Sunday, October 31, 2010

EZ Slow Cooker Porkchops!

Even though pork chop are now getting expensive (so, what isn’t). I made up this recipe to see if it would live up to the good reviews it had received. The only change I made from the original was to braise the chops on a hot grill outside. I like seeing the marks left on the meat rather than a slab of gray at meal time. Other than that, this meal takes just a few moments to prepare.


4 pork chops (1/2" thick)
Salt & pepper
1 onions, chopped
1 stalk of celery, chopped
3 banana peppers, cut in strips
1/8 c. water
1/4 c. catchup
1 tbsp. vinegar
1/2 tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tbsp. brown sugar


Place all ingredients in a crock pot and cook on low for 6 hours. I served this with a couple of cutup potatoes that spent a few moments in the microwave.  Good for a busy day. Serves 4.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

On America and slippage!

In Stephen King’s wonderful novel ‘Black House’(the 2nd of a two book Talisman series), he discusses the concept of slippage. A quaint term used to describe the tendency for people who desperately want to hold onto at least an 'illusion of normality' even when that is no longer possible. Slippage is like standing in the house known as ‘Rose Red’. A dwelling that appears to be OK at first glance but which is, in point of fact, quite insane. Some of us can perceive slippage rather well. Others of us are totally blind to it. Blind that is, until the pressure of forces beyond our control crash down around our heads and thrust us into a new and sometimes disturbing reality.

Here in the United States slippage is going on in full force for those of us with clear and penetrating sight. You can see it in the eyes of the people on the streets around you. No one wants to look too closely at anything anymore. Rather they sidle up to it, preferring a quick glance from the corners of their eyes. After all, a mere glance affords one a good feeling of normality without having to risk the queasiness that might come with true vision . (Something that can be said to be especially valid for some politicians who stumble about the great halls of Congress). Those who regard these individuals, in just a cursory manner, can not ever see what they are really up to.

Yes, even with slippage seems to be now in full force, many of us walking the daily walk, never having to deal with the foul visual stench that has become much of our government....

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Mr Steamy

Not sure how I feel about this product yet. There are apparently no complaints concerning it that I can find. In case you’re wondering, Mr. Steamy is a spiked rubber ball. It looks like a dog toy that you put water into and which is then tossed into the dryer along with your clothes to help make the come out smoother. It turns you dryer into a ‘wrinkle releasing machine’ according to the manufacturer! For $20 bucks and $7 in shipping you get two of these things along with a couple of bottles of ‘fresh shot’. Oh boy!

Hmm. While I’m not prepared to ‘dis’ the thing I do have to wonder. Aren’t your clothes already pretty wet when they go in the dryer in the first place? Also, how can steam be produced when the temperatures in the dryer would not get high enough to support it. Or do they? Perhaps Consumer Reports will to some testing on this device and then we’ll see.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Another reason not to watch CNN!

Editor's note: I had to reprint this piece that was on a CNN website as an example of the convoluted and backward thinking the likes of which are trampling American freedoms everywhere. This gentleman starts right off telling his readers that not only is Juan a racist but that he made a windfall by being one. I’m not sure what disgusts me more. Idiots like Arsalan Iftikhar or the fact that somewhere along the line he learned how to write. This editorial is loaded with pointless innuendo and remarks made by Mr. Williams that are presented either in part or taken completely out of context. I’ll say this one more time and I’ll say it very slowly so people like Arsalan can understand. Here in America, it’s perfectly OK to express an opinion. If Juan had been working for a privately owned company, then yes fire away, but Mr. Iftikhar, it is a fact that NPR is supported in part by public funds! That alone gives him the inalienable right to freely express an opinion without fear of retribution. A right that, sadly you do not share in your country of origin.

(CNN) -- Imagine for a moment that there was a prominent American conservative journalist who ignorantly disparaged an entire minority group on national television, got fired for it by the nation's largest public radio media organization and then still managed to pull down a $2 million payday with the television network where he made the remarks.
Man, it must be nice to be Juan Williams.
A quick recap: Williams, a National Public Radio "news analyst," appeared on Fox News Channel's "The O'Reilly Factor" on Monday to talk about Bill O'Reilly's recent remarks about Muslims on ABC's "The View;" the latter' shows co-hosts, Joy Behar and Whoopi Goldberg, had walked off the television set in protest.

When asked what he thought about the incident, Williams responded: "Look, Bill, I'm not a bigot. ...You know the kind of books I've written about the civil rights movement in this country. ... But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous."
When someone begins with the weak disclaimer that he is "not a bigot," you can probably bet the farm that he is about to say something pretty bigoted.

Soon after, Williams was terminated as an NPR news analyst -- a position he had held for 10 years -- for reasons that included his repeated opinion statements that have teetered on the brink of bigoted nonsense in the past.

For example, many African-Americans were rightfully shocked in January 2009 when Williams, who is black, said on Fox that the first lady "Michelle Obama, you know. ... She's got this Stokely Carmichael [of the black power movement] in a designer dress thing going. ..."

In her first interview after the firing, National Public Radio CEO Vivian Schiller told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "There have been several instances over the last couple of years where we have felt Juan has stepped over the line," she said, citing the Michelle Obama remark and others. "This isn't a case of one strike and you're out. ..."

Additionally, during this week's Fox appearance, Williams kept referring back to the September 11 attacks in describing his uneasiness about people in "Muslim garb."

Sadly, this is where he should lose any objective argument with any reasonable observer out there.
As a historical fact, neither the 19 hijackers from September 11 nor the failed "shoe bomber" nor the failed "underwear bomber" ever wore any "Muslim garb" when committing their criminal acts of terrorism on an airplane.

Once Williams made that factually wrong statement, he then no longer continued being a "news analyst"; he had crossed over the line into simply voicing his paranoid and irrational fears to the general public.
"Juan Williams is a news analyst; he is not a commentator and he is not a columnist," Schiller told an Atlanta Press Club luncheon Thursday. "We have relied on him over the years to give us perspective on the news, not to talk about his opinions."

She added, "NPR news analysts have a distinctive role and set of responsibilities. This is a very different role than that of a commentator or columnist. News analysts may not take personal public positions on controversial issues; doing so undermines their credibility as analysts, and that's what's happened in this situation. As you all well know, we offer views of all kinds on our air every day, but those views are expressed by those we interview -- not our reporters and analysts."

As someone who has been an on-air NPR commentator for more than three years now, I can understand the difference between a news analyst and a commentator.

Just as I support NPR's firing of Williams, I also publicly supported both the firing of CNN's Rick Sanchez and Helen Thomas' forced retirement from Hearst Newspapers for their own bizarrely bigoted statements about Jews and Israelis. Both crossed any reasonable line for an objective journalist.
Glenn Greenwald of correctly points out: "The Helen Thomas/Rick Sanchez incidents -- and countless others -- demonstrate how unequal and imbalanced our standards have become in determining which group-based comments are acceptable and which ones are not. ... If we're going to fire or otherwise punish people for expressing prohibited ideas against various groups, it's long overdue that those standards be applied equally to anti-Muslim animus, now easily one of the most -- if not the single most -- pervasive, tolerated and dangerous forms of blatant bigotry in America."
The First Amendment of our beloved Constitution allows all people to express racist or bigoted thoughts. However, it does not mean that a reputable, mainstream media organization (such as NPR) must give these people a continued platform for those xenophobic views.
Fox News is a different story.

As prominent right-wing figures such as Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee publicly called for Congress officially to cut funding for NPR, Fox News Chief Executive Roger Ailes "handed Williams a new three-year contract Thursday morning," said the Los Angeles Times, "in a deal that amounts to nearly $2 million, a considerable bump up from his previous salary." He'll have a steady gig on the cable news network and a regular column on its website.

The sad moral of this story is that if you take a bigoted potshot against Muslims in the public media today, no need to worry. There is probably a certain "fair and balanced" news network that might have a $2 million check waiting for you.

Arsalan Iftikhar is an international human rights lawyer, founder of and legal fellow for the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding in Washington and all around moron.

Random Thoughts for October 22, 2010

Bill Clinton, you sure got that right!

In a recent speech President Clinton implored the Democratic crowd to vote in 2010 like they did in 2008! I’m assuming that he assumes the liberal left and unions like SEIU are happy with how things are going at home. Yes guys and girls just show up and vote Democratic if you’re happy! Me? No, can’t say I’m that happy.

The good ship NPR sinking? Or, is it just sunk?

After the media (meaning Fox and only Fox) got a hold of the of the news of Juan Williams firing from his ten year employment with the National Progressive Radio all hell has broken loose. Calls for the de-funding of NPR are now beginning to be heard allover the United States. For my part I would prefer to see the station relegated to the AM band. A band that is completely devoid of stations in my neck of the woods with the exception of one lone station that spends most of its air time describing ways to unclog a sink.

What! The pot bill now in trouble?

Just after I spent a boatload of money, sold my house and prepared to move to California I get the news that Proposition 19 may be in trouble. Hey youse guys, I was planning on helping the Unions organize the pot growers so that they also could be promised humongous pensions after only a few years of work. (As a union organizer, my pension plan would be assured while the rank and file could only hope it be so). But no. In what must be a temporary bout of common sense, the citizens of the Golden State are trending away from passing this bill. My gawd, what’s wrong with you folks? Even my buddy George Soros is for the legalization of drugs and as if I didn’t have to remind everyone, he knows what’s best for the world.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The real cost of ‘always on’ devices

I suspect that my home is pretty much representative of most out there. Like everyone, energy costs have been of increasing concern. A recent rate hike of 13.5% that took affect in September 2010 will mean an increase of about $13 per $100 billed. Some area residents were pissed off. Another increase of 9.2% is being asked for this coming June 2011 and that doesn’t count the possibility of two more increases due to ‘fuel cost’ sometime in the next year. Wow!

So, one of my projects was to take a close look at any devices in my house that are left on but not used, especially during the night time hours. I took an inventory and was really shocked to find such a large number of devices; backup media drives, power transformers, printers and even TV’s. One early morning when most everything was off, I thought, I discovered that my TED power monitor showing a steady power consumption rate of 0.546 kilowatts being consumed! After doing a little math, I came up with a whopping $23 in wasted energy costs per month. As my electric bills average out to about $120 per month, these little energy wasters were taking a 19% bite out of my wallet! The total per year was $276.00. I figured for that kind of money, my time would be well spent making a few simple changes.

My first thought was twofold. First, I need to figure out what really needed to be on all the time. This list included such items as my refrigerator, deep freeze and water heater. Items that could go on a timer would be basically all power transformers, TV’s, High Definition converter boxes and such. The list would also include a cluster of devices attached to my main computer including the cable modem, wireless hud server and backup drives. Then, I needed to go out and purchase a number of multiple outlets which could be connected to timers. Lot of work that.

My second thought was to integrate the household outlets into a master controller so that I could schedule when power would be supplied and when it would be not supplied. One unit that caught my eye was the Homemanageables home controller. For a few hundred dollars you can control and schedule turning appliances on and off via a pc or cell phone. For right now, I’ve decided to go after the heaviest power offenders with a couple of well placed timers and leave it at that. After monitoring these changes for a bit, I’ll see if I need to go up to next level.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Using space heaters to save on heating costs.

If you’re a person that hates paying high electric bills, then the later fall months are the best in that regard. I’ve been able to go for half of September and all of October so far with both the AC and furnace turned off. For those occasional cool mornings, I’ve bought a couple of space heaters which are doing a nice job so far. I have one in my bedroom and one in the living room. At this time, I’m turning them on manually but plan to get a couple of timers so they can be set to turn on at about 4AM.

The jury is still out as to how effective these devices are in reducing heating costs. To that end, I’m planning on performing a little bit of research this coming winter to find out. Right now I have two types of heater; a resistive element type and a ceramic heater. Within the next couple of weeks I plan on purchasing an oil filled radiator type to round out the selection. These will be strategically placed in the house and timed so they turn on early to bring select areas up to 72F. The central furnace will be set for 60F. I will then watch to see how much I suffer, and or, how much electricity is saved…or not. This effort will more than likely end up as a You Tube video at some point.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Terrorists on the move! Who really cares?

Yawn. Sorry, but after a decade of listening to the dire warnings of officials who themselves have no clue, I’ve pretty much given up on getting very alarmed. I mean when you consider that the elite of the terrorist movement are living in caves, it’s hard to get very concerned.

While these nimrods of negativism plot and plan the overthrow of the world for Allah, the rest of us need to concern ourselves with getting on day to day with our lives. There are plenty of adult concerns to go around and we will need the very smartest of our species to get through challenging times.The urchins who insist that the killing of innocent women and children are all part of God's plan need to better prepare for their own deaths. I seriously doubt that there will be many virgins where they are going. If it was not for the horror these sons of the jihad inflict, they would actually be funny in a sad sort of way.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Get the vote out!

“All men dream but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes to make it possible.”
T.E. Lawrence

By his own admission, President Obama has now realized 70% of the legislation he envisioned to change America. His next two years in office will be an effort to make sure these changes stay, whether Americans like it or not.

If you like what this man and what his congress has wrought then please vote on November the 2nd. If you do not like the direction our country has taken, then make damn sure you vote on November the 2nd.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

River Run October 2010 Update

I thought it best to get as much walking in as possible before things get too cold. Even though the park is now officially in off season, the Core  of Engineers are allowing camping to go on without the amenities of trash pickup, electricity or water. Even so, there are plenty of RV’ers still hanging out and enjoying the last nice days of fall.

As I did my walk, I noticed that many of the sycamore trees which dominate the park are now beginning to turn color. I’m guessing that most of the trees will be bare by the end of the month. This is always a sad time, yet before you know it, Spring will come and all will be well with the world.

Random Thoughts for October 12, 2010

America – Will the country be shutdown sometime over the next couple of weeks as part of an engineered ‘Federal Emergency’? Call me paranoid, but that Progressive bunch in Washington must be getting desperate right about now!

China – And we do business with these knuckleheads? The recent awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo must have come as a real kick in the groin to the leadership in Beijing.  Here a man who has dedicated his entire life to the overthrown of that government. A crazed bureaucracy that stands alone in the world’s view. Wait! I take that back! It seems that Venezuela’s President Hugo Rafael Ch├ívez has endorsed and stands by China and her suppression of her peoples.

Paladino – Say what you want to about this gay-bashing man’s kind of man. I personally think he is a breath of fresh air in an otherwise putrid state. I like his style, his candor and his truthfulness in stating what many people feel. We need more like him to step up to the plate and run for office!

Palin – As Sarah recently remarked tongue in cheek. “I can see November from my house.” She’s got to be one happy camper right now and yes, I do think she will run in 2012.

MSNBC - I would not think of leaving this blog without taking a parting shot at a media group that is so far to the left they could make Joseph Goebbels blush. Watching this group work reminds me of the movie made in Natzi Germany towards the end of the war titled "Theresienstadt".

Friday, October 8, 2010

Joe Blow and Unemployment. We need some change Obama!

Or perhaps a different president and a better Congress! The latest U.S. jobless rate was totally flat at 9.6% in September, but the government’s broader measure of unemployment rose even more to 17.1%, the highest rate since April and down just slightly from the October 2009 high of 17.4%.

Now as fall progresses and the day’s grow shorter, it may truly become the winter of our discontent.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Conserving heat during the coming winter months!

No doubt about it. With rising electric costs, now is a good time to look at way to save on your winter heating bills. Here are a few tips:

1)      Inspect you furnace system. Make sure it is clean and functioning properly. By just replacing the filters in a timely manner, you can save $60 a year.
2)      Check your heat registers and make sure they are clean. Close off any rooms that will not be occupied very often and consider a small space heater for the times you need to use them.
3)      If you have a fireplace, check and seal any cracks. Also make sure the damper is closed when it’s not in use.
4)      Move furniture slightly away from exterior walls. The added space will make the room seem warmer.
5)      Check your insulation, especially the floors if you do not have a basement. Apply as needed.
6)      Close off the attic, garage, basement, spare bedrooms and storage areas. Heat only those rooms that you use.
7)      Check to see if you qualify for any government assistance with your heating bills if you have a low income or are a senior citizen on a fixed income.
8)      Check for gaps around exterior doors and seal if needed.
9)      Make sure windows are tightly sealed and consider making inserts out of Styrofoam to seal some against the cold.
10)  Purchase energy efficient space heater(s). Lower the furnace setting and heat only the rooms you need to. This will be the subject of a blog later this week.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Thoughts about water and plastics

America’s crumbling water distribution system

Back in the mid 1800’s heavy cast iron pipes with a life expectancy of 125 years were being laid. Then, around twenty five years later a newer process was developed that resulted in thinner pipes at cheaper cost. These had a life span of about one hundred years. Fast forward another twenty-five years and yet even better manufacturing processes resulted in even thinner pipes with a lifespan figured at 75 years. As you might guess, the end of the usefulness curve for all these millions of miles of water pipe will be occurring shortly. Over the next twenty years, repair and replacement could easily run in the trillions of dollars. My question is, how many politicians have you heard talking about this issue? Maybe none or less? The problem is the pipes run underground and no elected official will benefit if a pipe is named after them. Water distribution issues have about as much popularity as a foot with a fungus infection and as a result nothing has been or is being done to head off what could easily blossom into a National disaster overnight. (Just think how your life would be effected if your water was cut off and then you were told you’d have to get it out of a nearby river or stream)? Think about this happening to a whole city! I bet some heads would role. But, that’s just what is happening even as I write this.

Water Bottle Waste (WBW)

While the water distribution system crumbles underneath our feet, American’s are blithely adding millions of tons of waste daily to landfills. Empty plastic water bottles alone are added at the rate of 50 million per day! Other common items like beverage cans add another 200 million to the pile. TV dinners, even small ones as shown here contribute a third of their weight as landfill material. In addition, the plastic bottles and trays also consume million of gallons of oil to produce yearly. All of which ultimately contributes to toxic waste later on.

While much of the aluminum is thankfully recycled, the same cannot be said at this time for plastics. As a country and as a peoples, we must learn to conserve and to protect our environment if we hope to pass on a clean country to future generations.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Critique of Banquet’s Mexican Style Chicken Enchilada Meal!

Holy moley, today I’m going south of the border a do a a critique of the final TV dinner of the trio I bought for only .77¢ each. At the end of this blog, I will then rank each on taste, visual appeal and nutrition. Should be very interesting, so stay tuned.

Up to this point, I’ve survived eating both the Chicken Nuggets and Fries meal deal and the Spaghetti and Popcorn Chicken entrees. I feel that I have been objective and fair with both and I’m still living. But now, I am faced with a TV dinner where the chicken is actually hiding out somewhere in the package. I believe it’s in the Enchilada but can’t prove it. Thing is you could put almost any kind of meat in there and no one would be the wiser! People from Mexico routinely eat this stuff and just look at the guy in the picture above. Scary! If I ran into someone that looked like he does on the street I’d call 911. Anyone ever watch those old spaghetti westerns where they’d show a deserted Mexican town with just a dog or two slinking furtively from shadow to shadow. Ever wonder what they’re so afraid of? Hmm? Well, no matter where the source of the protein may come from, I have promised myself to partake of this meal objectively.

The instructions for this .77¢ wonder indicated that I should only just slit the film over the rice and then nuke it for two and a half minutes on high. Next, I was then to ‘spoon sauce over the enchilada and tamale’ (hey! Where did this come from?), and then to stir the rice! After replacing the film cover, I was then to nuke this for an additional 2 minutes.

While I waited for my ‘south of the border’ meal to cool. I checked out the nutritional label. For 238 grams of food I was taking in 280 calories, 790 milligrams of sodium and 45 grams of carbohydrates! Saturated fats were 2.5 grams. Once again, the sodium is through the roof!

In spite of everything, this was most assuredly the best of the sad litter. While it tasted very salty, I found the meal to be strangely satisfying. Maybe I’m falling under the Banquet spell! So what did I think about all three? Which one was best? Actually, they all failed with the exception that if I had no other choice I’d stick with the Mexicans. The Chicken and Fries and Spaghetti dish are just pure road kill.

Meal                                         Taste                         Appeal                 Nutrition
Chicken Nuggets & Fries         A dead Indian            N/A                      Don't ask
Spaghetti & Popcorn Chic        Fungus among us     Soiled shorts        Say what?
Mex Style Enchilada                 Livable                      Good smell          Too much Na          

Flu season 2010 starts off in strange fashion!

With the official start of the Flu season now just weeks away (October 15) here in the United States., reports by the CDC hint that something a little strange may be afoot. It seems the H1N1 virus that caused over fifteen thousand deaths in the States last season is nowhere to be found.  Only sporadic cases continue to crop up here and there. Typically, scientists would expect to see another wave of the so-called Swine Flu this winter. Instead, early reports are hinting at the re-emergence of an older strain known as H3N2. A strain of flu that has been around for some time and which was all but edged out of the way by the H1N1 variant. This could be relatively good news as this older strain is known to affect older people whereas the Swine Flu seemed to target the young, including teenagers.

While it is way to early to say that things may be ‘returning to normal’, this is still better news than what everyone had going into the 2009 season. The big question concerning many are exactly where has the H1N1 bad guy gone and will he stay there?

Friday, October 1, 2010

Critique of Banquet’s Spaghetti & Popcorn Chicken

Oh no, not another Banquet cheapo dinner review! Yes, you glutinous nabobs hiding out there in the blogosphere! Here's my unbiased lowdown on another buck a meal deal.

In case you might be wondering, yes, I am working my way through the entire line of .77¢ (now a buck with inflation) dinners offered by Banquet. A fine Omaha,Nebraska company that makes TV dinners for us downtrodden masses. This time I will be feasting on the Popcorn Chicken version with spaghetti instead of the ‘Nuggets and Fries’ deal from before.Note to self: these two meals are not similar. Each deserves a place of its own on the bottom of the culinary barrel.

Because I would be working with spaghetti instead of French fries, the directions were a little different. Instead of ripping off the entire film from the package as before (a true macho feeling for me), I was instructed to gently remove only the film from over the popcorn chicken. Then, surprisingly, they requested the chicken bits get the boot also! The spaghetti remained covered. Can you say gitzy? Not sure what I was supposed to do with the popcorn things. I just left them on a plate.

After nuking the package in the micro for a minute and a half at high, I got to… you guessed it, stir the spaghetti and was then instructed to replace the chicken whatchamacallits. The instructions called for another nuking lasting a minute and a half. I'm assuming this is to make sure everything is actually dead.

OK, the deed has been done. I let the meal sit for a minute. And, rather than eat directly from the tray, I elected to plate the meal like a chef would at some fancy restaurant. (Hey, fancy is as fancy does). That accomplished, I gripped my fork in Roman fashion and dug in like a gladiator.  Hmm, the chicken tasted a lot like the chicken in the Chicken Nuggets and Fries meal only they were smaller in this one. And they were really, really spongy and therefore really disappointing. It must be all that breading. (Note to self; send Banquet a heads up on their spongy breading).

Being a super culinary trooper, I made the effort to eat every bite. The spaghetti tasted just so-so. The chicken, however, was like gnawing on the severed toes of a not so fresh cadaver. Gag me. But, OK, let me get real. It was not really all that bad for a measly .77 centavos (or about a buck in 2015). And who cares that the calories peaked at 270 or the sodium at 470 milligrams or the saturated fat was an artery clogging 3.5 grams? Who cares? Wait! I think I'm getting heart palpitations... Score this one a 5 and please move on to something a little better.