Thursday, November 17, 2011

How To Cook With A Microwave Oven

Cooking with a microwave seems like a pretty mindless topic, right? Put the food in, enter the time to cook, push start, and endure the torturous ninety seconds it takes to turn the outside of your food into lava-hot rubber while leaving the inside cold.

Take that vegetable peeler away from your wrist... there's a better way!

The way microwaves cook is by exciting water and sugar molecules. These in turn vibrate and heat up the non-water and sugar molecules around them.

The problem comes when you try to heat these molecules past their limit by not giving them a chance to pass their heat to the other molecules. It's called sharing or convection or something. What happens is that these molecules get overloaded with heat energy and then burn, or in this case turn to rubber. It's like cooking eggs on the range top with the burner cranked all the way or a cake in an oven set to 500 (Fahrenheit, not therms). Bad things will happen when you try this blowtorch cooking method.

That's why microwave ovens have this great thing called a "Power" button. Cook your food for twice as long at 50% power and not only will the middle get warmed but the texture of your vittles will remain intact. Sure it will take twice as long but three unattended minutes in the microwave is still faster than five minutes on the stove where you have to stay in the same room and stir occassionally.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Spring Is So Far Away

I ran across more evidence in favor of "Good Friday is actually Good Thursday" - (see

Why do I harp on this so much? Because I'm a stickler for truth. If God's Word says something then we must align ourselves and change in response to this. I personally don't care if a thousand years of tradition say otherwise, if recently (in the past hundred years) uncovered manuscripts illuminate Scripture to provide greater clarity or rectify an incorrect, though for some reason dearly held, position then it's time for a change. I mean, if people can't admit and adapt to something as well documented inconsequential as Good Friday/Thursday because of their traditions what of bigger, more important changes that God may want to correct in our lives?

So there I was, perusing The Gospel of Peter and... what? Yes, since I read a book on the early Church fathers I've been interested in their early writings. No, I don't hold them to be on par with Scripture but they do provide a glimpse of early theology that has not be tainted. For instance, if someone believed something incorrectly you could just go ask one of the apostles directly for clarification.

But in this case, The Gospel of Peter is a very brief telling of Christ's crucifixtion, death and resurrection. What did I find in support of Christ being crucified on a Thursday?

[1] But of the Jews none washed his hands, neither Herod nor one of his judges. And since they did not desire to wash, Pilate stood up. [2] And then Herod the king orders the Lord to be taken away, having said to them, 'What I ordered you to do, do.'
[3] But Joseph, the friend of Pilate and of the Lord, had been standing there; and knowing they were about to crucify him, he came before Pilate and requested the body of the Lord for burial. [4] And Pilate, having sent to Herod, requested his body. [5] And Herod said: 'Brother Pilate, even if no one had requested him, we would have buried him, since indeed Sabbath is dawning. For in the Law it has been written: The sun is not to set on one put to death.'
And he gave him over to the people before the first day of their feast of the Unleavened Bread.

That would be the "special Sabbath" mentioned in John, the Sabbath on a Friday that occured before the usual Sabbath on Saturday.

I'm just sayin'.

Read the entire text yourself here.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Experiments in Soft White

The package of the Great Value (Walmart) 23 Watt Soft White Compact Fluorescent Bulbs state that they have a bulb life of, and I quote, "10,000 hours", "up to 9 years!* dura hasta 9 anos!*".

So when I put one of said bulbs that the government is forcing us to buy in the kitchen I decided to write the date and time on the white base. These bulbs lose life when they are turned on and off and since the kitchen light is left on 24/7 (tinker with it on pain of death) I figured it would be a good way to see exactly how many hours one gets out of the bulb. Because if it doesn't last 10,000 hours then I'm not saving the advertised "$77 in energy costs per bulb** Ahorre $77 en costos de energia por foco**".

From the time I put the bulb it was switched off a few times, probably no more than twenty. Since I have no way of knowing which family member turned off the light I figured it was better to offer "pain of death" to none instead of to all.

Today when I got home from work, the bulb was dark. Today... September 26, 2011. The date on the bulb (carefully extracted so as not to break it and incur the wrath of some hazmat team) was October 12, 2010... 11 AM. That's 351 days at 24 hours a day = 8,424 hours. Not bad. I saved an estimated $64 on the $4 bulb. SCORE!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

More Blasts from the Pasts

This scan is from a clipping that was used for a bookmark. It's from an August 26, 1972 newspaper, though I don't know if the paper is either of the two that are in existence at this moment in time.

Of interest, to me at least, at the number of theaters in 1972 that I never knew existed. What was this "Clyde" of which they speak? Clyde seems like a great name for any baby, by the way.

I was also pleased to see "The Rialto" listed. For all of my adult life The Rialto was this worn down abandoned place in the bad part of town.

This is also from the early days of the movie rating. There sure are a lot of PG films and very few R rated. Even still, a bunch of PG files are followed with "Not recommended for children". It sure would be interesting to know their criteria for applying these ratings.

And why have I never heard of "Walt Disney's Napolean and Samantha"? Sounds like a blockbuster! Was it animated? Were there great musical numbers? Was it later blacklisted along with "Song of the South" for some ethnic slur? All I know is that it's an incredible adventure story.

Friday, September 2, 2011

There He Goes Again...

Settle down, kiddies, and listen to crazy ol’ Uncle Walter’s latest deviation.

Two or so years ago I got a notion in my head that I should look up a theology book which fully examines the concept of Hell. Common Biblical interpretation is that difficult passages are to be interpreted by passages that are clear and understood. In this case, I knew that while God is a God of justice, his overwhelming characteristic is love. There is no verse that says “God is justice” though I definitely acknowledge that a price must be paid for our sins. But what was bothering me was how could a just God exact a payment of eternal suffering as payment for twenty, forty, eighty or even one hundred years of sin. In college I was taught that such doubts fail to have a properly elevated view of God’s sinlessness. Perhaps. However God has placed reason in humans and any child could see the “unfairness” of being punished from now to forever for a life-time of sin.

I didn’t do any such research. However someone with holds at the library with my last name had a book on hold titled Love Wins and it was on this very subject. I couldn’t check out the book as the person had it on hold but did some searches and found that it was a book (written, it seems, for the Christian version of Oprah’s audience) that puts forth a Universalist view of salvation in that everyone gets in. Even a cursory reading of the New Testament dispels this view. There was book entitled Heaven Wins written in rebuttal but the reviews state that there wasn’t much exegesis in the text, just heavy handed affirmation of the typical view that sinners burn forever in Hell.

However I managed to find, or God put in my path, the exact book for which I was seeking. The Fire That Consumes by Edward William Fudge, written in 1982, is a massive 466 page volume which fully examines all aspects of, well the subtitle is “A Biblical and Historical Study of the Doctrine of Final Punishment.” I’ll state right off the bat that I had hoped that the conclusion would incorporate our Creator’s mercy and love but maintained that if it could prove that sinners are punished forever in a lake of fire then I would have to abide by this ruling.

As you may have guessed, I am quite relieved and overjoyed to find that this doctrine of eternal punishment is without merit, either in the Bible, Jewish beliefs, the beliefs of early Church founders, and even in more recent giants of faith such as Martin Luther.
Allow me to summarize.

The word used in the New Testament that is translated “eternity” is Aionios. There is no clear derivation of this word it is used so rarely in extra-Biblical texts that scholars are uncertain as to its exact meaning. King’s James translators made this word about endless time and this has stuck. However if the use of the word is examined it turns out to be more of an adjective to describe a quality. For example, “eternal judgement” (Heb. 6:2). One is not literally judged from now to eternity. However one is judged once and the ruling stands for all of eternity. “Eternal Redemption” (Heb 9:12). Christ’s work is done. He redeemed His sheep once but the result of this redemption stands forever – no one can take His sheep from His hand. “Eternal Destruction” (2 Thess 1:9). How can something be destroyed forever? Well, sure, God can make some kind of miracle but that seems rather malicious. Instead the destruction occurs and is never to be reversed. The same goes for “eternal punishment” (Matt 25:36) in that the punishment occurs, a punishment of an amount and duration perfectly in line with the penalty due, not to gain righteousness but as a payment. Once this punishment is completed there is destruction.

Yeah, I can hear my old theology teacher arguing right now, upset as he was twenty years ago that F.F. Bruce was softening his position on the traditional view of sinners burning in Hell forever.

Now the author also goes historical. What about our common Christian concept that the soul lives forever? That’s right out of the Bible, right? There’s gotta be something about that in the Old Testament…. Or maybe it was Plato a couple hundred years before Christ who came up with the idea, and only then as a way to illustrate his peculiar notions about learning (when we learn we are actually remembered from a global consciousness). Plato’s later followers took this idea and systematized it. Christians in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, in attempting to defend the concept of the resurrection took this accepted Greek view of the immortal soul and applied it to Christianity. This view was mostly accepted up to the reformation when Luther had fault with it, and so did the Ana-Baptists. Calvin believed in immortality, but even then he couched it with thoughts that since God created each soul then God could, if He chooses, destroy he soul. Because Ana-Baptists were the outsiders Luther didn’t defend his position against Calvin so as to have unity in the church and thus the immortal-soul view won. God alone is the giver and sustainer of life. The thought that the body and soul (and spirit if you’re into that kind of thing) can be divided is a Platonic idea. You will not find it in the Bible or in Jewish philosophical writings. There’s more to this, granted… this paragraph is just a summary of a chapter that was a summary of many books.

That’s right… just one chapter. I’m only eighty-eight pages in (six chapters out of twenty) and there has been Biblical and historical evidence in abundance that God does not punish for all eternity those who reject His perfect gift of salvation. Like most things that contradict traditional views this book has been ignored. “Just pretend it’s not there and it will go away.” What are people afraid of? That if people aren’t scared of going to Hell then they won’t get saved? Did Christ browbeat people with threats? Or did He live the ultimate example of a caring, loving, accepting human and this acceptance drew people like a magnet? The saying is that you get more flies with honey than vinegar and it is absolutely true. You get better results from your kids by praising what they do correctly than by angrily correcting them. The same goes for employees. It’s simple human nature to respond positively to positive words and actions.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Light Summer Reading

I have recently come across a "recommended reading list" designed to give a rounded theological view without requiring one to have a seminary level understanding of Greek and Hebrew. Which is to say that most of these books aren't lightweight easy readers but are written in an easily digestible manner. Of those on the list I've read but a handful but that handful was chock full -o- meat and so I look forward to reading a few "new" titles off the list during this summer.

The only title I would add is Your God Is Too Small by J.B. Phillips, which is available as a free PDF here. It's a very easy read on the character of God.

I would also add that having your first two names as initials is almost a prerequisite for being such an author.

And now here's the list. Dig in!


A.J. Hoffman

Basic Christianity - John Stott
Changed Into His Image – Jim Berg
God: Discover His Character – Bill Bright
Hell’s Best Kept Secret – Ray Comfort
Holiness of God – R.C. Sproul
Jesus Among Other Gods – Ravi Zacharias
Know What You Believe – Paul Little
Know Why You Believe – Paul Little
Knowing God – J.I. Packer
Knowledge of the Holy – A. W. Tozer
Living the Cross-Centered Life – C.J. Mahaney
Major Bible Themes – Lewis Sperry Chafer / John Walvoord
Mere Christianity – C..S. Lewis
More Than A Carpenter – Josh McDowell
One Heartbeat Away – Mark Cahill
Pilgrims Progress – John Bunyan
The Gospel According to Jesus – John MacArthur
The Incomparable Christ – J Oswald Sanders
The Kneeling Christian – unknown
The Lie – Ken Ham
The Pursuit of God – A.W. Tozer
The Pursuit of Holiness – Jerry Bridges

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Worst Pilot Program Of the Decade

I stood by BP during last summer's spill. Heck, I've got kids and most adults and politicians I know act like kids so forgive and forget. A spill can happen to anyone.

But two months ago when I got a letter stating my area had the good fortune to be involved in a pilot program regarding a change to the reward plan on my BP gas card I was suspicious.

First of all the details of the plan were convoluted. In my experience if someone makes things complicated then they are likely ripping you off. The current tax plan comes to mind. Plus they sent at least two follow up mailings, each with all the slickness of a political mailer. And each shedding absolutely no new information. Just the hype of "Get ready! It's changing! Isn't it exciting?!!!" More suspicions.

The old plan was simplicity itself. You get 5% back from every gas purchase and 1% from non-BP purchases. After you hit $25 you log in and they send you a $25 check or BP gift card or apply $25 to your statement.

The new plan is a bit more twisted. In fact when I talked to three different reps before I had someone who could explain the plan, each one repeating that it was a new pilot program and they hadn't been fully trained yet. And that last person could explain it but couldn't see how it seemed to me like it was a far worse rebate plan.

Willing to admit that I could be confused I waited a month, using the card like I usually do, and then started plugging data into a spreadsheet.

Here's how the new plan works out in practice. Your earn .007 for every dollar you spend (so far it sounds far less than my previous .05) and after $100 you can redeem your earnings. But here's the exciting thing... you don't have to log in and click a couple of buttons and wait ten business days to get your check. Nope, you can, well, you MUST redeem your rewards at the pump! My wife tried to not use the rewards once and the pump wouldn't let her. So you spend $100 and now get seven cents off each gallon up to twenty gallons. 20 X .07 = $1.40. The math under the old plan was $100 X .05 = $5 back. This may be new math but $1.40 back instantly is not as good as $5 back in a month, at least to my old fashioned don't-really-need-to-have-everything-instantly brain.

But wait, it gets better! Let's say you don't drive a giant truck with a twenty gallon tank! Let's say you have a regular car that holds fourteen gallons or a van that holds sixteen gallons when literally running on fumes. What happens to the potential rebates of those superfluous gallons? Do they roll over? NO SIR, THEY DO NOT! They are gone forever! So 20 X .07 = $1.40 actually turns out to be 14 X .07 = 98 measly cents if you run the risk of driving on fumes until you can find a BP.

Which I will not be doing. I signed up for a BP gas card because of their rebate policy a number of years ago. I can get a 1% rebate credit card almost anywhere so why saddle myself with having to drive around until I can locate one particular brand of gas station?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Blast From the Past

Literally! In 1996 my then 97 year old great grandfather Ivan Walter wrote down some of his childhood memories. I typed 'em up and have since them squirrled away on a floppy or thumb drive or smoke signals of whatever it is people save things on these days. Since it's quite lengthy be sure you draw yourself up a stool and a tall cool glass of apple cider.

A great grandson

I Remember

Grandma McClure taking a nap (reading the Markle Journal). The journal was a weekly newspaper with the local news. Foreign news was of small interest.

She was sitting on a "willow" be a south window of the living room of the home approximately 2.5 miles east of Markle, Indiana. I took the picture circa 1914.

Grandma was Lucinda Walker (Scotch decent). She married Hugh McClure (Scotch decent, guess date circa 1850). They built a two story log house (still standing at my last knowledge). They called this the "old house" after building the new frame house.

Grandpa farmed but his real interest was a "threshing outfit". A steam engine, which with a long wide belt powered a threshing machine (which separated the grain from the straw of wheat, rye, etc. The grain went into bags and the straw was blown out a large pipe onto a straw stack). A corn shredder to separate the corn ears from the corn plant, leaving "corn fodder" which was stored in the barn and used to feed the stock. A clover huller which separated the small clover seeds from the clover plant. Not much use was found for the clover hulls except to spread it back on the fields. Grandpa did this service for the farmers in the neighborhood. He was paid in cash but frequently barter for their products or service.

Threshing day was a big event. Several neighborhood men with their teams and wagons were needed to bring the grain from the field to the machine and to haul the threshed grain away.

The neighborhood women came in and helped mother cook a big dinner (noon). The men came in hot and sweating, washed their hands, and faces in wash pans with soap and usually cold water from the pump. Sometimes the "setting" was required at the big family table. The women ate after all of the workers were served then washed stacks of dishes "one dish at a time".

Grandpa and Grandma had five children: Aunt Anne, Mary (my mother), Alice (Aunt Allie), Uncle Ed (never married), and Uncle Jo.

My father Edward J. Walter (German) was born in Northern Indiana. I have heard Whitley County. One of a family of thirteen children, spoke German at home, came by way of the "Pennsylvania Dutch" I believe. Married my mother circa 1897. They started "housekeeping" and lived on an 80 acre farm south east of Markle all their lives. I was born there April 21, 1899.

Dad was a progressive, well educated farmer. He attended all of the farm "institutes" and many "short courses" at Purdue (agricultural) University. He pioneered soy bean growing in the area. He won many "blue ribbons" for corn that he grew, in county fairs. He qualified and acted as judge of corn in county fairs (but not in the classes he was showing).

I Remember - In the "Old Hove"

Comb- a device with many sharp wire-like teeth. One projection up from 3/4" thick board about four inches wide, 8 inches long. This was a "comb" used to separate the flax fibers from the flax plant. They grew the flax and spun fibers into thread which they wove into fabric on the loom mentioned below.

A largewheel spinning wheel with a wheel approximately 3.5 feet in diameter. This had a flat rim, perhaps 4 inches wide. This wheel with cord belts drove a small spindle at the speed necessary for spinning thread. They use a "wheel boy" inserted between the spokes on the large wheel (like a crank) to make it rotate. The sketch below is purely from memory, dimensions are "guess"

A small spinning wheel with a foot pedal. This was similar to spinning wheels which are commonly seen in displays or are still in homes as antiques.

A reel was used to store the thread spun from flax or wool. The reel prop had six spokes with cross members 6" long. Each cross member except one had raised or enlarged rings so the thread would not slip off. The other cross member did not have a raised ring so the completed "skein" could be easily removed. This reel assembly is mounted on a floor stand. In this floor mounting structure is a measuring dial that counts turns of the reel with a "click" when the skein is full.

A loom, which was used to weave both fabric (from the flax or whool threads they spun) or to make carpet, discarded or worn clothing was torn into strips perhaps 1.5 inches wide and of a length as the old garment provided. These lengths were sewn together end to end to make a proper length for weaving. These "carpet rags" were woven to form the "woof" (the cross strands). The "warp" could have been spun because of the great amount and the relative lower quality it was probably bought and was probably cotton.

I Remember Out of Doors

The dutch oven was a small but heavy stone structure similar in shape to a present day oven. One end had an opening large enough to receive two or three larger bread pans. The other end of this opening was closed except for a short chimney. A small stone could be rolled into place to close the front opening.

A fire was started in the oven space, allowed to burn until the mason mass was heated to a baking temperature. The fire with its ashes was removed. The large pans filled with bread where put into the oven and allowed to bake by this heat stored in the masonry.

The smoke house was a brick building about 10 by 12 feet in size. It was used to "smoke" hams, bacon, sometimes sausage.

It was the practice of a family to butcher enough hogs, usually two or three, to last all year. Since there was no refrigeration this was done at the start of cold weather. The hams and bacon were "cured" in a solution of salt, salt peter, etc. for several weeks. It was then smoked several days in the smoke house in which a smoldering smoky fire was kept going. Hickory wood was preferred for the "smoking" fire.

Other parts of the hog were ground into a sausage. This was seasoned with salt and pepper and some of it was used as patties. The rest was stuffed into the hog intestines, which of course had been properly cleaned. A sausage "grinder", much as we have today, was used to grind the sausage. The stuffing was done with a sausage stuffer. This was a cylindrical body with a piston operated with a hand crank to force the ground sausage though a hollow tube into the intestine.

Fatty parts were heated out of doors with an open fire then "squeezed" in the sausage stuffer, now a lard press, to remove the hot liquid fat "lard".

Beef was a different matter. No good means of preserving it was at hand. So a small beef was slaughtered at the beginning of cold weather and divided among several families.

A large copper kettle had many uses. I would guess it to be about 20 gallons. It was always scoured to its bright copper color after each use. It was suspended over an open fire by a pole supported on each end by poles set into the ground. The upper end having the crotch of a tree limb into which the cross pole was laid.

One of the main uses for this kettle was to make apple butter. Apple butter was made from apples from the family orchard. Apples were taken to a local cider mill where the apple juice cider was squeezed out of the apples. Fresh cider was a good drink but many people thought it got better as it developed alcohol and became "hard cider". This state did not last long as the natural process continued until it became vinegar with its many uses around the home.

To make apple butter the freshly squeezed cider with peeled and quartered apples was placed in the kettle. This mixture was boiled with almost constant stirring. Fresh apples were added along with more cider and much stirring until the proper consistency for apple butter was reached. Much-MUCH work stirring but home made apple butter was a real prize.

The family dinner was the aunts and uncles and cousins came to Grandma's house for dinner. For many years I remember Grandpa at his special place at the head of the table. All of the family events were talked about. On one occasion, about 1910, Uncle Dan and Aunt Ann had just returned from a trip to California and brought back tree ripened oranges. This of course was a great event for country folk whose travel horizon was the county seat, Bluffton.

After the dishes were done the women, still with something to talk about, would (if the weather was nice) go out to the "necessary house", talking through the door (as they took their turns) to the one inside.

The men after a little rest to let their dinner "settle", depending on the season would take their guns and hunt rabbits. There were always rabbits in the orchard behind the "old house". Or listen to the skaters waltz or maybe religion hymns on the Edison Graphiphone with the cylinder records and the morning glory horn.

Ivan, 1996






Tickets on sale at a location near you.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Wifey Snorefest

There’s my usual music posts that my wife ignores and then there’s my technical (i.e. BORING) musical posts that my wife ignores. I don’t blame her.

Last year Sir George Martin and company decided to run the entire Beatles catalog through their disgronification process and release ‘em again. After all, the digital technology that we had in the mid-80s is nothing compared to the gizmos we have not. Heck, back then they hadn’t even invented auto-tune so singers actually had to have a smidgeon of talent to go with their market-tested stage presence.

Since I’ve already shelled out the bucks to buy every album (sans a couple of the Anthology releases which are only good for a listen or two) I was glad to see that my tax dollars bought MULTIPLE copies of each re-scrubbed album. I think I saw at least three and possibly for of every title on the shelf of the main branch so you know some ordering monkey is breaking their arm in congratulating themselves on dropping a couple of thousand on such duplicity.

For my test I picked out Rubber Soul and from this album picked “Norweigen Wood” and the beautifully fuzzy “Think For Yourself.” I made WAV files of both the new versions and the original 80s CD release. Then I brought them into my studio software and set them side by side. Visually you could see that the new versions were just a bit louder, which is common procedure in rereleases – compress ‘em and crank up the volume so the consumer thinks it’s better. Fortunately any compression was very slight. Actually, any changes were very slight. Even with my “studio reference quality” headphones (Sony MDR-7506, if you must know) I could only barely detect any difference between the two. If the original was a ten in clarity the new one is a 10.3 (more or less). That’s it. Just a hint of added clarity. It’s such a miniscule amount of added clarity that not only isn’t it worth my money to buy the new versions but it isn’t even worth my time to get the albums from the library and rip copies. Not only do I not think it’s worth a quarter per album to make an “honest” rip but if I were to make even high-quality MP3s of the albums the compression would remove the .3 in added clarity.

For the record (ahem) I called this “lets do the whole catalog” move by Beatles Corp years ago when they re-scrubbed the songs from Yellow Submarine. I think back then I also did an A/B comparison and found little difference. For that matter, I couldn’t hear much of a difference when they gave the rescrub treatment to Alice Cooper’s Welcome To My Nightmare. So either my ears are not trained to detect the subtle nuances (in which case neither could someone who isn’t an audiophile with extremely expensive highly calibrated grear) or this whole digital rescrubbing this is a scam.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Just words

It’s an atypical Friday in that I wasn’t swamped with tasks resulting from people getting to all those things they put off all week and suddenly needing me to do something or get them some information. So what did I do? I let my fingers do the walking.

Yep, I picked up an old fashioned phone book and noticed these colored stripes on the edges of some yellow pages. How long have they been there? Flipping open the first, largest stripe I see that it’s for lawyers, excuse me, attorneys. Seventy pages. Many in full color and spanning two pages for a single firm. Really? We need seventy pages of ads to lure the uneducated into thinking they can sue their way to a better future? I work in a building infested with these vermin and I frequently see these sad, desperate people in the halls, holding a packet of lawyer papers like it’s their golden ticket.

But believe it or not, this not another post about how lawyers and politicians (one and the same) are the downfall of Western Civilization. Not directly. I counted the other striped sections and found that there are about thirty pages for automobiles (new, used, repair, parts), 15 for dentists, 40 for physicians, and 30 for restaurants. BUT SEVENTY PAGES FOR LAWYERS!?!?!?! DOUBLE FOOEY!

As for my 2011 goals… they are mostly on track. I’ve got song #1 of four in target to be completed by the end of the month. Sure, I still need to write half of it and record vocals and bass but it’s got a definite groove going so it’s only a matter of listening to it and letting my mind wander as to where it should go.

In the writing realm I loaded up the non-fiction book I started and found that it was started in 2005. Really?!?!?!? Five years ago? I thought I just left it hanging for a year or two but thinking back, yes, it really was that long ago. I know that a year can fly by but five? Can half a decade just slip by? Is the next decade going to slip by and I’ll wake up one day and find myself being fifty? That’s why it’s important to set these goals and stick to them. The people who do things, like learn an instrument or write a book or start a company or excel in a sport, are the ones who make a plan and then slowly, inch by inch, work on that plan and get things done. It’s that 99% perspiration thing.

Which means I need to stop writing on this blog for the time being and get going on these goals.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Book Review - The Year of Living Bibilically

My darling wife picked up the book The Year of Living Biblically because she thought I would like it. Does she know me, or what?

The concept is that the author is going to live a year of his life attempting to follow the Bible as literally as possible. He decides to spend eight months following the Old Testament and four months following the new, coinciding roughly to their respective lengths. The contents were quite entertaining though sometimes irksome.

For example:

Although he was always interested in "religion" his plan is to take this extreme approach to show how silly the Bible can be. He's a self-proclaimed liberal New Yorker (where even their conservatives are liberal by midwestern standards) who has a Jewish heritage and writes for Esquire, a men's magazine (or rather a magazine for adult males who haven't embraced what it is to be a man). So he does stuff like wear all white clothing, won't touch his wife after she menstruates, strictly observes the Sabbath and won't eat fruit if he isn't assured that it's taken from a tree more than four years old. The man was OCD to begin with so all these rules give him more room to flex this muscle.

He also tries not to lie, attempts prayer (which he likes but only really embraces a kind of "continual thankfulness"), and generally tries to be good. He also builds a tent in his apartment and sacrifices (almost) a chicken.

A.J. Jacobs spends 400 pages on the first eight months as he reconnects with his Jewish heritage. He visits many different expressions of this faith and attends a variety of ethnic festivals and celebrations. He is genuinely interested and it shows. Halfway through he wonders if he will come out of this year with a genuine faith, as did this reader, but so far he is clinging to his agnosticism.

He then spends a paltry 150 pages on his New Testament months and of these many pages are spent looking back to the Old Testament. His heart just isn't in it. Instead of the entertaining exploits of his Old Testament excusrions he interviews fringe groups like snake handlers, a group of openly gay yet otherwise conservative Christians, Red Letter Christians and attends Jerry Falwell's mega-church. Apparently even though he could travel to Tennessee to view snake handling and Isreal to visit his a cult-leader-like religious ex-relative he couldn't find time to visit a normal Christian church. Soon into his New Testament writings I lost hope that he would have faith and in the end he consigns himself to being a hopeful agnostic, more thankful for the blessings in his life than he was before but still without belief in God.

All in all, an entertaining read that was a bit rushed and incomplete. I give it four out of five fig leaves.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A New Blog?

I might be adding a new "resolution" to my pack. My current list includes writing and recording four songs this year (#1 is halfway recorded) and writing three short stories. The "short stories" bit may be exchanged for completing so many chapters of a non-fiction book I started a few years ago but the point is that I'm writing something more than CD reviews.

However I've recently come across a need for a conversational apologetics "curriculum." You know, something that sounds like a discussion. Something like a blog. My two older sons are a bit at a disadvantage spiritually in that they attend public school and I didn't really become serious about their spiritual education until recently. So I've picked up a few things from Answers In Genesis and some books that were formative for me in my early faith but these all tend to get bogged down in details. I want details, just not an excruciating minute level of details or three examples of the point they are trying to make, complete with pronounceable names of long dead scientists.

So unless someone has a good suggestion of something they have personally used it looks like I might be writing up my own. And I'm pretty busy right now so I'd love it if someone could spare me another writing assignment. Please?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Quick Review - The Mustard Seeds - III

The Mustard Seeds started out as the brainchild of the Bissonette brothers (Matt and Gregg, bass and drums respectively). Not to slight the other blokes in the band but Matt and Greg have played with the likes of David Lee Roth, Joe Satriani, Rick Springfield, Ty Tabor, Ringo Starr, Jeff Lynne, Boz Scaggs, Pat Boone, Santana, and Richard Marx. PAT BOONE, BABY!! But Gregg is a busy session/live drummer so eventually he decided to earn some money and split. The current lineup is George Bernhardt, Doug Bossi and Jorge Palacios.

A few years back I picked up their self-titled The Mustard Seeds album. Pretty good, similar to Jughead, but a bit lacking in depth. They have more than made up for this lack on their third album in 2008, creatively titled III and released independently. The album starts with "Lost In Flight," a brief a cappella song rich in harmonies. "Complicated World" digs in with heavy low-tuned distortion and a gusty, swaggering riff topped with creamy vocal harmonies. Sure, these boys take after King's X but King's X hasn't created an album this gorgeous or filled with intelligent Christian lyrics in decades. "To Die For" could be a Foo Fighters song (without the screaming) from back in the day when Grohl could write a good song... powerful and punchy, this song is one big yearning of the day we finally see Christ face to face ("All I need to do is die to meet you.") The mid-tempo rocker "Dorian Grey" packs in more lush vocal harmonies while "Oxygen" cranks up the distortion while layering on more encouraging vocal melodies and lyrics such as "Wherever I walk You're the crutch I lean on / You're the air that I breath / You're oxygen." "Hunting With Cheney" is another rocker, this one showing a Libertarian-leaning bent, leading to the slow, encouraging "Move On" which pairs clean guitars, orchestral strings and lyrics such as "Just get up off your back side and / Move on, move on, move on." "Maybe Next Year" is another slow cooker packed with hope for better days, sliding into three solid heavy songs that could have been on the Jughead album. The final track, "Outer Space", adds in some inventive and spacey sounds before launching into a final round of ear-tickling vocal harmonies.

Is if this isn't enough they include one of the best "hidden" tracks I've heard in years. Yes, it's the Might Mustard Marching Machine. Crowd noises adorn a marching band playing snippets of various songs off the album which an each musician is given a few moments on the mic to thank their family and friends in a post-game mode. It's all good fun. Oh, and be sure to try the saltwater taffy. I hear it’s incredible.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Quick Review - Lonely Avenue

I'm going to lift a page from Adam's blog and write a brief paragraph about a few albums that are getting spun (olde fashioned term that has no meaning in this digitial age) in my life instead of doing a full blown 400+ word review like I used to do when I wrote CD reviews for cold hard cash.

The first to get such a treatment is Lonely Avenue, the newest Ben Folds album. Over the years I've enjoyed some of his albums, specifically the Ben Folds Five albums and his first solo album and the one he did with William Shatner and the little EPs he put out. But for the last five or six years he's been quite unsatisfying. It's almost like he knows his latest work is subpar and tries to defuse negative reviews with the first song, "Working Day" in which he dogs nobody bloggers who say bad things about his music. If the shoe fits, buddy... He also takes a scathing stance against Levi Johnston, the young man who impregnated Sarah Palin's daughter. And by "scathing" I mean Ben totally rips this guy a new one and repeatedly calls him a farking (insert other term) redneck. Ben... how old are you? Have you not made mistakes in your life? What number of marriage are you on? Oh, wait... you're so intent on distancing yourself from your own redneck North Carolina past that you charge full speed against anyone that reminds you of such.

Melodically there's some good things going on but the angry lyrics full of unneeded profanity make this a difficult listen. Only the song "Claire's Ninth" is as good as the songs on Ben's first solo album, lyrically. I'm a bit sketchy on the details but all or most or some of the lyrics on this album were written by Nick Hornby, an auther known best for the music-novel High Fidelity. I read it a few years back and it must have not made much of an impression on me because I've not felt inclined to read another Hornby book since. However Hornby captures Fold's lyrical voice perfectly. Or Folds wrote the lyrics because I'm not finding a huge leap in lyrical quality, not that Folds was a slouch in that department, if you like the dour kind of thing.

All in all a disappointing album that will steal no more of my time. I’ll give it a six.

And lookee there… I’m just about hitting the 400 word mark. I guess you can’t teach an old aardvark new tricks.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

From The Stone Age

I'm a SansaClip kind of guy living in an iPod Touch world.

It's true. For our anniversary this year my beloved and I eschewed the traditional gifts so she received a countertop ice cream maker (for churning out lo-carb coconut milk ice creams) and I received a SansaClip with a whopping 4 G of memory. I brought it into work and had a fleeting thought to show someone... but then realized that this is a bottom of the run MP3 player. That's all it does. Well, plus FM radio. It plays music and nothing more, and that's all I need it to do. But I work in a tech firm so it's quite common for people to stand in line to get the latest greatest at midnight, fully loaded with all the latest options that will come at no extra charge in six months when the next latest and greatest comes out. "Watch this... I can start my car from three time zones away!"

However I should point out that technologically I have advanced to the point where I no longer use my Sony Walkman. Or rather my Panasonic Cassette-2-Go player.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Real Post

I've never been one for New Years resolutions but since 2010 was one big resolution and my family continues to ride this massive wave of internal positive changes I decided to not care if it's hokey or not and just go with the flow.

So for 2011 I intend to write and record four new songs and three new short stories. I wrote a couple of stories last year but never posted them, vainly hoping that I might be able to get them published and earn a penny a word. Either I'm so rusty with creative writing that isn't an album review or I don't know the market or didn't put in enough time trying to get my stories placed or I'm just a hack, but it didn't happen. So I'll dust them off and post them here soon.

That's it. No giant resolution to stop drinking Drano or huffing Windex.

This "creative resolution" comes from my plan to get satisfaction from somewhere other than work. It used to be that I had a boss who was ten years younger than me but he knew how to do my job and was extremely appreciative of my efforts. He even once said that if I found a new job that he would start looking for a new job as well. How's THAT for a confidence booster? In the middle of last year he got promoted and now my boss is about twelve years younger than me, has never done my job, doesn't know much about what I do or what I contribute, and isn't very handy with the compliments. What was a major source of internal satisfaction dried and withered like one of the dead roaches in our stairwells. His lack of understanding about the qualifications for my role resulted in him hiring someone to help with my job function but this someone is severely underqualified for the job indicating my boss's view that it doesn't take much to do my job, in essence that I'm just a barely skilled chump. But I can write one heck of a run-on sentence! I spent more than a few months at the end of 2010 being angry about this but I've let that go. After all, if management doesn't seem to care to make common sense decisions, or at least decisions that are based on their trumpeted FIVE VALUES then why should I care? It's insanity to try and, being more or less sane, I've decided that it's in my best interest to stop.

And so, with a lack of "attaboys" at work and my few chances of being able to creatively come up with solutions being cut off by increasingly stringent auditing controls I've decided that the workplace is not the place to be creative. Leading me full circle to the second paragraph. Which makes this paragraph a redundant rephrasing of what I've already written. Which doesn't make for very good reading. Which means this doesn't count as my first of three short stories, even if it does involve an elf named Herschel who was never able to get his shoes to curl just right and was thus shunned by the elven community and had to spend his life with the wood nymphs who are an accepting kind of folk but obessively talk about wood grain and sap flow.

With That I'm Done

Working the night shift
For what could be one last week
Let’s train that new guy!

Maybe the problem
Could be a blocked sewer vent.
The basement sure stinks.

Nyquil can be nice
On the night that you take it
Foggy the next day.

This night job makes me
Grouchy and a bit depressed.
Let’s train that new guy!

Christmas with my sibs
Even here I feel left out.
Time for a new branch.

Cleaning for Christmas
Longer than our guests were here
Next year let’s just not.

We missed church today.
We are a bunch of losers.
Or maybe lobsters.

Little diaper wipe,
Oh how you vex my sewer
And cost me big bucks.

I sleep on a ledge.
No more! To the floor with thee,
And your toddler bed.

Leftover turkey
The spoils from Christmas dinner
Yummy in tummy.

This is surely true:
I love my wife’s new hair cut
She graces my life.

Twenty-ten is gone
More good days than bad days but
I’m sure glad it’s done.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Next to Last

Lunch with my brother
Once a year – that’s all we do.
I’m wondering why.

The execs were here
They closed down/broke the mens room
Too full of doodie.

I wish that I knew
What I should make for dinner
That would please them all.

The tricky part is
To get all your shopping done
Before your cash ends.

Joshua forgot
And left his bookbag at home
The thing weighs a ton.

Five stinky hours spent
Snaking out a clogged sewer
I missed a phone call.

Christmas shopping with
The Amish at the Wal-Mart:
Did they buy a Wii?

Only on eBay
Can you sell your tainted youth.
Monster mags for sale!

My wife will sure love
What I got her for Christmas
At least I hope so.

Happy birthday, dear
You are such a great daughter-
Lyndi is the best!

Another Quickie to Bore My Wife

My wife skims over my musical blog entries so dah-link... this one will probably not be of much interest.

However on my drive into work one of the radio stations plays Heart's "Magic Man" and I remembered how much I loved that song when I was young. Young as in under ten. So in my quest for my musical genome it got me thinking about what I liked. Well, it starts with that backward sounding lead guitar and it's got lot of flanged, squishy guitar sounds. It rocks nicely, has a strong melody, and adventurously departs from tiresome verse-chorus-verse-chorus formats. There's also some rich analog synth parts that were new, at least back when I was seven or eight.

I also liked Captain & Tennille's "Love Will Keep Us Together." Bouncy fun chock full o' synths! My memory is foggy, because I was all of four when this song was released, but I have some memory of seeing some kind of video of them playing the song on a beach, perhaps on a "Good Morning America"-type show.

The dark ugly truth has finally come out - that this adventurous, proggy, music quasi-snob has his roots in Captain & Tennille.

Friday, January 7, 2011

More Musical Memories

It's the end of the year and the weekly publication for which I decreasingly write published my top five albums for 2010, along with top five albums of a bunch of other writers and local music-related-type people. One of the "related-type" is an art firm that specializes in music related projects and most of the people contributing to the article listed their first album.

So I got to thinking... what was my first album?

My mom used to get us Valentines presents and eventually I started asking for cassettes. One of the earliest that I asked for and received was Lennon/Ono's Double Fantasy. I was so young that I didn't realize that I was supposed to recoil at Ono's vocals, perhaps setting me up to embrace dissonance and an "anything goes musically" mindset. I think I also received Magical Mystery Tour about this same time.

But the earliest album I can remember going into a record store and buying would be either J. Geil's Bands Love Stinks or George Harrison's Somewhere In England, both in the fifth grade at the advanced age of nine, both on record, both purchases inspired by this new channel called MTV. Ringo's Stop and Smell the Roses was also purchased a bit later.

My top five for 2010? Since I had to restrict it to albums released in 2010 it was a much different list than if the list included albums I started listening to in 2010.

Released in 2010:
1. Devin Townsend Project - Addicted
2. Fair - Disappearing World
3. The Candles - Between the Sounds
4. Guilt Machine - On This Perfect Day
5. The Lost Dogs - Old Angel

Listened to in 2010:
1. Devin Townsend Project - Addicted
2. Fair - Disappearing World
3. The Mustard Seeds - III
4. Muse - Absolution
5. Brandi Carlisle - Give Up The Ghost

Sadly missing from either list is the new Choir album. Sure, everything I read has fanboys raving like fanboys but to me it just seems incomplete. Not rushed like the album before their last, but definitely missing something.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Running a Marathon

Fished out one by one
Noisily go the peanuts
From a plastic dish

Seriously, folks,
Is there some kind of limit
To writing haikus?

It’s confession time:
While he was on vacation
I removed the squeak.

Have I yet mentioned
How much I really dislike
Training someone else?

Christmas is coming
But someone lost our fat goose
So we’ll have chicken.

Every haiku post
Has at least one where I write
Of my gorgeous wife.

“You’re too old for here
“And besides, you were sleeping.”
My taxes at work.

All I did today
Was zip and move lots of files.
Lots of big, big files.

You want me to train
Two more people plus Austin?
Please just kill me now.

They have changed their minds.
It’s only one trainee and
Someone else trains him.