30 December 2008

Delving briefly back into the culinary...

First, a nice little invention I made during my highly-productive time off from work. My wife has been getting over a cold/flu/plague, and to get enough vitamins she was drinking juice. We only had grape juice on hand, which was too sweet, and you can't drink enough of it to stay hydrated easily. We tried watering it down...I was told this was gross. Then I somewhat accidentally came across something that tasted like Kool-Aid. Here's what it is:

1 orange
1 lime (optional)
Cold water
Grape juice

First, take an orange and a peeler and peel off a good bit of the outer zest layer of the rind, maybe 2/3 of the orange, in large pieces. Try not to get a lot of the inner white pith. Put the large pieces of orange zest in a gallon container. Juice the orange; add the strained juice to the aforementioned container. Fill to 1 gallon with cold water. I later discovered doing the same with a lime, as well, enhanced the taste, but the orange is all that is required.

Then let this citrus water sit in the refrigerator for some time...fill a glass 3/4 full with it, and top it off with 1/4 of grape juice. For some reason we both really liked it. A lot less sugar than straight juice, but full of flavor, with no added sugar or flavorings other than natural fruit. If you prefer it sweeter or less sweet, vary the ratio of water to grape juice accordingly.

Also, on Boxing Day I got to use my Christmas gift, a Swiss-made 12" Forschner slicing knife. Got up before dawn to get a full packer brisket on the smoker, 12 pounds of good smoking beef. I used a wet rub marinade on it (all the usual ingredients of a dry rub, paprika, brown sugar, salt, chili powder, cayenne, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, etc., plus a few tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco Habanero sauce) the night before, and here it is before the sun has risen:

After 9 hours in the smoker and 2-3 in a slightly higher temp oven to finish, it was ready. In this picture I've shown only about half of the flat, maybe a quarter of the whole brisket, sliced up in a bowl. The Forschner knife was superb, and with some practice my ability to slice meat thinly is likely to improve. With the food is my first draft homebrew, an Oktoberfest Maerzen.

25 December 2008

This left me in awe. Stick through the first two minutes of weirdness, and there's some fantastic horn breakdowns by Fred and The Horny Horns.

Here's one of the more disturbing Christmas remixes, but still amusing and relevant today.

23 December 2008

For your amusement, a section from Life, the Universe, and Everything. I was particularly reminded of climate change hysteria by the observation of man's insatiable need to interpret everything around him as a sign.

One night, he said, a spaceship appeared in the sky of a planet which had never seen one before. The planet was Dalforsas, the ship was this one. It appeared as a brilliant new star moving silently across the heavens.

Primitive tribesmen who were sitting huddled on the Cold Hillsides looked up from their steaming night-drinks and pointed with trembling fingers, swearing that they had seen a sign, a sign from their gods which meant that they must now arise at last and go and slay the evil Princes of the Plains.

In the high turrets of their palaces, the Princes of the Plains looked up and saw the shining star, and received it unmistakably as a sign from their gods that they must now go and set about the accursed Tribesmen of the Cold Hillsides.

And between them, the Dwellers in the Forest looked up into the sky and saw the sigh of the new star, and saw it with fear and apprehension, for though they had never seen anything like it before, they too knew precisely what it foreshadowed, and they bowed their heads in despair.

They knew that when the rains came, it was a sign.

When the rains departed, it was a sign.

When the winds rose, it was a sign.

When the winds fell, it was a sign.

When in the land there was born at midnight of a full moon a goat with three heads, that was a sign.

When in the land there was born at some time in the afternoon a perfectly normal cat or pig with no birth complications at all, or even just a child with a retrousse nose, that too would often be taken as a sign.

So there was no doubt at all that a new star in the sky was a sign of a particularly spectacular order.

And each new sign signified the same thing — that the Princes of the Plains and the Tribesmen of the Cold Hillsides were about to beat the hell out of each other again.

This in itself wouldn't be so bad, except that the Princes of the Plains and the Tribesmen of the Cold Hillsides always elected to beat the hell out of each other in the Forest, and it was always the Dwellers in the Forest who came off worst in these exchanges, though as far as they could see it never had anything to do with them.

And sometimes, after some of the worst of these outrages, the Dwellers in the Forest would send a messenger to either the leader of the Princes of the Plains or the leader of the Tribesmen of the Cold Hillsides and demand to know the reason for this intolerable behaviour.

And the leader, whichever one it was, would take the messenger aside and explain the Reason to him, slowly and carefully and with great attention to the considerable detail involved.

And the terrible thing was, it was a very good one. It was very clear, very rational, and tough. The messenger would hang his head and feel sad and foolish that he had not realized what a tough and complex place the real world was, and what difficulties and paradoxes had to be embraced if one was to live in it.

"Now do you understand?" the leader would say.

The messenger would nod dumbly.

"And you see these battles have to take place?"

Another dumb nod.

"And why they have to take place in the forest, and why it is in everybody's best interest, the Forest Dwellers included, that they should?"

"Er ..."

"In the long run."

"Er, yes."

And the messenger did understand the Reason, and he returned to his people in the Forest. But as he approached them, as he walked through the Forest and amongst the trees, he found that all he could remember of the Reason was how terribly clear the argument had seemed. What it actually was he couldn't remember at all.

And this, of course, was a great comfort when next the Tribesmen and the Princes came hacking and burning their way through the Forest, killing every Forest Dweller in their way.

22 December 2008

So help me this just amused me. The Longbow Apache is quite a bird. Take note, rule-bending cyclists! Muahahahahahaha!

11 December 2008

I've meant to write a little blog entry about this subject for a while. A week or two ago my wife and I watched the "Expelled" documentary starring Ben Stein. While I started from a very sympathetic viewpoint (I subscribe to the concept of Creation and I have truckloads of cynicism towards the commonly held scientific pronouncements on the origin of species, ie. primordial soup + lightning), by the end of the movie I had the peculiar feeling of fratricide, or friendly fire. As if I was positioned in opposition or conflict to something (the subject of the documentary, the institutional bias against those who question party line on Darwin, is something I've witnessed personally, albeit on small levels), and then someone yells from over my shoulder, "don't worry, I got your back buddy!" And then shoots me in the back. It is better to leave an argument uncontested than to challenge it with dishonest or exaggerated propoganda, thus undermining valid points!

It feels like Focus on the Family hired Michael Moore as a mercenary. As a Christian, it is a somewhat uncomfortable thing when the illogic emanating from one section of my side forces me to take sides with Richard Dawkins and other atheists!

For instance, this review, which I noted was from an atheist blog, is sadly full of valid criticisms.

The filmmakers also plant a very interesting quote from Darwin's "The Descent of Man". However, it is explicitly edited to imply support for the later horrors of eugenics and genocide, which Darwin clearly distances himself from in the immediate context...conveniently edited out. Why do this?! Is Darwinian theory not full enough of holes that it can't be criticised without taking things out of context and misrepresenting them? Evolution is more than just Darwin; the documentary oversimplified the entire question by distilling a huge debate containing multiple schools of evolutionary theory into the seminal work of one man, which has evolved over time by the work of his successors. Again, if we are going to engage the rabid proponents of evolution-as-gospel, let us do so intelligently, calmly, and without sensationalism or misinformation.

I think Dawkins is a bit of a prat, who probably thinks much too highly of his own intellect, and I disagree with him on, well, a great lot of things, but there I was, sitting on his side, agreeing with him, or at least sympathizing with him. Stein's questions were repetitive and typically meaningless. When he was slowly asked if he believes in the Hebrew God, the Trinity, the Hindu gods, Allah, etc., I felt his exasperation at the pointless, rhetorical, stupid questions. Yes, we know he is an atheist! Who doesn't? Do we go to Billy Graham and slowly ask if he believes the words in the Gospel of Matthew? Mark? Luke? John? The Book of Acts? The letter to the Romans? First Corinthians? Second Corinthians? It was a cheap and useless gimmick because his beliefs regarding the existence or inexistence of God mean a bowl of warm spit in regards to the evolution debate. Dawkins is an atheist. Fine! We really do understand what that word means, and most of us know Dawkins is probably the preeminent popular atheist author, with the notable exception of Oolon Colluphid. His personal beliefs in that respect have no clear logical bearing to the scientific merits of evolution. Besides, why would Dawkins' atheism be more important to examine than the religious beliefs of Darwin, the theory's founder? Not that it would be, anyway.

The film gets very, very close to making valid points, but ends up vastly overreaching and shooting itself in the foot, every time. When Dawkins admits the possibility of the "seed theory" but denies "intelligent design" the potential contradiction ought to have been seized upon, not in a "gotcha" way, but in a careful, methodical, and courteous way. Likewise, the influence of evolutionary theory on many of the great blunders of the early 20th century could have been explored in a more logical way, with more actual information, and less touring of prison camps with Ben Stein looking reproachfully morose. Simply saying "Hitler was a Darwinist" and then touring emotionally impactful sites is insufficient, and no argument at all. They could have actually made good and valid points on this, but they glossed over details and went straight for what appears to be only reductio ad hitlerum, nullifying some very good points in that regard.

All of the other criticisms have been put forth much more thoroughly in other places on the web. Some of them I feel are valid, some of them I disagree with, and of course a lot of the reaction to this film is extremely hostile and motivated by partisan evolution-is-infallible rancor (which this film was intended to explore and expose).

To summarize, I think (I hope, I pray) we can do better than this. It has some strong points, not least of which was its effect of getting me to do some more research and reading on evolution and Darwin.

Speaking of Dawkins and Darwinism, this episode of South Park is quite funny. "I'm a MONKEY!"

09 December 2008

I've never had anything personal against Michael Bolton. I've never much liked him, though, and now, tonight, I find out the reason why.

For those that prefer a studio version, here you go.