Friday, July 30, 2010

It ain't easy being green

Figuring that the water heater is about at the end of its expected life, it was time to consider some options. One was to go solar. Steve Nash, one of the ball chucking chimps playing for the Suns is always on about going solar so maybe that is the way to go. Hell if a real live sports hero says it’s a good thing, it must be true.
One quick call and the solar salesman was on his way to spread the joy and savings of going solar. He was pleasant enough and went over all the facts, even had a PowerPoint with our very own Mr. Nash in it. Then he showed off his package (not that package, but the solar one) and unveiled the $35,000 price tag. Now our good sporto Nash undoubtedly could dig around the couch cushions in his crib and come up with 35K in a heartbeat, me not so much. However Salesman Sam (name changed to protect the innocent) said with gov’t subsidies, tax credits, yadya, yada, yada -- we only had to fess up 13K. And don’t forget the free case of LED light bulbs.

For this 13K we’d get, besides the case of bulbs, one water heater, the plastic panel on the roof, one attic fan and household voltage capacitor (which would cost 3K alone). Maybe not a bad deal in the long run, especially with the installation and all, but it is still a lot of money at this point. With the gov’t involved there was hope the price would be fairly negligible, but with no job in sight and limited savings solar is still beyond reach.

The other small problem revolved around permits. Any time anyone plans on doing anything to a house and says there are no permits needed he is either lying or ignorant. Always, always, check with your local municipality and find out what building permits are necessary. In this case not only was a permit necessary, but the contractor doing the work had to have his or her license on file with the City of El Mirage as well. This is for the homeowner’s protection. With solar installation, the contractor has to lay pipe, so to speak, and drill holes in the roof and this could easily spell disaster if that contractor is less than on the up and up or his “skilled workers” were the vagrants he picked up on the corner that morning.

So as the well known frog once crooned or croaked, as the case may be, it ain’t easy being green. It’ll cost more than one would imagine, involve some pitfalls and a few “got yas.” It is important to research the subject thoroughly to avoid being buffaloed by Salesman Sam or wind up with a half-ass job by some fly-by-night contractor who thinks E-Verify is a SPAM filter for e-mail. The power barons and resource pirates that control the oil, coal, and gas aren’t going to drop prices and with Mr. Obama’s “cap and trade” program the consumer is really going to get bent over, so solar is a good option and does deserve serious consideration, but as always, buyer beware.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Secret life of wires

Inanimate objects are not as an inanimate as one might think. Everyone knows hangers mate, try pulling out just one wire hanger and you’ll almost always get two or three, sort of a hanger daisy chain, I guess. But now I have caught cables in the act of mating.

Go ahead, look behind the computer or the stereo, anywhere there are wires. Laid them down carefully in straight lines so there’d be no tangling, right? Check back a few months later and notice how they are all twisted in the act of making more wires.

It takes hours to separate the tangled of wires deep in the throes of plastic coated copper core lust, and there’s always one or two wires that aren’t connected to anything, just lying there amongst the rest of the cables – the secret of where those came from should now be apparent.

There’s nothing that can be done about this problem. The tape, commercial wire organizers, as Dr. Ian Malcolm said in Jurassic park, “Life will find a way,” but the lysine option won’t work with wires.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Strike one

Tried to wing it creating a low sodium version of Fettuccine Alfredo and I’m alfreado it didn’t come out to terribly well. I will have to do some research, but substituting olive oil for unsalted butter on the sauce recipe was definitely a mistake. I tried to up the ante with garlic and spices, the flavor still came out pretty bland.

One obstacle to overcome is our addiction to salt. According to what I have read so far, there is absolutely no reason to salt one’s food, there is more than enough sodium in food to meet the body’s needs already. It is more of a learned taste where salt has become one of the primary seasonings. Food without it just doesn’t seem as vibrant. The trick is to make the food pleasant without adding any salt.

There are salt substitutes, most of them Potassium based, but I understand these can be fairly bitter. One doesn’t want to fall down the salt substitute rabbit hole pursuing a salt substitute, as has happened with finding a sugar wannabe that doesn’t put the extra junk in the trunk. Therefore it will be important to find the best flavor combination and levels to negate the need for any additional seasoning. This means getting back into the books and a few more (hopefully better tasting) experiments.

Meanwhile, there are salads and dressings that have no added salt and come out quite nicely. The dressing I generally make is simply mustard, olive oil, and either lemon juice, lime juice, or red wine vinegar. Mix till emulsified and it is good to go. I’ll get it right sooner or later…

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Grazing is for cows

Lots of folks I know have switched to being vegetarians. Some folks at the temple are born again hard grazers – no eggs, cheese, or any other animal product. Personally I embrace my omnivorishness wholeheartedly and see no point in changing.

Evolution has given us a mighty gift – we can eat anything that doesn’t eat us first. Not all God’s creatures are as fortunate. Take the snail kite, the bird, not the flying toy. It lives in the Everglades and only eats a certain kind of snail. It is such an avid snail eater its whole being has been modified for just this task. If this snail was to die off, these birds would be, ecologically speaking, screwed. The snail dies off, the bird dies off, but I don’t care because I can eat anything and still have food – not that I’d’ve eaten either snail or kite in the first place. I have to wonder how dedicated some vegans are anyway.

The dishes served at the temple were excellent and all vegetable, except there was meat- like tidbits mixed in. Sure looked like ham, but it turned out to be “textured vegetable protein.” Not sure what the FDA’s take is on that, but it sure looked and tasted like ham. . I could mold a nice t-bone out of a bucket of cow manure, plenty of textured vegetable protein there I’d guess, but would you really want to slap that bad boy on the grill? Doubt it.

There was another dish that tasted just like fish. I don’t even want to know how that was accomplished. Then there’s all the Boca crap. Boca dogs, Boca meatloaf, Boca burgers and Lord preserve us – Tofurkey. If a person is going to eat veggies, that’s’ fine, have at – but don’t make it look like meat. If you’re going to eat something that looks like meat, then you might as well eat meat and be done with it – rather get hung for sheep as lamb. You didn’t technically eat one of God’s creatures, but you were sure as hell thinking about it as you chow down on that faux-cheeseburger or pseudo-dog.
Then there are the splitters. Cows are off limits but fish are ok. I guess the guide line is cute and fuzzy things are protected in some way, shape, or form, while scaly slimy things are fair game. Or eggs are ok. Can’t eat mom, but have at the babies. Makes sense to me. And anyone who won’t eat cheese, well that’s border line immoral! I’d never be able to go back to Wisconsin if I gave up cheese. Hell, might as well not eat bratwurst either and make it a mortal sin.

The bottom line is it’s your life, so whatever. If you want to stand out in a field cropping the grass, who am I to stop you. As for me if it runs too slow and tastes good it is food, be it off a tree or My Friend Flicka, it’s all good.

Next time (special for you grazers): Do plants have feelings?

Warping of time

Einstein was convinced time could warp and bend around certain objects. Further research ash found this does happen around black holes and other space phenomena, but one could look even closer to home to find this same event.

All one has to do to watch time slow to a crawl is pick a line at the grocery store, one that seems to be moving along well and join it. Once in line watch carefully as the time gradient slowly bends and warps to the next line allowing it to speed up, while yours slows to the kind time only used by geologists. Now switch lines to the one that is moving, and viola, time again bends to the line you were in. No black holes, necessary just the dreaded call “price check,” or watching grandma pull out her coin purse and start counting out her change.

Watch closely the while driving on the highway, as traffic slows in one line all the NASCAR geniuses quickly dive over to the next that is still moving. And what happens to these would be race car drivers? Why they are stuck in another slow lane as all they have done is followed the curve of warping time, nervously eying the gas gauge on their jacked up mudswamper pickup.

It is interesting to see that physics isn’t just for the egg heads, but it affects us all every minute of the day. Next: The watched pot…

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Close, but no cigar

Lots of storm activity all around our area, but none for us. Don't really need the high winds, micro-bursts, or the lightning, but some rain woudl be great. Tucson has gotten some as have the areas along the rim, but none of it has made it to El Mirage as of yet. Seems if I have to put up with the humidity it woudl only be fair if I got some of the rain!!

Looks to be another dry hot week until the high moves back into place and starts sweeping more moisture from Northern Mexico into AZ again.

The meat and potatoes of cooking

Cooking isn’t that tough. One does not have to be a TV chef or even have attended some culinary academy – cooking is a combination of common sense, time management, and attention to the job at hand. Lacking these qualities will bring Natural Selection into play and you’ll be weeded out with the rest of the sick, weak, and stupid when you starve. Keeping it simple is also wise, especially if trying to break up the game of baseball your kids started with the cat in the living room, or updating your all important Facebook page.

Buy Fresh Eat Fresh

One can only prepare meals as good as what is put in to the pot. Stay to the outer edges of the market when shopping, pick up the freshest produce possible and buy what is in season. If things can be purchased from local farms, all the better – or even grow it yourself, but let’s just work on one challenge at a time. Barring that, frozen is the next best choice but be sure to allow time for thawing. No matter what one does that 22 pound turkey isn’t going to thaw over night. It all boils down (no pun intended) to the old computer adage, garbage in, garbage out. In other words starting with good wholesome ingredients will serve a cook well. In fact cooking from “scratch” can be cheaper in the long run as the price of processed food, such as hamburger helpless, can add up to a lot more than if buying the ingredients one’s self. The cook also has the added luxury of knowing what went into the dish wasn’t created in Frankenstein’s lab, but can be found in nature.

Keep it simple

Don’t’ get delusions of grandeur and try to emulate that chef on TV. Sure it looks simple there, but that dude has about six toadies helping him off screen and everything is already done – notice they don’t use hot pads when they pull something out of the oven – it is all smoke and mirrors. A salad, meat, potatoes, and some veggies are easy to make as long as attention is paid to the job at hand. Never leave anything cooking on the stove untended. Keep the heat as low as possible – high heat just means things can spin out of control faster, it doesn’t mean dinner will be done sooner.

Time management

Get home from work late, the kids are running amok with sharp sticks in their hands, the dog just spewed on the carpet, lots of distractions and fatigue factors that can turn cooking into a real chore. Keeping it simple is one way to get around this, another is cooking ahead. Weekends can be a great time to cook meals in batches, freeze them and then just reheat throughout the week. Get the kids to help with some of the simpler kitchen chores – they’ll have to learn to cook sooner or later, though letting 3 year old Suzy operate the stove is probably bad idea. The days of dad going to work while mom does all the housework are pretty much dead and gone, so there’s nothing wrong with everyone pitching in to help with the meal.


While coming up with a decent meal is important, safety is even more so. No one is going to have time to eat that perfect chicken while the paramedics are there treating the cook for third degree burns. One must keep their wits about them (this gets back to paying attention) and ensure hot things and sharp things are managed properly to prevent injury. Another big part of kitchen safety is keeping it clean. If one doesn’t adhere to this rule, once again Mother Nature will step in with a rather painful lesson on why one can’t handle raw meat and then touch everything else in sight. Wash hands, work surfaces, tools, and keep meats apart from veggies. Veggies need a good wash before being peeled or cooked as well. Farmer Brown will pick them, but he doesn’t get paid to wash them.

As stated before it mostly boils down to common sense. Thinks things out prior to cranking up the stove and all will be well. Keep a clean kitchen, watch things on the stove so they don’t burn, boil over, or set the house afire. Buying the best freshest ingredients one can afford will go a long way to a successful meal. Cooking isn’t that tough, and in fact can be downright enjoyable (laugh if you must) and it is a necessary life skill. Don’t be afraid to crack a cook book, try simple dishes to build confidence and work through to the more complex dishes if time allows. And if all else fails make sure the number of a good pizza joint is posted prominently on the fridge.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

To review or not to review...

I review restaurants, not a big stretch (except for the waist of my pants) considering my love of food, but it is a tougher job than one might imagine. First, taste is subjective, for instance I love Brussels sprouts and hate Lima beans – I know some total mutants that love Lima beans but hate Brussels sprouts. The point is when I write that such and such a dish is excellent, the reader may hate the taste of the stuff no matter who makes it. Types of food is another problem. One look at me and it’s easy to realize I’ll eat damn near anything, and have. Might want to hide your kids and pets when I come into the neighborhood, as my philosophy is if it runs slow it’s food. I eat seafood, all types in various stages of cooked or not. It’s all good, but there are folks, believe it or not, that hate seafood in general. Well, while there’s more for me, going on about how great a platter of octopus is won’t do me much good if it makes my reader (note the singular) want to puke.

Beyond that there is the problem of ethnicity. Ever notice on almost any Chinese or Mexican menu one can always find the ubiquitous burger? Wonder why? Nothing wrong with burgers, but it is sad when someone turns up their nose at new types of food in favor of a burger. People that do this are either 5 year olds or brain damaged in some way shape or form. Want clown burgers dripping with artery clogging grease head for the deadly arches and have at, but when at a Mexican restaurant get a sampler, try a few things, just like the “no thank you bite” you should be making your kids take when introducing new food. How does one reach people whose experience with food is limited to overcooked crap prepared by a clown, a king, or a rat?

Then there’s the cost factor. It isn’t cheap going out to eat and especially bad with the economy the way it is, despite the assurances from our esteemed government to the contrary. Along with this I have my favorite places, and I’d rather eat there because I know what to expect or have developed a relationship with the folks that own the place. I love Chen Wok and if I eat at another Chinese restaurant I feel as though I am cheating on the folks at the Wok. Stupid, I suppose but I want to see them make it – the food is good and may someday lure the idiots away from “Fast Panda,” one of those restaurants that has nothing to do with Pandas or Chinese food. It bothers me when there are small family owned restaurants, producing great food but struggling to make it and people insist upon eating fast cheap reconstituted crap at McClowns or other joints of that ilk.

Anyway, I will continue to review places as I can, noting the good dismissing the bad (in my opinion). I’d encourage anyone to eat at the ones I didn’t like as well as the restaurants I did. I might have hit them on an off day; picked a dish they have trouble with, or have different tastes. The review is just out there as a thought, a suggestion, take it or leave it. On the other hand if there are small ma and pa operations around, patronize them if they are good. Tell friends; get the word out because those little businesses are important to the community and to the world of food. If they die, soon all that will be left are chain burgers, fake Italian food, and Chihuahua tacos.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Sitting here at 9PM, the temp is still 105 and the humidity up to 24% and not a lick o' rain in sight. Like it or not we're in the monsoon season, but have more mon than soon so far.

I have to keep reminding myself it's a lot hotter in other people's deserts, especially this time of year (Kuwait really sucks in July, even more than usual). Also the winters are fairly mild and it doesn't snow - as I have said before snow sucks.

Worst of all Huskies get ripped off because the don't get a walk. I don't want them getting heat prostration, this is definitely not husky weather. All one can do is drink lots of water and keep out of the sun as much as possible. Good excuse not to mow the lawn anyway...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

I heard that

Over the years I have become very hard of hearing, to the point where the wife’s voice faded into that annoying buzz in the background. It wasn’t until lately when my grandson started talking that I found I wished I could hear again. His voice was just at the right pitch where he was well beyond my meager hearing curve.

I invested in a couple of hearing aids, one for each ear and could suddenly hear a lot of things I took for granted. Lots of noise in the background, birds singing and yes, the wife’s voice came back full force. Though not as good as before I lost it I was kind of enjoying being able to pick up different sounds again and not having to turn the TV volume to 54 to hear the show. Best of all I can hear my grandson talk, and he is worth listening too.

On the down side the world has become a lot noisier place. Restaurants, stores, the mall, all the music, chattering, and the rest can become rather irritating after a while. So the hearing aids are kind of a double edged sword, I get the good with the bad, but fortunately if the bad gets too loud I can pop the hearing aids out and return to my relatively quiet world. Especially handy when my wife decides it’s time for another lecture or to run down her to-do list…

Monday, July 12, 2010

Laws of Household Gravity Revisited

Flat horizontal surfaces around the house have a gravitational pull rivaling black holes. Think I am crazy, just look around. Or better yet try an experiment. Clear your counters and you kitchen table and take a picture of each. Leave them be for three days to a week.

Come back and take another picture of each surface (if you can still see them that is) and compare. You will note the clutter that has been mysteriously attracted to each surface, the fine layer of dust (or in my house, husky fur) a few plastic bags some full some empty, a box of tissues, a water bottle or two – you get the idea.

No flat surface remains long uncluttered the old saying goes, and the reason is the increased gravitational pull of the horizontal surfaces, not me being too lazy to put stuff away. Next: Gravity, good or evil?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Quest to Play E.T.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

RedGage (blatant ad)

Just thought I'd pass this along. Now I love Blogger to death, but do cheat on it somewhat. I post on a site known as "RedGage." I generally don't like to advertise, but by posting pictures, blogs, links, and other stuff on this site you can earn money for every time it is viewed. While not expecting to become rich and famous, I get to get to meet other folks and get a couple pennies (literally) for every time someone takes a peak at my photos.

Juts passing this along for what it's worth...



The Maynard particle and associated Maynard Force

I know, you are skeptical when it comes to my knowledge of the cosmos and the different types of forces and particles that make up its rules and substance, but I assure you, I read National Geographic magazine, therefore I am well qualified to expound upon this new theoretical particle and the force to which it contributes.

Why Maynard one might ask? Maynard is a name generally applied to unknown or weird things as in the sentence “we caught two smelt and one Maynard lookin’ fish.” So these are weird particles that can be found throughout an object and all its parts. They are all related and contain the essence of that object. Therefore, if one part is separated from the whole, an attraction remains between the two -- this is the Maynard Force.

So what, you might ask, how does this affect me, how does this impact my life. Well Mr. Selfish this is how – you find a part, a Maynard looking part and say to yourself’ “looks important, wonder what it goes to?” Besides ending a sentence in a preposition, you have another problem on your hands -- what to do with the part. The answer lies in the fact the part is still connected to its original host, there is an attraction there that cannot be broken. What to do? Throw the part out. The day after garbage collection, the attraction between the part in the garbage becomes so strong that the device it belonged to will suddenly show up. Then you will say,” so that’s what that part was for.” And of course whatever it is won’t work without the part you tossed so you’ll be forced to order a new part, but they don’t make it anymore and some E-Bay gouger wants $50.00 for the damn thing.

Hope you’ve learned a valuable lesson here and now know how to figure out what goes where and why. As a bonus I tossed in a lesson on E-Bay and how sellers will skin you alive if given the smallest chance. They know how important that part is and what it is so there’s no way you can beat them. May the Maynard Force be with you…

The Shopping Warp...

Women have the ability to warp the time space continuum and I have proof. You may have seen this phenomenon as well if ever have had the misfortune to go shopping with the wife. One minute she is there yakking away as usual and the next she is gone. Oh, sure look in the next aisle, but she won’t be there. Orbit the store for an hour looking, go ahead – you’ll never find her. That is because she has entered a shopping wormhole that is only accessible to women. Perhaps it is the shopping genes that make up 95% of their DNA, or maybe a conspiracy on the part of store owners to separate the wife and husband to make them easier prey. Whatever the reason it never fails to astound me how my wife has completely disappeared.

The only thing that can be done is to seek out a man chair (usually by the fitting rooms), hope it is unoccupied, and wait for the missing spouse to pop back onto our plain of existence if even for just a short time before being whisked away again to the shopping dimension. You can see other men with the same problem; they can be seen talking to themselves as they wander through the store. They aren’t crazy, just a second ago they were talking with their wives, who suddenly were swept away in the cosmic current leaving the men in a one sided conversation. The only remedy for this is to avoid the shops at all costs, or at least make sure you have the keys to the car…

Sunday, July 04, 2010

The Fourth of July

As a child the Fourth was all parades, eating ice cream from a small cardboard container with a small wooden spoon, and waving a flag on a stick – a flag with two brand spanking new stars for Alaska and Hawaii (or Hawaii and Alaska depending on your side in that debate). Then as dark settled as blanket was spread at the park and we watched the fireworks. It was a great kid kind of day but really meant nothing to me.

As time went on and history and civics classes were taken the Fourth became the day America was born and one of the most significant documents since the Magna Carta was thrust upon yet another British monarch. The document not only declared American independence, but put down in writing that humans were granted certain inalienable rights by the creator himself. It set the gold standard for freedom for not just Americans but for all humans.

This freedom can’t be freely given away or forced upon others, however. If just handed out it isn’t appreciated, if forced it isn’t accepted. This is one thing that must be earned and therein lies the most important lesson learned and it took joining the military to do it. The Declaration of Independence is just a scrap of paper, the flag a piece of cloth. It is the blood, suffering, and lives freely given by men and women to advance and protect those principals laid down by the Declaration and keep that starry banner flying. There is a price to be paid to keep those who oppose the rights of man, this innate freedom, from taking it away or keeping it from others.

The bottom line is that the Fourth isn’t about parades and fireworks, it is a celebration of human freedom and the sacrifices of those who have and who continue to give life and limb to ensure it endures. It isn’t about politics or political parties, but something more significant – the ownership of our personal lives.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

A Turkey Vulture for Little Lamb

Friday, July 02, 2010

Unwritten laws of physics

Everyone is familiar with the laws of physics as they stand, “for every action here is an equal and opposite reaction,” and so forth, but few realize there are some lesser known unwritten laws. These laws haven’t been studied as they only come off as minor inconveniences where as, say gravity, can be a major problem when slipping from a high branch in a tree. For that reason they don’t merit the large government grants and countless hours of study garnered by the major laws of the universe, but deserve some mention, if even in a foot note.

The unwritten law examined here is the one that states “small spaces attract the greatest mass.” I think I may lay claim to be the one to discover this phenomena or at least the first to make note of the law. To be sure, we all have been affected by it at one time or another, just haven’t taken the time to define it and put it in the form of a physical law. This is still in the theoretical stage, but the proof is all around us. Particularly in the small kitchen here at The Tiny House.

Right around the time for food preparation I enter the kitchen and begin planning out the dinner and gathering what I need. It is during this stage that suddenly everyone in the house is attracted to the very same small space, blocking the very resources I need. This isn’t an occasional happening, even when just standing in the kitchen it will quickly fill as if there is some irresistible force of attraction. I know it can’t be startlingly good looks or sparkling personality causing the crowded conditions. To be sure the huskies know I do most of the cooking and am most likely to have food out when I am in the kitchen, but that doesn’t explain the adults and kids. So the unwritten physical law that small spaces attract the most mass does indeed hold true.

Next: Flat horizontal surfaces in a home have greater gravitational pull than any other.