I’m Sorry, I Forgot

As my body gives me more ‘old guy’ reminders with fresh and interesting new body aches, I realize I’m fast becoming an old man. At thirty-eight, I’m struggling with my memory. It’s not just memory. My concentration has gotten so poor I sometimes have a hard time carrying a two minute conversation.

If it wasn’t for the family history of Alzheimer’s, this would be funny. I’m not even trying to imply that I have Alzheimer’s, but did I mention that I can’t give blood?

It’s nothing glamorous like I used to be an IV drug user or I’m moonlighting as a vampire. From 1989-1992, I lived in Germany. The blood collectors don’t want donations that could potentially be tainted with Mad Cow Disease. Nice. Now my over active imagination gets to picture my prions crapping out.

No, I don’t seriously think I have prion disease. I just can’t remember things. It’s even hard to remember childhood moments.

My wife would not normally be concerned, but I used to have a steel trap memory. Nothing seemed to escape it. I had memories when I was two, I used to learn while sleeping, which irritated some of my college professors. My wife could not comprehend how I could be snoring while she was watching tv, only to awake to have a discussion about what she watched.

My wife keeps my appointments. She texts me reminders. I have taken notes to remember errands only to forget I had taken notes or where they might be. Instead of remembering every simple detail, I’ll perform tasks only to forget I ever did them.

My wife is concerned with my ‘condition.’ I actually find it peaceful to be oblivious. I don’t have to worry about as much as the average person because I forgot that I even had something to worry about. It’s certainly not a profound condition, at least not yet, but at least this does have some perks.

Now if I can just find my car keys.

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Merging is Optional

Have you ever been been driving when suddenly a construction sign appears that you must merge immediately?  I’ve been driving 22 years and have never seen a construction sign ominously appear while listening to Men Without Hats.  Those signs are planted there.  Further, they cannot be a surprise because there are typically preceding signs that warn us about the merge sign.  If you are on the interstate, sometimes you have miles of warnings and multitudinous signs advising us of the dreaded lane closure sign.

The conscientious driver merges over to the safe lane as soon as they see the first warning sign.  Or they merge over as soon as traffic allows.  Then, there’s the other driver who rides the closing lane until the last moment so he can pass as many cars as he can.  I hate that.  How inconsiderate can someone be to play chicken with the big orange lane closure sign only so he can ‘cut ahead’ in line?  Have you seen this person?

I’ve had many opportunities to teach these drivers the error of their ways.  Invariably, they always want to cut in front of me right as their lane is closing.  I knew it was going to happen, so I move up exceedingly close to the car in front of me.  If the cars were standing still, a person wouldn’t be able to walk between my car and the car in front of me.  How does this muddy four wheel drive pickup with big stupid tires think he is going to fit?  He won’t.

These people try to horn in and I won’t let them.  I’d rather end up in a fifty-seven car pileup than let this guy merge over.  I really hate how these drivers try to take advantage in an unfortunate situation.  I’m sure these same people cut in line at the grocery store.  I hate that too, but that’s not what I’m hating on right now.

You would think these drivers would learn that they will never merge in front of me under these circumstances.  Any other time and I will let anyone or everyone merge in front of me.  I’m the guy driving two miles under the speed limit.  I have all the time in the world to get to the pet store to load up on that fifty dollar bag of dog food for Molly.

Invariably, these guys give up on these impromptu games of chicken.  I always win and they always merge right behind me.  They are always making some mean face flailing their arms around.  Then they give me the double bird as if the single bird isn’t satisfactory.  I like that.

I like that so much that I give them thumbs up.  I enjoy seeing their anger towards me so much that I roll my window down and stick my arm out the window so I can give an unfettered thumbs up.  If they don’t seem to appreciate one thumb, they sure appreciate when I stick my second arm out the window for the coup de grace:  the double thumbs up while my car is careening toward the closed lane filled with backhoes and hardhats.  That’s fitting, since I’m listening to the Safety Dance.

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/03/31/prompt-drives-me-crazy/

Will the Real Noah Please Stand Up?

I read The Matt Walsh Blog this afternoon and I think he had an accurate review of the new ‘Noah’ movie.  I’m not trying to rehash what he said regarding the movie.  By the way, I got the impression that he thought it was drek.  I just heard some arguments in favor of viewing of the movie and I thought it needed to be addressed.

I have heard this argument repackaged many times for other movies, pastors, car salesmen, levitation machines, and pig wrestlers.  Essentially, the argument should not be about whether the movie is biblical or not, or even if it completely misrepresents God.  Or not.  The Christian shouldn’t disparage the movie.  As a matter of fact, he should watch the movie so that he will have opportunities to share the Gospel with people who have seen the movie.

Really?  The Gospel is already a stumbling block for people.  People think that they don’t need saving.  People don’t want to repent of their sins.  I cannot see how a misrepresentation of the Bible can bring people to Christ.  Maybe I’m pessimistic, but if one believes he can use the movie, ‘Noah’ as a launching pad to share the Gospel, he should have even more success sharing the Gospel with people who have seen ‘Pulp Fiction.’  Afterall, Samuel L. Jackson quoted scripture.

In interviews, Russell Crowe reveals that he has no idea what the biblical story of Noah is about.  Noah, the taskmaster?  Is that why God chose to save him?  Genesis 6:9 states, “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation.  Noah walked with God.  John MacArthur’s commentary explains, “‘righteous’ is to live by God’s righteous standards;  ‘blameless’ sets him apart by a comparison with those of his day; and that he ‘walked with God’ puts him in a class with Enoch (p. 25).  That is a strong assertion comparing Noah with Enoch.  Remember, Enoch never tasted death.  God brought him straight to heaven.

Some people (usually people outside the faith) think righteous means perfect.  Does righteous and blameless mean Noah was perfect?  Does that mean he was a swell guy?  He certainly wasn’t perfect and some of his sins depicted in the Bible suggest he may not have been a swell guy.  MacArthur explains that “God makes it clear the Noah was a man who believed in God as Creator, Sovereign, and the only Savior from sin.”  That is what makes Noah righteous.

Most importantly, the story is a type, or illustration of Jesus.  Jesus said, “I am the door.  If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9).  There was only one door in the ark.  That one door represents Jesus.  Did Noah shut that door?  No, God alone saves.  God shut that door (Genesis 7:16).

If you want to lead people to Christ, you use the Bible.  The Bible is truth.  It makes no sense to try to lead people with a counterfeit.  If you want to draw from unbiblical sources, good luck.  At least use something moderately entertaining, like Dr. Who.

Where is the Line?

How can one decide to walk the line if he doesn’t know the line?  Is the line merely of an external nature where one will be nice to others and tell the truth?  Perhaps, but that would be incomplete.

To even know what the line should be, one must know what truth is.  Without truth, our parameters are arbitrary.  Consider the spoon bender in the Matrix.  Fine.  There is no spoon.  We can say there is no ultimate truth.  If there is no ultimate truth, there is no truth at all.  Only the illusion of truth.

History can testify that this relativistic view of “what’s true for you is not necessarily true for me” is alive and well.  One view that can be adopted is the Machiavellian end justifying the means.

This is the fruit of postmodernism.  It should ALWAYS be illegal to murder.  It should ALWAYS be illegal to commit adultery.  It should ALWAYS be illegal to rape.  History’s relativism suggests otherwise.

Perhaps the most discussed question in history is, “What is truth?”  Pilate asked that very question in John 18:38.  I am no theologian, but I am a Christian and I believe that the Bible as a whole, answers that question quite nicely.

Moses brought the Ten Commandments down from Mount Sinai.  These Commandments were a code given by God that we are to live by.  Even today, I would guess that most people agree with some of them.  Murder is bad. So are stealing and adultery.

Regardless of the code we choose to live by, even if your motto is, “To thine one self be true,” you betray yourself.  Are you always true to yourself in all cases?  Are there exceptions?  These exceptions, intentional or not, would betray the above maxim.

God’s law was meant to show our shortcomings.  Our sinful nature. Jesus really put the screws to us when he said he is most concerned with what’s inside.

Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:27, 28 ESV)  Our thoughts condemn us in the eyes of God.  We thought we were keeping this commandment by not physically cheating on our spouses.

Jesus also stated, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’  But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. (Matthew 5:21, 22 ESV)  Anger is equal to murder? I’m guilty of unrighteous anger.  According to Jesus, I’m guilty of murder perhaps tens of thousands of times in my life.

The law was never intended to measure our good deeds with.  The law crushes the lawbreaker under its weight.  This is why we need the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

So, what is the line?  I submit that it’s the Ten Commandments.  Do I walk the line?  At best, I stumble alongside the line.  Thanks to Jesus, I am not condemned by the line.

 

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/03/30/prompt-walk-the-line/

Best. Pinto Beans. Ever.

I know I’m making big claims, but I know you will be hard pressed to find better beans elsewhere.  I grew up on Great Northern beans where the seasoning consisted of diced ham, chopped onion, salt, and pepper.  That’s how my mom cooked them.  Great Northern beans are a very neutral legume, so this simple preparation is satisfactory.  They used to be my favorite, but after a couple of years testing out different pinto bean preparations, I have decided that I would much rather have pintos.

Pinto beans are also versatile.  I’ll have a bowl of beans.  I’ll make refried beans with leftovers to enjoy with eggs.  Leftovers find their way into chilis, stews, and even spaghetti.  If you have a great recipe that calls for beans, these lowly beans will elevate the the dish to levels that cannot otherwise be attained.

 

Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds dried pinto beans

2 beef short ribs

1 bell pepper

1 stalk celery

1 anaheim chile

1 white onion

1 link andouille sausage

2 strips bacon (finely chopped)

1 tablespoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon ground thyme (I usually use dried thyme leaves, but this is what I had on hand)

1 teaspoon mexican oregano

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

2 teaspoons chimayo blend chile (more on this later)

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 cup red wine

7 cloves garlic-minced

2 tablespoons beef base

2 teaspoons cumin

1 can Rotel

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

 

Method

Sort and soak beans in water the night before.  Rinse thoroughly before you are ready to cook.

Chop all vegetables and set aside.

20140329-135505.jpg
Pre-measuring spices can save some effort later. I have to do this if I’m measuring spices. I never do. I just toss them in as I see fit. That wouldn’t be a very good recipe to share, though.

Measure seasonings. (paprika, thyme, oregano, white pepper, chimayo blend chile, and black pepper.  (I purchased this Chimayo blend chile online from New Mexico.  They are known for their Hatch chiles and I want to do everything possible to make my beans taste great.  I’m merely sharing where I bought my chile powder because I like the product.  If you want to use something better than McCormick, that is one place to look.  By the way, I use many different McCormick products.  They’re great.  When you find something even better, you need to snatch that opportunity.)  Save the cumin until later as cooking it too long can make it bitter.  Add seasonings to a bowl for a later step.

the Maillard reaction is beautiful to behold.
The Maillard reaction is beautiful to behold.

Preheat pot.  I use a cast iron dutch oven for my beans and it has served me well.  Once heated, add a tablespoon of vegetable oil.  Salt and pepper beef short ribs and brown.  Remember the Maillard reaction I described in my jambalaya recipe?  This is important for flavorful beans.  Typically, the meat will initially stick to the bottom of the pan.  After it has formed that crust, or scab, the meat will release.  At that point, you can turn the meat to brown the other sides.  If you are really patient, you can brown the edges with the aid of tongs.

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I love the smell of meat in the morning. Or ever.

Remove the ribs and set aside.  Hopefully, you have prechopped the andouille.  I prefer Manda, but Savoie’s is a good choice.  Cut it lengthwise.  Then cut the two halves lengthwise again.  Now you can dice it up into small triangle-ish pieces.  Add the andouille and finely chopped bacon to brown.

Add vegetables to increase taste factor.

At this point, add chopped vegetables and cook to soften.  Once the vegetables are about halfway done, add the garlic and short ribs.  You don’t want to add the garlic too soon or it could turn bitter.  All vegetables will be ready for the next stage once the onion is translucent.

 

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We are about to have some beautiful bean footage.

Add 1/2 cup red wine (I had some Bordeaux on hand).  I don’t drink, but I often cook with alcohol.  Never use cooking wine.  It is inferior.  I don’t know how to judge wines, but I figure a $10-$15 wine will work nicely).  Deglaze pot with wine and add in beans, spice blend, and Rotel.  Fill pot with water and simmer slowly for about an hour.

At this point, you can add cumin.  (I actually have a spice blend that I got in Honduras.  I know the main ingredient is cumin, but I have not identified the others.  For all I know it’s ground coca leaves.)  You also want to add the beef base.  I’ve used both the powdered and pudding-like base.  I like the latter one better, but the former is easier to store and doesn’t take up valuable refrigerator space.

This is a good time to remove the beef ribs to cool.  Once cooled, dice up what little meat is there and reintroduce to the bean pot.

Simmer around another 1/2 hour to an hour and you have an incredible pot of beans.

These beans go terrific with flour tortillas or buttery cornbread.

This is my recipe that I finally wrote down to minimize variation.  Feel free to share it, but please credit me accordingly.  Also, if you have a better recipe, I’ll be glad to try it out.

 

Dinnertime.
Dinnertime.

 

Rockets and Robots

Music seems to be center stage to fuel one’s moods.  Everyone seems to know the best music to shake the blues.  Johnny Cash tells us to throw our blues in the Gulf.  Johnny’s music generally frequents my CD player while I’m on the road.  Who needs the blues when you are cruising down the road with a belly full of Corn Nuts?

If you want to beat the blues with brute force, there are numerous bands to choose from, but I like Static-X complete with robot imagery.  Robots like to rock.  They don’t get depressed.  Besides, if you had hair like Wayne Static, could you possibly get depressed?  I think not.

Since we are talking about robots, we cannot ignore Powerman 5000.  Frontman Spider One, with his futuristic getup and wonky stares, must be used for taming robots.  Melancholy moods are obliterated with angry music.  It usually won’t make you David Banner angry, but be forewarned.  Some consumers of this music are those gangster wannabes with their mean face and their intimidating swagger like they have a tricycle wheel for a foot.  You can find them at Circle K wearing their discount leather jackets asking strangers to buy them a pack of smokes.

If you can’t chase the blues off with anger, maybe you can scare it off.  Spider One and his brother, Rob Zombie, grew up on a diet of horror movies.  If you aren’t scared by Rob Zombie, you’ve got to be one of those scary robots he hangs out with.

When I have an especially bad case of the blues, I have to find some music that makes me dance spontaneously.  Dave Matthews Band fits the bill.  Plus, Dave likes to make up words.  It’s like listening to Bill Cosby shill Pudding Pops.

It’s clear.  If you have the blues you need to find some robots.

You may have noticed all of this music is a bit dated.  I’ve been out of radio about five years and I’m not hip and relevant.  It’s been another lifetime since I was concerned with the latest tunes.

 

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/03/28/prompt-singing-the-blues/

Peculiar Hack

I certainly remember reading numerous fiction books as a kid.  I was a voracious reader and I enjoyed the dry as dust nonfiction books because they were retelling events of something that actually occurred.  It was not some absurd story about a nude parrot getting smuggled down to “too damn vivid South America.” Besides, this was maybe a dozen years before Tom Robbins even penned Fierce Invalids…  However, I remember checking out a forgotten Jacques Cousteau book numerous times at the school library.  It appears my obsession with reading books that were fact and not some fantastical adventure stunted my creative nature.  And I don’t even think I was old enough to wear my nerd glasses.  I got those when I was ten.

Around fourth grade, I remember we had creative writing assignments.  I figured I was doing great until the parent-teacher meeting.  “Mr. Luoma, your son is not creative,” was the gist of the conversation.  It was like someone dug my dad’s heart out with a titanium spork, cut it into chunks, and proceeded to catch a thirty-eight pound catfish with his left ventricle as bait.

My dad made it his mission to try to make us well rounded little people.  He referred to parenting children as “an experiment.”  Terrific.  He must have taken food science instead of chemistry where he would have learned that experiments can end badly.  The type of experiment you would find on The Island of Dr. Moreau.

I don’t remember what my dad did to make me creative, but I do remember he made me read the dictionary aloud when I was fourteen in a lame attempt to cure my lisp.  By the way, broadcasting school cured me of that.  I like to imagine his creativity experiment was somewhat creative involving army ants and GI Joe action figures.  I imagine his methods were no less diabolical.  I think army ants were GI Joe’s other half of the battle.

Somewhere between then and my junior year I became unglued.  I had entered a world where I’m the only one who thought I was funny.  My drama teacher in eleventh grade called my dad in for a parent-teacher meeting.  She told my dad I was “peculiar.”  Seriously.  I didn’t know how to take that.

In college, I used to get drunk and write my term papers.  My English professor who also happened to be the Dean of the Humanities department once accused me of plagarism.  He said my typical writing was hackneyed and this one sentence in this one paper on mythology was decent.  Decidedly, I must have stolen it.  I think he forgot the first rule of Fight Club.  Never look for quotable material while drinking.  Make everything up so you can get back to drinking.  After I reminded him of the first rule, he realized that even hacks get lucky sometimes.

 

This post is response to the Weekly Writing Challenge on reflections.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/03/24/writing-challenge-reflections/

Mindless Drivel

Conversation is overrated. I learned this over the years by having conversations with my dad. I don’t know if he was born to have long discussions about nothing or if it is the result of his dad re-enacting Three Stooges scenes by clunking his head against his sisters’ heads.

My dad knew the art of having conversations beyond their expiration date by interjecting meaningless and irrelevant details. Is being subjected to inane conversation considered abuse?

Flash forward to the present: I still hate details and I dislike most conversation more than two words. I actually spend a lot of time thinking about saying something as concise as possible. When I ask a question, I require only the detail I ask for.

An example of of scintillating conversation would be something like this: “Was the movie good?” An acceptable reply is “yes.” A typical answer is more like this: “The movie was blah, blah, blah, blah…”

See what I did there? I just tuned out and directed my attention to the dog defecating in the yard. I’m thinking, “Why does the dog crinkle itself up to poop but stretches out to pee?”

My wife is irritated by my attention span. Not that she has inane conversation. She always wants to discuss important matters, but my brain has been trained to have drive-thru dialogue. “Would you like fries with that?” Of course I want fries with that. What a stupid question. I always want fries with that unless they are calf fries.

See how easily I’m distracted? I can remember the old 80’s commercial by the United Negro College Fund. “A mind is a terrible thing to waste…” Then I remember the commercial with Iron Eyes Cody crying when he sees someone litter.  Did you know he wasn’t Native American?

Just be glad I’m not an air traffic controller.

Feeding the Masses

I am spending my day at Common Ground Community (CGC) today. CGC is a faith-based organization and It’s quiet as I’m the only one here. This evening will resemble a three ring circus with kids running loose and parents being ministered to by our volunteers. I’m in charge of tonight’s meal.

I guess I’ve been volunteering here close to three years. I typically volunteer to create supper one Thursday a month. I think volunteering here and with Mercy Chefs are what helped me become comfortable with catering. It’s only a fledgling business and I’m not looking to make millions, just enough to contribute to our household so we can finally melt that debt snowball.

Most people who come here don’t know who I am or what I do. I like it that way. I hope they came for Jesus, but I’m sure many just come to get some of their basic needs met.

Sometimes it’s difficult for me to volunteer here as my wife and children have told me that on several occasions, they have heard people whine and disparage my food.

They hear this while serving the members of this community. I ignored what they said for a couple of years and kept making things like spaghetti and meatballs, meatloaf, BBQ chicken, and homemade bread. Along with the main courses were various sides and desserts. I usually don’t go all out on the sides, but the main courses and desserts have always been from scratch.

A couple of months ago, we were short handed. After I was done in the kitchen I went to serve meals. We serve cafeteria style to feed everyone quickly. That night I heard many negative remarks and only one positive remark. I’m not here to boost my ego, but I hope all of my effort is well received. I’m wasting everyone’s time if nobody wants to eat it.

After this experience, I looked back on my experiences with Mercy Chefs I served in Kenner, LA after a hurricane, West, TX after a plant explosion. (I think that was a feed plant.) I even spent time in Colorado after last year’s flooding. We have served thousands of meals and I have never heard anything negative on any of these adventures. There was only gratitude. Again, this isn’t about some pity trip I’m on. I’m just making observations.

I believe that the victims of disasters are so grateful because they just lost everything. The people I encounter in this neighborhood are victims of the system.

This system encourages government dependence. This system holds very little value for dads or for families with both a mom and a dad. This system encourages thug life where eight year olds try to act like their favorite hardcore rapper wif diamonds in their teefs.

Granted, there are many who come here and are struggling to raise their children properly. To raise them to have respect for their elders. To raise them to have respect for themselves.

Society as a whole can get locked in a groupthink mentality where they think it is best to throw money at the problem. To give handouts. CGC, a Bible believing organization, now appears to be transitioning from a handout system to one that encourages the individual to help himself. I’m not a fan of clichés but in a sense, to give a ‘hand up.’

Since hearing feedback firsthand for the food I expended so much love to prepare, I’m in a sort of transition. Maybe I should cook something more fundamental. Last month I made Hoppin’ John, a dish consisting of blackeyed peas and rice. Today, I’m making pinto beans and rice. Don’t worry, I’m going to have cornbread, too.

I still expend the same energy shopping, chopping, and cooking. These beans are going to taste out of this world, but for now, I’m offering two basic meals that we enjoy every week at home: beans and rice and rice and beans.

I can feed them today, but I hope they find the Bread of Life where they will never hunger again.

Maple Cake with Mocha Frosting

A friend of mine lent me her stand mixer so I could see if I wanted (or needed) to buy one myself.  I have been baking a lot of cakes lately, and depending on where I have been baking them, I either mixed them with a hand mixer or by hand with an authoritative spoon.  It is work using a hand mixer, but when you are cooking full sized sheet cakes with nothing more than a spoon, it becomes work.  Fast.  The stand mixer runs laps around my puny arm.

This is much more effective than my puny arm.
This is much more effective than my puny arm.

Today, I decided to create a maple cake with mocha buttercream frosting.  I loosely based this cake on the same recipe I posted the other day.  As a matter of fact, this cake is nothing like it.  The required ingredients are as follows:

 

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup maple syrup

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup butter

2 eggs

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I’m using Honduran extract)

 

Frosting

1/2 cup butter

1/3 cup whipping cream

1/4 cup baking cocoa

3 cups confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon coffee extract

 

Method

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Mix butter in a bowl with brown sugar until smooth.  Blend in maple syrup and oil.  Slowly add flour, salt, and baking soda.  Once well mixed, add two eggs and buttermilk.  Finish off with a teaspoon of vanilla extract.

Greased 9 x 13 sheet pan and pour in batter.  Bake approximately 30-40 minutes.

While cake is baking, beat 1/2 stick butter with whipping cream, confectioners’ sugar, and whipping cream.  Once smooth, add vanilla and coffee extracts.

Maple cake with mocha frosting.
Maple cake with mocha frosting.

Pour frosting over cake while still warm.

Enjoy.

Note:  The edges of the cake seemed a little hard, so next time I will try with white sugar instead of brown sugar.