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Archive for the ‘Death by Fork’ Category

Conched Out

Thursday, November 23rd, 2017

Turkey Vanquished; Lit. Hum. Defeated

Thanksgiving dinner has come and gone. Could have been worse. My friend Amanda came by with her kids, and we shared the load. The turkey came out great, and Amanda supplied pies.

I nearly got a hall pass this year. This morning, a huge blob of thunderstorms went through my area, and I lost electricity. You don’t want to be without power on Thanksgiving morning. I couldn’t cook, bathe, or even wash my hands. Possible down side: highly screwed-up Thanksgiving for two families. Possible up side: no cooking.

The juice returned after maybe 90 minutes, leaving me still obligated yet behind schedule. I did the best I could, and we ended up eating later than I had hoped.

I learned something new this year. Cracker Barrel stays open on Thanksgiving. I called them, told them my power was out, and asked if they were open. The lady told me to come on down and not to worry. I love the people here. She really felt bad about my power outage.

While I waited for the power to come back on, I killed time reading the last of Lord of the Flies. This is the last book on my version of the Columbia College Literature Humanties reading list. I have finally done all the reading. I should look my old professor up and tell him. I really annoyed him. If I went to his office today and told him I had finished my reading, he would probably punch me in the face. He would still remember me; the king of wasted potential.

My conclusion, after putting myself through this ordeal: books that were great for their time are not always great books. Some are very bad. Crime and Punishment comes to mind. Also, Columbia College includes a number of overrated writers in their curriculum for the sake of political correctness, and they don’t mind sacrificing their students’ time or their students’ parents’ money on the altar of diversity.

When you consider what Columbia charges parents, the only reasonable position to take is that every single word a student reads should be important. Jamming Alice Walker down someone’s throat in a course that costs $4000 should be illegal.

Academics are quite possibly the single most likely group to see the emperor’s clothes when they’re not there. Academics are herd creatures, and they are incapable of independent thought. If an academic thinks other academics think Virginia Woolf’s wretched, inept To the Lighthouse is a great book, that academic is certain to agree. Students are forced to read a lot of overrated crap, simply because college professors are incapable of dissent.

It makes sense that professors are afraid to have dissenting opinions. Generally, they are mediocre intellects. They are fungible. Fire one, and you can find a dozen to replace him the next day. When your product is a commodity, not a franchise, you have to be very careful not to make anyone mad, because you are expendable. On the other hand, if, say, a top-flight professional athlete feels like saying what’s on his mind, people will put up with it, because such athletes are hard to replace.

When I was at Columbia, a baseball player named Chris got the idea that someone was after his ex-girlfriend, Carolyn. Chris was maybe 6’5″ tall. Strong guy. He walked up behind the other man, who was much smaller and wearing glasses, and he attacked from the rear, giving him a severe beating. Nothing of significance happened to Chris. He was hard to replace. If a random history professor had done that, he would have been fired.

Carolyn was a babe, incidentally. Really beautiful. She took me aside at a party one night and started talking to me. Good thing I had no game whatsoever, or I could have ended up with a concussion.

I just Googled her, out of curiosity. She died suddenly in 2010. Sad.

Not really interested in what happened to Chris. I hope the guy he beat doesn’t have dementia from it.

Some of the Lit. Hum. books I read were bad, yet important historically or advanced for their times. Virginia Woolf was just bad. For any era. Awful.

Vogon-poetry awful.

I’m glad I did the reading. I learned a few things. I got a clearer understanding of the development of western literature and culture. Nonetheless, I suffered considerably.

As for Lord of the Flies, I read it in a few days, whereas other Lit. Hum. books took weeks. The reason is this: it wasn’t as painful to read. It had a plot. It had action. The characters, though shallow and unappealing, had distinct personalities. Some did, anyway. It was nice to get into a book without dreading the battle to get back out.

If you haven’t read the book, stop reading, because there will be spoilers.

I’ll tell you how the book goes. There is a war. We are told almost nothing about it. A bunch of kids are put on a plane. The point seems to be to get them out of danger, but it’s not very clear. The plane crashes on a tropical island, and the adults on the plane die. The kids have to fend for themselves. They end up electing a leader. A violent rival takes the kids away from him. The rival’s new gang murders two kids and tries to kill a third (the first leader), but before they can get him, a boat shows up, and the kids are rescued by the British navy. Suddenly the scary gang that tried to kill the former leader looks like what it is: a bunch of little kids with pointed sticks.

The book has weaknesses. For one thing, Golding can’t describe anything. If he tried to describe a square cardboard box to you, you might think he was talking about a crystal chandelier. He tries to describe the island and other things, but you never get a clear idea what any of it looks like. You have to give up and not worry about it. You can’t even tell how many boys there are. Also, the characters are very thinly drawn. They don’t have interesting characteristics that make them stand out from each other.

Golding tried to describe coconuts, and he said they looked like skulls. The only coconuts that look like skulls are husked coconuts. With the husks still on, as they would be found on an uninhabited island, they look nothing like skulls. It’s like Golding only saw coconuts on Gilligan’s Island, where they fell pre-husked.

Like most Lit. Hum. books, Lord of the Flies does not contain a single laugh. I’m not sure how anyone can write two hundred pages without saying anything funny or clever, but Homer did it, Virgil did it, Woolf did it, Dostoevsky did it…it’s remarkable, how many Lit. Hum. authors were not even slightly witty or inclined to humor. It’s like they shared a bizarre mental illness.

Cervantes made jokes, but they were cruel and stupid. Here’s the kind of thing Cervantes would have found amusing: a man tries to hit his servant in the face with a club, but he misses, falls, and knocks all of his front teeth out on a fence post.

Lord of the Flies has a plot, which is a nice thing for a book to have, but it’s not intricate, original, or clever. There are no brilliant twists or turns. Kids get marooned. Kids form violent factions. Kids kill other kids. Kids are rescued. I don’t think the plot is what makes the book.

One important character is a dead person. I’m referring to the Beast. Some of the kids think there is a big, hairy creature on the island, and that it may eventually kill them. They make expeditions to find it and kill it. Meanwhile, an aerial battle takes place above the island. A man parachutes out of a plane. His dead body lands on a mountain in a sitting position, with his parachute still attached. When the wind blows, he raises his head as though he’s looking at people. One of the kids sees him one night, and he decides he’s the Beast.

To flesh out the character of the Beast, a kid named Simon has a psychotic episode. A boy named Jack leads a group that kills a pig, and they leave the pig’s head on a stick as a sacrifice to the Beast. Simon looks at the head one day, and it starts speaking to him, saying it’s the Beast and that he’s not wanted on the island. Simon is the first boy the gang murders.

The Beast device taps into some pretty weird, primal notions, or at least it seems that way to me, a religious nut.

The Bible tells us a Christ-hating upstart called the Beast will rise up to try to take God’s place. Most eschatologists think the Beast will be a ruler; a man. My own suspicion is that the Beast is just the spirit that rules the carnal masses. Beasts are ruled by their flesh. Destructive, ignorant people are ruled by their flesh. The word “carnal” means “ruled by the flesh.” Maybe there will be a single man who personifies the Beast, but I think the Beast will be the masses. Think Antifa. Think BLM. Think Pol Pot.

In Lord of the Rings, a boy with common sense tries to lead the group. His name is Ralph. He’s a builder. He gets himself elected chief. He tries to make rules. He tries to make the kids keep a signal fire going. His enemy is Jack, and Jack is neither a builder nor a thinker. He’s a looter and destroyer. Jack leads a troop called the hunters. They kill pigs for everyone to eat. Jack is too dumb to think about signal fires. He is a populist. He appeals to the basest drives of his friends. He tells them they’ll hunt all day and “have fun.” He offers to do away with rules.

Ralph’s consiglieri is a fat kid nicknamed Piggy. In a violent book about kids, you don’t have to be told what will happen to Piggy. Piggy is very smart, and he gives excellent advice, but he is prime bully bait, so he can never be the chief. Piggy can barely see. He wears glasses. Jack attacks him, breaking one lens of his glasses, leaving Piggy half blind. Later in the book, he takes the glasses with the remaining lens, leaving Piggy to be led around like Homer.

Piggy is like a prophet. In the Bible, prophets were sighted, but in other traditions, they had vision problems. Tiresias was blind. The cyclopes gave up binocular vision for limited clairvoyance; they were able to see their own deaths. I’m too lazy to look up other blind prophets.

Like a prophet, Piggy sees the truth, and he is attacked and eventually killed for it. Weird.

The dead aviator is a good choice for the image of the Beast, because he’s all flesh, with the mind and spirit gone. He rots. Carnal people rot, figuratively. It takes effort and gumption to make people rise above hogs and monkeys, just as it takes energy for the body of a living person to fight off disease and decomposition. What do you see when you look at Antifa and BLM? Rot. Human beings acting like animals. New generations becoming less intelligent and less powerful than their predecessors.

The aviator has no power of his own. He moves, literally, with the wind. A beastly (carnal) leader is like that. They don’t really lead. They follow. The voice of the crowd blows them this way and that. Remember Obama? Interesting.

The word “spirit” literally means “breath,” which is a type of wind. We live because the breath of God is in us. The Beast of the Apocalypse will have the spirit of Satan in him, animating and empowering him like a wind in a parachute.

Simon is killed by Jack’s mob as he tries to tell them the Beast is a dead body. They don’t pay attention to anything he says. They’re in the grip of a bizarre, tribal bloodlust, like backward natives jumping up and down in Africa. After they kill him, a wind fills the aviator’s chute, lifts him off the mountain, and drags him over the site where Simon is killed. The aviator then plunges into the sea.

In the Bible, seas symbolize masses of beings. More specifically, they symbolize their combined voices. When a lot of people speak against you, it’s like sinking into a sea. When Peter looked only at Jesus, he was raised above the sea, and it became the platform that supported him. God promised Jesus he would make his enemies his footstool. When Peter stood on the sea, it was a picture of God’s children resting their feet on hostile humanity.

A leader who rose from a sea of carnal voices deserves to sink into a sea. Isn’t that Satan’s future? When he is exposed as a powerless manipulator, the beings he fooled will want some payback, and presumably, he will sink into their midst and be tormented without mercy.

The boys’ adventure made me think about fatherlessness. This is a fatherless world, because we reject the Father and his messengers. Wisdom and knowledge are treasures, and we are supposed to pass them on to new generations, but we reject God, throwing these treasures away. As a result, every generation has to start from scratch, and we never reach the heights we were designed for. The boys in the book had no fathers. They were alone. One adult could have provided them sufficient wisdom to bring them order and peace, but lacking an adult, they listened to Jack instead. They were like modern Americans. We don’t know God, so we listen to doomed imbeciles like Kanye West and the Kardashians. With every generation, we get weaker, not stronger.

When the naval officer showed up at the end of the book, he was like Jesus, returning to order the world. When he showed up, with true authority on his side, Jack suddenly looked very small and powerless. His power instantly vanished, and Ralph’s power reappeared. The Bible says people will marvel when Satan, who scared us so much, is revealed. We will be amazed at how puny he is.

I found these ideas interesting as I read the book. Lord of the Flies was the only Lit. Hum. book that stirred me on a spiritual level. It wasn’t illuminating, but it made me think about things I already believed.

My guess is that William Golding never considered any of these things. I would also guess that my take on the book is nothing like the interpretation promoted by the sheep of academia.

It was pleasant to read a book that wasn’t excruciatingly tedious and which gave me things to think about.

Should I go ahead and read the books on Columbia’s Contemporary Civilization list? I don’t know. They’re horrible. Hobbes. Locke. Macchiavelli. Plato. Yech. Besides, I probably did the reading for that course when I was at Columbia.

I never did Art Humanities (another core course). I believe I started and then dropped it. I don’t know how I would go about recreating that course on my own. It wasn’t just readings. There were a ton of slides. I love slide courses. Sit around in the dark, look at slides, write some BS on the exam, and get at least a B.

If I decide to do any more studying, you will read about it here, if you can stand it.

Hope I didn’t spoil the book for you, but if I did, it’s your own fault, because I warned you.

Happy Thanksgiving. Don’t mention Christmas to me.

Happy Obligatory Fall Meal with People who are not Your First Choices

Tuesday, November 21st, 2017

Hurry up, Friday

Thanksgiving is nearly here.

Yay. Whee.

My attitude toward holiday cooking is not good at all. I rarely cook these days. If you don’t count the soup I make and freeze in portions for breakfast, I have cooked less than once a week for quite some time, and when I do cook, it’s usually for myself. I quit cooking for my dad. The work was just too much.

I used to cook for everyone I knew. Eventually, I got tired of it. Guests wore me out. They didn’t help much with shopping or cooking. Some guests showed up late or not at all. Some left early, as soon as they were full. Very few helped clean up. And how often did they invite me over for food? Not very.

One day, I heard the obvious notion rattling around in my mind: it is not normal for a single man to bust his hump cooking for 8 people in his own house. Entertaining is for married people. I quit cooking, except for rare occasions. Unfortunately, Thanksgiving is mandatory, so I can’t get out of it. We could go to a restaurant, but that would be so depressing, it would be worse than cooking at home. If I were alone, I could skip it entirely and think nothing of it, but I’m not alone.

Thanksgiving is a major undertaking for one person. Even a modest meal takes two days to prepare, unless you serve instant mashed potatoes and a canned ham. You have to do a lot of shopping. You have to store the food for several days before you prepare it. Then you have to clean the house and set the table, and afterward, you have to clean the kitchen and table area. It’s a nightmare.

If you’re married, you can divide tasks with the wife. If you have kids, you may be able to enslave them to some degree. If you have a big family, you may have parents, sisters, and brothers who will help. My mother is dead. My grandparents are all dead. My relatives in Kentucky don’t invite me or my dad to holiday meals. I don’t know if they’re afraid my sister will show up, or if they have some mysterious problem with me. My sister made them suffer a lot, but I have always dealt honestly with them.

Meals with my dad are not that great. His table manners are a problem. You have to look at your plate while you eat unless you want to see what he’s chewing. He stuffs himself, which is off-putting. You have to watch him to keep him from putting his fork or his dirty hands in common dishes, rendering them offensive to everyone else. He spills food on himself. He says, “lotta food,” maybe five times per meal. Because of dementia, he asks the same questions over and over, trying to start a conversation. If I bring up a better topic, he is likely to dismiss it immediately, as if I were stupid to bring it up. He gets upset because we don’t talk, but he makes it very difficult.

He likes to nag me about getting married and giving him grandchildren. He tells me how old I am. Sometimes he starts reminiscing about old times, which is very disturbing. I forgive him for the negative contributions he made to my childhood, and I never bring them up, but I won’t sit still while he talks about how happy I was. I correct him. I say things like, “My childhood was horrible, and I hate talking about it. Every day I thank God I’m an adult.” Then he gets angry with me.

When he’s done eating, there is food spilled on the table and floor, and I have to take care of it. And he likes to put spit on his finger and rub tables and counters with it, to remove smudges and so on. Often, the smudges are really flecks in the granite. He thinks they’re bits of food. He leaves a film of dried spit on things, and I have to go behind him with counter cleaner and alcohol.

His manners upset guests. They work together with me to contain the damage. “You don’t have to serve yourself; let me get that for you. Move so I can wipe that up. Let me get you more napkins.”

Thanksgiving should be a time to relax and enjoy life with people whose company you enjoy, but to me, it’s a huge chore I can’t wait to get behind me.

Another problem: the nice people next door invited us to eat with them. I had to weasel out of that. I don’t want to seem unfriendly (although I am), but I don’t like involving my dad in new relationships. When I’m with him, I’m uncomfortable and very restrained. I’m on duty, as a caretaker. My personality is muted. And he offends people. He told my friend Mike he looked like a fruit in his pink shirt, and he also looked over and announced, “You’re losing all your hair.” He said some troubling things to my friend Amanda when she cared for him over a weekend. It’s not a dementia thing, either. He was always like that.

My dad likes to talk about how serious I am, and he criticizes me for not talking. He says these things in front of people, and they probably believe it. If you come from a sick, dysfunctional family, it’s always best to minimize your family’s exposure to your friends and love interests. You need to be around people who will let you grow, not people who will try to keep you deformed and small.

He has made some effort to improve over the last few years, but dementia patients can’t alter their behavior all that well. He is stuck with his bad habits and flaws because he waited too long to admit they existed.

Amanda has no one to help her with Thanksgiving, so I invited her to come and bring her kids and her dysfunctional mom. We will take work off of each other, and both of us will benefit from the presence of a non-gaslighting, helpful adult. When Amanda’s mom puts her down, I’ll be around to remind Amanda how ridiculous and pathetic her mom’s perceptions are. If my dad empties his nose on the porch in front of everyone, Amanda will be there to step around the mucus and sympathize with me.

The presence of Amanda and her kids will make the ordeal considerably easier to bear, and it may be that my presence will cramp her mom’s style and put her on her best behavior.

When you look after a dementia patient, you have to limit your exposure. You can’t sit in the room with the patient all day, listening to them say the same things over and over. That’s especially true when the patient makes a point of saying annoying things which he knows are annoying, or when the patient keeps arguing about the same things, no matter how obvious it is that he’s wrong.

You can’t cruficy yourself because the patient isn’t entertained 24/7. You have to say, “Sometimes people plan their lives poorly, and when they do, a certain amount of suffering is unavoidable and just and not to be blamed on others.” It’s okay if a difficult patient experiences some boredom and loneliness. People who are not demented experience those things, and no one gets upset about it. It’s part of life. There is no law that says you’re entitled to constant entertainment simply because you’re demented.

I get bored occasionally. Sometimes, for a few minutes, I’m lonely. No one makes a federal case out of it. No one comes running to wipe my nose, and I’m fine. I know my dad would be happier if I sat beside him all day stepping and fetching and making balloon animals or whatever. I would be happier, too, if someone else gave up his or her life to keep me entertained and do my bidding. Doesn’t make it a good idea.

My approach is to ration the time I spend with my dad. I make sure we go out to eat three or four times a week. I check on him. I also make sure I have adequate time alone, to wind down. After bagging ten pounds of wet, reeking diapers and taking them to the dump, you really need time to wash carefully, sit down alone or with friends, and decompress. That’s especially true when the person who wears the diapers has broken through the Diaper Genie bag and has continued pushing filthy diapers into the Diaper Genie anyway.

You have to look after your parents when they need help, unless they’re absolutely unbearable. You don’t have to be a martyr or an enabler.

The stage of dementia my dad is in right now is said to last up to two years, and he is maybe six months into it. The next stage is much worse. Vascular dementia patients typically live about 5 years after they manifest symptoms, and things started going bad for him in about 2015. If my dad lives long enough, the following things will happen to him: we will get an attendant to come here and help him for a few hours a day, and then in the next stage, he will forget who I am and how to get dressed. He will have to go to a facility. At that point, he will have maybe two more years of life left. I want him to be happy while he’s here and reasonably lucid, but it won’t be long until I have to put other people in charge. At that point, I’ll have to get used to the fact that I have nearly no ability to provide him with company or amusement. I’ll have to trust strangers and be at peace with it.

I remember visiting his mother with him, after she moved to a nursing home. The whole place smelled like feces, even though it was clean. You can only do so much to reduce the smell of diapers. An old woman with a blank look on her face was using her feet to pull herself around in a wheelchair. She made unintelligible sounds. My dad leaned over and whispered, “If I ever have to go to a place like this, just kill me.”

I think about that sometimes. Unless he passes unexpectedly, he’s going to have to go to just such a place. Will he hate it as much as he thought? People’s desires and priorities change with their circumstances. No one is going to kill him, so he may have to face a move to a home. I shouldn’t assume too much; nurses and other healthcare providers kill people all the time to get them out of the way, so maybe one day when my back is turned, someone will play God.

The other day he asked me if he was losing his mind. He’s in denial almost all the time, so that surprised me. I didn’t say yes, which would have been true, but I was honest. I told him the condition he has gets worse, not better. I didn’t know what else to say. Pills are available, but his doctor recommended not using them, and he doesn’t want them.

Tomorrow I plan to bone the turkey and prepare cornbread for stuffing. I may cook yams so they’ll be ready to finish preparing on Thursday. I still don’t have a real dining table, so I need to get a second plastic folding table.

The food will be incredible, and Amanda and I will enjoy the kind of bonding friends from dysfunctional families are famous for. Hopefully her kids will be insulated from the holiday misery their father’s wretched behavior has the potential to cause. It will be at least seven years until he is allowed to see them again. That time needs to be dedicated to healing.

When the meal is done, I plan to make Amanda take as much of the leftovers as possible. My dad will complain, but Thanksgiving leftovers make for a big mess during the following week, and my dad tends to keep them until they are rotten. Also, they’re fattening.

If you are lucky enough to have quality Thanksgiving gatherings, enjoy them while you can. I enjoyed a lot of great holidays in Kentucky when I was a kid. I’m glad I have those times to remember. In the meantime, I will grit my teeth and deal with this obligation.

This is the Light at the End of the Tunnel

Thursday, October 12th, 2017

There is a Cure for Miami

I am enjoying Ocala to the point where I almost wonder if something is wrong with me.

When I moved here, the movers screwed up badly. My dad insisted on going for a drive and got lost on the day of the move. My dad overdosed on pills he was supposed to let me measure out for him, and he ended up in the hospital for several days. Hurricane Irma hit me with tropical storm winds and knocked over lots of big trees on the farm. The power went out. I had to bathe in buckets of pool water. The main AC unit in the house died, and we had to fork out $6800. A tenant broke a lease in Miami, and we had to pay $5000 to fix the apartment. Hurricane Irma messed up a yacht I really needed to sell.

Plus it was ungodly hot during the day, and the mosquitoes were so big and numerous they practically lifted me off the ground when I went outside.

It was a bad start.

Now I have a lot of my stuff here. I made a trip to Miami, and a friend also went down and brought things back. The boat sold for more than I expected. I have three chain saws, and I’ve learned how to move a lot of wood in a hurry. The air is drying up, and the weather is cooler. The bugs are going away.

Finally I can enjoy this place.

When you join a moronic street gang, they “jump you in” and “jump you out.” That means they give you a beating when you join, and if you leave, you get another beating. Satan seems to work the same way. Simply moving back to Miami in 1997 was a beating. This year I left again, and the God of Losers came at me again. That’s how I see it.

Whatever. The suffering I endured doesn’t really compare to the eternal roasting my enemy is going to get.

Today I went out to the shop to start my day of hurricane mess recovery, and I felt the cool breeze hit me as I stood on the porch (My shop has a porch!) and opened the door. A crazy wave of pleasure hit me. I was overcome. It’s gross and trite to compare everyday pleasures to sex, but that’s what I thought of. Something went through me and left me a little dizzy.

Today I lit up the burn pile again. I also sharpened the pole saw and made my way into the middle of my woods. I have a bunch of big downed trees in there. I’ve been reluctant to take them on because of the bugs, heat, and standing water. Today was the right day.

I found out a neighbor had cleared away 90% of a big oak that had fallen on a fence. That was nice. I don’t have access to the DMZ between our fences, so I was dreading looking him up and asking how I could get in. Evidently he did not consider me accountable for my tree’s behavior. All I have to deal with is the stump.

I found several trees which fell near each other. Some were on top of each other. I took out the pole saw and got to work. I put in around 3 hours. I murdered those trees. Because the pole saw is so safe to use, and because it can reach things several feet away and things that are over my head, I had access to all sorts of branches that would have been a problem for a chain saw. I cut the crap out of the trees and made a giant pile of limbs and logs.

I had my trusty timberjack with me. What a great tool. It makes short work of heavy logs I could not have dealt with a week ago. They used to be a real pain. Now they’re a joke.

Within a week or two, I should have a clear path to the gate on the highway. Once that happens, I’ll be able to use the tractor to take wood out through the gate and dump it for the county to pick up. I won’t have to burn it!

I’m sad that I lost trees, but just about all of them were worthless oaks. I can plant pecans or something.

Maybe I should do something with that lot. I don’t know how many desirable trees are on it. I like the woods, but maybe I should consider a plan with fewer trees and more grass. Maybe there are pecans and other trees there that I could assist by cutting oaks, and then I could thin out the brush and put in grass.

I do not like seeing the neighbors. I’ve read that bamboo will grow up and form a thick hedge in a year or two. Maybe I should plant a couple hundred feet along the fence line. Bamboo looks really nice, and on top of that, the canes are useful for certain things.

While I was hacking away at a tree, I hit something and knocked the chain off the pole saw bar. It was time to quit anyway, so I headed back to the shop. I had two bottles of cold water from the Rockstar fridge, a Pellegrino orange soda, and an egg cream. It’s amazing how much water you sweat out while using the saws. I sat in one of the shop’s entrances in a plastic Adirondack chair, facing the woods, enjoying my beverages. The breeze blew through the shop and kept me cool. Too much. I loved it.

I goofed off. I texted and called friends. The only thing missing was a smoker with a few ribs in it.

I was so right about this place. That tells me the idea came from God. When I have my trees cleaned up and my bamboo installed, I’ll be the big daddy king of all eccentric hermits.

Some day this will be a place for prayer meetings and God knows what else. Until then I’ll enjoy myself getting it ready.

I just can’t hate Miami enough.

Sorry for not taking photos. I was too engrossed. Maybe next time.

Growing Pains Continue

Saturday, October 7th, 2017

Cliff Clavin Would be Proud

Life in Ocala is wonderful, although I still have challenges. My dad sometimes decides he doesn’t have dementia, which actually makes sense. Dementia screws up your judgment and makes you forget things, including your dementia diagnosis. I have also had more problems getting rid of my dad’s yacht.

My dad has gotten worse. Dementia never stands still. Over the last few days he has forgotten his diagnosis, and he has been telling me his mind is fine. I tell him he was diagnosed with vascular dementia, and he says he doesn’t remember anything like that. Then I remind him that this proves the diagnosis is right.

He wants to drive. I told him he can’t drive because he gets lost. Then he wants to know when he got lost. Then I have to remind him. Then he says he wants to drive with me in the car with him, which negates the whole purpose of driving. He says he wants to maintain the skill. This could be useful to me, because he could follow me when I need him to take me to get the car fixed. But it’s not worth it, because it will convince him he’s a safe driver.

In December, he will have to take a driving test. I suppose that will put an end to the controversy.

Supposedly, the stage of dementia he’s in lasts a couple of years, tops. It’s too bad he has a contrary attitude, because he only has a short stretch of relative clarity before him, and he would get more out of it if he didn’t fight the truth. One of these days, he will drop another notch, and it may be a big one. That’s how the disease progresses. It could be tomorrow or three months from now. He would be better off admitting the obvious and trying to get right with God.

He has delusions now. He thinks he used to ride motorcycles. He has no idea how to operate one. He told a friend we used to take his boat to Europe. He said we put drums of diesel on the deck to extend the boat’s range. Imagine trying to lift a 55-gallon drum of diesel on a rocking boat and then using it to pour fuel into an opening on the boat’s gunnel.

I knew another man with a problem like my dad’s, but he was a less argumentative person. He had always been calm, rational, warm-hearted, patient, generous, and cooperative. Even after he was unable to look after himself, he was clean, well-mannered, and very pleasant to deal with. Everyone loved him, and he wasn’t a burden to anyone except possibly his wife. Your preexisting personality can shape the experience you have when you become demented.

I had to get a second fridge because my dad’s food habits were too gross to tolerate. I hid it in a closet in the garage, and I put certain items in it so they wouldn’t be defiled or eaten as soon as they made it into the house. I don’t want to eat pickles after he has put his fingers in the jar. Imagine the things he would have on his fingers. I don’t want to use mustard from a greasy bottle with dried mustard all over it. I don’t want to eat Raisin Bran after he has sat in front of the TV and eaten most of the box with his fingers. I would like a chance to eat some cheese or an ice cream sandwich before they suddenly vanish.

These habits didn’t start when he became demented. It’s just how he has always been. Now that he’s demented, he can’t remember when I remind him he has to think about cleanliness and leave some food for me.

He rubs spit on things now. That’s new. He thinks he’s cleaning things. I have to keep Lysol wipes and a spray bottle of alcohol handy.

It’s a big relief, knowing I can have clean food and that if I buy a bag of miniature Snickers bars, it won’t disappear before I get the chance to open it. He ate a two-pound bag of peanut butter M&M’s the other day. Who does that?

He won’t find the fridge because he can’t find his way around the house all that well. He’s not sure where my bedroom is. He can find the kitchen, the garage, and his bedroom, and he can walk around the neighborhood without problems, but he will probably never know there’s a closet in the garage.

As for his boat, it has been a horrendous ordeal trying to get rid of it. When the insurance came up for renewal, the agent said there was no coverage for damage. Just liability. This was my dad’s idea. I decided to follow suit, because I was listing the boat with a broker. How likely was it that a hurricane would hit Miami in the two months it would be on the market? Yeah, okay.

Irma showed up. She tore up the boat’s canvas and did some other damage, and I thought I was going to take a big hit. I had a stressful week thinking about it. Then one day I started praying for God to get it sold, and I thanked him over and over and gave him glory, saying, “because it’s done.” A few minutes later, the broker said we had two offers for much more than I expected. We accepted one of them. Then the bilge pumps acted up. I wrote about that a few days ago. If you read about it, you know that “Carlos,” our dubious boat mechanic, installed a new pump. I thought the pump saga was over.

Carlos said water was coming from a rotted head hose. He said he couldn’t close the seacock to keep water out while he replaced it, because it was stuck, and if he applied pressure to it, he might break it and let in enough water to sink the boat. This is a lot of BS. You can replace a seacock on a docked boat by having someone go over the side and cover the opening with a toilet plunger while you work. I know this because Carlos has done it. I wrote about this earlier.

You can pound a stopper into a through-hull if the seacock breaks. Everyone knows this. It’s not like mankind has been sailing for thousands of years without coming up with a few solutions to simple problems. It’s not like every boat with a hole in it sinks. Human beings aren’t that stupid.

Anyway, I thought the problem was fixed, but the broker went over the next day, and Carlos’s pump wasn’t working. The broker got it running, closed the seacock, and got the water pumped out.

Thanks again, Carlos.

Why did the broker go over the next day? Because he’s a responsible adult who cares if the boat sinks. He’s not just thinking about getting a check and running off.

I texted Carlos just to have my low expectations confirmed. He did not disappoint. He gave me a bunch of Bart Simpson excuses, including, “It was working when I left.” He started saying he would go over and fix the rest of the wiring. Yes, instead of apologizing profusely, he decided to award himself another profitable job. No, that would not be necessary. The sale was supposed to close the next day, and I didn’t feel much like paying another Carlos bill. I told him not to bother.

I found out I could move the closing up by sending the required documents early, so I jumped on the chance. I got them notarized and sent them the fastest way I could. On Wednesday, I used the Postal Service (You can see where this is heading) to send them by two-day Express Mail. They were guaranteed to arrive by noon Friday.

Hallelujah! Problem solved! The sale would be final on Friday! Not my boat, not my problem!

Then Friday came, and the delivery confirmation text didn’t come.

The Postal Service didn’t deliver the envelope in time. I spent over $80 for nothing, and I was facing two more days with a leaky boat on my hands.

I tried to log into the USPS site to get information. The site said my account was disabled. It referred me to a page to fix it. That page told me to create a new account, which had nothing to do with the problem. I called. The robot said the wait was at least 20 minutes. I tried their email contact page. I filled it out and clicked, and I got a page saying it wasn’t working.

Today I got my dad in the car, and we sent more documents using UPS. This is a real company that occasionally delivers things on time. We spent $91, and then we sat down at Bob Evans for breakfast. Ten minutes later, I got a text. The Postal Service had delivered the documents.

Okay.

The boat has to remain afloat until Monday morning, when the closer signs off on everything and has the money wired to my dad. I have around 40 hours of prayer ahead of me. After that, if it sinks, it’s the buyer’s baby. They had it surveyed. They have a mechanic. They know it has issues. Their responsibility.

Hurricane Irma knocked the boat around. The broker has messed with the wires. Carlos has puttered around with the wires. The buyer’s mechanic has been on the boat. It’s not an ideal situation.

My dad says the boat is in “tip top shape.”

I contacted friends for prayer. I don’t want to take chances. I need this boat gone.

I got an amazing answer to prayer when the offer arrived. Then I had all these problems. Am I getting resistance from Satan? Sure seems that way. But he’s the little one who loses, and God is the big one who always wins. I have to remember that.

I might shoot again tomorrow. Today I got an opportunity to set fire to our huge burn pile, so next week I’ll have an opportunity to clear more wood. Tomorrow it will be hot, so I think I’ll just shoot. Today Amanda and her sons came over, and I made pizza and garlic rolls.

If you have a minute, please pray the boat stays afloat until it gets to the Cayman Islands and that the sale goes through on Monday. I would be very grateful.

Things are going to get better. The current hurricane is headed somewhere where I don’t have land, my dad is not in the hospital, I have sanitary food, and sooner or later the hairs I burned off my legs have to grow back.

Here’s a photo of the burn pile.

I’m Lovin’ It

Friday, June 30th, 2017

Serve me Cold Decaf at Your Peril

The Terror of McDonald’s is at it again.

I have written about my annoying problems at McDonald’s. When I forget to get breakfast food, I end up filling the gap with McMuffins, and then I run into the Perplexing Wall of McDonald’s Incompetence. Chick-fil-A manages to get minimum wage employees to treat customers like royalty, but McDonald’s can’t get them to brew fresh coffee every half an hour or give you what you ordered.

As you will see if you read earlier posts, I found my bad experiences at McDonald’s to have deeper meaning than one would expect. I believe God told me it was a bad idea to drink caffeine, and because McDonald’s employees kept drugging me with regular coffee (because it’s just too hard to keep decaf on hand), I had nights when I didn’t sleep well. I wrote about a day when I felt crabby and irritable because McDonald’s had dosed me.

Today a friend called and asked if he could come over for prayer. I still had not gotten my breakfast supplies together, so I went to Mickey D’s before his visit. There was no one at the register. A girl sauntered by, thumbing her smartphone. She stood at the register, texting. I asked her if she was taking my order, and she said “no” and went about her business. I decided to try again. I asked her if ANYONE was taking my order.

She walked over to a place where she could see into the kitchen, and she started yelling at “Areli,” who was busy in the back doing something the first girl didn’t approve of. She kept saying, “Really, Areli? Really?” Eventually, Areli emerged and took my order, and I went home. I didn’t give anyone a hard time. Not even the classic Miami woman who came in and tried to get in front of me while I was waiting for Areli.

The store was cleaner than usual. Strange.

My friend was hungry when I picked him up, so we went by the same McDonald’s. Areli took his order, and I stood back and waited. A neatly dressed man came up and asked if I had been waited on. I said I was just waiting, and I expected him to place an order.

He approached me again, and I said I was waiting for my friend. “And waiting…and waiting.” To my surprise, he started apologizing and told me he was the owner.

This explained the sudden cleanliness.

I felt like I had an audience with President Trump. I started delivering my laundry list of complaints. No fresh decaf, mainly. I told him the story of Areli and the smartphone. I wasn’t trying to get kids fired. I was trying to let a businessman know what was happening to his investment, and I was hoping some day I might get some decent coffee.

I told him nothing happened when I commented on the McDonald’s websites, and he said that stuff takes forever to get to the owners.

My friend stood and took all this in. We had been talking about the slack attitude of the employees on the way to the store. After we left, he started talking about the obvious way God was favoring me.

Does this mean everything is fixed at the local McDonald’s? I don’t know, but it definitely means I can’t go back for at least a month. Not unless I want boogers in my food.

I don’t feel bad for the kids. They needed to have their butts kicked. A good lecture will make them better employees, and it will result in their making more money later in life. Or it will weed out the hopeless; the stubborn mules who drag everyone else down.

It was a very strange experience. It made me realize I had never been in a really clean McDonald’s before, and that I had never seen a McDonald’s owner who gave a crap.

I thought it was an interesting experience, so here it is for your enjoyment.

Today I bought food, so I’m all set for the next two weeks or so. By then, maybe Areli will have forgiven me.

Fast Food, Transformed

Sunday, December 4th, 2016

Let Ronald do the Work

I have decided there is such a thing as food being too good. You don’t actually need to levitate every time you have dinner. Food that’s too good will tempt you constantly. It will be hard to leave alone. You’ll eat more than you should.

That being said, I have a great tip for people who love McDonald’s breakfast food.

I saved some gravy from Thanksgiving. Today before I made my weekly trip to Mickey D’s, I heated the gravy up. When I came home, I did something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. I dipped Mickey D’s biscuits in gravy while I ate.

This is probably the worst thing you can eat, short of pure nuclear waste. But it was phenomenal. I give credit where credit is due; Mickey D’s makes excellent biscuits. Add gravy, and you have something truly wonderful.

I don’t plan to do this again, because it’s way fattening, but it was a great experience.

If you don’t know how to make gravy, I can help you out.

INGREDIENTS

1 cup whole milk
2 tbsp. grease
1 tbsp. flour
1 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. sage
dash of dry white wine
salt to taste

You will want a couple of tablespoons of grease from a Thanksgiving turkey or breakfast sausage or bacon. Something like that. If you use sausage, forget the sage. The white wine is optional.

Get your grease hot (about 4 out of 10 on a digital stove). Fry one level tablespoon of flour in it. You don’t need to burn it. Just get the raw taste out of it. Stir it and smoosh it with a spatula while you fry it.

Add the milk and seasonings. Keep stirring until the gravy bubbles. It will thicken. Add a small amount of wine and cook the gravy until the consistency looks good. Remove it from the pan immediately.

That’s all you need to know. If you like it thinner, use less flour.

This should be more than enough gravy for two people who aren’t trying to kill themselves.

Enjoy.

Awesome Sauce

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016

Bring Your Cranberries to Life With Two Simple Additions

I want to wish everyone who still reads this blog a happy Thanksgiving. We have more to be thankful for than we understand.

I’ve been working on dinner for myself and my dad. A friend might show up if his family lets him down, but no one else has signed on. I had the impression someone else might show up, but I won’t know until tomorrow. I’ll put it this way: nothing has been confirmed. No, it’s not a relative.

I made cranberry sauce tonight, because it’s one of those things you can make the day before. I thought I should share what I did, because the result was so good it disturbed me. I can’t figure out why I have a crazy amount of talent for doing something I have no desire to do, but as long as it holds out, I may as well help other people to benefit from it. I no longer have any interest in cooking, but I still have moments of incomprehensible success.

Cranberries are sour, but they’re also bitter. The sourness is good, but the bitterness is a flaw. I don’t understand how things can be bitter and sweet at the same time. Seems like that means you have an acid and a base in the same material, and from my two semesters of very basic chemistry, I would expect acids and bases to react. Maybe someone who took organic chemistry can tell me what’s going on. Maybe bases aren’t the only bitter chemicals.

I was making the sauce tonight, and I realized I had nearly emptied a jar of pretty decent strawberry preserves earlier, while making a PBJ. I was trying to think of a way to round out the cranberry flavor. I decided to dump about a tablespoon of the preserves into the sauce. As I often do, I also added a shot of Grand Marnier and half a teaspoon of salt.

Let me digress. Be smarter than I am. Follow the cooling directions on the Ocean Spray bag. I finally tried it tonight. In the past, I’ve always been too lazy. Put the cooked sauce in a bowl, cover it, and let it cool all the way down to room temperature. Then stir it a little. This will prevent you from getting congealed bubbles in the chilled sauce.

Back to the ingredients. I omitted a shot of water from the recipe so the Grand Marnier wouldn’t loosen things up too much. When the sauce was at room temperature, I stirred the Grand Marnier in and put the bowl in the fridge to chill. Before it went in, I tried a small amount.

This stuff is incredible. The strawberry preserves kill the bitterness completely. They make cranberries taste more like berries and less like ornamental plants people might eat by mistake or out of desperation while trapped in a bog. I couldn’t believe how good it was. And I don’t really care for cranberry sauce that much.

I actually felt a little frustrated when I realized how good the sauce was, because I don’t care about cranberry sauce. It would be great to have a major talent for the piano or electronic design, but here I am making what may be the world’s best cranberry sauce, almost unintentionally and with no idea what I’m doing.

I guess you take the hand you’re dealt.

Anyway, I know you will like it, so if you haven’t made sauce yet, and you are about as much of a cranberry sauce fan as I am, give it a shot. For God’s sake, do not eat the canned stuff. I think it’s polyurethane.

I much prefer cranberry relish, but it’s a lot of work, and I’m only doing the minimum. I boned a turkey today and brined it, and I feel like that was mighty obliging of me, so I am not swinging for the bleachers on every dish.

I know the meal will be wondrous. The worst items will be very good, and the best will be fantastic. I feel like an Orthodox Jew who has a talent for hog-calling.

I will never be a professional chef. I will never open a restaurant. I don’t plan to go back to cooking complicated things for myself or anyone else. It’s bizarre that I continue to cook this well on those occasions when serious cooking can’t be avoided.

Bowling. Wouldn’t that be a great thing to excel at? It’s not a real sport, so you don’t have to be in shape or sweat in the sun, and you can do it well when you’re 70. You’re not like an actual athlete who might have a ten-year career before giving out. If you’re among the best, you can make very good money while eating pizza and drinking beer. It would be cool to have a rare talent for bowling. Even golf wouldn’t be too bad, although I hate being out in the sun, and I think spending time playing golf is more or less equivalent to writing God a note saying, “I have no appreciation for the gift of life.”

I hope you try the sauce. Remember, it’s the plain old recipe on the bag; 1 cup water (less one shot), one cup sugar, one bag berries. Then you add half a teaspoon of salt, a tablespoon of the best strawberry (could be raspberry) preserves you have, and a shot of Grand Marnier. Do not add the liquor until the sauce is cool. You want to taste a little alcohol.

Enjoy, and try not to founder.

Lard and Hot Steel

Friday, September 2nd, 2016

Take That However You Want

I finished Ovid yesterday. The last thing I read was the letter from…now I’ve forgotten…Medea to Jason. No, it was Sappho to Phaon, whoever that is. I had to check. You can see how much it impacted me.

It’s essentially a remake of the other letters, which are remakes of each other. Sappho said a couple of things that were relatively clever, but they weren’t clever enough to raise her above the level of the other jilted stalkers.

My main reaction to finishing Ovid: relief. Of course. Now I get to read Augustine. I don’t like calling him “St. Augustine” because he’s not a saint. By that I mean he’s not better than other human beings. He’s not someone people should pray to. Great guy, maybe. Not a saint. The saints were created to replace the Greek pantheon. God had nothing to do with it.

If you had told me a year ago that I was going to have to read Augustine, I would have looked for a way out of it, as I did, successfully, back at Columbia University. After my ordeal with the Greeks and Romans, Augustine sounds like a trip to Disney World. Bring him on. I can’t wait.

The Sappho letter lends credence to the idea that Sappho was a truck-driving, Anne Murray-listening, overall-wearing ladies’ lady. She complains that Mr. Phaon has ruined her for women. After her Phaon fornication binge, women just don’t do it for her. Does this mean she was really a lesbian? I don’t think so. Ovid lived a long time after Sappho, so he probably didn’t know much more about her than we do. Once you get a reputation, justified or not, it tends to stick. Maybe Sappho had already been lumped in with the field hockey players and non-shavers of legs before he was born.

Maybe there is a document out there which proves Sappho liked women. I will never know, because I am done with the classics. I wouldn’t read another classic author even if his book was a collection of winning lottery numbers in Roman numeral form. But the document must not exist, because people who actually like the classics do not agree on her orientation.

I don’t know why I’m discussing this. Maybe it’s because it’s the only thing about Sappho that is even remotely interesting.

It’s hard to think of anything exciting enough to follow up speculation about whether Sappho was a flannel-wearer, but I will try: today my belt grinder is going to arrive. If Fedex gets it right. I ordered it a week ago, and the shipper decided to fix it so it required a signature, so I’m stuck at home.

I think I made a good buy. I’m spending maybe $200 more than the cost of building my own grinder, but I will save a pile of work and time, and it looks like the grinder I chose–the Oregon Blade Maker–is a tremendous deal and a good product.

I say that before trying it.

If Sappho were alive, I bet she’d have a belt grinder.

Is it okay to make jokes like that? I don’t actually care, but I guess these days it’s likely to bring out the pierced and tattooed villagers with thrift store torches and Ikea pitchforks.

The coming increase in the persecution of Christians is a frequent topic here, but there are some aspects I haven’t thought about yet. Here’s one that just occurred to me: we will probably be beaten and imprisoned by hipsters. That’s terrible. It’s embarrassing. I’m not sticking up for the Nazis, of course, but I feel like it’s less of a blow to your self-respect when the man who shoots you in the head is wearing a smart military uniform with shiny death’s head pins. We’re going to be murdered by “men” who look like Snuggles the Fabric Softener Bear with glasses. It will be like getting punched out by Truman Capote.

Suddenly the Romans don’t look too bad. Having your brains clubbed out by a 6’8″ barbarian centurion…that’s a man’s death. Centurions didn’t have to say, “Hold my latte,” before they killed people. We’re going to be slaughtered by the snowflake patrol.

I never thought musing about persecution would look like this. You have to wonder what people will make of it when I’m gone.

I would not be the first Christian to have a sense of humor about it. They say that when Lawrence was roasted on a grill (by the church), he looked up and said, “I’m well done. Turn me over!”

If I have to take sides, I think I’ll side with John, not Lawrence. Lawrence was grilled, and grilling is about health, not flavor. John was deep-fried. It didn’t take, but it was certainly a superior method of preparation. Now that we know KFC’s secret recipe, I can request to be breaded.

I look forward to trying the grinder, but it won’t solve my scale problem. I will still have to find a way to clean mill scale off of steel, without ruining the shape of the metal. A surface grinder would be great to have. Another possibility: buy steel a little oversize and put screw holes at the ends. Screw it to a big piece of metal, put the metal in the mill vise, and mill the scale off. The large piece of metal and the screws would hold it flat, better than a vise could.

While I wait for the grinder, I’m working on my next food project. I keep making large batches of food so I can reheat during the week instead of cooking from scratch over and over. Yesterday I gave up and bought collards, hocks, neck bones, corn meal, tomatoes, and Vidalias. I’m going to make collard greens and hoe cakes. I just hope I don’t overeat. This food will be off-the-charts good.

I look forward to making the hoe cakes, because I have a Griswold griddle I’ve never used. I Ebayed it and used electrolysis to get the crud off. It looked brand new when I was done. Then I seasoned it with bacon fat. It should be wonderful to use. A griddle is great for things like pancakes and crepes, because it provides easy access for a spatula.

I don’t think I’d want to be griddled. I keep hoping I’ll be hit by a meteor. I can’t come up with anything that beats that plan. Makes a mess, but that’s not my problem.

Maybe I’ll post a photo if I get the grinder running. Or maybe I’ll just lie on my back eating hoe cakes.

The Electric Meatloaf Acid Test

Monday, August 29th, 2016

Food Fit for a Merry Prankster

Last night I finished off the meatloaf and potatoes au gratin I made last week. I still can’t get over the experience.

When you think of great food, meatloaf does not come to mind immediately. When I was a kid, meatloaf was something I ate because it kept me alive. It was okay, but no sane person begged his mother to make it. That has been the way I’ve seen meatloaf all my life. Cheap, easy to make, and good enough to eat without struggling. It’s probably the most pedestrian food on earth that doesn’t come out of a can with an easy-open top.

The meatloaf I made last week, combined with the potatoes, made an astonishing meal. On top of that, it got better while it sat in the fridge. The seasonings mingled. The pepper in the potatoes worked its way through the potato…meat. By the time I finished it off, it had reached a sensual crescendo.

I could not stop eating this stuff. There are some things I just can’t have in the house, and this combination appears to be one of them. I can’t have fun size Snickers bars or miniature Reese’s cups around. I can’t have Fat Boy ice cream sandwiches around. Now I have to add meatloaf and potatoes to the list.

I ate the last of it, and then for at least two hours, I found myself reliving it and exclaiming aloud that it was fantastic.

Yes. I had meatloaf flashbacks. I have PMSD: Post-Meatloaf Stress Disorder.

I felt like I had ingested drugs. I was borderline euphoric. From food.

There is no restaurant on earth that does that for me, but it happens with my own food all the time. I can’t understand it. Last night I sat on the couch, marveling at the strange gift God had given me.

I would be completely happy being an okay cook. I have no family to feed. Even though I make good food, I’m not that picky about what I eat. As far as I can tell, I don’t really need to be able to produce exceptional food. But it happens time and again.

I made meatloaf and potatoes so well, I can’t make it any more. If I make it again, I’ll eat 5,000 calories a day until it’s gone. I don’t have a church to cook for any more. I quit cooking for my friends because I have no wife to help me shop, cook, or clean up. What am I supposed to do with the recipe?

Even worse, I know I can make it a lot better. I’m going to resist trying.

By the way, one of the keys to making the meatloaf work is baking it at 400 for at least half an hour at the end. This creates a thin black crust around it, on the sides and bottom. The flavor this crust provides puts the icing on the cake, so to speak.

It’s too bad I can’t come here and say, “Wow, God made me an incredible composer/musician/singer/mathematical genius/inventor/whatever.” There are things I wish I could do extremely well, and cooking is not one of them. Mozart got perfect pitch, flawless timing, endless musical creativity, and peerless dexterity. I got potatoes au gratin and strawberry cheesecake.

Which I don’t have the metabolism to tolerate.

There must be a reason for it. It’s not so I can open a restaurant. Forget that. I watch restaurant shows all the time, and I am now sure I would rather be struck by lightning every day than supervise the kind of people who cook on lines and wait tables. It’s not so I can sell things I cook. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life waiting for people to sue me because they pretended to choke on things I made. I definitely don’t want to run a commercial kitchen where the government will force me to sit through seminars about my legal obligation to encourage my gay employees to get “married.”

I feel like one of the lame superheroes. You know. Like Storm, the X-Woman. Her big gift: making it rain on bad guys. Whoopee. Impressive. “Oooh, I’m scared. Whatever you do, don’t jack up the humidity and make my hair frizz.”

The superhero who makes great cheesecake and ribs will never save the world or get the girl. You can bank on that. He’ll be back at Justice League headquarters, hosing out filthy smokers and inhaling unhealthy quantities of hickory smoke. “Wonder Woman and I are flying back to her island on her invisible jet for a three-week honeymoon with no cell phones. Can you fix us some to-go plates before we abandon you to clean up the kitchen alone?”

You can always pick Food Boy out in group photos, because he wears his cape in the front.

It’s a nice gift to have, but if you know why I received it, you are way ahead of me.

Speaking of food, I guess everyone knows the KFC recipe is now public domain. Colonel Sanders has a nephew, and the nephew found the recipe, written in the Colonel’s handwriting. KFC swears it’s a fake, but sadly for them, people who try it say it’s the real thing. The only missing item is Accent, i.e. monosodium glutamate.

I’m happy about the news, because KFC quit making the real thing a long time ago. They used to fry chicken in beef fat, but the joy-killers got to them and made them switch to something inferior. Probably canola oil, which is like sunflower seed oil that has had a small fish fried in it. Beef fat is loaded with cow flavor, and it’s satisfying. Now that we have the recipe, we can make real KFC at home, with proper fat.

Some people are saying the leaked recipe has too much paprika in it. Paprika is pretty mild. You can probably vary the amount a great deal without hurting anything. If the real KFC recipe has less paprika than the leaked one, it may simply mean that KFC decided to save money by cutting down on a low-impact ingredient.

Here is the recipe:

KFC CHICKEN INGREDIENTS

2/3 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. basil
1/3 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. celery salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. mustard
4 tsp. paprika
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. ginger
3 tsp. white pepper
2 cups flour
MSG
BEEF FAT!!!!

I haven’t tried it. I don’t fry chicken all that well, and I’ve been busy with other stuff. If you try it, I hope you’ll report back. They say you have to fry right at 350 degrees, and you should be aware that KFC uses pressure fryers, so you probably won’t want to go all-out and use the same type of equipment. I can’t figure pressure fryers out anyway. How do you know the chicken is done if you can’t see it?

If I made that stuff, I think I’d replace some of the paprika with chipotle powder. Maybe I’d have to cut back on the white pepper, though.

I don’t feel bad about passing the recipe around, because it was never patented to begin with. It’s a trade secret, not the subject of a patent. Infringing a patent is a statutory tort and a crummy thing to do. Using a trade secret you received legally is fair play!

Now that I think about it, the KFC spice profile would be great on fish. You could use it in a fish and chips recipe. That would rock.

I made pot roast today. First time ever. It’s merely very good, so I think I’m safe.

I’m going to go have some now. If I start to freak, talk me down.

More

Predictably, the pot roast was really good. It would go great with hoe cakes or cornbread.

Might as well post the recipe.

INGREDIENTS

3 lb. chuck roast
3 large (large) red potatoes
2 large yellow onions
1 pound grape tomatoes
1 packet beef flavor onion soup mix
1 lb. carrots (peeled baby carrots are fine)
10 oz. Carlo Rossi Paisano or similar red wine
1 qt. water
olive oil
salt
pepper
1 teaspoon starch

Salt and pepper the meat. Use lots of salt. Fry it in a little oil to brown the outsides. You may have to use high heat with a piece of meat this big.

Pour the wine into a big casserole dish or something similar; it will have to hold the meat and all the vegetables. Add the starch and a teaspoon of salt to the wine. Make sure the starch is stirred in. Put the meat in the wine and sprinkle the soup mix on it.

You could probably double the starch and get a better result than I did.

Bake the meat at 300 degrees for three hours. Slice the onions. Cut the potatoes in big chunks. Add the vegetables to the meat along with the water. Salt the vegetables heavily and then season them with pepper. Cover and bake for another 90 minutes.

You may want to turn the broiler on at the end, uncover the food, and brown it on top.

Check the sauce to make sure it has enough salt in it. If not, add salt and swirl it around to dissolve it. Test again and get it right.

You might want to use 1 1/2 packets of soup mix. It’s very good with one packet, but it might be nice to make it more intense.

Also a possibility: 1 bay leaf in the sauce.

Meet…Loaf

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

It is my Defeated Foe

I think I really have meatloaf under control, so I’ll share the recipe.

I made a strange choice. I added seafood stock to the meat. I figured it would have more flavor than beef broth, and I was right, but if it sounds weird, try chicken stock. Whatever you do, don’t add beef stock. You already have beef flavor.

This is for a big loaf intended to help me avoid cooking all week. You should probably halve it.

INGREDIENTS

3 lbs. hamburger or ground chuck
1 lb. pork
2 eggs
12 ounces seafoof stock or chicken broth
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup oatmeal
1 tbsp. salt
2 tsp. pepper
1/2 cup Heinz 57
1-2 tbsp. Worcestershire
3 tbsp. melted butter (seriously)
1 large onion, diced, fried in 3 tbsp. butter until the chunks start to clear
1 packet onion soup mix, beef flavor

Mix it up and form it into a loaf. I am not totally clear on the best cooking method. so I formed the loaf on a sheet of nonstick foil on a cutting board and then slid it onto a broiler pan. The slits in the pan let the excess grease escape.

Bake at 350 until the internal temperature breaks 120. Smear the top of the loaf with a mixture of 3 parts ketchup and 1 part Heinz 57. Bake until the temperature breaks 150. Let the loaf sit for a few minutes. Slice and serve.

It’s really good. It’s fairly light, and it’s not dry at all.

I made a vat of potatoes au gratin as well, and they were wonderful. Perhaps too good for my health.

I guess I can give you that recipe. I accidentally failed to peel one potato, and it didn’t hurt anything, so I may skip peeling in the future.

INGREDIENTS

4 baking potatoes, scrubbed and cut in 1/4″ slices
1 lb. shredded sharp cheddar
1 package bleu cheese, about 6 ounces (my guess)
1 wedge Parmesan cheese, whatever the normal grocery size is
6 cups half and half or 4 cups milk and 2 cups cream
6 tbsp. flour
5 tsp. pepper
1.5 tbsp. salt
8 tbsp. butter
6 egg yolks
1 medium onion, diced

Let’s see if I remember this.

Beat the egg yolks into the milk or cream or whatever with a mixer. You want them completely blended in so they don’t act weird when they’re heated.

Fry the flour in the butter for a few minutes. Don’t burn it. Pour the egg/milk mixture in and stir it while heating, to make a roux. Throw the salt, pepper, and cheese in. Stir to get it all blended.

Fry the onion in 2 tbsp. of butter until it starts to clear.

Mix everything but the potatoes up and let it simmer.

In a huge dish (gallon or more), arrange about half of the potato slices in a layer. Dump half of the sauce on them. Add the other half of the potatoes and the rest of the sauce.

Bake at 350 for 90 minutes. Remove the lid, remove excess grease if needed, and bake without lid at 400 degrees for 20 more minutes.

Toss 1 cup panko bread crumbs with 2 tbsp. butter, plus salt and pepper. Cover the top of the potatoes with this and bake for 10 more minutes. If you want, mix cheese into the crumbs. The crumb layer will help soak up grease that floats on top of the dish.

This was excellent, and the little semi-burned bits of the dish add lots of flavor.

Blades of Glory

Thursday, August 18th, 2016

No Turkey is Safe

I feel like I may have finally found my niche in the metalworking world. Today I roughed out my first knife, and it was easy.

Here’s a photo.

08 18 16 birds beak knife roughed in 440C

If you’re wondering why anyone would want a knife that looks like that, I can explain. I like to bone turkeys before roasting them. It makes a world of difference. After you’ve eaten boneless turkey, you won’t want a regular turkey. It’s totally inferior. This knife is designed to bone poultry.

I ordinarily use a birds beak paring knife to bone birds. I bought two pricey Japanese jobs, and all they did was contribute to my belief that Japanese knives are not very useful. I bought two $5 Forschners with plastic handles. They worked very well. But they’re flimsy.

I also have a specially designed harumigatodokutaka, or something that sounds like that. It’s a Japanese knife created for boning poultry. It’s worthless. I can’t understand how anyone manages to bone a bird with one without going to the hospital.

This thing is 1/8″ 440C steel, which is, truthfully, a little thicker than I need it to be. I wanted something sturdy, because when you bone a turkey, you need to get between the bones and pry. It will have the short blade and hook shape of a birds beak knife, and it will be strong enough to survive a stubborn turkey.

It looks grey because it has scale on it. When you heat steel, it oxidizes. Black iron oxide forms on the outside. When the metal cools, the oxide sticks, and it’s called scale. It’s harder than steel. You have to get rid of it (at least on the exposed areas of the knife) as part of the knife-making process.

I removed a lot of the scale using a sanding drum on the drill press. I also tried a 12″ diamond stone. I don’t know what the answer is yet. I think most knife makers just scrub the crud off on a 2×72 belt grinder, but I do not have one of those, and I’m worried that if I used one on future knives, I’ll screw up the dimensions of the knives by taking off metal.

Making this knife was very easy. No challenge at all.

I drew a design, and then I photocopied it. I put the copy on the metal bar I was using for stock. I glued it with 3M Super 77. I put the steel in my bench vise and used an angle grinder and cutting disk to start roughing it. The metal got very hot, so I was concerned I might harden it by accident.

Then I fired up my souped-up 1×42 belt grinder with a 60-grit belt (too fine for the job). It worked very well, considering the inadequacy of the grit, but it was pretty slow, and the belt is about 50% dead already.

I put the steel on the mill and tried milling off the waste, but the steel got hot again, and I had visions of myself trying to machine hardened 440C, so I quit.

I decided to put a grinding wheel on the grinder and try that. Everything fell into place. It removed metal much faster than the belt grinder, it didn’t get the metal too hot, and it was easy to control.

After that I kept moving around among the angle grinder, the belt grinder, the drill press and sanding drum, and my 25,000-RPM Themac dental lathe. I guess I put in an hour and a half.

The finished knife is a little different from the drawing. I made changes on the fly. But it’s beautiful. You can’t see the edges in the photo, but they’re finished like a factory knife’s edges. It’s really something.

Tomorrow I have to clean off the scale, hollow the blade out, put the beginnings of an edge on it, drill for screws, put two 416 stainless bolsters on it (which I will have to fabricate) and attach and shape a micarta handle. Then I have to disassemble it and send the steel to a company that will heat treat it for me.

Then it comes back, and I have to clean it up and put it together. After that, I sharpen it. I’ll have a cool poulty knife that ought to kick the crap out of anything you can buy anywhere.

Micarta is plastic with fabric imbedded in it. It makes good handles, and I am hoping it will be dishwasher-safe. If it weren’t for my desire to use the dishwasher, I would have bought a natural handle material that looks better.

Yes, I will be putting a handmade knife in the dishwasher. Deal with it.

If I had known knifemaking was this easy, I would have started 30 years ago. If I had had a big belt grinder, this would have taken half an hour. If I had had a big belt grinder with a few special attachments, it would have taken 15 minutes. You could make three decent knives a day if you had the right tools.

I suppose it’s even faster than that if you’re using steel thinner than the 1/8″ stuff I used. If I made a chef knife, I’d want something like 3/32″.

A 440C cleaver! That’s what I need!

Forget store bought kitchen knives. They’re almost always deficient in some way or other. Well, maybe that’s not true. I like my cheap Forschner and Mundial chef knives. But other than that, it seems like every knife is a compromise. Not any more!

When I get this thing mocked up, I’ll post a photo. When I get it treated, I may actually have to buy a turkey.

Like a Bat Out of the Oven

Sunday, July 17th, 2016

I Would do Anything for Food, But I Won’t do That

I made my first meatloaf the other day, and I felt so bad about the results, I just made another one. I feel that I can now declare victory.

The first loaf was pretty close to the “prizewinning” Quaker Oats recipe, which is basically hamburger, oatmeal, salt, pepper, eggs, and onions. The “sauce” was ketchup doctored very heavily with brown sugar, Worcestershire, and vinegar.

I figured, “Hey, it won a prize.” But I didn’t think about two facts: the loaf contained a lot of oatmeal, and the company that awarded the prize sells…oatmeal.

It was dry, as if there were something in it that absorbed water…gosh, if only I could figure out what that was.

I got some new info in my comments, and I tried again.

This time, I decided to add onion soup mix, which is one of the most incredible cooking ingredients there is. Usually I’m against prefab seasoning, but this stuff works. I also used around 25% pork, and I replaced half of the oatmeal with panko bread crumbs. I doubled the eggs, and I added plain old water, because I knew the oats would dry the meat. I mixed ketchup and Heinz 57 into the loaf. Finally, I did something really bad. I added half a stick of butter and mixed it in.

Butter makes everything better. Everything.

I got some of the ideas from the Lipton soup box, which had recipes on it. I also jacked up the salt and pepper, and I added fresh garlic.

I baked the loaf at 350 until it hit 160 on the inside, and then I smeared some ketchup and 57 on the outside and let it bake on.

It’s really good. It’s juicy; fat pooled on top of it as it baked. I had to drain a lot of it. The seasonings are just right.

It’s hard to know what to do with a meatloaf, because they’re full of fat. If you cook it in a deep pan or dish, the fat will surely rise up and cover it. I decided to bake it on a broiling pan, with a sheet of foil under the meat. The fat was able to run off that way, and the sheet kept it from sticking to the pan. When it was done, I let it cool for an hour or so and slid it off the foil into a Corningware dish.

I was not happy with the mashed potatoes I made last week, either. I had never made bad mashed potatoes before. I figured the potatoes my local store was selling were too dry and mealy. This time I fixed it by replacing one of the russets with a big red potato. They’re starchier. And I really socked the butter to it. Very nice.

Now I should have meat and potatoes for the next five or six days, and I’ll also supply my dad with it, so he doesn’t eat junk. Not too much junk, anyway. Okay, not JUST junk. There is a limit to what I can do.

The pork firmed the loaf up and added a lot of flavor. That was a good move. I kept the oats in because I need to get rid of the giant can I bought, and because it has fiber.

I try not to hit the carbs too hard, but if you cut back too much, it can make your brain fog up, so the potatoes were necessary. To me, carbs are like insulin. You don’t consume huge unlimited amounts of them; you just have a dose when you need it to make you feel better.

I’m not a huge meatloaf fan, but I like cooking a big meat dish once a week to help me avoid cooking for several days, and meatloaf will fit right into the plan. I think it has lots of potential for improvement. It’s probably possible to make a meatloaf that’s truly outstanding, if you think about it and work on it. I don’t know if I want to do that. I want it to be good enough to eat, but not good enough to tempt me.

I can picture a really excellent version with brown gravy, perfect for serving like a hot roast beef sandwich. No. No. I will be strong.

Thanks for the helpful comments.

I Don’t Accept Cookies

Thursday, July 14th, 2016

Buckets of Pure Cocaine Would be Safer

The weight-maintenance-cookie plan was a disaster of Hindenburgian completeness. I have firmly concluded that it is not possible to adjust my calorie intake using cookies made from my own recipe.

I was doing just fine using Oreos. I ate three or four a day, just to take the edge off and restore my mental functions. I figured there was no reason better cookies wouldn’t do the same thing, cheaper and more enjoyably.

The batch of cookies I made from scratch is completely gone. It vanished in two days. I could not stay away from them. They taunted me They jeered at me. And now they are no more.

Lesson learned. Night before last I picked up a new bag of Oreos, and yesterday I put them to use. I went through a grand total of three. Oreos just don’t have the temptation punch my own cookies have.

The oatmeal cookies I made were stupendous, but now I can’t have them. One more recipe I can’t use. Dang it.

I wonder if I could come up with a recipe for mediocre cookies. Probably not. It seems like anything that comes out of a home oven beats anything that comes from a plastic bag.

Oreos have gone nuts. Things got weird thirty or forty years ago when they came out with “Double Stuf” Oreos. Someone at Nabisco realized fat people were only buying the cookies for the filling. Now they have “Mega Stuf.” Next they’ll have “Pure Stuf” or “Gallon Can o’ Stuf.”

They have birthday-cake-flavored Oreos now. Wonder what that’s like. Do they come pre-sprayed with spit, to simulate the blowing out of candles?

American consumers are not hard to please. The buying habits of chubby ladies prove this.

When I was a kid, Nestle started selling raw cookie dough so incredibly lazy people could use it to make cookies. At some point we all accepted reality: fat girls were buying it to eat out of the tube. Now you can buy ice cream and protein bars made to taste like raw cookie dough.

Prefab cookie dough is very popular, but the thing is, it’s not good. I don’t know what Nestle puts in their dough to serve as shortening, but I’m confident it’s not butter. The dough tastes sort of like toothpaste with sugar in it. People love it anyway.

My cookie experience shows how things really are: the supermarket junk we think is good is actually pretty lame. We like it because we’re lazy. The British have a saying: “Hunger is the best sauce.” I would say laziness is second best. When you get off your rear end and make real cookies, or even cookie dough, you understand the depth of the compromises you’ve made in the past.

God has given me more strength to turn food down, but there are some things I still have to stay away from. I can’t keep bags of fun size Snickers in the freezer. I can’t keep miniature Reese’s cups on the coffee table. And I can’t keep homemade cookies anywhere near me.

I feel like he’s helping me get off caffeine again. A long time ago he showed me that caffeine destroys peace. I quit drinking it. But when I had to take over my dad’s business affairs, I jumped off the wagon. The boredom of using Quickbooks and straightening up chaotic files was more than my mortal frame could stand. Now things are more orderly, and I have to give up the crutch. I do not want to spend the rest of my life feeling peppy and cheerful until noon and then crabby and crotchety for the rest of the day. I don’t want to have to take Benadryl to get to sleep.

God changes peoples habits, and it seems like he really hits hard in the beverage department. You find yourself cutting way back on alcohol. Sugary sodas turn into occasional treats. Fruit juices are just sugary soda without the gas, so they’re not the answer. That leaves coffee and tea, right? Wrong. Caffeine.

Today I’m going to get a bag of decaffeinated coffee beans. I can’t drink room temperature bottled water at breakfast every day. I am not ready for that.

I’m still fooling with the CNC mini-lathe. I got it to function with Mach3, the most popular home CNC machine-running program. I haven’t been able to get it to work with KMotionCNC, the nerdier, learning-curve-heavy free program that came with my controller board.

I think the people who made the board don’t care about lathes. They’re not going to come out and say that, but it seems to be true. Their program comes with a little viewing window that shows you an animated movie of your cutting tool at work. It’s set up perfectly for a big milling machine, but if you try to scale it for a lathe, it looks ridiculous. The software doesn’t give you a way to fix that.

The documentation that came with the boards says you need to know the computer language C in order to really understand what the software does. For that reason, I looked around for C courses yesterday. I tried Udemy and Edx. I wasn’t too impressed. C is an old language, and if I understand things correctly, it has morphed into newer languages like C++ and C# (C sharp). The online course offerings for plain old C aren’t that great. I decided to settle for a Youtube course.

The instructor said I had to get a compiler called Dev-C++, which is free. Right away I had problems. He uses version 4-something in the videos, and the current version is 5-something. It looks and works a little differently. So far I’ve been able to figure it out.

A compiler is a program that takes the code you write and turns it into program files. For example, you might write 30 lines of C or Pascal or whatever code, describing a program that lets you enter two numbers and then adds them and prints the result. You feed this into the compiler, and an “exe” file comes out the other end. When you want to experience the thrill of adding two integers, you double-click on “add.exe” or whatever you named it, and the program appears in a little DOS window (assuming it runs in DOS).

The first (only) language I learned was Pascal. I had to learn it in college. I used a compiler made by Borland. It was called Turbo Pascal. Dev-C++ is surely capable of much bigger things than Turbo Pascal, but to the user it looks pretty similar.

I learned a few things that were almost, but not quite, interesting. For example, the nerd term “ported” is a corruption that comes from “portable.” When you move a program from one OS to another, it’s portable, so you are–nails on a blackboard sound–“porting.” I can’t actually remember the other things, so I guess they truly were not interesting.

Here is how much interest I have in programming: zero, or even a large negative number. But if it will help me not have to go to surly, condescending nerds for help with technical stuff, I am all for it.

I’m still trying to figure out what kind of screws I need to make the lathe work well. At first I thought any ball screw would work. Then I found out some ball screws are very crude, so buying such a screw would fail to help or even make things worse. Then I found out there are levels of accuracy, designated “C” this or that, and I learned that most affordable screws were C7, which didn’t seem good enough.

After that, I read that the rigidity of the machine and the skill of the user make more difference than the quality of the screws. Is this true? I don’t know. The truth is a jittery target that skitters away every time I try to draw a bead on it.

A guy who supposedly knows a whole lot claims a plain old Acme screw will do fantastic work if you set it up right, and he says rigidity is more important than worrying about the number that comes after “C.” So maybe I need to buy a C7 screw in a big diameter; 3/4″ or better. I can do that for around a hundred bucks, if I go Taiwanese.

I’ve wondered why Acme screws were not considered useful. If I machine manually, I can get accuracy within a thousandth of an inch, relying on Acme screws and hand dials. Somehow that is not possible with a machine tool. You would think the computer would get better accuracy out of a screw than I can, but it looks like it doesn’t.

The topic is insanely complicated. Good screws aren’t the end of the discussion. For really accurate machining, some people use “screw mapping.” As I understand it, this means examining the screw with precision instruments and recording all its imperfections, so the computer will know to apply the correct compensation at every point on the screw.

Obviously, I am not going to do that. If I can get parts to measure within 0.002″ of spec, I will be the happiest man on earth. I’m not making crucial parts that prevent hydrogen bombs from going off. I don’t have to have perfection.

Now that the machine functions, I have to figure out how to design parts. I have a workable CAD program. I have to decide how to turn the CAD files into Gcode Mach3 can digest. I’m using Fusion360, from Autodesk, for CAD. It’s free. Not sure if it goes past CAD. I should design a part and see where I have to go with it.

Some day when I have room, I’ll get a mill. It will be a real CNC mill. I won’t spend my life on Ebay looking for bearings and screws. I’ll just place an order and wait for the machine. That will be nice. It doesn’t have to be big. Just sort of mid-sized, and it has to be something I can operate without pulling my hair out.

The CNC lathe will be very useful, but if you want CNC, what you really want is a mill. In fact, if you want to machine, period, you want a mill. I do not understand people who claim lathes are better. Most of the time, when you need a part, it will be something a mill can make easily, yet which a lathe can only make with weird, denial-reinforcing attachments.

If you want to make pens all day, sure, get a lathe. You’ll wish you had a mill, though.

Whatever you do with CNC, buy lots of plastic. You do NOT want to practice on metal parts. You will crash, and the crashes will damage your machine and cutting tools. Plastic will give, and it will provide a nice buffer between your mistakes and your checking account. Also, remember you can run programs in an animation window with the motors turned off. If the program looks funny in the animation, you do not want to run it with the motors on.

You can practice with wood instead of plastic, but it makes a mess.

Is this information useful to you? My hopes are not high, but I don’t care, because writing it was a very effective means of procrastination. I got what I wanted.

Dangerous Cookies

Tuesday, July 12th, 2016

I Hear Them Giggling at Me

I have a sad setback to report. My weight-maintenance cookies are not working out.

I had found that keeping Oreos on hand was helpful for weight control, because I could grab one or two whenever I felt like my blood sugar was getting low, and it made it easy to avoid eating bigger things. It also saved me the time and expense of running to the drugstore for a Snickers bar. It saved me the time it would have taken to fix another meal.

I decided I should make my own cookies, since they’re better and cheaper than Oreos.

I made a batch using my oatmeal raisin recipe. I usually use golden raisins, but my local store has apparently stopped stocking them, so I used the dark kind.

When the cookies came out of the oven, I ate a few, and, as I should have predicted, they were so good, it was hard to stop. I ate too much.

Later in the day, I grabbed one after it had cooled off. I learned something really surprising: dark raisins don’t taste that great when they’re hot, but they make for a fantastic cookie at room temperature. This goes against everything I know about cookies. Generally, the hotter they are, the better they taste.

I was actually disturbed by how good the cookie tasted. I can’t remember ever eating a cookie that good. And I don’t even like oatmeal cookies that much. Chocolate chip is my favorite.

The conclusion is obvious: I have to go back to Oreos. My cookies are just too good to stay away from.

It sounds crazy, but I do not understand why I get such good results in the kitchen. I am my own favorite cook; no one else comes close. I cook stuff, I try it, and I make groaning noises and have to lean on the counter to keep from falling.

I don’t have any interest in this gift. I don’t use it. I cook very ordinary food, I almost never make anything special, and I quit cooking for friends (much to their chagrin). These days I only cook a couple of times a week. I make a big pot of soup and a meat dish, and I eat it all week long. As far as I know, my pizza and cheesecake are the best in the universe, and I haven’t made either one in maybe a year. My steaks are out of this world, but when rib roast prices took a huge dip recently, I didn’t bother aging roasts and cutting them into steaks. I did buy some steaks, but I didn’t knock myself out aging them and cooking them properly.

I’ve told God that if he wants to take this gift away and help me do well at something else, I would be fine with it.

One nice thing about not cooking for friends is that it helps you find out why people associate with you. If you stop feeding them and they stick around, you know they’re not just there for free food. If you’re lonely, buy a pickup truck and learn to cook. You’ll never be alone again. Just make sure you keep the food flowing and you never refuse to help someone move.

Another thing I don’t understand: I don’t make everything well. I have never made chicken wings I would serve to a guest. I finally gave up trying to improve, and I settled for wings that were just okay. It’s like some recipes just come to me, and other dishes are hopeless causes.

What am I supposed to do with this cookie recipe? Nothing, I guess. I’d like to keep using it, because Oreos are expensive and mediocre, but I don’t know if I can handle this level of temptation.

I guess I’ll find out, because I still have a lot of cookies left.

By the way, someone asked for the recipe in a comment, and I posted it. I have some corrections. Use dark raisins, and use at least a cup, not half a cup. And don’t eat the cookies until they cool down. You might want to double the salt.

This week’s huge meat dish is meatloaf. I had never made it before. I found the “Award-Winning Quaker Oats Recipe” at Epicurious, and I tried it. Maybe I did something wrong, but it’s not very good. The “sauce” is ketchup with a ton of brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, and vinegar in it. The loaf is dry, even though I used cheap, juicy hamburger. It needs more salt, too. Like everything.

I know I can improve it. I could add beef broth to the oats before mixing them in. I could mix onion soup mix into the meat instead of using minced onions. I could fix that strange sauce. I could add pork.

Mmm. Pork.

I could be really bad and mix butter into the meat. That would be sick.

I thought I could trust Epicurious, but I was wrong. I shouldn’t be surprised. The recipe got a top rating, but most people can’t tell good food from dog chow.

I still have like three pounds of that meatloaf left. Hope I make a good dent in it today.

Wasting Time

Monday, July 11th, 2016

Mine and Yours

I have something to do in 45 minutes, so I can’t really sit down and dig into my new responsibilities. So here I am.

I have been reading Thucydides. I thought I was going to start sooner, but I looked at the Columbia University Lit. Hum. syllabus and discovered I was supposed to read Euripides (The Bacchae) first.

I think I should have taken the midterm last week. I would have been ready for it, which is more than I can say about my last time through this stuff.

I don’t believe in stealing copyrighted stuff, so I always look for cheap paper copies of whatever I read, even if I read it first on Scrib’d or whatever. I read The Odyssey on Scrib’d, and I also ordered a real copy. It’s still in the plastic.

I ordered a copy of Euripides V from Amazon, and then I read an earlier version at the Open Library, which is a site that “lends” ebooks. It has some connection to the Internet Archive, but the Archive has its own borrowing site. You figure it out. I am too lazy to look. I have accounts at both sites. I hope they’re taking care of authors’ rights, but anyway, I do use them. I took a look at a couple of drink recipes from Trader Vic’s without buying paper copies of the book. I hope that’s morally acceptable.

“Bacchae” rhymes with “wacky,” and maybe that’s fitting. It means “bacchants.” “Bacchant” (also “bacchante”) is pronounced “buh-Can’t.” It means a lady who worships Bacchus, the Bieber-like Greek God of drunkenness and–I don’t know–being effeminate maybe.

Here is the idea. Bacchus comes down to–wow, I’ve forgotten already–is it Thebes? Yes. The Thebes in Greece. He claims he’s Zeus’s son. His family says he’s a random illegitimate sissy. His cousin, Pentheus, is given the throne of Thebes, and Bacchus is rejected, although he does go on to a successful run, playing millionaire Thurston Howell on Sixties TV.

People who worship Bacchus go crazy. They get really drunk and run around the woods, dancing and fornicating. Women are the main participants, and during their craziness, they provide sex for any man who asks. This is not considered sleazy or sinful; it’s considered pious. Go figure.

It’s a remarkable thing to read, because it’s like a perverse reflection of being led by the Holy Spirit.

When you’re led by the Holy Spirit, you’re out of sync with the rest of the world. Like the bacchants, you seem irrational to other people, but you’re under the influence of a spirit who knows what he’s doing. You will do things that seem ill-advised from people who don’t hear from him.

The bacchants were also out of step with other people. Unlike Spirit-led Christians, they lost their free will and good sense. They did strange things. The mother of Pentheus got together with a group of bacchants and tore him to pieces, removing his head and so on. She didn’t know he was her son. She wanted to find Pentheus and tell him how she had helped kill the unbeliever.

Bacchus was the son of the highest Greek God, by a mortal woman. Jesus was the son of the real high God, by a mortal woman. Bacchus was rejected. Jesus was rejected. Bacchus sent a spirit to control people who followed him, and they did strange things. Jesus sent a spirit to help people rise above Satan and the world, and under that spirit’s influence, we do things other people don’t understand.

Bacchus gave humanity wine, and the Greeks thought that was a great gift, because it got people drunk. Jesus gave people his blood, which was represented by wine. When the Holy Spirit fell on the Apostles, people thought they were drunk.

I have to wonder how much of this is coincidence. In the time of Euripides, Satan didn’t know about the crucifixion or the baptism with the Holy Spirit, but it seems like evil spirits pick up on things from time to time, getting little incomplete glimpses of the things God is up to.

Thucydides is interesting. His book is about the Peloponnesian Wars. The Peloponnese is the lower part of Greece, where Sparta is located. It’s actually a peninsula. Athens is on the mainland. The mainier mainland. Athens and Spart went at it, with other Greek city-states joining the fray.

The Athenians were led by a remarkable man named Pericles. He reminds me of Winston Churchill and George W. Bush. He was a solid wartime leader whose people turned on him once the consequences of their decision to follow him into battle became clear. People always want the omelette, and then they want the eggs back.

Pericles was a speaker, and he made some famous speeches before the Athenians. In the first, he urged them to go to war. He said something you would expect to come out of the mouth of an American Founding Father: “Make up your minds that happiness depends on being free, and freedom depends on being courageous.”

Well, I got called away before the 45 minutes were up. But I’m back now. I’m making diet cookies.

To get back to Pericles, he showed me something interesting about Sparta: the Spartans were crazy to put their kids through 18 years or whatever of cruel boot camp.

If you’ve seen 300, you know that the Spartans sent their male children off to suffer miserably until they were old enough to join the army. This was after killing off all the ones that looked imperfect; the Spartans were extremely pro-choice. They left weak-looking babies to die in the wilderness.

In the movie, the Spartans are incredibly macho and tough. They’re like the SAS of Greeks. No one can fight as well as they can. Three hundred of them hold the huge Persian army off for days.

In real life, the flabby, hard-drinking Athenian queens kicked the snot out of them. They defeated the Spartans, proving you don’t really need to throw your life away to be an effective soldier.

American conservatives got really sweaty and pumped after 300 came out. We put “Molon labe” all over our blogs (even though King Leonidas of Sparta didn’t say that in the movie). Maybe we should have been excited about the wedding planners, figure skaters, and airline stewards of Athens.

Want to hear something interesting about Pericles? He had the Athenians hide behind a wall during the war. He also wanted to fix it so you had to have two Athenian parents in order to be a citizen of Athens. Do you realize what this means? He wasn’t the Greek George Bush. He was the Greek Donald Trump.

Pericles, it seems, was brilliant, even though his plans didn’t always work. Thucydides was no moron, either. He understood how smart Pericles was, and he paid him this compliment: he said he led the people instead of being led by them. That’s true wisdom. Most of our politicans are followers, not leaders. Obama is the biggest sheep in the universe. Somehow a man who lived 2500 years ago knew how important it was for a leader to lead, and we don’t know it now. How can that be? How can you not know something you knew in 475 B.C.?

Leadership is a huge part of Christianity. You’re supposed to be the head, not the tail. The head doesn’t follow the tail. When your buddies are getting tattoos, using drugs, and doing yoga, you shouldn’t go along just so they’ll love you. You should set an example and do what’s right.

You’re wondering what diet cookies are.

In 2009, after a fast, I suddenly found that God had given me control over what I ate. I didn’t feel compelled to stuff myself. I lost weight. That blessing didn’t go away, but I damaged it. One night I decided to order all-you-can-eat ribs with a friend of mine, and since then, things haven’t been quite as good as they were in 2009. I guess I followed instead of leading.

Recently, God brought the self-control back. That’s great, but it comes with little challenges. One is that I tend to eat too little at breakfast. I can tell when I need more food, because I start to feel crabby, and I don’t concentrate well. Like Betty White in the Snickers commercial.

I bought a bag of Oreos the other day, and I found them very useful. When I needed food, I grabbed a couple of Oreos, and they fixed the problem. Without small, handy, calorie-filled items around, I would be likely to eat something that’s too big.

I ran out of Oreos, and I was going to get more, but then I remembered my own cookies. I make fantastic oatmeal raisin cookies. It’s not a big brag. All homemade cookies are phenomenal compared to bag cookies, as long as you don’t use vegetable oil or shortening.

Today I made a pile of oatmeal cookies, and I’ll keep them around so I don’t keel over at 3 p.m. every day. The big problem is that they may be too good. If they’re too good, it will be very hard to control my consumption, even with the help I have.

They really are good. I know they’re good, because I love them, and ordinarily I don’t like oatmeal cookies.

I guess I’m going to have to get back to work on accounting. Either that, or I’ll have no choice but to get into the differences between rolled and ground ball screws.