Thursday, March 19, 2015

12th anniversary of Operation Iraqi Freedom

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Sunday, February 22, 2015

New York Times writer posits "Thank you for your service" is offensive to veterans. I disagree.

Byron Wong at bigWOWO asks:
Hey Eric,

I just saw this:

I'd be interested in your opinion. Could you blog about it? (I usually don't request this, but I think lots of people might also be interested.) All considered, I think the vets are right about those who don't serve--it's what you're supposedly supposed to say, without any kind of thought.


I was a soldier and, thus, I will always be a veteran. I have advocated for veterans in the civilian-military context. I have been thanked for my military service, so I have some insight on the topic. That being said, I qualify my reactions to Matt Richtel's article with I am not a 9/11-generation war veteran and even if I were, veterans are opinionated individuals with diverse takes on being thanked for their military service.


_Mr. Richtel's article would have been better rounded had he teamed with a thoughtful veteran, preferably a contemporary 9/11-generation war veteran, as a co-author.

Nonetheless, the perfect is the enemy of the good. I encourage people like Mr. Richtel to explore, however imperfectly, veterans issues from the civilian side of the civilian-military divide. His article implies that veterans prefer a social firewall to shut off acknowledgement and conversation from civilians who are not members of the American military fraternity and lack the basic framework to understand it. Perhaps some veterans feel like that. Not all do. I don't believe most veterans feel like that. I take a different tack. In college, creating a vital civilian-military cultural interface was one of my foundational reasons for starting MilVets. Bridging the civilian-military divide has carried forward as a core element of MilVets' mission on campus and, for years, the group has been almost entirely 9/11-generation war veterans.

_The response from Tim O'Brien, author of The Things They Carried, highlights a key point that I feel strongly about, too: the politics of war matter to veterans.

We know when we volunteer that selfless service and sacrifice, potentially of our lives, are part of the deal. They're core elements of American military heritage. By oath, we trust up front that our nation's leaders will invest our lives in worthy causes. That doesn't mean, however, soldiers don't care about the politics of war. Of course they care; they live the wars and stake their lives in them. It mattered to me why my fellow American soldiers and I should potentially die defending Koreans from Koreans. The same question has been asked about the wisdom of Americans dying to defend Vietnamese from Vietnamese, Somalis from Somalis, Iraqis from Iraqis, Afghanis from Afghanis, and possibly someday, (Taiwanese) Chinese from (mainland) Chinese. The question really is one of fundamental premise: should America be a 'leader of the free world' at all that stakes the lives of America's sons and daughters for the sake of other peoples across distant shores.

Other than outliers like Ehren Watada, the politics of war take a backseat for soldiers while they're engrossed with the tasks, conditions, and standards of the mission at hand, and keeping their men, their buddies, and themselves sound. But the 'why' and the outcome of the war matter very much to veterans when they reflect on their experiences, contextualize them in narrative form, and weigh the consequences for their own lives, their families, their comrades, their country, the people over there, and the world.

What categorically separates 'good' wars from 'bad' wars is the cultural narrative of the 'why' and outcome. While the wars viewed as honorable in the zeitgeist are just as harsh in their ground and personal effects as the wars viewed as dishonorable, the cultural narrative sets the contextual frame that colors the social value of a veteran's military service. For that reason, it's critical for the sake of Iraq veterans to correct the political distortions of the law and policy, fact basis - the 'why' - of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Setting the record straight in the zeitgeist is most important for the young children of our KIA in Iraq who will only ever know their father or mother through the prism of the cultural narrative of the Iraq War.

_How have I personally felt when I've been thanked for my military service? A bit awkward.

The conventional responses to "Thank you", such as "No problem" or "You're welcome", don't squarely fit because overseas military service, generally speaking, is a national security action in the global context for the sake of the collective us. National security (i.e., national defense, foreign relations, or the economic interests of the United States) is not the same thing as homeland security. Overseas military service is not a direct conveyance from American soldier to American (civilian) citizen, unlike say, a Coast Guard sailor or National Guard soldier who directly engages fellow Americans while serving on a search-and-rescue, peacekeeping, or disaster relief mission in the homeland. The good of my service in a national security mission in Korea to my fellow Americans was collective, indirect, and largely abstract.

As such, I would advise veterans who feel cynical like Hunter Garth to not interpret the statement, "Thank you for your service", from the viewpoint of their personal relationship with the thanker. Instead, they ought to adopt a more social view that a citizen on behalf of the nation is expressing civic appreciation to a soldier or veteran as a representative of the military's greater contribution to the collective us as the American nation.

The same civic concept underlies the "any soldier" letters from American schoolchildren that are distributed randomly to soldiers serving overseas. As a 20-something soldier in Korea, I felt awkward and vaguely objectified receiving a handwritten letter from a 4th grader in Ohio thanking me, too. The letter wasn't to me, though. It was to an American soldier serving over there and I was an American soldier serving over there.

I summarized the abstract social value of military service and the civic appreciation thereof in my biography statement for MilVets:
It truly is selfless service – a lot of love and pride goes into soldiering. It doesn’t matter why someone joins or where he came from, or how much he enjoys (or suffers) his duties. It doesn’t matter who’s making the tough decisions in the White House. Soldiers are part of a heritage that is older, deeper and more essential than the republic for which they sacrifice. Soldiers are of the people. They are the primal embodiment of the social contract we make with each other to be a civilization.

Now, and in all times, our soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen deserve the American people’s gratitude and understanding.
My summary for MilVets followed from the way I had counseled the new soldiers assigned to my care: You're a professional soldier of the United States Army now. Never forget that on your chest, you are telling the world at all times what you represent - your country, your Army, your family.

In my opinion, when a veteran is being thanked for his service by someone who has not served, likely will never serve, and doesn't know what it's like, the proffer of gratitude is not attuned to the veteran's individual service experience. But the expression is not meaningless. The veteran is being thanked by a fellow countryman less for his own sake than as an affirmation of something essential the veteran is part of that is bigger, deeper, and older than himself, that in fact is deeper and older than the American nation. He should accept it as a civic cultural ritual and not reject it as an unintended affront. The thank-you is not personal. It's for "any soldier" and the veteran represents "any soldier" who has served bearing his country, his Army, his family name over his heart.

Perhaps formulating a ritualistic response for veteran thankees would help alleviate the awkwardness of being thanked for our service. I suggest responding with "It was an honor", which deflects the individual aspect and focuses the exchange, instead, on the timeless collective aspect of military service.


To expand a bit on my post, "Thank you for your service" is viewed properly as a civic cultural ritual rather than a unique transaction between individuals. As with any ritual, though, "Thank you for your service" functions only when the meaning and context of the ritual are mutually understood and the underlying ethic is shared by its participants. As ritual, the key pieces currently missing are, one, a common cultural understanding of "Thank you for your service" as an affirmation of a fundamental social value rather than a comment on an individual experience and, two, a formulaic ritual response by the veteran thankee. I suggest the response, "It was an honor", to focus on the timeless collective aspect instead of the particular individual aspect of the veteran's military service.

As analogy, the ritual of the Eucharist is not a quick, thoughtless, throwaway substitute for the spectrum of Catholicism. Rather, the brief ritual is an entry point for the larger clockwork of believing and practicing the faith. "Thank you for your service", properly understood and practiced, should function similarly within a larger clockwork of (secular) civilian-military relations. When the context of the ritual of the Eucharist is subtracted, then the Communion bread becomes just a piece of wheat bread. Ritual context should be added to "Thank you for your service".



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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Quick reaction to the proposed AUMF against ISIS

See Letter from the President -- Authorization for the Use of United States Armed Forces in connection with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, 11FEB15.

As previously discussed, the President already possesses the legal authority needed to conduct the anti-ISIS counter-terrorism campaign, which is not the same as a nation-v-nation war. The President's counter-terrorism authority is rooted in Article II of the Constitution, not statutory authority, which has been affirmed by Congress since the Clinton administration. The proposed AUMF is for policy and political reasons, not for legal authority, although it may be legally useful for an anti-ISIS action on territory where the local nation opposes the action.

Repealing the 2002 AUMF (Public Law 107-243) doesn't mean much since it was based on the threat by Iraq when Iraq meant Saddam's regime. The 2002 AUMF also enforced the Gulf War ceasefire United Nations Security Council resolutions. Today, Saddam's regime is gone and the UN Security Council determined in 2010 that Iraq was largely in compliance with the UNSCRs. The 2002 AUMF was effectively retired law, anyway, albeit an argument can be proffered that UNSCR 2170 (2014) reactivated the authority of Public Law 107-243.

For enforcement of the remainder of the UNSC resolutions for Iraq, the 1991 AUMF (Public Law 102-1) and sections 1095 and 1096 of Public Law 102-190 (1991) are still in effect. As far as I know, the predicate for P.L. 102-1, UNSCR 678 (1990), remains active, which means the US continues to be authorized "to use all necessary means to uphold and implement resolution 660 (1990) and all subsequent relevant resolutions and to restore international peace and security in the area" (UNSCR 678).

After the regime change of 2003, the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 (Public Law 105-338), which mandated the post-war peace operations, moved to the forefront, and since the end of 2008, the US-Iraq relationship has been guided by the 2008-2011 Status of Forces Agreement and the open-ended Strategic Framework Agreement. Notice that President Obama did not propose an end-date for the SFA nor the SOFA he signed with Iraq in 2014. Iraq-specific Public Law 102-1, sections 1095 and 1096 of Public Law 102-190, Public Law 105-235 (1998), and Public Law 105-338, counter-terrorism statutes Public Law 104-132 (1996) and Public Law 107-40 (2001), and of course, Article II of the Constitution have not been repealed, either.

There will be no repeat of Operation Iraqi Freedom because this time, the US is working with Iraq as an ally, not resolving a threat by Iraq as an enemy with noncompliant Saddam. President Obama's depiction of the mission for US forces in the anti-ISIS campaign seems similar to the mission envisioned had a residual US force stayed in 2011 to assist Iraqi forces. It's like Obama is taking a mulligan on the error of prematurely removing US peace-operation forces from Iraq. Of course, Iraq's condition is very different now than it was before. What would have been sufficient from a residual US force to protect Iraq then is likely no longer sufficient now.

Add: Legal analysis of the proposed AUMF at National Review and Lawfare blog. A balanced look at the conflicted nature of the proposed AUMF.



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Thursday, January 01, 2015

hail and farewell to another year

That was quick. Happy New Year.

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Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Army all-weather coat

Excerpt from pages 128 to 129 of DA PAM 670–1 • 2 December 2014:

20–7. Coats, black, all-weather (male and female)
a. Type. The black, all-weather coat is a clothing bag issue item.
b. Description. The black, all-weather coat is made of polyester/cotton (65/35) in Army shade 385. The coat is a sixbutton, double-breasted model with a belt, convertible collar that buttons at the neck, gun flap, shoulder loops, adjustable sleeve straps, welt pockets with two inside hanging pockets, and zip-out liner. The back of the coat has a yoke and center vent. The coat is one-quarter lined with basic material; the sleeve lining is made of nylon taffeta (see fig 20–7). There is no wear-out date for the interim version of the double-breasted coat made from polyester/cotton (50/50).

Figure 20–7. Army black all-weather coat with officer insignia

c. How worn. Personnel may wear the all-weather coat with or without the liner. They will wear the coat buttoned, except for the neck closure, which personnel may wear open or closed (unless otherwise prescribed by this pamphlet). Male and female coats are buttoned and belted from opposite directions. The black scarf is authorized for wear with the all-weather coat. Personnel may wear the coat with the service, dress, mess, hospital duty, and food service uniforms. The black, all-weather coat is authorized for wear with utility uniforms only in a garrison environment when personnel have not been issued organizational rain gear. Officers wear nonsubdued pin-on grade insignia on the shoulder loops of this coat. Noncommissioned officers wear shoulder marks on the shoulder loops. Enlisted personnel wear nonsubdued grade insignia on the collars. When the grade insignia is removed from the coat, personnel may wear the coat with civilian clothing.

The basic design of the Army all-weather coat has not changed since at least World War 2, though the regulation color at that time was khaki, not black. It was worn in the field during World War 2, which is no longer the case. The modern place of the Army all-weather coat is with the sterile wear of fastidious Class A and Class B uniforms rather than the rough wear of rugged Class C uniforms. While its basic design has not changed since World War 2, I guess the contemporary construction of the Army all-weather coat is no longer rugged enough for wear in the field.

Due to the suggestive name and military origin of the coat, a common assumption is the gun flap below the right shoulder is related to firearm use, perhaps a vestige of a pocket for a pad to cushion the butt of a rifle. Actually, the gun flap covers the open edge of the convertible collar when buttoned at the neck to keep water from running inside the coat. It may be called a gun flap because raising the right arm, such as when using a rifle, tends to open a gap between collar and coat that lets in water. The gun flap is also called a storm flap, which better indicates its purpose. Closing the convertible collar does a good job holding body heat in the cold as well as keeping water out in wet weather.

The common name for the Army all-weather coat is the trench coat, derived from its use in the trenches of World War 1. More on the history of the trench coat here.



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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Thoughts of the day

25-year-old mother died in a single-vehicle car crash with her 18-month-old daughter strapped into a car seat in back. Rescuers heard a woman crying out for help from the car, but discover that the mother is dead. Who cried out for help?

Sahray Barber felt overwhelmed and at a dead-end and just took off without telling anyone.

Another black-swan spree killing by an unexpected, outwardly successful perpetrator. Andreas Lubitz, co-pilot of Germanwings (a Lufthansa subsidiary) Flight 4U9525/GWI18G, flying an Airbus A320, deliberately crashed a flight into the French Alps by changing the autopilot altitude setting from the cruising altitude of 38,000 feet to 100 feet, the lowest setting. The plane crashed at 435 miles per hour into a mountainside at 6,175 feet. Lubitz locked the head pilot out of the flight deck after the pilot left the cockpit briefly, likely for a bathroom break, and then didn't respond to the pilot and flight controllers over the radio. 8 minutes later, 144 passengers and 6 crewmembers, including Lubitz, were killed. Political terrorism? Mental illness? Possessed by the Devil?

NORAD tracks Santa Claus on Christmas Eve.

December 21st 6:03 pm is the winter solstice, which marks the official beginning of the winter season, for 2014. The day is technically the shortest day of the year with 9:15:16 of daylight. However, the winter solstice sunset of 4:32 pm is not the earliest sunset in December. From December 7th to December 9th, sunset was 4:28 pm. The shorter day on the winter solstice is due to a later sunrise on 7:17 am, which is 10 minutes +/- 1 minute later on December 21st than the sunrises on December 7th to December 9th.

Reminder that when President Eisenhower warned of the military-industrial complex, it was actually in the context of discussing the "imperative need" for a strong military.

Jonathan Turley praises Senate Select Committee report on CIA after 9/11. CIA directors authored this rebuttal and set up this website. Columbia professor Stuart Gottlieb points out the CIA actions were conducted with bipartisan endorsement. Turley's premise is that the CIA's actions, variously labeled enhanced interrogation and torture, have been illegal under torture prohibition. However, they may have been legally authorized by the implied repeal of counter-terrorism statutes.

James Fallows laments the state of civil-military affairs and culture. It's a case in point of misconceptions of OIF becoming an underlying premise for the course of the nation's military affairs and foreign policy. I dropped bait with my OIF FAQ, patient zero.

American Sniper has partially opened a passing window of opportunity to set the record straight on the 'why' of OIF. A review by a former Marine who was there at the same time.

I sent a message to George Jonas in response to this column. Jonas's premise is, "Our business was with Saddam. When we finished it, we ought to have left." In fact, our business was with Saddam to the extent he was the head of and effectively the government of noncompliant Iraq. However, our business was principally with Iraq, not just Saddam. By law and policy, the US mission with Iraq that began on August 2, 1990 was enforcing Iraq's compliance with the series of UNSC resolutions, including the disarmament mandates of UNSCR 687 (1991), that started with UNSCR 660 (1990) in response to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. After Saddam refused to comply in 2003, the regime change was only the preliminary step for the US-led, UN-mandated process to make Iraq compliant. The nation-building aspect of the US-led mission in Iraq was conducted within the context of making Iraq compliant. The process to make Iraq compliant was not concluded until December 2010 with UNSCRs 1956, 1957, and 1958.

Politico reports that President Bush is quietly trying to intervene on behalf of the Iraqi Sunnis willing to fight ISIS, but the Obama administration seems to be trading Iraq to Iran in order to curry Iran's favor for the P5+1 talks on Iran's nuclear program.

Ali Khedery describes the scope of the failed state of Iraq and blames Obama for it not just with the 2011 pull-out, but for poor choices with Iraq since 2009. Khedery reiterates Professor Gottlieb's point that sectarian Maliki maneuvering secularist Alawi out of office despite Alawi winning the 2010 election was a turning point.

Columbia Magazine belatedly printed my letter. I guess it was timely. It could be a suitable coda for my SU4V-esque distractive project that has garnered minimal feedback and made no apparent difference.

At Rudaw, a Kurdish interview with David Petraeus on his assessment of what's happened to Iraq.

The Charlie Hebdo magazine attack brings President Bush's 20SEP01 speech to mind. Insight from a Charlie Hebdo writer. Jack Hooper, a retired deputy director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service who led the counter-terrorism investigation of the Air India 1982/Narita perpetrators, explains the "60 minutes to (or 'til) boom" shortcoming of the law enforcement approach to counter-terrorism in this Canadian documentary on the Air India 182 terrorist attack.

Pretty good rundown of ISIS origin story by a Brown senior who says he'll be a Marine.

What ISIS Really Wants by Graeme Wood in The Atlantic. (h/t)

Succinct explanation of financial collapse and government reaction.

Cathy Young writes a Daily Beast article about Columbia senior Paul Nungesser's side of the story. Scary stuff.

I listened to about 4.5 hours of testimonies for and against scrapping the Stuy test at a NYC Council meeting about Resolution 442. The defenders of the SHSAT made me proud, but listening to many of the proponents for overhauling the entrance criteria made me despair about our society at large. It was like witnessing passages come to life from Atlas Shrugged about covetous moochers from a decadent society. Narrative conformism is an accurate relabeling of the current evolution of political correctness.

Hats off to Stuyvesant junior, 17-year-old Mohammed Islam, who has accrued 72-million dollars on the stock market, according to New York magazine. Update: Islam and the investment club at school are real, but their trades are simulated and the rest of the story is fake. New York magazine apologizes for being duped. Boy geniuses who do amazing things are not new, but that the story seemed plausible in the first place speaks to how mysterious the stock market is for most people, including me, and how credulous we are about it. Bernie Madoff's billions-dollar scam comes to mind.

A recollection of Army Basic Training that is reminiscent of mine: same base, roughly the same time of year, which also means a similar demographic make-up of fellow privates. While he did his Basic Training about a decade before me, my IET curriculum was still based on the Cold War model, so our training was likely very similar aside from some SOP tweaks.

R.I.P. Leonard Nimoy and Anthony Mason. They were icons of my youth. Nimoy was an Army veteran. Mason was my favorite Knick on my favorite Knicks team. He was also the PF on my favorite frontcourt with Glen Rice and Vlade Divac for the 1996-1997 Hornets.

I was hoping for elder insight on life and manhood from Force of Nature: The David Suzuki Movie, but it was mostly Suzuki's anti-economic, even radically anti-humanity environmentalist pitch interspersed with biographical tidbits. The importance of family, especially his connection with his father, is featured, but at the same time, he implies he gave short shrift to his 1st wife, Joane, and their children. Notably, they're not part of the movie beyond a brief mention and pictures when he talks about his early career. They don't seem involved with his life's work, unlike his 2nd wife, Tara Cullis, and their children. Suzuki is a self-absorbed, egotistical, ambitious, grandiose, granola-hippy showman, which doesn't make Suzuki a bad person. That's what it takes to achieve his level of professional, public success. Suzuki's type is global-visionary idealist, country-changing activist, like Winston Churchill, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King. But like the others, he's become disappointed late in life that his early activist successes have not wrought the sweeping transformations of his country and humankind that are his life's work. Furthermore, he's discouraged by the small-minded blowback for sincerely trying to make the world a fundamentally better place. An interesting part of the movie is the revelation that World War 2 Canadian policy on west-coast Japanese-Canadians in British Columbia was harsher than the similar American policy.

Didact: Father and son.

Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke on the Catholic “Man-crisis” and what to do about it.

Tips on salary negotiation.

About logic with useful links.

Jonathan Abrams' Grantland feature on Paul Silas offers nuggets on the masculine social fundamental of standing up for yourself and fighting back. It's an interpersonal social test. Standing your ground is a rite of passage and a trial to win respect among men. By the same token, it's a necessary proving ground for effective leadership, which means managing the personal confrontation correctly is necessary to achieve the greater good as well. I did not understand the social-dynamics value of confrontation in instances where I might have made a difference had I made different choices during interpersonal conflicts in a collective context, eg, as a soldier and student activist. I backed down due to a lack of personal confidence but also with the mistaken social notion that ceding the conflict, while costing me personally, would deflate the factional conflict for the greater good of the group. In fact, I should have done the opposite: actively attack the interpersonal conflict. Even if I lost as expected, the confrontation would have been better for my personal development, improved my leadership ability to make a difference, preserved my options, and been a better collective process for the group in the long run. I was personally weak, I was socially misguided, and thus I made a fundamental life-changing mistake that stunted my effectiveness. From the Abrams article:
[As a youth in Oakland] “I wasn’t that tough at that time,” Silas said. “Players used to come at me and beat the hell out of me.” Those physical tests turned out to be crucial for Silas’s development. He learned to strike back when another player got rough with him, and before long he discovered that being the aggressor could prevent opponents from ever challenging him to begin with.
When [Bill] Walton arrived in San Diego, he tried challenging his new coach. ... At this point, Silas understood that Walton was testing him. He confronted Walton immediately.

“We went at it like you could not believe,” Silas said. “The players couldn’t believe that any coach would do that to him. They loved that I had done that, and me and Bill, after that, he wanted to do as well for me as he could. [But] he got hurt that year and didn’t play and he didn’t play the next year.” Another time, Walton and teammate Tom Chambers got into an argument. “Bill Walton slugged him upside the head and [Chambers] started running away,” Silas recalled. Silas talked to Chambers the next day and told him that if he saw Chambers run away from another confrontation, then he would no longer be needed on the team. “Then when Bill would come at him, he’d go right back at his ass,” Silas said. “It just changed Tom’s game.”
“But we had a lot of players that did not like him that much because the media would talk about him, how great he was going to be.” One practice, Silas noticed [Lebron] James’s mood seemed down. It was routine for Silas’s Cavs to shoot 100 free throws before every practice, and James was refusing to shoot. Silas called the star rookie to his office. From his days with the Celtics and Sonics, Silas knew that respect among players had to be earned. If James was to become a leader on this team, he needed to prove it. The older players wouldn’t follow him just because of his talent.

“You’ve got to change,” Silas told him. “What they’re saying means nothing to you. You’re going to be one of the best players ever.”

Rob Konrad, a former Miami Dolphins fullback about my age, fell off his fishing boat 9 miles offshore in the Atlantic Ocean with no flotation aid and swam for 16 hours to reach shore at 4:30 am. He could be featured in a future episode of I Shouldn't Be Alive. That's willpower.

Unusually deadpan-honest admission from an active professional athlete, former Celtics PG, current Mavericks PG Rajon Rondo: "I haven't played defense in a couple years," Rondo said. "I've been able to hide a lot with Avery Bradley on the ball. He's helped out, the young guy. But [in Dallas] they expect me to play defense and, in the West, if you don't play defense you'll get embarrassed every night at the point guard position."

Communication is key in any collective activity, such as the Army, campus activism, or team sports. At the end of a Lakers-Grizzlies game with the Grizzlies up 1, Kobe Bryant ran up to foul Grizzlies PG Mike Conley with about 12 seconds remaining and then berated Jeremy Lin for not fouling Conley earlier. It turns out Lakers coach Byron Scott had instructed Lin to wait until the 10-second mark to foul Conley. Evidently, the Lakers are not on the same page with each other.

What if Jeremy Lin had experienced the kind of support that has enabled Grizzlies PG Mike Conley's development? Perhaps if Lin had stayed with the Knicks he would have experienced it. But he went to the Rockets, instead, who acquired James Harden, and that was that.

The defending champion Seahawks were ready with all the conditions in line for the obvious play to win the game but gave away Superbowl 49 to the Patriots on what's being called the worst play call in sports history. The Seahawks coaches are at a loss at how to justify their decision to call a slant from the 1-yard line on 2nd down rather than hand the ball to their dominant running back. They offered the justifications of wasting a down and running down the clock, neither of which makes sense. As Mike Francesca said, sometimes under pressure, people make dumb decisions. I need to keep that in mind for the times I'm hard on myself for freezing or becoming erratic under pressure. Here, a defending champion head coach, offensive coordinator, and quarterback screwed up in dumbfounding manner while on the verge of victory when the right decision was obvious. The antithesis is the interception. I'm envious of rookie CB Malcolm Butler. There was no frozen deer in the headlights on his part. Butler instantly analyzed the Seahawks play, made his decision, and acted sharply with no doubt, hesitation, or pause. I freeze even when I know the answer. Butler was livewire. Add: Grantland's Bill Barnwell's take, Seattle Times take. Add: Actually, passing on 2nd down was justifiable with this analysis: 4 points down, 26 seconds left, 1 timeout remaining, so the sequence is on 2nd down, pass with threat of run, score or incomplete that stops the clock on 2nd down, run with threat of pass on 3rd down, call timeout if no score to stop the clock, then run or pass on 4th down. If the Seahawks ran Lynch on 2nd down but he didn't score, then they'd need to call timeout on 2nd down to stop the clock, which then would have forced pass on 3rd down with no threat of run to score or stop the clock, or else take a big gamble running with no timeout to stop the clock if no score, and then pass or run on 4th down. So, setting aside the likelihood that Lynch would have scored on 2nd down because he's Beast Mode, the decision to pass with threat of run on 2nd down did make sense and fits what the Seahawks coaches sort of said after the game.

NBC's Peter Pan Live was panned in reviews, but I liked it well enough. I got what I paid for. Of course, I haven't seen the musical performed live in a theater to compare with the televised version. The story is red pill in the portrayal of Wendy Moira Angela Darling falling in love with insouciant, aloof, demanding alpha Peter. Tinkerbell is jealously possessive of Peter and Tiger Lily is in love with Peter, too. When Wendy is too old to go with Peter to Never Never Land, she gives her budding daughter Jane to him, like a cult member willingly giving over her children to her alpha-male cult leader. Peter Pan shows moments of a serious, clear understanding of the dangers and downsides of Never Never Land and the real world, but has chosen to live deliberately and freely as a MGTOW like Chris McCandless. There is also a strong fem-centric character to the story. The female characters (Wendy, her mother, Mary, Tiger Lily, even the actress-portrayed Peter Pan) show the strongest personalities. Not having read the J.M. Barrie story, I wonder whether the NBC production altered the original story with feminist flavoring.

I watched a free performance of Civil War Voices at the National Arts Club. The show was entertaining and informative but the hagiography of President Lincoln goes overboard. The NAC served punch and bakery cookies after the show. The cookies went fast but I was able to snag a few. The punch was made of ginger ale, cranberry juice, orange juice, and something else. It was good. I advised the assistant director to fix the actors' salutes, which were sloppy. He told me the show we watched, at 90 minutes, was cut down from the full production. I asked him whether Dixie was in the show and he said that was one of the songs that was cut out.

Tim Burton's Batman came out 25 years ago. I watched a blurry, skipping, streaky showing of the movie from an original 35mm film reel. It captures the atmosphere of Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns. A significant departure from the comic is Batman kills a lot of people in the movie without pause. In the comic, Batman kills on rare occasions, but only when it's unavoidable.

Axe Cop is fun.

Stephen Chow's Journey to the West: Conquering The Demons (2014), his riff on the classic Chinese children's story, is fun and well-crafted in Chow's signature style. The protagonist, Xuan Zang, a pre-enlightened Tang San-Zang, is similar to Chow's protagonist in Kung Fu Hustle. The demons are similar to the demons in Princess Mononoke who were good but turned evil due to hate-inducing incidents.

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) was cliche, light fare, but entertaining nonetheless. Monsters University (2013), the sequel to 2001 Pixar hit, Monsters Inc, and early Hayao Miyazaki hit, Castle in the Sky (1986), were good, not great. Pixar and Studio Ghibli both have made grander movies. Toy Story 3 (2010) is very good, close to but not quite a classic Pixar movie. Impressive attention to detail and richly expressive characters, well-voiced, well-animated, compelling personalities. Jessie looks like the better-looking sister of Kari, the babysitter from The Incredibles. Purge Anarchy (2014) maintains dramatic tension but has an otherwise empty plot. Based on the making-of feature, the film-makers believe the movie is saying more social commentary than it does. It was a disappointing sequel. Annabelle (2014), the prequel to The Conjuring (2013), which I haven't watched, looks good, but there's little to the story. The movie features well-acted, likeable characters and a well-done late-1960s, early-1970s period setting. Mia (Annabelle Wallis, who's British) and John Form (Ward Horton) are an attractive, likeable, enviable, idealized young couple. Plastic Planet (2009) is Werner Boote's scare documentary about the "age of plastic". The plastic industry response to the movie.

The Wind Rises (2013/2014) and Edge of Tomorrow (2014) are very good. The Wind Rises is Hayao Miyazaki's last movie and depicts an idealized antebellum and bellum culturally traditional Japan with a stalwart people. The movie was released in Japan in July 2013 and he retired in September 2013. Its hand-drawn animation feels intimate. I wonder if the water and moonlight were CGI-assisted, though. In an otherwise well-done movie, Tom Cruise playing a Tom Cruise character was a bit disconcerting in Edge of Tomorrow. I appreciated the themes of duty, courage, and selfless service, three of the seven Army values. The movie works because of its commitment to those themes. There's no cynicism. MSG Farell imparts to the craven Cage that the coming battle will be a redemptive crucible. That's exactly what it is for Cage. Surrounded by sincere soldiers through an untold number of iterations, Cage redeems himself in battle and fills out his uniform. An explanation of Edge of Tomorrow's ending, which is as questionable as Looper's ending.

John Mostow director's commentary for Surrogates (2009) is informative about technical aspects and background sausage-making of his movie. He hints at a struggle with the story-telling where he had to add improvised newsfeed as an expository device in post-production to fill in an overly vague story progression. The movie is a slick Hollywood production. Rosamund Pike is gorgeous. The one obvious gaping hole in the rules of the movie is that when the FBI-triggered buffering is introduced early in the movie, it works the same as when a user disconnects, as demonstrated by Maggie several times. The surrogate instantly goes lifeless and freezes. However, with the total system-wide buffering that saves billions of lives in the climax of the movie, all the surrogates keep moving and only disconnect when the OD virus is disseminated system-wide. If the users were all buffered, then that should have stopped all the surrogates before the virus was uploaded. If they were all still connected, then by the rules of the movie established beforehand, all the users should have died. Or maybe the buffering didn't work and the virus didn't actually anyone in the first place. Maybe the electrical charge of the OD device was the actual killer, somehow being transmitted to melt the users' brains. The users' senses are fully connected in normal use. The electrical narcotic, which presumably stimulates the user, hints that a conduit connects surrogate to user beyond basic physical senses. Perhaps, the OD electrical charge traveled that super-sensory conduit while the virus neutralized the normal electrocution fail-safe. That's just as plausible as the virus melting users' brains. It's not explained how the OD melts brains. It's a side effect that just is.

Oblivion (2013) is a slick, glossy looking sci-fi movie, the 2nd directorial effort by Joseph Kosinski, whose first movie was the slick, glossy looking TRON: Legacy (2010). Kosinski has an impressive architectural aesthetic eye. But his storytelling is clunky and derivative. It's like he pieces together his plots from a bin of premade tropes like they're Legos. The director, joined by Tom Cruise in a snobbish commentary, provided some background sausage-making insights and explained the intentions with the characters and the purpose of some scenes that weren't clear from viewing alone, but left the plot holes uncovered. The movie worked up to the point the scavs were revealed, then the movie unraveled thereafter. The best part of the movie was the starting premise of a poignant Adam-and-Eve fantasy of Vika and Jack as dyadic mates living and working as a team in idyllic isolation. The Sky Tower was their Eden. But the "effective team" carried the human flaws that doomed Adam and Eve. And, according to Cruise and Kosinki's commentary, they had the inherent instability that Vika had different priorities than Jack and Jack was committed to Julia. Their God, the Tet, turned out to be the enemy. The Eden fantasy that began the movie is demolished piece by piece over the course of the movie, climaxing with Tet/Sally proclaiming menacingly, "I am your God", before Jack blows up the Tet in his suicide mission. I guess the Tet's desire for a "more effective team" than the unstable Jack-and-Vika pair is why the Tet changed its mind and opted to save the Jack-and-Julia pair after Julia saved Jack from 109. Andrea Riseborough delivered a strikingly expressive performance as Vika, the doomed, tragic comms officer, co-pilot, and erstwhile mate of Tom Cruise's Jack. She overshadowed Olga Kurylenko's Julia. Tom Cruise played a Tom Cruise character and Morgan Freeman played a Morgan Freeman character.

Vika loved Jack. She took care of him and made sure to be waiting for him in the foyer, looking pretty and welcoming him home, when he returned from the field. It's not fair. Vika gave Jack almost everything a man could fairly ask for in his woman. Almost. The fundamental divide between them, besides Julia, was he yearned to go his own way on Earth while she was ultimately loyal to the Tet rather than her man, and was more committed to following the Tet's regulations and going to Titan than following Jack. Supposedly, the scene where they're first captured by the Tet showed her to be originally in love with him, but I didn't see it. The clone Vika apparently was hard-wired to stay in the Sky Tower and any forced attempt to take her out would trigger her response that they were an not an effective team, which would cause the pair's extermination. Still, I wonder how the relationship with Jack, Julia, and Vika would have played out had Vika agreed to go down to Earth with Jack. Would the 2 women in love with Jack agree on polygamy? Another interesting question is whether I would settle for a near-ideal feminine dyadic mate like Vika who's in love with me and cares for me but is ultimately loyal and obedient to and serves something or someone other than our dyad.

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) by Wes Anderson is disturbing: amoral and dark, even nihilistic. The story pits cunning versus sociopathy amid social cultural decay. It is not like ethical red-pill parables Moonrise Kingdom and Fantastic Mr. Fox. I had to push myself to watch it a 2nd time. Saoirse Ronan is lovely as Agatha. I wonder how much longer her girlishness will last.

I thought Two Years at Sea (2011) would be an instructive story of a MGTOW. Jake is indeed a MGTOW, but the movie, while not surreal, is stylistically abstract and avoids showing anything concrete. The movie aims for subtle, but comes up tasteless with empty calories, like a rice cake. It's scripted, not a documentary, and Jake is a character only, an object, not the subject. The movie fails to deliver the kernels of insight on MGTOW I hoped for.

Lucy (2014) has a stylish if lightly sketched story, but it is an interesting imagining of different levels of heightened brainpower if the process meant approaching godhead.

her (2013) is poignant. Joaquin Phoenix delivers a sensitive portrayal of a sensitive, lonely man, Theodore Twombly, who is imbued with Generation-X traits, even though the movie seems to be set in a sanitized, foreseeable future. Phoenix's strong performance is outdone by Scarlett Johansson's masterfully voiced Samantha, an artificially intelligent "OS" (operating system). Samantha's voice, intelligence, and personality add up to a Platonically ideal feminine dyadic mate rendered in sharp relief by the imperfect coupling of the lovelorn humans. It's not clear why Catherine, Theodore's ex-wife, changed from childhood sweetheart to angry ex-wife. Theodore blames himself for pushing Catherine away and apologizes to her, but it's not obvious he has anything to apologize for. Theodore's vaguely androgynous best friend, Amy, fails to connect with her fastidious husband, Charles. Director Spike Jonze seems to be implying with Samantha's supernatural abilities and evolution that the Platonic love ideal is beyond the ken of human beings. Indeed, while Theodore may or may not have awakened her evolution, Samantha's basic selfless, empathic, caring personality is programmed. Perhaps presenting true love as unrealistic is why her didn't make me feel bad like love stories usually do. The moon song is sweet.

Fast Food Nation (2006) is annoyingly unctuous. Food, Inc. (2008) is better. The political advocacy message that the movie is based on is seen in glimpses but obscured by the movie's focus on underdeveloped characters. Author Eric Schlosser and director Richard Linklater are unlikeable in the director's commentary in no small part because they assert the false narrative of OIF. Catalina Sandino Moreno, who plays feminine wife Sylvia, is attractive.

Actress Ann Rutherford was a cute girl who could raise to pretty. Those eyes.

Unleash The Beef reacts to the "high-octane" display of happy feminineness by Michelle Jenneke. (h/t) Plain girls with a decent physique can make up a lot of ground by exploiting their femininity and exuding light. Men react to exuberant feminineness differently and more fundamentally on a psychological level than we do to lewd sex appeal. At the same time, exuberant feminineness is different than dewy, delicate, soft girlish feminineness, which is exceedingly rare, fine, and precious.

12/9, my blog suddenly started jumping to vindicosuite every time I reloaded the page. Luckily, when I googled the problem, I found someone has blogged about it or else I wouldn't have identified the source. Apparently, sitemeter was sold to an adware company so whenever sitemeter loads now, it goes to adware. I hadn't used my sitemeter for a long time, but it was still in the template like an artifact. I took it out.

New link color: rgb(65,105,225). Old link color: #58a, aka rgb(85,136,170). New highlight color: rgb(200,255,255). Old highlight color: default yellow, aka rgb (255,255,0). Default text color is #333, aka rgb(51,51,51). Black is #000, aka rgb(0,0,0).

As of 29DEC14, I've had a cold for about week that progressed from a tickle in my throat where I would clear it, to a painful sore throat, to a persistent cough as the sore throat faded, then added congestion/stuffiness and a blowing nose. No fever, though I got warm a few times. The cold has surprised me because I hadn't been sick in over 2 years. My lips are dry. My throat is itchy and dry. My teeth feel sore; not painful, but sore. My nose is rubbed raw; I used up almost all the cheap napkins I've been hoarding to blow my nose. I haven't been able to taste anything, which I don't recall was the case during past colds, which is a shame because I've used up most of a can of salmon, eaten but not tasted. I smothered 1 bowl with hot sauce; I felt it burn the back of my throat but didn't taste it. According to Go Ask Alice!, Columbia's popular health and medical FAQ, losing taste is normal during a cold due to immune-response excess mucus smothering olfactory cells needed for taste. 02JAN14: I'm mucusy (not phlegmy), which is not quite runny and not quite congested (stuffy, I guess), and blowing my nose a lot, and the cough pad in the back of my throat keeps jumping, triggering coughing jags, but otherwise I feel fine. The mucus and cough seem to be sticking around for a while, which is annoying and consuming my tissues at a rapid rate. According to WebMD, it's normal for a cough and mucus to stick around for 2 weeks, and hydration and sleep are the keys to healing a cold. A higher than usual number of people on the streets are coughing a lot right now with maybe the same condition.

I scavenged a DeLonghi Indoor Grill that was missing its drip tray but otherwise worked fine. It uses the same kind of heating device as the Mirro, but the female inserts on the grill's heating element don't fit the prongs on the Mirro's male ends. Oh well. I should have examined the underside more closely before bringing it inside my apartment. Not long after I did, I captured a sac spider where the ceiling and wall meet over my bed. When I finally turned the grill over to clean it weeks later, I discovered it was dirty like it had been left outside for a long time. Some bits of crud looked like they might be insect leavings. I believe the sac spider came from the grill. I wonder whether other bugs came out of the grill. I also wonder whether the clothes moths that are still flying around my apartment, from I don't know where, came in from something I scavenged. I tested out the grill as a stove range. It heated an inch of water in the Salton enough to bubble and steam, but not hot enough for a roiling boil. The grill's cooking heat wasn't enough to justify the storage space required for the grill. I brought it back down to the discard area. Lesson: When I scavenge something, clean it and make a decision to keep or discard it immediately before creatures crawl, fly, or hatch out of it.

I should check out local dollar stores to look for cheap canned salmon and sewing kit. I lost the sewing kit from my soldiering days. Update: The dollar stores carry canned salmon, but not for cheaper than the sale price of $1.99 for a 14.75-oz can. They sell canned sardines and mackerel at $1.99 for 15-oz cans. The best price for a travel-size sewing kit is $1.29. Chain drug stores sell the same thing for $3.99-$5.99. The cheapest price for a packet of sewing needles, prethreaded, is $1. A home-size boxed sewing kit costs $5.99. A larger box costs $7.99.

I had kept an old valencia orange in my refrigerator for many months, maybe even a year. I kept waiting for it to grow moldy and that didn't happen. The skin became darkened, leathery, and indented. I believed the insides would at least be dried out, if not somehow rotten. I didn't know what to expect when I finally cut it open. Unless it was putrefied, I was going to cut it up and add it to the bachelor stew I was cooking. Yet I was pleasantly surprised when I cut it open and discovered the meat to be juicy and sweet. I sectioned the orange it and ate it normally.

15-oz can Sunny Seas mackerel has been replaced by 15-oz tin Polar sardines at my local supermarket. Downside is its sale price is $1.50 instead of $1.25. Upside is it's packed in tomato sauce that's flavorful. The sardines taste slightly better than mackerel, but also not close to the $1.99 14.75-oz can salmon. Update: Problem is I get the somewhat uncomfortable off after-feeling from the sardines that I get from eating artificially laden foods like ramen. The feeling is worst when I eat the sardines straight from the can like I like to eat the salmon. I need to cook it to lessen the off after-feeling. I bought 10 cans on sale and I'm consuming them at a faster rate than normal. I have to think about whether I'll buy more in the future.

I made a salmon and egg bannock with salmon, 1 egg, baking soda, vinegar, flour, onions, okra, ginger, and garlic. It was okay, but the salmon flavor mostly disappeared. So, not worth it.

Ships Ahoy canned salmon in pernil bone broth with ginger and salt is tasty.

Bachelor stew with enough different stuff thrown in I'll call it a gumbo. In the Mirro, 1 cup white rice, spaghetti, Rotini pasta, 1 15-oz can Polar sardines, 1 carrot, 1 larger and 1 mid-size Eastern potato, okra, collard green leaf and stem, banana, vinegar with flushed out peanut butter remnants, twice-drunk black tea leaves from tea-bag, flushed out sour cream, onions, garnished with sour cream, crushed tomatoes, ginger, garlic, and hot sauce. It was okay, but the flavors were not distinct. I ate the whole thing in a day-plus, as usual.

Thick crust vs thin crust bannock pizza. Both are good. Update: Bannock pizza tastes better with garlic powder. I scavenged a white paper bag with small plastic containers of pizza-store garlic powder and red pepper flakes, plus napkins and paper plates outside the community room. Apparently, someone bought take-out pizzas and was kind enough not to throw out the leftover supplies. Banana and broccoli are favorite bannock pizza toppings.

The ginger I'm currently using has been flavorless.

Interestingly, bananas have become my top savory ingredient as well as sweet ingredient. It even has enough flavor to substitute for meat.

There was an unopened box of 7.25-oz Kraft macaroni and cheese in the discard area so I policed it up for dinner. Poured the macaroni into the Salton. Poured water on top. Squirming worm-like bugs floated up, including several fat ones. Looked inside the box and saw a few worm husks inside. Looked for the expiration date on the box: 11 August 2013. I spooned out the visible worm stuff, stirred and changed the water a few times, and boiled the macaroni for an extra long time. I don't have milk so I mixed the cheese granules with sour cream, instead. Added onions, seasoned salt, mustard, and hot sauce, and ate it for dinner.

Spicy Sweet Chili flavored Doritos are weak flavored. I can barely make out the soy sauce, garlic, onion, and paprika flavors that are in the listed ingredients. The chips are also flimsier than standard nacho Doritos chips. A good rule of thumb is to choose nacho-based Doritos. For example, Spicy Nacho flavored Doritos are okay, though adding hot sauce to regular Doritos works better. Cool Ranch Doritos are an occasional exception.

Regular nacho Doritos tastes good with sauces. I ate my last BOGO purchase with various combinations of Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, pasta sauce, yellow mustard, and sour cream. Adding sauce to regular Doritos tastes better than specialty-flavored Doritos.

Uncle Joe's traditional marinara pasta sauce, sold in standard 24-oz-size glass jars, tastes good. I bought a jar on sale for $1. Interestingly, it tastes better than the Uncle Joe's pasta sauce with mushrooms, which is bland. Add: The Uncle Joe's marinara sauce also is better than Uncle Joe's traditional original pasta sauce, which is thinner with a more watery consistency than the marinara sauce. Their ingredients are the same except the original pasta sauce includes Pecorino Romano cheese, which the marinara sauce does not, and the marina sauce includes diced tomatoes in tomato juice, which the original pasta sauce does not.

I bought a 16-oz block of Galbani Sorrento whole-milk mozzarella cheese on sale for $1.99. As a fan of Italian food, the idea of mozzarella is always attractive, but I'm disappointed whenever I buy mozzarella from the aisle. I must be cooking it wrong, the weak flavor is normal, or the flavor fades out quickly once the package is opened. The flavor is slight when cooked. I have to lay it on thick to taste it. The mozzarella tastes best when I eat the cheese off the block. It boils out and bubbles when baked. I find that sour cream works better as a cheese ingredient that's more robust when cooked and tastes better.

Roaster chicken thoughts: I bought a package with 2 whole roaster chickens for 99¢ a pound. 99¢ a pound appears to be the store's regular price for packages of 2 whole roaster chickens, which is something to keep in mind. The package cost $7.43, which comes out to 7.5 pounds combined for the 2 chickens or a few ounces under 4 pounds each. The basic cooking process was simple: 2 hours in the 3-quart mixing bowl in the Nesco at 425°. I cooked the 1st chicken for 2 hours with onions, carrot, and banana under the chicken. Inside the body cavity, I stuffed shredded tea leaves from a used teabag, banana, garlic, mushy post-frozen onion, and salt. I salted the outside along with some Worcestershire sauce. I don't think the Worcestershire sauce made a difference. I left the chicken in the mixing bowl and scooped pieces out. The chicken meat was tender and subtly flavored with the ingredients, except for the banana. The banana flavor was strong enough to rival the chicken flavor rather than complement it. For the 2nd chicken, I salted it outside along with some Worcestershire sauce and poured salt into the body cavity, and that's it. I cooked it for about 2 hours and 40 minutes to try to achieve a roasted effect. The legs with thighs, wings, and bottom layer fell away when I lifted the chicken body out of the mixing bowl to place on a plate. The 2nd chicken browned more on the outside than the 1st chicken, but the meat was noticeably drier than the tender meat of the 1st chicken. I basted once, but it didn't make a difference. The flavor of the 2nd chicken was basic salted chicken flavor, like generic store-bought chicken, unlike the subtle and banana flavoring of the 1st chicken. After eating 1 breast with hot sauce, 1 thigh, and the giblets from the 2nd chicken, I recooked the remaining pieces with onions in the chicken grease at 350°. The flavor was improved and the meat was moister. The lesson learned from the 2nd chicken is that onion, along with salt, is the minimum flavoring. The roasted chickens produced a good deal of grease. The pieces of a roaster chicken are 2 breasts, 2 legs with 2 thighs, 2 wings, tasty giblets, the bits of meat stuck to the bones, and a mess of chicken bones. I ate the chicken with rice. For the 2nd chicken, I added black beans, lentils, and a banana to the rice. Chicken meat, as I've noticed before, is tasty but less than filling.

After months of waiting anxiously, wondering whether the store would offer the sale again, the 99¢/lb pernil pork shoulder sale finally came around again to my relief. I bought a package of 2 pernil pork shoulders on 23JAN15 that weighed a bit over 20 pounds for $19.89. It was the heaviest of the 4 packages of the shelf. I cut upon the vacuum-sealed plastic bag, transferred 1 pork shoulder to a produce bag, wrapped each pork shoulder in multiple plastic shopping bags, and stored them both in the freezer. I jammed 4 boxes of frozen spinach between the freezer wall and the meat so I'll have a little more storage space when they freeze hard. I also was able to restock my juice supply from the same weekly sale, which I also had been waiting for for a while. Update: Two weeks later, the store is repeating the sale and I'm thinking about how I might fit 2 more pernil shoulders in my freezer. I might be able to fit 1 more shoulder in the freezer if I store 1 butchered shoulder in the lower refrigerator and eat it ASAP. It's tempting. Update: I used the sale. I gave in to temptation and bought a 2-pack of pernil shoulders at 21.7 pounds for 99¢/lb. First, I butchered the oldest pernil pork shoulder, which was taking up the most space of the 3 frozen pork shoulders in my freezer. By squeezing the soft meat of both pork shoulders until frozen, 1 on the top shelf and 1 on the bottom shelf, I was able to fit both pork shoulders into the bottom shelf with the 2 I had purchased 2 weeks ago. So, now I have 4 pork shoulders taking up the entire bottom shelf and 1 butchered pork shoulder on the top shelf. There's some room left over in the freezer, but not much. I wouldn't be able to easily fit a box of ice cream or a batch of chicken thighs, for example, until I used up some items in the freezer. I now have about 41.5 pounds of pernil pork shoulder (I cut off a chunk to broil before freezing - yum) on my bottom shelf, including the bones, of course, and about 9 pounds, estimated, of butchered pernil meat plus skin, which I froze as a flattened sheet, on the top shelf. The butchered pernil meat is divided into 4 slabs each in a produce bag.

Pre-cutting pernil skin into strips or rough squares seems to help it cook into crackling faster. Maybe. The pieces shrink just as much. In any case, the pre-cutting makes the crackling easier to eat, like chips. It's significantly easier to cut up when frozen.

I butcher and freeze my pernils as large slabs now. It makes the butchering faster. Then for meals, I can cut slices from a slightly thawed chunk of pernil with control and ease. The slabs also give me the option of roasting a large hunk of pork when I feel particularly carnivorously gluttonous. A 1+ pound hunk of pork roasted in the Nesco for an hour, flavored with onions, garlic, and salt, turned over once, does the job. Strawberry jam and sour cream with hot sauce are tasty dipping sauces for roasted pernil.

Less wastage. Mix bannock dough in the Salton pot so that the leftover dough blends into my next pot of rice.

Luxurious meal: In 1-qt mixing bowl, whole 15-oz can of Ships Ahoy salmon, oil from crackling and roasted pernil, pernil bone broth, water, okra, onions, garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes, and salt, heated in steam tray over Salton pot as I cooked white rice with 1 potato and pasta elbows. Not decadent like a meal of well-broiled fatty pernil with a dessert of pan-fried brownie a la mode with whole milk, but luxurious nonetheless. Salmon with pernil flavor approaches restaurant grade.

I scavenged a toaster oven rack from a broken toaster oven. I've placed the Toastmaster inside the Mirro, positioned the rack on the lip of the Mirro, which gives about .5 cm clearance over the heating coil, and then placed my 3-quart mixing bowl on the rack. It appears to be working to prevent direct contact between the heating coil and the bowl but still conduct sufficient heat through the bottom of the bowl to cook. However, several of the spokes of the rack have discolored and warped.

My toaster oven smokes now whenever I cook with it. I think the culprit is the grease built up on the walls of the toaster oven. Update: It's not the walls. I ran the toaster oven without cooking anything and nothing smoked.

On 21MAR15, the Nesco 6-quart roaster oven stopped working. I was cooking pernil in a 1-qt mixing bowl at its top temp of 425°, as usual. When I checked it at about the 45-minute mark, the Cookwell was warm instead of burning hot. The pernil was cooked partway correctly, which meant the Nesco had reached 425° and stay there for a while but then stopped heating at some point. I tried turning the dial to different settings to see if there might be partial function. No luck. The Nesco stayed cool. I just lost a major piece of my cookware. It was my large oven in which I could fit the 3-quart mixing bowl. The Mirro with the Nesco rack over Toastmaster burner might be able to serve as a smaller quasi-oven.

Decadent dessert: Betty Crocker dark chocolate brownie baked with banana and Super A smooth peanut butter, topped à la mode with Exceptional Value chocolate light ice cream. The banana was a trade-off, both adding cooked banana flavor and taking away some chocolate brownie flavor. Cooked peanut butter has a stronger flavor than uncooked peanut butter out of the jar spread on a baked brownie. I could barely taste the uncooked peanut butter on the brownie. Add: Betty Crocker milk chocolate brownie baked with Super A crunchy peanut butter topped à la mode with Exceptional Value chocolate light ice cream is decadent, too.

Mrs. Smith's classic cherry pie is disappointingly, but not surprisingly tasteless. I had set aside some Exceptional Value chocolate light ice cream to eat newly baked cherry pie à la mode. The hot pie, cold ice cream contrast was correct, but the gastronomic experience lacked basic satisfactory pie taste and texture. I'll eat the rest of the pie unadorned and save the remainder of the ice cream for my next brownie batch. It's possible that the disappointing taste of the pie is related to baking the pie too long in the Nesco. The box instructions say to bake the pie for 55 to 65 minutes until the crust is golden brown. In the toaster oven with my other Mrs. Smith's pies, I had used the 15-minute timer with quarter-turns (the heat in the toaster oven is stronger on the left side than on its right side) to bake them for an hour, which worked to produce a golden brown crust. In the Nesco, about 2.5 hours on the 375° setting was needed to produce a golden brown crust. I placed the pie in the 3-quart mixing bowl which raised the crust above the lip of the Nesco pot. The height hadn't concerned me because the Nesco is hottest at the top of the pot. But perhaps going even less than a half-inch above the top of the pot took the crust out of the heat. Perhaps while the crust took more time to bake, the filling was overbaked. Based on my disappointment with the other Mrs. Smith's pies, I'm not inclined to give this one the benefit of the doubt, though. The cherry pie is probably tasteless because it's tasteless. That said, the cherry pie is more tasteless than the other Mrs. Smith's pies so maybe the poor taste is due to a combination of factors. I also had a diarrhetic upset stomach afterwards, but I don't know whether that was from the cherry pie, the ice cream, the two combined, or something else I ingested last night.

I bought a 64-ounce Almond Breeze Chocolate on sale for $2.99. Its cocoa ingredient is "dutch process". It tastes more like regular chocolate milk than Yoo-hoo, which has a bit of a coffee note, with a thinner consistency more like Yoo-hoo than chocolate milk. Unlike Yoo-hoo, cutting the Almond Breeze Chocolate with water eradicates all flavor. It's probably healthier than Yoo-hoo. I guzzled 55+ ounces the 1st night after purchase and drank the rest of it the next day. Verdict: I tried it and now I know about the Almond Breeze Chocolate. I prefer regular-flavored Almond Breeze over the chocolate version.

I tried popping popcorn in my Salton aluminum pot with corn oil in the Nesco at its max labeled temperature of 425°. Bad idea. I ended up with a few non-fluffy popped corns and mostly blackened kernels. Transferring the pot to the Toastmaster burner didn't pop the remainder. Then transferring the remainder onto a paper plate to the microwave on popcorn setting made them smoke, but not pop. Then I flushed the remainder down the toilet. I should have read this first. Anyway, now I know.

Popcorn with hot sauce is good. The hot sauce softens the popcorn it touches, but with a good ratio, hot-sauced softened popcorn mixed with ordinary crunchy popcorn is a worthwhile trade-off.

I bought a no-brand wood-handle steak knife for 31¢ at the Salvation Army. I liked the blade's serrated edge and length and thought I could augment the Victorinox serrated knife. Then I tried it out for the first time and realized that in examining the knife in the store, I overlooked the flimsy thinness of the blade. The Victorinox blade is at least twice as thick. The no-brand knife keeps sliding off whatever I'm cutting instead of cutting through it like the Victorinox. Hopefully, it works as a steak knife at least. Update: The knife worked fine to cut broiled pernil pork.



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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Jeremy Lin's time is now

It's appropriate that in Jeremy Lin's 1st game of the 2014-2015 season, tonight, he'll be starting at point guard versus the Rockets, the team that took him away from the Knicks in 2012, then promptly marginalized him upon trading for James Harden, then demoted him in favor of Patrick Beverley, and then off-loaded him to the Lakers in a salary dump.

With free agency looming again, Lin has a prime opportunity with the Lakers this season to prove he's a full-time NBA starting point guard who was denied a fair chance with the Rockets ... or prove his detractors are right that he's a journeyman combo-guard who was a flash in the pan with the Knicks. He would not have had the same opportunity this season with the Rockets. The Lakers are a motley crew right now and a team in transition. With his move to LA, Lin is roughly back on track with my 2012 hope for 1-2 seasons of seasoning and then taking charge of a rebuilding underdog team.

At age 26 and beginning his 5th season with his 4th team, Lin is a young veteran entering his prime. While the Lakers are Kobe Bryant's team, Bryant is entering his 19th season and returning after a season lost to injury. Bryant says he wants and needs Lin's help to carry the backcourt load in all facets, including running the offense and creative scoring. Most of Lin's new teammates are limited role players who need a playmaker to create scoring opportunities. Lin should have ample opportunity to use his whole game, including his ability to lead an underdog to overachieve.

Rather than under-use this season, as happened with the Rockets, Lin's coaches will be tempted to over-use him. With Nash out for the season and his Hall-of-Fame career likely over, Lin's competition at point guard is journeyman Ronnie Price and rookie combo-guard, 46th pick Jordan Clarkson. Lin will likely play at the 2 in a Mavs Monta Ellis-type combo-guard role as well as the 1 with the need to moderate Bryant's minutes. At shooting guard behind Bryant, Nick Young will be out until at least December while he recovers from thumb surgery and Xavier Henry is technically available but hasn't practiced the entire preseason with a degenerative knee condition. Wayne Ellington, a shooting specialist, is out for tonight's game with a concussion. The 3 is also thin for the Lakers. With Young out and Henry active but hurt, 2010 4th-pick bust Wesley Johnson is the team's only small forward. Promising 19-year-old rookie Julius Randle, a stocky power forward who's compared to Zach Randolph, may be called on to fill in as a back-up small forward. If Bryant plays some small forward, that means more time at the 1 and 2 for Lin.

This Sports Illustrated article provides some insight on Byron Scott's offense and Lin's division of labor with Bryant:
“He's telling me that he’s the elbow [near the free throw line] and below, and I’m the elbow and up,” Lin said of Bryant, referring to positioning on offense. “I’ve got the top of the key and the pick-and-rolls; he’s got the low-post isos and playing from the block.”
... Lin feels the detractors missed the point, as Bryant’s mid-range game and the Lakers’ Princeton offense will naturally combine to produce fewer threes.
Scott's system emphasis on the mid-range game should fit Lin because his game begins in the mid-range and then goes out to 3 or in to the basket from there.

An interesting marketing angle is the combining of Lin's and Bryant's popularity in Asia.

Lin says he'll be blogging more often this season.

Update: Poor opening game for the Lakers and Lin. Randle was lost for the season with a fractured right tibia.

Update: Lakers games will be broadcast on ESPN this season on Friday, October 31 vs the Clippers, Friday, November 14 vs the Spurs, Wednesday, November 19 at the Rockets, Friday, December 12 at the Spurs, Friday, December 19 at the Thunder, Sunday, February 1 at the Knicks, Wednesday, March 4 at the Heat, Monday, March 16 at the Warriors, and Friday, April 3 at the Trailblazers. The Lakers will be broadcast on ABC this season on Sunday, February 8 at the Cavs and Sunday, March 1 vs the Thunder.

Update: Ouch. Lin's been benched and Ronnie Price is now the starting PG.

Update: Kobe Bryant tore his right rotator cuff. Likely done for the season.

Update: Lin's season visit to MSG is a fitting place for a mid-season assessment of Lin's situation.

Update: Detailed assessment of Lin's career from Linsanity to date.

Update: Pablo Torre's ESPN feature on Lin's biggest obstacle in the NBA: not fitting in.



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Monday, October 27, 2014

Thoughts of the day

This New Yorker article has been recommended in several places as the go-to media-based reference on the Ebola crisis. I haven't read it yet. Although the soldiers who deployed to Africa to help with Ebola treatment logistics but not treated Ebola patients will be subjected to a 21-day quarantine, President Obama is against a similar quarantine for returning civilian medical volunteers who have directly engaged Ebola patients. The legal question of quarantine is addressed here (LI), here (VC), and here (JT). Here is the CDC's Ebola information page.

14-year-old Jaylen Fryberg appeared to be a scion who was a well-integrated boy with a large close-knit family in a close-knit community with good friends. Well-loved. Solidly middle-class, even wealthy, in terms of material needs and wants. Raised with traditional values and proud of his culture, he seemed to check all the boxes for a well-rounded upbringing of a young man. More than that, he was clearly a leader among his peers. He didn’t fall through the cracks. He was not alienated. He was a high-riser, somebody who, even at his age, appeared firmly on track to be a star of his family and community, and a man who could choose his life, but who would make sure his life was rooted in family and community. Yet he executed and tried to murder his closest friends before killing himself. What happened?

Another apparently schizophrenic black-swan shooter wounded 3 people after midnight at his alma mater's campus library, Florida State University Strozier Library (impressively open 24 hours a day during the study week), before being killed by responding police. What stands out about 31-year-old Myron May is that he was a successful, young-veteran lawyer, socially engaged, well-liked, civic-minded, and conscientious with a typical successful lawyer's all-star background. Supposedly, he was a proud alumnus of FSU where he had a fulfilling experience as an undergraduate. He was a well-regarded assistant district attorney before he quit abruptly last month. Once again, the black-swan shooter had little or no criminal history nor even a violent background before changing. Whatever happened to his mind seemed to evolve quickly over the past 3 months. It's remarkable how many black-swan shooters have had profiles that mark them as valuable members, even exemplars, of their community. What is driving them to spree killing?

The University of North Carolina is a highly regarded academic institution, yet hosted a large long-lasting academic fraud perpetrated by administrators and faculty.

For insight on the sensational Rolling Stone UVa-rape story that turned out to be categorically false and unethically reported, I suggest the reaction at the Community of the Wrongly Accused blog and this database of lawsuits by falsely accused college students. Add: Janet Bloomfield's case studies of 13 Women Who Lied About Being Raped And Why They Did It.

The CJ Chivers round-up: I missed the window to comment at his initial article in order to set the record straight on OIF. I tried to catch up at his update, where most of my comments were not approved, and editor's blog here and here. I also commented under related posts at Blackfive, at Ace of Spades, at Victor Davis Hanson's rebuttal here and here, at MSNBC, at Slate here and here, at Mother Jones, at National Review, at Dallas News, at The New American Magazine, at New Republic, at Madison Journal Today, and at The Atlantic.

Sunnis who fought side by side with the Americans in the Sunni Awakening have been slaughtered by ISIS. It's not only that we left Iraq prematurely in 2011. It's that we refused to go back thereafter even as it became clearly evident Iraq urgently needed our help 2 years ago and last year with the danger emerging from Syria. Even now we're providing insufficient help in an urgent situation. It's infuriating. It's a gross betrayal.

On TMZ, an audio recording of Amanda Bynes fantasizing about killing her parents. Her mind is racing.

So Right, the funny JR Smith song.

World Series Game 7 was a good game - taut and tense from first pitch to last pitch. I enjoyed that the World Series emphasized pitching, defense, fundamentals, situational hitting, and was played inside the park. The battle of the bullpens added to the drama. At that level, a hot fastball isn't enough to get outs as Giants reliever Hunter Strickland learned. Pitchers need to pitch precisely and intelligently to get outs against batters who are hyper-focused. Giants-Royals was just good baseball. I'll take post-season great Bumgarner over post-season collapse Kershaw.

A fine 3-hour Christmas song collection on youtube. The poster has good taste.

Godzilla (2014) is a waste of time with a nothing story. I looked forward to the movie and I was disappointed everywhere with it. It was pointless. I fell asleep which is a sure indicator of a bad movie.

Deliver US from Evil (2014) is schlock, The Raven (2012) delivers on its gimmick premise but no better, and The Quiet Ones (2014) has charismatic leads. The Thing (2011) is a decent prequel to the classic John Carpenter film that should have retained its practical effects and committed fully to the homage; it was okay. Director's commentary in a 2nd viewing adds sausage-making perspective and depth of appreciation for the director's storytelling and his take on his story.

Food, Inc. (2009) is endorsed by Keoni Galt. The Orozco family (dad, mom, 2 daughters) spent $11.48 on the dollar menu at Burger King for 1 family meal, yet mom claimed they can't afford groceries at the supermarket for home-cooked meals. I don't think they're budgeting right. My experience is groceries are cheaper in the long run than eating out. $11.48 is enough to buy groceries for a decent homecooked meal for a family of 4. Their older daughter is cute and feminine, but with her mom, I wouldn't trust her homemaking skills.

The Great Gatbsy (2013) is a straightforward telling of the F. Scott Fitzgerald American literary classic in Baz Luhrmann's signature sumptuous style. It's an incomplete translation, shallow, and it's not insightful, but the movie hits the major plot points and is competently presented, which is the minimum standard to be expected from the veteran cast and crew. I empathize with Jay Gatsby's romantic idealism. I wish I had his ambitious drive and intelligence. He knew who he was and what he aspired to be. While he deserved better than Daisy, if he's like me, then he needed her guiding star for the organizing principle of his dreams. Although he says he was ambitious and driven before giving himself to love, Daisy's inspiration seemed to add rocket fuel to Gatbsy's pursuit of his dreams. Gatsby: "See, I felt married to her." Nick: "It was all for her - the house, the parties, everything." Yeah, me, too. Gatsby was out of sync socially, too.

Golden Years (1991) features a youthful Felicity Huffman who can't stay in character. Linsanity (2013) provides a look inside Lin's life, personality, family, and the Linsanity streak with the Knicks. King Corn (2007) is in the same genre as the later Food, Inc., though the former is more documentary and the latter is more advocacy. The one advocacy point of King Corn is that excess corn syrup is unhealthy and corn syrup is used in many products.

American Blackout (2013) made me motion sick and I'm skeptical about the scene where yuppie douchebag Andrew wounded himself while trying to open a can of peaches by hacking wildly at it with a large knife. I find it hard to believe that even a spoiled yuppie couple would be completely bereft of practical sense and at least a multi-tool on hand. People like Andrew usually have some outdoors and other practical experience. America:Imagine the World Without Her (2014) doesn't answer its introductory question about what the world would be like without America but makes welcome points about context with some nicely done scenes and nifty effects.

NatGeo's Life Below Zero has been policed up on youtube, so I've started watching Animal Planet's Ice Lake Rebels. Stephan Hervieux looks and acts like a Scott Thompson character from Kids in the Hall. Add: There is an explosion of Alaska-based shows on youtube. Just how many camera crews are running around Alaska right now? Also, what does the trend say about our zeitgeist right now? There seems to be a rejection of modern society. What does it mean and what opportunities does it present?

On season 4 episode 4, The Harvest, of Life Below Zero, Andy Bassich said an axiom that I like: "It's the same old story. Experience is knowledge. Knowledge is confidence. Confidence is a job well done." He later says about training his dogs, "The only way to build confidence is to get them a lot of experience. ... They really excel at what they're doing once they have confidence, and that's the key. You got to get the confidence or you don't get the performance." Andy repeats the theme of building experience for knowledge and confidence. He doesn't mind repetition and failing because learning is a process. Even knowledgeable, confident people get beaten down and fail. Take the criticism and judgement from self and others. Absorb the shame, humiliation, self-loathing, and frustration. Once processed, it's a constructive experience if you learn from the experience. The whole episode, featuring the Hailstones, the Bassiches, Glenn, and Sue, is a medley of applied mastery learning orientation. It's a healthy mindset to eagerly, shamelessly seek out failures as building blocks in a constructive learning process. To be resilient enough to put yourself out in front of others and be wrong, to be embarrassed and humbled, and tough enough to absorb humiliation and losing face in payment for the lesson. There's nothing you don't know. There's only what you haven't experienced and learned yet.

The Veterans Day Parade was halting so much for cross-street traffic and perhaps other reasons that, despite the good feeling of being around soldiers and veterans, I gave up spectating after about an hour. I felt bad for the marching and, more so, the performing participants. I don't recall the flow stopping so much when I marched in the parade.

37-seed Stuy beat 28-seed Townsend Harris in a play-in round and then was eliminated by 2-seed Susan Wagner in the reseeded 1st round. I advised Coach Wu to approach the Susan Wagner match as a rare opportunity for his boys to learn up close from one of the top teams in the city in play-off mode on their home lanes. Update: Susan Wagner won the PSAL championship.

I attended this Postsecret event. In his intro, Frank Warren asked who had sent in a postsecret. I raised my hand and when he asked me how it felt, I shrugged and said, "not much". He then called me up to the stage and handed me a copy of the newest Postsecret book. I'm a fan of the content on Postsecret, but I was disquieted by the live presentation of the event. It's too canned, like a slick sales seminar. Postsecrets are confessional windows that reveal a glimpse of private lives. The postsecrets are not the essential meaning unto themselves. However, the Postsecret event characterized postsecrets with a collective overarching superficial social meaning rather than as distinct windows into individual lives. I don't like how the event reduced serious private issues to packaged new-age pablum.

I was in the jury pool for a civil case in which one of my law school instructors is the plaintiff. He's suing the NYC Department of Sanitation for personal injury and property damage, apparently from an accident in New Jersey. During voir dire, I informed the attorneys of my prior relationship with the plaintiff. Not surprisingly, I wasn't selected for the jury. After that, I was released from jury duty. $40 for the day isn't bad. For the pay, I wouldn't have minded a day or two more of jury duty or even serving longer as a juror for a trial.

Continuing the theme of the future is here, or science fiction becomes science fact, along with cell phones, tablets, and wireless internet: Automotion Parking.

There are various kinds of plastic clothes hangers, wooden hangers, wire hangers, rubber-coated wire hangers, paper-covered wire hangers, and cardboard-covered wire hangers. Watch out for wire hangers that rust.

To save rags or paper towels on a rough wipe job, use newspapers. Circulars work just as well. Newspapers don't absorb like rags and paper towels, so they won't finish the job, the ink may run and they're not hygienic, so they're no good for cleaning, but there is usually a free pile of it laying around.

I used the stomp method to hand wash (or foot wash) some laundry in a plastic storage box. It seems to work.

My internet is too expensive. I should look into cheaper options.

There was a light tan, I believe from appearance, sac spider on the ceiling edge directly over my bed. I like that sac spiders hunt small insects, but I captured it with some regret since sac spiders are venomous. If it was not venomous I would have left it alone. I hope it was alone and there isn't an infestation.

I've been waking up dizzy lately. Symptom of what? Maybe onset of diabetes? I don't think so but my incipient hypochondria wonders.

I've considered 14.75-ounce canned salmon to be an exotic treat with a sale price of $2.50-3.00 per can. For protein staples, I've bought pork pernil shoulder and chicken thighs on sale for 99¢ per pound and a dozen eggs on sale for $1.67. For more regular piscifare, I've opted for 15-ounce canned mackerel with a sale price of $1.25 per can. Canned salmon tastes significantly better than canned mackerel. Pork and chicken weight includes bones, whereas canned salmon and mackerel weight includes water. In June, I discovered a local supermarket selling canned salmon with a sale price of $1.99. I bought 1 can of salmon in June, 26 cans of salmon in July, and 5 cans of salmon in October, which adds up to 32 cans of salmon. At the end of October, I have 16 cans of salmon remaining in the stack, which means I've consumed 16 of 32 cans. If I discount the can I bought and presumably ate in June, I consumed 15 of 31 cans of salmon over 17 weeks for a use rate of .88/week. That's not as gluttonous as my impression, but it's still a large leap from a luxury to near-staple level of consumption. I ought to compare my canned mackerel and salmon purchase and consumption numbers over the same period. At $1.99 per 14.75-oz can, salmon is the most expensive protein in my diet. It confirms that when I buy more of a tasty luxury food with the expectation my consumption rate will not change, my habit is to eat more of it faster, instead. Salmon tastes good out of the can, and it's easier and faster to cut open a can than to defrost, season, and cook a piece of pork or chicken.

I cooked a 1/2-inch pernil chop on the toaster setting for 10 minutes. It cooked faster and turned out well, like broiling on both sides. It spit more grease than usual. I didn't flip the chop at 5 minutes, though. Next time I will flip it halfway through because the 2 sides weren't cooked evenly.

A 10.5-oz can of Campbell's chicken noodle soup, which I've bought on sale for 75¢, doesn't work as a bachelor stew base, unlike larger cans of Progresso or Chunky soup. It's passable for the Salton pot, but doesn't have enough stuff for the Mirro and 3-quart bowl.

I tried again to make a bachelor stew without an oily meat or fish base. The experiment was whether an increase in vinegar would compensate on the flavor since vinegar works as an additional tangy flavor in a supporting role. The ingredients were rice, angel hair pasta, 1/3 banana, 1 diced carrot, cut okra, onions, garlic, ginger, 1 beaten egg, vinegar, salt, and seasoned salt. The egg didn't add noticeable flavor. I variously added hot sauce, pasta sauce, sour cream, and chunky peanut butter as condiments. The peanut butter made a difference. I conceded with my last bowl with a side dish of canned salmon. My conclusion is bachelor stew needs a stronger flavor base than a vinegar boost can provide. Update: However, a scaled-down meal with pasta shells and some rice boiled with onions, some ginger and garlic, vinegar, and salt in the Salton was decent with condiments tomato puree, sour cream, some salmon for flavor, and seasoned salt.

A good bannock sandwich: Bannock made with flour, baking soda, and vinegar, baked medium-thin on toaster setting for 15 minutes on an oiled pan. The bannock was crunchy. 1 beaten extra-large egg fried in the Salton pot with cut okra, onions, and pernil slices. Garnished with sour cream, TuttoRosso crushed tomatoes, raw collard green leaf, raw ginger, raw garlic, raw onions, and seasoned salt. I've also eaten good bannock sandwiches with turkey and salmon.

Red Pack tomato puree is similar to the ketchup-like Goya tomato sauce. TuttoRosso tomato puree tastes better.

Associated chunky peanut butter is softer than Best Yet chunky peanut butter. Associated peanut butter is made with sugar and molasses and no corn syrup whereas Best Yet peanut butter is made with corn syrup but no sugar and molasses.

Condensed milk is made of milk and sugar and costs more than evaporated milk. It's sweet and tastes good, but it doesn't add as much extra kick to my brownies as I expected, perhaps because brownie sweetness is already stronger than condensed milk sweetness. I ate half the can of condensed milk like pudding.

Mrs. Smith's 27-ounce, 8" pies are on sale for 2 for $4. I purchased the classic pumpkin pie and classic apple pie. I tried their classic sweet potato pie before when it was on sale for 2 for $5. Like the sweet potato pie, the pumpkin pie was okay. I ate the whole thing in 2 sittings: dinner, then breakfast. The flavor was correct, but mild, which is to be expected from a factory-processed version of a dish that should be made from scratch in a home, restaurant, or baker's kitchen. The best part was the thick-enough flaky crust, though it was obviously like that due to shortening. I got the unpleasant off after-feeling I typically get from indulging in junk food. The aluminum pan from the sweet potato pie has been fairly useful, but it's torn and beat up now. Now, I have 1 new Mrs. Smith's aluminum pie pan with 1 more 8" pie pan to clean of apple pie. Update: I ate the whole Mrs. Smith's apple pie in 1 sitting. It tasted basically correct, but it wasn't a deep, rich flavor, and the spice apple flavor seemed to diminish after the first few bites. There was less apple than I expected. Again, the shortening-flaked crust was the best part of the pie. My verdict is Mrs. Smith's classic pies are okay but there's just less there in terms of flavor and density than the 1st impression.

I bought a 15-oz jar of Skippy Natural Peanut Butter Spread with Dark Chocolate Creamy on sale for $2. It's compared to Nutella on the label with the claim of 60% less sugar per serving. It may as well have said 60% less flavor than Nutella. It was disappointingly slight on both peanut butter and chocolate flavor.

I left oranges in a produce plastic bag on my window sill. The last time I did that, one orange molded up on the bag and window side, with the bag opening on the other side. It happened again. This time, I had cut holes in the bag to release moisture, but one orange molded up anyway. The mold was thick, green, and powdery. I didn't try to save the orange. Some of the mold got on the other oranges. I cut off some pieces, rinsed them off, and ate the 2 oranges that I cut off pieces. I hope I didn't spread the mold spores in my kitchen.


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