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Archive for December, 2010

The Nightmare Continues

Friday, December 31st, 2010

Ignorance is Always on the Menu

I keep watching Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. I can’t stop.

I don’t watch much TV, but there are usually one or two programs on the DVR. I like Breaking Bad, Pawn Stars, and Perry Stone. Now Ramsay has made the list.

Here is how the show works. A restaurant flops. Ramsay goes in and spends one week trying to turn it around. After he leaves, it almost always goes out of business, but that appears to have more to do with lack of capital than Ramsay’s advice. Once you’re in the hole deep enough, you can’t get out even if your business becomes profitable.

The show started in England (I can’t make myself type “in the UK”), on the BBC. I tape it on BBC America. It’s also on Fox now. They say the Fox version is much dumber and more sensational and less honest than the BBC original.

I’ve learned a lot from watching it. I’ve learned that there is no curse on the restaurant business. People always say 90% of restaurants go out of business, and that this makes it a bad idea to invest in a restaurant, but lots of people get filthy rich running restaurants. The people who go out of business do so because they do things wrong, and often, those mistakes should have been extremely obvious. The mistakes I’ve seen on Kitchen Nightmares are incredible. Let’s see if I can think of a few.

1. Filthy premises and spoiled food. I can’t believe anyone would sink his net worth into a business and then disgust his customers, make them ill, and risk fines and forced closures. I used to love the roast beef subs at Miami Subs, but I learned that every time I ate one, I got so sick Imodiums might as well have been Tic Tacs. My cousin, a restaurant manager, told me it was because Miami Subs cross-contaminated all their meats by slicing different things on the same machines without cleaning them in between. Whatever the reason was, I quit going, and all the local franchises are gone now, so I guess I wasn’t the only one. And who can go back to a restaurant after seeing roaches or rat poop? I can’t. I don’t care if they clean up and get five stars from Mr. Clean himself. The mental image of the former filth will prevent me from enjoying the food.

2. Poor service. There used to be a place called Jake’s Gastropub (what an unappetizing word) in South Miami. “Used to be.” The food was okay, and the location was very good, but it took forever to get served. People hate that, especially when they’re on their lunch hours. If you take half an hour to serve someone, you pretty much guarantee they’ll be late getting back to work. And it’s disrespectful. Aside from that, the wait staff seemed confused about priorities. Once while I was ordering, a waitress ran off–as I was speaking–to wait on the restaurant’s owner, who was at a nearby table. And he let her do it. I guess he showed me who was important. Now he has no restaurant. He should have known better.

3. Bad food. There is no excuse for this. People who run restaurants probably tend to think they cook better than everyone else. If so, they’re smoking crack. If you’re truly honest when you taste restaurant food, usually, you’ll realize you can do better at home. Convenience and atmosphere make restaurant food seem better than it is, and there are some dishes that are difficult to make at home, so a restaurant can get away with ordinary food. But once the food gets significantly worse than food cooked at home, no one wants it.

Ramsay has also reminded me that culinary school graduates often can’t cook. I knew this already, and so do you, if you think about it. A big percentage of restaurants have degreed chefs, and many of those restaurants serve bad food, because the chefs are poor cooks. How can that be?

I don’t know how they grade at cooking schools. You would think the taste of the food would count, but maybe it doesn’t. Maybe they only care about teaching technique. And as they say, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” Maybe cooking school chef-instructors aren’t qualified to teach. If they were, they’d be doing something else, right? Nearly all law school professors are incompetent lawyers. I don’t see why CIA and Le Cordon Bleu wouldn’t have the same syndrome.

I envy people who’ve been to cooking school, because they don’t have to reinvent the wheel all the time, which is what I do when I cook something new. They are more likely to know which machines to use and which tricks work and which ingredients are best, so they probably don’t flounder and waste time like I do. Nonetheless, the ability to write a new recipe is a God-given talent, and if you don’t have it, cooking school will not impart it to you, and knowledge and technique won’t fill the void. You would think that trained chefs would at least be able to follow proven recipes, but judging from what I’ve seen on TV, many chefs literally can’t tell good food from bad, so when they try to cook, it’s like Stevie Wonder trying to pitch at the World Series. They can’t tell when they’ve got it right. Or wrong.

I suspect that cooking school has less to do with good food than it does with running a business and getting food plopped on plates. I know some chefs who can get edible stuff on the table in an institutional setting, yet whom I would consider unfit to cook for guests in my home. They can prep stuff in advance, and they know how to feed a lot of people, and they have a number of unoriginal, safe recipes they know will work, but on the whole, I’d rather eat at Wendy’s.

Another interesting thing: the show confirms that some people who have never gone to cooking school make fantastic chefs. One of the owners Ramsay tried to help was a self-taught cook who ended up working as the head chef at Gallagher’s, in New York. He quit to run his own place, and his business methods were bad, but he knew how to cook.

Talking about bad cooks reminds me of a sad episode involving a Mexican place. A lady who was a successful caterer built a gorgeous restaurant and served her trademark dishes, and the business failed. Ramsay went in and found she had freezers loaded with entrees cooked days or years in advance. Naturally, the food was no good. And she was amazed! How is that possible? She was like a person whose breath drives people out of the room, yet who can’t smell it herself. How can you serve food every day and never try it yourself, especially when you’re about to lose your business, home, and savings?

Ramsay told her catering was not like running a restaurant, and I guess he’s right. I’ve had a lot of catered food, and almost all of it was substandard. People think caterers are brilliant if they show up on time, get the food out, and clean up when they leave. No one really expects the food to be good. This lady probably became successful because she ran a tight ship and got things done, not because she was any kind of cook. Seriously, have you ever had really good food at a wedding or catered event? I haven’t.

This lady’s head chef was a timid little friend who had no idea what she was doing. Ramsay challenged her to come up with an original recipe, and she said she couldn’t think. She ended up serving chicken breast with salt and garlic. She should have been making salads and slicing lemons. The owner had to fire her.

Ramsay gave this lady a lot of sound advice, but her restaurant tanked anyway. On her Facebook page, she blames her location. Maybe she’s partly right, but I know this: when the food is good enough, people will climb a mountain in the snow to get to your restaurant. So ultimately, her lack of talent is probably what did her in.

It seems like you have to have two types of people to run a restaurant. You need someone who knows what good food is, and you need someone who can manage a business. If you can’t tell whether your food is good, it will be bad, because good food doesn’t happen accidentally, and word will get around. If you can’t run a business, your food will probably be bad in spite of your talent, so your talent will be nullified. And you’ll have all sorts of problems in other areas. You’ll have a staff that doesn’t get things done. You’ll waste money. Your standards will be nonexistent. You’ll anger your customers.

It’s easy to see why people prefer practicing law or medicine. You charm your customers, you do things they don’t understand well enough to criticize, and if you lose in court or fail to cure them, hopefully they’ll like you so much they’ll take your side anyway. If you’re good at customer relations, people will say you’re a great lawyer or doctor, even though they can’t possibly know what they’re talking about. In a restaurant, you have to produce something that tastes good, and you have to serve it correctly and provide a nice atmosphere. Those are things anyone can judge competently.

I disagree with Ramsay’s obsession with things that are “fresh” and “new.” Many highly successful restaurants avoid change and innovation at all costs, and it works. I find nouvelle cuisine and weird ingredients and cutesy presentations tiresome. Give me a nice steak or a great slice of pizza, any day. What you cook is less important than that you cook it correctly, and creativity is no substitute for time-tested flavors and textures. When I go to a restaurant I like, I’m always hoping it will still have the same great things it had in the past. I don’t go to restaurants to be amazed. It’s not Cirque du Soleil. It’s food.

The show may be contrived and less than totally honest, but it’s still a good way to learn how not to run a business.

Funny thing: supposedly Ramsay’s own empire is on the ropes. Maybe he needs to go on Emeril’s Kitchen Nightmares or Mario Batali’s Kitchen Nightmares. I don’t think either of those guys can cook, but their restaurants seem to make money.

Matthew 18:6

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

Church Adopting Arab Propaganda as Policy?

Today in The Jerusalem Post Christian Edition, I read something infuriating. A Catholic bigwig, with the approval of the Vatican, has declared that there is no chosen people.

Yes, you read that correctly. And in case you think this guy is an isolated nut, let me quote an October 23 Jerusalem Post article about Vatican-sponsored gathering at which this announcement was made:

Bishops from the Middle East who were summoned to Rome by the pope demanded on Saturday that Israel accept UN resolutions calling for an end to its “occupation” of Arab lands.

More, from the same guy:

We Christians cannot speak of the ‘promised land’ as an exclusive right for a privileged Jewish people. This promise was nullified by Christ. There is no longer a chosen people – all men and women of all countries have become the chosen people.

So evidently (given the conspicuous absence of a repudiation from the Pope) anti-Semitism may still be official church policy. Here’s some more info about this disgusting, evil pronouncement:

“The Holy Scriptures cannot be used to justify the return of Jews to Israel and the displacement of the Palestinians, to justify the occupation by Israel of Palestinian lands,” Monsignor Cyril Salim Bustros, [Lebanese-American] Greek Melkite archbishop of Our Lady of the Annunciation in Boston, Massachusetts, and president of the “Commission for the Message,” said at Saturday’s Vatican press conference.

All I can say is, may God correct you quickly and mercifully. May he lead you to repudiate your own words publicly, so you will not have to suffer his chastisement.

What greater attack could you make on the Jewish people than to claim they are no longer chosen? That isn’t just anti-Semitism. It’s anti-Semitism per se. It is a denial of the sole valid justification for the existence of Jews as a people.

It is also a rebellious, insolent, arrogant denial of God’s many express acknowledgements, in both testaments, of the special status of the Jews. Nowhere in the Bible does it say or imply that God’s covenant with the Jews has been “nullified.” In fact, the still-unfulfilled prophecies of the Revelation cannot come to fruition without 144,000 undefiled Jewish males who refuse to serve the Antichrist. Where is the passage about 144,000 displaced Palestinians or 144,000 Catholics? I must have overlooked it.

The Bible says that he who harms the Jews touches the apple of God’s eye. That means the pupil. Can you imagine anything that makes God angrier?

And denying the right of the Jews to reenter their given land…how do you respond to a position so ridiculous? It has supporters. Unfortunately, Satan is foremost among them. Evidently, Bustros has never read Exodus, Joshua, or 1 Kings.

From a practical standpoint, where does Bustros expect the Jews to go, if they can’t have Israel? The alternatives are forced conversion and death.

Diaspora nations always turn on the Jews sooner or later, because the spirit of Antichrist works in the minds of those who are not baptized with the Holy Spirit and fans the flames of anti-Semitism. Assimilation is not a realistic alternative. Even the United States, which has a pretty good record when it comes to asylum for immigrants, allowed Jews to go to the gas chambers instead of welcoming them. The Germans and Austrians slaughtered valuable Jewish citizens, including distinguished World War I heroes. Man–in the form of Gentile host nations–is not going to save the Jews the next time the tide (to use God’s own metaphor) rises against them. God and a defensible homeland are their only hopes. And if they are not given preferential treatment in that land, their enemies will outpopulate them, and Israel itself will be like a Diaspora nation.

If the Pope doesn’t loudly disavow the vile things Bustros said at the press conference, we will be back where we were at the end of the Holocaust. The Catholic Church will be anti-Jewish again. Not just “anti-Judaism,” which could be rationalized as an extension of the desire to win souls, but quite literally opposed to the existence of the Jewish people and their state. The church will also be endorsing replacement theology, which has always been a convenient cover for a desire to see Jews disappear.

The worst thing about this is that uneducated Catholics the world over will see Bustros’s words as code for “It’s okay to get the Jews.” God is all for it now! It’s the convenient thing to do here on earth, and you’ll be rewarded in heaven. They’ll see Jews the way the Philistines (literally synonymous with “Palestinians”) saw Samson after he was shorn. If God isn’t on their side, and they’re driving up oil prices and causing terrorism, why not persecute them?

It’s typical of Satan to put this kind of rhetoric out. It’s a different spin on the 72-virgins myth. Act on your hate, and God will either ignore it or reward you.

How can anyone oppose prophecy and the wellbeing of Jews while claiming to speak for God? This is a textbook example of taking the Lord’s name in vain. Jesus never denied the Jews (or his Jewishness), nor did Paul, nor did any of the New Testament authors, all of whom were Jewish. Nowhere does the Bible say we are to replace the Jews. The very notion reeks of ignorance.

The Bible tells us the temple will be restored, as will sacrifices. Who does Bustros expect to do that work? Who will make the incense? Who will inspect and slaughter the animals? Who will recite the proper prayers and blessings? Catholic priests? Jew-hating Muslims? Assemblies of God preachers from places like Georgia and Texas? Jews, and only Jews, can do that work. There are no Gentile Levites, and there never will be.

God says Israel, including areas currently under Muslim control, belongs to the Jews. Forever. Cyril Bustros says part of it is “Arab land.” You can believe Bustros if you want. I believe God.

It’s good that Bustros said this, because he was clarifying a very vague message the bishops had issued. Few would bother reading the message itself (it’s online), and if they did, they would not see in it the anti-Semitism from which it sprang. In fact, it affirms God’s covenant with Abraham, in direct contradiction of the remarks Bustros made (see bold text):

8. The same Scriptures unite us; the Old Testament, the Word of God is for both you and us. We believe all that God revealed there, since he called Abraham, our common father in the faith, Father of Jews, of Christians and of Muslims. We believe in the promises of God and his covenant given to Abraham and to you. We believe that the Word of God is eternal.

The Second Vatican Council published the document Nostra aetate which treats interreligious dialogue with Judaism, Islam and the other religions. Other documents have subsequently clarified and developed the relationship with Judaism. On-going dialogue is taking place between the Church and the representatives of Judaism. We hope that this dialogue can bring us to work together to press those in authority to put and end to the political conflict which results in separating us and disrupting everyday life in our countries.

It is time for us to commit ourselves together to a sincere, just and permanent peace. Both Christians and Jews are called to this task by the Word of God. In his Word, we are invited us to listen to the voice of God “who speaks of peace”: “Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his holy ones” (Ps 85:9). Recourse to theological and biblical positions which use the Word of God to wrongly justify injustices is not acceptable. On the contrary, recourse to religion must lead every person to see the face of God in others and to treat them according to their God-given prerogatives and God’s commandments, namely, according to God’s bountiful goodness, mercy, justice and love for us.

Without Bustros around to say what was really on the bishops’ minds, that would be seen as a meaningless, toothless, platitudinous, feel-good ramble put together by harmless old men. With his words added, it becomes ominous and menacing.

There will be no political or church-driven solution to the conflict in the Middle East. Those solutions would be carnal, and no church should put any faith in them. The conflict is based in the supernatural. The physical overlays the supernatural like a Band-Aid on a festering sore. Apply all the patches you want; the disease will not die until Satan is bound. We have to work for peace with our physical tools, but we have to realize that all we can do is minimize the pain. It will never go away while Jesus tarries, and we should not try to accelerate the healing process by doing things that infuriate God and contradict his word.

Thank God the Catholic Church has no army these days. Thank God Israel has a good one.

None of this will affect Israel in a macroscopic way. God watches over her continuously, and a few mistaken, bigoted men can’t oppose him. They will make fools of themselves and fail, and Israel will prosper. But these foolish words could cause suffering or death for many individual Jews, and they could also cause many Christians to commit atrocious sins and bring God’s judgment on themselves, their families, their churches, and their nations.

I hope people will pray that Catholic leadership (and the leadership of other liberalized mainstream churches that do not support Israel) will have a change of heart, and that the Holy Spirit will protect them from causing their followers to offend.

The Zorro of Bird Poop

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010


Marv’s message for today: “Eat your bird. Big fat.”

Why did I buy this thing?

Marv has gotten so good at tactical pooping, I no longer get mad at him about it. Instead, I feel awe and respect.

The other day we were on the couch, and Marv managed a stealth poop in a location where I later put my face. I had to give him his props for that. It transcended ordinary poop. It was an Improvised Poop Device.

Last night he got off a poop that hit my hand and then the floor without me even knowing it. He did it while I was putting him in the cage. By the time I knew I had been shelled, I had tracked all over the house. I had to get out the mop and the Clorox.

I don’t know how he does it. He’s an artist.

Bromo, Please

Saturday, December 25th, 2010

Christmas Grub

This was amazing. I added this and that to the crust and topping, and it was even better than usual. I can’t believe I put this recipe in my book. The general public does not deserve this.

And here’s the prime rib. The horseradish sauce was glorious. Much better than the whipped cream version I tried last time.

Better Than Who Hash

Saturday, December 25th, 2010

Work Hard to Make Ordinary Food, or Take it Easy and be a Star

If you want a good Christmas dinner and you don’t want to work, do what I do: prime rib, baked potatoes, cheesecake.

I admit, the cheesecake takes some doing, but the other stuff is so easy, you’ll have time for it.

Right now I have a juicy prime rib roasting at 200°. I bought it about nine days ago. I salted it down and stuck it in the fridge to improve. Yesterday I greased it heavily with strong garlic butter. Today I stuck in on a roasting pan, covered it with foil, put a thermometer in it, and put it in an oven timed to crank up on its own, at the appropriate time. When the roast gets close to being done, I’ll max out the temperature and remove the foil to brown it. Very simple.

I bought some nice potatoes, washed them, salted them while they were still wet, and let them dry. Ordinarily I’d bake them at 450 for an hour, but that won’t be possible today because of the roast. I’m going to bake them at 200 for two hours and then leave them in while the roast browns. I think that ought to do it. If not, there is no law against touching them up with the microwave.

That’s the whole dinner. No pointless salad. No other sides. This is all you need. I guess shucky beans would have been a nice side dish, but the truth about steak and roasts is that almost anything you put beside the potato is a distraction.

It’s funny; it seems like every cook I respect makes prime rib in nearly the same way. Low and slow, finished off with high heat.

I don’t agree with people who say the meat should be pink all the way out to the edge. I like the contrasting flavors you get from differing degrees of doneness, so it’s fine with me if the outer inch is medium-well. That’s the juiciest, softest piece of the roast anyway. It won’t get tough if it cooks through.

I also disagree with those who cut their roasts off the bone and tie them back on. I’ve done it, but I think it’s probably better to keep the meat and bones together, for flavor. Maybe I’m wrong. Separating the meat and bones makes for easier carving, but you can separate them after the roast cooks, and then you don’t have to go through the horror of attaching twine and praying it stays on. The advantage of separating the meat early is that you can get extra seasoning close to the center of the roast.

I think I have a good system here. The kitchen is clean. The dessert is ready. The roast is taking care of itself. I have nothing to do for the next hour and a half. Sweet.

I got a funny compliment on Facebook this week. A girl I go to church with referred to my “unnatural cooking ability.” I thought that was interesting, because she’s probably right. There is nothing natural about writing down amazing recipes on the first try. I seriously believe God speaks this stuff into my ear.

Late Greeting

Friday, December 24th, 2010

Feliz Navidad

Merry Christmas, everybody. I hope your holiday is safe and full of cheer.


Friday, December 24th, 2010

Killing Flies With an ICBM

Everyone should own a milling machine.

I had a problem with the guitar I’m making. I routed a cavity bigger than it should have been, and I had to make some 0.7″-thick inlays to fill it so I could start over. I was piddling around, trying to get my router table to work so I could put perfect 1/4″ corners on the inlays (to match the cavity cut by a 1/2″ router. I started thinking, “Man, I wish I had a 1/4″ roundover cutter for the milling machine.” Then I realized…I had a collet that would fit the router roundover bit.

Naturally, that put all thoughts of routers out of my head.

I started machining the inlays. Man, what a difference. I face-milled each one down to within 0.010″ of the correct thickness. I made the edges perfectly square. I used the band saw to cut them to length, but truthfully, and end mill works better. The cuts are virtually perfect, and the surfaces are glassy.

I stuck the router bit in the mill and made that corner. It probably took 15 minutes, because I had to sneak up on it on two axes. But by the time I was done, it was much better than anything I could have done on a woodworking machine.

Unfortunately, when I was using the band saw to rough-cut the pieces down close to the right size, I made a cut from the wrong end and ruined an edge adjoining the nice corner I made. So I have to make that corner all over again. Still, the mill is amazing. I should use it for face-jointing difficult pieces of wood.

I don’t know why more woodworkers don’t use mills. I know they cost a lot, but for precision joinery, they blow woodworking tools out of the water.

New Report From Heather

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

New Problem

The doctor had ordered mom to be released this evening, but when the nurses tried walking her, she started having bloody diarrhea.
So tomorrow afternoon, her GI doctor will be doing a colonoscopy. Please pray that there is nothing wrong with her and this blood is just something minor.
Her heart is doing well, as is the bladder infection. Your prayers and the Lord have brought her so far. I really feel like she would not have made it with them. Please keep praying.
Thanks so much & God Bless,
Heather Page

They Fit in Stockings, Too

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

“We are Here to Poop on the Gifts”

Check out the great holiday greeting I received from Peg and Mr. Mollo: CLICK.

That photo will help you understand why people love parrots.

North Pole v. South Pole

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

Real Talk from Fake Santa

Don’t even tell me I don’t go to the weirdest church in America.

I hope Pastor Terrance’s mother doesn’t see that video. I remember her talking about her disciplinary style. She said, “My hand is QUICK.”

Tools Cheaper than Analysis

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

Also Much More Likely to Work

I thought I would report on the woodworking efforts. Sadly I am too lazy to take photos.

I decided to make a Telecaster clone, using a router and some templates. A template is like a router stencil. You fasten it to the wood, and the router cuts away everything that doesn’t look like the template. Hopefully.

I put six pieces of walnut together to make a bookmatched slab, and then I succeeded in routing out the guitar body. But I still had to rout out the neck pocket and some other stuff.

A Telecaster has a bolt-on neck. “Bolt-in” is more like it. Okay, “screw-in.” It doesn’t actually have bolts. You make a rectangular pocket in the front of the guitar, and you put the end of the neck in there, and you use four big screws to hold it in place.

I received a neat Dewalt 611 router for Christmas, and I decided to give it a whirl. This is a very small hand-held router similar to a Bosch Colt, only better. It has a sweet plunge base.

I clamped the template to the front of the guitar body, using Irwin Quick-Grip 12″ clamps. These are newfangled one-hand clamps with silicone pads on the gripping surfaces. They’re great for quick clamping.

The router worked fine, and walnut seems to like being routed. But I had a major FAIL. As I was routing, I noticed that the template was a tiny bit off the centerline of the guitar. I assumed I had screwed up when I was attaching the clamps. I kept routing, figuring I would finish and see what the damage was. Then things went completely weird, and I ended up with a pocket that extended about 1/4″ to the left of its proper location. The clamps caused the problem. They’re so weak, you can’t use them for template routing. They let stuff move.

I had been using double-sided tape for routing, but I got this crazy idea that clamps would be less trouble. Wow, was I wrong. So if you decide to make yourself a guitar, take it from me: you don’t want Irwin Quick-Grip clamps. They’re too weak for gluing slabs together, and you can’t trust them when you’re using a template.

Now I have to figure out how to fill in the giant neck pocket and start over. I could just trash the body and make a new neck, but this body was intended to be a learning instrument, and now it’s giving me a chance to learn how to do inlays, so throwing it out would be stupid.

Yesterday I practiced using templates with the small router and my nifty new glue gun. I made a straightedge template from a piece of plexiglass, and I made two more from hardboard, and I used hot glue to fasten them to a scrap board in a way that formed a shape like a neck pocket. Then I went to town on it. I noticed a few things.

1. Pine is actually harder to rout than walnut, even though it’s soft. Sometimes it just refuses to let the bit go through.

2. If you use separate pieces to make a template, they have to be the exact same thickness in order to give you the best results. Otherwise, the router jerks when you move from a lower surface to a higher one, and I suppose it can tilt, too. You want the router base to be absolutely parallel to the workpiece.

3. Hot glue tears up hardboard templates and is not easy to remove from the workpiece. I had been cautioned that two-sided tape might tear up the wood, but the glue is worse. I suppose I have to learn how to heat it and soften it without messing up the work. But you can’t do that to glue that’s between a template and the work. I don’t think so, anyway. It’s easy to use heat to get the glue off the wood once the template is off, but by then, you’ve already torn up your hardboard template. Plexiglass, on the other hand, is stronger than glue and won’t be harmed. I have a heat gun, but it gets the work very hot very fast, so I was hoping I would not have to use it.

4. Small templates are just plain bad. You want the template to be as big as possible so it supports the router and prevents tipping.

5. When using a template, it’s probably best to use a bushing before you use your flush-cut bit. The bushing will give the template and workpiece complete protection while you use the router to remove over 90% of the material. Then you have a much easier job left for the flush-cut bit. It will also allow you to use the template when cutting at a very shallow depth. You can’t do that with a flush-cut bit, because you have to sink the bit all the way in to get the bearing in contact with the template, unless the template is very thick. I wonder if the rings on my router table will accept bearings. That would be cool.

I think I’m going to go back to the table router. It requires a lot less skill. I was concerned that the dubious flatness of my router table would cause problems, and maybe that’s true, but that will only matter at the bottom of the neck cavity. I should be able to get 90% of the way there using the table, and then move to a handheld router to finish it off.

Woodwork is great, but I hate the dust. Every time I use the router or sander for more than a minute, I have to take a shower. I’ve learned that router dust control is a fantasy. You can limit it sometimes, but even the professionals use the shop-vac for most of their sawdust.

Anything you do with tools has a price. With woodworking, it’s the danger of the machines and the unmanageable dust. With metalworking, the machines are much safer, and there is no dust, but you get splinters, and fluid goes all over the place.

I managed to machine a guitar bridge from 360 brass. I wanted a gold- or brass-colored half-ashtray bridge, and no such product exists. I had a round brass bar I bought to make bathroom drawer knobs, so I cut a length of it out and turned it into a rectangular chunk, and then I hollowed that out, giving me a box with one side missing. If you Google “ashtray bridge” and imagine what you see with the pickup part cut off, that’s what I have, except that I still have to put a few holes in it for screws.

I can’t believe how beautifully brass machines. The feeds and speeds are just like 6061 aluminum, and you can omit cutting fluid if you’re brave. It polishes up in a hurry, and when you work it, it almost seems to want to cooperate. It’s no wonder brass has been so popular throughout history.

I’ve decided I need an offset wrench for my router table, so I can remove the collet nut without scraping the table. But no one makes a 24mm wrench for a Bosch. They used to make them, but not any more. I think I’ll try to machine one out of steel. I have a bar that might work, but it may be too narrow to make the working end of the wrench. If that’s so, maybe the answer is to cut it out of a piece of scrap angle iron. With the bar, I could machine a couple of 90° angles into it for a very sharp offset. That would be nice.

I may also get a Jawhorse. I’ve been watching router videos, including one made by router expert Pat Warner, and I noticed he uses a special bench for a lot of his work. Most of it is what appears to be a two-by-eight, at waist height, parallel to the ground, with wide sides horizontal. He has a big C-clamp welded to it, to hold workpieces on it while he routs. If I had a Jawhorse, I could make a jig that would work about the same way and put it in the Jawhorse’s clamp. If you don’t know what a Jawhorse is, look it up. It appears to be an incredible tool. It’s a three-legged steel sawhorse type of thing with a giant clamp at one end. It does all sorts of stuff, and it has a workholding welding attachment that looks like a godsend.

Last night, I realized something about tools. I’ve always said tools end frustration and remedy helplessness. Last night I realized that working with tools is great for your character. Much better than sports, which teach you to crave attention and sex, and that women are disposable toys, and that you’re so wonderful, no one will ever make you pay for the bad things you do.

When you use tools and begin to see success, you will develop a sense that you are able to cope with problems. You will learn that creativity, perseverance, and prayer pay off. It will help you to realize that the failures you’ve experienced in the past are not predictive of your future, because you can defeat your challenges if you use your brain and refuse to give up.

It costs a lot of money, but then so do worthless pursuits like golf. And in the end, you (and your descendants) will have things you can touch and handle, to remind you how you overcame, and how to overcome in the future. To me, a nice handmade guitar would have a lot more gut impact than a trophy or a newspaper clipping or a diploma. It’s even better than cooking food that makes people’s eyes roll back in their heads. Food disappears in a matter of minutes.

Any effort you make to develop skills and accomplish things will help your character, but there is something special about tools. Perhaps it’s because the concept of tools is so fundamentally, inextricably intertwined with the concept of ability. A tool is an extension of your body and mind, intended to enhance you in the most direct way possible. It’s almost a prosthetic. When you have a tool you know how to use, you are augmented. You are more than you were without it. To acquire and learn to use tools is to redesign and improve yourself, and it will improve your confidence in other areas of life.

Penelope in ICU

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

Get Out and Push

From Heather:

I had to bring Penny to Baptist Corbin this morning. The tests are showing that she has had a mild heart attack yesterday and that she has a bad bladder infection and her blood is low. Also her core temperature was 94 degrees. They will be moving her to the ICU shortly.
Please pray-
-for the Lord to drive this infection from her body
-bring her temp, kidney, and bladder functions back to normal.
-that any blood products that have to be used are safe.
-for her heart to be healthy and strong
-for the cancer to be driven from her body.
We love her and we need her.
Thank you and God Bless,


My friend Celeste passes this on, via Facebook:

The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17

Follow-Up Glory

I know your prayers are working. They have been able to get Penny’s heart calmed with medications. Her body temp is coming up. Please keep praying, be sure to ask that the infection is controlled and she doesn’t get sepsis.
Love to all of you and God Bless!

Here’s the Board; Who Has the Water?

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Simple Woodworking Project Threatens to Penetrate 2011

With the good Lord’s help, this will be a Telecaster soon. The bookmatching is not all that great, but I think once the bridge, neck, electronics panel, vibrato, and pickguard are on the guitar, the lack of perfect symmetry will not matter much.

It looks bent, and it looks like the joint is big and sloppy. Those are illusions due to the shapes of the slabs I joined and the mysterious effects of digital photography. It’s like flat glass, and the joint is as tight as a liberal’s purse during a charity drive.

Don’t even ask how hard it was to get this far.

I decided to cancel the jointer/planer I ordered. I have to think about that decision, now that I have a relatively easy way to edge-joint boards.

Some day I’ll have a drum sander. But I have not gone that crazy just yet.

Their Alpha Dog and Our Water Dog

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Look What Feminism Produces

I had to put this up. It’s not an original idea, but it’s driving me crazy.

Here is Barack Obama, trying to participate in sports. What heterosexual man over the age of four throws a ball overhand? One pitch didn’t make it to the plate. The other, they’re still looking for.

I love the right hand. For some reason, when I see Obama with that strange, feckless grin and that limp hand, I hear a teenage girl’s voice gasping, “There’s Johnny! I hope he asks me out!”

Here is world-class judo expert Vladimir Putin, trying his hand at sports. That bear is not drugged. Putin punched it in the mouth. The guy on the bottom in the judo photo has been dead for two minutes. Putin is using a hold he made up himself, to drag him to the taxidermist so he can be stuffed.

Here is Barack Obama’s “dog.” It was born neutered.

Here is Vladimir Putin’s actual dog. Notice that Putin is touching it. He ate it later that day. But still.

Here is Barack Obama’s wife.

Here is Vladimir Putin’s girlfriend. No joke. Look her up. This is how she greets him at the door. She maintains this pose throughout the day. Dissident slaves roll her around on a dolly. She uses her right hand to do the ironing.

The Russians elected Uncle Bill. We got Mr. French.

Cake and Sawdust

Saturday, December 11th, 2010

Stuff is Happening

I made my pineapple upside-down banana nut cake, and I wasn’t that happy with it. A lot of the pineapple sauce leaked out, so it needed more, and I was out of pineapple stuff, so I was stuck. Also, I was not totally pleased with the way it went with rum raisin ice cream.

I thought it would be fantastic served hot, and when it wasn’t quite fantastic, I figured the sauce was the problem. Then I stuck it in the fridge, and later, I tried a cold slice. It was magnificent! Very odd. You would think hot would be better, but this cake definitely has to be served cold.

I didn’t get a chance to try it cold with ice cream. It was too good to keep. I had to throw it out. I could have given it to friends at church (in fact, I got hollered at for failing to do so), but I don’t know if I could have avoided eating it before I got a chance to deliver it.

I used a 9″ springform pan. That was a mistake. I can’t remember why I used a springform pan in the past. It’s not a bad idea, but the cake is too tall, and 9″ is the wrong diameter, because you can only fit 4 pineapple slices in it. And you have to have extra-wide foil to keep the sauce in the pan. Next time I think I’ll go to 10″ and use wider foil.

In other news, I changed my oil today. “Big deal,” right? Well, it IS. First of all, it looks like vehicle dealers have universally adopted a strategy of jamming oil plugs so they’re impossible to remove. I think they do it to force you to come back for help. I had this problem with the Harley, and today I had a tough time getting the plug out of the Dodge. An impact driver had no effect. I finally put a half-inch socket wrench on it and basically military-pressed it open. I would guess I put over a hundred pounds of force on the wrench. There is no reason for an oil plug to be that tight.

I had a lot of fun dealing with almost 3 gallons of dirty oil and removing the air inlet hose to get to the filter. The truck is so tall, I have to stand on a box to work under the hood. On the up side, there’s tons of room under it.

Anyway, by the time I was done, my arms were pretty much black from the fingers halfway to my elbow, and I had blood on my shirt from a cut I still haven’t found. It ought to be worth it, however, because I can go 37,500 miles before my next oil change.

I used Amsoil and an Amsoil filter, for the best possible performance. That meant changing the oil myself, because I couldn’t find anyone around here who would do the change and just charge for labor.

I also had fun moving my spare tire back to the storage doodad under the truck bed. I got up on the side of the truck and started to shove the tire toward the back, and I felt a horrible sensation in my side. I still don’t know what it was. Now I have a sore spot between my ribs. And to make things even more pleasant, this happened before I did the oil change, so I got to enjoy feeling the soreness increase while I was struggling to drag myself around under the truck.

Once you get past a certain age, you can hurt yourself badly enough to justify an ER visit, just by breaking wind without warming up.

I’m trying to get the garage fixed up. I threw out some of my beloved scrap items. A big box of Cat 5 wire, spools of copper wire, the steel frame from a desk, and so on. I know I’ll need all of it ten minutes after the garbage truck comes by, but I have to de-clutter. If only I had a shed…no, TWO sheds…and a barn…with a lean-to…and a blimp hangar…

I have been going nuts trying to build a Telecaster-type guitar from six slabs of walnut, and I finally decided to accept reality and order a jointer. I got my planing sled to work, and I even put feed tables on my wonderful DeWalt planer, but you know what? It still sucks. I pretty much solved the planer jointing problem, but I just don’t care. It sucks.

I watched a woodworking video last night, and the old guy doing the work grabbed a piece of wood and tossed it on the jointer, and BANG, he was done. In about seven seconds. I wanted to strangle him.

I started thinking about the horror of mounting wood on the planing sled, lifting the planer onto a table, using duct tape to cobble together a dust collection scheme, and then fighting snipe, and for a time, I went insane. I found out it was possible to use credit card points to get the price of a jointer down so low they almost paid me to take it, so I gave up and pulled the trigger.

This is one reason I need room.

I decided on a Rikon 10″ jointer/planer combo. Wait! Shut up! Don’t lecture me! I know it’s not a classic 8″ Powermatic, and I will even admit that some nutcase just sold a like-new Powermatic for $500 on the local Craigslist. But I needed something small, and I wanted to be able to joint wide stuff. The Rikon is a blatant copy of an old machine made by Inca, and people still love the Inca machines and pay high prices for them. I feel sure it will work for my needs, and it has a neat stand with wheels, and it doesn’t weigh three tons or whatever the Powermatic weighs, and it doesn’t have a forty-foot wingspan.

Sometimes you have to compromise.

Jet makes combo machines for much less, but nearly everyone who reviews them says leprosy is more fun than getting a Jet to work, so I couldn’t make myself face the risk. Seriously, the reviews are like little treatments for brief horror films.

I made myself a router fence so I could do edge-jointing on the router, but I started thinking of the geometry-based ramifications my project would involve, and I realized it would be a torment straight from hell’s pit, so there’s another reason to throw in the towel.

Making the router fence was surprisingly hard. The table saw is the tool from paradise. It does everything with microscopic precision and drug-fantasy ease, and it made the parts in no time at all. But putting them together…not fun. It turns out you can’t screw into the side of 1/2″ MDF, even with pilot holes. I had to go with all-glue construction, and I had to make the fence parts perfectly square. I don’t know if glue is strong enough to hold this thing together under stress, but there is no other way to do it. We will see.

I have an idea for combining angle iron and scrap wood to make a dynamite router fence that will slide on my Biesemeyer rails. That would be beautiful. I could just order a short Biesemeyer fence, but that would cost a pile. It’s impossible to buy a pro fence, by itself, used.

I now have a spiffy restored vintage Stanley No. 6 plane (cheap!), but I have to learn how to use it, and I don’t think I’ll regret getting the jointer. It has become clear to me that I need to learn to use a bench plane and a shoulder or rabbet plane, in order to have any type of respect for myself as a man. There are too many problems they solve quickly. You can’t witness them in action and then not lust for them mindlessly.

I may still be inept, but I continue to strive. Success, or at least the comforting illusion of success, comes incrementally. It’s sort of like socialism in the USSR before it all went down the toilet and the whole country got a reality check from the back of Reagan’s hand.

Now if I could only find my tape measure…