web analytics


September 8th, 2016

It’s Available, Cheaper Than You Think

As much as I try to avoid saying anything useful, occasionally I have to break the rules and tell you something that could help you. This is one of those times.

For years, I’ve been trying to defeat nighttime congestion. It’s a horrible problem. When your nose clogs up during the night, you may dream you’re suffocating. Nighttime congestion puts you in the habit of feeling stifled and frustrated, so you don’t fully escape the aggravation during the daytime.

I’ve used nasal sprays. They work, but you have to use them every day, because once you’ve used something like Afrin two days in a row, you will start to get rebound congestion. Every time the spray wears off, your nose will close up, even if there is nothing around to provoke an allergic response. Also, sprays will irritate your nose to the point where you’ll blow out blood and little scabs.

Cleaning up helps, because it gets rid of dust and mites, but I don’t think anyone who lives in a normal house with fabrics and paper and so forth can ever get it clean enough to completely get rid of congestion. Maybe you could do it if you had a bare closet containing only a cot.

A few years back, I got a Honeywell air purifier. This thing is a big box the size of a hamper. It has three filters in it. A noisy fan blows air through it, and supposedly, it takes allergens out of the air.

Here is a summary of my conclusions regarding Honeywell air purifiers. They do remove dust from the air. They also blow dust into the air, because they keep air moving. They don’t have much of an effect on allergies. They make a nice white noise, however, and that’s very helpful when you’re trying to sleep, especially if you have Hispanic neighbors. The noise costs $200 plus electricity, so it’s not a great deal. The filters are expensive, too.

Last year, somehow or another, I decided to try adding things to the air in the house. There are certain substances that naturally open your airways up. Camphor, pine oil, tea tree oil, menthol, and so on. One of the chemicals that do the work is alpha-pinene.

Alpha-pinene is expensive in its pure form. Guess how you can get it cheap? By buying turpentine. Alpha-pinene is one of the main ingredients in turpentine. Why does a quart of turpentine cost six bucks, while an ounce of alpha-pinene or pine oil costs seven bucks? I do not know.

Anyway, I found that splashing a little turpentine in a dish and leaving it in my bedroom was very helpful with congestion. If you don’t like the smell of turpentine, you can buy tea tree oil and put a few drops in a dish. Somehow the aromatic chemicals overcome the funk and must and whatever that make nostrils clench up.

You can also buy tea tree oil and put it on your upper lip. Or you can buy Vick’s Vaporub, which contains camphor, eucalyptus oil, and menthol.

Vick’s sells little waterless vaporizers that plug into electric sockets. The problem is that they use little pads that will cost you about $400 per year, and you also have to find a free socket.

Whatever you use will evaporate during the night, but you can always start over.

You can’t just buy a jug of turpentine and take the cap off every night. The good parts of the turpentine evaporate and leave the useless parts behind. If you leave the jug open, the good stuff will disappear early, and then you’ll have nothing. You have to dispense and use a small amount every night.

It also works to deodorize your house. I add it to mop water, and sometimes I pour it on the floor under the air conditioner air handler. It blows throughout the house.

Miami’s natural smell is like the smell of a pile of warm sweaty underwear. That’s just the way it is. It’s nice to have something clean and crisp to counteract it.

I tried these things in 2015, and they worked. Somehow I got distracted and quit. Big mistake. I went back to it this week, and it’s wonderful. I don’t have to worry about lying on one side so the nostril on the other side will open up. I don’t have to lie on my back so both nostrils will open. I just sleep.

Now, what do I do with the machine? My neighbors are still noisy and thoughtless. I need sounds to shut them out.

I’ve decided to try a dedicated white noise machine. I already have a Homedics Sound Spa clock radio, which is very nice. It plays relaxing sounds. The problem with it is that the digital audio clips it uses are short, and once you’ve heard one a few times, you know exactly where it stops and starts. You start listening for the repetitions, and then you lie awake. A true white noise machine doesn’t use digital files.

A company called Marpac makes a machine called the Dohm Sound Conditioner. It comes in a model with one speed and a model with two speeds. It’s completely analog. It has been around since 1962. You can adjust the pitch and volume of the sound. I ordered one, and if it works, the Honeywell is going on Craigslist.

If your nose keeps you awake and you’re tired of the terrible medications used to treat it, give this a try. I think you’ll be glad you did.


Eternal Affairs

September 6th, 2016

Cops Hate the Cop Cops

I keep watching videos of people who claim they’ve visited hell. It has been interesting.

Some folks like to say it’s not possible to visit hell. They say the Bible says man dies once and then goes to judgment, so that rules out returns from the dead. That’s wrong, however, because a number of Biblical figures died and were resurrected.

That’s the end of that argument.

It’s generally true that people only die once. Generally. Not universally.

It’s possible to visit hell, and it’s also possible for people to stay right here and make up lies. If you claim you went to hell, you can get a lot of attention, and you can make money off of it. For some people, attention is all it takes. Somehow I like them less than the greedy. At least the greedy get something tangible in exchange for their honor.

Yesterday I tried to watch a girl named Sarah Binayamo Boyanga. I assume she’s African. She has a Youtube video. In the video, she’s a well-dressed young lady who seems to have a nice personality.

I found her claims implausible.

For one thing, her video is boring. When God talks to spiritually aware people through other people, it’s not dull. The Holy Spirit wakes you up and makes you listen. I can’t believe Jesus would take someone on a tour of the spiritual realm and then allow her to give a talk that causes people to drift off.

Another issue: she said God is happy if you pray two minutes per day. I mean, seriously…is that credible? The devil works around the clock. Rotten people work around the clock. You can’t ask God to counteract that in two minutes, and aside from that, you can’t have a relationship with another person, based on 120 seconds of perfunctory interaction. God wants children, and children love their parents and include them in their lives.

Did Paul say to pray two minutes per day? No, he said he thanked God he prayed in tongues more than all of the Corinthians. Did Jesus say to love God a little bit here and there? No, he said to love him with all your heart, all your soul, and all your might. Can’t do it in two minutes.

She said Jesus told her that if a person is serving the Lord, that person can’t die of disease. She said that if anyone had a loved one who was ill, and that person was serving God, that person would be healed. Problem: Elishah died from disease. If Elishah didn’t serve God, who does?

Lazarus also died from disease. We don’t know much about him, but his sisters served God, and Jesus was his close friend (not just his rabbi), so how can it be true that he didn’t serve God?

I kept getting bored and wandering off, so I didn’t see the whole video. I don’t think I need to. If you prove you’re wrong in the first ten minutes of a speech, the rest of the speech can’t help you.

It’s easy to be fooled. I can’t tell when people are lying, and you can’t, either. People think they can. It’s just pride. If you don’t have the help of the Holy Spirit, lies will look just wonderful to you. It has happened to me, many times.

I often wonder how many times people have lied to me. My natural inclination is to assume people are telling the truth, because even liars tell the truth maybe 90% of the time.

When I was a kid, my best friend was a thief and a liar. I remember losing a pocket knife in my front yard and asking him to help me look for it. We looked all over a small patch of grass, and I never found it. Oddly, he turned out to have a knife just like mine. I also lost my dad’s hunting knife when he was around. I’m old, and it only occurred to me recently to put two and two together. I didn’t lie to my friend or steal from him, so I assumed he treated me more or less the same way.

Preachers lie constantly. My grandfather was a tort lawyer, and he also served as a prosecutor and circuit judge. He said, “Whenever you see a preacher on the stand, get ready to hear a bunch of lies.” He was too kind. He should have said, “Whenever you see a preacher anywhere.”

I turned back to God because I had genuine supernatural experiences, and I wanted to know people who were in the same boat. I heard preachers on TV and in pulpits telling them Jesus appeared and said this and that. I figured they had to be telling the truth. After what I had been through, surely other people had experienced similar events.

Preachers still love to say, “God just told me there are __ people in this room who need to give a thousand dollars each.” God never said any such thing. If I tell you God told me something, you can be sure one of two things is true: God told me something or I just think he told me something. I’m not going to make things up, and I am eager to expose those who do. I have no mercy, and I take pleasure in informing on them. When the wolf charges in, you don’t hand him a water bottle and take his coat. You blow his brains out and make a nice rug out of his skin.

There are so many liars, the truthful are hard to find, and once you find them, the habit of rejecting liars makes it hard for us to believe them. Liars are like the chaff airplanes drop to fool missiles. If you can get people to follow liars, they won’t be available to listen to the truthful. They waste their energy chasing garbage trucks instead of armored cars full of riches.

I don’t know if Sarah Binayamo is a liar. I just know I don’t believe her.

She’s a great choice for a decoy. She looks and sounds sweet and innocent. Anyone who criticized her would be likely to be accused of picking on a nice kid who just wants to help God. That makes sense. A smart jihadi doesn’t hide a bomb in a carry-on belonging to a hairy guy who looks crazy. He hides in in the wheelchair of an old lady with blue eyes and a big smile.

I don’t care what people think about me criticizing folks who mislead in God’s name. I was thinking about it last night. I’ve belonged to three churches. I left one because the prosperity gospel turned me off. I left the other for the same reason, and the preachers told lies about me behind my back and held secret meetings to find out what I was up to. I left a third because the preachers were proud, selfish, immature, and, of course, caught up in the prosperity gospel. The head pastor was so mad at me, he chased a friend of mine down in the parking lot and started screaming at him about me.

You know what I am? God showed me last night. I’m internal affairs.

Cops stick together. If one cop blows a kid’s brains out for no reason, the first instinct other cops will have will be to obstruct justice and help him avoid arrest. That’s just human nature. Cops help other cops. But they don’t help all cops. They hate the cops who investigate other cops. They hate the people from internal affairs, because those people expose their crimes and bring justice down on them.

If all you do is sit in a pew and confirm your pastor’s delusions of godhood, you are part of the thin blue line. You’re covering corruption so it can fester. If you stand up and tell the truth, you’re internal affairs. People will condemn you. They will say much worse things about you than you say about your pastor, without worrying about whether those things are true. They will think they serve God when they attack you.

Carnal principles apply to carnal people, both inside and outside of the church.

Prophets are internal affairs. Prophets are lonely, or at least they’re aloof. A man who sits in the front row at church and lets the pastor take him on trips paid for out of the building fund…that man has a conflict of interest. He’s like a teacher who takes bribes in exchange for good grades. The people who tell the truth sit in the back, rejected, or they don’t go to church at all. They have to keep their feet dry.

The Jews killed prophets, both before and after the crucifixion. Christians do the same thing. The Jews killed Isaiah. A Jew killed John the Baptist. They put Jeremiah in a cistern. Ahab, a Jew, was guilty of the murder of the prophets his pagan wife murdered. He consented to the effort to murder Elijah. Ahab hated Micaiah because he told the truth. The Jews had Jesus killed, and they killed Stephen. At their command, Paul murdered people who were full of the Holy Spirit.

Nothing changes. Religious insiders want to destroy anyone who tells the truth. It’s not easy for a preacher to get away with killing someone who corrects him, but they do what they can. They ostracize them and lie about them.

I am not saying I’m a prophet, but I am a somewhat truthful person who says things that make crooked preachers uncomfortable. In that sense, I am similar to a prophet.

The closer you get to God, the more you will recognize and repeat the truth, and the more people will hate you. They have sold out to the devil. They love getting along and going with the flow. If you contradict them, they’ll try to destroy you instead of receiving healthy correction.

I have realized I need to be more honest. I think of myself as an honest person, and I have always had a reputation for honesty, but it’s an illusion. I’ve lied more times than I can remember. You don’t have to be very honest to set yourself apart in this world. I have lied enough to make it hard for me to perceive the truth.

God showed me that dishonest people lose the ability to perceive truth. When they start lying at an early age, they know they’re lying. At fifty or sixty, an unrepentant liar is actually mentally ill. He is unable to tell the difference between lies and reality, so he doesn’t have much potential to change. If you can’t receive criticism, which is truth, you are spitting out medicine.

Hell is full of liars. They stand in hell, burning…and still lying. “God didn’t give me a chance.” “I was a preacher; I don’t belong here.” “If you sent me back to earth, I’d be different.” “God is vicious and unfair.” They’re in hell because they made themselves immune to truth. Once that happened, there was no point in trying to save them. Salvation requires cooperation and honesty.

People say my sister would sooner climb a tree and lie than tell the truth and stand on the ground. She was a terrible liar when she was young, and now she doesn’t know what truth is. Harsh things to say, but true. It’s why God doesn’t ask me to pray for her or work with her now. There is no return on the investment.

She doesn’t say things with conviction. She just says things she thinks may bring about a desired result, and then she watches to see if they stick. It’s like watching someone spin a wheel at a fair. You can tell when you watch her that she’s just throwing dice. It’s reflected in her expression.

I’m not in that shape, but I have definitely let pride and bias damage my honesty. It’s one of the things I need God to help me fix.

Faith is perception of the truth. Peace is perception of the truth. Worry and fear are belief in lies. No wonder liars are so miserable.

If I want to tell other people the truth, I need to maximize my own ability to discern it. Things could be worse, but they can definitely use improvement.

We swim in a sea of lies, every day. Only the Holy Spirit can lift you up on top of it.

Things are getting weirder and more chaotic in the US. Christians need protection and help, more than ever, and our need is increasing, fast. Satan is almost completely in charge now. The filth we tolerate and love is like nothing we have seen before. If you don’t start looking for correction and redemption, you’re going to be unprepared when it really gets bad, and God is not going to listen to your cries for help, because you turned him down so often in the past.

God is full of help. Get in touch and start receiving it. You’re already receiving from his enemy; you might as well have both channels open.


I’m an Abrasive Guy

September 4th, 2016

Grinder Takes Shape

I have my 2×72 belt grinder set up, more or less.

It has been an interesting project. To make it work, I had to choose between getting a new base for the grinder or making it work with my old abrasive cart, which is a Northern Tool cart that held my 1×42 belt grinder and bench grinder. In the end, I decided the smart thing was to try to jam both belt grinders on the cart. It’s easier to put the bench grinder on a new base than to start from scratch on a belt grinder base.

The motor I’m using is gigantic. It’s the old 2-HP Reuland motor I got for nothing (sort of). When I bought my first lathe, the unscrupulous dealer sold me the wrong machine, and he included a 1-phase motor instead of the 3-phase job he had advertised. He made a little effort to make things right, and that included shipping me the ancient Reuland. The shaft was banged up, so I took to Ebay and bought a beautiful new 2-HP Baldor, cheap.

I guess I can’t call it free, since the dealer still cheated me, but I didn’t pay for the motor.

When I first tried to use the Reuland, I had a hard time getting the lathe’s pulley mounted. Then it ran funny. When I took the pulley off and looked at the shaft, it appeared that someone had banged it pretty hard with a giant hammer or something. It had burrs and a big flat spot. I can’t even guess what kind of idiot does a thing like that to a top-of-the-line 3-phase motor, but I can tell you this much: it was an employee, not the owner of a company. People who pay for things don’t beat them with hammers.

When you bang on a piece of metal and make a depression, you also raise metal. The metal you displace from the depression has to go somewhere, so it usually rises up around the depression, forming a rim. I heard a master machinist describe this as “disturbed metal.” My motor’s shaft had disturbed metal around a big ding, so the pulley had a hard time sliding past it.

I got rid of that lathe a long time ago, and of course, the buyer cheated me out of a hundred dollars. I had it rigged up with a VFD, which I kept. The fact that I had a motor and VFD lying idle figured prominently in the rationalizations that enabled me to buy the new belt grinder.

When I tried to put the new drive wheel on the motor (to pull the grinding belts), it didn’t want to go over the damaged shaft, and the keyway in the shaft looked enormous. I assumed it was larger than the usual keyway for a 7/8″ shaft. It looked bigger than the corresponding keyway in the wheel. I figured I would have to broach a bigger keyway into the wheel.

I got the motor running, and I used the spinning motion to help me file the bumps off the shaft. I then sanded it. After that, the wheel went right on, and surprisingly, the key fit. Apparently, the monkey who banged up the shaft also did something or other to cause the keyway to wear, and it made it look like it was a size larger than it is. Whatever; as long as it works.

That’s the exciting story of the motor.

It turned out I actually had two VFD’s to choose from. A long time ago, I bought a VFD for my milling machine, thinking I was buying a pulley machine. A machine with multiple drive pulleys allows you to change speeds by moving a belt from one pulley to another. The seller, who tended to screw up a lot, informed me he was sending a variable speed mill instead. Nice, because that’s a pricier tool, and I wasn’t paying extra. But I had already spent maybe $250 for the VFD.

The purpose of the VFD was twofold: 1) to turn 250V 1-phase power into 3-phase power, and 2) to allow me to vary the frequency (changing the motor’s speed) without handling belts. I no longer needed the frequency feature, but I still needed 3-phase, so I hooked the VFD up.

Later on, I bought a big phase converter (machine which turns 1-phase into 3-phase), so I didn’t really need a VFD for the mill. I left the VFD connected anyway, because I was lazy. Yesterday I removed it, and I’ll be connecting the mill to the phase converter soon.

Now I have two VFD’s ready for use. One is small and easy to mount. The other has a nice detachable control pad, so I can mount it out of the way of dust and run an ethernet cable to the control pad. I can connect a remote speed-control pot to the smaller VFD; it won’t be as elegant, but it will work.

I wired the motor up to the VFD. I cut a piece of thick plywood to use as a platform. I put the motor and grinder on the wood, and I clamped them down. I ran the motor with a belt on the grinder and moved things around until I was happy.

After that, I used a stubby pencil and transfer punches to mark drilling locations on the wood, and I made holes for 3/8″ bolts.

The bolts go through the grinder and motor bases and then through the plywood. I didn’t want anything to protrude under the plywood and scrape up my cart, so I used T-nuts. These are nuts that sink into wood. I used a Forstner bit to cut shallow cavities on the underside of the wood (for the T-nut bases to fit into), and then I installed the T-nuts. Perfect.

Drilling wood is a real pain. It always blows out and tears up on the lower side. I made a lot of effort to avoid this. For one thing, I clamped scrap to the underside of the wood so the scrap would support the fibers where the bits came out. For another, I drilled tiny starter holes all the way through the wood, and I used them to guide a spade bit which I applied from the underside. This created shallow 3/8″ holes on the underside. When I drilled down from above, I met these holes, and there was less wood in the way to blow out.

Here’s a photo of what I have now:

09 03 16 belt grinder bolted to plywood small

Some people insist on metal plates and so on to anchor belt grinders. I guess that’s nice if you work in a factory and you put hundred-pound loads on your grinder rest. The setup I created is as solid as a rock, and it doesn’t have to handle heavy loads. I used 3/4″ plywood, but 1/2″ would have worked fine.

I’m going to sand the rough edges off the platform. Then I think I’ll hit it with truck bed paint. It goes on without primer, it dries fast, it looks good, and it wears like iron. After that, I’ll try to situate rubber feet on the underside of the platform, so they’ll butt up against the inner walls of the cart and hold the platform in place. The platform won’t sit in the cart. It will rest on the outer edges. That lets me use platforms that are larger than the top tray, and it leaves space in the tray for belts and belt grease.

I can retract the tool arm(s) when I’m not using the grinder. That will keep it out of the way, to some extent.

I haven’t figured out what to do about dust. One easy solution is to hang the VFD under the tray, away from dust, and run wires to a pot mounted on the platform. I hate to cut holes in my nice cart, though, and I wonder if it will protect the VFD. Generally, people put them in boxes with air filters. Mine would be exposed, but it would be in an area which sees little dust.

I think that will work. I’ve seen where the dust from grinders falls, and it doesn’t fly around corners or in loops. It falls under the platform and belt. It won’t make it to a VFD under the tray.

I can already tell the grinder is going to be a fantastic tool. While I was setting it up, I used it to remove some of the milling marks from a knife I made. The grinder has a flat platen behind the belt, and you can press flat objects against it, so it creates a flat surface. From the results I got, I believe it will work well enough (accurately enough) to allow me to put flat, scale-free sides on knives.

This will sound crazy, but I held the knife against the platen with my bare fingers, turned the motor on, and let the belt grind it while I held it there. It was no problem at all. In the future, I think I’ll put something between me and the blade, so my fingers won’t hit the belt if I slip, but at low speeds, it’s not likely to hurt me because I can move my hand way in plenty of time.

I’ll need a big contact wheel. That’s is a giant pulley (maybe 10″ in diameter) that replaces the platen. It allows you to grind the sides of knives so they’re slightly hollow. That makes sharpening easier, and it makes for a less clunky knife. Contact wheels cost a lot of money. Not sure why.

I’m going to have two nice grinders, side by side, with speed controls. That will be excellent. If you haven’t used grinders, you don’t understand how useful they are. They sharpen. They deburr. They clean. They shape. They polish. Wonderful machines.

Now I suppose I need to learn about belt grinder safety so I don’t sand myself to death.

Good tools turn frustration into pleasure. I look forward to using this thing.

1 Comment »

Lard and Hot Steel

September 2nd, 2016

Take That However You Want

I finished Ovid yesterday. The last thing I read was the letter from…now I’ve forgotten…Medea to Jason. No, it was Sappho to Phaon, whoever that is. I had to check. You can see how much it impacted me.

It’s essentially a remake of the other letters, which are remakes of each other. Sappho said a couple of things that were relatively clever, but they weren’t clever enough to raise her above the level of the other jilted stalkers.

My main reaction to finishing Ovid: relief. Of course. Now I get to read Augustine. I don’t like calling him “St. Augustine” because he’s not a saint. By that I mean he’s not better than other human beings. He’s not someone people should pray to. Great guy, maybe. Not a saint. The saints were created to replace the Greek pantheon. God had nothing to do with it.

If you had told me a year ago that I was going to have to read Augustine, I would have looked for a way out of it, as I did, successfully, back at Columbia University. After my ordeal with the Greeks and Romans, Augustine sounds like a trip to Disney World. Bring him on. I can’t wait.

The Sappho letter lends credence to the idea that Sappho was a truck-driving, Anne Murray-listening, overall-wearing ladies’ lady. She complains that Mr. Phaon has ruined her for women. After her Phaon fornication binge, women just don’t do it for her. Does this mean she was really a lesbian? I don’t think so. Ovid lived a long time after Sappho, so he probably didn’t know much more about her than we do. Once you get a reputation, justified or not, it tends to stick. Maybe Sappho had already been lumped in with the field hockey players and non-shavers of legs before he was born.

Maybe there is a document out there which proves Sappho liked women. I will never know, because I am done with the classics. I wouldn’t read another classic author even if his book was a collection of winning lottery numbers in Roman numeral form. But the document must not exist, because people who actually like the classics do not agree on her orientation.

I don’t know why I’m discussing this. Maybe it’s because it’s the only thing about Sappho that is even remotely interesting.

It’s hard to think of anything exciting enough to follow up speculation about whether Sappho was a flannel-wearer, but I will try: today my belt grinder is going to arrive. If Fedex gets it right. I ordered it a week ago, and the shipper decided to fix it so it required a signature, so I’m stuck at home.

I think I made a good buy. I’m spending maybe $200 more than the cost of building my own grinder, but I will save a pile of work and time, and it looks like the grinder I chose–the Oregon Blade Maker–is a tremendous deal and a good product.

I say that before trying it.

If Sappho were alive, I bet she’d have a belt grinder.

Is it okay to make jokes like that? I don’t actually care, but I guess these days it’s likely to bring out the pierced and tattooed villagers with thrift store torches and Ikea pitchforks.

The coming increase in the persecution of Christians is a frequent topic here, but there are some aspects I haven’t thought about yet. Here’s one that just occurred to me: we will probably be beaten and imprisoned by hipsters. That’s terrible. It’s embarrassing. I’m not sticking up for the Nazis, of course, but I feel like it’s less of a blow to your self-respect when the man who shoots you in the head is wearing a smart military uniform with shiny death’s head pins. We’re going to be murdered by “men” who look like Snuggles the Fabric Softener Bear with glasses. It will be like getting punched out by Truman Capote.

Suddenly the Romans don’t look too bad. Having your brains clubbed out by a 6’8″ barbarian centurion…that’s a man’s death. Centurions didn’t have to say, “Hold my latte,” before they killed people. We’re going to be slaughtered by the snowflake patrol.

I never thought musing about persecution would look like this. You have to wonder what people will make of it when I’m gone.

I would not be the first Christian to have a sense of humor about it. They say that when Lawrence was roasted on a grill (by the church), he looked up and said, “I’m well done. Turn me over!”

If I have to take sides, I think I’ll side with John, not Lawrence. Lawrence was grilled, and grilling is about health, not flavor. John was deep-fried. It didn’t take, but it was certainly a superior method of preparation. Now that we know KFC’s secret recipe, I can request to be breaded.

I look forward to trying the grinder, but it won’t solve my scale problem. I will still have to find a way to clean mill scale off of steel, without ruining the shape of the metal. A surface grinder would be great to have. Another possibility: buy steel a little oversize and put screw holes at the ends. Screw it to a big piece of metal, put the metal in the mill vise, and mill the scale off. The large piece of metal and the screws would hold it flat, better than a vise could.

While I wait for the grinder, I’m working on my next food project. I keep making large batches of food so I can reheat during the week instead of cooking from scratch over and over. Yesterday I gave up and bought collards, hocks, neck bones, corn meal, tomatoes, and Vidalias. I’m going to make collard greens and hoe cakes. I just hope I don’t overeat. This food will be off-the-charts good.

I look forward to making the hoe cakes, because I have a Griswold griddle I’ve never used. I Ebayed it and used electrolysis to get the crud off. It looked brand new when I was done. Then I seasoned it with bacon fat. It should be wonderful to use. A griddle is great for things like pancakes and crepes, because it provides easy access for a spatula.

I don’t think I’d want to be griddled. I keep hoping I’ll be hit by a meteor. I can’t come up with anything that beats that plan. Makes a mess, but that’s not my problem.

Maybe I’ll post a photo if I get the grinder running. Or maybe I’ll just lie on my back eating hoe cakes.


Roman Holiday

September 1st, 2016

Ovid Knew When to Shut it

I am going to knock Ovid off today. I’m very grateful to have a short reading assignment to kill the taste of The Aeneid and help me heal from the boredom.

I’m done with Dido’s letter to Aeneas, and I just started someone else’s letter to someone else. It doesn’t matter who wrote whom; they’re fungible. One letter is almost exactly like another. Same voice. Same whiny, neurotic, meandering style. Does Tiger Beat still exist? They probably get letters like this all the time, scarred by clove-cigarette burns, with instructions to forward them to Justin Timberlake.

“My parents don’t understand our secret love. I know you were moved by the triquetra and unicorn I drew in the dust on the side of your tour bus. I totally understand why you had your security people restrain me while you drove away. They’re not worthy to witness what we’re becoming.”

Medea. That’s who it is. Medea wrote Jason. I don’t know anything about these two, except that Jason was in one of my favorite Saturday afternoon movies when I was a kid: Jason and the Argonauts. Jason roamed around in a boat, fighting cool Ray Harryhausen monsters. I loved that stuff. We didn’t have fancy CGI back then; some crazy old coot had to build statues and move them a degree or a millimeter at a time for the cameras. I thought it was wonderful.

To be clear, it’s Medea, not Madea. If you don’t know who Madea is, good for you. It’s a Tyler Perry character. If you don’t know who Tyler Perry is, see previous.

Tyler Perry created very bad TV shows, and somehow he became extremely successful. Now he creates very bad movies. I can’t understand his popularity. He uses BET-grade actors, and the scripts are like something I would have written in the sixth grade.

Back when I was at Trinity Church, they showed a Tyler Perry movie, which I’m sure they did not pay for. It featured a big family of miserable black people having a holiday meal and discussing infidelity and VD (each other’s). The message of the film: we should all admire good-looking guys who date extremely overweight women.

My feeling on the subject is this: people like what they like. If you prefer women under 300 pounds, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. If you like them big, it doesn’t make you a good person. Maybe you’re just an Arab.

Yes, they talked about VD and adultery in church, and not in a constructive way. The decision to show the movie was typical of the Wilkerson attitude. The obvious blew right by them. Any normal preacher would have thought, “Maybe this isn’t a great thing to show kids at 9 a.m.”

Trinity was maybe 80% black, and the Wilkersons knew the movie would please the crowd. The crowd’s happiness was always job one, and it still is. Feed the beast. If you don’t feed it, you can’t milk it.

Madea is Tyler Perry in a big flowered dress. I don’t know too much about “her,” but I believe she’s an angry and somewhat carnal church lady, sort of like Lamont Sanford’s Aunt Esther. As a Christian, I’m not a big fan of drag. The Wilkersons love drag. Their son and another pastor did a video in drag.

Madea does not figure heavily in Greek mythology. I guess that’s my point.

I still don’t understand why people admire Ovid. The letters he wrote are like something Bradley Manning might write to Justin Bieber. Stalkerish. “I hope you die. Well, no I don’t. Because I want you to live long enough to suffer for abandoning me. I’m not mad at you. Please come and kill me. If you have a minute.”

Our notions of romance have changed since the 19th century. Before that, it was perfectly okay to be a stalker. We admired stalkers. You could probably get away with that lifestyle up through 1920 or so. Now, we don’t think it’s romantic to mail someone your ear or jump on a bonfire because someone left you. We think it’s sick and crazy.

It’s a little unfair. We encourage young people to read stalker literature, and then we get mad when they grow up and hack the online accounts of people who dumped them, or when they cut themselves. We don’t expect them to take the things we teach them seriously. We expect them to have the good sense to be hypocrites, like the rest of us.

I don’t recall the Greeks getting excited about stalking. Maybe it started with the Romans. The impression I have is that in the Greek stuff, people who couldn’t let go were considered pathetic.

That would make sense. The Greeks admired moderation. Even in their rape, murder, pillage, arson, and theft.

A friend told me I was the least codependent person he knew, because I was so fast to cut people off and so serious about not taking them back. It was a nice compliment, but I clung to counterproductive people in the past, and that’s how I learned that it was better to cut out the dead wood and move on. I had to make a fool of myself many times before God helped me see what I was doing wrong. However I got here, you don’t have to worry about me stalking anyone now. I wish people the best, and I hope I manage to help a few get to know God, but I think my epitaph will be “Buh-BYE.”

I seem to be immune to loneliness these days. Years ago, it was a real problem for me. When I was living in Texas, undergoing the torture of toxic ADD drugs and consistent failure at my chosen profession, I had almost no one, and I was like one of those zoo animals that develop tics and repetitive movements because of isolation. Now I’m kind of glad I don’t deal with people too much. I guess some people go the St. John route, and others go Kaczynski.

When you’re around people too much, they pressure you to be what you don’t want to be. That’s fine if you’re three. You need the guidance. It’s not so good when you’ve gotten a glimpse of God and you’re surrounded by people who think carnality is the bomb.

After today, I am done with Greeks and Romans. I move on to Augustine’s Confessions, which could be a pretty good read. Surely it will not be full of two-paragraph similes, the way Homer and Virgil were.

The next assignment is actually a combination of Luke and John, but I’ve read those three million times, so I don’t plan to go back over them.

I will continue to regale you with tales of my scholarly exploits. I’m sure someone will want to publish my sophisticated insights. I think I’ll hold my breath until I get an offer.

In any case, I’ll get a little closure and redemption. And I will know where Phrygia is.

1 Comment »

Oh, the Lit. Humanity!

August 30th, 2016

Blameless Virgil Gnaws the Dust

I have earth-shattering news. I finished The Aeneid.

People who are keeping up know the story. I felt bad about reading almost none of the books on the Lit. Hum. list back when I was “studying” at Columbia, so I downloaded a syllabus and went to work. I slogged through Homer, Herodotus, Thucydides, and some other crap I am too lazy to list. Then I grounded my hull on Virgil. He’s a terrible writer, and I accidentally bought a translation by an even worse writer; by the time I realized it, I was about 60% of the way through the book. I bought the right translation and started over.

It’s a punishment fit for a mythological character. It’s almost Sisyphean. I refused to read this horrible book when I was supposed to, so I was condemned to read it later; not just once, but 1.6 times. I got the Santayana treatment, to the tune of 60%.

Man, this book stinks. It was agony. With junk like this to deal with, no wonder the ancients took so long to achieve literacy. It must have been extremely unappealing.

Checking the syllabus, I see that my next Herculean labor is Ovid’s Heroides. To show how little I learned at Columbia, I will reveal that I have no idea what the book is about. Maybe it wasn’t on the syllabus in 1902 when I took the course, or maybe it just wasn’t on the list of things I expected to be on the exam. In any case, I know nothing about it, and I kind of wish it could stay that way.

Wikipedia, I summon thee!

The Wiki-Oracle informs me that Ovid was a guy who gave up law to become a poet. Not sure that’s a step upward. He wrote in something called “elegiac meter.”

Here’s a quotation: “An elegiac couplet consists of one line of poetry in dactylic hexameter followed by a line in dactylic pentameter.”

Now I have to look up dactylic whatever.

My God, this is boring.

“The foot is the basic metrical unit that forms part of a line of verse in most Western traditions of poetry.”

“A dactyl (Greek: ????????, d├íktylos, ‘finger’) is a foot in poetic meter. In quantitative verse, often used in Greek or Latin, a dactyl is a long syllable followed by two short syllables, as determined by syllable weight.”

If a dactyl is three syllables, how can you have dactylic PENTAmeter? “Penta” means “five.”

Oh, okay. I see it now. Dactylic pentameter is apparently fifteen syllables.

How can anybody care about this stuff?

No, I’m wrong about the fifteen syllables. There is apparently a thirty-page book somewhere explaining the rules of dactylic pentameter, and there are lots of variations.

I guess I’m a low-foreheaded potato eater, but I have never understood how meter alone could turn something into verse. When someone reads “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” I totally understand why it’s called poetry, but just screwing with rhythm in unimportant ways only creepy, mildewed academics can perceive is a different matter.

I think haikus are stupid. Is it okay to say that? They’re stupid. Compared to a haiku, a limerick is exciting new technology.

Ordered Sonic fries
She brings me cheese tots instead
Tears in my lime slush

While I was reading The Aeneid, I looked for some evidence that it wasn’t plain old prose, and I gave up. I’m sure it’s in there, but it doesn’t exactly jump out at you or have any detectible positive effect on the reader. You don’t sit there thinking, “Wow! This meter is really clever!” It’s more like, “BOREDOM! BOREDOM! WHEN WILL IT END???? OW, MY HEAD! WHY DID HE WRITE THIS???”

Rhythm is very important to writers. Sometimes a writer’s understanding of rhythm is obvious. One of the neat things about David Mamet is that he has good rhythm. His dialogue bounces along in a very appealing, balanced way. But that doesn’t mean arbitrarily choosing a completely ineffective, rigid rhythmic scheme makes you a great writer. If anything, it makes you self-deluded. A person who gets off on weird rhythmic regimes is missing the point of literature. It’s like thinking your food is good because all the ingredients are autumn colors.

If you want to make clever patterns other strange people notice, my suggestion is to take up needlepoint or maybe drums.

I can already see that Ovid’s rhythmic genius is going to be lost on me. I will just take that as given.

Once Ovid is in the can, I’m out of the Greek mythology ghetto. I can’t wait. The only person I’ve developed any liking for is Herodotus, and that’s only because he isn’t serious. The rest deserve all the bad things that happen to them. The characters and actual human beings in these books are like members of street gangs: they estimate the value of their existence based on the completely unnecessary, narcissistic suffering they inflict on themselves and others. Your son got his head chopped off in battle? Boo hoo! Maybe you should have stayed home instead of sailing off to hit other people with swords.

I didn’t do a calculation, but I’m pretty sure Aeneas lost more men than he took with him. I think he had fourteen ships at the start. What does a Greek ship hold? Say 150 men, tops? By the end of the book, Italy was buried in the rotting corpses of Trojans. One guy–Turnus–killed thousands of Trojans and Tuscans (I think it was Tuscans). Virgil had to be fudging his numbers. My guess is that he wrote the first part of the book, establishing the number of Trojans, and then he got carried away with slaughter in the second half of the book. Then he was too lazy to go back and correct the math. Even Virgil got tired of The Aeneid.

Just a theory.

I should write my own Greek epic and call it The Idiocy. It would be about a bunch of Greeks who got drunk and decided it would be great fun to go burn and pillage someone else’s city, only to find out that war is really unpleasant and lots of people you like die.

Oh, wait. That epic has already been written. Three times.

How could the ancients admire these morons? What kind of infantile morals did they have, to get worked up about which racist rapist murdering crybaby attention-whore thief won which battle?

It goes to show what the world was like before Judaism and Christianity. People had the values of monkeys.

I guess I’ve vented enough about Homer and Virgil. I’m not sure, though. I may have to resume later. I may not be completely purged; I may just be tired.

I’m looking ahead. I only have to read 134 pages of The Inferno. I’m tempted to get down on my knees and thank God, but the little intelligent part of me is screaming, “Who teaches a course and tells you to read a third of a book? What good is that?” For the rest of my life, I’ll have to tell people I read little bits of Dante’s Inferno and then stuck it on a shelf, so I don’t really know what’s in it.

Maybe this course is stupid. I hadn’t really considered that. I considered it back in the Devonian Era, when I was actually in college, but looking back, I thought that was just immaturity. Maybe I was right!

They put Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon on the list. I’m not reading that. It’s just a sop to black people and women. Besides, I already read it. They could have put something really good in that spot, like 1984 or Animal Farm. They didn’t have to struggle to find a black female author and jam her in there in spite of the dubious quality of her work.

Song of Solomon wasn’t in print when I took Lit. Hum., so I give myself a pass. Maybe I’ll give myself Lit. Hum. credit for reading Catch-22, which is a work of real genius.

They stuck Virginia Woolf in there, too. I may blow that off. I haven’t read Lord of the Flies yet. Maybe it will fill the hole. I don’t know anything about Virginia Woolf, but the Burton/Taylor movie was quite depressing.

Apparently, Goethe and Nietzsche have been part of the curriculum in the past. I have no memory of reading either, so I may jam one of them in the Woolf opening. How to choose, though? Wait! I know how! Which one is shorter? Hmm…they’re both around 150 pages. But Goethe’s Faust is a story, not a dreadful philosophy book. I’m a Christian; I already have a philosophy. I don’t need a new one which is necessarily wrong, inferior, and pernicious.

Okay, Faust. That kills Virginia Woolf.

Here’s something interesting! My old Lit. Hum. prof, James R. Russell, moved to Harvard and tried to start a Lit. Hum. knockoff. He has a syllabus, and it’s online. This would be closure, a la mode. I’m trying to relive the course he taught, so what better way to replace Toni Morrison than to make a selection from his list?

Well, this is sad. I looked at the syllabus, and there is nothing from the 20th century in it. I’m apparently on the second semester, and he never did a second semester.

There goes that plan.

I learned some other interesting stuff while Googling Lit. Hum. today. Remember how I said I cheated on a couple of tests at Columbia in order to avoid being expelled? I hate cheating and cheaters, so it really bothered me. Well, it turns out Columbia’s Lit. Hum. system has had other cheating issues. The Columbia wiki site lists THREE, in 1987, 2007, and 2013. In all cases, instructors leaked test questions early. That’s how I cheated, and I believe it also happened in Columbia’s Contemporary Civilization course. I remember a bunch of guys sitting in a room, looking over the exam and frantically flipping through books for answers. I may have cheated in that class, too.

Someone I knew took a test early; his professor was a lady named Lavinia, which happens to be the name of the lady who married Aeneas. The instructor let him keep the test paper, and naturally, it got passed on.

Lots and lots of people cheated on the core courses at Columbia, and instructors helped. Sorry to burst the world’s bubble. It’s Quiz Show all over again, only nobody reads this blog or cares.

I don’t recall ever cheating on anything else in school. I was a mess, and I really did not want to be sent home for failing tests. The pressure was too much. Embarrassing.

I’m going to read Lord of the Flies. That will just have to do. It’s 20th-century. It’s post-war. It’s not a consolation prize for a mediocre writer who belongs to an underrepresented group. It’s not about a bunch of bitter, thwarted cirrhotic Algonquin Round Table rejects getting plastered and making emasculating remarks about each other.


I looked over a bunch of other potential works. I’m surprised to see that I’ve read most of them. For a person who more or less gave up on literature at 25, I got a lot done.

Today is a great day. Virgil is behind me. Now to get back to them tasty potatoes and maybe some NASCAR.


I felt like I should say a few more things, about cheating at Columbia University, and about Ovid.

When I attended, there were three core courses (that I now recall). One was Contemporary Civilization, and it more or less covered the history of Western thought. The second was Literature Humanities; it covered the history of Western literature. The third was Art Humanities; it covered looking at slides of different types of marble columns. Ionian! Doric! That other kind!

I have a dim memory of attending one or two Art. Hum. classes before making my grand disappearance, but that may be something I dreamed. I seem to remember kouroses.

The big problem with these courses was that every student had to take them, and the exams were standardized. As a result, each course had numerous instructors and sections, and if an idealistic hippie instructor decided grading was a male-exalting, eurocentric concept that tended to inhibit homosexuality and socialist urges, then that instructor could hand the exam out early to take pressure off of his or her students. Those students could, and did, pass them out to students in other sections. This is why cheating was…not unheard of. In fact, the system made it hard to get a fair shake playing it straight.

That covers that.

As for Ovid, when I read his name, I always think “Egg.”

Also, I just started reading his works, and I am happy, happy, happy to report that they are short. Really short. Other than that, I wonder why they were written.

The first one is Penelope’s letter to Odysseus. He is about to come home, kick ass, and take names. Telemachus has already made his voyage to Pylos, and Penelope is really tired of feeding suitors.

I’m sure there is something brilliant about this “poem.” I do not see it. It doesn’t rhyme. It’s not clever. It doesn’t tell us anything new or even a little bit interesting about Odysseus. On top of that, it’s another example of the sick, sad obsession the ancients had with Troy.

If there is something brilliant hidden in it, someone will have to explain it to me. For less than $30,000 a semester.

I looked it up, and Homer was born at some time within a century or so of 1000 B.C. The accepted date for the sacking of Troy is 1270 B.C. Virgil was born in 70 B.C., and Ovid was born in 43 B.C. How long do these people need to get over Troy?

Creativity isn’t that hard. You just say to yourself, “I’m going to come up with something new,” and then you wait. Eventually, an idea will come. It’s not necessary to drag the carcass of Odysseus out over and over for a millennium.

The ancients had the sequel disease; the one that gave us 55 Fast and Furiouses when one was way more than enough. In a thousand years, they could not come up with anything better than Iliad III: the Final Reckoning. Maybe we shouldn’t look down on Hollywood [note: yes we should]. Entire generations of Greeks and Romans were no smarter.

Good news: Heroides short. Bad news: still stuck in 1270 B.C.

If Dante so much as hints at the existence of Troy, I will fly to Italy and desecrate his grave.


The Electric Meatloaf Acid Test

August 29th, 2016

Food Fit for a Merry Prankster

Last night I finished off the meatloaf and potatoes au gratin I made last week. I still can’t get over the experience.

When you think of great food, meatloaf does not come to mind immediately. When I was a kid, meatloaf was something I ate because it kept me alive. It was okay, but no sane person begged his mother to make it. That has been the way I’ve seen meatloaf all my life. Cheap, easy to make, and good enough to eat without struggling. It’s probably the most pedestrian food on earth that doesn’t come out of a can with an easy-open top.

The meatloaf I made last week, combined with the potatoes, made an astonishing meal. On top of that, it got better while it sat in the fridge. The seasonings mingled. The pepper in the potatoes worked its way through the potato…meat. By the time I finished it off, it had reached a sensual crescendo.

I could not stop eating this stuff. There are some things I just can’t have in the house, and this combination appears to be one of them. I can’t have fun size Snickers bars or miniature Reese’s cups around. I can’t have Fat Boy ice cream sandwiches around. Now I have to add meatloaf and potatoes to the list.

I ate the last of it, and then for at least two hours, I found myself reliving it and exclaiming aloud that it was fantastic.

Yes. I had meatloaf flashbacks. I have PMSD: Post-Meatloaf Stress Disorder.

I felt like I had ingested drugs. I was borderline euphoric. From food.

There is no restaurant on earth that does that for me, but it happens with my own food all the time. I can’t understand it. Last night I sat on the couch, marveling at the strange gift God had given me.

I would be completely happy being an okay cook. I have no family to feed. Even though I make good food, I’m not that picky about what I eat. As far as I can tell, I don’t really need to be able to produce exceptional food. But it happens time and again.

I made meatloaf and potatoes so well, I can’t make it any more. If I make it again, I’ll eat 5,000 calories a day until it’s gone. I don’t have a church to cook for any more. I quit cooking for my friends because I have no wife to help me shop, cook, or clean up. What am I supposed to do with the recipe?

Even worse, I know I can make it a lot better. I’m going to resist trying.

By the way, one of the keys to making the meatloaf work is baking it at 400 for at least half an hour at the end. This creates a thin black crust around it, on the sides and bottom. The flavor this crust provides puts the icing on the cake, so to speak.

It’s too bad I can’t come here and say, “Wow, God made me an incredible composer/musician/singer/mathematical genius/inventor/whatever.” There are things I wish I could do extremely well, and cooking is not one of them. Mozart got perfect pitch, flawless timing, endless musical creativity, and peerless dexterity. I got potatoes au gratin and strawberry cheesecake.

Which I don’t have the metabolism to tolerate.

There must be a reason for it. It’s not so I can open a restaurant. Forget that. I watch restaurant shows all the time, and I am now sure I would rather be struck by lightning every day than supervise the kind of people who cook on lines and wait tables. It’s not so I can sell things I cook. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life waiting for people to sue me because they pretended to choke on things I made. I definitely don’t want to run a commercial kitchen where the government will force me to sit through seminars about my legal obligation to encourage my gay employees to get “married.”

I feel like one of the lame superheroes. You know. Like Storm, the X-Woman. Her big gift: making it rain on bad guys. Whoopee. Impressive. “Oooh, I’m scared. Whatever you do, don’t jack up the humidity and make my hair frizz.”

The superhero who makes great cheesecake and ribs will never save the world or get the girl. You can bank on that. He’ll be back at Justice League headquarters, hosing out filthy smokers and inhaling unhealthy quantities of hickory smoke. “Wonder Woman and I are flying back to her island on her invisible jet for a three-week honeymoon with no cell phones. Can you fix us some to-go plates before we abandon you to clean up the kitchen alone?”

You can always pick Food Boy out in group photos, because he wears his cape in the front.

It’s a nice gift to have, but if you know why I received it, you are way ahead of me.

Speaking of food, I guess everyone knows the KFC recipe is now public domain. Colonel Sanders has a nephew, and the nephew found the recipe, written in the Colonel’s handwriting. KFC swears it’s a fake, but sadly for them, people who try it say it’s the real thing. The only missing item is Accent, i.e. monosodium glutamate.

I’m happy about the news, because KFC quit making the real thing a long time ago. They used to fry chicken in beef fat, but the joy-killers got to them and made them switch to something inferior. Probably canola oil, which is like sunflower seed oil that has had a small fish fried in it. Beef fat is loaded with cow flavor, and it’s satisfying. Now that we have the recipe, we can make real KFC at home, with proper fat.

Some people are saying the leaked recipe has too much paprika in it. Paprika is pretty mild. You can probably vary the amount a great deal without hurting anything. If the real KFC recipe has less paprika than the leaked one, it may simply mean that KFC decided to save money by cutting down on a low-impact ingredient.

Here is the recipe:


2/3 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. basil
1/3 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. celery salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. mustard
4 tsp. paprika
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. ginger
3 tsp. white pepper
2 cups flour

I haven’t tried it. I don’t fry chicken all that well, and I’ve been busy with other stuff. If you try it, I hope you’ll report back. They say you have to fry right at 350 degrees, and you should be aware that KFC uses pressure fryers, so you probably won’t want to go all-out and use the same type of equipment. I can’t figure pressure fryers out anyway. How do you know the chicken is done if you can’t see it?

If I made that stuff, I think I’d replace some of the paprika with chipotle powder. Maybe I’d have to cut back on the white pepper, though.

I don’t feel bad about passing the recipe around, because it was never patented to begin with. It’s a trade secret, not the subject of a patent. Infringing a patent is a statutory tort and a crummy thing to do. Using a trade secret you received legally is fair play!

Now that I think about it, the KFC spice profile would be great on fish. You could use it in a fish and chips recipe. That would rock.

I made pot roast today. First time ever. It’s merely very good, so I think I’m safe.

I’m going to go have some now. If I start to freak, talk me down.


Predictably, the pot roast was really good. It would go great with hoe cakes or cornbread.

Might as well post the recipe.


3 lb. chuck roast
3 large (large) red potatoes
2 large yellow onions
1 pound grape tomatoes
1 packet beef flavor onion soup mix
1 lb. carrots (peeled baby carrots are fine)
10 oz. Carlo Rossi Paisano or similar red wine
1 qt. water
olive oil
1 teaspoon starch

Salt and pepper the meat. Use lots of salt. Fry it in a little oil to brown the outsides. You may have to use high heat with a piece of meat this big.

Pour the wine into a big casserole dish or something similar; it will have to hold the meat and all the vegetables. Add the starch and a teaspoon of salt to the wine. Make sure the starch is stirred in. Put the meat in the wine and sprinkle the soup mix on it.

You could probably double the starch and get a better result than I did.

Bake the meat at 300 degrees for three hours. Slice the onions. Cut the potatoes in big chunks. Add the vegetables to the meat along with the water. Salt the vegetables heavily and then season them with pepper. Cover and bake for another 90 minutes.

You may want to turn the broiler on at the end, uncover the food, and brown it on top.

Check the sauce to make sure it has enough salt in it. If not, add salt and swirl it around to dissolve it. Test again and get it right.

You might want to use 1 1/2 packets of soup mix. It’s very good with one packet, but it might be nice to make it more intense.

Also a possibility: 1 bay leaf in the sauce.


The Real Expendables

August 28th, 2016

We are Sifted Every Day

Today I was thinking about the Patton Oswalt clip I probably should not have linked to (“I’m wearing boots of escaping!”), and I thought about his work in movies and on TV. I decided to check Youtube to see what else he had done.

I found a video in which he compares God to an imaginary sphincter that hovers over his head and threatens to devour him if he isn’t good.

The injustice of that comparison is hard to stomach. He is talking about someone who allowed himself to be tortured to death by cretins in order to save bad people from humiliation, disease, and damnation. But Oswalt’s vile, truth-hating mindset isn’t rare. America is filling up with people who literally hate Christianity, and many of them hate God himself.

The audience in the video was disturbing. They squealed with delight as Oswalt piled cruel remarks on God and Christians. They were thrilled to see someone “telling it like it is.” I could sense the release of pent-up anger; someone was telling them it was all right to hate us, and they were enjoying the opportunity to let it out en masse, in a nurturing, approving environment.

A safe space. Safe for some.

As a Christian in America, I grew up feeling that my country was my safe space. I didn’t think I was surrounded by potential persecutors. I knew such people existed, but I certainly didn’t feel outnumbered. I thought of them as harmless nuts who could not get traction. How that has changed. Today you can literally be fired from a job for refusing to say a man is really a woman.

I decided to Google “I hate Christianity” to see what came up. I found people blaming the world’s hatred of Christians on Christians. We’re intolerant. We’re self-righteous. We’re mean. Yes, and Hitler burned Jews because they were pushy and dishonest and ran the German banking system. It wasn’t because Germans and Austrians were vicious racists who wanted scapegoats; that notion was unthinkable, so Germans and Austrians replaced it with their own version of blood guilt.

If you really want to murder someone, you can always come up with a rationale, and no matter how insane it is, you can make yourself believe it.

It doesn’t matter at all what we do, just like it doesn’t matter how much land Jews give to Muslims. We are not hated because of what we do. We are hated because we exist. For that reason, we should stop trying to appease the world. It offends God, and it gives the world power over us.

People who hate God belong to Satan, and they dance to his tune. Satan doesn’t want a truce. He doesn’t want Christians and Jews to be nice, pay for abortions, and leave gays alone. He wants us removed from the planet, along with our remains. When he went after the Jews sixty years ago, he wasn’t content with sending them away and taking what they had “stolen” from Gentiles; he insisted on turning their bones into untraceable dust. Satan wants a world in which no one remembers we were here. That’s why he convinced many Jews to say, “May his name be blotted out forever,” when they referred to Jesus. He didn’t just want Jesus deleted; he wanted the hard drive incinerated so Jesus couldn’t be recovered.

Until fairly recently, I didn’t realize how bad hatred for Christians was. I definitely didn’t realize how much scientists hate us. That makes no sense at all; apart from a few people who want to teach kids creationism, which is a very minor issue, we don’t interfere with science any more. Centuries have passed since a pope threatened to burn Galileo. Atheists have interfered with science relatively recently; the Soviets imprisoned people for accepting scientific conclusions that seemed to conflict with socialist notions. Why didn’t scientists rise up and attack them? Answer: because Satan likes socialism. It would have been pointless for him to send one group of his flying monkeys to attack another.

Earlier this year, I thought it would be fun to replace some of my threadbare T-shirts with shirts related to science and technology, so I looked to see what was available. I was startled to see that sites selling pro-science shirts were full of selections attacking Christianity. The most disturbing shirt I saw featured a cartoon Satan with the caption, “Keep studying science, kiddies.” What on earth was that all about? Are scientists so overwhelmingly against God that a shirt like that has a significant market?

Recently a strange group of people at CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) staged a performance in which robed figures appeared to sacrifice a woman to Shiva, a sick demon deity which is part of Hinduism. CERN bigwigs claim it was a joke. No one really knows what happened. No one denies it took place. Imagine how the world would have reacted had we seen movies of Robert Oppenheimer pretending to sacrifice women to false gods at Los Alamos. He would have been placed in a mental institution.

This is not the America I grew up in. It is not the world I grew up in. God is withdrawing, day by day, and Christians can’t accept the fact that they lost the war. We still issue misguided prayers for the salvation of America. We say God is warning us so we can turn back to him. We need to turn back to him, for whatever help is still available, but we’re not being warned. It’s too late to warn us. We got beaten.

Jesus said the world would hate us. We don’t believe it. We think turning away from the world is judgmental and wrong. We think we can never give up on people, even though God does it every day. The world really does hate us. When we were doing well in the US, our enemies tended to keep quiet, so we didn’t know how numerous they were. Now they’re on top, so the closet doors are springing open. The tide was already up to our waists before we knew it was coming in.

All I want is to live in a relatively peaceful place until I am done with this body, which, I hope, will not take very long. I want to mind my own business as much as I can and do whatever God calls me to do, although I don’t know if those goals are compatible. Regardless of how far I retreat, eventually, the tide will reach me, but it can’t hurt to get away from Miami, which is a node of evil, aggression, pride, demon worship, and hate. It’s not Detroit, but it’s pretty bad.

The other day I was thinking about an unstable person I used to be entangled with, and I asked God if this person was going to hell. The answer seemed very clear to me: yes, and there was nothing I could do to change it. It was depressing and sobering. Justice is real; it may be delayed, but it will come. It is indescribably harsh. Whatever this person may have done to me, I do not wish hell on them. But they have chosen their path.

There is no point in making contact or praying for this person. It’s done, and besides, I already tried those things over a prolonged period. The world is full of such people. God knew they would exist, so he created a place in the earth where they could be stored after death, in preparation for the day when they would be removed to the lake of fire. They hate God now; they blame him for everything. They will still hate him and blame him while they burn. There is nothing that can be done. They have to be locked away so they won’t ruin heaven for the rest of us, the way they ruined the earth.

Walk down a city street, and all around you, you will see people who might as well not exist. They are temporary. It seems like a waste of time to acknowledge them. Anything you say to them will be taken to hell. Where you’re going, it will seem as though they had never been created. They will not be remembered. We will not visit them. The world is like an ovary, and people who aren’t saved are like unfertilized eggs that wash out and disappear. Each of us thinks he’s a big deal, saved or not; we can’t conceive of a universe in which we are not important. But to God, we are more like gametes than fully formed beings. We are disposed of, in large numbers, daily.

People love to say we’re all God’s children, but that’s a lie. The Bible doesn’t say that. We are all God’s creations, but not all of us are his children.

It will be interesting to watch the mess unfold over the coming years. I’m glad I won’t be caught up in it.


Sometimes You Need a Good Stiff Belt

August 27th, 2016

I Really Needed One More Tool

I did it. I bought a 2×72 belt grinder.

I’ve been wanting one of these things forever, but they’re not cheap, and building one for yourself is a pain and costs nearly as much as buying one. I figured I could live without it. Then I started making knives, and I realized using a small 1×42 grinder was going to make me miserable in the long run.

Actually, it makes me miserable even in the short run.

Truthfully, I am not quite as gung ho about knife-making as I was a week or two ago, but I kept getting the nagging feeling that I needed to do this. I felt like God wanted me to do it for some reason or other, so I gave in. Now that it’s on the way, I hope I use it.

A lot of Christians are involved with knives and guns, not to mention all types of machining and woodworking. Strange. I guess the zombie predictions are coming true; the heathens are busy playing video games, protesting, and fornicating, so they’re not as likely as we are to have shops full of much-needed tools and weapons when everything goes sour. They will probably be visiting us in groups eventually.

A 2×72 grinder is a remarkable thing. If you work metal, there will be many, many times when you’ll need to remove metal from parts in a hurry, and depending on the job, you may need an angle grinder, a mill, a lathe, a band saw, a drill press, a plasma cutter or cutting torch, or a big belt grinder. They’re not interchangeable.

Now that I think about it, I didn’t mention shears. In the metalworking world, “shear” doesn’t just mean scissors. It can mean a heavy machine you operate by jumping on a treadle, to make long cuts in big pieces of sheet metal.

I’ll post a video of someone showing off a belt grinder. If you’re a man, and you have struggled with wimpy tools, you will instantly want one of these things. Spend two days trying to cut a part down with files and a bench grinder, and you may be willing to trade a leg for a belt grinder.

Here’s something really nice about belt grinders: they’re not limited to steel and iron. You’re probably thinking, “Neither is my bench grinder. I grind aluminum on it all the time.” Well, here is bad news: you’re risking a big accident. Non-ferrous metals can accumulate on a bench grinder wheel and melt into it. Then the next time the wheel gets hot, they can expand and make the wheel explode. When that happens, the best possible outcome is that the wheel will be destroyed and you’ll have to take time off to replace it. The worst outcome is that bits of it can penetrate your face. That has actually happened to people.

Another wonderful thing about belt grinders: you can change grits very quickly. It takes about ten seconds. You can go from 24 grit to a cork belt with polishing compound without removing screws or turning nuts. That’s very nice.

There are a lot of grinders available. I decided to try an Oregon Blade Maker. Some guy, presumably in Oregon, started making grinder bodies from heavy steel plate. He welds them together and puts wheels on them. People who use them like them a lot, and the design seems a lot smarter than the stuff the competition puts out. Also, they’re pretty. They come with nice powder-coating.

Best part: not expensive. When you put “well made” and “not expensive” together, you have my attention.

You can drop three grand on a factory grinder. I don’t see where the money goes. It’s not a complicated machine. You make a box with a cavity that holds an arm that holds the contact wheel or platen, and you stick a few wheels on it, plus a tensioned arm that allows you to put slack in the belt in order to remove it. Simple. It’s not a vertical machining center.

People talk about how grinders have to have mass and so forth. I suppose they must know something, but it seems to me they must be exaggerating. You don’t put an engine block on a grinder rest. The grinder doesn’t have to resist tons of force. It’s not like a mill, which has to weigh over a ton in order to get anything done. I started to make a belt grinder from plywood once, and I’m sure it would have worked fine. I am confident that a welded box made from heavy plate will work just fine, and it should be easier to move around than a giant industrial machine.

Let me see if I can find a Youtube of a wooden belt grinder, just to be a troll. I’ll bet I can.

I found one. This guy went a little nuts; he even made wooden wheels. But the grinder works.

He probably died horribly later. Like the old joke about the guy who backed into a sander says, “a horrible end, but a beautiful finish.”

I was all worked up about making a stand for the grinder. Then I realized I already had one. I have a Northern Tool foam cart I use to hold my bench grinder and 1×42 grinder. I am thinking I’ll remove the bench grinder and put it on a Harbor Freight stand. Then I can put both belt grinders on the cart. That will be convenient.

I learned a few things about belts. Most people like 3M and Norton belts. Basic belts come in aluminum oxide and zirconia. Belts made with zirconia cost a little more, but they supposedly last twice as long, so I assume they’re worth it. I rooted around looking for belts I could buy with credit card points, and I found Red Label Abrasives. You can get them at Sears.com. I have never used one, but I saw a lot of glowing reviews, so I took a chance.

Aluminum oxide is harder than zirconium dioxide (zirconia), but zirconia is tougher. Don’t ask me to explain it, but it supposedly makes a better belt.

While we’re on the subject of economics *rationalization cough cough*, big grinding belts are cheaper than little ones. A 2 x 72 belt contains 144 square inches of grit. A 1 x 42 has 42 square inches. That means a 2 x 72 belt gives you 3.43 times as much grit, for a lot less than 3.43 times the money. Big belts and big motors save time and money, apart from the initial expense.

I wish I could use the plasma cutter for knife work, but I’m a little worried about having problems with the steel, as a result of having nearby metal vaporized at 6 million degrees. It might work, though. I suppose what you do before heat-treating steel isn’t that important.

That would be hilarious. Draw a couple of lines on the metal…ZZZZZHHHHTT…ZZZZHHHHTTTT…clang…done.

I will keep the world informed of my progress, if any. I hope this gives you reason to carry on.


Chickens Beware

August 26th, 2016

I Will Rule You

I’m working on my second knife. I haven’t finished my first knife, but I’m making a second one anyway, because I can save on shipping if I have two knives heat treated at once.

I’ve learned more interesting stuff. Here’s a surprise: Damascus steel is crap.

You may not know what Damascus steel is, so I’ll tell you. It’s a type of folded steel invented in Damascus, Syria. Not. No one is really sure where the name “Damascus” comes from, but it is believed it was invented in India. Probably their last major contribution to technology since perfecting the tech support line.

To make Damascus steel, you take one or more pieces of steel and heat them in a forge. Then you beat on them with a hammer and fold them over. You keep doing this until you have a whole lot of layers. If you do it 20 times, you have 2 to the 20th power layers, which is probably around a million, since it’s 1024 squared.

Damascus steel looks really cool. It looks like damask fabric, as a matter of fact. Don’t know if that’s a coincidence. Oops; I’m wrong. I Googled. The fabric I’m thinking of isn’t damask. Right now it would be helpful to have a gay man I could ask. Anyway, there is a fabric that looks like Damascus steel, and I have no idea what it is.

In any case, Damascus steel is shimmery and weird-looking.

There are lots of mythological claims about Damascus steel. People say it holds an edge like nothing else, and that it’s so flexible you can bend a sword to a ridiculous angle without breaking it. They say it’s the best steel imaginable, and if you stare at it long enough, it cures baldness. In a fight, it’s even better than boots of escaping.

Sadly, none of this is true.

As a famous knife-maker pointed out, if it were true, industry would make heavy use of Damascus instead of the actual amount of use it makes, i.e. none. It would be used for dies and drill bits and cutters. That doesn’t happen. Toolmakers use things like tool steel, which is infinitely better suited to the job.

People have the idea that Japanese swordmakers had all sorts of lost knowledge about steel, and that they used the folding technique to make incredible swords with steel far superior to European steel. In fact, the folding process was needed because Asian steel was crap. Folding distributes or removes the impurities or something.

You have to apply common sense here. We live in the age of men who created the space shuttle. We probably know a few things that were unknown to ancient people who lived on cow manure and their own children.

There are also lots of arguments about what’s “real” Damascus, but it appears pretty certain that we make it as well as the ancients did, and that no important knowledge has been lost.

I’m glad to know this stuff, because now I can write Damascus off my list of things to master. I’ve seen Youtube videos of guys making it in their garages, and I thought, “Well, if I want to make really good knives, some day I’ll have to do that.” I guess I can forget about building a forge. Damascus looks really nice, but it rusts, it’s expensive, and it’s not very good, and I would prefer to make knives that work well. I want the kitchen knives to be dishwasher-safe. I want to be a knife user, not a knife nursemaid.

I found a dude who makes a bustling living charging $1000 or more per knife, and guess what he uses. Good old 440C. He also uses other stuff, but if 440C is good enough for him–ever–then it’s good enough for me. It’s better than Damascus, and it’s certainly better than most of what you will find at Bed Bath & Beyond. And it’s not too expensive.

My second knife is yet another birds beak knife. I didn’t have a lot of steel left to work with, so it had to be something small, and I figured my second design might be better than the first. The outline is mostly done. I still have to sand off the milling marks, make the cutting edge, and drill it for Corby fasteners, which are little metal bolts that go through the scales.

The 1×42 grinder is battling the steel remarkably well, but it probably cuts 10% as fast as a 2×72. The temptation is getting to me. In one week, I could have a 2-HP motor and VFD (already on hand) driving a grinder which would put a contour on a knife in five or ten minutes instead of one to two hours.

I can’t describe the degree to which I envy people who have surface grinders. The milling machine did a great job of removing scale from the second blade, but it left mill marks, so I still have a lot of sanding to do. A surface grinder would have knocked it out in a hurry.

Milling flat, crooked, thin steel is not easy. At least for me. It’s hard to put in a vice or mount in clamps. Properly, I mean. You can mount it in ten seconds, but getting the waves out of it is a problem. When I was done milling, I had a piece of steel that was still wavy, and the mill went to different depths on different passes, so it left me plenty of work to be done by hand.

You can clamp crooked steel down and mill it flat on top, but then when you flip it to mill the other side, it can bounce back into its crooked shape. If you manage to mill both sides flat and parallel, it may still be slightly bent when you take the clamps off. It’s annoying.

A knife doesn’t have to be laser-straight, but it should look and feel straight when you use it.

I haven’t decided whether I want to keep doing this. It’s easy and fun, but simple jobs tend to become boring with time.

In any case, I should have some really excellent kitchen knives pretty soon, and I may get ambitious and make myself a nice folder. I was even thinking I might take my Gerber Gator II apart, throw the soft 420 stainless blade out, and replace it with 440C. I like the handle.

If I feel like it, I can even etch a trademark and other stuff into blades. There’s a little inexpensive machine out there that allows you to print stencils for etching. That sure beats hammering my initials into it with lettering punches.

If this looks interesting to you, consider getting a big belt grinder. Learn from my suffering.

I’ll post a photo of the latest blade so you can say charitable things about it.

08 21 2016 birds beak knife drilled small

1 Comment »

I Sing of Firearms and a Paperback

August 25th, 2016


I am still plugging away at The Aeneid. It’s like having a disease that goes into remission and comes back, over and over. It’s the herpes of literature.

I am around 60% of the way through it. I started the Mandelbaum translation over at the beginning because the Mackail translation I bought by mistake was so bad.

The boredom is crushing. Yesterday Virgil pulled one of the classics-author moves I hate the worst: he listed everyone who was going into a battle.

Do we really need this information? Do we really need to know that Warrior Queen Frisbee marched to war accompanied by columns of short-haired women who secretly dreamed of being police officers? Do we really need to know that King Phlebitis of Hydrangea wore the lionskin his grandfather Uvulus stole from the lair of Buttafuocus the Thracian Balrog? No, we do not. Not all details are essential, and that goes double when you’re making it all up.

Virgil is an astoundingly bad writer, and I don’t give him a pass. Sure, he lived a long time ago, but he didn’t invent writing. He had read works by other people. He had heard people tell stories orally. He knew what boredom and clumsy pacing were. He had Homer to learn from. He could have avoided Homer’s mistakes, but he decided to repeat them.

A week or so ago, I was inclined to forgive Virgil and look for the good in his work, but now I just want to smack him.

How do classics scholars stand their lives? I guess it’s not that bad once you’ve read everything in the catalog. It’s not like new classics are popping up every month.

I can understand why people became classics scholars decades ago. They were afraid of Vietnam and Korea. They had to stay in school in order to keep their draft deferments, and not everyone is smart enough or talented enough to get into something like engineering or music. If the alternative to reading Virgil were running around the jungle dodging bouncing Bettys and punji sticks, I guess Virgil would look pretty good. But how can people force themselves to study this stuff when the alternative is…a normal life doing something relatively interesting?

At the moment, Aeneas is about to go to war with the Italians. His ridiculous, childish gods are behind it. Zeus wants to help him, but Zeus doesn’t wear the pants on Olympus. His wife Juno is doing her best to get Aeneas killed. She has stirred the Italians up against him, hoping they’ll take him for a ride and fit him with a cement toga. She wants him whacked.

What is the point in worshiping these idiots if they’re just going to make you more miserable? It’s a complete ripoff. You can’t make them happy. If one of them likes you, the others hate you. They need family therapy, but they’re working their issues out on the Greeks instead.

Let’s give the real God his due; if he’s on your side, everyone in heaven is on your side. He doesn’t have a crazy wife who runs around behind his back, messing with the people he loves. Come to think of it, that sounds a lot like Satan. The devil is basically the Glenn Close character from Fatal Attraction, played by Liberace.

Shakespeare said hell had no fury like a woman scorned. He was wrong. That’s exactly the kind of fury it has. If Satan were a human woman, he’d be vandalizing our cars and calling us at work a hundred times a day. His apartment would be full of group photos with God’s face torn out of them.

No one is crazier or more tenacious than a jilted woman. They never show mercy, and they have no shame. It doesn’t bother them that their campaigns of vengeance make them socially radioactive and ridiculous.

I’m surprised a woman didn’t invent the suicide vest.

Aeneas doesn’t need Jupiter to help him conquer Rome. He needs Jupiter to slap his wife down. She’s a walking reality series. She should be tied to a rock with Prometheus, wearing an orange jumpsuit.

Okay. I feel a little better now.

I have Ovid on deck, and my copy of The Inferno is also ready when I need it. I don’t know what these books are like, but if they’re more entertaining than the phone book, they’ll be a big move up from Virgil.

No wonder I didn’t finish this stuff when I was in college. I forgive myself. I wonder if the serious students actually read this junk. Barack Obama and George Stephanopoulos were major grubs at Columbia; they were both in my class. I wonder if they read these books.

Maybe Obama read the books, and that’s the reason no one remembers him. He was in either the library or a padded room.

I think I may become the only person in history to complete the reading. I’ll bet the professors only read the Cliff’s Notes. Who would know the difference?

It’s too bad I didn’t realize the liberal arts weren’t for me. I thought high verbal test scores and some writing talent meant I had to take literature and writing courses. That was stupid.

I guess I did realize it, because I became a biology major the year before the deans and I agreed it was best I take a year off. But my family was driving me insane, and I had no study ethic to begin with, so that effort crashed and burned. Oh, well. It would have been nice to get into something I actually liked.

This experience is like the two years I spent learning salsa. I felt like a social failure because I hated to dance, so I took lessons, went to clubs, and even wrote extensive instructions. When it was over, I still didn’t care for dancing. I’m glad I’ll never have to do it again. I’m spending months reading the classics, and when I’m done, I will have conclusive proof that the classics are not my cup of nectar.

Maybe the brush I paint with is too broad; I don’t hate all old books. I like Voltaire, Rabelais, Shakespeare, Racine, Francois Villon, Marot, Moliere…it’s mainly the Greeks and Romans that make me want to carve an escape hatch into my skin from the inside.

I don’t like Dickens much. Windy. As I understand it, at least some of his works were published piecemeal in newspapers, so he had ample motivation to prolong them. Also, his work is depressing.

When I get done with Virgil, I may throw a party. Now that I think about it, it may take me so long that when I finish, Carnaval will be underway in Brazil. I could just hop on a plane. I wonder where I can get a giant papier-mache head around here.

Do not read Virgil. Okay, that was over the top. Read it once and then put it in your attic. It’s not entertaining. It’s not illuminating. You will not enjoy it. Get it done and move on.

I’m going to go take some Advil now.

1 Comment »


August 24th, 2016

It is my Defeated Foe

I think I really have meatloaf under control, so I’ll share the recipe.

I made a strange choice. I added seafood stock to the meat. I figured it would have more flavor than beef broth, and I was right, but if it sounds weird, try chicken stock. Whatever you do, don’t add beef stock. You already have beef flavor.

This is for a big loaf intended to help me avoid cooking all week. You should probably halve it.


3 lbs. hamburger or ground chuck
1 lb. pork
2 eggs
12 ounces seafoof stock or chicken broth
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup oatmeal
1 tbsp. salt
2 tsp. pepper
1/2 cup Heinz 57
1-2 tbsp. Worcestershire
3 tbsp. melted butter (seriously)
1 large onion, diced, fried in 3 tbsp. butter until the chunks start to clear
1 packet onion soup mix, beef flavor

Mix it up and form it into a loaf. I am not totally clear on the best cooking method. so I formed the loaf on a sheet of nonstick foil on a cutting board and then slid it onto a broiler pan. The slits in the pan let the excess grease escape.

Bake at 350 until the internal temperature breaks 120. Smear the top of the loaf with a mixture of 3 parts ketchup and 1 part Heinz 57. Bake until the temperature breaks 150. Let the loaf sit for a few minutes. Slice and serve.

It’s really good. It’s fairly light, and it’s not dry at all.

I made a vat of potatoes au gratin as well, and they were wonderful. Perhaps too good for my health.

I guess I can give you that recipe. I accidentally failed to peel one potato, and it didn’t hurt anything, so I may skip peeling in the future.


4 baking potatoes, scrubbed and cut in 1/4″ slices
1 lb. shredded sharp cheddar
1 package bleu cheese, about 6 ounces (my guess)
1 wedge Parmesan cheese, whatever the normal grocery size is
6 cups half and half or 4 cups milk and 2 cups cream
6 tbsp. flour
5 tsp. pepper
1.5 tbsp. salt
8 tbsp. butter
6 egg yolks
1 medium onion, diced

Let’s see if I remember this.

Beat the egg yolks into the milk or cream or whatever with a mixer. You want them completely blended in so they don’t act weird when they’re heated.

Fry the flour in the butter for a few minutes. Don’t burn it. Pour the egg/milk mixture in and stir it while heating, to make a roux. Throw the salt, pepper, and cheese in. Stir to get it all blended.

Fry the onion in 2 tbsp. of butter until it starts to clear.

Mix everything but the potatoes up and let it simmer.

In a huge dish (gallon or more), arrange about half of the potato slices in a layer. Dump half of the sauce on them. Add the other half of the potatoes and the rest of the sauce.

Bake at 350 for 90 minutes. Remove the lid, remove excess grease if needed, and bake without lid at 400 degrees for 20 more minutes.

Toss 1 cup panko bread crumbs with 2 tbsp. butter, plus salt and pepper. Cover the top of the potatoes with this and bake for 10 more minutes. If you want, mix cheese into the crumbs. The crumb layer will help soak up grease that floats on top of the dish.

This was excellent, and the little semi-burned bits of the dish add lots of flavor.


The Scale of Injustice

August 21st, 2016

I Saved Two Bucks

My sixth sense tells me people are dying to know how my knife-making efforts are going. Fear not. Relief is at hand.

Here’s a photo of the knife I”m making. Again, as if you hadn’t memorized every detail, this is a birds beak paring knife, but it’s actually a poultry-boning knife. I like birds beak knives for boning poultry.

08 21 2016 birds beak knife with edge formed and buffed small

The steel is 440C, which is a very nice grade of stainless. It’s a lot better than the crap many manufacturers are putting in their knives these days.

Let’s see. Where to start.


Scale is oxidized metal. If metal is processed at high temperatures, scale forms on it. If the scale is on the metal when it comes from the steel mill, it’s called “mill scale.” It’s harder than metal, so removing it is a real pain. It can dull cutting bits, and it’s hard on abrasives. You can buy metal with the scale removed, but I saw that this was a silly waste of money, so I saved two dollars and got the scaly stuff, and I’m spending the last two weeks of August removing the crud. I am a smart shopper. Clearly.

I have people trying to tell me stainless steel doesn’t have scale. Yeah, okay. Everyone in the steel business disagrees with you, and I have scaly steel right here in my house, but…okay.

I shaped my knife, and then I used abrasives to get most of the scale off, but the last bits are the hardest to remove. On top of that, the steel bar I bought is wavy, so you have to sand the high spots off before the scale in the low spots starts to move. I would guess that the dips in the metal are only a thousandth or two deep, but that’s a lot when you’re removing metal from relatively hard steel using a sharpening stone and elbow grease.

I can tell the steel is wavy because wherever there is scale on one side of the blade, indicating a low spot, there is bare metal on the other side, indicating a high spot. Think about it, and you will understand.

I figured I was too smart to let this problem slow me down. I Googled for answers. I read that vinegar takes scale off. Maybe that’s true for carbon steel. I don’t know. It did virtually nothing for 440C.

The next step: electrolysis. I put baking soda in a container of water, and I connected a steel anode and the blade to a battery charger. After several hours, I had a layer of green stuff in the water, plus some rust, but I hadn’t made much progress.

It occurred to me that the green stuff might be a chromium compound. Chromium is found in green pigments. I figured that meant something was happening, but it wasn’t getting the job done.

I wondered why other people weren’t using electrolysis, and then it occurred to me that I might be making something poisonous. I looked chromium up and learned that there is a horrible poison called hexavalent chromium. Apparently you can get cancer just from reading about it (sorry). I hope I didn’t make that.

It didn’t taste too bad.

I considered supergluing the steel to something so I could mount it on the lathe chuck. That would allow me to face the crap off. Then I pictured the blade coming loose at 500 RPM’s. I considered trying the same strategy in the mill.

In the end, I went back to the drill press and sanding drum, along with the diamond sharpening stone. Tedious, but guaranteed to work.

You can remove scale with a belt grinder, but a belt grinder will shape the blade as it grinds. At the very least, it will round it at the edges. I plan to glue micarta scales to this thing. If the steel’s edges are rounded, there will be gaps between the micarta and the steel. It looks like you have to descale the knife before establishing the final contour. Then you can shape it to fit the handle scales. I did not do this.

It occurred to me that reducing the area of the steel touching the abrasive would shorten the descaling time, so I fired up the belt grinder–with trepidation–and started shaping the concave edge I foolishly designed into the knife. A concave edge is harder to grind than a convex or straight edge. I realized that after I was committed to the job.

Grinding went really, really badly. At first. I had no idea what I was doing. I hacked and gouged the steel. I started to think I was ruining it. After a while, though, bits of skill began to materialize somewhere inside me. By the time I was done, I had something that looked very good. I moved to a finer belt, and then I buffed parts of the blade with my 25,000-RPM dental lathe.

It’s not done yet, but I have less metal to finish now. Once every last corrosion pit is gone, I’m going to buff everything that will stick out past the handles, drill the knife for rods to hold the bolsters, drill it for fasteners to hold the scales on, and ship it off to be heat-treated. Sweet.

I can do this. If my first knife looks this good, the knives I’ll make two months from now will be nearly perfect.

I keep learning things. Today I learned that polished knives rust less than shiny ones. The scratches provide more surface area and more places where rust can take hold. That’s not an issue with 440C, but it’s good to know for future knives.

I also learned that 154CM is just as good as 440C, so if I can’t find 440C, I can order 154CM. It’s not exactly the same, but the pluses and minuses balance out to where I would be just as happy with it.

Another bonus: you can make knife-making pay for itself. Most hobbies don’t work that way. It’s very hard to make a living selling handmade knives, but it’s not hard at all to pay for your tools and materials, plus, possibly, beer. Nice.

The disappointing thing is that you can’t make real money at this. The well-known makers who attract drooling mobs of toadies at knife shows are generally either retired or dependent on their wives. That sucks some of the macho out of the business.

“This is my 14-inch cryo-treated 1,000,000-layer Damascus ‘Fang o’ Death II.’ I wanted to make it 18 inches, but Martha wouldn’t give me an advance on my allowance.”

Before I got started on this, I felt bad about having a small 1×42 grinder. It’s pretty slow for shaping things. But now I realize it’s a fantastic knife-making tool, because it can get into places better than a 2×72. If you have both sizes, you’re cooking with gas.

I still have enough scaly steel to make a second knife. I guess I’ll come up with something.

News will be posted here as it occurs.


Here’s the latest. The metal is cleaned up about as well as I intend to get it, and I’ve drilled holes for bolster pins and Corby bolts. As you surely know, Corby bolts are fasteners that hold handle scales on.

It’s about time to mail this thing off for hardening.

08 21 2016 birds beak knife drilled small


Flagged for Removal

August 19th, 2016

Narrative Hits a Major Speed Bump

Today I’m thinking about the Nate Parker/Jean Celestin rape scandal.

There is a new movie called Birth of a Nation. The title is taken from an old D.W. Griffith movie which portrayed the Klan as a noble organization. I haven’t seen the original movie; I would guess that almost no one alive has. I don’t really know what’s in it. The movie is extremely long, and it’s not exactly popular. In the minds of the public, renting this movie would be like checking Mein Kampf out of the library.

The new movie is about the Nat Turner rebellion, about which I know little. A slave named Nat Turner decided that God had told him to rise up against white people, so he led a revolt in which slaves killed white people indiscriminately. Turner himself killed a woman by slugging her with a fence post. I’m all for slaves running away, using violence and theft if necessary, but going from farm to farm murdering women and children for pleasure isn’t emancipation; it’s just sadism.

The new movie was written by two young black men, Nate Parker and Jean Celestin. They are former Penn State wrestlers. In 1999, they had sex with a woman who was so drunk she was unconscious at least part of the time. They invited others to participate. Both were indicted for rape, and Celestin was convicted and spent six months in jail. Celestin appealed, and he was granted a new trial based on ineffective assistance of counsel. The victim refused to testify again, and the prosecutor dropped the case. Celestin has since claimed that he was “fully exonerated,” which is not an accurate way to describe what happened.

The victim was an honor student who went to college a year early. After the rape, she dropped out. She became a drug addict. She killed herself.

The bizarre thing about this is that Parker used an extremely self-righteous, insulting image to promote his movie. It’s a photo of his face in a noose made from the American flag. The message it appears to send, which may or may not be the intended victim, is that young black men are victims in America. Coming from a highly successful film director who got a free ride to college and then avoided conviction for gang-raping a white woman, that’s a little hard to stomach.

When I say “rape,” I am not saying he was convicted or that he can legally be referred to as a person who committed the crime of rape. I am saying that what he and Celestin did was rape under the common-sense dictionary definition. He had sex with someone who couldn’t consent because she was extremely drunk. Without real consent, in my mind, sex is rape, whether or not it satisfies the legal definition.

The perpetrators don’t deny that they penetrated the victim over and over–simultaneously–or that she was very drunk.

A lot of people are surely getting caught up in the legal niceties right now, and they are surely trying to make a case that what these men did wasn’t rape, but that draws attention away from the plain facts. They shared the body of a young woman who had consumed something like 13 shots of alcohol, and after the fact, they made her miserable by hiring a detective who posted pictures of her photo all over campus.

Can you support a person like that just because he wasn’t convicted, or because his conviction was reversed?

Rape is a strange crime, because it has levels and nuances. If you have sex with your wife twice in one in one night, consensually, and then during the third effort she withdraws her consent and you don’t comply immediately, that’s rape. It’s also rape if a bum grabs you off the sidewalk and violates you beside a dumpster. There are lots of shades in between these examples. Realistically, you can’t equate all rapists. The damage they do varies.

What Parker and Celestin did was unusually sick. The victim was barely conscious, and Parker went ahead anyway. That’s very bad. Then he invited his friends, as if her body were a pizza he wanted to share. That’s horrendous; inviting another man to violate a woman who barely knows him is vile. Then the victim was shamed publicly, as though she had committed a crime. That’s beyond the pale.

It’s disturbing that two men like this could be paid and lauded for making a movie which appears to be the latest in a series of race-baiting, anti-white films. It’s ironic that the poster depicts lynching. Many black men who were lynched in America were murdered because it was believed they had insulted or defiled white women. Now we have a director and screenwriter who fit that description, literally, and they’re using lynching imagery to make money.

It’s almost as if Satan is telling non-black America, “Look. You were right about them.”

Racial tension is out of control in America. I think Satan is poking both sides to stir things up. I think this movie and the scandal are parts of it. It’s polarizing.

Satan is doing a fantastic job on leftists and blacks. Black Lives Matters rioters just tore up Milwaukee over a case in which a black cop shot an armed black man who was clearly threatening him with a gun. They’re proving what most of us have suspected for a while: it’s not about police brutality. A justified shooting is still a good rationale for looting and violence. A large percentage of the “protesters” are just looking for an excuse to do evil to their neighbors.

Non-blacks are likely to use this senseless aggression as an excuse for anti-black racism. Even the least racist among us are likely to make changes in our behavior. This is not a good time to move to an area with a lot of black residents; who could be blamed for trying to locate elsewhere? It’s a scary time to reach out to black people and socialize with them in places where you’re outnumbered.

There are some types of race-motivated behavior you can control with laws. You can ban discrimination in hiring and selling, to some extent. There are also things you can’t control with laws. You can’t force white people to have black friends, or vice-versa. You can’t force people of one race to buy from people of another race. If things keep going the way they are, blacks and whites are going to segregate themselves in whatever ways are still legal. We’ve already seen black students advertising for “POC only” roommates, claiming the stress of living with whites is intolerable.

We should be building bridges. Instead, whites are on the receiving end of constant, open, unjustified criticism and rejection, and I guarantee you, they will retaliate silently. When whites can strike back without accountability, many do so. Look at the increase in racist Internet comments.

This mess is going to hurt black people. It won’t damage the rest of us that much. It won’t make people reluctant to hire us or associate with us. It won’t hurt our businesses. It will make it harder for black people to assimilate and succeed.

I don’t think there’s much hope for people who don’t serve God. For the rest of us, the answer is clear: identify with God’s family, not a race or nationality. If you’re a child of God, other children of God are your relatives and your race. Other people may look like you, but they’re against you.

Americans are flipping out over whether this person has the right to wear dreadlocks or that person has the right to rap. We ought to be concerned about aligning our hearts with God’s. Any two people whose hearts are aligned by God’s heart will live in agreement and peace. Discord is proof that something is wrong. God doesn’t fight with himself. His house is not divided. If we’re at each other’s throats, we’re not really of his house.

I don’t like the race-baiting movies. I don’t like the scary anti-black Internet comments. I don’t like the way we’re being censored by left-wing extremists. I think it will continue and get worse, though. The only hope of rising above it is submission to God.

1 Comment »

Blades of Glory

August 18th, 2016

No Turkey is Safe

I feel like I may have finally found my niche in the metalworking world. Today I roughed out my first knife, and it was easy.

Here’s a photo.

08 18 16 birds beak knife roughed in 440C

If you’re wondering why anyone would want a knife that looks like that, I can explain. I like to bone turkeys before roasting them. It makes a world of difference. After you’ve eaten boneless turkey, you won’t want a regular turkey. It’s totally inferior. This knife is designed to bone poultry.

I ordinarily use a birds beak paring knife to bone birds. I bought two pricey Japanese jobs, and all they did was contribute to my belief that Japanese knives are not very useful. I bought two $5 Forschners with plastic handles. They worked very well. But they’re flimsy.

I also have a specially designed harumigatodokutaka, or something that sounds like that. It’s a Japanese knife created for boning poultry. It’s worthless. I can’t understand how anyone manages to bone a bird with one without going to the hospital.

This thing is 1/8″ 440C steel, which is, truthfully, a little thicker than I need it to be. I wanted something sturdy, because when you bone a turkey, you need to get between the bones and pry. It will have the short blade and hook shape of a birds beak knife, and it will be strong enough to survive a stubborn turkey.

It looks grey because it has scale on it. When you heat steel, it oxidizes. Black iron oxide forms on the outside. When the metal cools, the oxide sticks, and it’s called scale. It’s harder than steel. You have to get rid of it (at least on the exposed areas of the knife) as part of the knife-making process.

I removed a lot of the scale using a sanding drum on the drill press. I also tried a 12″ diamond stone. I don’t know what the answer is yet. I think most knife makers just scrub the crud off on a 2×72 belt grinder, but I do not have one of those, and I’m worried that if I used one on future knives, I’ll screw up the dimensions of the knives by taking off metal.

Making this knife was very easy. No challenge at all.

I drew a design, and then I photocopied it. I put the copy on the metal bar I was using for stock. I glued it with 3M Super 77. I put the steel in my bench vise and used an angle grinder and cutting disk to start roughing it. The metal got very hot, so I was concerned I might harden it by accident.

Then I fired up my souped-up 1×42 belt grinder with a 60-grit belt (too fine for the job). It worked very well, considering the inadequacy of the grit, but it was pretty slow, and the belt is about 50% dead already.

I put the steel on the mill and tried milling off the waste, but the steel got hot again, and I had visions of myself trying to machine hardened 440C, so I quit.

I decided to put a grinding wheel on the grinder and try that. Everything fell into place. It removed metal much faster than the belt grinder, it didn’t get the metal too hot, and it was easy to control.

After that I kept moving around among the angle grinder, the belt grinder, the drill press and sanding drum, and my 25,000-RPM Themac dental lathe. I guess I put in an hour and a half.

The finished knife is a little different from the drawing. I made changes on the fly. But it’s beautiful. You can’t see the edges in the photo, but they’re finished like a factory knife’s edges. It’s really something.

Tomorrow I have to clean off the scale, hollow the blade out, put the beginnings of an edge on it, drill for screws, put two 416 stainless bolsters on it (which I will have to fabricate) and attach and shape a micarta handle. Then I have to disassemble it and send the steel to a company that will heat treat it for me.

Then it comes back, and I have to clean it up and put it together. After that, I sharpen it. I’ll have a cool poulty knife that ought to kick the crap out of anything you can buy anywhere.

Micarta is plastic with fabric imbedded in it. It makes good handles, and I am hoping it will be dishwasher-safe. If it weren’t for my desire to use the dishwasher, I would have bought a natural handle material that looks better.

Yes, I will be putting a handmade knife in the dishwasher. Deal with it.

If I had known knifemaking was this easy, I would have started 30 years ago. If I had had a big belt grinder, this would have taken half an hour. If I had had a big belt grinder with a few special attachments, it would have taken 15 minutes. You could make three decent knives a day if you had the right tools.

I suppose it’s even faster than that if you’re using steel thinner than the 1/8″ stuff I used. If I made a chef knife, I’d want something like 3/32″.

A 440C cleaver! That’s what I need!

Forget store bought kitchen knives. They’re almost always deficient in some way or other. Well, maybe that’s not true. I like my cheap Forschner and Mundial chef knives. But other than that, it seems like every knife is a compromise. Not any more!

When I get this thing mocked up, I’ll post a photo. When I get it treated, I may actually have to buy a turkey.

Comments Off on Blades of Glory