Monday, June 30, 2008

Where the Hell is Matt?

This is a creative and curious little video.  

I promise it will make you smile and put juice in your the whole thing, though.

Where the Hell is Matt? (2008) from Matthew Harding.

Then go check out his website and read his story.  

h/t Peeniewallie

Saturday, June 28, 2008

District of Columbia vs. Heller

"The same folks who can read the Constitution and Bill of Rights and find an unassailable right to abortion and gay marriage can't find a right to possession of a firearm."

Well said.  Why didn't I think of that?  I recommend that you click through the link above to Megan McArdle's very brief but substantive observation on how the protection of gun rights is also pro-feminist.  

h/t:  Instapundit, of course.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


Sometimes, rarely (okay, almost never, but still...), I feel that by blogging I am, in some small, personal way, helping the world to be better place.  That I am "giving back" or "paying it forward."  Uh-huh.  Well, today is one of those days.

Here is a simple, beautiful recipe for making a wonderful culinary treat. I call it “Bruschetta for Two.”

2 large slices of Italian or artisan bread
A few leaves of fresh spinach
1 -2 tomatoes, preferably Roma, depending on size 
Genoa Salami,
Mozzarella cheese
Whole olives
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Sea Salt, ground black pepper
Ground or freshly chopped oregano and/or basil leaves to taste.

First, gently toast one side of the bread in your broiler. I prefer the Pane Turano from Turano Bakery, personally, but any robust, high quality artisan bread should work. I recommend using a pizza stone, if you have one. While the bread is toasting, clean, dry, and trim a few leaves of fresh spinach. Be quick about it, though, or the bread will burn.

Take the bread out, but leave the broiler on. Flip both slices over so that the toasted side is down. Very lightly drizzle or brush a little olive oil on the untoasted side.

Slice the tomatoes as thin as possible, trim out any pithy parts.

Slice the 6-8 pieces of mozzarella, also thin, about 1/4”.

Slice the salami at the same thickness, then dice it. Genoa salami has this quirky, concentrated flavor that is really tasty. And it cooks very nicely.

Yum. REAL olives...not the tasteless, mealy little funky things they call "Spanish olives." I hated olives when I was a kid. Now I love them. It's good to be a grown-up.

Pit and slice the olives, testing two or three as you go to be sure they are as good as they look (oh, yeah).

Now you are ready to assemble your masterpiece:

Place the spinach leaves on the bread, followed by the tomato slices. Next come the olives (on mine, not on the wife’s) and then the diced salami. Now a dash of sea salt and a bit of freshly ground pepper (not shown, sorry).

Finally, top with the mozzarella slices.

Place them back in the hot oven, on the bottom shelf. Let it stay in there for 5 minutes or so, checking on it occasionally. It is done whenever you say it is, but I like for the mozz to be fully melted and just starting to bubble and brown.

And it will come out looking like this!

Remove from the oven and immediately place on serving plates. Drizzle liberally with olive oil and sprinkle a little of the oregano or basil on top.

And serve. 

At our house, we eat this two or three times a week. It is a very flexible, improvisatory dish that is different and delicious every time. You can add or substitute many ingredients with great results, such as artichoke hearts, lettuce, fresh or roasted bell peppers, garlic in any form, arugula (if you can find it), pesto, tomato sauce, onions chopped or stripped, pickled Italian veggies, smoked  salmon, anchovies, prosciutto(!), diced red cabbage, parmesan or romano cheese, roasted asparagus tips, zucchini, mushrooms, etc. 

I have been known to sprinkle on a little of the pre-mixed Alexander's Bread Dip Seasoning at the end, and it works great.  

You can even add a fried egg on top, serve it around 11:00 AM some lazy, overcast Saturday morning, and call it “Brunchetta for Two.”  Ouch.

This is a really fast, easy, and good recipe.  To insure success every time, just be sure to use fresh ingredients where possible, good bread, and the best olive oil that you can afford. Also, part of what seems to make this work so well every time is that no single ingredient is allowed to overpower another. It is the combination of the subtle savory flavors, harmonized by the olive oil and toasted bread that makes it so delicious.

The good stuff.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Facebook gets personal

Okay, so Facebook's idea of a clever advertising strategy is to put an ad like this on my Profile page:

48 and Overweight?
Fat burning green tea will get you in shape! Try it free.
Just pay shipping!

Of course, clicking on the above ad takes me to a webpage that describes in hyperbolic detail the life-changing effect that green tea tablets will have on my physique and pysche.  And it's free!  Just pay shipping!

Now, I ask you, what makes them think that I want to be insulted on my own Facebook page? Obviously, since I gave them my date of birth on signup, they are using that information to attempt a devious ploy.  I wonder what would have happened if I told them I was 103, would I still get the same invitation?  What percentage of 48-year olds have (or want) abs like this, do you think? And what other information from my profile are they bending to their nefarious marketing purposes?

Admittedly, I'm not built like I was 25 years ago when my metabolism first started winding down to it's present crawl, but I am still reasonably healthy and able-bodied for a geezer.  It is worthwhile to note, also, that is not only circumference, softness, and a general weathering that comes with age, but also at least a modicum of wisdom and understanding about the world. Two things I know: Green tea does not produce six-pack abs (see Buddha), and more importantly, if God intended for 48-year old men to have abs like that he would not have blessed the earth with pasta.  


Sunday, June 22, 2008

Water Striders

This website has some gorgeous photography and covers a fascinating scientific study. It documents research done recently by a couple of students at MIT on insects who walk on water. Among the amazing things that they've done is design and build a tiny robotic insect to mimic and simulate the movements of various insects.

"Yes, I get it. You don't like my country."

Here's a good article on the fallacy of being popular.  The author comments on a recent Congressional report bemoaning the fact that a lot of the world doesn't seem to like the United States of America these days.

I agree.  Popularity is overrated.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Apostrophe S

This is how big a geek I am. I think this is super duper funny.

Yeah, grammar humor. Because punctuation is a giggly good time for kids of all ages. Not to mention the talking dinosaurs.

The funny thing (usually) about is that every day there is a new one. The cartoon never changes. Not one pixel varies from day to day. Only the script.  And they've got cool T-shirts.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


I just joined Facebook.  

Against my better judgement.

What was I thinking?

UPDATE:  With a link to my actual Facebook profile.  Who knew there were other people with my name on Facebook?  Imposters, all of them.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Reason #1683 to despise the United Nations

The United Nations, as I've noted here before, could be the Anti-Christ except for the fact that it is the most relentlessly stupid organization in the world. It is a truly, deeply, hopelessly evil cabal of corrupt and powerful international criminals, yes.  It is an unfathomable waste of money, resources, and good NYC real estate, yes. But it is capable of a corporate IQ that measures somewhere just above that of dirt.

I don't need to point out the irony here, do I?  I mean everyone who is not a UN ambassador or toady can clearly see and understand the absurdity here, right?

No, the Anti-Christ, when he appears, will be way smarter.  So watch out.  


Thursday, June 12, 2008

How do it know?

Something that doesn’t make sense to me is how, after installing a new ink cartridge, in order to align the print heads on my printer, I must first print a sheet on my printer, which is then used by my scanner to perform the necessary calibrations.

That doesn’t make sense. This is the same printer that lies like a dead raccoon about the amount of ink that remains. Something is not right here.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Nearly Perfect

It is early Sunday morning, looking out across the east fork of the Niagara River from the second story patio of a beautiful house on the riverfront in Grand Island, New York. Here, in fact:

View Larger Map

Showered, with a fresh cup of strong coffee, watching the clouds roll in and the geese fly by, as I listen to Jeff Beck’s classic “Blow by Blow” and write. No one else is up yet, either in the house or in the neighborhood, except for the birds. I take that back...I do now see a couple of small boats in the far distance. The sun has just established itself, peering through the striated overcast cloud cover.

We arrived here on Friday evening, driving in from Indiana, meeting up with my brother and his family who drove up from Charlottesville, VA. My mom and grandma rode with us.

This trip, planned for nearly a year, was supposed to be a celebratory getaway to Niagara Falls, honoring my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary. Their intention was to avoid the typical public hoopla and make it a more private event, a family vacation. My dad died in January, but my mom decided that it would still be a good thing to do, so here we are. And that demonstrates some of my mom’s great strengths, her vision for joy and beauty, her passion for her family, and a determination to embrace life no matter what comes.

Dad’s absence is as as palpable as his presence would be, but our sadness is tempered by our sure knowledge that he is even happier than we are. The only other person missing who would in most circumstances otherwise be here is my son, JP. We haven’t talked to him for a couple of weeks, but he is immersed in the Cavalier’s intense preseason camp. The drum corps, not the basketball team.

Yesterday we had a wonderful day on the Canadian side of the Niagara Falls. We went to the observatory deck of the Skylon Tower in the late morning, then had a great meal in the revolving restaurant. After that, all of us kids and grandkids rode the Maid of the Mist, which really exceeded all expectations. A water ride of the first order, wherein a big boat full of tourists in blue ponchos are ferried past the American Falls to the pool at the base of the magnificent Horseshoe Falls. The Maid then slowly turns and motors back, it’s passengers happily drenched and awed by a site of unparalleled natural beauty and astounding power.

It is almost impossible to describe the sights and sounds of this adventure. Go if you can, you will not regret it.

The neighborhood is now beginning to awaken. Not sure what we are doing today. Anything will be fine.

Here are a few more photos:

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Heavy Weather

We live in that part of Indiana that is in the news currently for some pretty serious weather.  The storms raged for hours last night keeping us awake. It wasn't that it was that scary, really, it was just astoundingly loud for some 5 hours without ceasing. Here are some pictures that I took this morning from our front yard.

This shot is of our neighbor's house, across the street (Hwy. 27). That water behind their house is a creek that normally is not even remotely visible from my front porch.

I don't think the water actually reached their house, but it defintely flooded 80% of their yard, flooding their storage shed and drowning their garden. They are out of town at the moment.

This is the field just south of our house, on the other side of our driveway. The aforementioned creek goes under the highway, usually unseen, but now freely overflowing it's banks into the field.

Ed, who does an awesome job farming our land, is definitely going to be replanting the soybeans in that part of the field. Lots of extra work and added expense.  And I'm certain this isn't the only flooded area on our farm.

Nothing wrong with making the news, but not like this. Our home happens to be on some of the highest ground around here, fortunately, but in Lynn, the little town north of here, some two dozen families had to be evacuated by boat, I was told. Pretty tough times for those folks.

Niagara Falls

Slowly, I turned...

Tuesday, June 03, 2008


This is very funny to me.  

In related news, as part of my ongoing effort to improve the quality of my pizza and, ergo, my life, yesterday I made Giada DeLaurentis' (above) pizza dough recipe.  I had never made my own dough from scratch before and it was scary.  I love to cook, but I only barely dabble in the mysterious baking arts.

Turned out okay, though, and I learned a couple of things.  It was edible and no worse than crusts that I've purchased.  A decent first attempt.

h/t: Pic found in the comments section on

Monday, June 02, 2008

Hot rod guitars and old friends.

I could write and talk about guitars all day, to be honest. So, if you came here hoping for a new travelogue post about what to do in Rome, you’ll want to come back tomorrow. Today our topic is again the details and minutiae of my hot new guitar rig and the joys of reconnecting with old friends.

This past weekend I played the new amp rig and my recently-modified Stratocaster in our worship services. Overall, it went really well and I am very pleased with the new sound. Most of the songs this week were guitar-driven, blues-rock infused styles and I was especially happy with the big, crunchy sound that the little amp delivered. I still need to tweak and refine some of the clean, sparkly, textural sounds that I often use as those seemed harder to get to and control. This involves some rather extensive reprogramming of my aforementioned Boss GT-6. But I must say that when I needed the bark and growl (and who doesn’t need that in worship?), it was right there at my fingertips and loads of fun. When we we hit the chorus of The Newsboys’ version of “Amazing Love”, I had this humongous, warm, rich, textured heavy-rock rhythm sound that was just...inspiring. Amen.

I am just as excited about the new Tex-Tone pickup that I installed in the bridge last week as I am about the new amp. It has a completely different, and far more nuanced, sound than the stock pickup. The output level is not noticeably different than the still stock middle and neck pickups, but it definitely has a nicer tone. One of the best things about it is the way it seems to respond to the tone control knob. Like most Strat players, for years the bridge tone control has been largely superfluous, left wide open (on 10!) nearly all the time. But with the Tex-Tone, I actually found that it was useful for rolling of some of the highs when I wanted to have the characteristic bite, but perhaps not quite as much razor-pointy edge as this pickup is capable of. That kind of flexibility is a surprising and unique benefit.

I had one annoying problem that cropped up at the end of the Saturday night service, an audible 60-cycle hum. It wasn’t terrible and in fact, was unnoticeable on the overdriven sounds, but it did prevent me from using it on clean rhythm sounds. Interestingly, tube amps often have some hum and my Valve Jr. is astonishingly quiet as tube amps go. It was immediately obvious to me that it was my guitar that had the problem. But I have modified a fair number of guitars through the years and, from experience, that sound is virtually always due to a cold solder joint or flaky ground wire. So I will do a little remedial troubleshooting this week and it will be fine.

Ultimately, I may want a somewhat hotter pickup on the bridge, moving this one into the middle or neck position since a little extra output on the back never hurts, but for now I’m satisfied to leave it as it is for a few weeks to see what happens.

I am also waiting for a set of new Fender locking tuners to put on this guitar which will help stabilize the tuning and increase the functionality of the whammy bar.   The high-E string tuner has been busted since New Years Eve, actually, and I have just been procrastinating.  I also did a minor cut-down modification on the plastic backplate to facilitate access and speed up restringing.  That one I've been meaning to do for a couple of years. 

To the uninitiated, I realize this all sounds pretty esoteric.  Like listening to the guys at the hot-rod swap meets talk about customizing their collector cars.  It is like that, only much cheaper.

Tex-Tone Pickups are handmade by a good friend in Texas, David Allmon. He and I reconnected a couple of weeks ago after having lost touch for at least fifteen years. Without the Internet, that might have never happened.  The coolest thing was that, once we started talking, it was like no time had passed.  I love that...and it almost never happens.  David is a blessing and always has been. He is married to a wonderful girl, Kimala, and they have a teenage son. 

But back in the late 80's, he wasn't hand winding precision-engineered, custom-designed electric guitar components.  Nope, he was rocking like a hurricane as you can clearly see in this picture:

Heh. David is the one on the right.  With the mane.  

And, from the sound of things, my friend is still rocking it.  While I've never been genetically capable of growing hair like that, to be fair, I don't look the same as I did in the late 80's, either.  And Lord knows I'm not going to post a picture of me from that era on my website, so here is a recent one of me about to enjoy a nice antipasto in Rome: