Archive for the ‘ Uncategorized ’ Category

So Nothing Happens Here

So nothing really happens here but I am hoping to change that for 2013.  But then again I was hoping to change that for 2012 and look what it got me.  But much has changed this past year, so much that I never would have imagines that I would be where I am now.  So we shall see.  Do you care to come along and find out?

Thoughts on Thirty-One:

When I was younger I never thought I would appreciate a good pen as much as I do now.

I have come to realize a lot of things in my life that I care about are just entertainment related and I could probably easily give them up and not be any worse off in my quality of life.

Being silly is different is just as much fun now as it was when I was 11.

I can finally grow decent facial hair.

Too bad there is so much grey in it.

When I was younger I enjoy watching baseball players hit home runs.  Now I think I enjoy a 12 pitch at-bat between a great pitcher and a great hitter that ends in a weak ground ball to third more.

While my music tastes in general have become more and more esoteric, I still love a really good pop/rock/hip-hop song.

I am slowly coming to realize that great friends and good relationship are the truly valuable things in my life.

While I have tried to develop a palate and start enjoying more varied and different tasting foods and even enjoy some of the finer food available to consumers, there is still something about the McDonalds Chicken McNugget that captivates me and makes me want to eat them.

I was not as misinformed about things as people thought I was when I was younger.  But I realize my priorities where way out of whack.

A well made video game can still be as engrossing to me as it was when I was a teenager.

I cannot say the same about the majority of the programming on network television.

Story means much, much more to me now.

But I am still willing to put up with big plot holes if you make it look pretty on the screen.

I appreciate clear, sunny, cloudless, days more.

And I find rainy days to be fun now too.

I still love trivia.

Even though I realize more and more how compromising/corrupt politicians are, I have become fascinated by the political process, legislation, elections, votes and such.

But as much as I like it I don’t think I would want to run for office, out of what it may make me do/become or compromise.

Congress, local law enforcement, the DMV, Best Buy during Christmas and the 5 freeway are all things that I think need to be blown up and rebuilt from scratch.

I also realize now as a regular middle class private citizen how very little power I have in the world.

Unless you count my power to still bake the best chocolate chip cookies you have ever tasted.

A well made cocktail makes things much better.

Being able to go home for lunch has sort have become a little treasure for me.

I want to help people more and give more, never would have thought of that when I was younger.

Oddly I was very conservative in my ideals and beliefs growing up, I can only imagine that was because I just believed what I was “Taught/Indoctrinated” with.  As I matured into thinking for myself I find I fall much more on the progressive/liberal side of the thought spectrum.

I still love baseball more than any other sport and every year I still think the Dodgers have chance.

In general my grammar is still bad and my spelling is still atrocious; but I know what sounds good to the ear and can fake my way through just about anything.

I don’t like being fake though.

I am not as easily provoked or upset as I used to be.

I do realize that most of my problems and the worlds just revolves around us being selfish.

I think I know how to live a good life…but doing the things that would be required seem quite difficult.

God is more important in my life now than ever before.

I also see his work around me more and more.

Prayer seems much more important now too.

Now I tend to think lists are over-rated.

But they are fun to read.

Things Today

This was a post I made in a discussion on Facebook, just felt like sharing it here.

Okay to get real here, talk of financial numbers when referring to the President’s administration is just plain silly.  No matter how you slice it he not only inherited two expensive overseas wars but the worst economic collapse since the great depression.  Wars don’t pay for themselves and you can’t just pick up and leave so the President was handcuffed into continuing to pay for two very technical, resource consuming and just plain costly wars.  He has since gotten us out of one and work has begun to remove us from the other.  And as far as stimulus and other government spending, I frankly don’t like it.  But if you look at history and really study the economics of it all….no large country has ever gotten itself out of a major recession with cuts to spending.  It just doesn’t happen.  I hate to admit it but Keynes was right, you spend your way out of a recession.  And also let’s not kid ourselves, the stimulus packages, and the auto industry bailout that were all ideas that started in the Bush administration.  Wha you say?  Yes because all the economists told President Bush the same things they told President Obama you have to get money out there to prevent things form getting worse.

If you want to talk about manufacturing jobs, don’t look to the President.  Exports (Manufacturing) have done nothing but go up since he has taken office.  They have gotten better every year.  And if you want to blame him for the lost jobs, that is myopic, don’t blame him, blame the CEO’s that are doing nothing more than making money by shipping jobs overseas.  We cannot compete with China on manufacturing….we can’t they will do it cheaper and faster.  American needs new industries, we never be able to match China in cost and efficiency of assembling an Ipad or flat screen tv.  And for those who say we don’t make anything anymore.  Turn off Glenn Beck and put down the Kool aide.  The USA accounted for 19.4% of all world manufacturing last year.  Only behind China with 19.8%.  Problem is America is just too damn good at manufacturing.  We far outpace the world in our productivity.  Our factories are not full of people placing transistors on board, we have huge machines that do it for us.  We are too darn productive to require the great workforce that was required of US manufacturing decades ago.  That isn’t any President’s problem that is just progress.  And work will always go where it is cheapest.  Jobs left England and Europe for the American colonies in the 1700’s and now they have moved to Asia, it is just the way the world works.

I do admit the President had appointed members to the Executive branch that are pro-abortion.  I dislike/hate the idea of abortion.  I do firmly believe life begins at conception.  I feel every abortion is a death of a human life and oppose it.  I also oppose the death penalty, which oddly most other anti-abortionists do not (But that is another argument).  So while I am morally against abortion and don’t like the fact that the Father may never have a say in the act, I recognize that abortions are not going away, and I am not sure I want them made illegal.  I don’t want a return to back room abortions or young teens running to Mexico or Canada to get an abortion because they can’t in the USA.  Abortions had been on a steady decline since the 1990’s but recently have stopped declining; I fear this is a sign of the recession.  With women not wanting to have baby since they may not have a job to support it, this saddens me deeply.  But the fact remains the right to an abortion will not be overturned.  And if by some chance it is, you will only force women to take more and more drastic measure.  This battle must be won by providing support for those women who are pregnant and are unsure about keeping the baby.  To use the cliché it is a battle that must be won in the hearts and minds and not in the courtrooms. 

And as far as Arizona is concerned, if it weren’t for the laws on the books now they would probably shoot people with Brown skin on sight if they could.  I frankly think that yes, America has been so blessed that if someone wants to come here (even illegally), work to support a family on a minimum wage and still save enough  money to send some back to their home country then good for them.  I do feel a responsibility to my poor neighbor, the weary travelers to share with them and help them out.  In a nation of such abundance and waste, I think there is plenty to go around.  And if we want to be brutally honest, all anti-immigration stuff had an intimation of xenophobia/racism in it, that is if you are brutally honest.  For some reason in any multicultural place I have ever lived I have never heard any uproar about anti-immigration.  It always seems to be rich white men who are in positions of power that make all the fuss.  But then again I don’t think the Native Americans were big fans of illegal immigration either.  They probably wish they built a bigger fence.

Book Review: California Tenants’ Rights by Janet Portman

California Tenants' Rights

Front Cover

Now, I have been a renter/tenant all my adult life and there are multiple times I can think of, when I wished I had this book.  The information would have saved me a lot of time looking through the legal codes online or just getting bad advice from friends.

So let me just say this book is great, as it is particular to California State Law and whenever something is mentioned or quoted from the law they give you a legal reference so you can look up the law yourself to prove it to your landlord or whoever it is you are talking to .

Just about everything is covered, from getting your lease, including inspections, repairs, sub-leasing, getting your security deposit back, even when the landlord can enter your dwelling, plus a whole lot more. And another great feature is there are a bunch of useful standardized forms in the back that you can either pullout or make copies of to use for various things like maintenance requests, setting up sub-leases and other useful stuff.

My only real disappointment with the book and the only section that was not covered that I really would have liked was dealing with bad neighbors/next-door tenants etc.. But I suppose the law doesn’t say much about the people below your apartment blaring music at 2am.  I just wish they could of given some direction as to how to deal with these people and what rights you have to not be disturbed by noise and late night parties.

However on another good note this book also gives some helpful advice as to how a judge would view your case if you took your landlord to court over various objections and problems, which I find quite helpful, especially since the book is honest enough to tell you that even though legally you may be right, a judge probably won’t do anything for you.

So if you are looking for a useful and well organized resource for the laws and rights of a tenant in the state of California then I highly recommend this book, as I said before I really wish I had access to this info in the past as it would have saved me a lot of time and grief. If you have any questions feel free to leave and comment and I will try to get back to you with a response.

{Book Review} The Hidden Brain by Shankar Vedantam

A Fascinating Book about Our Sub-Conscious and How It Influences Our Lives
The subtitle to this book is “How much our unconscious minds elect presidents, control markets, wage wars, and save out live.” And that is exactly what you get in this book. The book is a well written exposition on how our unconscious brain controls many of our decisions, prejudices and actions without us ever even knowing it.
Now basically the author Vedantam, has compiled the research of various studies and experiments on this topic and presented it in a way that is accessible, interesting and entertaining. I was truly fascinated at how much a part of brain that we never really “Think” with controls our everyday lives, sometimes causing us to do and say things that if we really thought about it we would never do, and other times that same part of our brain saves us from danger and trouble we would never see coming.
The author, Shankar Vedantam, is a journalist for the Washington Post and some people have knocked that fact, since he is not a Ph.D., researcher, or a scientist, I actually don’t mind. As a journalist I think the author presents all his content in very easy to read, understandable and well organized format, with a mix of some great individual stories of real people and how their lives were changed by this “hidden brain”.

While this may not be a truly new concept to many; and other works like Freakonomics and The Tipping Point have covered similar areas, I still found this to be a really thought provoking and if the subject interests you and I would recommend this book.

{Product Review} Centering Prayer by Thomas Keating

A Course in Centering Prayer in Convenient Box Form

If you are interested in centering prayer and looking for a more multimedia introduction into the practice then this is a product you may be interested in.
What you receive is:

A relatively small spiral bound book which provides introductions, summaries and guides you through the other materials in the course.

A set of 6 DVDs with lectures from the likes of Fr. Thomas Keating, Gail Fitzpatrick-Hopler and Fr. Carl Arico about centering prayer.

Two audio CDs with tracks for introducing you to and taking you through a centering prayer session.

And a set of prayer cards to help assist you with entering the quiet time of reflection prior to centering prayer.

As has been mentioned by others the book is not super thorough, it serves as more of a guide to the course then a full text on the subject of centering prayer. I suggest if you are completely new to the concept of Centering prayer you may want to bundle this set with Fr. Thomas Keating’s book “Open Mind Open Heart: The Contemplative Dimension of the Gospel,” which is a very complete take on centering prayer.

The DVDs too are nothing spectacular but are just video sessions of lectures that are given at Introduction to Centering Prayer retreats. They are not exciting or adrenaline pumping, but then if that is what you are looking for, I think you have the wrong practice.

I don’t think it is my role to appraise the practice of centering prayer but rather offer insight on this introductive course, which I find to be very complete and helpful to a beginner who just doesn’t know where to start or what to do. I believe short of taking a course in centering prayer in person at a seminar this is the next best thing you could use to introduce you to the practice of centering prayer. I found it complete, thorough and helpful; and if this is a subject you are interested in I think you may find it helpful too.

{Product Review} Five Star Flex Notebinder

Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s I had a glorious appreciation of the trapper keeper. The handsomely designed three ring binder that held nearly all of your school work, nay, your entire educational experience in one manageable book-ish contraption.

Thankfully things have changed and improved. The five star flex hybrid notebinder (as the company states) acts like a workbook and works like a binder. Both the front and back cover are made out of tough yet relatively thin plastic. they are held together by nylon fabric that lets you fold the front cover all the way behind the back cover like a notebook.

Everything is held together by three plastic/rubbery rings to hold papers and contents in. The notebinder comes with a small supply of ruled paper and graph paper (Three hole punched and very convenient). Also included are three heavy duty sheet protectors with tabs. And two heavy duty plastic divider sheets with pockets for holding paper, index cards and other paper products. The only thing this thing is missing is maybe a small zip up pencil case. Everything is held in place by three tough plastic rings that are fixed to the back cover of the the notebinder, they are a little tough to open and close but they are very secure and I doubt they would bust open even if the notebinder was drop from quite a height.

So this really seams like a logical evolution in where binders are going. You have the flexibility of a notebook where you can fold everything away and start taking notes and the storage capacity and utility of a three ring binder. This would be perfect for any student middle school through college.

{Cookbook Review} Cookin’ With Coolio by Coolio

Dare I Say the Greatest Cookbook of 2009! (By a Rapper)

Okay the last time I checked Coolio was relevant and a pop culture force about 10 years ago.  Since then the only time I think about Coolio is when “Amish Paradise” by Weird Al comes up in my shuffle mix.  Well readers that has changed with the release of his cook book: “Cookin’ with Coolio, 5 star meals at a 1 star price” by Coolio the Ghetto Gourmet.
Right of the bat, this may be the best gag cookbook gift ever.  Not only does the book come from the self-proclaimed King of Kitchen pimps, the ingredients for recipes ask for amounts of seasoning in “Dime Bag” and “Nickel Bag” form (Don’t worry you can covert to regular measurements).  Recipes include “Chicken Lettuce Blunts”, “Kompton Fried Chicken”, “Taco Jones” and “Chili Mac Pimpi”.  And instructions include directions such as “Beat those eggs like a Mother#$%&er who crossed you” or “Spin them around like a stripper on a pole”. 
Suffice to say I enjoyed the writing as much or more than the recipes themselves.
Now for the amazing part; these recipes are pretty good.  The ingredients asked for are easy to find and consist of most spices and ingredients you would have in a regular kitchen.  There are no crazy cooking techniques or anything more difficult than an average home cook could handle.  I cannot attest to how healthy most of the food is, but there is a good section on salads, vegetarian food and even a nice seafood section “It’s Hard Out Here For A Shrimp”. 
So if you can get past the latent silliness of the presentation of the material I think you will find some good fun recipes, and you will probably laugh quite a bit too.

{Book Review} Forgotten God by Francis Chan

Once again Francis Chan makes you think.

I really enjoyed Chan’s first book “Crazy Love”, and this book is just as good. Chan has a great talent for getting you to take a hard look at yourself and see areas in your life where you may not be living according to what the Bible teaches. The great thing is that Francis doesn’t preach hellfire and brimstone, or yell at you, or guilt trip you, or try to make you feel bad about yourself. He instead invites you on a journey to explore what the Bible says with him, and if you read along you tend to find that Chan is not doing much more than just talking about what is already there in the Bible for us to read.

In his new book “Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit” addresses (As you can guess by the title) the fact that today we dismiss the role of the of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives. The Holy Spirit has the ability to live in all of Christ’s followers, but how many of us, actually allow the Spirit to do that? In the book, Chan covers: why we need the Spirit in our lives; explores reasons why we may not engage the Holy Spirit or may feel uncomfortable with the idea; surveys the theology of the Holy Spirit; makes sure we want the Holy Spirit in our lives for the right reasons; talks about what a right relationship with the Holy Spirit looks like; dismisses the idea that a relationship with the Spirit will reveal God’s plan for our life; and discusses what the Church could look like if we all lived with a right relationship with the spirit. Also Francis finishes each chapter with a short biography about someone who is or has lived a very Spirit filled life. Suffice to say he covers a lot of ground.

Despite all that is covered, the writing is very accessible, not technical or full of obscure theological terms or jargon. This is a book that can be easily understood by just about anyone, and I am sure it will challenge many, as it did me. This book has made me take a serious inward look at my relationship with the Holy Spirit and my motives relating to the Spirit. I encourage you to pick up a copy and give it a read yourself.

Duck Tails (Woo-Hoo)!

I have wanted to cook a duck for a very, very long time. In fact last holiday season I found one in the frozen poultry section of my local supermarket and I bought one. And I stuck it in the freezer and it sat there…under frozen pizzas…and frozen taquitos…and popsicles until this weekend, when I gathered the gumption and nerve to cook that bad mallard.

The first thing that surprised me was the nice thick layer of fat that ducks have under their skin. I knew this caused a problem in duck cookery as said fat tended to melt fall and then burn in the cooking process producing much smoke. The suppliers of my duck had been nice enough however to slice the skin open and cut into the duck fat in certain areas enough to allow for fat drainage.

Now I had read of certain applications where you boiled the duck first to rid it of its fat before crisping it in the oven. I thought of this, but then I thought it increased the amount of pans needed and I would hate to lose flavor form boiling my duck. Sounded like an awfully English/Irish way of cooking my fowl. And I thought I could do better.

Due to the outer layer of fat on the duck I knew there wasn’t going to be much need for lubing or basting it also presented limited options for seasoning. I went with a straight forward liberal sprinkling of kosher salt and pepper all other the thing. I decided to keep it simple as this was my first experience.

After prepping, I then placed the duck on a roasting rack in a roasting pan. Set into a preheated 375 degree oven and cook for 20 minutes per pound, in my case two hours.

I was left with a delicious bird with tasty moist meat, and a pan full of drippings.

The fat of the bird literally melted off into the pan, causing some smells of smoke at first, but eventually a lovely pool of fat formed that sizzled away any drips of juice from the bird.

I served the duck with some basmati rice, keeping it simply. A duck is basically all dark meat so the meat from the leg was as tasty as the meat from the breast. And I tried not to overcook as I always heard overcooking duck is bad. The cooking directions on the bag the duck came in said 22 minutes per pound. I shortened it a little bit and just made sure to check with a thermometer before serving. Juices were clear so I was in the clear. After dinner I got as much meat off as I could so that I can make duck tacos later…..should be yummy.

I plant to cook duck again, and hopefully get a little more creative too. Also my big plans a goose, during Christmas!