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Archive for September, 2010

I’m Gonna Git You, Sukkah

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

Milk and Honey, Cream Cheese and Sugar…Same Deal

The other day, Virgil warned me that I was once again within the CONE OF CERTAIN DEATH. A tropical storm was on the way.

It looked pretty bad. This thing was supposed to go right over me. And Miami hasn’t caught up with the mid-20th-century, so almost all of our power lines are still on poles. That means the city goes black when the wind blows. This makes complete sense, since there is no reason to think Miami would ever experience high winds.

Of course, being a big Christian and all, I prayed. And today the storm has shifted course, and it’s out in the Gulf Stream. It’s not even windy here.

Is it okay if I take full credit for this one? I guess not.

Life is pretty sweet here. Guitar practice is going well. Unlike most people, I believe in practicing too fast as well as slowly, and it’s paying off, big-time. I keep working on ZZ Top, and I got faster and faster without realizing it, and now when I play along with the recording, I feel like I’m crawling. That’s great, because it means the music seems slower to me, so I feel like I have more time to think about each note.

I think the computer screwed up my picking hand. I am working on that. I have always held the mouse between my thumb and ring finger, with my index and middle fingers on the buttons. This is extremely unnatural. It causes you to squeeze inward with your ring finger all day, and I notice that now I have chronic soreness in the muscles I use to do this. Flatpicking tends to stretch these muscles, so it’s not a big surprise. If you play the guitar, or plan to learn, you might consider changing the way you hold a computer mouse.

I ordered two sets of P90 pickups. One is for my grey History Les Paul copy; I ordered Z90 humbucker-sized pickups from Harmonic Designs. They’re not cheap, but the sound samples are great. I also decided to try some inexpensive P90s on my History ES335 copy. I chose Mean 90s from Guitar Fetish. These are Asian jobs. They cost about a third as much as American pickups. Worth a shot. They get great reviews.

I’m not sure why pickups cost so much. A pickup is a few magnets and a little wire. You would think they could be sold profitably for forty bucks each. And maybe they can. I doubt the people who make them are pure socialists.

I stuck a new tone capacitor in my Chinese Epiphone Riviera. This guitar does not have a very bright sound, and I have read that .022uF capacitors (the standard) are actually too big, causing high frequencies to die off. I stuck a 6800pF capacitor in the guitar, and it does sound brighter, but it lacks the overall tastiness of the Blues 90 sound I get from my Blueshawk. I may stick Lollar P90s in it. The guitar is definitely worth the effort. I don’t want to decide until I hear the cheap Asian pickups.

Changing the capacitor was not fun. You have to pull every bit of electronic stuff out through the F-holes. And I ended up putting a tiny crack in one of my knobs. It turns out you can remove a knob safely by wrapping a thin cloth around it and yanking. I did not know that, so now I have to order knobs.

“Coincidentally” (I use that word so much), there is a guy who did a long series of videos and blog posts about the Epiphone Riviera, and I learned the cloth trick from him. You can find him by Googling “planetz.” The info should be helpful for working on any guitar with F-holes.

I guess it sounds like I hate humbuckers, but that’s not true. I love the humbuckers in my Burny Les Paul. But I feel like one humbucker guitar is enough.

It’s a funny thing, but I don’t have any complaints about my Fender pickups. Both guitars have Texas Specials, and I have no desire to change them.

I didn’t buy expensive tone capacitors. I went to Mouser Electronics and ordered some sort of film jobs. I read that the obsession with expensive capacitors was probably pointless, and given my experience with other audio myths, I believed it. When I studied electronics in college, they didn’t tell us to change our calculations when we used $40 paper-and-oil capacitors. All that mattered was the capacitance. I have a feeling the engineers know more about this than the musicians.

On Saturday I had a great experience. I celebrated Sukkot with a bunch of Messianic Jews. I was only able to get one person from my church to go with me, but it was worth it.

The event took place at the home of Ben Juster, son of Dan Juster, the rabbi who runs Tikkun Ministries. Look him up. They had a big ol’ tabernacle in the backyard, and I brought a strawberry cheesecake that could not have been better had the angels themselves delivered it. Bringing a really good cheesecake to a gathering of Jews is a little like bringing whiskey to Indians, but it was well received.

Many Christians believe Sukkot presages the Messianic Age, when Jesus will return and live here with us. I think that’s probably correct. I suppose the sukkah (tabernacle or booth) represents the physical bodies of believers; Jesus will associate with us even though we are still flesh. Right now he does this through the baptism with the Holy Spirit.

The Bible talks about people failing to be obedient during the Messianic Age. Imagine that. Jesus himself is sitting on a throne in Jerusalem, and everyone knows who he is, yet some people still rebel. I have no problem believing that. Human beings have a limitless capacity for rationalization and self-deception. People wanted to stone Moses even after they saw God support him with miracles. Wait…that was in the movie, which is full of craziness. Well anyway, they defied Moses.

Yesterday I found out that my pastor’s daughter in law is a big student of the Jewish origins of Christianity. That was a surprise. Maybe I’ll be able to pry her and her husband loose one Saturday so they can visit the synagogue. It’s very hard for them to get permission to miss our Saturday service.

I managed to turn someone on to Perry Stone this week. The church friend who went to the Sukkot thing with me listened to Perry while we drove. He was talking about silver as a symbol of redemption. He has an interesting theory. Remember how David got in trouble for conducting a census? God hit Israel with a plague that killed 70,000 people. Stone’s theory is that the big sin here was the failure to pay the silver redemption cost. I don’t recall exactly how it works, but males have to be redeemed with silver, and when you have a census, you’re supposed to pay. Anyway, I ended up lending the CD to my friend.

Stone also says the word “tekel” in “mene mene tekel upharsin” is actually “shekel.” The shekel is a unit of weight, and God was saying the Babylonians had been weighed, and that they had been found wanting. This makes sense to me, because a lot of “T” sounds have been converted to “S” sounds by Western Jews. For example, they say “shabbos” instead of “shabbat.” But I don’t really know anything about it.

Stone’s audio teaching about the census is titled “Not Just a Shekel.” I highly recommend it. You may be unable to get it unless you’re a “partner” of his ministry, though.

I only know of two examples where God himself wrote on stone. One is the delivery of the Ten Commandments, and the other is the incident in the palace at Babylon. There is a funny parallel. God gave the commandments to Hebrews who were celebrating with a heathen idol made of gold. God gave the other inscription to heathens who were celebrating with golden items stolen from the temple and the Holy of Holies. I wonder if that means anything.

O Lord, Bless This, Thy Cheesecake

Saturday, September 25th, 2010

With Which Thou Mayest Blow Thine Enemies’ Arteries to Tiny Bits

Idolatry takes some unexpected forms. The most surprising one, in my opinion, is church-related idolatry. You can turn the work you do with your natural abilities into an idol. You can even turn prayer or the Bible into an idol.

I do a lot of volunteer work at my church. Lately it has become obvious to me that I have to start cutting back. Either that, or God is going to have to open up a door to permit me to keep it up. If I could, I’d just live at church and work there all day (surprising to see myself write that), but that’s not my situation. I have to choose the ministries in which I serve.

I’ve worked on a book and other written materials for the church. I’ve cooked a great deal. I’ve served as an Armorbearer. I’ve attended functions which really were not all that relevant to my walk. It’s too much. I know it’s too much, because my prayer life is suffering.

Prayer is the single most important thing a Christian does. Some people think Christianity is about being good and not going to hell. That’s wrong. The whole point of Christianity is to know God personally and to be changed by the Holy Spirit. Without prayer, that doesn’t happen. You end up detached from the herd, doing whatever seems best to your limited mind, when you should be guided by the gifts of the Spirit.

I used to go to bed early and get up early. Now I get up between 7:00 and 9:00 on most days. My commitments at church sometimes keep me up until past 11:00, so I can’t just flop into bed and get up at 5:30. I refuse to do it. Doing without sleep is like eating junk food or smoking cigarettes; it’s extremely unhealthy. It makes you fat, it ruins your concentration, it degrades your memory, it wrecks your mood and leads to anxiety and depression, and it raises your blood pressure. I get tired of hearing people brag about how little they sleep. It’s like bragging about not brushing your teeth. Why would you brag about destroying yourself? I know there are people who would tell me they care more about their wonderful walks with God than about sleep. Well, maybe they can explain this:

It is vain for thee to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep.

Here is a clearer translation, from The Complete Jewish Bible:

Ps 127:2
In vain do you get up early
and put off going to bed,
working hard to earn a living;
for he provides for his beloved,
even when they sleep.

Here’s Matthew 11:29-30:

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Some people think it’s virtuous to live a life of chronic deprivation and misery. God says otherwise. I believe God. Call me crazy.

I know people will cite Paul, pointing out that he got beaten a lot and so on. I don’t recall Paul saying he slept three hours every night, or that he worked so hard he didn’t have time to pray and worship. And there is a difference between occasional persecution, or occasional hardship, and perpetual drudgery. If drudgery were the answer, we would be able to save ourselves through works, wouldn’t we? I believe we are all charity cases, and God gives us things we don’t deserve. I believe faith and gratitude are more pleasing to God than hard work. I believe too much hard work and deprivation leads to pride, and God has made it very clear he hates pride.

I have to get God’s guidance and then cut back on the stuff I do at church. I have to accept the fact that things will remain undone. That’s just how churches are. The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Even God is unable to make the church run perfectly, without going against his own nature. If that were not true, the church would be perfect.

I have a friend who told me he can’t attend church because he is so busy working as a volunteer. That’s crazy. Would you kick a patient out of a hospital bed and make him mop the floor of the ward? Better not to volunteer at all than to let volunteer work become an idol.

He told me he knows someone who secretly attends another church, because that person’s work at my church makes it impossible for him to sit in a service without working. If my pastor knew that, I think he’d blow a gasket. He doesn’t preach four or five times a week so people can miss his sermons because they’re selling sodas or sewing costumes for plays.

I’m not making pizza at church tomorrow. Tonight I have to go to a Sukkot celebration with a bunch of Messianic Jews, so I can’t attend Saturday night church. That means I have to attend tomorrow, and it means I’ll be up late. That all adds up to arriving late tomorrow and being unable to make the dough on time. That’s life. I’ve trained 7 or 8 people to make pizza. I prepared for days when I would be unavailable, but the helpers I taught haven’t taken up the slack, so when I’m not there, there is no pizza. Wish it were otherwise, but I have to get my rest and worship.

Maybe I should make a short formal list of my priorities and put it on the wall so I have guidance when I have problems like this.

I’m taking a beautiful strawberry cheesecake to the Sukkot thing. I expect it to be a hit. Jews will surround a good cheesecake like the Red Sea closing in on Pharaoh’s army. It’s hard for me to think of a gift that is likely to be received with more joy. You can’t buy good cheesecake in South Florida. If you think you can, it’s because you haven’t tried my cheesecake. I think God handed me that recipe, possibly so I would have it ready to use this very day.

I have to go reduce the sauce and slice the berries. Happy Sukkot, or whatever it is you’re supposed to say.


Cell phone photo.

Most Ironic Magazine Name in History

Friday, September 24th, 2010

Give us Freedom or We Will Vote for Totalitarianism

Today I caught a video of Adam Carolla, talking to one of the guys from Reason.

One thing surprised me. Carolla is implementing an idea I had a long time ago. He bought a warehouse, and it’s where he hangs out. He keeps his tools and his cars there, and he has comfortable furniture. My dream is to have a big concrete building where I can put my tools, my musical stuff, and a couch and some chairs. Maybe some day.

Carolla had an AC Cobra replica in the warehouse, and the Reason guy had no idea what it was. Busted. If you’re going to pretend to be in touch with man values, you should have some idea what they are. Watching this guy flounder when asked about the Cobra was like watching Obama dump a 15-mph fastball ten feet in front of home plate.

It was not surprising, seeing a Reason staffer demonstrate that kind of ignorance. This is the crew that overwhelmingly voted for John Kerry and assorted fringe kooks, because they thought George Bush wasn’t libertarian enough. This is like hacking your foot off because your corns hurt.

I don’t get libertarianism. I used to joke that libertarians are Republicans who smoke dope, but then I found out there was a lot of truth to the joke. I mean a LOT. How can anyone care that much about drugs? Especially weed. To find a more boring drug, you probably have to look into laxatives.

I will never understand the popularity of marijuana. When you’re high, you smell bad and you annoy people. And you ruin social events, because you have to exclude everyone you’re ashamed to smoke in front of. All that, so you can giggle a little? I don’t get it. But some people can’t survive without it.

Carolla went on a quasi-libertarian rant about the awful government in L.A. It was obvious that he was really furious. When he talked about the crazy things Villaraigosa and the other dimestore socialists are doing, all the humor left him. What I saw bordered on hatred. He is not a happy person.

Naturally, I was reminded of my past as a political blogger.

When you get the idea that man has the answers to his own problems, you get sucked into fruitless, consuming activities that waste your life and make you miserable. It used to make me crazy when an election went the wrong way. Now I barely notice. I’m still conservative, and I criticize the other side from time to time, but I don’t really keep up with politics, and I have a lot more peace in my life.

If America serves God, politics won’t matter. We’ll do the right things, because we’ll have someone guiding and blessing us. If we don’t serve God, things will stink, and voting conservative won’t help. Without God, conservative government is no better than liberal government.

If you serve God and walk by faith, your life will work in spite of the state of your country. I think America is very likely to go down the toilet and end up like Italy or Greece, but I know I’m going to be okay, and that’s all I count on. If that seems unpatriotic, there is nothing I can do about it. I won’t apologize. I pray that we’ll have revival, and that God will give us Christian leaders, but I’m not going to piddle my life and my peace of mind away struggling to find nonexistent secular solutions for a nation that causes its own problems.

Adam Carolla is never going to get what he wants. L.A. will always be screwed up. There will always be bad traffic. The people will always be flakes. There will always be persecution of the successful. Illegal immigrants will be rewarded. Wealth will be wasted. Liberals will rule, and there will be no common sense in government. Carolla is wasting his bile. If he stays in L.A. and maintains his attitude, he will be just as miserable five years from now as he is today. There is only one way to get real peace.

I’m glad I’m no longer as angry as he is. I look forward to being even less angry.

I Was Born a Poor White Child

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

In the Slums of New Pennsylyorksey

I think I finally played some blues.

I’ve been working on material from Stevie Ray Vaughan, B.B. King, and ZZ Top. It’s great for technique improvement. But as of yesterday I had not gotten to the point where I could really PLAY anything.

I used to play one blues tune on the acoustic guitar. I would tell you what it was, but I can’t, because it was actually two songs. Sometimes it was “Boom Boom,” and sometimes it was “Dimples.” These two John Lee Hooker tunes are so similar, they are pretty much interchangeable.

Over the last ten years, I forgot a couple of the chords that were needed to play this tune, and I procrastinated and didn’t sit down and figure them out. I hate finding the right chord by ear. I don’t have the training to figure chords out analytically, so I have to go by trial and error.

Yesterday I found some solutions, and I started playing. Everything started opening up to me. The guitars which had been resisting me suddenly started working with me. It was MUSIC.

I learned a couple of things. First off, it looks like the semi-hollow single-coil sound is probably going to be a big part of my playing. Yesterday I started out with my flawless History ES335 copy, with humbuckers, and I thought things were going well. Then I switched to my $500 Epiphone Riviera with Chinese P90s, and I felt like the clouds parted. Suddenly, I the reverb became part of the music instead of seeming irrelevant, and I felt like I heard the guitar instead of just the pickups. The sound had more life in it, and oddly, the intonation seemed surer.

From there I moved to my Gibson Blueshawk, and the sound was even better. The Blueshawk has single-coil Blues 90 pickups. It sounded more open and alive than the Epiphone. The action is still not great; that guitar needs more adjustment. But as I fooled with the selector switch and the Vari-tone, I got one great sound after another out of it.

I like the humbuckers in my Burny Les Paul, but the ones in my History guitars seem somewhat sterile and bright. I ordered some Z90 humbucker-sized pickups to try in my History Les Paul; we’ll see how that works out.

The move to John Lee Hooker was a good one. It opened my eyes to a horrible truth: B.B. King and Stevie Ray Vaughan are much better technicians than John Lee Hooker, but I enjoy listening to Hooker’s guitar playing more, and if I want to touch other people, I should probably think more like John Lee Hooker than the other guys I admire. Soul is much more important than skill and knowledge. It’s the most important thing to get right.

Think about it. Imagine a group of non-stoned listeners who are not mindless teenage metalheads. What will get their blood pumping fastest? Steve Vai, shredding like a maniac, or the first fifteen seconds of Muddy Waters playing “Mannish Boy”? Everybody–EVERYBODY–sits up straight when they hear Mannish Boy. I’ll bet even Al Gore gets Mannish Boy. And you could probably train a monkey to play it. It couldn’t be much simpler.

Of course, if you’re on drugs and full of adolescent hormones, you’ll go for the loud, speed-demon white guy from suburban New Pennsylyorksey every time. I never liked that kind of music. Boring.

Maybe I’ll put up a Youtube eventually.

Ptomaine Slaw

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

With Bait Sauce

I like kimchi, so I decided to make some. I cut up two cabbages and soaked them in salt water. I poured out most of the water and added some juice from a jar of store kimchi, so the bacteria would transfer. Then I left the cabbage out for several days, in a bowl on the table. I added ground Trinidad Scorpions, shallots, garlic, ginger, and paprika.

Today I tried some. It’s pretty good, but it looks like something that fell out of a dumpster. For the heck of it, I added a little Thai fish sauce, which is made from rotten fish. The fish sauce was a little over the top, but I managed to choke the kimchi down.

My question: am I a gourmet, or do I just like eating garbage?

I noticed something funny. A guy named David Zinczenko writes about food for Men’s Health Magazine. He knows absolutely nothing about good food. He’s probably just a hack writer who found a gimmick. He wrote some awful books with names like, “Don’t Eat This; Eat That!”

Yahoo runs his articles. They used to allow comments. Readers were generally furious, calling him a Nazi and so on. And they were right. He has the same attitude toward good food that liberals have toward conservative speech: don’t let people choose; just take away the things you think they shouldn’t have. He doesn’t just let you know food is bad for you; he whines that the restaurants that serve it should stop!

Now Yahoo won’t let people comment. Is that really the answer? His ridiculous articles still make people angry. Now they’re probably even angrier, because Yahoo won’t let them respond.

What is it with the left’s obsession with ruining our food? It predates Hitler, who (like some of his flunkies) was a health-food nut. If you want to tell people about healthy food, great, but why crusade to have real food taken out of people’s hands? I still get mad when I think about the ordinance they passed in LA, banning fast food restaurant construction in minority neighborhoods. Only white liberals should be allowed to decide what people eat; minorities are too stupid to take care of themselves!

No one who knows how to cook is dumb enough to think you can take the fat and carbs and salt out of food without ruining it. Some foods taste good even when they are completely healthy, but others can’t be made healthy, and there is no point in trying. Healthy cheesecake is garbage. Healthy pizza is garbage. Healthy steak is garbage. There are some foods you can’t “correct” without ruining them.

Cooking is an art, and neutering our food damages that art. Why don’t the food Nazis understand that? These are the same people who have a conniption if you suggest our tax dollars shouldn’t be used to subsidize “art” consisting of photos of crucifixes submerged in urine. They think pornography is art, but somehow, cooking doesn’t matter.

Thank God most of us can still buy a Coke or a pizza without bribing a local socialist official. I wonder how long that will last.

Someone Help the Keymaster Get Into His Apartment

Monday, September 20th, 2010

Many Shubs and Zuuls Knew What it Was to be Roasted in the Depths of a Sloar That Day, I Can Tell You

I’m an Armorbearer at my church. We have a brother organization. It’s a bunch of guys who manage traffic and watch for criminals in our parking lot. Before you become an Armorbearer, you have to work with these guys.

Everyone used to call them “the parking lot guys.” Sounds like a bunch of bums who hang out at 7-11.

One day an idea came to me. I emailed my leader. I said we should call them “the Gatekeepers.” They stand in the gates and repel our enemies. Literally. What they do is very important. They solve more problems than we do, if the truth be told.

The idea caught on, and now they’re the Gatekeepers.

Today I was reading 2 Kings. Guess what I saw? Gatekeepers. In the story of the four lepers who spoiled the Syrian camp, the lepers went to the gatekeepers of Samaria to let the king know the Syrians were gone. The New King James version actually uses the word “gatekeepers,” and so does the NIV.

When the name idea came to me, I had no idea there were gatekeepers in the Bible. In fact, I have no idea where I heard the word. I can’t think of any other source.

I emailed my leader today, and he had me send the pertinent passage to the Armorbearer who oversees the Gatekeepers.

Strange story.

Wasn’t Sigourney Weaver the Gatekeeper of Zuul in Ghostbusters? Maybe that’s where I heard it.

Rats Love a Full Pantry

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

No One Robs an Empty Bank

The other night, for no apparent reason, the following thought kept repeating in my mind: “There will always be people who owe you, and you’re going to have to get used to it.”

I thought that was weird. But eventually it started to make sense to me. If you are blessed, you will be required to give and lend to others, and they will owe you. This is how a blessed life works. You are supposed to be like God, and God has what it takes to bless people, and he helps them, and often, they don’t thank him or make any effort to repay. If you give and lend and people don’t have any gratitude, welcome to God’s situation. This is what he deals with every day.

I think this means I will continue to be blessed, and that I have to bless others, and that I have to get used to giving them more than I get.

That’s actually a very good deal. It sure beats owing and lacking. People who owe and don’t repay are not blessed. They are cursed. They live in failure and defeat. They live with worry. A person who can afford to be taken advantage of is much better off.

It’s clear that this is a good way to live, because the Bible repeatedly says blessed people give and lend.

Examples from Psalm 37:

“The wicked borroweth, and payeth not again: but the righteous sheweth mercy and giveth.”

“I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread. He is ever merciful, and lendeth; and his seed is blessed.”

We are told that if we are blessed, we will lend and not borrow. That is true in my case. I have no long-term debts. Not even a car note. God has certainly kept his promise with regard to me, and I can’t say I earned it.

Deuteronomy 28:12: “The Lord shall open unto thee his good treasure, the heaven to give the rain unto thy land in his season, and to bless all the work of thine hand: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, and thou shalt not borrow.”

It’s important to understand that lending gives you power and borrowing makes you a slave. Fools think it’s the other way around. The other night, I saw a movie about Chess Records. Muddy Waters was telling a new artist–Howlin’ Wolf–he wouldn’t have to keep driving a dirty old truck, and Howlin’ Wolf said, “I own this truck. It doesn’t own ME.” Later on in the movie, it became clear that Howling Wolf had money, and Muddy Waters–the bigger star–lived in debt and had no net worth.

If you have debt, you are the slave of the person from whom you borrowed. You can’t quit a bad job, because you need the money. You can’t afford to be sick. You can’t get ahead. The things you think you own can be taken away from you in a day. And a good deal of what you earn will go to pay interest, which buys you nothing and extends your servitude. If you default, you lose your reputation, which is worth more than the money you stole. Your credit report will follow you like a bad smell, helping assure that you will continue to lack. Worst of all, you won’t gain real wealth, which is the set of habits and beliefs and skills that lead to prosperity. You will always fail, until you change. Even if people give you money, you will lose it, and you will lose more than you were given.

Last night I was talking to another Armorbearer at church. He said he took out a loan to help a relative’s business. The relative can repay, but chooses not to. The relative is not on the hook with the bank; my friend is the one taking the hit.

I thought it was odd that he was telling me this right after I heard that thought rolling around in my head, so I told him about it, and I told him what I thought it meant. He found it very encouraging. So, was the message given to me so I could give it to him? Could be.

Here’s the funny part. There is a young man at church who mooches rides from me. He lives a long way off, in a really bad area. He’s a big fan of my garlic rolls. Last night we heard a sermon about the need to be dedicated and serious and grateful for blessings, and the pastor talked about all the free stuff his parents had given him when he was a kid, and he mentioned bread and rolls. The ride guy yelled “GARLIC!”, and even though I couldn’t see him, I knew who it was.

While I was telling my AB friend about the debt thing, I looked over his shoulder and saw the garlic roll guy looking at us, and I knew exactly what was going to happen. God was going to make me put my money where my mouth was. I ended up dropping him off in the hood at about 10:30, and I felt better about it than I have on the other occasions when I have given him lifts.

I have to get used to being owed. I am going to owe or be owed, and I would rather be owed. And I have to acknowledge my own debt to God. If he can live with my large debt to him, I can live with the little debts others owe me.

It’s not enough to apply this principle to money. I have to apply it to time and works, including prayer.

You can either be a sink or a source, and a source’s nature is such that people take from it. That’s how things work, and I accept it.

Must Have Left the Emergency Brake On

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

Entering Hyperspace

Seems like I have a praise report every 10 minutes.

This morning I prayed for God to make my picking hand and my fretting hand as sure as goats. This afternoon I started practicing, and I suddenly remembered how to pick. My right hand started running off on its own. I could not slow down. The improvement is tremendous.

Now I remember why I thought bluegrass would be good training for blues and rock guitar. I’m working on Tube Snake Boogie, and the fast blues tempo now seems incredibly slow. I used to think Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Honey Bee was fast. Not any more.

For those who don’t know how sure-footed goats are:

Watching goats makes me hungry for curry.


Thursday, September 9th, 2010

Glowing Habaneros Dance in my Innards

As is usually the case when I cook for myself, I am in ecstasy. Last night I made super-hot Ethiopian chicken stew (doro wat) from my own recipe, and I just ate a big pile of it wrapped in a homemade roti with sour cream.

I can’t believe how great it was. I added an extra minced habanero gold, and I reheated it. The flavors got more intense in the fridge overnight. My head is still spinning.

It amazes me how the good Lord has sharpened up my cooking. I am the best cook I know. I cook better food than any restaurant I know of. I have zero desire to go out and get food, except for stupid things like Five Guys.

What is the reason for this? There has to be a reason. I don’t eat that much any more. I don’t get to cook many exciting things at church. But there should be some purpose for this great food, beyond giving me a thrill once a week or so.

I have given up on injera. It’s okay, but nothing beats a roti, and rotis are easier to make.

I left the boiled eggs out of the stew. They don’t do that much for me.

I wish I had put more peppers in the stew. I’m not really in that much pain.

Nomex Drawers

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

Flame On!

I have a mild head cold which is killing my appetite. At times like this, I only want ice cream and spicy food. I think the answer is doro wat, or Ethiopian chicken stew.

I put a recipe for this in my cookbook. I think I’ll get the book out and get to work. I plan to use some peppers from my yard. Either habanero golds or Trinidad scorpions. The trick to doing this right is to try to kill yourself.

Beer, the Beverage That Does it All

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

Protect Your Investment With Grolsch Gaskets

Sometimes there are expensive ways to solve a simple problem, and you waste money on them, and then you find out about a much better way that costs almost nothing.

Today I have an example.

When I got my Gibson Blueshawk guitar, I did not realize that guitar makers were incompetent. The electric guitar has been around for something like 70 years, but most electric guitars are still designed so they fall off the strap unexpectedly. The manufacturers don’t warn you. If you’re used to acoustic guitars, you won’t see it coming until your precious instrument falls and gets badly damaged. This happened to me, and it’s how I learned that guitar makers are incompetent.

Over the next five minutes, I (or any intelligent person) could come up with ten good strap or strap-button designs that would solve the problem, but most manufacturers have not bothered to try.

I asked “experts” (mostly Guitar Center salespeople) what to do, and they recommended silly solutions like Dunlop Straplok buttons. I bought two sets of these. They are very stupid inventions. You have to mount a special adaptor to each end of your strap, permanently. Once the adaptor is there, you can’t adjust the strap without tools. You have to open up the holes the strap-button screws go into. And the Straploks are designed so you will probably fail to engage them correctly the first time. This happened to me, resulting in a second guitar drop and more damage.

Do not buy these things. They are worthless, and you will reduce the collectibility of your guitar by drilling into it.

A couple of weeks back, I was researching the issue, and I found an Internet forum thread that contained the most intelligent solution to the problem. You won’t believe it.

Buy a six-pack of Grolsch beer, or, better yet, buy a GOOD beer that comes in the same type of flip-top bottle. Remove the gaskets from the bottle tops. Put your strap on your guitar. Stretch two gaskets and slip them over the strap buttons, outside the strap. You’re all set. Unless you jump around like a monkey, your guitar will never fall off the strap again. No drilling. No tools. And you get beer.

The gaskets obstruct the strap holes. There is no way the strap holes can open wide enough to let the gaskets through, and the gaskets will not come off unless they are subjected to stretching. The pulling of the strap does not stretch the gaskets, so it doesn’t pull them off the buttons. It’s brilliant. And the gaskets actually look better than those stupid Straplok monstrosities.

I bought a bag of 100 gaskets. I’m set for life. You can get them at any online homebrew supply joint. I think I paid ten bucks.

At least I can be glad I dropped my second-cheapest instrument.

What are we Kindling?

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

A Consuming Fire

There is an interesting story in the news. A Florida preacher, Terry Jones, wants to burn some Korans. And General Petraeus is trying to convince him not to do it, because it will get our troops in trouble with Muslims.

This is a confusing issue, and I’ve been thinking about it.


1. The Koran is evil. It’s more than an idolatrous book; it’s an idol. Muslims believe it is God himself, in book form. God hates the Koran.

2. In Christianity, the physical destruction of idols is righteous. The Old Testament makes that clear. One of the repeated offenses the kings of Israel and Judah committed was a sin of omission. They refrained from destroying idols and sites of idol worship (“high places”). It is obvious that God hates idols and tools of idol worship, and that he wants them destroyed.

3. Our troops are dying to protect our First Amendment rights, including freedom of religion and freedom of expression. This includes the burning of Korans, or, for that matter, Bibles.

4. The kind of people who will react violently to the burning of Korans already hate us as much as they possibly can, and they are already doing just about everything they can to harm us.

5. Offending non-Christians is wrong, unless you have a good reason.

It’s hard to deny these premises. So what are the conclusions? Here is what I have so far.

1. General Petraeus is completely out of line, if he is actively trying to discourage the Koran-burning. He has no business telling any American what to say or believe. It doesn’t matter whether he’s right. What matters is that he is fighting the fundamental impetus behind the First Amendment. The whole purpose of the First Amendment is to prevent government agents (including the military) from infringing on our rights. As a private citizen, he can say anything he likes, but he is not speaking as a private citizen.

2. Burning the Korans publicly is excessively provocative. Disposing of Korans is a good thing, but doing it for media consumption goes beyond what is necessary. If you find a box of Korans in your attic, by all means, destroy them. And don’t lie about it or try to cover it up. But don’t make a Youtube video of yourself burning the Korans. Don’t publicize what you have done. Jones could make his point simply by stating publicly that the Koran is evil and that destroying copies of it is a good thing. It’s true that he would not be as effective, since he would not get as much attention, but what he is doing seems to rise to the level of taunting, and that is not a Christian practice.

3. Burning the Korans will not make things any worse than they are now, from the standpoint of violence. Our enemies are already doing everything they can to hurt us. But it is likely to make it harder for evangelists to reach Muslims, so it’s probably a bad thing. It would be wrong to consider our troops, since their function is to protect our right to express ourselves freely, and they have volunteered to take the risks. Refraining from expression in order to appease violent enemies who want to restrict our rights is insane, and it gives them victory without requiring them to defeat us militarily. But as a Christian, you should not needlessly offend people you need to reach for God. The prospect of violence is the wrong reason for choosing not to burn a Koran. We are warriors first and foremost, and we should never run from an important battle, and we should not give up essential rights in order to protect our troops. But the ultimate purpose of our fight is to grow the kingdom of God, and burning Korans will probably be counterproductive.

4. Petraeus or Hillary Clinton should come out with a statement, reminding Muslims that Terry Jones is not a representative of the American people or our government. The distinction will be lost on many Muslims, just as they ignore the distinction between military people and innocent civilians (including Muslims) working in skyscrapers, but it still needs to be noted publicly, by an agent of the government.

If anything happens to Terry Jones, it will only serve to prove Islamist extremists are savages, and that we are right to hunt them down and kill them. I admire his courage. But if I were in his shoes, I would not burn the Korans in public. I would dump any Korans I found in the trash, but I would not go out looking for Korans (or worse, buy them, providing financial support to the publishers) just so I could destroy them in front of cameras.

I think this makes sense. I wonder how the world got so crazy.

From Ruth

Saturday, September 4th, 2010

Prayer Request

Here it is:

I do have a prayer request for my older brother. He has a very bad heart and diabetes. Last week he had surgery to remove a lump in his abdomen. It was Merkle cell carcinoma, (apparently a type of melanoma) we hope not very advanced. Today he was admitted to the hospital with infection from that surgery. They cleaned and packed the wound and have him on IV antibiotics. Pray for his wife and for his health.

Heather has a Request

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

Stage 4

Hi everyone,
Last night and this morning mom has experienced some bleeding. I called her oncologist and we are scheduled for Tuesday at 1:15. If you can please pray that this is just a fluke and doesn’t mean that the cancer is spreading. Please ask the Lord to cleanse this cancer from her body. One thing that I didn’t know but found out at her last appointment was that this was stage 4 cancer. It was only in two lymph nodes but that did make it stage 4. Please share this request with as many people who will pray for her as you can. The babies and I love and need her and we just can’t make it without her.
God Bless,
Heather Page

Link: Penelope Updates

Hot and Cold Running Spin

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

Don’t Forget the Budweiser Mirror

If, like me, you were confused by the cheesy corduroy couches and vinyl-covered coffee table Obama put in the Oval Office, you may have a better understanding once you view this video Robert Gibbs made.