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Archive for June, 2010

Son of Man, Can These Bones Live?

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

Sure Looks Like It

I just got done with guitar practice.

I still can’t believe the quality of the Epiphone Riviera I bought. The action is better than my Fender’s or my Gibson’s, and the sound is wonderful. God bless the Chinese.

I’m having pain in my right elbow. Evidently, at my advanced age, you can’t just jump to a 1.0-mm Dunlop pick after years of doing nothing. So I’m using a 0.8-mm pick until I feel better. Oddly, my left hand, which I have truly abused, feels fine.

Today I had a big breakthrough. I’m still working on the movable bar chords in Fretboard Fundamentals. Up through yesterday, I could only practice them for about a minute before running around the room screaming in pain (perhaps I exaggerate). Today I’m up to two and a half minutes, and I was able to stand practicing ten minutes, with short breaks!

Yesterday I started working on Fred Sokolow’s Rockabilly Guitar lessons (online), and I thought there was no way I could do what he was asking. But today I’m making the stretch between the first and fifth frets fairly well. This is a huge jump for one day. It gives me hope.

I wish I knew what kind of strings to put on the Riviera. I bought DR brand strings, but I only got them because the kid at Guitar Center likes them. I got 9s because that’s what people say you should use when you play the blues, but it’s hard for me to accept light strings, because my bluegrass experience showed me that the heavier strings are, the better they sound. I got the DRs for the Blueshawk and the Strat, but I haven’t put them on yet. Maybe I could get away with 11s on the Riviera. I believe it has a shorter scale than the Blueshawk, so heavier strings should be easier to get away with.

If I keep up with this, eventually I’ll need a real guitar. Maybe I can make the Strat or the Blueshawk work, but my experience with the Riviera has me thinking about a serious hollow-body guitar with a Bigsby and single-coil pickups. I made myself a promise. Six months from the day I started practicing, I will buy myself an electric guitar that SMOKES. Maybe something crazy like a Collings. Why not? New Gibsons are so expensive, there is no reason not to look at obscure high-end guitars.

A vintage instrument might be a good buy, but I would only want one that had been kept in a closet. I don’t trust guitars that have been played a lot, because they’re more likely to have hidden botched repairs, and they’re more likely to be fakes. Besides, I’m pretty sure the instruments they make now are the best they’ve ever been. That’s true of acoustics, so why shouldn’t it be true of electrics?

Here’s something weird. Today I remembered how to play an entire bluegrass song, and I have no idea what the name is. “Salt” something or other, I think. I’m not sure.

Off to church. On Saturday, CeCe Winans and Papa San are having a concert at our church, and I’m going to be working as an Armorbearer. Nutty, huh? Tonight we’re hosting a band from Australia.

Life rocks.

Slow Down!

Monday, June 28th, 2010

On Second Thought, Don’t

I can no longer keep up with the good stuff God does in my life. I just don’t have time to blog it all.

On Saturday, I cooked for our church’s Rhythms Lounge event. Young people come to the cafe and perform. Some play music, some recite, and others sing. This weekend, we had a guest performer: Zach Freeman, the son of two of our pastors. He plays guitar and sings.

What a show we had. We have a regular house band composed of church members; oddly, it’s not the same band that plays during worship. They jammed with Zach for maybe an hour. We heard a lot of blues and even a long funk session.

I can’t describe the quality of the playing. I had no idea these kids were this good. They were so tight, you would think they had been playing together for years.

Zach started off with his Strat and some effects, and he created an ambience you could almost swim in. I wish we had recorded it. Ordinarily I’m not a big fan of reverb and sustain pedals, but he used them to draw us into a world that did not exist before he started playing.

When the other players got going, we heard bass licks that started and stopped the show at will. The keyboard player, who claimed he couldn’t play blues, performed gymnastics that had everyone gasping. When it was over, the whole crowd started yelling and crying out. A friend of mine leaned over and said, “They’re praising God in Creole.”

I couldn’t ask for a better end to my first week of renewed guitar practice.

It gets even weirder. I have a new guitar! For a long time, I’ve wanted a thinline Gibson guitar with single-coil pickups and a Bigsby, but doubting that I would use it, I never gave in to temptation. This week I started reading up on Epiphone guitars. This is Gibson’s Asian line. Ordinarily, I won’t go near an Asian instrument; Japanese dreadnoughts sound like cigar boxes and have actions that tear up your hands. But I kept reading reviews, and I thought to myself, “If I get one of these things, I have 30 days to try it out, and if it works, it will be a fantastic asset, and the price will be so low, even if I get a better instrument later, I’ll be able to drag this one when I travel without worrying about what happens to it.”

I drove down US1 to buy some bird seed, and I was praying in the Spirit while I drove (good way to redeem the time), and I started thinking about Guitar Center. I felt I couldn’t stop myself, so I decided to go with it. I went in and found an Epiphone Riviera on the wall. I still didn’t intend to buy it. I asked the salesman a few questions, looked it over, and told him I would take it. I felt like I had to do it. I think he nearly fainted. I didn’t even ask to play it. There was no point.

This guitar was made in China. They get spotty reviews that go in two directions. Some instruments are written off as junk. Other buyers say they can’t understand how Epiphone can sell such gorgeous instruments at this price point. It looks like I’m in the latter group. This thing is virtually flawless. It sounds good. It plays well. So far, I’ve only been able to find one tiny imperfection in it. And it cost about 13% of what a new Gibson would cost. I could put a thousand dollars’ worth of upgrades into it and still be way ahead.

I don’t know what the story is. Maybe it was God. Maybe I just like shiny new stuff too much. But I try to walk by faith, and this felt like God’s urging, so I didn’t want to screw it up.

On Saturday, the music materials I ordered arrived. I got a copy of Tony Rice Guitar, plus Dan Crary’s Flatpicker’s Guide, plus a giant tablature book called The Big Slab of Tab. I used to play things from these books, many years ago. Back then, I had some trouble with a little bit of the Tony Rice stuff, but as I noted the other day, my practice habits were completely wrong. Fifteen minutes a day.

I got these books because I feel that God is restoring my life and undoing past failures (and also because I owed Tony Rice a royalty).

I’ve been working on the tunes, and it’s crazy, but there is a big long Tony Rice lick I could never conquer in the past, and after two days, I nearly have it beat. I figure I should be able to play coherently, with the correct super-heavy Dunlop pick, within a week. Maybe I’ll upload an MP3 when that happens.

To get back to church, I cooked for the first two services yesterday, and then I served as an Armorbearer at the last service, and I attended a meeting at which we welcomed four new ABs. Guess who one of them is? Zach Freeman. He goes to college in another state, but he’ll be here all summer. I spoke up and informed him of the rule that ABs have to give each other free guitar lessons, and he said, “I GOT you.” Ha!

I keep meeting remarkable people at my church, semi-ghetto though it may be. The background of the people is totally unrelated to their potential and the contents of their hearts. Some are from the neighborhood, which is pretty depressed. Some are from areas that are more affluent. But there are incredible human beings there, from all sorts of different areas.

When I met Zach on Saturday, I was looking forward to meeting a young man everyone admired so much, but he treated ME like a celebrity. He kept talking about my cheesecake and how great it was. I’m just the guy in the kitchen. He, not me, was the talk of the church. It’s wild, how God raises up powerful people and keeps them humble. With his help, an camel really can go through the eye of a needle.

I may have to make him pay off on that lesson thing, although when he sees how hopeless I am, he may wish he had kept silent.

Another new AB has a wonderful trait we needed badly: he’s Cuban. That means he can FISH. And we need that, if we are going to keep angling for my dad. We talked about dolphin fishing, and he told me a few things even I didn’t know. So I’m hoping we can get him on the boat in a few days. He’s also a professional photographer, so maybe we can preserve a few images.

We don’t get very many Cubans in our church. Strange. I know a bunch of Puerto Ricans, though. God tends to recruit from the bottom of society, and Cubans are at the top.

Today I got up, hoping to rest after a busy weekend, and what did I see on Drudge’s page? The Supreme Court has INCORPORATED THE SECOND AMENDMENT. At least, that’s my understanding of it. I don’t think I’m exaggerating, but I haven’t read the opinion. I’m sure liberal judges and lawyers will do their best to interpret incorporation out of the decision. Anyway, Wayne LaPierre says firearms bans can no longer be enforced anywhere in the US. This is gigantic news. God has worked a real wonder.

For a long time, I’ve believed God was going to preserve and expand our gun rights, even as our government pushed farther and farther in the directions of sexual perversion, anti-Semitism, military weakness, weak boarders, and socialism. It looks like I was hearing from God, and not from my own limited mind.

An evil time is coming. When it does, people will remember the Jewish names Madoff, Stearns, Goldman, Sachs, Bernanke, Emanuel, Frank, and Geithner. I think these names will be used to justify a wave of anti-Semitic barbarism. In that day, Christians and Jews who have armed themselves, bought rural land, and learned how to use tools will be way ahead of the game. I strongly suspect God is getting us ready. This decision will certainly help.

What will God do next? I can’t even guess. The spectacle is exhausting me.

I Will Fear no Pants

Friday, June 25th, 2010

King of the Closet

Yesterday I had a major guitar breakthrough. I think I connected with an amp and electric guitar.

I already had two amps. One is a Fender Blues Jr. (tubes) and the other is a cheapo solid-state Crate. The Crate is just unforgivable; I only got it because it gave me some hope of getting distortion at low volumes. The Blues Jr. sounds fine but doesn’t do much until you turn it up (or maybe I don’t know how to use it).

I picked up a Vox AC4TV (tubes), and I cranked the power down to 1/4 watt, which is 1/60 of what the Blues Jr. consumes. It didn’t sound all that great. I had the tone control up pretty high, because I thought this would fuzz up the tone, and I had the volume control very low, because…silly me…I thought this would reduce the volume.

I decided to try it the other way around. The amp only has two sound controls, so it’s not like I had a big choice. I turned the volume way up and turned the tone way down. What did I get? Neat fuzzy distortion, like Otis Rush. Actually, it’s more like his voice than his guitar. It sounded wonderful. I couldn’t put the guitar down.

A long time ago, when I was shopping for an electric guitar, I found an ES355 (or was it an ES330?) which had a similar sound. This is the sound I like.

Don’t try to help me understand why “volume” means “tone” and “tone” means “volume.” I don’t care. It works.

“COINCIDENTALLY,” I’ll be cooking for my church’s Saturday-night Rhythms Lounge event tomorrow, and guess who the guest is? Zachary Freeman. He’s a jazz and blues guitarist. His mom is a pastor at the church. Pretty cool. I haven’t heard him, but people at church rave about him.

IT’S COINCIDENCE! DARWIN! DARWIN! SOCIALISM! VIVA CHE! OBAMA WILL SAVE US!

Whatever. You believe what you want. I’m going to stay connected to the power supply.

My miracle weight loss is continuing. I put on a few pounds while I worked on desserts for my church, and I also discovered Five Guys, so I have been concerned. Today I weighed myself, and it appears that the weight loss is progressing again. Fantastic. Only God could do this. I don’t diet; I’m not gifted with perfect willpower. I’m just not a fat person any more. It’s as if I had been born to be thin. I hope I knock off ten more pounds, so none of my pants will be able to intimidate me. I wore my super-thin black jeans to church on Wednesday. I still need to lose an inch to make them comfortable. I bought them for riding motorcycles; grease and dirt don’t show up much on black jeans.

I got to the range yesterday and chronographed some 10mm ammunition. I don’t have the results before me, but it looks like 12 grains of No. 7 powder will give me good results, and 12.5 might be ideal. At 12 grains, I get 1200 fps, and I want 1250. One disappointment: my Wolf primers seem hard. Two out of twenty failed to go off on the first try. This is fine for target practice, but for self-defense, I’m going to need something like Federal. I am told Federal primers are the softest.

The primers and cases looked okay after firing.

The gun shoots great. My accuracy was affected by the way I had to contort myself to fire through the chronograph, but I shot more than well enough to splatter an assailant’s brains. The recoil tires my hand a little, though, so I think the gun would tend to lose accuracy after a dozen or two dozen rounds. Not enough to matter in a self-defense situation, but it would be annoying in practice sessions.

The consistency of the handloads (especially the low-powered target rounds) was very good. I plan to load defensive rounds one at a time, for total confidence, but for routine target shooting, I think I can rely on my powder measure.

I also tried my Bill Springfield AR trigger. It’s better than the stock trigger, which is not exactly a surprise. I’m not sure I love it, though. Still seems a little balky.

I had to buy cheesy PMC .308 ammo, because I left my Radway Green at home. I don’t know how good PMC rifle ammuntion is, but their pistol ammunition is the worst I’ve tried.

Yesterday, I was shooting into an area the size of a baseball at 100 yards. Acceptable under the circumstances, but I would like to do better. A range officer who shoots .308 says reloading is the only answer. If I start reloading, I think it will be time to consider a .260 Remington upper, which was my real goal anyway. Maybe the .308 upper was a mistake. It looks like I can’t do precision shooting with cheap ammo, so the money I save may be a hollow blessing. Still, if times get really hard, cheap ammo in large quantities may be a real asset, and I can’t get that in .260.

The Leupold scope is a dream come true. I don’t even understand all the knobs yet. The field of view is gorgeous, and everything is sharp.

Speaking of hard times, a man named Hank Kunneman appeared on Sid Roth’s show yesterday, claiming to be a prophet. He said God had showed up a couple of things. First, the next couple of years will be pretty rough, and it will seem like Obama is doing very poorly. Second, God intends to reverse some of the bad legislation Obama has signed, and he intends to change the Supreme Court.

He reminded us to pray for our leaders, and he was right about that. I think Obama is an embarrassment and an obstacle to God’s work, but I have resolved to pray, daily, that God will change his heart and the hearts of our other leaders. The Bible tells us we have a duty to pray for our leaders, so I’m going to stay on it. I also pray that God will take down leaders who refuse to change, replacing them with godly men. So I’m covered either way!

I hate to say it, but I feel bad for Obama. I believe he is in for a long stretch of humiliation, and if he doesn’t get right with God and the Jews, there probably won’t be any end to it. Remember Nebuchadnezzar, wandering around on all fours, eating grass.

I don’t know if Hank Kunneman is the real thing or not, so caveat emptor.

I’m out.

Notes

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

“Blue” Never Really Meant “Sad”

This is my third day of guitar practice, and again, I can’t believe how fast I’m picking things up. I had this nutty intuition that God was going to help me with my creaky memory, and I kid you not, it seems to be happening.

I put new strings on my old Taylor 710 (the manly 710 with the three-piece back, not the new two-piece one which is probably endorsed by Richard Simmons). I also picked up some more junk at Guitar Center. I got two bags of rubbery nylon Dunlop picks (black and dark grey, which means insanely heavy and super heavy), and I grabbed a Vox AC4TV amp. I was going to wait, but the Blues Jr. was taking up half of the room, and I figured I could always take advantage of Guitar Center’s 30-day policy if it didn’t work out.

I contacted Gibson about fixing the gouge in the neck of my old Blueshawk. I never gave that guitar a fair chance, and I want it fixed up. The Strat has a much better action, but there is something about the Blueshawk…it seems more alive. It has very tall frets, so you can get all sorts of expressive effects by varying the pressure, and it’s very light and easy to hold, and it has lots of weird electronics. Well, not “lots.” It has a Varitone with a bypass doodad, plus three P100 pickups with a dummy coil. It has more doodads than I can intelligently use; I’ll put it that way.

The Strat’s action is much better, although that may be a matter of truss rod adjustment. That guitar is super-refined, in terms of fit and finish. It still looks the way it did when I brought it home, too.

I started doing exercises from the book Fretboard Logic, and while my left hand is pretty hopeless when it comes to barring the neck, I have the basic positions mastered and can move through them without hesitation. I suppose it will take a while to develop the musculature for barring. I never really had it in the past, because bluegrass occurs between the first and fifth frets, where you don’t have to bar anything.

I learned something about intonation. This should have been obvious. Electric guitars have always annoyed me because they wander off-key. I thought they had inherent intonation problems. Fretboard Logic says the problem may be caused by excessive fretting pressure. Duh. Why didn’t that occur to me before? Here I am, used to playing huge guitars with 13s on them, and I’m trying to fret wimpy electrics with 9s. OF COURSE I press too hard. Anyway, the discovery, pathetic though it may be, is kind of a breakthrough.

I thought it would take me a while to get to the point where I could swing a fat pick through heavy strings instead of plucking them (this is essential to good timing), but I was doing it today, no problems. That’s a relief. I managed to play The Temperance Reel competently, and I made great progress re-learning Dan Crarys Memories of Mozart. I ought to have it in the bag by Monday or Tuesday!

I ordered a copy of Tony Rice Guitar, the book containing the tablature for The Temperance Reel. I learned the tune from a photocopy years ago (I think), and I felt I should pay the man his royalty and get the real thing. I also ordered a new copy of Dan Crary’s Flatpicking Guide, because it comes with a CD instead of the old wax phonograph cylinder cassette my moldy copy came with.

I don’t have that much interest in bluegrass per se, but I would like to be capable of playing the tunes I used to play, and bluegrass is a fantastic hand workout, so it should be helpful. And I have been thinking of using my flatpicking skills to play other types of music. There is no reason you can’t do that, and there is nothing like the sound of a dreadnaught or jumbo played with a heavy pick.

The Vox seems like a great amp, although I’m not qualified to say. The sound is very good, and I’m very glad I bought an amp capable of being limited to 1/4 watt, because it’s STILL loud, if it’s not adjusted carefully. I was nuts, buying a 15-watt Blues Jr. Maybe I can use it if I play in a bigger room or play in public.

I have some ideas about the electric guitar. I’d like to develop some tunes like “Trouble of the World,” which Mahalia Jackson used to sing. This stuff is great Christian music, and it radiates soul like nobody’s business. The right arrangement and tone could bring people to their knees. We have a lot of white-bread music in the church these days. Not everyone grew up in the Brady household. A little flavor would be a good addition to our current fare. When our worship team does reggae, it’s wonderful. I think it would be great to bring soul back to worship music.

Some of Mahalia Jackson’s material wasn’t worthy of her, but this one is great.

Here:

Here’s another great performance. Why did Gershwin let DuBose Heyward get away with writing only two verses?

I Will Not be Taking Calls

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

Close the Blinds, Mr. Belvedere

I’m so distraught. My world has come to an end. Lawrence Taylor has been charged with rape! It’s all over Drudge!

I wonder who Lawrence Taylor is.

Let Them Eat Stale Prepackaged Cookies Made With Foul Vegetable Shortening

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

Cheesecake Rejection

I got a call from Mike yesterday. He has been on the road with his son, who is a hot football prospect. They were touring schools. I got on him about going to church, and he swears he is going to try. It can be very discouraging, trying to get people to attend. After a while, you feel like letting the issue drop and devoting your attention to something else. But I think he may get serious now that he has time.

While I was on the phone, we talked food. Here is the idea that hit me: pineapple upside-down cake made with banana nut bread. You make two cakes and put the pineapple stuff between them. Then on top…carrot cake icing.

Is that sick or what? I can’t wait to try it. It’s the most beautiful cake idea I’ve ever heard of. I think Mike levitated when I brought it up.

I’ve been having trouble baking for my church. They keep wasting the food I make. I baked three cheesecakes last week, and today I found out they weren’t putting them on display. I made raspberry sauce, and I bought red and yellow raspberries to scatter on the cake, and I guess it’s all ruined now.

I don’t want to be a pain, but I informed the pastor who runs the cafe that I don’t want to bake any more until I know they’re going to sell the food. It’s stupid to show up at two p.m. on a Saturday and bake for four hours when you know they’re going to throw the food out later.

In other news, I have been fiddling with music practice for two days now. Yesterday I installed Dunlop Straploks on my electric guitars. I don’t know why electric guitars come with such useless strap buttons, but my Blueshawk has a nasty dent in it, which it got on the day I learned I needed locking buttons. I don’t want that to happen again.

Why don’t they use steel eyes instead of buttons? It’s so obvious. Put a spring-loaded connector (like the one on a dog leash) at each end of the strap, put a fabric sleeve over it to prevent scratching, and you’re all set. The Dunlop things work, but the concept is incredibly stupid.

I researched amps. It looks like the best amp for practice is a tube amp with virtually no power. Like four watts. I have a 15-watt amp, and it’s tough to set the knobs so it sounds good but doesn’t blow me out of the house. Wish I had known this back when I got it. Vox makes a 4-watt practice amp which can be driven hard at power levels as low as 1/4 watt. Maybe some day I’ll try one.

The practice went way better than I expected. I picked things up surprisingly quickly. I’m devoting part of the time to studying the workings of the fretboard. I have a book called Fretboard Logic, and I’m doing the exercises. Maybe this will open the instrument up to me. In any case, I have to have some kind of music in my life, and guitar is convenient.

Guess I should get rid of the cornet.

Oliver Sacks Would be Proud

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

Morning in Coral Gables

I keep waking up happy to be alive and eager to get out there and get things done. This can be pretty tiresome to the people around you. It’s like having Kathy Lee Gifford sneak up behind you and hug you all the time, while singing “You Light up my Life.”

I have realized I have to make a musical decision. I have to pick one or two instruments, pick them up, work on them seriously, and forget the rest. Otherwise I will have no music in my life.

I’m thinking piano and guitar are the way to go. Their versatility is too hard to pass up.

Last night I took out a couple of my guitars and started playing around with them. I’m going to pick up a few needed accessories and form a plan. Yes, Christians can plan. It’s not really a sin, regardless of the way we generally behave.

Last week the main guitarist at my church introduced himself. This kid can really play. I told him how impressed I was with his work, and naturally, he was so humble about it, it was hard to get the message into his head. We talked about guitar, and I told him I ought to hire him to give me lessons so I could overcome my problems with electric instruments. He said I should get in touch any time. Man, I may do that.

My Internet use is dropping off. I think that’s good. It gives me more time to do real things, as contrasted with virtual ones. Maybe I can funnel some of the new time into music.

I really blew it with the guitar. I used to play very well, but I only practiced 15 minutes a day. I figured that if I couldn’t learn something with that much practice, it was impossible for me. When I started piano, I practiced a lot more than that, and I realized that even if you have some talent, you benefit a lot from long practice sessions. I could have been an excellent guitar player, but I didn’t have the right mindset or sufficient character.

God is working to restore things I’ve lost. I have reason to believe that my memory is improving. If that’s true, I have an opportunity to get real benefit from music practice. I want to try it out and see. For a long time, I had problems, learning too slowly and forgetting what I had learned. I know I sound crazy, but I don’t think those things are going to happen any more.

Right now I feel like life is full of opportunity again. I feel that some of my lost potential has been returned to me.

Hope I’m right.

Channeling Energy

Monday, June 21st, 2010

“Did You Just See Something Fall Out of the Tuna Tower?”

Today I achieved an important goal. I got my pastor and a few of his relatives to go fishing on my father’s boat.

It was wonderful. They hung out on the flybridge, shooting the breeze while the rest of us tried to catch fish. Now my dad knows Christians don’t have horns, and we don’t come from Mars. We are reasonably normal people.

Actually, “normal” isn’t right. My church is full of nuts. Ordinarily, you would expect Christians to be more reserved than other people, but we’re the weirdest bunch I’ve ever seen.

This weekend, my pastor preached a sermon with a live lion on the stage. A bunch of us had to push the silly thing around in a cage. I told one of the other Armorbearers, “If that lion barks at me, I’m turning his lights out.” I was fully prepared to buy the owner a new lion if I had to. But he turned out to be very good-natured, like a big gentle dog that was upset over being stuck in a travel kennel.

I was worried because I went on a private tour of Miami’s Metrozoo a few years ago, and they hand-fed a white tiger a few feet away from me. This thing was NOT good-natured. It hated the keeper and tried to kill him. I would guess this animal weighed 250 pounds, and it flew up and clung to the bars with all four feet, in less time than it would take a human being to snap his fingers. It hung there like a giant suction-cup Garfield in a Prius window, trying to eat the keeper through the steel grating. I realized how fast it could move if it wanted to. If one of these things got irritated with you, your efforts at self-defense would be about as likely to succeed as the effort a slug would make if it tried to outrun a kid with a salt shaker.

I have no faith at all in people who keep exotic animals. Remember the Siegried and Roy thing? And what about the two people who lost faces to “tame” chimpanzees in recent years? Every wild pet is tame and trustworthy until it rips your genitals completely off and throws them (the way one of the chimps did) or until it takes your neck in its mouth and bites through a major blood vessel (the way Roy Horn’s tiger did). Remember Timothy Treadwell? He believed he could “commune” with bears and make friends with them, until one ate him. Animal nuts can talk all they want about their status as “experts.” There are no experts. There are only amateurs who haven’t been attacked yet.

So anyway, I was completely ready to blow this lion’s brains out if it managed to outwit us (not difficult) and escape during our highly questionable attempt to move it from one cage to another. I guess there would have been some hard feelings, but I would have gotten over it.

Next week, we’ll have a horse on the altar. I don’t think firearms will come into play. Unless he aggravates me.

Week before last, we had a couple of bald eagles in church. Before that, we had a really fat Indian python, trying to climb the drum set. This is not a normal church.

RE shooting lions with a pistol, I had an interesting conversation with a fellow customer when I went to the gun shop to order my 10mm. A commenter here had expressed surprise that Miami Cubans hunt wild pigs with .22 rifles. I mentioned that to this customer, and he said he did it all the time. He said it had sounded wrong to him, too, until he proved it to himself by shooting a wild pig in its bony forehead. So it looks like my commenter is behind the times.

Shouldn’t be a big shock, since the .22 is the standard implement for slaughtering huge hogs on farms.

To get back to the subject, we had a big time on the boat, and we managed to catch a nice cow dolphin. Unfortunately, I was up on the tuna tower when it hit, and nobody bothered to tell me, so we lost the school and two sets of end tackle before I could sort things out.

On the way back in, we stopped in Biscayne Channel so my pastor’s son Taylor could jump off the tuna tower and cool down. First thing you know, the pastor was nowhere in sight. I asked someone where he was, and they said he was with Taylor. Up on the tower. He went up there and jumped off! Talk about a time for prayer. I could see myself trying to help the church staff understand why I had allowed the pastor to leap to his death at the age of 56. But he came out of it okay.

The crew was extremely helpful cleaning up the boat, and they made a good impression on my father. I’m hoping that will make him interested in hosting more Christians. Some guests get tanked on beer and then hide when the scrub brushes come out, which infuriates the other guests and causes problems. These folks were not like that.

If this is the kind of work you have to do to be a good Christian, count me in. I’m really pooped, and I don’t want to fish twice every weekend, the way I did over the last four days, but I achieved something of lasting importance, and I had a good time doing it.

Now I finally feel like I can relax. For four days, I’ve been running around like a chicken with its head cut off. Two fishing trips. Three cheesecakes for the church kitchen. My prayer group. A Saturday service. Now I want to DO something. By that I mean something which has nothing to do with church or fishing. I don’t know what I want to do. I just know I want to do it. I have free time. I want to FEEL free.

As soon as I can make myself get up.

Serious Recreation

Sunday, June 20th, 2010

Sometimes a Christian Has to Face Hard Jobs Like This One

Tomorrow is going to be an interesting day. On Friday, I finally got one of my church’s Armorbearers out on the boat. Sadly, all we caught were triggerfish and grunty-type things, but we had a great time, and my dad was exposed to Christians, which is the main thing.

Funny sidelight: I gave my dad the last names of the guests I expected, so he could inform the marina guard. Their names are “Victory” and “Christian.” Seriously. He asked if I was joking. Only Victory showed up.

Tomorrow, I am planning to take my pastor out on the boat, with some of his relatives. At least one of them is also a pastor, and my AB friend will make another appearance to help me take care of everyone.

This is tremendous. My father finally has an excuse to associate with Christians. He loves to fish, but my secular friends have dwindled in number, and suddenly we find ourselves supplied with courteous, responsible, industrious, grateful Christian guests.

In other news, I nearly blinded myself today. I decided to put a new trigger in my AR10. I got it from Bill Springfield, who modifies stock triggers for a reasonable price. I started yanking pins out of the gun, and as I was trying to get the old hammer out, the hammer flew out so fast, I couldn’t see it take off. It spun so hard I could hear it, and it flew by my left eye so closely my eye could feel the wind it generated.

I was horrified. I had no idea this thing could jump out. I would have worn safety glasses, had I had any clue. I have to thank God for watching over me. Right now I could be at the ER, listening to a surgeon debate the feasibility of saving my eye. Is there ANY job you can do with tools that doesn’t require safety goggles? I’m starting to wonder.

I hate brushes with disaster. For hours after they happen, I relive them over and over in my mind. I can’t help thinking about what could have happened.

The AR10 is wonderful, even though it tried to kill me. Everything fits so well. It’s nothing like an AK, where they sort of hammer the parts in any way they’ll fit. The pins that hold the upper and lower together are extremely precisely fit, but I can remove them with my fingers. The pins for the hammer and trigger are nearly as easy to deal with. The whole job took maybe 20 minutes.

I don’t want to sit around dry-firing it, not knowing whether the gun will be damaged, but I had to dry-fire it a couple of times, and it feels great. One thing I noticed: I can’t activate the safety unless the gun is cocked. I can’t remember whether it was that way with the old trigger, but I don’t think the new trigger and safety have any differences that could account for a change. All the obvious differences in the fire control group are in the front end.

Can’t wait to get to the range.

I also want to try out the new 10mm. I made up 70 rounds of ammo for it, including 20 rounds of defensive stuff, in two batches of 10. They carry different charges. I want to chronograph them and look at the cases after I shoot, so I can see if they’re safe to use. I’ve never used my chronograph. I hope I don’t shoot it.

I like the 10mm so far. I got some Hornady factory ammo for it, and I tried carrying it. It’s only half an inch longer than my 9mm, and the width is not much greater. It fits in the same pocket holster and has the same capacity, but the ballistics are infinitely superior. Nearly equal to .357 Magnum. I think this may be the best possible compact carry gun, barring obscure calibers I’ve never heard of.

Supposedly the 10mm is “inherently accurate.” I have never understood what this means. You would think any uniformly made ammunition in any caliber would be accurate, since you would expect it to repeat its performance reliably, but I guess that isn’t how it works. Ballistics is a black art. Mankind has been creating new calibers for centuries, yet we get big improvements all the time, which suggests that it’s not an easy puzzle. If the answers were obvious, we would already have them, right?

I considered getting an AK pistol for the truck, and I still might do it, but I took the Vz 58 out to the truck to see how it handled in the cab, and it was very easy to deal with. Fold it up, turn on the laser and flashlight, and you are ready to obliterate any assailant within a hundred feet, with no need to shoulder the arm. A pistol would achieve the same result, but it might be heavier, since it’s an AK, and it would be a fresh cash outlay. Of course, one attraction of the AK is the knowledge that it’s a cheap piece of junk. Were it stolen, I would care very little. I would hate to lose a pretty Vz 58, though. Maybe a second-rate Century Vz 58 is a good solution. Functional and light, cheaper than the better models, and equipped with a buttstock.

I could put a pistol foregrip on the Vz, which would be illegal on the AK.

I guess it sounds silly to have a long gun in a vehicle, but it’s not. Watch videos of actual gunfights. People with long guns hit things, and people with pistols miss. That says it all. Add superior ballistics and high capacity, and you end up with a picture in which pistols, not long guns, seem silly. If you arm yourself at all, you tacitly acknowledge that you want effective protection, and a pistol ain’t it. Not even close. A pistol is a very dumb idea, except when there is no other choice. In a vehicle, you have a choice.

I hope we get some fish tomorrow, and that my dad makes a good connection. I put in a lot of preparation today, and my AB friend is donating a day of his time. Let’s see what God does for us.

And Next Door, an Abortion Clinic

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

Abomination

Today a friend sent me a link to this Youtube video, which discusses the appalling plan to build a mosque near Ground Zero in New York.

Many people are very disturbed by this plan, but I support it fully. Let’s have a mosque, and not just a mosque, but an extremist mosque where hatred of America, Israel, Jews, and Christians is preached daily. Let’s have TV studios and a giant auditorium. Let’s have radio studios and a publishing house. Get the word out: Islam won in New York! Islam owns New York!

The reason this is happening is that New Yorkers invited it. Islam killed 3,000 of their people, and the response has been an apology and an offer of prime real estate. New York deserves this mosque, and the world needs to see how perverted New Yorkers’ perceptions and attitudes have become.

Build the mosque! Make it bigger than the World Trade Center. Put booths outside where rabble-rousing imams can curse America and Christianity daily. Where do I send my donation? I’m all for it. Let’s not hide the disease. Let’s expose it. I want everyone in America to see this mosque every day on cable TV. I want them to see where their twisted notions of tolerance have gotten them, and I want every heartland American to realize that the next mosque may be built on the site of the church where his children worship.

The man who speaks in this video makes a great point: when the Muslims overran Jerusalem, the ancient capital of the Jews, they built a mosque on the site of God’s temple. That mosque was a blaring siren, announcing, “We own what you refused to defend and appreciate. We own your heart.” Now we see the secular homologue here in America. To the secular mind, this is coincidence, but then, to the secular mind, the cross is just a piece of wood, and the blood of Jesus is medical waste.

New York is defeated, and so are other bastions of rebellious liberalism. We need to showcase their fallen state so the rest of us will live in dread and avoid making their mistakes. We need this to remind us to turn from our sins and serve God, and by “God,” I mean the God of Moses, not “Allah.”

The farther off the path you are, the more powerful aliens and foreigners will be in their dealings with you. That principle is as old as the world, and we are seeing it now in many aspects of American and Israeli life. We will not get relief until we change our hearts. Then, instead of fighting other peoples with natural weapons and inflicting pain and making no progress–instead of “swatting flies,” as George Bush put it–we will be in a position to use supernatural weapons to help them find God’s love and God’s power. Instead of seeing mosques built in Christian lands, we will see mosques turned into churches.

Military resistance is better than nothing, but the only warfare that really counts is prayer and obedience, and we need to get mobilized.

You may think the construction of this mosque is a simple attack of the enemy. I’m not so sure. God raised up Nebuchadnezzar, and nowhere in the Bible does it say God no longer punishes his people. If he intends to put mosques at Ground Zero and in other locations in America, he is also the only one who can prevent them from being built.

Smoker Economics

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

New Steel Cheaper Than Old Tanks

I will never understand tools and technology.

A six-foot length of 1/4″ angle iron costs over $40 at Fastenal, and it’s not that exciting to work with. You can make braces and legs and frames and supports from it, but that’s about it. A 4′ by 8′ sheet of 14-gauge steel, which is much more exciting and useful, costs under $30. How can that be?

This is interesting to me, because I have been trying to find a used propane tank to turn into a smoker for my church. You would think an old tank would cost nearly nothing, but the characters who sell them think I should pay about 80% of the cost of a new tank. I can spend a hundred bucks on a tank that will make a smallish smoker, or I can buy a couple of sheets of steel and make a giant and amazing smoker.

I guess I was stupid to build the Hoginator from a Char-Broil grill. It worked out, but the grill alone was a hundred bucks. For sixty, I could have had enough sheet steel to make anything I wanted.

I ought to quit fooling with this idea. A steel smoker needs shelter from the rain, and my church does not have a suitable enclosure. And if I make the smoker, I will be the only one who ever uses it. If I quit, it will sit and rot. And we have a lot of people who have a pork phobia. Wish I could do it, though. It would be great to have the versatility of a smoker.

If you want a phenomenal high-capacity smoker, and you have an understanding wife, I may have the perfect solution for you. The idea hit me the other day. Go on Craigslist and look for a “warming cabinet” or “proofing cabinet.” These things are used to warm dough while it rises, or to keep food hot until it can be served. They heat to 225, which is perfect for smoking. They come fitted to hold pans, and you can put wire racks on the shelf supports. Put a hole in the bottom, plumb smoke in, put a hole in the top, plumb smoke out, add a pan if you want beer or water in the bottom, and you have a killer smoker. At least, I think so. I see no reason why it wouldn’t work.

These cabinets can be over six feet high, so you need to try to find something that isn’t too big. I found one with an asking price of $399, so my guess is that persistence will produce something one or two hundred dollars cheaper.

Food News

Monday, June 14th, 2010

Taters Nearly do me In

Costco is selling prime beef again! I love it! Rib eyes for $8.00 per pound! You can’t beat that with a stick.

Blueberries are also very cheap. On Wednesday I plan to buy a load of them, turn them into cheesecake goo, and freeze it for church.

I tend to see Costco prime beef as an indicator of the economy’s health. When it’s there, things are not going well. Not a very scientific measure, but the availability does seem tied to the Dow.

Had a crazy experience yesterday. On the way home from church, I hit Five Guys. I skipped lunch–delicious pizza, rolls, and cheesecake–so I could have a burger and fries. I made the mistake of eating an entire Five Guys regular order of fries. They’re not that great, but they’re way better than any other fast food joint.

When I went to bed, I started feeling very hot. I couldn’t get cool enough to sleep. And I had to have ice cream! I felt like my life depended on it. I got out of bed and ate a few blueberries and drank some water, but it was no good. I got in the truck, drove to the drug store, and bought a selection of junk food. I thought maybe the sudden craving meant something, so I decided to go with it.

I bought ice cream, a Chunky bar, cookies, and Gatorade. I figured I’d watch Breaking Bad while I ate it. In the truck, I ate three cookies.

When I got home, the craving was gone. I thought about the delicious goodies I had on hand, and I thought about Breaking Bad, which I love. But the craving was gone. I put the food away and got in bed.

What does it mean? I don’t know. I do know my gall bladder is acting up a little.

I honestly think potatoes are poison. I love them almost as much as I love life, but I never feel good after eating potatoes, and Five Guys gives you about two pounds of them. I don’t like peanut oil, either. Animal fats seem to dissolve in a very natural way when you eat them, becoming part of your body. Some plant fats seem to resist assimilation, as if they were industrial chemicals. Peanut oil (used by Five Guys) is one of those fats. I just don’t like it.

Anyway, the next time I eat at Five Guys, I’m going to throw all the fries out except whatever the cup holds, or I’ll avoid fries entirely and get something else. They’re not good enough to justify the aggravation.

Thanks for the Help, Mrs. Potiphar

Sunday, June 13th, 2010

If You’re Ever in Thebes, Drop by the Palace

Just got back from church. I should be more precise: just finished eating a burger from Five Guys, which I bought on the way home from church.

The weekend was a blur. On Friday night, we had all-church prayer, which was fantastic. On Saturday, we had a Marketplace Ministry event where we heard from Brian Klemmer, a well-known motivational speaker. I drove home, bought food and cooking equipment, drove back, and made two cheesecakes and three loaves of banana nut bread, and then I hung out at our cafe for Rhythms Lounge, our Saturday-night youth event. It’s sort of like a beat bar, only with no drugs or alcohol (that we know of).

Got up this morning, drove to church, made six dozen garlic rolls and dough for 12 pizzas. Worked through two services. Sat for the third service, taking a brief break to assemble and bake two pizzas. Got out my rotary hammer and drilled some giant holes in the floor of the kitchen to see if I could remove some old angle iron supports. Went to an armorbearer meeting. Went to Five Guys.

Today at the cafe, people were eating my brownies, cheesecake, pizza, garlic rolls, banana nut bread, and pineapple-cream cheese spread. All on the same day. I can’t believe all the crap I can cook now, and how fast I can do it.

People kept asking if I was the food guy and telling me how great everything was. It was hilarious. “Try the cheesecake.” “I don’t like blueberries.” “I know, but trust me, TRY THE CHEESECAKE.”

It’s wonderful to do well at something and get a little recognition. I’m positive God gives me recipes, but I still get to prepare them, so I’m in the chain of success somewhere.

I was thinking about it yesterday. I’ve been involved in several things at church, but the only authorities who have followed through with the things they’ve involved me in have been the Armorbearer and cafe guys. The Armorbearer guys don’t have all that much advancement or opportunity to provide me, so there has been a limit to what I could do for them. The cafe guy had more problems I could fix, and he gave me support and got out of the way, and now I’m paying off for him like a slot machine.

The pastor involved me with a book he wanted to write, but then he hired a PR chief to be in charge of all writing jobs, and the Haiti mess popped up, and suddenly, the book was not a priority. Piles of dead bodies were rotting in the streets of Port au Prince, so the book had to be put on the back burner while charity logistics were worked out. I did some writing for the Haiti relief effort, but the PR boss hasn’t asked me to do anything in months. I guess someone else is doing the work.

It’s a little weird. Given my unusual set of skills, I could have done a lot for them, had I been included, but God has his own plans, and I ended up doing security and making food. As far as I know, nothing is happening with the church’s book-writing plans, but because I got so much support in the kitchen, the cafe is blossoming like a rose.

I assume there was a purpose in the way things worked out. It has been fantastic for me, so I can’t complain. I love what I’m doing.

Sometimes I wonder whether the folks at church are truly aware of what I can do; I could have gone to Haiti and created a blog about it and gotten a lot of traffic, and I could have done photography and written books about it. These things would have been very easy for me, and I don’t think anyone else at my church could get it done. I’ll put it this way: they haven’t done it. But ideas that make sense in the natural are often wrong. “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” Things are probably going exactly as they should be.

I’m meeting all sorts of people, which is good for me. On Saturday nights, twice a month, I’m in a cafe full of kids in their teens to early twenties, mostly of Haitian descent. As an Armorbearer, I get to meet various speakers and teachers. I’m going to be doing krav maga again, and I may conceivably exercise. I’m learning all sorts of things about running a restaurant, and I’m becoming a very efficient institutional cook. I even get to use my tools sometimes. I’ve done welding for the church, and now I’m working on removing old steel from their floor.

It’s not bad.

God puts people in authority over us, and he helps shape their decisions. Look at Joseph and Jacob, in their dealings with Pharaoh and Laban. I’m not comparing the good people at my church to a couple of heathens, but the same principle applies. You will not always understand the decisions your authorities make, and sometimes they will seem crazy, but you should not be quick to react with rebellion and disrespect, because sometimes, a crazy decision has a supernatural cause contrived for your benefit.

Weird stuff keeps happening to me. Since the Rendezvous conference last month, I’ve found that when I pray in the Spirit, I’m actually singing, because there is a melody to it. And I generally seem more musical. I used to hear all sorts of musical variations in my head, but I was frustrated because I didn’t hear many completely new tunes. Now I’m starting to hear entire melodies. I need to start writing them down. And I used to have a funny problem when I sang in church: I couldn’t harmonize, which is usually pretty effortless for me. I thought it was because the music was so loud I couldn’t hear myself, but that was wrong, because now, all sorts of harmonic variations are coming out. There’s more to it than that, but that’s all I feel like saying. Something supernatural is definitely going on.

I have a pretty wild testimony. Nutty things are going on, but generally, the people around me have almost no interest whatsoever. Sometimes I have the strange sensation that I’m invisible. I tend to think my testimony is like a cake in the oven. I want to take it out now, but God wants it to stay in the oven until it’s completely ready, so for the moment, nobody wants to hear it. As a result, people who read this blog know more about it than people I go to church with.

Maybe Joseph felt this way when he was stuck in Egypt, forced to live in luxury and power while his relatives were still dirt-farming in Israel. I feel like I’m being restrained for the present, but even though I’m not doing anything impressive or significant on the grand scale, life is very, very pleasant.

I am considering turning my banana-nut bread recipe into doughnuts and adding coconut glaze. Thought I’d throw that in just to horrify everyone before posting this entry.

Sorry I Didn’t Return Your Email

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

It Was Vacationing in Another State

I will never understand the Internet.

I thought I had my old email addresses forwarded to my new email addresses. But today I had to go through about 3700 emails, because the forwards were not working. Guess what? Somebody out there REALLY thinks I need a certain drug with a name that starts with “V.”

I found out I’ve been getting emails from a website called The Daily Caller. Well, my SERVER has been getting them. I haven’t. Ordinarily, when I get unwanted subscriptions with no “unsubscribe” link, I flag the messages as junk and hope the senders end up on blacklists until they learn how to act. But these emails come with the following message at the end:

“Want off this list? Email me — politely, please. 😉 You’re on this list because somebody thought you should be.”

I decided to send a polite email. Now I’m off the list.

I believe this is the site where Jim Treacher works. I’m also getting emails from some guy at IBD. I hope he didn’t send every one individually, because I didn’t receive them and didn’t read them. I am sure they were very nice, however.

One nice thing about bailing out of blog politics and the struggle to be noticed is that I don’t have to keep up with this stuff. I read political material when I feel like it, not when I think I should. When I got 3,000 visits a day, some people actually cared about sending me links, and usually, it was annoying, because I was a content provider, not a blogger who does nothing but link to other people’s stuff. I had more than enough original material. Generally, I didn’t need to be fed by strangers, and I did not read much of the spam, but they still tried. Now, nobody will bother me.

It would be nice to be connected to some big Christian blogs, but I’m pretty sure there aren’t any. Not enough to fool with. There are political bloggers who are Christians, but that’s not the same thing. It’s surprising.

I only read one blog now, other than my own. Moxie quit writing, and some of the content at other blogs I liked was suddenly too racy, and that left me with Knowledge is Power, Drudge, and Day by Day. If anything happens to Sondra, I will consider myself completely disconnected from the blogosphere.

I also found out my site at manlygrub.com was down. I don’t know what the host did, but I couldn’t check email, log into the site, find my Fantastico link, or change my passwords. Who knows how long it had been like this? Doesn’t matter. I wasn’t using it. I’m going to cancel the account. If you used the forum, thanks.

Wonder what else is going on that I don’t know about.

More Banana Nut Bread Experiments

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

More of All the Good Stuff

Yes, I have too many bananas.

I stuck some banana and plantain trees in the yard. The plantains don’t do all that well, probably because I am too lazy to go buy horse manure. The bananas do well enough to cause me problems. I don’t know what to do with them.

Today I’m baking banana nut bread, to see if I can make it good enough for the Trinity church cafe. I started with the same old stale recipe everyone thinks their grandma invented. I added allspice, and I jacked up the other spices. I also used Mike’s secret ingredient to make the cake moister and tastier. And I substituted brown sugar for white.

I think it should be very good. I’ll know pretty soon. After that, I have to figure out what to put on top of it.

More

The banana nut bread is pretty amazing. The added spices woke it up, and Mike’s mystery ingredient improved the texture a great deal. The outer crust is a little chewy now, and the whole thing is moist.

Photos:

This is good enough for church. I can double the salt and maybe make the loaves smaller, so there’s more crust, but other than that, it’s ready.

I’ll have to figure out a topping.

What will I do if people get hooked and the banana trees crap out?

Problem for another day.

More

Oh, man. This stuff is too good. I may have to throw it out in self-defense.

Thanks for the recipe, Lord. Now save me from it.