Saturday, August 19, 2017


There are certain misused phrases that drive me crazy. These are not my pet peeves, these are feral peeves, untamed and unconstrained.

Almost every day I hear an anchor or reporter on television news say "Authorities are still honing in on the problem." Honing in is not what authorities do. One does not hone in on a target. One "homes" in. Gunners home in on their targets, bombadeers home in on an enemy base and authorities home in on a problem.

We hone knife edges. We hone our skills. We belabor the point.

Another phrase refers to a business floundering or a ship floundering on a reef. When a horse gets down in the mud and struggles but can't get up, the horse is said to be "foundering." I suppose one could say one was "floundering" and be correct if one was being a fish. I don't know why one would be a fish. Foundering is the correct term for anything struggling, but failing. This argument is foundering.

Recently, I saw the phrase "the protesters were from diverse groups who had to ban together." I've heard that before. I don't know what they are banning, but brothers band together. There are bands of roving troublemakers and bands of musicians.

I could rant and rave about mixed metaphors and other offences against the grammar politic, but I will settle for correcting just these three chronic abuses. For now. Someday I will draw up my manifesto of proper English, but first I probably ought to clean up my own usage.

Stephen P.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Again With Irritating The Old Man

Everything is a video these days. I have a friend that I exchange memes with several times a day. Good memes are hard to come by so I stockpile when I find extras. Lately I can't find any memes that aren't in GIF format. Okay, you're saying that's not video, it's GIF. It's still video and no matter how short, I don't have time for videos and my friend (we'll call him "Larry") wouldn't watch them anyway. He doesn't have time, because he is very busy using his time efficiently. Seriously, "Larry" crams more into a twenty hour day than anyone I know.

I read constantly and I subscribe to a number of magazines and their e-zine counterparts, email newsletters, blogs and web sites dedicated to organic gardening, homesteading and self-sufficiency. There are plenty of weblogs on YouTube that I could follow, but I just can't slow down to their speed. If I had to watch videos instead of reading the material, I would learn a lot less.

When it comes to making a repair on my car, I'll take time to YouTube it and I'll watch it over and over 'til it makes sense. I also read that section in my auto repair manual over and over, but a given repair may only have one indistinct photo, while the video goes step-by-step. Sometimes that isn't even enough and I have to call a lifeline. But auto repair is the exception.

And I don't do audio books. I had a couple of audio books on cassette tapes years ago and I thoroughly enjoyed them, but I had to stop what I was doing and actively listen. I do like the occasional podcast, and I enjoy Science Fridays on our local NPR station, when I remember to turn it on. Radio was still a big deal back on the farm. I always listened to the livestock reports and the news, and talk radio wasn't just about politics. I don't remember what it was about. There've been plenty of airwaves across the old antennae since then.

It's not that I'm technophobic, I carry an iPhone, which doubles as my camera, calculator, calendar, clock and any number of other words that may or may not begin with "C." I would rather text than talk on the phone, so I've evolved that far at least. As a matter of fact, all this high tech reminds me of all the futuristic stuff I read about in science fiction when I was a kid. If I understand it, the whole point of all these things is to save time. Video doesn't save mine.

Stephen P.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Corn Is Evil

Corn has an agenda and it isn't good. Thousands of years ago, corn as we know it didn't exist. Back then it was called maize and had only small ears with uneven rows of little kernels. So how did corn get to be the big, parallel-rowed, golden, juicy nuggets on a cob that we've all come to crave in the summer and the shorter cobettes we always order with our fish at Long John Silvers? By brainwashing and enslaving the human race. Yep. Maize used some kind of mind control to trick prehistoric people into cultivating it and selectively growing it until it became the massive world power that it is today. I was tempted to say "primitive people," but as we all know, the ancient Mayans had a sophisticated society with cars and airplanes and computers and the internet, until corn reduced them to mere agrarians, scratching in the soil to please their cornly overlords.

In order to prevent rebellion, corn made itself tasty and used its addictive qualities to keep a hold on its servants. Anthropologists have discovered that tooth decay didn't exist among the native people of the Americas until they began eating corn. The combination of rich sugars in the corn and grit from using stones to grind dried corn wore away at the enamel of their teeth the same way it had worn away their free will.

As Europeans easily invaded and conquered the powerless addicts, they too discovered what corn could do--and it wasn't pretty. In Spanish dominated areas, corn began to be used as tortillas, tamales and even cooking oil. In North America, the formerly sophisticated settlers from the British Isles were overtaken by the diabolical corn whiskey.

Always unsatisfied, corn continued to develop itself through the labor and at the expense of humans. Selective breeding gave way to hybridization, hybridization has been replaced by genetic modification. Corn, in its drive for immortality, has given itself immunity to herbicides and strives to be tolerant to drought and disease. It increases its addictive nature and spreads dependence through its high fructose syrup, its sweeteners and its meals and flours as additives to almost everything. It promotes itself as "gluten-free."

If you doubt that you are addicted, think back to the last time you were in a Mexican restaurant with a basket of tortilla chips and cups of salsa and queso in front of you. Did you eat until you barely had room for your entre? Case closed.

On the other hand, there is corn's harmless cousin, popcorn. Popcorn has changed little in a thousand years. It has only one use: producing the most fragile and delicious delicacy known to man. Popcorn has resisted all attempts at modifying its genes and remains true to its legacy. We always eat popcorn at important life events, such as movies, ball games, family night, Friday at the bank depositing our paychecks, stopping at 7-Eleven, being at home, breaks at lunch, getting gas at a truck stop, winter evenings in front of the fire, summer days at the beach, popcorn Tuesdays at some elementary schools, and others.

Plus, popcorn isn't addictive. I eat it all day everyday and I don't have a problem. I can quit anytime I want to.

Stephen P.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The End Is Nigh

The future seems a little iffy right now. President Trump keeps provoking an already dangerously paranoid and delusional leader of North Korea. While I admit it's tempting to consider doing something drastic about that whole annoying Kim Jung Un regime, I don't think a nuclear war would be good for our fragile planet.

Meanwhile, the Yellowstone caldera has experienced a huge swarm of earthquakes the last month or so. Ordinarily this wouldn't be a big deal, but Yellowstone is a giant volcano just itching to blow and it sits on an ocean of glowing magma. If it erupted, people all the way down in Florida would have problems with the pumice from volcanic ash scratching their sunglasses. Then, a month later, they'd be in the market for firewood, heavy parkas and ice skates as nuclear winter sets in.

I have two words for you: pyroclastic flow. That's the boiling mud that floods out of the volcano at like 300 miles an hour in a tidal wave fifty feet high. I'm much more afraid of pyroclastic flow than I am of lava. Have you seen video from Hawaii? Lava moves so slowly you can outrun it at a walk.

We've finally reached the point where almost all of us believe in global warming, we just disagree about the cause. Wheat crops are failing worldwide, corn harvests are way down in the big corn growing states and unusual weather patterns have affected any number of other food crops. Dozens of species of plants and animals have died out in just the last few years. Scientists have discovered a number of new flora and fauna right before they went extinct. Biodiversity is being destroyed by monoculture agriculture and genetic modification. The oceans' fish populations are so depleted that many peoples in the world are having to seek other sources of protein and other means of earning a living.

Let's not forget all the recent flooding. California is washing away. Texas is washing away. South Carolina is washing away. Then there are the wildfires all over the southwest and northwest and yes, even Florida. Most of the country that isn't flooded is on fire. Some places the flooding is making it hard to fight the fires.

Zika virus, Lyme's disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, West Nile, e coli, ebola, salmonella, listeria, cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, hepatitis C, bed bugs--we don't have a chance. Water. Our water is full of terrible things like benzene, mercury and Viagra that can't be filtered out. The air quality in the national parks is as bad as L.A. in the Sixties and smog is back with a vengeance in all of the world's major cities.

The strange weather patterns have Oregonians suffering under triple digit heat, Alaska as balmy as the Bahama's and Siberian's wearing short shorts. Storm surges from tropical storms and hurricanes are much higher than in the past, Arizona has Sahara Desert inspired dust storms and Tornado Alley has moved to Saskatchewan.

If all of that isn't enough, our odds of getting smashed by an asteroid increase every other day.

The outlook for human survival is bleak.

I seem to remember a line from the old 1950s movie The Blob: "Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die." But maybe not.

Stephen P.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

In Doubt

This is the second time I've brought this up in about a week, but it's preying on my mind. Why did CBS cancel Doubt after only two episodes had been broadcast? They paid for and produced a full thirteen episodes. Two episodes? Really?

The show had a great cast, including Dule Hill, Katherine Heigl, Laverne Cox, Elliot Gould and Judith Light. The plots were solid, the storytelling was well-structured and smooth. As courtroom dramas go, Doubt was a good one.

CBS has been running NCIS and its various spin offs for eons and they are crap, in my opinion. Well, okay, NCIS: New Orleans is not too bad, but I only watch it when there is nothing else on and my internet is down. The various CSIs were good and ran for a respectable number of years. Criminal Minds could go on to become the longest running series in television history if the network doesn't screw it up, which they've tried repeatedly to do.

Bull is a pretty good show, but it seems a little fantastic that anyone could afford to hire a huge consulting firm to help them manipulate a jury. Once was great, like Leverage--twenty-six times strains my credulity. Still, I could watch it.

Sure, there is a bit of formula about Doubt, like Elliot Gould as the eccentric senior partner, but as Shakespeare said "there is nothing new under the sun." I think Shakespeare was getting a little tired of  NCIS also.

I know it's tough being a broadcast network these days. HBO, Showtime, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and cable channels like TNT are grabbing all the best scripts and the biggest audiences. I read recently that the pay channels are killing off broadcast TV. But then I read that Millennials are killing off pay channels by rediscovering broadcast and antennas. I've rediscovered antennas, because I live out in satellite television hell, but I'm still waiting to rediscover broadcast. A few good shows like Doubt would help.

What's killing broadcast television is a dependence on reality TV, game shows, talent shows, prime time news features, awards shows and an endless number of sports events that preempt scripted programs. Don't get me wrong, I have my favorite team, but thirteen college football games a year should be enough sports for anyone.

Out here on the fringes of civilization we watch a lot of reruns on ION television and we stay up 'til two a.m. to see our two episodes of Psych a night. It's possible that broadcast TV might make a comeback and start giving us some good dramas again, but I have my doubts.

Stephen P.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

My Fried Chicken Recipe

When I was a kid I didn't start sentences with "when I was a kid." Now I do it all the time. Back in my childhood ("when I was a kid...") chickens had ten pieces, plus miscellaneous extra parts like a neck, heart, gizzard and liver. And sometimes the feet, but that was an old man thing. There were two drumsticks, two thighs, two wings, two breast parts, a wishbone and a back. The back was my dad's favorite. At sixteen I got a job at a steakhouse. Part of my job was cutting up chickens. They still had ten pieces. Now days chickens only have eight pieces. The breast is only cut into two pieces, splitting the wishbone. The back is discarded or used to make stock. Ducks aren't cut into pieces at all in my world.

I still love fried chicken, but I only make it a few times a year. My mother always pan fried it, but, thanks to a garage sale bargain, I have a deep fryer ($2 for a 6 quart Presto). When I was a kid they were called deep fat fryers. Here is one of my favorite fried chicken recipes.

Stephen's Infamous Spicy Fried Chicken

1 cut up chicken
3 qts. peanut oil
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 eggs lightly beaten
1/4 cup milk
1 Tbs. black pepper
1 Tbs. poultry seasoning
1/2 Tbs. garlic powder
1/2 Tbs. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. paprika

In deep fryer, heat 3 qts. of peanut oil to 375 degrees.
In a large bowl combine the eggs and milk. Place chicken in the bowl, turning to coat each piece with the mixture. Leave chicken in the mixture to soak, turning frequently.
In another bowl, combine dry ingredients, stirring with a fork to mix thoroughly.
Remove two pieces of chicken from egg mixture, allow excess mixture to drain off, place in flour mixture, turning to coat well. Let sit for a few minutes. Gently shake off excess flour and place chicken into fryer. Cook for ten to twelve minutes, until golden brown. Check with a meat thermometer for an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees F. Repeat with remaining chicken. Discard leftover egg and flour mixtures (I like to use some of the leftover flour mix to make country gravy).

Warning: Spicy.

Stephen P.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Kitchen Chronicles

Cooking is one daily chore I really enjoy. I usually prepare breakfast and dinner and occasionally lunch. By some stroke of luck, we have a great kitchen. It has plenty of counter space (there is no such thing as plenty of cabinet space in any kitchen). It's small enough to have everything within reach when I'm cooking alone, but it's big enough we've had four people working comfortably at the same time cooking Thanksgiving dinner.

Having the right tools makes cooking a pleasure.

I love cutting boards. I would collect them, but Kathy discourages hoarding behavior. We have a nice large maple cutting board, a large plastic cutting board, a glass one and a small plastic one. I really like the wooden one for chopping and dicing vegetables. We use the large plastic one for cutting meat and then clean it with a bleach solution. The glass one is mostly for carving roasts, chickens and turkeys fresh from the oven, and the small one is for slicing cheese, making sandwiches and general use when we don't need a large one.

Good knives are essential. We got rid of all but three of our knives when we moved out here. The ones we kept were wooden handled and had been my mother's for most of my life. One is a short paring knife, one is a long paring knife and one is an eight inch slicing knife. The blades are thin and I don't know about the quality of the steel, but they sharpen easily and hold an edge very well. Shortly after we moved here we bought a set of two cheap kitchen knives at Dollar General Store. One is about four inches long with a wide blade, the other is a short, very pointy thing. They both come in handy for specific tasks and do a good job. I found a Miracle knife out in the pump house and cleaned it up. It is ten inches long, has scalloped serrations and a fork on the end. I think it was intended as a carving knife, but I like it for slicing bread. The most important knife in the kitchen is a good quality chef's knife. I have two. One is an eight inch Kitchen Aide that my brother Randy gave me and the other is a Swiss Victorinox I bought on Amazon. Both are extremely good, professional quality knives.

With all of those knives, using a whetstone is impractical. I bought an expensive Chef's Choice XV electric knife sharpener. It re-bevels blades to fifteen degrees, rather than the thirty degrees standard on most knives. After sharpening my knives with this machine I had to buy a Kevlar glove and a stainless steel finger guard. Aside from the bandaids on my fingers, good sharp knives are a pleasure to work with.

I also have four cast iron skillets in different sizes that were my mom's and I use them constantly. Cast iron may seem like a cult thing, but I wouldn't be without it. I've tried non-stick skillets, but I always go back to my cast iron.

Something else we got rid of when we moved were our Revere Ware pots and pans. At the time it was about down-sizing and uncluttering our lives. Bad move. After two years of nonstick pans, we tossed them and I bought thirty-six pieces of antique Revere Ware on eBay. We now have multiples of pots and pans from 3/4 quart to twelve quarts with lids for each and every one. It makes for a storage problem in the cabinet, but there's nothing better for most cooking.

We also have a variety of utensils and small appliances, but they are too numerous to list here.

When you cook as much as I do, it's nice to have a kitchen that works with you.

Stephen P.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Hot, Hot, Hot

The heat of summer has gripped Oklahoma for the better part of a month. Now I don't want to be one of those guys who complains about the weather all the time. Instead, I'll express my appreciation for how good I've had it.

People always say "it's a dry heat." It's not. This summer has been extremely humid--but that's okay. The past year has been great. Last summer, if memory serves, was really mild compared to a few recent years.

It was a warm, mild fall. Most of the time we didn't even need coats. Then the winter came and was very pleasant. There were a couple of cold weeks, but by February we were having nice spring weather--most of the time. Sometimes it was hot. Sometimes it was cold.

When spring really arrived, it wasn't a typical Oklahoma spring, dry and dusty with temperatures in the nineties. No, it was a real spring like we used to read about in books. Not too warm, not too cool, just right. And then the heat. But not terrible three digit heat.

It has been my good fortune to have spent almost my entire working life indoors. For most of that time I worked in drafty shops with inadequate heating in the winter, so I had to dress in layers, and inadequate air conditioning in the summer, so I dressed in shorts and tank tops and kept a fan blowing right on me.

That is why I've been so fortunate. So many of my friends worked outdoors through the coldest, iciest winters and the longest hottest summers, often twelve hours a day.

For me, a snowfall is a delight--a winter wonderland. A hot day is a welcome break from the howling wind of December. Rain is welcome to ease the drought and freshen the air.

I've also been fortunate that I haven't suffered the loss caused by hurricanes, tornadoes, hail and ice storms.

It has been hot, but I won't complain. The bitter cold will be here soon enough. And I have a good coat.

Stephen P.