Monday, September 28, 2015

Campbell's Wicked Thai-Style Chicken Soup...

I was surprised to even see Campbell's Wicked Thai-Style Chicken Soup on the shelves of our local Kroger.  Afterall, $HOME is not in the middle of high cuisine.  In fact $HOME is almost in the middle of culinary nowhere.  The standing joke is you can't get here from... anywhere.  So I was excited.  The promise of exotic flavors from far away.  And, if that weren't enough, it says "Wicked" right on the label.  (Side note: B, my wife, is from Massachusetts and those folks bring special meaning to the word 'wicked'.)

 Well, I have to say that the excitement wore off pretty quickly.  Armed with my preconceptions, predicated on dining at our favorite Thai restaurant, Thai Papaya, I came face to face with... Meh!
Where I expected some distinct flavors all I ended up with was a muddled mouth.  Where I was used to spiciness characterized as Medium, Hot and GO-TO-HOSPITAL I had high hopes for "Wicked".  It hardly made its way, crawling, to Mild.

I won't elaborate on what I assume was a slice of mushroom.

Since i buy soups two at a time I will dutifully eat the second can.  I will give it a second chance.  And maybe now that my expectations have been knocked down a couple of notches I will discover something different.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Adblocker Wars redux

My position is simple.  You cannot unhear things and you cannot unsee things.

"Oh, I just don't pay attention to all those ads."

If we had the perfect ability to filter our environment, to in fact only see or hear what we wanted then I might accept that.  But we don't.  My first hand knowledge of this comes from those few minutes I spend on the treadmill at the gym.  This is my willful and thankfully limited exposure to commercial television.  During those 20 or so minutes I am bombarded with ads.  Mind-numbing, hammering, repetitive invasions of my consciousness and psyche.

I feel insulted.  I feel assaulted.  I begin to have feelings of inadequacy.  I begin to feel that I am missing something - that new car, fresh breath, personal social standing, or even a right relationship with my old BFF Flo (Progressive Insurance).  How could I let Flo down by not buying my insurance from her.

All of that from just twenty plus minutes of television exposure.

I was an early adopter of ad blocking technology.  On those occasions when I use a system that doesn't block ads I am literally surprised at the amount of NOISE that is present on almost every web site I visit.  Noise which adds nothing of value to the site.  And that is the crux of my argument supporting ad blockers.  An argument that could easily be turned if the ads brought more value to the site.

And now a word from our sponsor...

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The only reason to eat at a restaurant.

To quote Tom Waits, "...Get you a little something that you can't get at home..."  Now get your mind out of the gutter, we all know what Tom meant but the sentiment is the same when it comes to food.

The only reason to eat at a restaurant, beyond a social gathering, is to get something that you likely wouldn't make at home.  A good example for me is Pad Thai.  While not difficult per se this is a dish that requires a significant amount of speciality ingredients and by some accounts a looooong prep time.  This is difficult when cooking for just two people.

There is one "restaurant" that I do like appreciate love.  It only serves one meal a week.  Everything is hand-made from scratch and locally sourced.  Here is the menu.  So in addition to an incredible meal A Simple Path is a reverse soup kitchen.

A Simple Path is the program in which students (who come from homelessness and poverty) learn nutrition, sanitation, meal preparation, and menu selection. Then, for Friday lunch, they serve the public the food they’ve prepared on a donation basis. All funds are put back into the program, and let A Simple Path have more students!
Now that there is something that you can't get at home.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

A Simple Life

I have worked in the Theatre, both on and off stage.  I ran away with a circus.  I've been a radio announcer.  I have been an EMT. I have toured long distance on a bicycle.  I tended bar. I have spent summers in Mexico.  I have assisted with the commissioning of a manufacturing plant in the Bahamas.  I have been in 48 of the United States of America.  I have been to Canada, Norway, Denmark, Japan, Thailand and China.  I have roadied for more bands than I can remember, so I made a list*.  I have spent weeks firing an Anagama kiln with Ken Shenstone.  I have worked in the Disaster Relief kitchens.  I have been a high school substitute Teacher and a Community College adjunct instructor.  I have worked now for the same company for 22+ years.  And I am the proud Papa of three beautiful children, all now grown.  And I have been married to a wonderful woman who has put up with me for 33+ years.

I say all that not to brag but to acknowledge that I have had the privilege of leading an exciting, complicated life.  Recently, however, I have done a bit of navel gazing and I have come to the realization that my wife "B" and I lead simple lives.

We sleep, I work out at the gym and spend my weekdays at the office.  I come home and cook dinner (they say I can Cook), we watch a bit of Netflix, rinse and repeat.  Weekends are Farmer's Market, coffee with eldest daughter "R", and groceries.  An afternoon might be spent mowing the "yard" or little home improvement projects.  Yesterday it was making one of these.  Good use of scraps from the construction of our porch.  Important note: this is not fine craftsmanship!  This is built to theater specs; functional and won't fall apart.

Cool mornings, a luxury here in Kentucky, are spent on the porch watching the humming birds fuss and dance.

Today, Sunday, I will spend a bit of time in the sanctuary of Kitchen Church.  I finished putting together the Guacamole about 0745.  From an old family recipe handed down from father (he really could cook) to son.  Our secret ingredient?  Bacon.  Try it the next time and tell me that everything doesn't go better with bacon.  In a little bit I will start the prep for shrimp and veggie kabobs.  Light fare on a warm summer afternoon.  Plus I can do them on the grill and not heat up the house.

Coming next: The only reason to eat at a restaurant.

*Rent-a-Bum Shows
Terrie Clark
Sunshine Boys w/ Frank Gorshin
Merle Haggard
Lorie Morgan
Temptations (2)
David Allen Coe
Dr. John
Don Williams
Beach Boys
Willie Nelson
Loretta Lynn (2)
Crystal Gayle
Trace Lawrence
Aaron Tippin (3)
Keith Urban
Don McClean
Joe Cocker
Brad Paisley
John Micheal Montgomery
Gary Allen
George Jones
Sammy Kershaw
Air Supply
Ricky Scaggs
Men At Work
Blake Shelton
Trace Atkins
Charlie Daniels Band
Grand Funk Railroad
1964 - The Beatles Tribute
Kentucky Headhunters
Van Dells
Ronnie Milsap
Formerly Blind
Audio Adrenalin
Building 429
Little River Band
Trick Pony
Dickie Betts
Dr. Hook & Ray Sawyer
Travis Tritt
.38 Special
Gary Allen

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Some cowardly suit...

Some cowardly suit... published an anonymous diatribe in the Wall Street Journal entitled, "Single Most Destructive Force".  In a veiled attempt at "journalism" the author quotes Chris Christie,

 "Because they’re not for education for our children. They’re for greater membership, greater benefits, greater pay for their members. And they are the single most destructive force in public education in America."

The shameless author continues soto voce,

"Every word of that is true and important to say. The teachers unions have been punching poor children for decades, and someone has to punch back for those children."

My mother is a retired teacher.  I studied to become and was certified as a teacher.  I can say unequivocally that this author is wrong on so many levels.

American society trusts teachers with their most precious children.  And yet they expect teachers to put in 10-12 hour days, as well as do lesson planning and correct homework on weekends.  They demand that teachers endure "acting out" behaviors from children that no parent would allow in the home.  They insist on rigorous training and education,  at least a Bachelor's degree.  Many systems demand a teacher have a Master's degree before allowing them to be tenured.

American society would pay teachers less if they could get away with it.  That is why we have unions.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Windows 10 @ $WORK (...and $HOME)

Anyone who knows me knows I am an open-source Linux advocate from way back.  And they know I drank the Google Koolade early.  So here I am writing in a Chrome browser running in Linux about ... wait for it ... Microsoft Windows 10.  There I said it.

Turns out Windows 10 is great.

As the Manager of Information Systems here at $WORK I have maintained a love/hate relationship with Windows for the last 20+ years.  Beginning with Windows 3, then 3.1 and 3.11 and engineers wanting me to explain why their system crashed when they lost all their work.  I managed to skip over the ME and CE and went to NT.  Somewhere in there was Win 95, XP, Vista (didn't even try it), Win 7, 8, 8.1 which I campaigned but wasn't comfortable with.  Now its the last Windows you will ever use, 10.  Or so they claim.

From a $WORK perspective where we are still trying to kill off our last XP box, Win 7 is the standard.  Trying to be forward looking I worked in 8 and 8.1.  As a "Microsoft Insider" I started with Windows 10 as soon as they made the first betas available.  From that day to this I am convinced the next migration will be directly to 10.  No muddling through 8 anything.

As for $HOME my wife's Windows 8.1 was already beginning to show signs of windows rot.  Somewhere in the last couple of months it lost track of the CD/DVD drive.  When she went to use a DVD application she was sorely disappointed.  I tried a full compliment of disable/enable, delete device|scan for new devices, update driver, etc.  No love, no CD/DVD drive.

That came to light last week.  Frustrated, I told her to hang tough for the Windows 10 roll-out.  Last Thursday morning I brought her PC to work (we have a fat internet pipe).  In less than 2 hours Windows 10 was loaded (officially reads "Upgraded").  Everything just worked.  All of her ancient legacy apps ... and the CD/DVD drive.  I got big smiles when I took it home and set it back up for her.

Yeah, there are a few quirks.  Settings are a bit different.  But all in all Windows 10 is great.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Great minds...sure wish I had one.

Frank Paynter over at Listics Review is rousing the rabble...again.  Never one to let sleeping dogs lay he says, "I'm beginning to notice some improvement".  Making the audacious claim that writing blog posts might afford some noticeable improvement.  Yeah, well, maybe for you, Frank.  I can find little hope in my scribbling ever making any improvement in my unremarkable writing ability.

What struck a chord, a harmonic I have heard in other quarters, is the need to reassert our bloggishness.  To re-establish the community of scribes.  Something that I lost while "liking" Facebook memes and trying to read Twitter at the speed of #hashtags.  Lost were the developed thoughts, filled in and fleshed out.  The true discourse of rational minds.  (Wish I had one of those as well.)

Mind you this should not be a scripted conversation between like-minded people.  This should be a return to the Wild-West-Internet days of yore.  Folks finding their one forum, a place where they can blow their own tuba.  A place for intellectual exchange and sophomoric syllogisms soliloquies ...oh hell, just anything you really need to get 'writ down'.

So, if you don't mind, I won't mind if you don't read this.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

"The more liberty you give away...'

"The more liberty you give away the more you will have."

This quote, attributed to Robert G. Ingersoll, made me feel uncomfortable upon first reading.  In this day of Big Government, Big Brother and seeming involuntary relinquishment of personal rights and freedoms the very thought of 'giving away liberties' appeared as the clarion call of disaster.  As one of those Quote of the Day emails I let it sit in my inbox while I mulled over my discomfort.

On the surface this quote has the air of nobility.  Perhaps Ingersoll was alluding to a "Greater Good" doctrine.  Perhaps by relinquishing my person liberty it was some how contributing to society's liberty.  Still, I felt disconnected.  Something just was not right.  So I sought out to further understand Ingersoll's possible intent.  I came upon the following quote.

"Liberty is my religion. Liberty of hand and brain — of thought and labor, liberty is a word hated by kings — loathed by popes. It is a word that shatters thrones and altars — that leaves the crowned without subjects, and the outstretched hand of superstition without alms. Liberty is the blossom and fruit of justice — the perfume of mercy. Liberty is the seed and soil, the air and light, the dew and rain of progress, love and joy."

When I read this quote I learned two things.  It became clear that Ingersoll is a very staunch advocate of personal responsibility.  He calls upon himself with "hand and brain - of thought and labor" to break the bonds of intellectual and spiritual tyranny.  He raises Liberty as the pinnacle of personal self worth.

Still the thought of giving away Liberty was unsettling to me.  It was until I changed my perspective as a reader.  If, as a follower, I gave up something on the promise of receiving more it fell right in line with the criticism leveled at Big Government/Big Brother.  If I, as a leader, gave more liberty away, aiding in the breaking of intellectual and spiritual bonds, then as a society we indeed would become freer.

Good on ya, Bob

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Center Lovell Inn, only in my dreams.

Center Lovell Inn

It is not for sale.  For an essay and $125.00 you might realize a dream.  Sadly, I do not have $125.00.

Here is my essay...

I have been to the Center Lovell Inn in my dreams. Not as a guest but as a servant and Shepard. There I am charged with the responsibility of keeping tradition alive. Here to serve the simplest of amenities. Offering warm welcome. Making comfortable the real guests. Insuring that each need is met. Fulfilling the promise of elegant escape and succulent repast.

I am called to the smallest of details. Properly turned down crisp linens. The freshest local fruits and vegetables. Engaging in rich conversations. The offer of uninterrupted silent reflections. Sparkles of porcelain and chrome. A warming fire upon the hearth. Setting the simple table, offering the feast. Leaving one light lit as a sign of welcome to the weary traveler. Being home.

Though I serve it is I who am given the gifts. Treated to the smiles of satisfaction. Shared memories fondly recounted and newly minted ones, soon to be cherished. The gifts of traveler's tales, what brought them here and where they will be lead. To be part of the adventure.

I will probably never have the opportunity or privilege to serve and to Shepard. Only in my dreams have I been to the Center Lovell Inn.

Friday, January 30, 2015

I just gave Starbucks... (with corrections)

I just gave Starbucks... a bunch of some money.

Each time I would go to Starbucks and get my favorite Mocha Latte.  Each time I would lament throwing the cup, lid and cozy away.  Great beverage but a shame to just throw the cup away.  So I watched and waited until my local Starbucks again offered their very affordable ($1.00) reusable cups.  I bought two knowing that I would need one to use and have a spare.

As I was purchasing the reusable cups I went ahead and asked the barista to fill one with my Mocha Latte.  Mmmmm, mocha goodness.

A few minutes down the road it came to me.  Starbucks, offering reusable cups, had engaged me in a great marketing scheme.  First, if I used my cup then they didn't have to use one of their cups.  This might seem like a very small matter but the economy-of-scale rule became apparent.  Their profit margin just increased a fraction because they charged me the same price as a "Venti" beverage and did not incur the cost of the cup.  While my single transaction might be the one half (or even one tenth) of one percent increase in their margin when multiplied by the bajillion cups they sell now we are talking real money, a bunch of money.  Correction: I received a $0.10 discount for bringing my own cup.

I took another sip of my tasty beverage...and the second part of their great marketing scheme became clear.  The reusable cup was modelled after their "Venti" cup.  By asking the barista to fill it with Mocha Latte I was automatically ordering the "Venti" size beverage.  Chaching!  Correction: It appears that this morning I was charged for a "Grande" and not a "Venti".

So I am pleased that I am not throwing cups and lids and cozys away.  Instead I am just giving Starbucks a bunch of some money.

Great marketing guys and I really like your Mocha Lattes.

Church, cheaper than...

On the silly sayings sign of a local church it read, "Church, cheaper than NFL tickets."

While I recognized the pastor's intent it gave me pause to reflect on the real value of Church.  Or more precisely the lack of value of Church.  Where, in my humble opinion, Church should be invaluable.  Now it is being reduced to an amount less than the exorbitant cost of Super Bowl tickets.

I can hear the greeters/scalpers now.  "I can get you in the forth row aisle for $449 or up in the nosebleed section for just $225."

On a monetary scale Church is cheaper than everything.

Church is free.  A gift freely given.  Sometimes it is referred to as Sanctuary.  A place to be exactly who and what you are.  A place of Peace and Reverence.  A place of Solace.  A place of Celebration.  A place of Nourishment.  A place of Community.  Church is a place to be Free.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Resolution: Cod Chowder

I didn't make any New Year's Resolutions.  I know better.

I am making Cod Chowder.

In the crock pot, of course.  Which means that cooking starts early in the morning.  This seems so antithetical to the cooking dinner/supper just prior to eating same.  Here it is 7:30ish (AM) and the house if filled with the perfume of sauteed onions and garlic.  But I digress...

Here's how it all started...

I use a smaller crock pot.  Maybe its 2-quart, maybe just a bit more.

Now, did I mention crock pot liners?  Best thing since sliced bread or parchment paper.  (Tip: Put the box of liners in the clean crock pot before you put it away - help you to remember how glad you have them the next time you use the crock.)

So very simple...

1 can of sweet corn, drained (If I were making Corn Chowder I wouldn't even drain it.)
4 smaller carrots cut in 1/4 inch rounds.

Goes right in the crock...

3/4 cup diced onion, set aside for the moment.

6-7 Yukon Gold mini potatoes, quartered and then cut into 1/4 inch slices.  Rinse and dry the slices.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil to shimmering (very hot)

Quickly brown the potatoes, just until they begin to show some caramel coloring, 2-3 minutes, tops.  As soon as they show add them to the carrots and corn in the crock.

In the same skillet melt two tablespoons of butter and sweat the diced onions with some garlic.  When they start to become translucent sprinkle in about 2 tablespoons of flour.  (I prefer Gold Medal Wondra for roux, but then I cheat at Pinochle too.  Oh!  Did I say that out loud.  Sorry.)

When the roux begins to color, beige approaching light tan, add 1 and 1/2 half pints of Half&Half.  Mix thoroughly and bring slowly, slowly to full bloom - this is just when the contents of the pan seems to instantly double in volume - immediately remove from the heat and add to the crock.

Set the crock to "Low" and mix the contents to insure even distribution.  Now wait.  How long?  I can't tell you.  You just have to wait.  My best guesstimation is 3-4 hours until the carrots are fully cooked.

Remember, if you get ahead of your meal schedule just turn the crock to "Keep Warm" and ... wait.

But don't wait forever.  There is still the Codfish.

I try to get the freshest possible seafood but here in the wilds of western Kentucky the only thing that you can really depend on is Catfish.  Everything else comes in from somewhere else.  If we aren't eating it that day in goes into the freezer.

About 45 - 60 minutes before meal time take the partially/mostly thawed Cod and rinse it vigorously under cold running water.  Then pat the fillet(s) as dry as possible.  Cut them into 3/4 to 1 inch cubes

Fold the Cod cubes into the soup stock (and don't forget to turn the crock back to "Low")

Occasionally gently fold the soup (do not stir - you don't want to break the Cod into small pieces.)

When you think things have gone long enough sample for done-ness.  The Cod should be firm and the carrots about the same.

Carefully ladle hot steaming Cod Chowder into bowls and garnish with chopped chive or green onions (some people call 'em Scallions, you know what I mean Joe?)


(Pictures to follow.)

. . .