More Work Stress

on Thursday, December 30, 2010

The saga of the drive chain continues.

I listened to one of my coffee roaster's main drive chains buck and kick for months before finally biting the bullet and getting it replaced. The owner's manual for the machine says that the chain could be lengthened or shortened at any bike shop. I assumed that meant the chain was a standard bicycle chain. Turns out that's not the case.

Yesterday while I was preheating the roaster I heard a loud "CLUNK!" and feared the worst, I have had the drive shaft from the flywheel snap off twice before, but that wasn't it, the upper drive chain had slipped off its sprocket. So I threaded it back on, oiled it and returned to pre-heating.

A few minutes later I heard another loud "CLUNK!" and ran in to look. The chain had slipped off again and was nowhere to be found. I felt around, poked around, looked... it was as if the chain had never existed. I posted this fact on Facebook and a friend suggested that maybe it had wrapped itself around the drive shaft. I felt around again and sure enough it was tightly wound around the shaft on the back side of the sprocket. I pulled it out with some effort and decided the problem couldn't be with the new chain, but must lie with the old, worn sprockets.

I removed two of the sprockets and brought them over to a local machine shop to see if they could manufacture some new ones for me, but the shop foreman said they were fine and suggested that it might be using the wrong size chain. He told me to go to a local store that sells industrial chain, and not the bike shop again. So off I went.

In the meantime I had tried contacting Probat, the manufacturer of my roaster, to see if they could just tell me what kind of chain I needed. I got a busy signal (I didn't even know those still existed!) a couple of times and finally got through to their voicemail, I also left a message through the contact form on their web site. Finally someone called me around 4 PM and told me that I needed #36x1/8" chain.

I called the chain store again and he had to look deep into his catalogs to find #36 chain listed. It turns out its a non-standard size and that he'd need to special order it. I told him to go ahead, he took my number and told me he'd call me back. A little while later he calls back, "I had a heck of a time getting a hold of anyone there! Finally a security guard answered the phone and told me that everyone is out for the rest of the week due to the New Year holiday." He will order it on Monday and he told me that my best bet would be to put the original chain back on. It might be a little stretched out, but at least it's the right size.

So this morning I came in and started putting my machine back together only to find that the original chain was one long length, instead of a loop. The guy at the bike shop had taken it apart so he could measure the length when he sold me the new one. Off to the bike shop to get the chain put back together, but wouldn't you know it, they don't open until 10 AM. Back to my shop to kill a half hour, back to the bike shop to re-loop-ify my old chain, back to my shop to install it and I'm back up and running.

Next week I'll get the new chain and install it. A couple of other adjustments and I should be good to go for the new year.

This is just another example of the stresses that I have to deal with at my day job. I got into the business because I wanted to roast the best beans possible, I never wanted to be a bookkeeper and a mechanic and a delivery boy and all the other things I have to be. I know, the tiny violin you have is playing just for me right now, and I do consider myself blessed to be able to have a job in the first place, and to be doing what I love. But stress sucks no matter who you are or what you do and it seems like stress is all I've been feeling about this for weeks now.

C'est la vie.

Thanksgiving Head-On Collision

on Thursday, November 25, 2010

I was coming back from my brother's house and Thanksgiving dinner.

Young dude in an Audi heading south suddenly swerved about a half a car-width into the oncoming lane. The other driver in a green minivan or SUV (it was dark) swerved to miss him, they hit drivers side to drivers side. Suddenly I see a car going sideways (the Audi) and he winds up on the shoulder facing north.

I stopped to see if he was okay, I noticed that someone else was checking on the other guy. He was a little scratched, but he was conscious and seemed fairly coherent. I called 911.

All sorts of cars pulled off and about a half dozen of us or so made sure everything was okay. One guy grabbed out a snow shovel and started clearing debris, another guy said that his wife, an RN, was attending the other guy.

My guy is sitting there amongst deflated airbags completely dazed and he starts digging around for his insurance card. His front left tire is completely missing, it just flew off somewhere into the adjacent farm field.

Another guy who witnessed the event gave me his number in case the cops wanted to talk to him, but he had to get going. Yet another talked to the guy in the Audi, shielded him from the wind (it was 6 degrees F) and waited for the local Fire and Rescue.

Cops arrived en masse, two ambulances and a couple of wrecking vehicles, too. In less than an hour they had both parties out of their cars and into the ambulances, the wreckers got both cars removed from the road and a few of the cops left.

Finally a sheriff's deputy talked to me, "You'll want to talk to the highway patrol, I told him you saw it... oh, I guess he's leaving and doesn't need to talk to you. You can go."

I asked him if everyone was okay, and he told me they were, "This is why we tell people not to text and drive," he said. "The young guy was texting and swerved out of his lane."

"Happy Thanksgiving," I said, and came home.

So there's your lesson, kids: DON'T TEXT AND DRIVE!!!

Going Once... Going Twice

on Friday, November 5, 2010

Yesterday Jeff & I had a gig at the St. Cloud Civic Center for an education fund raiser and awards ceremony. We were hired to play from 4:30 - 6:00 PM during the silent auction. Afterward the "regular" auction would begin. Well, either someone forgot to tell the auctioneer or he just decided on his own to start early -- really early, like 4:45.

He didn't start selling things right away, he interviewed a few people who were looking at the items for sale and a couple of other people from area schools who had booths set up showing processes that had won them the awards they would be given later. Then he started selling things.

We didn't know what to do at first, so we stopped playing and took a small break. The contact for the gig asked us to keep playing so we got up on stage and got back to work. The auctioneer had started the auction so early and the room was so empty that I watched an Adrian Peterson autographed football go for $75. That same football would have gone for over $500 in Minneapolis or St. Paul.

He keep auctioning, we kept playing. We found it really hard to concentrate, but we kept going regardless. Finally, with about 10 minutes left on our contract he finished the auction, thanked the audience and said his good-byes. He came up on stage to return the microphone he'd been using to the podium and decided, before he put it on the stand, to interview Jeff & me.

It wasn't a simple "you've been listening to... what are you guys called?" He added, "which one is which," and "Muggsy's not your real name, is it?" and one more "thank you" to the crowd. By the time he was done, so was our song and so was our time.

We've played in a lot of different situations for a lot of different clients. We've done everything from playing in a loud room full of people who don't even know we're there to playing at a county fair next to the grandstand while a tractor pull was going on (a one, a two, a one, two, three -- RRRROOOOAAAAARRRR!!!!), this is just another one for the books and another story.

Election 2010

on Wednesday, November 3, 2010

I am very depressed about the results of the 2010 midterm elections. With the Republicans in control of so much of the government I feel like all I have to look forward to is the next election when we can remove them from office again. Until then it will be more of the same bullshit thinking that comes from that side of the aisle.

They deny the science of evolution and global climate change, they want to legislate from the Bible regarding who people can marry, they want to treat big business like they can do no wrong and they will work to repeal Obamacare -- one of the best things to come out of government in my lifetime (although I think that even it didn't go far enough). They will continue to build up the military, gut public education and bring abstinence only sex ed back. We will probably see something akin to the witch hunts of the 50s with every crazy Birther idea (or worse) getting its own investigative committee, too.

Gone are the days of progress. Every step forward that we've made in the last two years will be either negated with a couple of steps back, or blocked from progressing further. And it's all about politics, not about what's best for the American people. They have an automatic knee-jerk reaction to anything Democratic. Obama could try to pass a resolution saying that puppies are cute and they would block it just because it came from a Democrat. Right or wrong, good or bad -- it doesn't matter, they are obstructionists when it comes to ideas that come from the left.

I see nothing good coming for the next few years of US governance and I only hope that the Mayans were right and that the world will end in 2012.

Cooking for Many

on Saturday, August 28, 2010



I have four days to perfect and then multiply a cold carrot soup recipe. I've done a bunch of hunting and research and finally decided on the following recipe for Cold Carrot Soup with Orange and Cumin.

INGREDIENTS
1 teaspoon canola oil
1/3 small onion, cut into 1/4-inch slices
2 teaspoons ground cumin
5 medium carrots, diced
6 cups vegetable broth
1 teaspoon sea salt, optional
1 cup fresh orange juice
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice, optional
1 teaspoon grated orange zest for garnish
6 sprigs of fresh dill for garnish, optional

1. Heat the canola oil in a medium-sized pot set over medium-high heat. Add the onion; sauté, stirring for 2 to 3 minutes or until soft and translucent.

2. Stir in the cumin; cook for about 2 minutes to bring out the pungent aroma of the spice. Stir in the carrots, stock or broth and salt, if using; simmer partially covered, for 30 to 40 minutes or until the carrots are tender. Remove from the heat and let cool.

3. Transfer the soup to a blender or food processor, fitted with a metal blade, and process until smooth. Blend in the orange juice and lime juice, if using. Transfer to a bowl or storage container, cover and refrigerate until well chilled.

4. Serve cold in chilled soup bowls. Garnish with orange zest and dill, if desired.

Makes 4 servings.

In my research I noticed an awful lot of similarities between the recipes and I've started thinking I could do one from scratch with no recipe whatsoever.

This recipe is very simple compared to many others that called for more exotic ingredients. I've worked with fennel bulb only once before and don't want to try it here. I wanted to avoid the seemingly unavoidable chicken stock as I will be feeding some vegetarians (which also ruled out any recipes involving sour cream or its like).

The problem I am having at this point is trying to size this recipe up to the Herculean portion that is required. It says it makes "four servings" but it doesn't exactly say what a serving size is. If I go with the industry standard, it's an 8 oz. cup, but I can't see how 6 cups of veggie stock, 1 cup of O.J. and all the moisture from the carrots could reduce down to 32 ounces of liquid. Certainly you will lose some moisture as the stock boils, but I really can't see it reducing down that much.

Eventually I'll have to size this thing up to make 3 gallons of soup!! That's what I was asked for, and that's what I want to deliver.

I have come to the conclusion that the only way I can work this out is to make one batch of the soup from the recipe and then measure it. After that is will be a simple matter of multiplying everything up. And no, I don't plan on making all three gallons at once, but will make three one gallon batches. It'll just keep things simpler that way. But I still need to know how many ingredients to buy.

And as mentioned before, I only have four days...

ADDENDUM:

I made the recipe at a party and it came out almost perfect and produced a little over a quart of soup. I am going to add some sweet potatoes because the soup wasn't as thick as I would have liked. I've got a kitchen lined up (mine is a little small) and now all I have to do is buy the ingredients and get cookin'!

Characters

on Monday, August 23, 2010

St. Cloud has its characters, every town does. I wanted to blog about a couple of guys I saw this week. I'll start with the second guy because it was a very sad thing.

I was dropping off some equipment at the Pioneer Place on Fifth early on Sunday afternoon and saw a guy rummaging through one of the recycling bins in the alley way behind the Raddison and DB Searle's. He was carefully checking each unbroken bottle, swirling the contents around ... and then drinking them. What a sad thing to see.

The story of the other guy is one I have told many people already.

Kate & I were having coffee on my porch on Friday afternoon when we spied a young black man somewhere in his early 20s walking down the street next to my house, he was wearing the modern fashion: baggy pants with underwear sticking a good 4 inches out of the top of his pants. He didn't seem to be in any hurry, he was just sauntering along. He obviously didn't know we were there because he slowed down and started looking down into his pants. He seemed pretty intent on whatever was down there and he suddenly reaches in and with an audible "sploop" he pulls a condom off his pecker, drops it casually on the ground and continues on his way.

I would really love to know the back story there. Did he just have a fully clothed quicky? Why would he keep that thing on? Was he with a mistress when her boyfriend just came home? Why wasn't he hurrying? Why would anyone want to keep one of those things on while walking around in public? It's a mystery that will remain unsolved, I'm afraid.

A Debate: Natural Selection v. Intelligent Design

on Sunday, August 8, 2010


NOTE: THE FOLLOWING IS PRESENTED FOR PERSONAL ARCHIVAL PURPOSES ONLY. IT IS NOT HERE TO CONTINUE THE DEBATE. THIS POST IS NOT OPEN TO COMMENTS. THANK YOU.

The following is a debate between a dear friend of mine who lives in Texas and I regarding Natural Selection vs. Intelligent Design. He is of the opinion that the concept of Intelligent Design should be taught as an "alternative theory" to the evolution of species. I think that Intelligent Design, or ID, belongs in the philosophy classroom if it belongs anywhere. The following is a little debate we (and some others) had online, and I wanted to save it in my blog before it gets lost into the constantly changing pile of useless data that is Facebook.

I need to acknowledge a couple of websites that helped immensely in forming my arguments: The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe and Rational Wiki (which is rather snarky, but full of valuable information).

He says:

I can't force anyone to believe in or love God any more than I can tell them how to love their own wife. But I will tell you this, there is more evidence for intelligent design than there is for the vertical transition of any species within the theory of evolution.

I'm sure you've heard the argument for the intelligent design of the eye within multiple species. It just can't happen within the odds of evolutionary chance. Monkey's banging on typewriters. Those kinds of odds. But if that is easier to swallow, I understand. Been there.

Anyway, any decent classroom will teach you the pros and cons of both, of which we do, in Texas.

Pure Liberalism is a failure. Pure Capitalism is a failure. Why? Because greed and power will corrupt them both, and there are but mere men at the helm of either. I just refuse to follow mere men.

I reply:

But ID isn't science, not by any stretch of the imagination. All the so-called "evidence" presented by the IDers ...is not evidence at all, but an argument called False Dichotomy: I can't explain it, so it must have been God. It relies on only two possibilities and that's not science.

Take the game of Bridge, any hand of 13 cards dealt comes to you with the odds of less than 600 billion to one. Bringing the ID argument to the card table would state that "since the likelihood of being dealt any hand is less than 600 billion to one, my hand must have been created by a supernatural force." That's an Argument from Personal Incredulity (I cannot explain or understand this, therefore it cannot be true), but it's not science.

Science is rooted in the physical world, we observe, we report, we test, we repeat. ID is rooted in the supernatural and has one argument, "I believe it, so it must be true" -- another logical fallacy called Ad ignorantiam and that's not science.

The main problem with ID is that its believers start with the premise that God exists and they will not waver from that stance regardless of the mountains of actual scientific evidence presented to them. Scientific theories change if the evidence points in a different direction, ID is stagnant and forever unchanging. It starts with a gigantic assumption that it will not dismiss and that's not science.

Finally, the burden of positive proof falls on the person making the statement. Evolution does this by offering scientific evidence gathered by thousands of people. ID makes a very bold statement with no actual evidence to back it up, but instead relies on a string of logical fallacies. That's not science.

ID fails every scientific test, it is based on beliefs and nothing else. If ID must be in schools, it should be placed in the Philosophy classroom and not the science classroom.

I am all for alternate SCIENTIFIC theories being presented in a science class. ID isn't science, it's religion.

A friend of his says:

Muggsy, may I suggest you read John Polkinghorn, Professor of Mathematical Physics at Cambridge University, regarding the science of intelligent design.

I reply:

I have. It's philosophy, not science regardless of his credentials. See my statement about the burden of positive proof, Polkinghorn offers none and falls into some of the same logical fallacies as I mentioned.

Look, I am not saying "don't ...believe in a God creature." If that's what gives you peace and fulfillment then have at it. But don't go putting your non-scientific creation myth into the science classroom. It doesn't even fit the definition of "science" and the only way to make it do so is by redefining the word. That's called moving the goalposts.

He says:

Intelligent Design should remain in the science classrooms, and here’s why.

Let’s say you’ve never met my wife, which is true, and I bring to you a plate of muffins. You eat a few of them and comment on how great they taste. I say “Thanks.” and then offer you a challenge. My challenge is this, by using science and these muffins, prove to me that Mandy exists.

You will be able to call in anybody from all the realms of the physical sciences, such as forensics, microbiology, molecular biology, chemistry, you name it. You can run all the tests for as long as you wanted, but all of your evidence must conclude that she exists. Sounds easy. They are only muffins.

But my wife is amazing with her baking. Everything is from scratch. She buys nothing from stores that you could trace, she’s imported some of the ingredients from the most remote places around the world. Every detail is purposely determined. She has even grown her own wheat for the flour and grinds it from a stone found only in the Lhagba Pool, the berries are from Floreana in the Galapagos.

She leaves no physical DNA on them, her kitchen is spotless, a clean room as it were. And she takes careful care to keep everything pure. Every detail is about her muffins, and their passionate perfection.



Finally, after many tests and tons of research, you realize that you cannot discover the answer to my question. So all of your evidence can only conclude, actually force you to conclude that she must not exist. The muffins just are.

Since your view of science can neither prove or disprove even a physical creator in this or any creation universal instance, you by no means have the authority to make the call if it should remain in a science classroom or not. If proof of evidence then becomes our task, I present to you the muffin itself. Or, in this instance, the universe itself.

But you take the problem deeper by assuming the “ingredients” actually assembled themselves. Sounds foolish looking at a plate of simple muffins. Sounds even more-so looking at the 1.8 million named species that currently populate the earth. So let’s go way back to where the “ingredients” of the evolutionary theory originated from.

I’ll start with the “scientific” conclusion that is accepted by those who only believe in that which can only be proven by science. Summated: “From out of nothing, everything came.” That itself a dichotomy of mythic proportions. I don’t think I can overstate the absurdity of this cornerstone to which it all resides. But maybe we can shake logic by adding in some numbers.

So over 4.6 billion years ago, everything sprang from a hot dense mass that exploded. Agreed. (I am pretty much with you on big bang, and old earth) But where did the hot dense mass come from? Who made the muffins?

But evolutionists don’t like to spend much time beyond the hot dense mass from nowhere, somewhere, that just was.

What was the force compressing all of this? What was there 1,000,000,000 billion years ago? Mathematical infinity is a proven scientific fact. Why do evolutionists only want to deal with 4.6 billion of those years? How did the ingredients of the hot dense mass assemble?

Within this hot dense compressed mass, which is under so much immense pressure – because it’s going to have the power to explode out into light years worth of space– is the impossibility of sustaining even a bacterial microbe. It is nothing but a geological dead mass. All of it is non-living matter.

Kaboom! Then about 1.1 billion years later, spontaneous generation occurs. Though it’s not called that anymore because that theory has been proven wrong, but still, this is an important moment.

A dense non-living mass that has exploded with Universal force has just spontaneously spawned, prokaryotes. But since “spontaneous” has been proven false, it’s replaced with “Abiogenesis” (which itself is just spontaneous generation wrapped in a theory within a theory within a new package) to cover for the unprovable. So who made the prokaryotes? Let’s just say they did just appear (which sounds like creation) from non-living matter, like the microbes they have found in glaciers. You’re just starting over with a new set of ingredients. Who made the muffins?

Now, at this point an actual law of science has to be set aside. That pesky Second LAW of thermodynamics. (ie: things of a lower order cannot generate things of a higher order). Can a law be thwarted by single cell bacterial microbes? Shouldn’t we have perpetual energy by now if over-coming this law was possible?

But let’s come back to the present for some physical evidence, since you insisted that from me.

I’d like to see the actual mountains of evidence you are siting. I’m sure there is stuff I haven’t been exposed to. I’m assuming it’s ...the lab dish experiments where microbes are reported to be evolving. They are changing in the adaptive sense, not migrating to a higher order. Can we duplicate billions of years in the lab to see it through to our conclusion? It’s like an illogical stream. Like the beaks of the finches in the Galapagos.

Within a species it’s adaptation, to a new species is evolution. To which again, I state the Second LAW of Thermodynamics. Order to chaos, not chaos to order.

And how about the fossil record not having and evidence of the vertical transition of ANY species. Out of how many that have existed? (1.8 million + all the extinct ones) Darwin himself admitted that this was his weakest argument. But he “had faith” that the fossil record would bear him out. 150-some years later...still practicing faith. Sounds kind of religious.

So if you want me to prove the existence of God to you by only using science, all I can say is “Who made the muffins.” You’ll never find Him within the ingredients He is using. But what he has created IS the evidence. And that is why the evolutionists want the question of His existence to remain within their control and end here. Where they know they won’t find Him.

So if the burden of proof falls on me, I submit to you the trees, the ocean, this giant ever-expanding time-piece we live in, the vary microbes the evolutionists are trying to use to prove He doesn’t exist, and even you and our relationship. Oh, and the muffins.

So why is ID in science classrooms? Because the evidence is the muffin. Since science can’t prove the existence of a physical Mandy, it doesn’t have the authority to say which theory should be disallowed. And us IDers are open to what science is learning, but not the agenda of the evolutionists. It’s blurring their objectivity...need I site the Global Warming e-mails? Tell me the truth. Don’t mix it with your agenda.

My body is made up of many things, but it isn’t the true me. You could discover all the physical and biological things and make a scientific list of my chemical make up, where I came from, what I ate too much of, why I have blue eyes and such – my ingredients. But my family would say that wasn’t who I was. The real me cannot be discovered by science either, and I’m not supernatural. Nor am I Omnipotent. There’s the word. It’s easy to laugh at supernatural, it sounds like a magic show. Omnipotent, that’s what drives the evolutionists to not want to find Him anyway. The desire to be our own god is a powerful motivator. I can give you mountains of proof for that from the world, daily.

To tell you the truth, I’d rather start with muffins as my evidence anyway, because it’s the simple observations that bear that question out. Variations on a theme prove there is a single designer present. Like eyes, flight, pollination, reproduction, energy, the cycle of life, relationships, love. Actually, variations on a theme can be used to identify any designer, or an artist, such as my self. It reveals our style. And I recognize His style.

It’s like listening to a Muggsy deep and rich hollow body solo at Jazz Night through a warm retro amplifier. Without even seeing you play, I would recognize it was you by it’s tones, it’s similarities, it’s variations on theme, how you approach your scales, your passion, your art, your creativity. Expressing yourself, your love for music and the friends around you through the science of your guitar and sound. From just these few little things, I’d know it was you. Science is just the ingredients you used to express yourself.

Or, I could make your music cold and lifeless by just describing the cycles of vibration and the effects of air temperature on a classic amp when heard by a tone deaf drummer. I’d rather talk about the Muggsy behind it all. That’s the guy I know. So, I know.

About 10 years ago, a good friend of mine named Andy Hastings challenged me to name the 5 foundational facts of science. Of course, I didn’t know them off hand, so I had to look the up on the internet. Once I found them, I read aloud. “Time, Force, Action, Space, Matter.”

Andy then opened his Bible to Genesis 1:1 and read aloud. “In the beginning, (Time) God (Force) created (Action) the Heavens (Space) and the Earth. (Matter). I sat there amazed. That has been there for 4000 years since Moses scribbled them down and as we believers say “inspired by God.” Scientist Herbert Spencer didn’t state this observation as science until 1867. Ahead of the curve, baby!

Those words prove nothing scientifically unto themselves, other than that they are the opening words that have introduced million of people the Greatest Scientist of all. The one who shares that science with us, but also invites us to participate His passion, his solo as it were.

Just a second...

Mandy’s wondering why you never just read the journal she left on the table. It would have told you everything you wanted to know about her, and then you would have understood why she made the muffins.

Oh, and your card analogy is lacking. You’ve stated a static. What you receive isn’t amazing odds, it’s if you would have called the exact hand you were going to receive 4.6 billion times in a row, as the deck was constantly changing and appeared from out of nowhere. At what point the impossibility?

But if you’re willing to bet, I’ll take it. Easy money.

I reply:

Your examples are flawed in every case. We KNOW that muffins, jazz solos and the rest are all created by human hands (Mandy's first attempts at muffins, and certainly my first jazz solos, were probably failures). There is no argument on tha...t point. However, if we were presented with a muffin, but had never seen one before, we could take two roads to determining its origin: study, measure and experiment on it, or we could simply say, "Someone must have created it," but offer no actual proof.

Your entire thought process revolves around one idea and one idea only: God exists. It is based solely on faith and nothing else. You can point to amazing thing after amazing thing and say, "look at the consistencies, look at the complexities! Nothing in the natural world can explain it, so it must have been God." Take God out of the equation and your claim crumbles like a building with no foundation and it cannot recover. That's not science.

Science grows and changes. If a scientist finds something that changes or even destroys his theory, he will change his theory accordingly or come up with a new one altogether. ID doesn't do that, it states, in essence, "I believe it, therefore it is true." (Ad ignorantiam.) They examine everything through that lens, ignoring any other possible explanation or theory, and state their opinion as "truth." That kind of thinking doesn't belong in the science classroom, but in the philosophy classroom instead. ID is a crutch, it is a shortcut through the scientific method to an unknown and unprovable conclusion.

If I could prove to you that God doesn't exist (a logical fallacy, I know, because you can't prove a negative, but let's just go with it for the sake of argument), would that change your opinion about ID? Or would you conclude, through nothing but your faith, that my conclusion was wrong somehow and go on believing?

On the other hand, if you could prove to me that there is a God and that it created everything, I would accept that, and so would every scientist on earth. Until then it is based on nothing but faith with no actual physical, repeatable evidence to back up such a fanciful claim. The Bible is not a scientific source, it is a book full of parables, teaching lessons and philosophy and ID is nothing but a backhanded way of getting the Judeo-Christian creation myth presented in the science classroom. Any other non-Adam and Eve ideas are rejected without consideration.

Try telling an IDer the following story, "God created the first person out of clay and baked him in an oven, the first one stayed in too long and came out dark and that's where black people came from. He tried again, but didn't bake it long enough, and that's where white people came from. On his third try he baked it the perfect amount of time, and that's where brown people came from." Your average IDer would foam at the mouth at the mere suggestion, but it offers exactly the same scientific proof -- none -- as their own idea. Yet it is a creation myth from a different (non-Christian) culture, equal in every way to ID.

So if we used the scientific method and were able to prove beyond a doubt that someone (maybe not Mandy specifically, but someone or something) must have created the muffin, we, as scientists, would accept that conclusion. The IDer would say, "I knew that all along," but they'd be wrong. They didn't KNOW anything, they just guessed right. Until that day ID is nothing but a guess with nothing to back it up. Nothing.

In short: faith ≠ science.

His friend chimes in again:

Your premise underscores that everything scientific can be proven, or it is not science. Your premise is incorrect; therefore, your argument that follows is in error. The "science" of Intelligent Design has been deduced using the properties of physics. Whether or not the Intelligent Designer is God is another matter entirely. The faith component comes into play with the belief that the intelligent designer is the God of the Bible.

I reply to her:

With all due respect, you don't know what you're talking about. Science is based on natural, observable phenomena. Nothing about ID has ever been "proven" because you can't prove your biggest statement: God exists. You want to argu...e the mathematical probability of a God? Fine, I'll grant you that, but then you have to grant me the possibility of 100 gods, or a thousand. All are equally likely using only mathematical probability. But when it comes to measurable, repeatable results ID hasn't got a leg to stand on. Sorry, but that IS science.

He posts:

Alright Muggsy, I got your argument the first time. Now defend your position.

1. From out of nothing. Everything sprang.
...2. Abiogenesis. (Non-living matter spawns living matter)
3. A LAW of science has to be ignored. Explain how this happens in reference to 1 and 2. PLUS. Why would "Scientists" ignore a law to hold onto a theory?
4. No Physical evidence. Explain the lack of physical evidence if we are to only remain in the seen physical world.

If you cannot PROVE all of this, beyond a theory, then, on your premise, evolution must be taken out of the science classroom as well. Evolution crumbles.

Physics tell us that waves carry energy, but not mass. Until instruments of measurement are invented for such waves. (ie: something as common as gravitational waves). Could it not be said that we just haven't discovered the instrument that could detect a more complex living energy force?

To Melinda's point. You need to stop looking at God from the perspective of a guy with a long beard and white robes. We find God in indisputable laws. But since you are arguing against a Law, the onus is on your viewpoint.

And I make my final point:

1. You want to talk origin of the universe or evolution? When we're talking origin we're on almost equal footing -- neither of us knows for sure, but at least science has natural, measurable, observable data on its side. ID has is a belief... system: "God did it," but can offer no proof whatsoever. Something out of nothing? Are you telling me you're not making that argument, too?

2. Understand that the Theory of Evolution is not concerned with the origins of life, but how it has grown, changed and evolved.

3. Your "2nd Law of Thermodynamics" argument is only true in a closed system. The Earth is not a closed system, so no "laws" have been broken.

4. No physical evidence of evolution? Excuse me, but you don't know what you're talking about. There are mountains of evidence supporting the theory. In addition, evolution was directly observed in the laboratory by Dr. Richard Lenski in 2008 (as part of a 20-year long experiment involving E. Coli bacteria).

The basic argument here is this: Should ID be taught along side of Natural Selection in the science classroom? And to that end one question must be asked: Is ID science?

The answer is no. ID begins with an explanation that it is unwilling to alter — that supernatural forces have shaped biological or Earth systems — rejecting the basic requirements of science that hypotheses must be restricted to testable natural explanations. Its beliefs cannot be tested, modified, or rejected by scientific means and thus cannot be a part of the processes of science.

Instead ID also relies on a string of logical fallacies from false analogy (nothing so complex could have evolved by chance, so it must have been designed), ad hoc arguments (it begins with a made up premise), false dichotomy (either Natural Selection is true, or ID is true, there is no middle ground), negative proof (you can't prove it's NOT God), appeal to ignorance (it can't be proved false, so it must be true), argument from authority (Dr. Polkinghorne says it's true, so it must be true), begging the question ("proof" based on an unsound premise), and cherry-picking (accepting data that proves its hypothesis while rejecting that which does not), all the way up to ad hominem attacks (You know, Hitler believed in evolution!!).

Natural Selection, on the other hand, adheres to all the rules of science. It is based on natural, observable phenomena, it has been subjected to peer review for the past 200+ years and has changed from its modest beginnings as new data has become available and other data has proved false. Its claims are verifiable and can be replicated. And there is overwhelming evidence -- and even direct observation -- that supports it.

Simply put, ID is not science and has no place in a public school's science classroom.

It is obvious to me that I am not going to change your mind, so I am going to stop here. I have made my case based on what science is actually all about. You "grew up" and accepted a non-scientific idea as something true. I think that your understanding of what science is, how it works and many of its concepts is lacking. And I strongly disagree with you about teaching ID in science class.

That being said, I still have a kidney, half a liver and a bunch of bone marrow for you if you need it.

What I Did On My Summer Vacation - 2010

on Tuesday, June 29, 2010

BWCA

Me & Kate

DAY ONE - June 24th, 2010

Getting to Ely was the easy part. Even getting the canoe into the water was fairly easy (180 r.) compared to what was to come.

Wood Lake has five campsites, all of which were occupied. In an attempt to get us to the portage to Hula Lake I got us turned around and we wound up in the most northeasterly point of the lake, rather than the most northwesterly point. That wasted a good hour or two.

The seemingly simple 40 r. portage into Hula Lake was complicated by a sudden and rather intense cloudburst that soaked us to the bone.

There are no campsites on Hula, so we headed north to Good Lake in hopes of finding one of the two sites there. We were running out of daylight, we’d run out of fresh water and the second half of the portage (150 r.) turned out to consist mostly of ankle to shin deep mud puddles. It was the worst portage I’ve ever done to date and Kate and I were literally in tears at points.

We were very fortunate to find one of the campsites open or we would have been screwed. The next lake, Indiana, is another 100 r. portage, has only two campsites and there was no guarantee they’d be open.

There was an osprey waiting on the shore at the campsite, I’d like to take that as a good omen.

We set up camp and proceeded, the two of us, to experience a kind of catharsis. I cried again and had to pull a small leech off my toe. We were so exhausted we couldn’t even eat, which was fine because the fucking camp stove wouldn’t pressurize and was unusable. We’re going to have to cook over open flame now, and fires will be tough to build due to the rain.


DAY TWO - June 25th

I got up early enough to wander around the area, gather some wood and build a small fire to boil some water to brew coffee -- there are some things I refuse to do without. Kate got up and by the time we ate a little dried fruit and an oatmeal bar to make up for last night’s lack of food, it started to rain; a light, steady rain, the type that would end a picnic.

The idea of breaking down camp, repacking everything and, worst of all, portaging in the rain seemed a little overwhelming considering yesterday’s slog through Hell. It was on both our minds, but I suggested it first, “Let’s stay here today.”


The original plan was to portage over to Indiana Lake and see if we could nab one of the two campsites there. One of them is a five-star campsite, we heard tell, and we were anxious to see it. But I’m fine with staying here today, hanging out in the tent and relaxing. A few games of cribbage and a glass or two of wine sounds much better than slogging through the rain and mud.

LATER

And a good day it’s been, all things considered. We laid around in the tent, Kate read, I wrote, we played a game of cribbage (I beat her by a mere 11 points), eventually the rain let up and we were able to venture around the area.


There wasn’t a lot of wood available to build a fire, but we managed to find enough, supplemented by an ample supply of birch bark.

It seemed to take forever to cook some red beans and rice (with some sliced up leftover brats that we’d grilled last week added), mostly due to the fact that we couldn’t keep a consistent flame under it.

A light rain came and went, and came and went but it wasn’t as heavy as it was in the morning.

After we ate we took the canoe out and explored the lake a little and the hiked the portage to Indiana to see what we’re in for tomorrow, if it doesn’t rain too much.

If all goes according to plan we’ll get the five-star site, stay the night and take a creek back to Hula Lake, thus avoiding the Hell Slog. Then it’s just a simple 40 r. portage back to Wood Lake. Hopefully we’ll be able to find a campsite there and then we’ll come out Monday, a day earlier than we’d originally planned. Frankly, the sound of Chinese delivery and lounging on the couch sounds pretty good right now.

THE SUN! BLUE SKY!!


I didn’t think we’d see ‘em! And what a beautiful sight to behold! It’s like an instant battery recharge! Despite the fact that on this dull, dreary, grey, cloudy day, and me thinking that it would probably get dark at any moment, we estimate that it’s actually only about 4:00.

I’d like to think that maybe Fate drove us forward yesterday (seems like it was days ago) to this site. It’s not the greatest campsite, it’s well used, there are nails driven into many of the trees and we even found a trio of fishing lures stuck into the trunk of one of the birches near the water (they didn’t look like casting errors, they looked like they were placed there on purpose), and some fuckhead named “Waldo” decided it would be cool to carve his name into one of the bench/logs that all the campsites seem to have.


The landing is wide and shallow and is covered mostly by pea-sized gravel. On a hot summer day it would be a great place to swim! The campsite itself is surround by very dense birch and pine.

I’ve had a great time today watching some crayfish crawl around the rocks next to the landing and as I write this a pair of loons are fishing not 50 yards away from me. This is why we come to the BWCA. It’s quiet here. There are no traffic sounds, no “boom cars,” no jets overhead. Kate let out a “Whoop!” when the sun came out before that echoed across the lake and into the surrounding woods and hills! The time right now is why I like to come here. It’s worth the Hell Slog.


DAY THREE - June 26th

The full moon put be to bed last night and a calm, blue day greeted me when I crawled out of the tent this morning. Today’s plan: portage to Indiana Lake (100 r.) and get the five-star campsite.

LATER

The portage was a little tricky, but not really bad. We split the canoe duty because we’re both pretty sore. We realized on the far end that we’d left one of our paddles behind, Kate must have sprinted the distance because it felt like I’d been sitting there for only a few minutes when she got back.

As I sat there I scanned the far shore to see if I could spot the five-star and my eyes kept falling on this single pine standing there, dead but perfectly intact, its bright red needles standing out in stark contrast to all the lush green around it. Kate arrived with the truant paddle and we made our way around the lake to where we figure the five-star was.

Wouldn’t you know it? A family was already set up there! CRAP! The next site was just a little farther on and that is where we are now. I have to say, if that other site is a five-star this one is certainly a four!

A large, solid rock face juts out of the water to a terraced, pine studded site. It’s very open and the southerly breeze we are getting today is blowing through the campsite giving us an opportunity to air out all of our damp gear.

We made some coffee -- the previous tenants left a generous supply of kindling and small firewood -- and we came down to the water to survey the “beach.” I waded in a short way, when I turned around I was surprised to see that lone red pine I’d been admiring from across the lake earlier!

I hereby dub this campsite “The Red Pine Inn.”


LATER

This is the kind of weather you dream about when you’re planning your trip to the BWCA! It’s been warm, breezy, sunny ... perfect.

We went exploring around earlier and found the portage to Basswood Lake. Talk about a toughie!! We were really glad we were only hiking it and not carrying all our gear. It’s only 90 r. but it goes up, up, up, up, up and then down, down, down, down, down. The view on the far end, though, is spectacular!

Basswood is one of the biggest, if not the biggest lake in the BWCA. On a calm day like today paddling across it would take quite a bit of time. Crossing it on a rough day would be terrifying!

So today is Full Relaxation Day. The hammock is up, we mixed a cocktail (yes, we brought both wine (boxed wine sans the box) and vodka (in a Nalgene bottle) -- and more than each of us could possibly drink in the time we’re spending up here, but I figure alcohol is like T.P., you’d rather pack some out with you than run out while you’re here), and we’re lounging.

 

We took a nice swim before our hike and I must've spent a half an hour lounging around the campsite naked. As mentioned before, this is why we come to the BWCA.


But all is not total relaxation, one must always keep an eye skyward watching the weather. We could get rained on tonight, some clouds are moving in, but I'm determined to have a nice fire before it does. And I really would love it if we could see the moon again tonight.

LATER

I took a nap in the afternoon and had a kind of revelation about the camp stove, so I decided to give it another try. I don't think my revelation is what did it, but suddenly the tank started to pressurize! It's amazing what a small victory like that can do for morale! I did a victory lap around the campsite.


We cooked dinner, which took far less time with a functioning camp stove, ate it on the shore and then settled around the campfire until we were just too tired to stay awake.

Day three is by far the best day I've had on this trip, in fact I'd say it was one of the best days I've ever had up here.

DAY FOUR – JUNE 27th

It's another dull, grey day, but at least it's not raining … yet.

Kate is very optimistic about our plan of taking the small stream between Indiana and Hula Lakes, but although I haven't mentioned it to her, I don't share her optimism. Yes, I would very much like that idea to work out, it would eliminate two portages, one of them the Hell Slog, but there are only about a million things that could go wrong: the flow could be too strong and we're going against it, it could be too shallow, it could be blocked by downed trees, etc., etc., and that would mean turning back and going the way we came. But the plan as it stands now is to traverse the stream to Hula, take the 40 r. portage to Wood Lake and hopefully find a campsite there. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

SLIGHTLY LATER

Kate's still asleep and now it's starting to rain. It's a light rain, but it's rain nonetheless. I'm really feeling some pre-moving dread.

THE REST OF DAY FOUR AND THE END OF THE TRIP

If you asked me to pick a worse travel day, I think I'd still pick day one, but this one was very nasty. At least the weather was nice.

There was a short, supposedly 15 r. portage to the stream, but I'm pretty sure it was longer than that and it went through swamp. Kate dropped the canoe twice because she sank up to her knee in what looked like mostly solid ground. I had the same thing happen to me while carrying the personal pack, I was helpless and pinned under its weight until she came and rescued me.

The open part of the “stream” was hardly a canoe width across and was surrounded by swamp. Kate went up to her waist in muck and I went balls deep as we tried to push, pull and prod our way to where we hoped the water would open up enough for us to paddle again. But we wound up in an impassable area and, exhausted both physically and emotionally, we had to make our way back to Indiana Lake. Kate pulled several leeches off of her legs. We both hope we never have to spend another second in a swamp again.

I don't know which was worse, finding that our ingenious plan was a waste of time, or knowing how much time it wasted, but we were faced with but one option: go back out the way we came in. So off we went across Indiana, 100 r. to Good Lake, the 150 r. Hell Slog (only slightly less hellish due to a couple of days with little rain), across Hula Lake, a 40 r. portage to Wood Lake and then a hunt for one of the five campsites there.

Going that distance was particularly tough on me, I think. Kate is so strong. At the end of the 40 r. portage I collapsed in a pile, emotionally wrecked, but knowing that we had to keep moving.

Of course, there were no sites available on Wood Lake. We could travel backwards again, back to Good Lake, but that would be ridiculous considering how hard we'd worked to get where we were and the emotional toll it had already taken, so we worked our way to the exit. On the way I got us turned around again and we took an un-wanted detour down Madden Creek. That was the last straw for me and now I just wanted to get the fuck out of the BWCA.

Kate had suggested earlier that we stop and eat and I had ignored her thinking that we wanted to get to a campsite on Wood Lake first. Our only fight on the trip was as we neared the exit. We pulled a couple of Snack Packs out of the food pack and sucked them down like frat boys doing shots and portaged our way back to the car.

We drove to Ely, found a brew pub and ate bacon mother-fucking cheese burgers and had a couple of beers. Our final night was spent at a $90 campsite with a king sized bed called the Paddle Inn. The lady at the desk said that a lot of her business lately has been from people who haven't been able to find a campsite in the BWCA. It's getting crowded up there these days due to the economy, so anyone reading this and planning a trip up there, consider yourself forewarned.

The BWCA is a place to experience a whole pallet of emotions, from the glee you feel when you first get there to the relief that you've made it back out. In between there's fear, joy, anger, elation, giddiness, determination, self-motivation and relaxation. You thank Mother Nature for making clear water, warm sun and beautiful trees and you curse her for making mud, leaches, mosquitoes and deer flies (and those little mother-fucking biting black flies!!). You test your limits and you know that no one can get you out of any situation you might have gotten yourself into but you, and when you get home you look at your tired, sore, sunburned, bug-bitten, scratched and bruised body and you feel good.


I'm glad we went, I discovered that I love Ms. Kate Scamp even more than ever and that we can work through difficult situations together, but next year I want a vacation where all we have to carry around is a towel.

Zombies!

on Monday, April 19, 2010



Several years ago, when I lived on the south side of St. Cloud, my landlord, who lived downstairs from me, enlisted my help moving a china hutch that he had just purchased at an auction into his house. It was an old and unwieldy piece of furniture, it was heavy, but the two of us could move it without too much trouble.

We wrestled the piece out of the moving truck he'd rented and were taking a short break in the front yard before we attempted to get it into the house when we were approached by a black man somewhere in his 40s who struck up a conversation with the two of us. It started out normally enough, the weather, the fact that the china hutch looked heavy and the like, and then it took a turn into the weird.

The man started telling us about all the zombies in St. Cloud and how they were going to try to take over the world, and that he was apparently the only person around who knew.

"They're envious of us," he said, "because we have life and they don't and they want it. They try to be just like us, but I know what they look like."

Then he told us about his upstairs neighbor.

"He's one. He stays up all night and sleeps during the day. I don't know where he gets all his money from, but it's got to be the same place that he gets all that pussy."

He didn't seem agitated or frightened. I know I would be if zombies were out and about. He was very matter of fact about everything. In fact, the only thing that seemed to bother him was the fact that his upstairs zombie neighbor seemed to have a lot of spending cash. And a lot of girlfriends.

We shortened our break and found that a great work motivator is "getting away from the crazy guy" is, and had that hutch moved into the house in no time.

That's almost 10 years ago now and I'm still waiting for the zombie apocalypse.



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Relgion Boldly Goes Where It Isn't Wanted

on Friday, March 26, 2010

A very dear man I know died this week of cancer. He made it long enough to see his son get married, the new year and spring. He was a loving, generous man with an infectious smile and a wonderful attitude. He was also non-religious, and when his wife died a few years back he made it quite clear that he didn't want, "any of that religious shit" when he died.

So there will be no church service, but that won't stop the religiously minded from imposing their ceremonies on the memorial gathering that is happening tonight. The gathering goes from 4 - 8 PM, but there's a "Celebration of Life" that starts at 7.

This "Celebration of Life" will, no doubt, be a very thinly veiled Christian religious ceremony. They will invoke the name of Jesus, they will invoke the name of God, they will talk about Heaven... in direct opposition to the dead man's wishes. I have a huge problem with that.

If people want to pray to God or Jesus or who/whatever they should do so silently by themselves. This "Celebration of Life" is just another example of Christians forcing their will and belief system on everyone in the room. I won't be there, I will walk out because I don't want to be subjected to that, but I shouldn't have to. They're the ones who should have to go elsewhere if they want to all get together and pray. I stress again: it's not what the deceased wanted, so they shouldn't get to do it.

So let me be very, very clear: When I die I, too, don't want "any of that religious shit." No praying, no Christianity disguised as a "Celebration of Life." If the Christians want to pray over my ashes, let them do it silently by themselves or, if they need to be in a group and need to do it aloud, in a completely different venue. Those are my wishes and they trump the Bible.


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Cost of Doing Business?

on Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Two days in a row I had someone come into my shop in order to hit me up for money. I am used to the solicitations from non-profit organizations such as Big Brothers/Big Sisters, the Humane Society, the March of Dimes, etc., and they typically use the "soft sell" technique of sending you a piece of mail. These couple of organizations sent people.

First was a man from a group called National Write Your Congressman, he was a very nice man who was from the area, has kids in the school system and all that. The group he represents gathers opinions on the concerns of the day from business owners (and others, I would assume) and then sends them all to your representatives. His sales technique bugged me, he wrote down my opinions, showed me the print material he had with him -- and then asked for money. They want a minimum of $425 per year for you to belong to their club. Why would I want to spent 1000 times the cost of a stamp to have someone else write my congressman for me? I had to apologize and send him on his way.

Next was a guy from the National Federation of Independent Business, he was also a very nice man. He represents a lobbying group that goes to Washington, D.C. and, well, lobbies members of the House and Congress on behalf of its members, who are typically small business owners. He would have taken as little as $100 from me, but would have preferred more.

I am continually astounded at how much money I could spend in a year to be a member of the various groups and organizations who would love to take my money. Directly related to my business is the National Coffee Association ($275 per year), the Specialty Coffee Association ($405 per year), the Roasters Guild ($225 per year) and Fair Trade USA ($750 per year), and that doesn't include the St. Cloud Chamber of Commerce ($350 per year). So all tolled I could be spending somewhere around $2000 per year to belong to these groups, add the two guys who visited me this week and it would be closer to $3000.

But the other dilemma I'm experiencing is trying to balance what I believe as an individual who leans pretty damn far to the left, and a businessman who has concerns that lean a little more to the right.  For example: from an environmental standpoint the Carbon Tax sounds like a great idea, make those who put CO2 into the atmosphere pay for it, but that could raise the price of energy for my business up to 80%.

A simple thing like raising the minimum wage, which is great for workers, takes money from the pockets of business owners -- and I'm not some big, corporate entity who can swallow something like that, spending more means not being able to buy new equipment or not being able to expand. Of course, it's kind of a moot point, seeing as I am my only employee, but the concept is the same, and I don't want to remain the only employee forever.

Regardless of all that, these visits threw me off my stride because I sat around with each of them for an hour talking politics before they asked me for money. I don't like that and I wish they'd both been more upfront about it. The first one really bugged me because he took down all my opinions before he told me he worked for a for profit group, that would be akin to showing someone a menu, cooking the food and placing it in front of them before you mentioned that they'd have to pay for it, and that it was going to cost a shit-ton more than you thought it would.

I tried to warn the second guy, I told him I'd been visited the previous day by someone who wanted money from me, and I wasn't prepared to give him any either. He said, "Well, that depends..." and went on with his pitch.

I think I'm going to go get a "No Solicitors" sign and put it on my door. If you want to buy my product and give me money, c'mon in. If you want money from me, don't bother.


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Worst Gig Ever

on Friday, February 5, 2010



The time was somewhere in the early 2000s, I'm not sure exactly when, but my band, Collective Unconscious, had a gig at the Norshor Theatre in Duluth, MN. We were led to believe that we would be playing as a part of a big, multi-band music event in the main theater, when we got there we found that was not the case.

We wound up in the middle of a community art jamboree that was going on all over the building, there were bands in the main theater, but we weren't one of them. Instead we wound up in the upstairs lobby sharing the stage with several smaller groups, right before us was a blues band. We also got exposed to what I call "teenage girl poetry:"

My love is like dry, blowing leaves...

UGH!

The blues band got done playing and moved their instruments and amps out of the way, fortunately a sound system was provided. Unfortunately it was out of phase with the outlets we had our amps plugged into.

Old buildings, like the Norshor, have old wiring and sometimes that wiring is either poorly grounded or not grounded at all. Unscrupulous people will put 3-prong (grounded) power outlets into non-grounded holes in the wall, or if they don't you need to use a ground-lift -- one of those things that turns a 3-prong plug into a 2-prong plug. Anyway, if the grounding isn't solid the electricity flows around until it finds one. If you get close to the mic, your lips act as the ground and you get zapped. It's not enough to kill you, but it's pretty unpleasant. If everything is on the same circuit, you're fine, but if you're out of phase you're not.

The way I had things set up in those days was to have my electric guitar plugged through my distortion pedals, etc. and into my amp, and my mandolin plugged directly into the sound system. As a result, I was in-phase with the sound system when I played my mando and could approach the mic without fear, but was out of phase when I played my Strat and would get zapped.

Throughout the course of the evening I got zapped in the lips, through my toes when I was playing the mando, but brushed one of my guitar foot pedals with my foot, through the elbow when I accidentally brushed up against our bass player and finally at the end of the night when I went to turn off my guitar amp while holding onto my mando and I got zapped through the hands.

I'd had it. I threw my mandolin to the ground (secretly hoping it would break, piece of shit that it was) and yelled, "Get me the fuck out of here!"

Funny, we didn't get paid for the gig that night (I think they promised us all of $100) and they never asked us back.

Possibly the Best Day at Work Ever

on Thursday, January 28, 2010

Four times a year we deep clean the roasting machine, it's long, involved, greasy & dirty and it takes a bunch of hours. Today I was fortunate enough to have the Fabulous Armadillos use my roastery as a rehearsal space for their upcoming Motown show at the Pioneer Place in St. Cloud. Sorry, folks, it sold out weeks ago.

So all day I was treated to a live band playing songs like Respect, Natural Woman, The Tears of a Clown, Shotgun and many more.




Okay, that's not such a great video. But this one is! His name is Julius Andrews IV and he won the pre-teen division of the Minnesota State Fair Amateur Talent Contest in 2009. Having him there brought tears to my eyes it was so cool and beautiful!



All in all, I had a GREAT day at work!

Chicken Lasagna

on Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Photobucket

Tonight's menu is a chicken lasagna, since I haven't done it yet it's not so much a recipe as it is a plan. It's pretty much just your standard lasagna made with diced chicken. Usually I'll use browned hot Italian sausage when I do this.

Ingredients:

1 lb. chicken breasts, skin & fat removed
1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes
1 can (29 oz.) tomato sauce
1/2-3/4 cup baby portobello mushrooms, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
medium sized onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2-1 tbsp Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp (seriously small amount) fennel seed
1 egg
1 small container part skim ricotta cheese
1/4-1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
1-2 cups shredded mozarella cheese
9-12 lasagna noodles, par-boiled
salt
pepper

Preheat oven to 350° F

I've already taken the chicken breasts, washed them and patted them dry, added a sprinkling of salt & pepper to both sides and fried them in a heavy pan using no oil for about 2 minutes per side. They're nice and caramelized, they might not be cooked all the way through, but it doesn't really matter at this point because they'll be spending quite a bit of time in the oven later. I put them on a plate, covered them loosely with plastic wrap and they're sitting in the fridge until they cool down. Later, when I'm putting the sauce together, I'll dice them up.

For the sauce, I'll dice the onion, garlic and mushrooms and saute them in olive oil in a large sauce pan until the onions are just starting to get translucent. Then I'll add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, Italian seasoning, fennel seed and diced chicken and stir it all together. No need to heat it, it will be in the oven soon.

I'll boil up a bunch of water and cook the lasagna noodles until they're half-cooked and rinse them in cold water (I know you're not supposed to rinse your pasta, but those things are too hot to handle!).

Finally I'll make the "cement." I'll take the ricotta cheese, scoop it into a small mixing bowl, add one egg and stir it up until it's well mixed, add the parmesan cheese and maybe a handful of the shredded mozarella, and stir it all up again.

Building the lasagna:

I'll take a ladle and put a single scoop of sauce on the bottom of a 9 x 12 inch baking pan, carefully place three lasagna noodles side by side and then use a spatula to spread a small amount of the ricotta cheese mixture on each noodle. I'll add a couple of ladles of sauce on top and finally, sprinkle some shredded mozarella on top. I'll keep repeating that until I've run out of either room or noodles. I'm going to keep a handful of mozarella cheese aside for later.

Then I cover the pan with foil and bake it for about 45 minutes, then uncover, sprinkle with the remaining mozarella and bake it for another 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese just starts to brown.

If you try this at home, let it sit for at least 10 minutes before you cut it.

I'm assuming this will be delicious.

Post-cooking addenda:

  • Sure enough, the chicken was pink in the middle when I diced it, but it cooked the rest of the way in the oven.
  • Next time I think I'll add some baby spinach to each of the layers. It will add not only veggie matter, but sweetness.
  • I wound up with extra sauce and ricotta mixture. The sauce will be easy to use.
  • Another success!!

Chicken Wild Rice Soup

on Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A week or so ago I bought a whole chicken and decided to cut it up myself. I'd never done that before, so I looked up a couple of videos on YouTube and went to it.

It's an incredibly economical thing to do! I spent about $6 and got about $10-12 worth of meat out of it, and a nice carcass to make soup, which is what I did tonight. I never make the same soup twice, but there are always similarities, in this case, this is what I did:

  • 1 chicken carcass, breast meat, thighs & wings removed -- don't worry, there's still plenty of meat
  • several cups of water (5 or 6?)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 4 medium carrots, sliced
  • 3 stalks celery, sliced
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 can white beans -- including that nice, starchy water
  • 1/2 cup frozen yellow corn
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt
  • a good dose of ground pepper
  • 1 tsp dill weed
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1-1/2 tsp dried parsley
  • A few shakes of red pepper flakes
Most of my measurements are by eye so I am only guessing the amount.

In a separate pan prepare a 1/2 cup of wild rice according to directions. My rice came from Bemidji, MN and I took 1-1/2 cups of water, brought it to a boil, added the 1/2 cup of rice, reduced the heat to simmer, covered it and let it sit for about 20 minutes. It didn't have to be made perfectly because it was destined for a large pot of hot liquid.

  • Take the carcass and put it in a large pot or stock pot, add enough water to almost cover it, add salt & pepper.
  • Place on medium-low heat, cover and allow to boil for a little over an hour.
  • While that's going on you can chop all your veggies and put them in a container for later use.
  • Turn off the heat and use tongs to remove the chicken carcass and place it on a plate, or in a large bowl and put it in the fridge to cool down.
  • Put all the veggies, the tomatoes and the beans in the broth -- DON'T ADD THE RICE YET! Turn the heat back on medium and cover.
  • Once your chicken is cool enough to touch you can break it apart with your fingers, it's messy and fun! Remove all the skin and bones, put them in an old plastic shopping bag (you know you have plenty) and put it in the freezer until garbage day. You don't want that stuff sitting in your trash for a week, the smell will kill you.
  • Add the meat to the soup and let it heat back up.
  • Finally, add the rice, remove the pot from heat and let it sit for 10 minutes or so, that gives the rice a chance to heat up without cooking any more.

The garlic and the red pepper flakes definitely gave this soup a bit of kick, but the sweetness of the corn and carrots and the nuttiness of the rice added little flavor treats that came out and surprised me!

Of course, now I have soup for about a dozen people, but it'll freeze just fine.