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Archive for February, 2010

Dear Barack: Wish You Were Here

Saturday, February 27th, 2010

Gun Show!

First up today, two prayer requests.

I guess everyone knows Chile was hit by an 8.8-magnitude earthquake. This defies comprehension. The Port au Prince earthquake measured 7.0, so the Chile earthquake was ten to the power of 1.8 as intense. According to an online exponent calculator, that means it was 63 times as strong.

What earthquake intensity means, when measured numerically, is not clear to me. But this was an extraordinarily powerful quake.

When you get done praying for relief in Chile and the safety of all the people who are now threatened by tsunamis, consider adding a word for my friend Linda. She works for the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. Tomorrow she is having a cataract removed.

Today I went to a gun show with my prayer group. I enjoyed it a lot. I tried to give good advice to a couple of guys who were considering buying pistols. I steered them toward Glocks and Springfield XDs. One friend of mine was looking at cheaper guns. I think that’s a mistake. You save money up front, but then you don’t know what you have when it’s time to face a burglar. Will it fire? Will it jam? Bad time to have to worry about things like that.

I saw some okay gun prices, but ammunition was ridiculous. Twenty bucks for 9mm. Forty bucks for primers. The Obama ammunition bubble is behind us, or at least the peak is. I can buy 9mm for between ten and eleven bucks a box, and primers are back down to $30.

I saw a Saiga-12 for $489. That was a good deal. But it occurs to me that Saigas are only worthwhile for gun nuts, because you have to take off all the estrogen-oozing Hillary hardware and convert them back to real AK47s.

At breakfast, before the show, our group leader talked about the concept of fences. This is what our pastor is covering in his new series of sermons. The idea is that we have barriers in our lives, to keep us from getting into things we shouldn’t be messing with, and to keep evil out. Some barriers are intangible–rules–and others are physical.

We begin our lives in cribs, with bars around us. Then our parents expand the space we’re allowed to move around in, as we become better able to control ourselves. As we grow, the rules also change, and our freedom increases.

I find this concept interesting, because it ties into the concept of strongholds. We talk a lot about Satan’s strongholds, such as addiction and abuse, but we don’t talk much about God’s strongholds, such as the family, the home, the physical body, and the church. We are supposed to be like walled cities, and we should monitor our “gates,” which include our eyes, ears, and senses. We should control the people and things that go in and out of our homes. We should try to keep our churches pure.

A lot of people think an adult can’t be harmed by exposure to bad ideas and immorality, but that’s not true. You’re never too old to be subject to negative influences.

On the way back from the show, I stopped by church and grabbed some pizza cheese. I want to do an experiment. The other day I made a thin pizza in the church’s conventional gas oven, and it was very, very good. But judging from the time it took to bake, the temperature wasn’t as high as the temperature in my own oven. So I want to bake a pie at 500° here at home, to see what the result is like.

Pizza “experts” always yammer that you have to have a ten-thousand-degree oven to get a good pizza, but they’re wrong about all sorts of things, so I want to give this a shot and see what happens. The oven at my church was set on “Broil,” which should have been over 600°, but the pizza took eight minutes to bake, so clearly, it was not that hot.

I’m making the pie with non-kneaded dough. It’s a pain to make, because it’s hard to get the water-to-flour ratio right, but I think it should give a better texture than kneaded dough. I need to start weighing the ingredients so I can come up with exact amounts. That will make the corrections and additions unnecessary. When that happens, non-kneaded dough should be faster than kneaded dough.

I’m also considering giving up activating my yeast. I recently learned that there is a difference between active dry yeast and instant dry yeast. Supposedly, anyway. The directions on my instant yeast say you can mix it directly into the flour. I’m a bit wary of that advice, but it can’t hurt to try it a few times to see how well it works.

Eventually I’ll reach the point where I throw three ingredients into a bowl, stir it for ten seconds, microwave it for fifteen seconds, and eat it.

Maybe not. But the process does get shorter and simpler with time.

Nice Crewcut, Pastor

Friday, February 26th, 2010

Saturday Outing

Tomorrow I’m going to a gun show with my PRAYER GROUP. Don’t even try to tell me my church isn’t great. Can you imagine running that by your average Catholic priest or some lesbian who pastors a Lutheran church?

Now that I think about it, I’ll probably run into a fair number of lesbians tomorrow.

What happened to the good old days, when priests boxed and were full of shrapnel from Iwo Jima?

Loc-Loose

Friday, February 26th, 2010

Drop That Breaker Bar

Learned three things today.

First of all, Loc-Tite is partly cyanoacrylate (“super glue,” “Krazy Glue”). So you can soften it with acetone in order to get it loose. You can also add fresh Loc-Tite to the threads and give it ten minutes to work in.

Second thing: ordinarily, people use heat to soften Loc-Tite, but if you’re dealing with aluminum, even a small amount of heat can wreck the temper of the metal.

Third thing: one good way to apply heat in a very small area in order to loosen Loc-Tite without damaging anything around the screw or bolt is to touch the fastener with a soldering iron.

Loc-Tite makes a proprietary solvent, but the price is approximately a billion dollars an ounce.

Cheese Commando

Friday, February 26th, 2010

My Busy Agenda

It’s another exciting day. I just got a new lead on Costco mozzarella.

I use Costco’s Kirkland shredded mozzarella in my pizza. It tastes fantastic. But I can’t get it delivered to my church.

Today somebody on a forum told me a company called Foremost supplies the cheese Costco uses in its retail pizza. It’s not unlikely that this company also makes the cheese Costco sells in bags. I’m going to give Foremost a call.

I’m also going to run by Costco today or tomorrow and buy a slice of pizza. If the cheese they bake is the same as the cheese they sell, I should be able to tell.

UPDATE: I called Foremost, and while I can’t get them to tell me much, they did say they sell cheese to Sysco. This is pretty funny, because I already told the church’s Sysco rep their cheese did not interest me. I said I’d be happy to try a sample, but he hasn’t come across with one. I better fix that.

I am told that the big advantages of Grande cheese are that it bakes well and reheats well. The reheating thing is something I never considered. I make small pizzas at home, so reheating is rarely an issue. I don’t know what it means when a cheese reheats well. Does that mean it stays rubbery and crunchy, or does it mean it softens up? My cheese blend is softer after reheating than when originally baked. Maybe that’s good.

I’m also told I’m supposed to add other cheeses to Grande to compensate for the mild flavor. But that jacks up the cost. Grande runs about $2.75 a pound right now. Grated cheese costs maybe three times that much. Not a bargain.

Right now, using Costco and GFS, I can average about $2.50 per pound, and the taste and texture are perfect. Nothing to add.

Tomorrow I’m going to a gun show with my prayer group. That will be fun. My gun show motto is, “Look, but don’t buy.” I haven’t seen many good deals at shows. But I’ve seen fun products and hilarious T-shirts.

I have amazing news for Second Amendment believers. I guess I’m late to the party, but I just learned that Classic Arms is selling beautiful Czech Vz58 rifles for under $500. I paid way more than that, and I felt like I got an okay deal.

These things are similar to AK47s, but they’re lighter, and they ship with 30-round magazines. Unlike AK47s, which are miraculous bargain rifles mashed out of sheetmetal, these are real guns. The receivers are milled. Czechs make good stuff.

When I got mine, there weren’t all that many accessories available. Now you can buy sweet aluminum foregrips with rails. It ruins the funky “Guns of Navarrone” look of the original Czech fake wood furniture, but you can put a flashlight and laser on the gun, without screwing anything to the barrel. I tried a barrel-mounted rail thing, and the screws came loose at the range, even with Loc-Tite. I guess the shock of firing was too much.

Bonus: you can get a foregrip made in Israel. Strike a blow against anti-Semitism.

Maybe I should just screw a rail to the fake wood. It’s not like I’d be defacing a Rembrandt. I could keep the look and still have a laser. Or I could give Loc-Tite another chance.

This is the kind of gun you would expect to see Steve McQueen carry in a war movie. That alone makes it worth carrying, even if you get killed by someone with a more modern gun like an AR15. Although the AR15 is probably not as useful at close range. This baby folds, and it has that big magazine. When you fold the stock, it doesn’t interfere with firing.

Gun nuts will yell at me now. “MY AR15S NAME IS LURLENE AND SHE WIL WASTE YU AND YUR PUNEY COMIE HAND ME DOWN.”

Another interesting gun: Classic Arms has a Polish AK with a US milled receiver.

As you can see, I have many important things to think about today.

Kirkland Conquers All

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

Cheese Test

I had an interesting experience today.

I went to my church to make pizza for the lunch crowd. Sadly, they just made a decision to quit making lunch on weekdays, so today was my first and only effort. But I made it count.

I had three bags of Grande cheese, provided by a rep. I was hoping this stuff would be at least as good as the blend I already use, because it would be cheaper, and I’d be able to have it delivered instead of driving to get it.

The cheese I really wanted to try is half provolone and half mozzarella. The rep was out of it. I won’t have it until next week. Today I had whole-milk mozzarella, East Coast Blend (whole-milk and part-skim mozzarella, blended), and Cheddar blend (mozzarella, cheddar, and provolone).

I made a number of pies, including Sicilian and thin pies. And the decision was unanimous: Costco rules. My old blend, made from Costco mozzarella and GFS provolone, is better than any cheese I used today.

I should add that on the Sicilians, I combined Grande with GFS provolone. On the thin pies, I used Grande by itself.

The whole-milk mozzarella bakes beautifully, without burning. But it has very little flavor. It’s buttery and stretchy. There is nothing offensive about it. But the pizza didn’t have the addictive flavor I got with the other cheese blend.

The East Coast Blend was very similar, except that it browned. And it didn’t brown in a particularly appetizing way. I’ve noticed that browned provolone tastes much better and has a much better texture than browned mozzarella. The East Coast Blend didn’t taste all that great browned.

The Cheddar Blend had a nice sour cheddar kick, but as I wrote last night, oil pours out of it. Not oil, really. Butterfat. It’s a little excessive. Add two fatty meat toppings, and you’d have a grease pond.

This is quality cheese. And I know you can make excellent pizza with it. I’ve had many great pizzas that were made with Grande cheese, unless they used something else and lied about it. But it’s not ideal for my recipe.

The mozzarella/provolone blend is my last hope. If it doesn’t work, I’ll have to keep using Costco cheese until I find something new.

A guy on a forum suggested a five-cheese blend sold by a food service company called Roma. I may try to track that down. Another guy says Grande’s reliability and cooking qualities are what make it great, and that you’re expected to soup up the flavor with added cheese.

It’s shocking how pizza can surprise you. Ingredient changes can make gigantic differences in your product, and they may be changes the natures of which you can’t anticipate. If Edmund Kean had been a pizza chef, he probably would have said, “Dying is easy. Pizza is hard.”

I also taught a friend how to make pizza today. He had no real problems. After another lesson, he should be able to fill in for me.

I used the church’s second oven today, for thin pizza. That thing is wonderful. The pizza crust gets nice and hard on the outside, and the dough blows up well, and the bottom of the crust gets well done. I don’t think I can make it work for Sicilian at the thin-pizza temperature, but maybe I’m wrong.

In case you have a commercial gas oven, I’ll tell you what I did. The oven has a 575° thermostat, and I turned it past that to “broil.” It has no broiling element, so “broil” just means “real hot.” The stone gets too hot to crisp up a Sicilian crust, but it’s just right for thin pizza.

They want to start doing pizza on Tuesday nights, when they have their “Rendezvous” service. The pastor’s son presides, and about a thousand people show up.

Things are getting very consistent now; the bugs are falling out of the system. We should be able to produce excellent pizza with good reliability in the near future.

Immediate Gratification

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

Test Pie

I’m making a thin pizza with Grande Cheddar Blend. I can’t resist.

This stuff appears to be mozzarella and provolone, for the most part. If that’s true, maybe it will give me an idea what their mozzarella/provolone blend is like.

LOOK, I’M GOING TO MAKE THE PIZZA. This is the best rationalization I could come up with, so leave me alone.

More

I tried it. It’s extremely oily, which is fine, if you like oily pizza. The taste is very good, but no better than Costco cheese combined with cheddar. I can’t really detect the provolone. Would I buy it again? No.

Now what do I do with the remaining four pounds, ten ounces?

Cheese Embezzler

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

Give me Strength

This is glorious. The Grande cheese rep just came by the house and dropped off about TWELVE POUNDS OF GORGEOUS PIZZA CHEESE.

I have samples of East Coast Blend, Cheddar Blend, and Mozzarella.

Dang it. I have to share this with my church.

Maybe I can tell them a heathen stole it.

Pizza a Commodity?

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

Let’s all Trade Pizza Futures

The new pizza peels I ordered for the church arrived. I was amazed to learn that you can’t buy a 9″ wide aluminum peel anywhere in Miami, but there it is. I got two for the church and one for me.

I’ve been getting info on the pizza business. I talked to some people on a forum for pizzeria owners. What a downer. They say quality pizza won’t bring you business. They say it’s just your ticket into the game, and that marketing is all that really matters.

The places near me that do well do almost no marketing that I’m aware of. The thing that sets them apart is their pizza. Bad pizzerias (except for the big chains) almost invariably go out of business, while the few pizzerias that serve good stuff do well. But that doesn’t mean the forum people are wrong.

I do take issue with the claim that you have to have good pizza to get into the game. Here, the overwhelming majority of pizzerias are bad. All you need to get into the game is money. You need good pizza to stay in the game, however. Unless you have megacorporation backing that enables you to sell bad pizza at such a low price no one cares about the quality.

The forum guys say it’s a mistake to call anyone’s pizza “bad.” I don’t buy that, either. When you get together with people and talk about local pizzerias, you’ll find that there is a high degree of agreement on which pizzas are good and which are bad.

I’m trying to figure this out. It could be that the majority of these guys are hacks who have no idea what good food is. That’s pretty likely, actually. I wouldn’t say that to them, but if you’ve been around a while and you’ve eaten pizza at many restaurants, you know there is a lot of bad pizza out there. And no pizzeria owner thinks his own pizza is bad. They all think they’ve got the best pizza on earth. If these guys are hacks who put out a mediocre product (and think it’s wonderful), then it’s only natural that their perception would be warped. If you can’t make good pizza, the only changes you’ll see in your profits will be due to marketing and cost-cutting, so you’ll tend to assume those are the only things that matter.

On the other hand, look at Budweiser. Every time you take a swallow, you get just a little bit of a gag reflex, because the beer tastes soapy and sweet and stale, and there is virtually no hop taste to balance it. It’s barely beer. But Bud is the biggest-selling beer in America, because they have great commercials. That thing about the gag reflex is absolutely true; it’s why people insist on keeping their Budweiser extremely cold. When it warms up, you can taste it, and that’s a problem. Bud is a giant, even though every sip gives you a slight urge to vomit.

Some business fields are meritocracies, and others are not. Law tends to be a meritocracy. If you beat other lawyers, you’ll get clients. You just have to avoid making incredibly dumb business decisions. You have to have a real office, you have to return phone calls, and you need an ad in the yellow pages. You have to have a filing system and maybe a clerical. If you do those things, you’ll be okay. If you’re a good lawyer and you fail, it will probably be because you’re not capable of running a business. If you’re a bad lawyer and you succeed, it will be because you know how to manage a law office (where other people do the work) or because you know how to promote yourself in a way that compensates for your incompetence.

Medicine is not a meritocracy. Patients have no idea whether they’re getting good care or not. We lack the education required to make an intelligent evaluation. We have to guess. Doctors get business by giving comfort and refraining from offending people. When a person says he has a good doctor, he usually means the doctor is polite and helpful and doesn’t overcharge or overtreat. The last two doctors I went to will have my business for the foreseeable future, simply because they were courteous and quick and professional. Are they good at curing people? How would I know?

I haven’t seen my urologist for a long time. He’s a nice guy. But I don’t plan to go back to him. First of all, he went to college on a basketball scholarship, and his fingers are the size of bananas. Don’t make me draw you a picture. This is not a quality you want in a urologist. Next time, I want an Asian or a dwarf. Second, his receptionist is so rude, she seems to be mentally ill. When I had my second kidney stone, I called for an emergency appointment, and she was so snotty, I decided to stay home and do nothing.

In some businesses, promotion and customer relations are everything. In others, you can be a complete jerk who lives in a mine shaft, and if your work is good, people will beg you to take their money.

Writing, surprisingly, is something of a commodity. By that I mean marketing is more important than having a unique and valuable product. Everyone in the universe thinks he can write, so the applicant pool is so big, marketing is the only way to get noticed. This is even true of niches, such as humor. There are probably fewer than five really good print humorists working in the US today, but many untalented people make a good living writing low-quality humor, simply because they found the right hookups.

Actually, I can’t think of five really good print humorists.

I’m inclined to think the forum guys are wrong. If they were talking about burgers, which a monkey can make, I’d say they were right on target. Burgers are a commodity. Buy five ingredients and a gas griddle, and you’re a chef. That’s not true of pizza. Buy the best ingredients, go to pizza trade shows, talk to experts all day, do exactly as you’re told, and you will still probably make bad pizza, unless someone else writes your recipe. And you have to have a little talent just to recognize a good recipe.

To make burgers, all you need is a strong back. Pizza takes talent and a watchful eye.

If you make bad pizza, you’re competing with Domino’s and Papa John’s, and they’re going to kill you with low prices. If you make good pizza in South Florida, you’re competing with maybe twenty restaurants spread out over two counties. That’s how it seems to me, anyway.

Nonetheless, I am not so confident in my assessment that I’ll run out and sign a lease. My plan is to see what happens at church. If neighborhood people start showing up for pizza and we have to upgrade the production methods, I’ll know I’m onto something. If not, I’ll type out my recipes, turn them over to other people, and find something else to do.

Not-Recommended Reading

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

Monster Waste of Money

As part of my declutterizing campaign, I threw out my copy of How to Weld Damn Near Anything. This book got good reviews, but it’s totally useless. The overviews it gives on different types of welding are about as informative as the course description blurbs in a college class catalog.

FAIL.

Comforter, Teacher, Housekeeper

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

My House Needs Fiber

I had a moment of clarity last night, unfortunately. It can be very relaxing to be wrong and not know it, so it’s always upsetting when I get an epiphany.

I had the TV on because one of the birds was out of the cage, and I happened to see a show called “Hoarders.” It’s about people who fill their houses with junk, until the rats take over and the kids have to sleep on piles of boxes.

The show bugged me. I’m not a true hoarder, but I’m related to one, and I have lots of hobbies, and I’m absent-minded. Put it all together, and you end up with a person with lots of junk, who puts stuff down in the wrong places and forgets it’s there for weeks or months. Hoarding Lite.

I got up and started relocating things. I had a pile of books and gun parts by my bed. I made room in a closet and stored it. I took tool-related items off the dining room table and put them in the garage. I threw out a number of stupid and worthless items.

Of course, I will need all of those items very badly today. That’s how decluttering works. As soon as the garbage truck drives away, you need whatever is in it.

I hate clutter. It’s like living in a little dirty crevice. It probably raises your blood pressure. But I have a clutter-prone personality. It’s like Felix and Oscar are in my head, duking it out like Rock’em Sock’em Robots.

I have a feeling that the Holy Spirit reduces clutter. Hear me out. When you’re not living for God, you do stupid things with your time and money. You will wander down fruitless paths, involving yourself in futile pursuits. That’s because only God can guide you in the direction you’re supposed to take. Result? You end up with stuff you weren’t supposed to have. Not just stuff, but time obligations. For example, you may give up church because your talented kid has sports practice every day, or simply because you want to squander time watching football on TV. You might end up devoting three hours a night to drinking beer. You may find yourself at a strip bar three times a week, blowing your money.

When God takes over, your priorities and desires change with time. Suddenly, you don’t need an entire closet for your porn collection. Or, like me, you may want to get rid of your delicious Cuban cigars. You find yourself selling things and giving things away. Life becomes more streamlined. You start discarding the things Paul referred to as “dung” so you can make room for the pearl of great price.

I still have a rolling toolbox full of gun stuff by the dining table, and a lot of my canning supplies are sitting on it. I have to move that to the garage. I have to throw out or give away some of the garage objects I will never need. I think it’s safe to throw out my old PC cabinet, and I need to Craigslist my brewing kegs.

I really need to get rid of the Super Genie Lift I inherited from one of my dad’s tenants. A guy at my church said they’ll take it, but it may be ten years before they get around to coming for it.

One of the reasons I don’t like Miami is that there is no space here. I’d like to have a home with an outbuilding for my hobbies. Here, that would run maybe three million dollars. A hundred miles north, maybe two hundred and fifty thousand. Cities are for limited people. If your only hobbies are TV and clubbing, Miami is perfect for you. Add three hobbies, and you’re out of luck. You need to move and get more room.

Last night I thought about my grandfather’s house in Kentucky. It had five bedrooms, including a little spare bedroom that held some of his guns and my grandmother’s sewing stuff. It had a big kitchen, a full dining room, a full living room, a big den, a second den in the basement, a second kitchen in the basement, tons of extra basement square footage, a big foyer, and three baths. It also had a tool shed and a barn, plus a carport and a concrete patio.

Mind you, this was not a mansion. It was just a nice red brick home. It brought $120,000 when the heirs sold it.

THAT is living. Bring your tools. Bring your cooking equipment. Buy three smokers. Get four gun safes. Get a bass boat and an RV and five motorcycles. No problem!

My idea of an ideal home is a three-bedroom CBS house with a big commercial-style kitchen, terrazzo floors, and no curtains, with nothing on the walls except maybe NRA calendars. Put a 1500-square-foot building out back with lots of room for musical instruments, tools, and storage. Give me two acres or more to grow food. I’m done. Let me live there until I die. You would have to hold me at gunpoint to get me to leave that house to go to paradise.

Forget antiques. Forget rugs; they hold dirt and stains and smells. Forget hardwood. It rots, termites eat it, and it makes noise. Put a drain in the kitchen floor so I can spill things. Tile the kitchen walls all the way to the ceiling. Get me white dishes and cups from a restaurant supply house, and put in a deck oven for pizza. Kill every plant that isn’t grass or something that produces food. Give me an entire room for Maynard and Marvin. That’s luxury!

The “stronghold” concept is well known among Christians. Satan has spiritual strongholds we have to conquer. The Canaanite cities Joshua destroyed are symbolic of these strongholds. Addictions and bad habits are strongholds. Bad attitudes are strongholds. A physical illness or poverty may be a stronghold. We’re supposed to break these things down by spiritual warfare.

It has occurred to me that God has strongholds, too. Every human believer is described as a house or a temple or an embassy. We belong to the nation of heaven, even though we live on earth. Within us–within our “walls”–God’s ways prevail. And we have to strive to keep Satan out, and we pray in the Spirit to build ourselves up, so there is something stronger than Satan within us, to repel attackers.

Similarly, a Christian’s home can be a stronghold. It can be an embassy of God. That’s what I want. I know life isn’t supposed to be a breeze, but we’re supposed to live in victory, and it seems to me that within our homes, Satan should be relatively powerless. A stronghold home should be a place where a Christian can retreat and recharge. We have to fight the enemy everywhere else. At home, we should have more peace.

A home should be like a military garrison. You defend it and keep it free from invaders, and from time to time, you make excursions into enemy territory and do damage. Then you retreat back to the garrison and prepare for your next assault.

This is what I want. I don’t want fancy furniture or snooty neighbors or a location shallow people would crave. I want a fortress where I can find a little relief.

Before the clutter show, I say a show called American Pickers, about two guys who go around talking old people into selling them valuable antiques below the market price. They went to visit a man who had twelve buildings full of junk. They had a hard time persuading him to sell them anything. He had to be 75 years old, and this stuff was falling apart, but time after time, they would show him a rusty object and ask the price, and he would tell them it wasn’t for sale. It seemed to me that this guy was in the same boat as the hoarders. He’s going to die, and all that neglected, decaying stuff will be loaded up in dumptrucks and destroyed so the new owners will be able to use the buildings. Crazy.

I also caught a few minutes of a show called Intervention. You can probably guess what that’s about. I plan to record it from now own. It’s helpful to see how tough professional addiction counselors are. It reminded me of an important truth: if you don’t fix a loved one who has an addiction–if you withdraw and wait for them to change, and it doesn’t happen–it doesn’t mean you didn’t try to help. It means the addict didn’t try. Every bad thing that happens to an addict as the result of not trying is the addict’s fault. If someone asks you why you’re not helping, say, “Shouldn’t you be asking why the addict isn’t trying?” Don’t fall for blame-shifting. If you accept even the smallest particle of blame, you might as well be handing the addict a bottle of pills.

It’s funny how I happened to tune in to three very instructive shows, on a night when I was just trying to find entertainment while I communed with my pets. Dang these “coincidences.” They are swarming on me.

Holes Aren’t Going to Make Themselves

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

But This Chair is so Comfy

I think today is going to be the day I mount a 3-phase motor on my drill press. The South Bend vise I ordered for it arrived last week, so now the motor is the only major issue.

I have a 2-HP motor that was supposed to go with my lathe. It’s a little large for this job, but I don’t think it will cause a problem. The frame designation says it should fit.

Maybe it’s time to think about a mortising attachment, if I can find one cheap.

I miss fooling with my tools. Pizza has really gotten out of hand.

I bought stuff to create a new 220 socket. I should really have four of them. Why play musical sockets?

I need to put a handle on the pizza-removal tool I made for church. The radiant heat from a 500-degree oven heats the tool pretty fast, so if you use it to remove two pizzas from the oven, by the time you get to work on the second one, the tool is surprisingly hot. I suppose I can make a metal coupling from the sheet aluminum I saved, screw it to the tool, and attach a short wooden handle to it.

I want to get a dust collector. I have fooled around long enough. Dust problems have discouraged me from woodworking. But the machine I wanted is no longer available for credit card points, and I can’t make myself pay actual money.

Okay, here I go. I’m going to grab the hammer drill and get to work. Look out. The dust is going to fly.

In a minute.

Forget Loaves and Fishes

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

This is Better Than the Holy Hand Grenade

Guess what I ate today?

THE BEST PIZZA I EVER HAD.

It’s getting monotonous, typing that once a week.

Not really. It’s actually pretty great.

I worked in my church’s kitchen today, making Sicilian pizza. I branched out from cheese and added pepperoni.

Ordinarily, pepperoni is not my favorite topping. It tends to be very greasy and salty and acidic, and sometimes it’s too spicy. I don’t like spicy stuff on pizza. It’s not that it’s bad. It’s just that non-spicy stuff is usually better. I don’t even use black pepper in the sauce. So I was very shocked when I tried a slice of pepperoni pizza I made. It was phenomenal.

We were not able to find pepperoni at Costco or GFS, so last night I had to pick some up at a Super Walmart. It was 36¢ an ounce! Insane. And I thought each pie would take about four ounces. But when I was applying it today, I found that I used less than an ounce per pie. I guess I could have doubled it, but an ounce covered the pie pretty well.

It was perfect. There wasn’t enough pepperoni to stink up the pie or make orange grease run off of it. It was more like a seasoning than a topping. It gave the pizza character. The pepperoni scent mingled with the yeasty crust aroma and danced in my nostrils. I’m going to start using pepperoni at home. I never thought I’d do that.

Well. I guess I won’t do it at home. At least not often. I don’t have the metabolism I need to eat pizza at home.

This stuff would kill, with thin-sliced green peppers, onions, and GFS faux kalamatas. For nine bucks a gallon, those things are superb.

I got better at timing the services today, so we sold maybe 12 pies this time. That’s 50% more than last week. I’m not sure of the number, but that’s probably right. I went through about 84 ounces of prepared sauce.

I sold three pies in boxes, undivided. It’s a big confidence booster when someone orders a whole pie and waits 8 minutes for it. I was ready. I bought boxes at GFS last week.

I laid a lot of dough out in advance today, so when pies were required, I’d have the stuff ready to go. This made a big difference. I ended up throwing out four unbaked crusts, but as I pointed out to someone who asked me about the dough in the trash, we threw out 80¢, and if we have used even one crust, we would have made $12.00.

We had a problem with people seeing the pizza and thinking, “Hmm…church pizza.” Next time, we’re going to advertise it as “made from scratch” or something. It’s no good to make pizza from scratch if people think it fell out of a cardboard box from Sysco.

Thin pizza will be easier to do, although we may need another stone for mathematical reasons. When you stretch a Sicilian, you have to let it rise for at least an hour afterward, if you really want it to knock your customers unconscious. Thin pizza goes from toss to screen with no resting. I could make three dozen dough portions at 8:00 and sit on my butt after that. No more cranking up the industrial mixer three times a day.

That thing is a pill, by the way. I am not stupid enough to tell people not to get Kitchenaid K5-A mixers, because I know they rock for many purposes, but for pizza dough, it’s just wrong. With a food processor, I’m always done in under three minutes, and I never have a significant problem, and the dough is consistent. With the K5-A, the mixing is very slow and haphazard, and you have to keep fiddling with the hydration (i.e. “water”). And it’s a pain to use, too. I don’t want to go into the mechanics, but it’s no fun at all.

People kept coming into the kitchen to ask if I had REALLY made that pizza. I enjoyed that. They kept saying it was the best pizza they had ever tasted. How can you top that? That’s the best praise you can hope for. They were asking me to teach them to make it.

I have an apprentice now, by the way. Ricardo. He will be meeting me on Thursday so we can bake for the lunch crowd. I have to plot and scheme to convince him that the worst parts of the job are actually the best, so he’ll want to do them all the time. But I have a feeling I’ll fail.

For the rest of my life, I will be convinced that God showed me how to make Sicilian pizza. Luck like this is too far-out not to have an explanation.

Turning Cheese Into Dough

Saturday, February 20th, 2010

Perhaps my Brain Can be Useful on Occasion

I don’t know what’s going on with ammunition prices. I’ve found factory 9mm for under ten bucks per box, but I still get “sale” ads by email, advertising it for sixteen dollars. I think I would have to be high to buy that.

A while back, I got five boxes for something like $10.50 each. Acceptable.

Small pistol primers are getting more common. Back when Obama still had new-car smell on him, they were selling for double the usual price, if you could find them at all.

I’m even finding Swiss GP11 ammunition for the old price now, and they no longer make it. When the current supply vanishes, people will have to buy something else. So it’s very nice to see it coming back down.

I’m still getting comments about the Romney Rage incident. I’m sorry, I cannot support a guy who appoints himself Meter Maid and grabs other passengers to make them straighten their seat backs. This is the very opposite of the conservative philosophy. You don’t butt into someone else’s business and insist they give you something that belongs to them, and you don’t break the law in order to do it. An Air Marshall wouldn’t have done what Romney did. Law-abiding law enforcement officers don’t touch people until it’s necessary.

There are countless examples of leftist intrusions that are fundamentally similar to what Romney did. Union bosses won the right to enter private property uninvited, to organize. Social workers can abduct your kids and put them in foster homes without due process, if they don’t like your policy on spanking. Where I live, you can be fined or jailed for cutting or trimming a worthless mangrove tree–which you own–that obstructs the dock at your five-million-dollar mansion. Meddling is fundamentally a leftist concept, and so is demanding handouts.

When you buy an airline ticket, you rent the space around your seat, and that includes the space it takes to recline. It does not include the space the seat in front of you occupies when it reclines. You have no more right to that space than you do to another guest’s bathroom, when you rent a room at a hotel. If you want a favor, you ask nicely. You don’t give orders, and you keep your hands to yourself. If there’s a dispute, you call the nice flight attendant and work it out. You don’t play airline vigilante.

You have to wonder what kind of person Romney is, to think he had the right to treat another person this way. And it doesn’t help that Romney is a rich white conservative and the offended party is a black Democrat rapper. This is not the kind of PR we need, when we are trying to attract minorities to our side. The story that came out of this is “Spoiled White Conservative Batters Black Passenger on Plane; Authorities Blame Black Passenger.” It’s a highly credible story. This kind of thing does happen. It’s more credible than the story Romney’s hired mouthpiece put out.

Even Epic Beard Man behaved better than Romney, and he was off his medication at the time.

Good fences make good neighbors. That’s how I feel. It’s not about selfishness. It’s about preventing confusion and disputes. It’s about maintaining peace and civility. Most people who don’t understand that are not prominent conservatives.

Mike called today. The pizzeria idea is driving him insane. I should probably quit pouring fuel on the fire. But he’s not going to move down here, so I guess it doesn’t matter. Maybe if he dreams about it until he can get out of DC, he’ll put in time preparing to open a proper business. Maybe it will be good for him.

I’m learning stuff about pizzanomics. For one thing, it’s a mistake to worry about excess inventory. I want to make dough for 20 pizzas tomorrow. Maybe we’ll only sell 15. So what? The dough for five pizzas costs a dollar or two. THROW IT OUT. Who cares? The profit on one pie is about nine bucks. You’re betting two dollars you can make forty-five. That’s a good bet.

I’m also falling in love with toppings. Topping five pies with a seventy-five cent onion is a good idea. You charge seven-fifty for the topping, at one-fifty per pie. That’s a net profit of $6.75. You don’t do as well with meat, but you still profit to some degree.

We need a soda dispenser. I have no idea what a fountain soda costs, but it has to be less than a can, and it’s faster. Right now, people have to step out of line, go to a small fridge, and take sodas out. Then they get back in line. When business is good, the sodas are warm. That needs to change. Who will buy food, if they have to chase it with warm soda? At the very least, the drinks should go in the walk-in.

Christians are wonderful people. But we are not known for our efficiency.

I plan to make a cheesecake. I’m going to the store to see what berries are available. I may try frozen pie cherries, if they have them. If I dump a cheesecake at the church’s cafe tomorrow, we can find out whether people will buy it. And they will. Then they’ll start asking for it. Then we’ll have to have it every week. Then we own them.

For God, I mean. Yes.

Better get to the store while the sun is shining.

Please Return Your Face to its Original Position

Friday, February 19th, 2010

In Your Own Row

Let me make myself even less popular among conservatives by announcing that I side with Mitt Romney’s “attacker” in the runway seat-back incident.

When I pay for an airline seat, I pay for space, and that includes the space it takes to recline my seat. If you’re behind me, you may think that space belongs to you, but it doesn’t. So when I recline in order to prevent myself from having back spasms later, you have nothing to say about it. If you’re claustrophobic, or if you’re fat, or if you just don’t like people who recline their seats, you should have flown first class instead of expecting me to screw up my back and fly in pain so you could get first-class comfort for a coach price. You don’t let your fat spill over the armrest onto me. You don’t put your stuff under the seat in front of me. You don’t tell me to turn off my reading light or the air nozzle. If you want to control your row, buy it.

Touching another person without permission is battery. This is what Mitt Romney did, if he put his hands on the guy in the reclined seat. Romney’s spokesperson appears to have omitted this detail, but the other guy’s story is completely credible. Romney’s version–that he merely spoke to the man, who then threw a fist at him–sounds absurd. I don’t buy it.

Battery is a tort, and it’s also a crime. You don’t put your hands on other people in a civilized society, unless they give you the legal right to do so. That brings me to the third issue.

When the rapper in the reclined seat smacked Romney’s hand, he did not commit a battery. He had the legal right to slap Romney away. In fact, I think he would have been justified in punching Romney in the mouth. Romney waived his right to refuse to be touched, if he battered the other passenger.

On top of all this, reports say Romney was rude at the outset of the encounter, ordering the other passenger to move his seat to an upright position. Former Governor of Massachusetts is not the same thing as Governor of the Coach Seating Area. When you want people to do you favors, which describes Romney’s situation, you ask. You don’t demand.

People have noted that the plane was on the runway, and there seems to be a notion out there that this made reclining the seat some kind of felony. I’ve traveled by air, and I’ve noticed something. They don’t order you to straighten your seat back until it’s time to take off. Until then, you can do what you want. Regardless, Mitt Romney isn’t in charge of airline seat backs, and it’s not his place to enforce FAA policy.

I’d love it if people sitting in front of me didn’t recline their seats. But they have the right to recline. They can do anything they want with the space they paid for. I respect their right, and I keep my mouth shut, and I recline my own seat as much as I need to in order to be comfortable.

Romney is supposedly worth tens of millions of dollars, and he’s not young. He doesn’t have fifty years of flying in front of him. Maybe the wise thing is to live a little and buy better seats. To him, the price of a first class seat is like the cost of a Whopper for the rest of us, and he doesn’t have enough flights left in him to make it a major expense over the remainder of his life. If it runs him an extra hundred thousand a year, he’ll never miss it. Incidents like this are the reason many wealthy public figures always fly first class. It’s not a luxury. It’s the cost of doing business.

If you’re ever in an airline seat in front of me, recline all you want. It’s your right.

Challenged is as Challenged Does

Friday, February 19th, 2010

Jackals Can’t Resist Palin Flesh

My take on the Down Syndrome/Family Guy/Sarah Palin ambush, as posted in comments at Sondra’s:

This shows why the word “retarded” needs to be preserved. Not all people with Down Syndrome are retarded. It looks like Andrea Friedman is one of the lucky ones.

That being said, Trig is probably not as fortunate, and if Ms. Friedman is not retarded, she is one of US, not one of THEM, Down Syndrome notwithstanding. If her intelligence is even close to normal, it’s not okay for her to make fun of mentally impaired people.

If she is impaired, then she does not have the capacity to understand the evil that was done in this episode, and it’s disgraceful that people who are not impaired would put her up to this.