right up there with musicians when it comes to honesty and responsibility. You have to deal with things that are totally unrelated to good cooking. Then when you get the business running, you gross $3 million per year and take home $30,000, working 15-hour days, six days a week. And even if your food is great, the public may simply get tired of it.

Lots of people get rich in the restaurant business, but you have to be a fool to risk your capital on it. Even with hard work and talent, it’s a lottery ticket.

I always hope God will arrange it so I will never have to practice law again. The responsibility is just too much, unless you’re the kind of person who doesn’t care. If I represent you one time, I am responsible to you for the rest of my life. And I can be sued for malpractice, at 90, for something I did when I was 40. The statute of limitations is short, but there are ways around it. In continuing legal education, I was taught that you should pay for malpractice insurance for as long as you live! How would you like to do that? You could easily pay out a third of what you earned in your career. Or you can trust your former clients to be nice to you. Yeah. That’s a sure thing.

The other day a friend asked me for legal advice, and I told him what I tell everyone: no way. I don’t care if they get mad. I’m not going to put myself in a position where I have to look over my shoulder for the next thirty years. Friends don’t sue friends, but then friends don’t stay friends, either. Former friends sue lawyers for malpractice every day.

Seriously, I think there is nothing like royalty income. You don’t have to manage property and be abused by tenants. You don’t have to buy and sell securities, risking a beating every time you trade. You don’t have to go to work. You can’t get fired. And copyright royalties are the best, because they never expire. Among copyright royalties, songwriting royalties are probably the best, because you don’t have to perform or promote, once a song gets noticed. You sit back and take money from other people. They do the performing. Their promoters do the promoting. You sit around at home, eating Cheetos.

Oh, well. I can write and I can cook. That’s how it is.

I could go ahead and write a book every three months and see what happens, but there’s a problem. I’m a Christian. You can’t just spew words out for money when God isn’t behind it. You have to wait for him. On top of that, what if I wrote a popular Christian book? Could I take money for that? If God gives you something for nothing, should you charge for it, especially when it’s possible to put it on the Internet and give it to billions of people free of charge?

You can say the laborer is worthy of his hire, but is that really apt, when you have almost no expenses? If you have to give up your job in order to serve God, you should be paid, but what if you don’t?

I think about that when I read Christian books. The writers have a conflict of interest: God versus Mammon.

Some books cost a lot of money to write, but most don’t. If I wrote a Christian book, it would cost me nothing, except for ISP fees. I wouldn’t have to travel or take photographs or pay for a cover design. Even before the Internet age, Paul wrote books, and all he did was dictate while someone scribbled. Worked out pretty well.

I should teach Marv to do something entertaining. Have you seen Grumpy Cat? I saw a news story that says he pulls in $50 million per year for his owners. God help those people if a dog gets him. I would keep him in a safe.

I won’t complain about what God gave me. It’s nice to be able to write, even if I have no idea what the value of it is. The cooking, I’ve pretty much given up on, but I will always want to communicate. And it’s going great guns. Like 50 people read this blog now.

I guess I’ve written enough; I’m procrastinating because I don’t want to study accounting. I better get in on it.

I’ll be back. You can count on that.

I’ll Have the Sparkling Water

Saturday, May 14th, 2016

Rum Wears Out its Welcome

I had a lot of fun fooling around with tiki drinks this week, but I think I’m done for a while. I’m starting to think there is something poisonous in rum.

When I was in college, I thought drunkenness was a good thing, and I worked at it. It was very unusual for me to get sick, but I managed it a few times. I also got sick once after I graduated from law school. The two worst hangovers I ever had were from dark rum. It won’t just make you sick the day you drink it; it will make you sick for half of the following day.

I had some Jamaican friends when I was in law school, and one of them told me they don’t drink dark rum. She said it was for the tourists. I guess the Jamaicans know something.

Anyway, I had maybe four rum drinks this week, which is not exactly binge drinking, and today I feel sort of off. I really think there is something in that stuff, apart from alcohol, which the body does not like.

I didn’t use dark rum; I used Flor de Cana golden rum, which is about the color of brandy.

Interesting.

I had a few days of nostalgia, and I really enjoyed cooling off after working on plumbing and so on, but I would not want to drink this stuff every week.

A lot of Christians are very worked up about alcohol. I don’t worry about it. Every once in a while, I have a drink. On rare occasions, I have two. I think I’ll be okay. I would not encourage anyone else to drink, if it’s a problem.

Some people rewrite history. They claim Jesus was a teetotaler who drank fresh grape juice and called it wine. Yeah, okay. And for five bucks I’ll sell you a keychain made from a fragment of the cross.

I used to brew my own beer, and it was wonderful, but I don’t do it any more. When you barely drink, what do you do with five-gallon kegs of beer? They sit and go to waste. The extra fridge takes up space.

The down side of giving up brewing is that it’s nearly impossible for me to get a really good beer. There are a few beers that are good; I like Flying Dog Snake Dog ale and Dogfish 60 Minute IPA. But it’s nothing like having four or five utterly magnificent beers on tap.

It’s not a big sacrifice. I don’t care much about it.

I did a lot more work on the house yesterday. I removed a lot of useless PVC from the pool pump, and I replumbed it. I broke down and bought a reciprocating saw, like a Sawzall. I got a DeWalt. They get good reviews. It did a wonderful job of hacking pipes out so they could be thrown on the trash heap.

I’m still bummed out that I can’t find anyone competent to take my money. I would be satisfied with work that is merely good. It doesn’t have to be fantastic. Good is too much to ask in Miami. Everything is done to the Latin American standard, which is very low. There is a reason why BMWs are made in Germany instead of Honduras.

Call me a racist if you want. Cultural differences are not imaginary. Defending your stupid culture is a sure path to loserhood. Admitting its faults is the beginning of improvement. If you want to hear some heavy criticism, ask me about the backward, defeat-oriented culture I came from.

Yesterday one of my Cuban friends used vile language in a text message to tell me how much he hates Miami. He has plans for bookshelves, and he can’t find anyone who can build them. Ridiculous.

I’m trying to figure out what to do about the pumphouse’s electrical ground. There is a bar hammered into the ground outside the pumphouse, and there’s a big wire next to it. It’s not connected. Is that because some idiot knocked the clamp off, or is it because it’s bad for the pumphouse to have its own ground? I’m trying to find out. I’m tempted to call an electrician, but then I think about all the potentially deadly electrician errors I’ve found and fixed.

As far as I know, there are only two wires connecting the house and the pumphouse, and neither is a ground.

I am Googling around, and it looks like the ground rod should be connected. I think I’ll hook it up and see if anything explodes. I would rather have grounding than no grounding, even if it causes some comparatively minor issue with the electrical service. When I say “comparatively minor,” I am using “instant death on the pumphouse floor” as a reference.

The plumbing is not right. The pipes are generally on the floor or close to it, inviting breakage. People step on things. Also, the pipes are not supported. I looked it up, and PVC at 100 degrees has to be supported every five feet. I’m going to figure out how to do that. Whatever I do may not be the recommended method, but it will work, and it will be better than nothing.

Things keep going well in my prayer life and personal development. God keeps moving me to higher levels.

I’ve started to get a better feel for the degree of brainwashing mankind has experienced. We feel self-conscious about God. Why is that? Why don’t we think God is cool? He creates galaxies. He confers invulnerability and power. He is in charge, and if you’re aligned with him, you’re in charge, too. Why do we think that’s something to be ashamed of?

Being right is cool. Being powerful is cool. Not wasting your life is cool.

Our perceptions are completely warped. But with time, prayer, and submission, it changes.

The longer I live, the more I realize the people around me are idiots. I suppose that doesn’t sound Christlike. Look at this place, though. We run around in circles, doing things that don’t matter. We devote our lives to things God is eventually going to burn. We love man’s temporary, cobbled-together solutions to problems. We hate God’s solutions, which are perfect and come without regret. This place is horrible. It’s like Sodom. We can’t do anything right. We hate the very notion of doing things right.

I can’t respect humanity. It’s too much to ask. I was a mistake to try. It was a rabbit trail. People have a lot of knowledge, and you shouldn’t ignore all of it, but it’s stupid to put human beings on pedestals. As far as we know, Buddha is in hell. Alexander the Great is in hell. Albert Einstein. Aristotle. All sorts of human beings we think of as superhuman. You can push respect way too far.

We ruin everything down here. The worst part about it is that we destroy human beings.

I thought about that this morning while I was watching a show about technology. They were talking about a special ship that upends itself and turns into a research platform. It reminded me of an experience I had when I was a kid. Don’t ask me why.

My dad represented the Alcoa aluminum company. They had a special aluminum ship which was built for research. It was docked in the Bahamas or somewhere–I forget–and they invited my dad to bring me to see it. They took us on board and gave us a tour.

Today I thought about how little I got out of that experience, which should have been very rich.

When I was a kid, I was afraid of everyone. I had no self-confidence. I could not talk to people. I had been raised in a house of abuse, and my response was to wilt and hide.

Some kids are not like that. They choose to be as aggressive as their abusers. I believe Freud called this “aggressor identification.” You could also call it a generational curse or a cycle of abuse. Kids decide it’s better to be the abuser than the abused, so that’s the path they take. My sister went that way.

I couldn’t cope with life. Mainly, I wanted to be left alone. I was so used to losing, I was highly motivated to avoid trying. A lot of my encounters with my dad consisted of him verbally abusing me until I gave up and left him alone, which was what he wanted, so you can imagine how I felt about approaching people. He actively, deliberately worked to make me back down, feel bad about myself, and leave in fear.

I think this is why I love tools so much. Tools represent power and success. They counter feelings of being unable to cope.

Parents are supposed to prevent kids from growing up to be as I was. When a kid falters, his parents are supposed to notice it and take him aside and teach him how to stand up and respond to life’s challenges. I was afraid of my dad, and my mother was not much better off than I was, so I just sat back and decayed. When I was in my twenties, I started trying to compensate, but change was extremely gradual. The chains we put inside ourselves are heavy, and it takes a lot of time to cut them and push them out.

My dad didn’t seem to realize he was supposed to do anything to help me or my sister in life. As long as food was on the table, he felt like his job was done and that everyone should be grateful and obedient. It’s strange, because his own father was not like that.

I wonder if the men on the ship noticed the destruction in me. I notice it when I meet kids who can’t engage. I wonder if they tried to interest me in the ship and the research and then pulled back, realizing I had been ruined.

I don’t think shyness is normal. I think it’s a flag that exposes abuse. No matter how much you pretend in public, if your kids are shy, there has to be a reason, and you’re probably it.

You can have sympathy for other people’s kids, but usually, your ability to help them is limited. If you want to help, you have to look for opportunities to do or say something effective. Vigilance is important.

We ruin our children. We don’t submit to God. We put our flesh in charge. Our flesh puts Satan in charge. The result is that we become poisonous to people we are supposed to help.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot today. I can’t undo my childhood. I have been able to help a few younger people, though. Maybe that’s an acceptable exchange. Satan screwed up my youth, so I am being used to screw up his plans and help several other people. His evil is being multiplied back to him.

Interesting stuff.

I should have done better, but here I am, as I am, so I work with what I have.

Today I plan to make some adjustments to the pool pipes and put a clamp out the pumphouse ground. After that, I think I’ll relax and knock off some more of The Odyssey.

I have to say, I’m disgusted with mythology and the characters of Greek literature. People like Odysseus and Achilles were the scum of the earth. They were pirates, and “pirate” is not a flattering term. They were murderers, rapists, thieves, and slave masters. They were sadistic. They were greedy. They thought nothing of pitching babies off of city walls. It’s strange that we see them in a positive light. If there is a significant difference between these characters and the drug gangs in Mexico, I am hard-pressed to see it. The more I read, the more I root for them to lose.

I hope you’re enjoying your Saturday. Go easy on demon rum.

There is no Accounting for my Taste

Thursday, May 12th, 2016

Some Concepts are too Small for the Brain to Cope With

I have been studying accounting today, and here is my conclusion: if you have a choice between poverty and studying accounting, choose poverty.

It is astounding to me that anyone can stand this stuff for more than half an hour. They say dentists and lawyers have the highest suicide rates. How can that be, when there are accountants? Maybe accountants drop dead spontaneously from boredom, before the urge to commit suicide can come to fruition.

As readers who are up to date know, I had to take over my dad’s bookkeeping, and that means using Quickbooks. You can’t use Quickbooks if you have no idea what the little words in the windows mean. You have to know something about accounting.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I found a guy who runs a website that helps rental property owners use Quickbooks, but his PDF that “explains” accounting is pretty horrid. I had to find something super basic, so I went to Udemy.com and signed up for a free course. I found a nice old guy who explains accounting by drawing bad cartoons on a whiteboard. This is more my speed.

I’ve probably sat through twenty minutes of the course, and to my credit, I haven’t put a firearm in my mouth even once.

I have a B.S. in physics, plus some graduate school. That means I had no problem with advanced math. Unfortunately, accounting is all addition and subtraction, and it uses filthy ARABIC NUMBERS, not clean little variables. I hate addition and subtraction. They are the toilet-scrubbing of math. Keeping track of endless pluses and minuses drives me nuts. So tedious. It’s like digging your way out of the Chateau d’If with a teaspoon.

There isn’t one single interesting concept in this mess. It’s all first-grade math, combined with the hassle of keeping signs straight. If you have any kind of a brain at all, accounting is paralyzing. If the Nazis had captured Oppenheimer and Einstein, they could have used accounting to torture them into revealing nuclear secrets.

It reminds me of a story my dad told me. He was in the army, and he and some other men were sitting around. A sergeant showed up and asked if any of them were college graduates; he said they had a special task for educated people. My dad raised his hand, expecting to get a cushy job. He and the other graduates were led away and forced to unload a huge truck full of typewriters.

Love that blue collar humor.

All that being said, this will be a good experience for me (when it’s over), because everyone should understand basic accounting. It would have been nice if I had realized the importance of accounting when I was in college. I could have made my dad foot the bill for a couple of leisurely courses. Sadly, I didn’t realize it until I was older, and when I did, I learned as little about it as possible. Now I have about a week in which to catch up.

How do people stand it? It must be a mental illness, like the one that makes some men want to be wrestling coaches. “Now, Tommy, put your fingers under my butt cheek and pull forcefully.”

Over the last few days, I have experienced a sudden need for big fruity alcoholic drinks. That his how badly accounting has damaged my brain. While I’m studying this horrible stuff, I have to have a big fruity drink at the end of the day to unwind. It’s either that or go to a doc-in-the-box and get a prescription for Xanax.

I might as well post the recipe for the drink I invented yesterday. I am not recommending drunkenness to anyone, but one nice cocktail probably won’t kill you.

I started with my friend’s creation, the chupacabra. That’s Mountain Dew and light rum, with a lime slice. It’s much better than it sounds. I like it a lot, but I felt like it needed the tiki treatment, so I went to work. I still don’t have a name for the drink I came up with, but you won’t believe how good it is. You have to like girly drinks in order to enjoy it. If all you drink is straight bourbon mixed with kerosene and your own chest hairs, it won’t do a thing for you. If you aren’t ashamed to be seen holding a pina colada (while caught in the rain), you’ll like this drink.

Ingredients

1/2 shot pineapple juice
1/2 shot lime juice
1 shot (maybe a little more) Flor de Cana rum
2 teaspoons Coco Lopez
2 teaspoons grenadine
Ginger ale (Seagram’s, which has less sugar than most)

You start by dumping the Coco Lopez into a tall glass. Then add ice. Then mix the lime juice, pineapple juice, and rum and pour them in. Then add ginger ale to fill it up. Put the grenadine on top. I added four raspberries and a lime slice, too. Pineapple chunks would work.

This thing will blow your mind. It’s like chewing a whole roll of tropical fruit Lifesavers. When you’re done drinking it, you can scoop the bits of congealed Coco Lopez off the bottom and eat them along with the fruit.

I had two whole drinks yesterday. For me, that’s practically a binge. That’s how much I hate accounting.

It looks like I have a gift for inventing mixed drinks. I don’t plan to pursue it, but it definitely made this week less painful for me.

In two weeks, I will be either an accomplished accountant or a hopeless alcoholic. One way or the other, this ordeal will be over.

Sling is Slung, da Grass is Riz

Wednesday, May 11th, 2016

I Wonder Where the Crab Rangoon iz

I guess I’m going to have a Singapore Sling every day until I decide I’ve gotten it right.

Today I made some progress, so I will pass the information along.

This drink is shaken, but because it contains soda, you can’t add the soda until after you shake it. That means that once you’ve shaken all the red ingredients and the gin, you have to strain it into a glass with ice in it, and then you have to get the soda in there. If you add too much ice or too much soda, you have problems. And it’s important to make sure the red stuff and the soda are mixed up a little, unless you like soda on top of a layer of cough syrup.

I took a pint glass and put around 4 ounces of ice in the bottom. Maybe 5. Then I added a mandatory skewer loaded with fresh fruit. Then I shook the red stuff and poured it and the soda into the glass simultaneously. That way, the ingredients mixed, and I was able to meter everything so I didn’t end up with too much soda or leftover red stuff.

Yesterday I said the red ingredients tasted a lot alike. Today I did a little research, and it looks like I was not imagining it. The stuff we call grenadine is supposed to be pomegranate syrup, but it’s really cherry syrup. Look it up. You can get the real thing at a Middle Eastern grocery, but since bar owners are cheap, it probably won’t be what they use, and it won’t have the taste you know and love.

Bartenders have a longstanding practice of using the juice from cherry jars in recipes calling for grenadine.

Cheap creme de cassis tastes a whole lot like cherries, too, and so does cheap sloe gin. It’s probably the same basic batch of chemicals and natural flavors.

Real sloe gin and creme de cassis exist, but you will have to look for them, and again, they may taste nothing like what you expect.

I decided to go with bottled lime juice this time because I wanted to see if it was any good. I used Mrs. Biddle’s key lime juice, which must be made with real key limes, because it says “key lime juice,” not “Key West lime juice” or some other such nonsense. Key limes are a little bitter, so that’s something to consider. I think fresh Persian lime juice would probably be better, but not a whole lot better, because this is a big, sweet, sloppy drink with lots of stuff in it.

I used Gordon’s gin. Last time, I used Boodle’s, which is light and full of flowery flavors. It was slightly better, but it costs over twice as much as Gordon’s, and I am not so dedicated I’m willing to put $25 gin in a tacky tiki drink.

I bought some skewers, fresh pineapple, and Maraschino cherries. I took a skewer and put several chunks of pineapple on it, along with three cherries and two lime slices. I stuck that in the glass before I poured the drink.

Here is the current recipe.

INGREDIENTS

1.5 ounces gin
0.5 ounces cherry Heering
0.5 ounces creme de cassis
1 tablespoon grenadine
1.5 ounces key lime juice (bottled)
0.25 ounces sloe gin
club soda
fresh pineapple
fresh lime slices
Maraschino cherries
cold club soda

Put everything except the soda in a shaker. Put 4-5 ounces of crushed ice in a tall (I used a pint) glass. Skewer some fruit and put it in the glass. Shake the red stuff with ice. Strain the red stuff into the glass while pouring club soda in from the other side.

That’s about it. It’s really nice. Not the classiest drink in the universe, but very pleasant.

05 11 15 singapore sling

Tomorrow I plan to make one with a spoonful of Coco Lopez in the bottom.

I wrote a big long blog post about the challenges of taking over my dad’s responsibilities, but I decided to trash it and post this instead. I think I’ll be having one of these drinks every day until I get on top of his taxes.

Give it a Name

Tuesday, May 10th, 2016

Trump Needs a Visit from Mr. Shhh

Yesterday I wrote about Trader Vic’s, the famous tiki bar and Polynesian restaurant. When I was in college at Columbia University, my friends and I used to go there and get obliterated on sweet drinks with fruit in them.

I do not miss getting obliterated, but for some reason, yesterday I felt like I needed a tiki bar drink. The stress of instantly taking over my dad’s taxes and real estate was getting to me, and the weather here was heating up after a wonderful, relatively cool April, so I felt sorry for myself.

It was hard to decide what to do. I didn’t actually know how to make tiki drinks, or as Jimmy the Saint used to call them, “boat drinks.”

I found some help on the web. It turns out Trader Vic was a real person. His name was Vic Bergeron, and he wrote a few books. Some are useless, because the drink recipes say things like “2 parts Trader Vic’s Prefab Zombie Mixer” instead of the real ingredients. Others have information that can actually be helpful. There is also a forum dedicated to tiki bars, and when you Google, some good information comes up.

My repertoire was not completely empty. A friend of mine came up with a surprisingly good drink which he called a Chupacabra. Very simple.

INGREDIENTS

Flor de Cana light rum
Mountain Dew
Juice of half a lime

That’s about it. You pour it over ice. The proportions are up to you. Flor de Cana is very smooth, unlike the ammonia-like products of Bacardi.

You can dress it up with things like Grenadine or creme de cassis. You can add a splash of coconut rum or Grand Marnier. It’s much better than it sounds.

Yesterday I made something sort of similar, using ginger ale and pineapple juice, along with a small amount of Grand Marnier. It was okay, but not ideal.

I decided to try my hand at a Singapore sling. Today I went out and bankrupted myself buying ingredients. It requires gin, sloe gin, grenadine syrup, Heering cherry liqueur, and creme de cassis. You mix it with lime juice, shake it, and top it off with club soda. I’ll be trying that later.

Vic called his version the Trader Vic’s sling. I think he served it with a rock candy swizzle stick, but that may have been the sloe gin fizz. It’s amazing that I remember any of the drink names, given the condition in which I usually oozed out of the building.

I found the recipe online. Is it authentic? I do not know. But here it is.

Singapore Sling

1 1/2 oz. gin
1/2 oz. cherry brandy
1/2 oz. creme de cassis
1/4 oz. sloe gin
1/2 lime
1/2 oz. lemon juice
1 tbsp. grenadine
club soda to top

Lovingly pour each ingredient except the club soda into your cocktail shaker with some ice. When shaking is over, pour into a collins glass and top off with club soda.

I could not find any high-end brands of sloe gin or creme de cassis around here. I don’t think that matters, because I very much doubt Trader Vic went out of his way to get the best.

I brought home my red ingredients and tried them, and they all tasted pretty much the same. The cherry Heering is fierier than the others, and either the creme de cassis or the sloe gin has a scary aftertaste, but they all taste more or less like a mixture of black cherries and pie cherries. I think you could eliminate two of them without changing the drink at all. I would keep the Heering and grenadine.

Later on I’m going to mix up a sling and see if it’s any good.

I barely drink these days, so if I manage to finish one of these things, it will be remarkable.

It would be neat if they had a Trader Vic’s down here. Once a year I’d like to go and enjoy the tacky decor and the weird appetizers.

I learned something interesting. The bartender my friends and I knew as Buck was actually named Shek Gong. I guess he didn’t actually invent the Buck’s Fizz. Or maybe he did, and it’s really the Shek’s Fizz. I read about him in the article I found which detailed the disgraceful way Donald Trump (the real-life Man With the Plan) ejected Vic from the Plaza’s basement.

walken buckwheats trump trader vics

Maybe tomorrow I’ll get Quickbooks working, and in a couple of weeks I’ll be able to face the day without even thinking about Tiki Puka Pukas and Kama’ainas.

Buckwheats for Trump, though. Definitely buckwheats.

Update

I just completed my experiment, and I concluded a few things.

First of all, it’s a real trip back to the past. The flavor is right on. Wonderful. But there are a few things to fix.

The recipe I quoted says “1 T grenadine.” I assumed “T” meant “teaspoon,” but after I tried the drink, I realized that was wrong.

The purpose of the grenadine is to cover up the dubious flavors of the other ingredients. It smooths them out. Cherry Heering is not exactly Hennessy XO, and Hiram Walker creme de cassis is not that great, either. So I concluded “T” means “tablespoon.” When you increase the amount from one teaspoon to one tablespoon, it tastes like the drink Trader Vic’s used to serve.

Also, you need to stir the soda into the drink, or else you get a drink that’s pure soda on top and cough syrup on the bottom. Stir it gently once or twice. It doesn’t have to be thoroughly mixed. Just make an effort to blend it slightly.

What else? I used lime juice instead of lemon. Lime juice is fragrant and complex, and it brings out the complexity of other ingredients. Lemon juice is kind of dull. I used a fresh lime, not a bottle.

Final thing: I think it would be best to add some fruit to this. I used a lime wedge, because that’s what I had. In the future, I would spear one or two chunks of fresh pineapple with a lime wedge or slice between them, and I would put a cherry on top just for laughs. That would be great. The rock candy swizzle stick I dimly recall from Trader Vic’s would work great, but you would need to work fruit into it somehow.

I may have imagined the rock candy swizzle stick. Fair warning.

It was very nice. I think tomorrow I’ll have another.

Traitor Don

Monday, May 9th, 2016

I am Godzilla! He is Japan!

I had to work on my dad’s taxes today, which means I had to deal with Quickbooks. Not the most pleasant day of my life.

Now I’m thinking how great it would be to be sitting at the bar at Trader Vic’s at the Plaza Hotel, enjoying the shade and a tiki puka puka or a Trader Vic’s sling. Unfortunately, I am in the wrong city, and Trader Vic’s is no longer at the Plaza. It was ousted long ago. Until today, I didn’t know the story.

I just found out DONALD TRUMP closed it in 1989.

I was pretty cool with his candidacy until today, but now I’m voting for Hillary.

I will never forget how crushed I was when I went to New York in about 2001, cabbed to the Plaza in joyous anticipation, and found a cheesy lunch restaurant in the glorious space Vic’s used to occupy.

I don’t ordinarily fantasize about tropical drinks, but it has been that kind of day.

Boat drinks, my friends. Boat drinks.

O Lord, we Thank Thee

Friday, November 27th, 2015

For Getting us Through this Tiresome Secular Holiday

I hope my 12 remaining readers had a good Thanksgiving.

I was hoping to blow it off. Weeks ago, I asked God to help me narrow my interests, and since then I have lost the drive to cook. I am very happy about that. Cooking is fun (or was), but it’s time-consuming. It’s a lot of work. Doing it right often costs a lot of money. And I am SINGLE. That means all the stuff a normal family of five or six does together lands on me.

The only person I have left to cook for is my dad, so I don’t think huge holiday meals should be considered compulsory. No one flies in from around the country for an emotional reunion. In fact, my relatives had a big Thanksgiving get-together a few years back and didn’t tell us. I have no idea what that was all about. I have never done any of them wrong, and I don’t think my dad has either. My sister is another story, but including me and my dad doesn’t really require including her. They are used to visiting us and not telling her they’re in town.

I got the news during a post-Thanksgiving call that had to do with business. My aunt said something about the holiday, and she mentioned the big gathering. She is having issues with her memory and thinking due to an illness, so she probably didn’t realize she was letting the cat out of the bag. After she said it, the conversation got awkward, but it was helpful in that it let me know where I stood.

Sometimes I have local friends over for a holiday meal. As I have mentioned in other blog entries, a young friend of mine has a music scholarship at the University of Miami, so we see each other a lot. I will not run his family down, but they have a way of leaving him on his own on important occasions. This year they took off for South Carolina. I invited him to join us, so it was nice that the meal served a purpose beyond derailing my daily routine.

I am determined to get out of cooking future holiday meals singlehanded. I hate the idea of going to a restaurant on Thanksgiving or Christmas Eve, but I also hate doing dishes for nine hours so two or three people can stuff themselves.

I’m not interested in cooking any more, and that’s a blessing, but I can still do it when I need to. Also a blessing. I no longer care about getting a serious kitchen or a huge gas range, but I’m glad I can produce good food when I have to.

I fixed a boneless turkey this year, full of cornbread stuffing and andouille sausage. It was wonderful. You remove every bone except for the drumsticks, and then you stuff the bird and sew it up. When the bones are out, you have a flat piece of meat like a doormat, and you can marinate or season it very effectively. I put mine in a pot overnight with salt and champagne.

At this time of year, people start pushing fried turkey. It’s not for me. I’ve only had it once, and it was tough and dangerous. Burns can cripple you.

Years ago, before my sister’s issues blew up, she got a fryer and hosted Thanksgiving dinner. I had to do the frying. I think I did it wrong; I don’t recall turning the gas off when I lowered the turkey. The oil didn’t burst into flame or pour all over the yard; that was nice. But some escaped from the pot.

That made me realize how perilous turkey frying is. There are all sorts of issues with it. Once oil gets hot, it’s very flammable, so if you have the flame going, oil that goes over the side can start burning. The flames from the oil on the ground can light the oil in the pot. Then you have real trouble.

If you put the lid on the pot, it warps, letting oxygen in. The fire keeps burning. If you throw water in the pot, it blows up, sending more oil out, and the oil may be flying. The fire keeps burning. If you use a fire extinguisher, you will probably just blow oil out of the pot, increasing the size of the problem. The fire keeps burning.

If the oil spills on a flat surface, and you’re standing on it, the oil can flow onto your feet. That’s bad. If your fryer is near your house, the flames can set fire to your eave or wall. God help you if you put the fryer in your house, on your deck, or in your garage.

The fried turkey was not good. I don’t know if the seasoning was weak or if frying just makes it fall off, but the turkey didn’t have a lot of flavor. The texture was like rubber.

I don’t have any confidence in frying, but a lot of people swear you can get a great result if you do it right. I guess they must know something. Personally, I’m not going to waste three gallons of oil on a process that scares me and gives me a bird that contains no stuffing and produces no gravy.

As far as I know, the ultimate turkey is one that has been boned, marinated, stuffed, and smoked. I’m too lazy to do that, but I’ve done it once or twice, and it was incredible. Without the smoking, it’s still magnificent. It’s more tender that a roasted bird. It’s just as juicy. It cooks much faster. You can carve it without wasting anything; it slices like salami. You can store the leftover bird without the aggravation of dealing with a dried-up, picked-over skeleton that resists going into the fridge.

Boning and sewing up the bird will probably add an hour to an hour and a half to the job, but you will also cut the baking time down. I used a 12-pound bird this time. I put it in the oven at around 9:50 a.m., and in two hours, it had cooked so fast I had to cut the temperature to 170 in order to avoid getting ahead of the sides. I could have had it on the table in under three hours, easily. As it was, the bird cooked so fast it was at 165 degrees when it came out. Considerably higher than optimal.

When you stuff a bird that isn’t boned, cooking takes forever. And you can’t get much stuffing into it. I would guess that you can get three times as much into a boned bird.

It was spectacular. No doubt about it. Not my best work, but considering the halfheartedness of the effort, a bona fide home run.

I did a major cheat with the mashed potatoes. I baked them, refrigerated them, and then nuked and mashed them on the day of the meal. They were a little overcooked, but that added some browning which made them taste better. It’s really hard to go wrong with mashed potatoes. They will forgive almost anything except using a food processor.

If you ever feel like boning a turkey, get yourself a $5 Forschner bird’s beak paring knife and a small, sharp chef’s knife. Learn how to use a diamond hone so you can keep them super sharp. Get a cut-proof glove for your left hand. Your left hand will get cold and relatively numb while you work, and it will be wet and greasy, so a trip to the ER is a distinct possibility for anyone who doesn’t wear a glove.

The actual boning is not complicated. Cut the turkey’s skin all the way through, straight down the back, from one end to the other. Then start peeling it off the bones and carefully cutting the meat loose. You will want to cut the wings off at the elbow, because boning a wing flat is impossible. Flex the thigh bones so the stuff that holds the hip joints is accessible and cut the tenons and ligaments so you can free the inner end of the bone from the pelvis. Then cut the meat away from the thigh bone until you get to the knee. Cut that joint open, remove the thigh bone, and get back to work on the rest of the bird. Remove the wing bones the same way you took out the thighs.

You will actually be able to stuff the upper wings, since they won’t have bones in them. That’s really nice.

You will always be working from inside the bird so you don’t cut through the skin. You want the skin intact.

You’ll lose maybe half a pound of meat, but think how much goes in the trash when you throw the desiccated skeleton out.

When you get done, you’ll be able to salt and/or marinate the bird overnight. You can season it again right before you stuff it.

When it’s time to stuff it, get a big needle and some dental floss. Sew up the torn-up area down around the bird’s former anus. You will want to restore the original pouch shape of the skin. Then start packing stuffing in.

Start sewing, pulling the edges of the skin together as you go. Shove the stuffing around to make it fit where it should. Pack it in there good. You can use a lot.

When you have the bird closed up, put it in your roasting pan on its back, season the skin however you want, and cook it normally. I like 200-250 degrees, covered with foil, with a 425 finish (no foil) to brown it. My roasting pan has a rack that holds the bird up out of the grease so it doesn’t soak.

There are Youtube videos which probably explain the boning process better than I do.

When you serve the turkey, put it on a cutting board and twist the legs off. The slice it like a cheese log. When you find the floss, pull it. The skin won’t be strong enough to hold onto it, so the floss will come out without breaking.

Obviously, this also works with chickens. I guess it would work with anything that has bones, although you would lose precious rib meat if you boned a pig.

Today I realized Thanksgiving has nothing to do with God or thanks. There is no way you can cook and eat and still have time for God.

I lost a lot of prayer time. I had to go start working early and keep at it until bedtime, two days in a row (usually, it’s three). You can’t work God into that in any meaningful way. You just do it out of obligation and accept the fact that your Christian walk will resume the next day.

When I got up today and knew I didn’t have to wrestle with turkey or side dishes, it was wonderful. I took as much time as I wanted for prayer.

I guess I sound like a downer, but people have been chasing their tails all week. They struggled to prepare during the days when they still had to go to work. They scrambled and toiled on the day itself. Then half of them went to the mall after dinner. The other half went today, to beat other people senseless in order to get three dollars off on a Chia Rihanna or whatever the big gift for 2015 is.

Next time, there will be help, or there will be a drastically abbreviated menu. And I’m not going to harbor any delusions about honoring God. This holiday is all about gluttony, shopping, and drunkenness. Get it done and get back on track. That’s my plan.

I hope all of you had a nice Thanksgiving. Maybe the turkey tips will help you. I strongly suggest avoiding fried turkey, although I did come across one good reason for doing it: it gives the men an excuse to go outside and get some peace. Maybe it’s worth it.

I only took one photo, and it’s not that great, but I’ll post it. It will help you understand what I’m talking about.

11 26 15 thanksgiving stuffed boned turkey

Black Socks, Bermuda Shorts, and a Warm Ma Deuce

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

The Dream is Within Reach

I had the funniest experience yesterday.

I was watching American Pickers, the show about the guys who drive around buying old stuff other people have hoarded. They resell it, usually at about a 100% markup. They burrow through barns and attics, and they meet all sorts of interesting people. Very often, they end up on big properties with one or more outbuildings, and the buildings are full of junk.

Yesterday, they took a random right turn and ended up on a dirt road which had not been selected in advance (supposedly). They went past a “KEEP OUT” sign and stopped at a building resembling a garage. They hollered and went in, and they found two weird old guys playing homemade musical instruments. They were surrounded by tools and knickknacks.

I heard myself think, “THIS IS HOW I WANT TO LIVE.”

Not so much the sitting around with another old guy, playing music on an instrument made from a plunger handle and a Chock Full of Nuts can. Not that part. The part I liked was being a good distance off the road, on a big property, with no one aggravating me. In a building with concrete walls. Surrounded by cool stuff.

They visited another guy later. He was some sort of engineer, I think. I don’t remember. Naval something or other. He had a lathe, a huge bending brake, lots of grinders, a giant vault, and God knows what else. There were old tin toys there. He had a wooden wind-tunnel model of a plane; his uncle had built it for some outfit that was trying to make supersonic aircraft.

I realized one of the major differences between my garage and his shop was character. He was doing more to keep his junk ordered. I tend to avoid the garage in the summer, because the heat is bad, and a couple of pieces of garage door insulation fell off a while back, which made things worse. The garage was a big mess.

Day before yesterday I went out and fixed the insulation and straightened up a little. After I watched the pickers show, I continued. I went back to work on my garlic press project. You can’t really clean up a shop if there are old projects lying around.

In cross-section, from the side, the press is an H. It’s a stainless tube blocked by a plate about halfway down. The plate will have holes in it, and there will be a plunger which mashes garlic through the holes. Think of a hypodermic syringe with a sieve instead of a needle at the end. Sort of like that.

I had a cylinder made, and I had bored out one end of it. I needed to bore the other end, leaving a 0.10″-thick plate in the tube, for the holes to go through. I considered doing this on the lathe, but the steel I’m using throws ungodly long chips, so I stuck it on the mill and used a 1/2″ end mill.

08 28 13 garlic press body on rotary table

It took forever, dropping down 0.025″ at a time and going through 360° of rotation, but I got it done. Now I have to radius the sharp edges and drill the holes. The plunger is already done. It fits so well, when you drop it in the press, it sinks in very slowly, because it’s hard for the air under it to escape.

That’s cool. I like to drop the plunger over and over and watch it sink.

It’s looking more and more like I’m getting out of here. God be praised. I would say that even if I were an atheist. I do NOT NOT NOT like Miami. I want to be able to go outside and walk a hundred yards before hitting a property line. I want to hear English once in a while. I want to be able to wear long pants occasionally. I want to be able to drive ten miles in less than twenty minutes.

My dad has a 46-foot boat which has been a problem. He uses it as a place to hide out, which is fine, but it’s his main motivation for staying in Miami. I can’t let his hobby ruin my life. I want him to enjoy himself, but this is too much to ask. He doesn’t want me to move 700 miles away, and I understand that, because of his age. I’m against it, too. But if I have to leave without him, I will do it, because this place is not right for me.

Today he started talking about selling the boat. Thank you, Lord. He could keep it in Pensacola (currently my preferred destination), and maybe that’s the better option, but I’m glad to see him consider unloading it. It shows God is breaking things loose.

I am not excited about practicing law, but it’s a pleasant way to earn money, and if I can do it up there and generate income without becoming a cubicle slave, you better believe I’ll do it and be grateful.

Some people need room. I guess I’m one of them. I have several worthwhile hobbies you can’t indulge in a small suburban house. I want to be able to shoot on my own land. I need a shop with an area of at least 800 square feet. I need a normal-sized kitchen. Until I get these things, I’m going to feel like I’m wearing a burlap straitjacket.

I feel bad for my dad. Rejecting God preserves your pride, but it costs you peace and satisfaction. God is ordering my path, and he would gladly order my dad’s path, too, if he would give in.

I’ve located some tempting properties in the 20-acre range. That will suffice. I’d rather have a hundred, but from this chair, I can see three houses without standing up, so 20 will seem like heaven itself.

Prayer in tongues lines things up. It makes things happen. People reject this advice. I can’t help that. I put it out there. Benefit from it or don’t. At least I can say I told you.

Hopefully by this time next year, I’ll have a shop and some tomato plants. That would sure be nice.

GPS Without Transistors

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

Follow the Pillar of Fire

I want to pass on a little advice. It’s a piece of knowledge that has been useful to me.

As many Christians know, the Bible is like the Constitution (or any other set of laws). It provides many benefits, but you won’t necessarily receive them unless you apply. It’s like the Fifth Amendment. The cops can’t question you after say you want an attorney, but if you don’t assert your right, they’ll question you anyway. There are many things God will do for you whether or not you ask, but on the whole, it’s best to make your needs known and stand on God’s promises.

Here’s a promise which is particularly useful: “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.” That’s Psalm 37, verses 23 and 24. It’s clearly a general promise available to all. It doesn’t say “a good Jewish man” or “a good man who sacrifices at the temple” or “a good man with freckles.”

Lately, I’ve been bringing this promise up in prayer, more than once a day. I ask God to honor it until the next time I ask. I believe prayer is like manna in that you shouldn’t rely on yesterday’s ration, so I think it’s important to ask repeatedly and not to expect the prayer to keep you going for the rest of your life. There are some things you only have to ask for once, or which you can stop asking for, once God confirms he will do what you want, but it pays not to take chances.

I remind him of similar promises. The Bible says that when your father and mother forsake you, the Lord will take you up. It says you will hear his voice behind you, telling you which way to turn. It says he will lead you in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

I also ask God to lead my enemies onto the points of their own swords and to hold them there until they repent.

What I’ve found is that when I make this request, things go better. There is less dead time in the day. I get things done. I spend less time goofing off or wandering in confusion. Life is more organized. There is less stress.

This prayer got me over the hump with CAD software. As I wrote earlier, I’m finally able to use it. And it has also led to greater musical productivity. I’m getting all sorts of good melodies written down. I really think I’m going to get to the point where I’ll be selling music. It’s going to be good enough to publish. That’s amazing. Music can be extremely lucrative. You only need one successful work to keep you fed and clothed when you’re retired.

I suggest you try asking God for guidance, daily. See what happens.

I’m very excited about music, because I’ve come to realize that writing music requires the same gift as cooking. It’s really no different. When you write recipes, it comes from inspiration. You’ll be sitting around thinking about other things, and suddenly you’ll imagine a flavor or a texture, and the way to create it, and you’ll write it down and try it. Your imagination tells you what will taste good, and your work only serves to confirm it. When you write music, melodies that “taste good” to the ear come into your mind, and all you have to do is write them in musical notation. If it sounds good, it IS good. That’s the only test.

I find that God is as willing to give me tunes as he is recipes. And here’s one great thing about music: you don’t have to make a mess in order to create it. You don’t have to drive to the store and buy food. You don’t have to wreck the kitchen. And when it’s done, you can preserve it forever, and you can email it and publish it with very little effort.

I don’t know how I would go about finding a market for music, but I’m sure there’s a way. When I have a portfolio built up, I should be able to do something with it.

I consider myself a writer and a creator of music. I think those are the things I should focus on. The other stuff is great, but I believe it deserves less priority. No one will ever pay me to run a lathe, and no one will ever draw closer to God while listening to me make a pizza.

I’ll put up the piece I’m working on now. I was shooting for something resembing a spiritual, but it has more of a classical sound. I love classical music. There’s no reason why I can’t enjoy writing it. I know it’s not fashionable, and composers are expected to come up with inventive new forms of music no one can stand to listen to, but only a moron would say the genre is exhausted. There is a lot of classical music, but only some of it is truly great. There is still a big need to fill. I’m always frustrated because my favorite composers (Chopin, Debussy, Rachmaninoff, and Beethoven) didn’t leave more work, and I’m sure other people feel the same way.

Chopin actually had some of his works burned when he died. Unbelievable.

This piece isn’t done. It’s very short, and there are lots of things I may want to do with it. But it does show that things are going well.

12 31 E Minor Piece

Get connected to the power supply and see what God will do for you. I think he is leading a lot of people out of the spiritual dark ages.

“…Then the Old Guy Waves his Stick, and OUT COMES THE DANGED BEAR…”

Sunday, December 9th, 2012

They had it Coming

My former church has finally gone completely insane.

Today they welcomed Kim Kardashian. Yes, the Kim Kardashian who poses nude. The sex-tape Kim Kardashian. I don’t know if they took her into the green room so she could bless the pastors with her wisdom, but she tweeted about her presence at church, and they proudly re-tweeted it.

People are saying it’s wonderful that she went to church. Uh…no, it’s NOT wonderful. Not unless she repented. Churches are supposed to welcome REPENTANT sinners. The other kind screw churches up.

Think of it as an immigration problem. Say you live in a Christian nation, and Muslims start showing up. When there are 50 of them, it’s no big deal. When they’re 50% of the population…big deal. You’re going to have Sharia law, honor killings, an end to the pork industry, lots of terrorism…it will be bad. When sinners come to a church and don’t change their ways, and their numbers get too high, they convert the church. Not that this would be a big change for Trinity. It’s barely a church as it is.

I was furious when I heard about this. It’s bad enough that the pastor sucked up to R. Kelly, who narrowly avoided conviction on a statutory rape beef with video evidence. Do they really need to use Kim Kardashian to prove they’ve made it?

The name “Kardashian” used to be associated with top-notch legal representation. Those days are gone. Now it connotes promiscuity, nudity, stupidity, and shallowness. As the good book would put it, it has “become a proverb.” Why would any pastor be proud this person came to his church? Only a desperate self-promotor or a feckless infant could think this was a good thing.

It would be wonderful if Miss Kardashian went to a church and told everyone she regretted all the dumb things she had done. I’d be the first to welcome her. Well, actually, I think a woman should do that, just to be safe. But I would be all for it. But for her to roll in and out with no evidence of change…how is that a victory for anyone?

I really blew up about this on Facebook. The gloves are off. I said the leaders of the church clearly did not know the Bible, and I posted a long series of verses about respecting persons. The pastors are like children. It’s as though they had never heard of the Bible. This stuff is obvious to teenagers who read the word, but these adults don’t have a clue. Or they just don’t care, which is looking pretty likely.

Some lady tried to “correct” me, saying I should not “touch” God’s “anointed.” That’s sad. Preachers have succeeded in brainwashing many Christians, so they will cover up their pastors’ backslidden behinds. They say all sorts of curses fall on those who speak up. But God didn’t curse Jesus, Paul, Isaiah, Micaiah, Malachi, Peter, Jude, Jeremiah, Samuel, Nathan, or any of the other Biblical figures (or if you’re Catholic, figurines) who spoke up. If you took the negative remarks out of the Bible, the remaining text would be a pamphlet.

She said I should only correct people privately. But she said that publicly, which is a little hard to explain.

As Perry Stone teaches, there is a difference between “anointing” and “gift.” A person who is anointed has God’s authority to do some job or other. He has God’s approval. Anointing is not always permanent. God anointed Saul, and he took the anointing away. A gift is a natural or supernatural ability. It may persist when the anointing leaves. This is why truly foul preachers sometimes continue to function in their gifts. It helps explain why some very bad churches stay very big for quite some time.

Anyway, a preacher who teaches false tradition and serves his belly is not acting under an anointing. Not in my book. And because they commit their sins publicly, it only makes sense to correct them publicly. Besides, the leaders of Trinity Church know exactly what they’re doing wrong. People have spoken up. They just don’t care.

God is not going to stand up and give me leprosy for criticizing people who milk the poor and lie to them. If he did things like that, John the Baptist would have exploded. Repeatedly.

Quite honestly, I think these people are idiots. I have tried to show restraint. I’ve said I disagreed with them. I’ve said they were off the path. But after a time, you have to start using terms like “idiot.” Even Jesus did it. After a certain point, mildly critical language just doesn’t do the job. If you speak about foolish people too respectfully, there is a danger that other people will not understand just how foolish they are. “I’m going to try Trinity Church.” “DON’T!” “Why not?” “They’re…missing the mark.” “Well, I’ll just check it out.” “THEY’RE IDIOTS! THEY’RE IDIOTS! DANGER! DANGER!”

I think God takes a similar approach. He starts by sending you little hints. Then he sends people to correct you. Then he might let you get a physical illness. He might let you suffer defeat. Eventually, if you keep pushing it, he buries you in burning sulfur and pitch. Or he sends you to hell.

I wish I had never heard about this. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life reflecting on the stupid behavior of a group of carnal ministers. But there it is. And I don’t investigate this stuff. People bring it to me.

How about some positive news? Today Apostle Michael Tomasulo visited my church. My denomination, or whatever it is, is big on apostles. They seem like the real thing. They have shown up and said some very solid, very impressive things. Mr. Tomasulo is one of them.

I met him on his last visit. He’s an EE (electrical engineer). I was building guitar amps at the time, so I was really glad to meet him. I have a lot of weird interests, so it’s always comforting to meet someone who can relate. When I meet a person who shares one of my interests, it’s like meeting someone from home. Which is odd. And I can’t combine all, or even most, of my interests in one friend. I have to have an assortment. The gun friend. The cooking friend. The physics friend. The law friend. And so on.

Today he lit into TBN (he can’t stand watching it) and megachurches that teach self-help and motivational gibberish. LIKE TRINITY. He said exactly what I was saying to my prayer group three years ago. I said we didn’t need Dr. Phil and Oprah. I said motivational speakers were not what God wanted for us. He said these things today, even referring to Dr. Phil and his mothership. I saw a preacher on TBN say the same things last year (no word on whether his body has been found). God tells all of his people the same things. The church is unified, as Jesus prayed it would be. It’s just scattered. Like golden tickets in a pile of worldly Wonka bars.

Before he spoke, and before I knew what he would talk about, I put this on Facebook: “At my old church we had great motivational speakers who promised God would make us rich if we gave them money. Here at New Dawn Ministries, we have to settle for prophecy.”

Lately I’ve been getting back into tools, and I’ve started watching engineering lectures. Engineers don’t know where formulas come from. Physicists do, but they don’t know what to do with them, so I’m hoping to bridge the gap a little. I’ve been watching EE and ME stuff from NPTEL (Indian universities) and other sources. Today I decided to ask Mr. Tomasulo a few things, to see if he could steer me in the right direction. So far I’ve learned how much a truss can hold when the beams have been tempered in a tandoor.

Lo and behold, it turned out he wanted to talk to me. He remembered that I had been building tube amps. We started talking. I kept trying to tell him how much I admired engineers for knowing how to do USEFUL things, and he kept trying to tell me how much he admired physicists for knowing the root causes of stuff. Anyway, it turned out he was considering supplementing his income with EE work, and we started talking about amps. I told him it might be possible to generate some money building amps, and now he wants to come check out what I’m doing. Even if it goes nowhere, now I’ll have a friend who is almost a physicist. An EE is really not that far off. They are not the dumb engineers. What they do takes brains. They don’t seem to realize that, though.

An EE is actually more useful to me than a physicist, because a physicist wouldn’t know anything new.

We talked for quite a while, and unfortunately, his wife was standing right next to him, and she was bored so severely she required medical attention.

So here is what happened today. As a former physicist and amp builder who was recently told he had the anointing of a prophet and teacher, I met a guitar-playing EE apostle who wants to build tube amps. Tell me that’s not a weird day.

I want to introduce this guy to my dad as “Apostle Mike,” and I’ll insist he call him that. Come on. That’s irresistible. “Glad to know you, Mike.” “APOSTLE Mike, Dad.” “Uh…”

“Dad, I’m going to Five Guys with Apostle Mike. Do you want anything?”

I guess I’m stupid. That cracks me up.

But hey, it’s what he is.

I think if I could pick a job, it would be prophet. Apostles have to travel. Prophets can hang out in their garages and mess with tools most of the time, and every so often, they pop out, go to the local church, and say something that scares the living daylights out of everyone. Then they go home, and people leave them alone. It’s like Punxsutawney Phil, only holy.

“An earthquake is going to destroy the city next week, and afterward, an omer of organic dove’s dung from Whole Foods will cost as much as an Ipad 2. Plus God is going to give Deacon Fred a withered foot for playing Powerball. See you later, and stay off my lawn!”

I’m not positive my expectations are totally realistic. But it’s my understanding that a prophet can command a she-bear to eat punks that get on his nerves. That could be really handy.

Bach to my Future

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

Breakthrough has me Butchering Standards

I have a new music teacher.

Longtime readers will remember that I bought a grand piano in 2003 or 2004. The main purpose was to learn about music so I could compose, but I ended up learning to play a few things and focusing too much on becoming a musician. After a few years, I quit. I forgot things as soon as I learned them, so at any given time, I had a repertoire of four songs. And I could not sight-read well or write music competently.

A couple of years back I started working on the electric guitar. I built most of a Telecaster, and I built a few amps. I worked on sight-reading and other skills. I went through two teachers. I got to the point where I could play a few things, but I wasn’t any closer to composing.

I started looking for a real teacher. Someone who really knew what he was doing. I checked out Craigslist, the center of all knowledge and enlightenment (after Wikipedia and Fark). I found a guy who wrote long, opinionated ads. He seemed to be truly disgusted with virtually everyone else who claimed to teach people how to play the guitar. He explained why their methods were a waste of time and money. He provided wordy insights into his personal philosophy of music teaching. Stuff I didn’t really need to read.

I was impressed. He reminded me of me.

As I told him later, I like opinionated people. Some are opinionated because they’re just stupid, and I’m not real fond of that group. But others are opinionated because they have had it up to HERE with BS. I figured anyone passionate enough to write an ad like that was someone I needed to meet.

Eventually, I called for an appointment. He wouldn’t give me one! Instead I had to talk to him for about half an hour, explaining my goals. Then he made me spend a week writing down goals and influences. I had to create two Word documents and send them to him.

Finally, I was cleared to go for a lesson. I drove all the way to Davie, and when I knocked on the appropriate door, an enormous human being answered. At first I thought he had to be standing on a box. But no, that was all him. We shook hands and got started.

The lesson went like this: I showed him what I knew, and he told me it was wrong. Then I showed him something else, which I was really pleased about, and he told me that was wrong, too. By the end of the lesson, I had learned that I was doing the following things wrong:

1. Playing position
2. Guitar position
3. Right hand position
4. Left hand position
5. Holding pick
6. Fretting
7. Picking
8. Foot tapping
9. Breathing

I think there were some other things I was doing wrong, but I can’t remember what they were. As far as I could tell, there was not ONE thing I was doing right.

Here’s something weird: he seems to share the personality of my buddy Aaron. If Aaron were a non-Jewish musician, he’d be this guy. It’s freaky how similar they are.

He gave me an exercise straight from hell, to enable me to stretch my left hand, and he told me to play the same scale a billion times in different positions, at glacial speed. And home I went.

I worked on this crap for two weeks, and the net result was that I was no longer able to play the guitar. I mean, I could not play ANYTHING. My fingers missed the frets. I forgot entire passages. My left hand was in constant pain, because I was using a couple of shriveled muscles I had never used before. It was bad. But I had faith, because he seemed to know absolutely everything there was to know about music. Plus he once spoke on the phone with Billy Gibbons. I was sure I was headed for a wax on, wax off moment.

My third lesson was last week. I could not play a thing, but we spent a very long time talking. This is how the lessons go. I barely touch the guitar. We discussed the correct mindset for making pizza. We covered our mutual disdain for Prince. And after a while, we got onto conservative politics. I told him it was hard to hold the guitar the way he had told me to hold it, because it rested on my pistol. From there, we moved into a discussion of things like labor unions and Chick-Fil-A. He’s way out on the right, which probably explains why he’s not a famous musician. He has played in some worship bands.

Last week, we got off on sight-reading and composition. He told me something I had never heard before. He said it was a mistake to start with sight-reading. He said I should start by transcribing things. I told him I would try, but that the software was a pain to use. He told me the problem was that I was using software in the first place. He said I should transcribe things on paper. That had never occurred to me. In the past, I tried to compose things on the computer so I could play them back immediately and check them out.

A day or two later, I decided to try transcription. But I hate transcribing on the guitar. So I sat down at the piano with some blank paper, and I started working on “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” in C major. I was amazed at how much I knew about music. I thought I had forgotten it all. I managed to write and play a very coherent version, and then later I made up a left-hand part.

You can’t imagine what a breakthrough this was for me. When I first started studying the piano, it was because I had music in my head, and I could not write music fast enough to capture it. It drove me nuts, especially at night. I’d lie in bed with wonderful original music playing in my head, and it would keep me awake for an hour and a half. When I started transcribing, I saw that there was finally some hope that I could save some of it.

I texted my teacher with a question, and he called me up. I told him I had bad news. He had driven me back to the piano. He didn’t care. He thought it was great. He helped me out with a few clues, and I fired off some files by email, so he would know what I was up to.

I am accomplishing squat on the guitar, but I’m finally getting a grip on music writing. And I learned something else: the software isn’t so bad, if you write the music on paper first. You use a pencil, and then you have a stationary (or stationery) target. The notes are written down, so they don’t vanish while you’re cursing Finale’s horrible interface.

I’ll post a MIDI file, so you can see what I’ve done so far. I’m thrilled with it. I’ll write more variations, but as far as I’m concerned, this is a wonderful start. The left hand part reminds me of Bach, and I’m no Bach fan, but I’ll take it.

Over the Rainbow Transcription

Now I have hope that I’ll succeed at this, so I have new motivation to go forward. And the music in my head is back. I laid awake for quite some time last night while variations of “Sweet and Dandy” roared through my mind. On the one hand, it was annoying, but it was also intoxicating. I know I can do this.

God is a restorer. If you’re on the wrong path, he may put roadblocks in front of you, and when he’s ready for you to succeed, he can remove them so fast, you won’t believe it. You may have a problem you think is insurmountable, but the answer may be a change you can make in five minutes. If someone had given me the right advice about music in 1998, I’d have a pile of original compositions by now. The advice was all I needed.

I’m practically beside myself, thinking about the things I’ll do. I feel like I’ve been turned loose in a toy store.

I know this will go somewhere. Sooner or later I’ll come up with something fit for use in a church. It’s only a matter of time. That will be a huge milestone.

It’s more evidence that prayer in tongues straightens out paths. The more I do it, the better things go. I knew this in 1987, but I didn’t get serious until about five years ago. So much time wasted. Since then, the progress has been continuous.

Try it yourself. You have nothing to lose.

Chick-fil-A Supporters Hold Line Against New Nuremberg Laws

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

Government Officials Now Persecute Christians Openly

The Chick-fil-A phenomenon is not quite as simple as people think it is.

Clearly, to a Christian, the fundamental issue is that a small but loud minority is pushing secular authorities to allow homosexual marriage. There is no point in claiming this doesn’t alarm us. It seems pretty obvious that, while secular government and the church are separate entities, God tends to punish societies that permit their governments to promote sin. We are against gay marriage, and we want our secular government to forbid it, even though the prohibition is based in religion.

Nonetheless, even if we felt that it were possible and desirable to keep religious policy out of legislation, it would still be important to respond to the bullying of the left. The reason is that the three leftists who started this fight are secular officials. They are in government. They went outside the scope of secular rule, in order to persecute and discriminate against a Christian family. In doing so, they took the fight out of the church and into the realm of Constitutional law. They made it a secular fight.

Our religious freedoms are not found in the Bible. They arise from the First Amendment, which is a law enacted by Congress and the States. The parties enjoined from infringing our religious freedom are not private citizens. The injunction applies to the government. I can criticize your religion all I want. I can refuse to do business with you because I don’t like your beliefs. I don’t work for the government. But if you make me a political official in a major city, and I threaten to harm your business because of your beliefs, it’s another story. When I do that, I’m violating the First Amendment, at least in spirit, and possibly in letter.

Rahm Emanuel and the other two anti-Christian officials involved in this debacle made it clear that they disapproved of Christian beliefs, and they suggested they might take action to damage a Christian business because of those beliefs. That’s unacceptable. Government officials can’t do that. It’s also hypocritical, because leftist politicians don’t seem to have any problems with businesses run by Muslims, whose positions on homosexuality are more extreme than those of Christians, and they haven’t complained about businesses owned by Orthodox Jews, either. But that’s a rabbit trail, so I’ll stay off of it.

In Nazi Germany (I wonder why we never call it “Nazi Germany and Nazi Austria”), government persecution of the Jews did not start with concentration camps, einsatzgruppen, and gas chambers. It started with smaller steps. One such step was the targeting of Jewish businesses. The Nazis passed laws excluding Jews from many types of businesses, and eventually, they called for a boycott of Jewish businesses, culminating in Kristallnacht, “The Night of Breaking Glass,” in which Gentiles roamed the streets breaking windows in Jewish shops and looting the contents. The Nuremberg Laws followed, and eventually, Jews were completely marginalized. Their businesses were confiscated and given to Germans and Austrians loyal to their moron dictator.

When someone like Michael Moore or Keith Olbermann calls for a boycott of conservative or Christian businesses, it’s unfortunate, but it’s not alarming. When elected officials do the same thing, they are following in the footsteps of the Nazis. When the government persecutes you, there is no one to whom you can turn. No one but God himself. You have no recourse. You have no refuge.

People should be more upset than they are. What the left is doing right now isn’t debate or dissent. It’s not merely a boycott. It’s government-sponsored persecution of a religious group, based purely on a religious belief which does not conflict with the state’s legitimate interests.

This is not supposed to happen in America. This is why the First Amendment was written. What has happened over the last week is no less outrageous than a sign in a park reading, “Gentiles Only,” or a state attorney general threatening to refuse to recognize Jewish marriages.

Because Christians are the victims, and Christians are in the majority, and we are used to seeing Christians maligned, we’re not reacting as strongly as we should. We should be aware of this. We should make our persecutors pay a heavy price. The best way to do that is to turn out to vote, but we should also make our anger known, on every public forum. We should not be offended; we should be OUTRAGED. We are not quite at the Beer Hall Putsch stage of liberal totalitarianism. Our enemies aren’t as bold or powerful as they could become, should we sit back and yawn. We need to get used to taking strong stands, while we still have the power.

Today I did my small part. I dropped by the Chick-fil-A in Davie, Florida, for lunch. Thank God, there were cars lining up to get in, and people waiting for service were stacked up past the front doors. I took a photo, which I put on Facebook, and it got picked up by Investors Business Daily. Here it is.

I was parked illegally at Costco, so I couldn’t wait. I went to Carol City, and here are the photos I shot. I got a very nice deluxe sandwich with pepper jack cheese, plus waffle fries and a peach shake. It was way too much food, but it was my second Chick-fil-A meal so far this lifetime, so I wanted to see what they had.

I plan to go back whenever I get the chance. There aren’t any Chick-fil-As close to me, but I will find myself near one from time to time. I have a new guitar teacher, and he lives close to one, so that will give me a weekly opportunity.

I only wish they had been selling hats.

The Chicago Way

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

They Bring a Knife; You Bring a Cuisinart

I’m working on Chicago-style pizza today.

I already made a pie with my usual Sicilian crust. That crust is so good, I figured it couldn’t miss.I made it the usual way, but when I stuck it in the pan, I formed a wall around the edge, maybe 1.25″ high. Chicago pizza is a bowl of cheese and sauce, so you have to have sides on the bowl.

The pizza was very nice, but I learned one important thing. There is a reason they put sauce over the cheese in Chicago. They bake their pies nearly forever, so the cheese burns if you leave it exposed. I ended up with brown cheese. It tasted good, but obviously, it was far from optimal.

The crust itself was nice, but truthfully, conventional Sicilian is better. A big layer of yeasty bread under the sauce is better than thin crust swimming in tomatoes. When you make a high border around the pie, you automatically reduce the thickness of the bottom of the crust, and that’s not good.

Somebody pointed me to the Cook’s Illustrated recipe for Chicago-style pizza. It’s the same recipe I linked to the other day, on another site. The crust is the same, at least. You replace around 1/8 of the flour with corn meal, and you blend butter into the dough. Then you let it rise, roll it out, butter it, roll it up, flatten it somewhat, and stick it in the fridge. That hardens the butter, so when you form it into a pizza, you get layers separated by butter.

I think that’s the idea, anyhow.

Right now I’m making a pie with this method. Obviously, I changed a couple of things, because that’s how I am. I used the Cuisinart to “knead” the dough, and I halved the recipe. It was a recipe for two pies. What do you do if you only want one? The solution seemed simple.

I expected the corn meal to make the dough gritty, but oddly, it’s extremely silky. I mean, to the point where it’s weird.

I just threw it in the oven. I rolled it out, put it in the pan over olive oil, and added cheese, sauce, more cheese, pepperoni, spinach, and ricotta. I think I have the cheese covered well enough to keep it from burning.

We’ll see how it comes out. Maybe I’ll put up photos.

More

The first pizza was pretty good, apart from being burnt. Part of the problem was my failure to cover the cheese. The other part was an oversight with the oven. I set the temperature too high, and then I corrected it before putting the pie in. I believe it was still too hot when the pie started baking. Anyway, here it is.

The second pizza looked fantastic but tasted sort of like a burned souffle crossed with a waffle. About one eighth of the flour was replaced with corn meal. That screwed up the flavor. I think it also contributed to the burnt taste. Corn meal burns easily.

I ate most of one piece, just to analyze it, but the rest is going in the trash.

I’m wondering if this is how it’s supposed to taste. I have heard the taste of Chicago pizza described as “buttery,” but my guess is that a lot of people can’t tell the taste of butter from the taste of corn.

It seems to me that corn just doesn’t work with tomato sauce and mozzarella. The flavors are incompatible. It’s like cornbread instead of biscuits with fried chicken. Maybe you have to be raised eating it to think it’s good.

I’m thinking I might do it again, using lard instead of butter and getting rid of the corn meal. Anyway, it was bad.

More Food Network FAIL

Monday, June 25th, 2012

Jesters of the Food Court

I decided to try the Food Network’s recipe for Chicago-style pizza. This was brave of me, or just stupid, given my bad experiences with FN recipes. I tried Emeril’s Bearnaise sauce recipe, and it was utterly heinous. The first time I made prime rib, I tried Bobby Flay’s recipe, which suggested an insane temperature of 325°, and I ended up with several pounds of something resembling rubber.

Here’s something you really have to get through your head. I haven’t been able to do it, but maybe you’ll succeed where I failed: CREDENTIALS DON’T MEAN SQUAT IN THE KITCHEN. I don’t care where Emeril cooked. I don’t care where a given chef went to school. You can develop great credentials while cooking really bad food. Look at Mario Batali.

I can’t help being impressed when I meet someone who has a cooking resume, but that only proves I’m dense, because their food generally fails to live up to the curriculum vitae. I should know better than to trust the Food Network. Just the other day, I watched Alton Brown choose and ruin a badly cut rib eye, after telling the audience the wrong way to season a pan. And he’s supposed to be the king of culinary hype-destroyers.

Truthfully, I’m being too hard on myself (for once). I knew the pizza recipe was probably going to be disappointing. I didn’t try it because I thought it would work. I tried it because editing is easier than starting from scratch. I knew that once I had made a pie, I would be able to come up with improvements and end up with a great product.

The recipe comes from a place called Malnati’s. I have never been there. I have never had Chicago-style pizza, unless Uno counts. I’ve been to Uno once, and I can’t understand how they stay in business.

I want to be fair. I changed the recipe somewhat. I made it smaller, and I altered the proportions of sauce, dough, cheese, and toppings. But I know I didn’t cause any new problems. I think that will be clear as I describe what I did.

The recipe calls for “sauce.” That’s all the info you get. I decided to use my usual recipe, but since Chicago-style contains chunks of tomato, I opted for Cento Italian tomatoes instead of commercial sauce (paste) made by Stanislaus. The Cento tomatoes make wonderful sauce, but it’s a little more orange than Stanislaus, and it’s not as fruity. Also, the tomatoes are watery. So I boiled the sauce down a little.

I have read that you shouldn’t cook Chicago-style sauce once it’s mixed, but I didn’t know that when I made the pizza. The result was really delicious, but next time, I’ll boil the tomatoes first and add the other stuff later. You can’t use the tomatoes without removing some water, because you’ll get a tomato soup in a big bowl made from watery bread.

The recipe says to use a very basic dough recipe. Flour, oil, water, salt, yeast, sugar…I think. Something like that. I forget. I did some Googling and decided to change that a little. I made my usual oil-free sauce, and I substituted 1/4 cup of semolina for some of the flour. I had read various claims about corn meal and semolina figuring heavily in the crust, so I decided to see what semolina would do. Generally, in pizza, corn meal is a cheap, crappy substitute for semolina, and I had semolina on hand, so I used the best ingredient I had.

Here’s what you do. You dust the bottom of a deep pan with semolina or corn meal, to prevent sticking. I could live without the added grit, but I complied, using semolina. You stretch the dough out and line the pan. You pile in a layer of mozzarella, and you add a fair amount of Romano and Parmesan, which is a little silly, since you’re never going to be able to tell the difference between the two cheeses in this recipe. Next time I’ll use a single hard cheese. Once the cheese is in, you dump in your sauce and toppings. I chose to put the sauce in and then add the grated cheese and the toppings, in that order.

Once that’s done, you bake the whole mess for 30 to 40 minutes at 425°. That’s what I did.

Here are photos.

This was really delicious, but I still think the recipe is a loser. I’ve been consulting and Googling, and it’s my understanding that the crust is supposed to be flaky and buttery. It gets that way because they butter the dough and fold it, sort of like croissant dough. Naturally, the Food Network didn’t mention this. And the only reason the sauce was good was that I already knew how to make it.

I’m not really that interested in making perfect Chicago-style pizza. I can’t really hope to do it until I’ve tried the real thing, and I don’t think that’s possible without a plane ride. But I would like to make something really good, BASED ON THE CONCEPT. That’s a reasonable goal.

I found a link to a site which supposedly has the real, gold-standard method for making the crust. Here is the link: LINK. It seems to confirm that the Food Network has failed again, with no plausible excuse.

If you look at the above link, and then you Google Malnati’s recipe over at the Food Network, I think you’ll see that the changes I made aren’t the reason the crust isn’t the canonical Chicago crust. The Malnati recipe isn’t anything like the one I linked to above, so if I had followed the Malnati recipe faithfully, I would still have a homogeneous crust instead of layers.

I’m going to try something similar to the method I linked to. I plan to make some dough, roll it out, cool it, butter it, and fold it a few times. Then I’ll roll it out and stick it in the pan. It ought to work pretty well. I should get layers, plus some butter flavor.

This pizza seems to call for a lot more sauce and cheese than plain old Sicilian, so I think I’ll jack up the quantities. And I am tempted to shove some ricotta in there.

I would be truly amazed if I ended up with Chicago-style pizza, but I think I can produce something incredibly good. I don’t think I’ll make it often. Who wants to do all that work? I make the best Sicilian pizza I’ve ever seen, and it takes about ten minutes of work, plus eight minutes in the oven. I don’t see myself fooling with this new stuff very often, but I think it’s well worth trying.

I am tempted to use plain old croissant dough, but I might as well try my idea first.

More

Here is the latest. I made my usual dough, adding butter to the recipe. Then I rolled it out very thin, buttered it, folded it, buttered it, and so on, until I had several layers. Then I stretched it out and put it in a Teflon pan, over semolina.

The bottom layer is around four ounces of provolone. Then another five ounces of Costco mozzarella. Then ten ounces of sauce. Then half a cup of Parmesan. Then seasoned ricotta, spinach, and pepperoni.

I know it will taste good. But will it be anything like the real thing?

More

The pizza came out very well, but it convinced me to quit putting semolina in the crust. It makes the crust smell like Graham crackers, and it makes it too much like a Stella d’Oro breakfast treat. I think my own Sicilian crust would work a lot better. And I need to add fat to the outside of the dough.

The inside of the pizza was fine, but too deep. It should have been hotter inside, and the depth kept it from getting where it needed to be.

I think I’ll layer the crust again next time, but no semolina, and I’ll put oil in the pan, the way I usually do. Maybe I’ll add some butter with the oil.

I Received no Consulting Fees for Writing This Blog Entry

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

Plus a Pork Tour de Force

I should be working on my amp cabinet, but I just can’t. I’m high on pork.

I made an impulse buy at Costco the other day. How shocking. They had two pounds of smoked pulled pork for eight bucks. How could I turn that down? Besides, I think I would buy a leaky bag of anthrax spores if it said “Kirkland” on it.

Today I decided to prepare it.

I was considering putting it in a calzone. It would work as lechon asado, so I could make pan con lechon with Swiss cheese. That’s an unbelievable sandwich. Or I could experiment: BBQ pulled pork calzone.

In the end, I went with Texas toast.

I made a loaf of homemade bread, which takes about four minutes of work. I threw some cole slaw together, and I bought a baking potato, which I nuked (cheating) and then stuck in the oven to finish. I made my own BBQ sauce, and I sliced an onion.

I fried the onion in some old beef fat/peanut oil I used for fries. I used cast iron. I tossed the pork in, flambeed it in Jack Daniel’s, and tossed it with sauce. I fried two slices of bread in butter, which is just plain wrong. Then I sat down and ate.

Oh, man. I can’t describe it. As sold by Costco, the pork is not quite as good as pork you smoke on your own. But it’s more than adequate. It’s tender, and it has a nice hickory flavor. The stuff I put in it just melted into the meat. The bread was crunchy and drippy and buttery and yeasty. I think I may faint.

The cole slaw was also a cheat. I bought shredded cabbage and carrots in a bag and added my own stuff. I don’t think it makes much difference. I can’t shred cabbage any better than a factory can.

The potato was not quite right, but the wonderful thing about potatoes is that screwing them up can make them better. This one ended up with parts that were a little too chewy, and it may sound stupid, but they were wonderful. If I were cooking seriously, I wouldn’t go near the microwave, but this was just lunch, and the potato was great.

This sandwich was so good, it was sobering. Sometimes food makes you giddy. When it’s really good, it’s almost scary. It will make you serious. It will make you wonder how good food can get. That’s the situation I am dealing with today.

I can’t believe God lets me cook like this. What is the purpose? I can’t eat it all. I threw out a lot of my lunch because you can’t eat like that and expect to live.

I have an idea. My new church is thinking about feeding the poor. I’m all for this, and I’ll help, PROVIDED they do it right. There is no reason the poor can’t have the best food in Miami. The cost of food has no relationship to the quality. It’s all in the preparation. I’m thinking pulled pork sandwiches might be a good way to go. At most, the pork will cost $1.50 per pound. Homemade bread is almost free. Sauce ingredients aren’t expensive. Neither is slaw. For three bucks a head, we should be able to pretty well stun the poor, as well as the volunteers and anyone else who comes around.

We would need a couple of chafing dishes plus a big propane skillet. That’s about it.

Speaking of the poor, I learned something about a local nonprofit today. My old church has a charity wing. I know someone who went to them for help. He claimed they sat him in front of a computer and showed him links to places that could help him out. Did they give him money or groceries? He said no, although he had given money to the church in the past.

In the recent Pentecost fundraising drive (“Five Victories of Pentecost”), the leadership said they were going to give the special Pentecost offerings to the poor, via their charity wing. I ran that by my dad, the non-Christian attorney. He said, “So he’s paying HIMSELF.” The conflict of interest was not subtle. If you run a church, and you ask the congregation to give money to a charity, and you run the charity, and the charity pays you, what are you really doing? Maybe you’re not taking any money out, but what if you are? Shouldn’t donors be told how much and for what?

Out of curiosity, I Googled, and I came up with a PDF of some Canadian government documents. They say the church’s charity wing lost its nonprofit status in Canada in 2010, because they failed to respond to requests that they open their books and show that they were doing what charities do.

Okay, let’s be fair. This could be irresponsibility. This would not be a big surprise, given what I have observed personally. So far, what I’ve said doesn’t prove dishonesty. But here’s something one of the letters said: “The Organization’s only expenses for the period under audit were for non-charitable ‘Professional and consulting fees.’ The Organization did not report any expenses in support of the ‘ongoing programs’ as described in question C2 of its T3010s.”

You run an outfit which is supposed to be a charity; it’s supposed to give stuff to the poor. But as far as the Canadian government can tell, ALL–not some–of your expenses are for “Professional and consulting fees.”

You can see why it disturbed me. “Consulting” is a good excuse for organizations to funnel money to people who don’t really do anything of value. Michelle Obama made huge money “consulting.” And I think it’s fair to assume that none of the fees mentioned by the Canadians were paid to the poor (who are rarely hired as consultants). If a charity pays consultants, yet it gives nothing to the poor, what, exactly, is the point of the consulting? What are the consultants helping them do? Consultants are supposed to give advice. I think the obvious suggestion would be, “Stop giving all of the money to consultants and professionals and give something to the needy.”

Other websites say the charity received six figures a year. How can all of that money go to consulting and “professional” services?

Maybe there’s a legitimate explanation, but it doesn’t look good, does it?

A full-blown grifter–a charlatan with no intention of doing anything but getting rich–might leave a trail just like this. Money in, no services provided, and lots of expenditures for vague “fees.” So while the PDF doesn’t prove anything crooked is going on, if something crooked WERE going on, it would not look much different. I have decided to show the PDF to some friends and see what they think.

In any case, it shows I was right to quit giving them money. A long time ago, I realized they asked for money and then told donors nearly nothing about how it was spent. By “nearly nothing,” I mean I did not receive accountings showing how much money was taken in and how it was spent. I cut them off, apart from church offerings. I found transparent, trustworthy ministries and charities to give to.

They didn’t tell me where the money went. That’s bad. Reputable charities send out reports accounting for their donations. But failing to cooperate with the government of Canada…that’s another level of bad. It shows they don’t deserve money from anyone. If they’re that irresponsible or incompetent, how can you expect them to spend their money effectively?

What if they’re really helping the poor? Shouldn’t they keep books that prove it? What’s the down side? Jesus told us we were to keep quiet about giving, but he was referring to individuals, not ministries. Besides, before Pentecost, the pastor got up and told the congregation he and his wife were giving a thousand dollars in the Pentecost drive. Obviously, he is not concerned about hiding his good deeds.

This isn’t the only nonprofit that keeps things quiet. Kenneth Copeland refused to open his books when Congress came calling. On Youtube, there’s a video in which Copeland explains that Congress is full of evil people who do Satan’s bidding, and that he, as God’s representative on earth, is not accountable to them. That’s not really what he said, but it’s not that far off. If he’s not open with Congress, he’s not open with his donors, either, because if the donors had the information, it would have been impossible to keep it away from Congress, so he would have complied.

How can anyone give money to a man like that? What possible reason could he have for refusing to tell retirees and people on disability what he does with their money? He is incredibly wealthy. It didn’t all come from penny stocks and brilliant commodity trades made on a pastor’s salary; I guarantee that. Why won’t he tell us how he got where he is?

It’s sad, but Christians are so brainwashed about submission to authority, they can’t see it when the devil himself walks up the aisle and picks up the collection plate. Jesus said we should be as harmless as doves, but he also said we should be as wise as serpents. A man who won’t explain himself to his flock has no business handling other people’s money.

I pray for God to help the leaders at my old church get it together, but I also pray he throws them out and brings better pastors in. I hope they improve, but I don’t think the congregation should suffer while they learn. They’ve had a long time to get it right, and it’s not right for thousands of people to have poor leadership just so a few folks can hold onto their jobs.

My faith tells me God is replacing them, and as I have noted before, the scuttlebutt is that the head pastor is on his way out. I didn’t hear about that until after I prayed for the leaders to be replaced.

In other news, my latest amp now almost has a home. Here’s a photo.

I am not a great upholsterer, but it looks wonderful. I don’t know how to handle the inside corners in the ivory panel. I am considering experimenting with a heat gun. The vinyl will have to be stretched, if the job is to look professional. As it is, I may have to mask it with some sort of metal or plastic things I screw into the corners, over the vinyl.

The amp sounds magnificent. I can’t stop playing it. It sings. I still have some 120 Hz hum to get rid of, but it’s not bad enough to be a major concern. Once I get it fixed, I’m moving on to my 4-EL84 version.

Stay away from that Costco pork. I am just now starting to come down.

More

I’m really not sure what’s going on. I have been re-reading the Canadian government’s documents, which you can find here:

Link to Canadian gov’t documents.

The organization that had its nonprofit credentials revoked is headquartered in Miami, and it belongs (or belonged) to the head pastor of the church. But it doesn’t have the name the church’s charity wing uses. The Canadians were puzzled by this, too. In trying to get information, they looked at the current charity’s website.

Now I have to wonder: is it even the same outfit? Is it possible they let this organization lapse (irresponsible, but not inherently crooked) while setting up the new one? That would explain why they ignored inquiries from Canada.

If we were talking about a responsible organization like The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, there would be no questions. They publish and mail an annual report to their donors, and it accounts for all of the money they receive. I know Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein’s salary, because of that report. With my old church and its affiliates, who knows? Maybe they generally let people look at their books, but for some reason, they decided to shut Canada out. Maybe everything they do is legal and ethical. I have no idea. I don’t recall receiving any annual reports.

The organization the Canadians disqualified used this language in describing its purpose:

[T]o evangelize and educate young people and their families regarding drugs, suicide, and moral values

That doesn’t sound like what the current charity is purportedly doing. As far as I know, they occasionally round stuff up and send it to Haiti, and as I’ve said, they refer poor people to organizations that give them assistance. So maybe it’s a different body entirely.

Here is how the charity’s website describes its activities:

When a person in need enters our office we will immediately hear the person’s need and respond with appropriate resources. Often the response will be a referral to another resource. [Italics mine.]

Anyway, I don’t want to be unfair. The church’s charity has one name, and the organization in the Canadian documents has another, so they may be different entities, and it is completely possible that the church’s charity is doing more for the poor than I suspect.