web analytics

Archive for the ‘Death by Fork’ Category

O Lord, we Thank Thee

Friday, November 27th, 2015

For Getting us Through this Tiresome Secular Holiday

I hope my 12 remaining readers had a good Thanksgiving.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11 26 15 thanksgiving stuffed boned turkey

Black Socks, Bermuda Shorts, and a Warm Ma Deuce

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

The Dream is Within Reach

I had the funniest experience yesterday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

08 28 13 garlic press body on rotary table

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GPS Without Transistors

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

Follow the Pillar of Fire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12 31 E Minor Piece

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

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

Sunday, December 9th, 2012

They had it Coming

My former church has finally gone completely insane.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But hey, it’s what he is.

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

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

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

Bach to my Future

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

Breakthrough has me Butchering Standards

I have a new music teacher.

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

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

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

I was impressed. He reminded me of me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Over the Rainbow Transcription

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

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

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

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

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

Try it yourself. You have nothing to lose.

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

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

Government Officials Now Persecute Christians Openly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I only wish they had been selling hats.

The Chicago Way

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

They Bring a Knife; You Bring a Cuisinart

I’m working on Chicago-style pizza today.

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

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

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

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

I think that’s the idea, anyhow.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

More Food Network FAIL

Monday, June 25th, 2012

Jesters of the Food Court

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are photos.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

I Received no Consulting Fees for Writing This Blog Entry

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

Plus a Pork Tour de Force

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

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

Today I decided to prepare it.

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

In the end, I went with Texas toast.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Link to Canadian gov’t documents.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Aftermath

Sunday, December 25th, 2011

Bits of Hog All Over the Place

Noche Buena is now a MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

What a week it’s been. It took forever to get the pig rotisserie built and operational, and then I had to cook yuca, black beans, brownies, rice, and coconut flan. I had to get beverages, charcoal, napkins…it was an ordeal. But it was worth it.

I thought Val Prieto couldn’t make it this year, but he and his wife Maggie showed up before the feast, and he helped me get the lechon mounted on the spit. Then after they made an appearance at his parents’ house, they came back and ate with us. Maggie reminded me that this was our “anniversary.” The first time we met, it was Noche Buena 2003. Val was cooking at his parents’ house. It’s too bad we couldn’t get them to come over here this year.

The pig cooker works great. I was so busy I didn’t bother taking photos, but Val took a quick phone video, which I will embed.

The charcoal pan is a piece of Home Depot galvanized metal with a few bends in it to give it strength and provide places for the charcoal to be piled. I didn’t put it on dedicated supports. There are two turkey fryers under it.

I had read that it was a bad idea to let fat fall on the coals, so I bent the pan to keep the charcoal slightly outside the central axis of the pig. I now think this was pointless, and it reduced the heat that got to the meat. I believe I’ll flip it and use the other side, and I also need to make sure the coals go past the ends of the pig. These parts are the biggest concentrations of meat, and they cook slowest. You need heat coming at them from the ends as well as the middle.

I believe a caja china with a smoke port would work really well. Maybe next time.

The motor worked great, although it sounded like it was coming apart. I guess that must be normal. It never got hot or paused, and I know it was working well below its rated torque.

I decided not to build a complex framework to hold the pig. That was a mistake. One of the Tapcons in the pig’s spine came loose, and the pig threatened to fall off the spit. We had to turn the motor off and run it intermittently, turning the pig 90 degrees at a time. This slowed things down a lot. Next time I’ll have the spit modified to prevent this.

I chose not to use the longer spits I had available. The heat of the coals got to the motor and bearings, but that was no problem, because it was a simple matter to bend a couple of pieces of foil around them to shield them. Much easier than modifying a new spit, and I got the benefits of the short spit’s rigidity and ease of handling.

The pig went eight hours, and some bits still were not fully done. Nonetheless, it was a phenomenal success. The smoky flavor of the hickory and charcoal made it much better than a caja china pig, and the skin was pretty crispy in spite of the rotisserie, which can make pig skin limp.

Here’s a horrible confession. I was too lazy to juice bitter oranges, and I don’t like the canned naranja angria in stores, so I marinated it in mojo made with Sunny Delight! Don’t laugh. It was amazing. Bitter orange is actually pretty useless. Mix orange juice with lime juice, and the results are just as good. Maybe better.

Yesterday was my dad’s 80th birthday. My friend Liz insisted on making him an Appalachian dried-apple stack cake, as well as cookies with Dilbert and my dad’s name silkscreened on them. My dad loves Dilbert. I think he enjoyed that.

The food exceeded my expectations. Everything was wonderful.

I had guest problems, though. The whole point of this meal was to help me and my church friends learn about love and unity, but five people bailed out on us. I ended up with nine church friends, Val and Maggie, and my dad. We had a wonderful time, but we were buried in food. I begged people to take it home. I made two gallons of black beans! Overshot just a little.

You can’t love passively. It’s not just a feeling. You have to act on it. That’s what we’re learning. So we’re trying to spend time together outside of church.

The patio is still a mess. I’ve conquered most of it, but there is still work to be done. I skipped church today, and I didn’t get up until eleven! I think I would have died if I had gone to church AND cleaned up.

I hope everyone who still reads this blog had a wonderful night, and I hope today is even better. God will be good to you and restore your life, if you give him a chance and agree to do it his way. It’s working for me, and it will work for you.

The Headless Hog of Coral Gables

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011


I just picked my my lechon. It’s 46 pounds, cleaned and ready to go.

The good: it doesn’t have boar taint, so I won’t have to soak it with bicarb. The bad: it has no head! You can’t have a lechon with no head! Is that some new thing invented by metrosexual Cubans? I won’t stand for it!

Anyway, I stuck it in the cooler in brine. It’s supposed to be frozen, but it’s not, so I’m going to have to run out and get some bags of ice.

Yesterday I was looking at the rotisserie, and I realized the pole could be a problem. It’s about five feet long, so the charcoal will be within a foot of each end. I don’t know if I want the heat that close to the bearings. I thought, “Man, I’m going to have to go to Home Depot.” Then I went out and checked my scrap collection. Naturally, I had a seven-foot pole, just waiting to be drilled and used. And right beside it. . .an eight-foot pole.

My church friends are starting to bail on me. I should have seen that coming. Nobody up there follows through. One my friends was going to come down and help with the cooking, but he says his sister just flew into town unannounced, so he can’t make it. I’m looking at 12 people and a 46-pound pig.

I was going to stuff the pig, but that’s a lot of work, and I am going to have little if any help. Right now I’m planning on lechon, moros, yuca, and dessert. Anything beyond that, people will have to bring.

I was hoping Val Prieto would come by, but he’s doing a rotisserie of his own at his dad’s house.

A while back, I realized God was serious when he commanded us to love each other. It’s essential, because only love will unite us and drive us to fight for each other. Without it, we’ll be weak. So I tried to get the folks at church interested in gatherings outside of services. That’s what this event is all about. It’s fun to stuff yourself with pork, but that’s not really the point.

Things are looking good. Hope all of you are planning a big bash.

Hog Spinner Finished

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011


The Hoginator II pork lathe is now fully armed and operational. I finished machining the hubs, and I mounted them on the spit.

The bearing on the motor end is almost certainly unnecessary, and it added a day to the job, because I had to work very hard to get it aligned with the shaft. I also had to get the hub diameter just right, so it would mate with the bearing without being impossible to insert or wobbling due to excess slop.

I still like the bearing, because it takes the load off the tinier-but-supposedly-more-than-adequate bearing in the motor itself. And it looks cool. It could be important if I roasted a big pig. My first effort will be between 40 and 50 pounds. This machine shouldn’t even notice that.

If I were doing this again, AND I were not so determined to use crap I already had, I would get a longer pole to put the bearings and motor farther from the fire. I might still break down and do that. Machining the hubs is work. Drilling the pole is pretty easy.

I sprayed the upright tubes with Eezox. They were so pretty after I brushed the rust off with a grinder. I had to protect them.

I still have to make a charcoal pan.

Anyway, this thing works great, it breaks down for storage, and it should last forever. I’m happy.

Rotisserie Takes Shape

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

Shiny Metal Good Mask for Cluelessness

I made a lot of progress on the pig motor today.

I decided not to use welds for all of the fabricating. I had a steel plate scrap I planned to use as the mount, and it turned out it had some holes in perfect locations for bolts, so I decided to bolt it to the steel-tubing upright that will hold it up. It also has a couple of curves that make it fit snugly against the tubing, and they should add rigidity.

I took a piece of square tubing Val Prieto gave me, and I cut it to length using the grinder. I have faster cutting tools, but the grinder was handy, and it’s a little more artistic. Then I put a wire brush on the grinder and cleaned the metal. Wire brushes on drills and drill presses are pathetic compared to the ones that fit on grinders. Take my word for it. The only problem is that they throw bits of sharp wire all over the place, and they can actually fly in curved paths, so you really need a face shield AND goggles.

I opened up the holes in the plate. They were too small for 5/16″ bolts. This was not fun. Holes in sheet metal don’t like being opened up with drills. My drills kept catching. Surprisingly, they also caught when I drilled a fresh hole. I have no idea why. I ran the drill slowly and used pipe threading oil.

I used the drill press and my snazzy South Bend vise to drill holes in the tubing, and then I mated the tubing and plate, and it was beautiful.

I realized I needed reamers. That’s what you use to open existing holes and make them round. I’m trying to find out what kind to get.

Incidentally, I found out there’s an amazing tool called a bridge reamer. You’ll love this. If you’re doing what I did tonight–drilling a bunch of holes that have to line up and take bolts–a bridge reamer is what you need. Apparently it takes your crappy, misaligned holes and makes them pretty and makes them line up. I think. Anyway, that’s what the Enco catalog implies. I need a couple of these things. If they work as advertised, they would be incredbly useful. Making holes line up is not easy.

I only put one hole in the plate. I installed the motor and tightened the nut, just to see how it would look. I can’t put the other holes in until the bearing is installed. The bearing will tell me where the holes have to be. If I do it now, I could be off by an eighth of an inch, and then I’d have to commit ritual suicide.

Here are some bad phone photos.

The bearing will rest on a horizontal piece of square tubing perpendicular to the motor shaft. The tubing will be welded to the side of the upright tubing.

You can’t see it, but there’s a lot of room to the right of the motor. I’m going to get a light switch and put it there, in a nice box. That will allow me to turn the motor on and off.

I’m working on the charcoal pan. I found aluminum sheets today for about $14 each. They’re only 24″ by 36″, so I may have to use two. I would prefer this to galvanized. They won’t rust. I keep reading that aluminum will take the heat of barbecue charcoal. I hope that’s right. I can do a test tomorrow with a small piece of aluminum.

The motor shaft is a little loose in the 1/2″ hole in the hub I made. On top of that, it has a key instead of a flat spot. That means I have to make a keyway. I plan to do that by sticking a ground tool in my lathe tool post and pulling it in and out of the hub. But I think I need to make a new hub, because the looseness will be a problem. Unless the bearing allows some movement (search me; I haven’t seen it yet), I think any eccentricity in the pole’s fit will cause problems when the motor operates in its rigid mounting. If there is play in the bearings, I’m fine as I am.

I love the way that polished steel looks. I want to paint it, but that’s pointless because the burro will gouge it up. I think I may season it like cast iron. I’ll throw it in the oven with oil on it. It will look good, and it won’t scratch like paint.

The steel plate has to be shaped a little, because the bottom edge is rough from plasma cutting. I think I’ll use the bench grinder. Then I’ll clean it up and blast it with truck bed paint, which should last forever.

The other end of the apparatus will be a joke. A bearing, a T-shaped piece of metal, and some bolts.

It looks like this is going to work, and when it’s done, the whole thing will fit in a very small space. The burros go back to Val until the next pig event.

Stay tuned for more updates.


This is really sad. Someone just suggested I use step drills for enlarging holes. He’s absolutely right. And I already have them! I can’t believe I didn’t think to use them.

As the Pig Turns

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

Techno-Hog Rumbling to Life

The pig project is going to take a big leap today, assuming the motor arrives. I’m going to mount it on the supports. The bearings aren’t here yet, so I can’t machine the spit ends to fit them.

I don’t have a link to the motor I bought. I think Grainger discontinued it. But I can show you one just like it, except for the speed. Imagine this motor, running at 6 RPM with 250 inch-pounds of torque.


Naturally, I did not spend that much. Knock 80% off that figure.

I didn’t want the angled shaft, but now that it’s on the way, I think it’s the best choice. It’s easy to build a platform parallel to the spit support, which is what an angled shaft requires. A straight shaft means a platform which is perpendicular to the support, and that means welding.

I have to figure out what to do for a charcoal pan. I’m thinking I may just get a cheap galvanized sheet and bend the sides up. I know some people moan about zinc fumes being released, but Val Prieto uses galvanized, and so far, nobody important has died. I’ve also noticed that Lodge makes a chimney starter from galvanized, and it’s also common in barbecue stuff in England.

I would be perfectly happy to use bare steel, but it’s not like it falls from trees.

I’m a little nervous about achieving success. I’m researching to make sure it’s okay to roast a pig without an enclosure. I can recall three rotisserie pigs cooked at Mancamp. One was turned by hand, and it sat in a makeshift oven built from stacked cinderblocks. The oven had plywood on top to hold in heat. The advantage there was that in addition to heat from below, the pig got a nice 200-degree sauna. The other two pigs were not enclosed to any great extent.

I guess I’m worried about nothing. The Mancamp pigs were fine. Here’s a video of two Filipina ladies roasting a pig, and you can see it’s out in the open. If I had two ladies like that, I wouldn’t need a motor.

I had concerns about the spit speed, but I’ve learned that some rotisseries turn at much higher rates.

The new lathe will be here on Monday. I’m tooling up. I’m a little annoyed, because I thought I picked the best one, and I just found out it may lack a nice feature. In the past, small Asian lathes had metric screws on the compounds and crossfeeds, and they were marked with inaccurate imperial graduations. I believe the idea is that they pretended one inch is 25 millimeters, whereas it’s actually 25.4. So I guess you get a movement of 25 millimeters when you want one inch. Or maybe I have it backward. Anyway, Micromark claims it has the only lathes with “true inch” wheels and screws.

It shouldn’t matter much, since the final dimensioning is never done with wheels, but it’s irritating.

I don’t know if it’s possible to make a really accurate screw on my own lathe. I guess it should be, but I have a feeling it’s not easy to make one that works easily but doesn’t have tons of backlash.

I better get myself to the store. I have to make sure I have a pig by next weekend. I still haven’t decided what to put in it.

This should be a good time. It will be an interesting mix of Christians and highly tolerant backsliders. I think we’ll get along, as long as the food is okay.

God is Too Good

Saturday, December 10th, 2011

Sometimes it Seems That Way

What a day I’m having.

I made a second aluminum hub for my pig roasting spit. It’s nicer than the first one. I had the cutting tools too high on the first shot, so I got chatter. Now the finish is very good, even though I’m using carbide. I have no idea what I’m doing, and I’m too lazy to look things up and do it right, so I learn a lot from experience.

I threaded the bolt holes on the hub, but I fouled the threads on two of the bolts. I didn’t know that aluminum swarf could become one with a steel bolt, but apparently this is a hazard of threading. It must be, since it just happened.

I knew aluminum had a very low melting point compared to stainless, so I tried to fix the bolts by heating them with a plumber’s torch. I got one of them red hot and then tried to put a nut on it. I gave up. That stuff is on there for the duration. But after I did this, I picked up the nut with my bare hand. I didn’t realize how much heat had gone into it.

I felt that I had burned myself on the pad of my index finger. I hate that. Such a useful finger. It had that flat, shiny look burned skin gets, and it hurt pretty bad. But I remembered something the Holy Spirit told me a while back. I was lying in bed, and I kept hearing the words, “You are protected” in my head.

What the heck, right? God has instantly healed me of two kidney stones while or shortly after praying, and a few weeks back when I started getting a cold, he took it away in a couple of hours. My sister is still alive (and in total remission), a year and a half after being diagnosed with extensive small-cell lung cancer; I prayed a great deal about that. I decided to pray about my finger. I “reminded” God of what he had told me. And I started thanking him. The finger still felt like it was in the process of blistering.

Guess what? My finger is fine. It has been around half an hour. I have no pain at all. I can use the finger. I can put pressure on it. The skin doesn’t look flat and shiny any more. I went and looked at it in the light, because I was so amazed. It looks like any finger that has been working with tools all day.

I just don’t know what to say. I told God I would tell people about it. You have to do that. I’ve heard preachers say you should make a monetary sacrifice when God does something for you. Maybe that’s true; I tend to discount it these days. But you definitely, DEFINITELY have to tell people.

Now you’ve been told.

Here’s something funny. I went to a machining forum and mentioned the pig work I’m doing, and several people expressed concern about the galvanized pole I’m using. I had to reassure them. I’ve done this a bunch of times, and Val even has a big charcoal pan made from galvanized. It doesn’t cause any problems.

The funny thing is that Og dropped by the blog the other day, when I wrote about lathes. Og and I are both hard-headed. Well, he’s persistent and determined. I’M hard-headed. Anyway, we had a big fuss over the hazards of backyard galvanized pig tools a few years back, and here I am discussing them right when he happens to be dropping by.

I guess zinc is like religion and politics. One of those things best not discussed socially.