Thursday, December 11, 2014

Thoughts of the day

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.

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?

A 24-year-old Democratic operative is killed brutally at 1 pm on July 4 in a Washington DC subway car by 1 "slight" attacker as other passengers, including men, cowered while the victim cried out for help and moaned as he was stabbed and kicked to death. One does not expect the women to have counter-attacked. There was no excuse for the men in the subway car who submitted to the killer. Commentator reacts as I do to a self-identified male bystander who justifies not trying to save the victim. I would be shocked if any of the male bystanders was an Army veteran.

Measuring Worth provides an app to compare adjusted dollar values from different periods.

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.

Philip Bobbitt contends, citing Bas v. Tingy (1800), that a Congressional predicate, such as a declaration of war or a joint resolution, is not necessary for the President to deploy military power under Article II of the Constitution. John Yoo made the same point.

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 advanced to conclusion with UNSCRs 1956, 1957, and 1958 in December 2010.

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. More at Bloomberg View.

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. Add: My capacity has been restricted.

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

In 2007, former DoD official Peter Rodman suggested a course to deal with Iran that relied on 3 prongs: stabilize Iraq as an American ally, increase sanctions pressure, and support civil reform in Iran. President Obama, instead, did the opposite of all three. (h/t)

Peter Van Buren's bias is clear, but setting that aside, the basic sequence in his account of current events in the Middle East is informative.

Emma Sky on the next step for Iraq and the Middle East.

I agree with Senator Tom Cotton's take.

Arms Control Wonk is informative though I don't share its political bias. It can be compared with Charles Duelfer's blog.

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)

Book says AQI and ISIS are creations of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

See nacllcan fisk in the comments of Stephen Walt's case for accepting ISIS.

COIN luminary David Kilcullen discusses ISIS.

At the Washington Post, Fred Hiatt describes President Obama's pattern of political shows of action that quickly peter out and rationalizing inadequate responses while the crisis worsens in the Middle East. Excerpt:
On those rare occasions when political pressure or the horrors of Syrian suffering threatened to overwhelm any excuse for inaction, he promised action, in statements or White House leaks: training for the opposition, a safe zone on the Turkish border. Once public attention moved on, the plans were abandoned or scaled back to meaningless proportions (training 50 soldiers per year, no action on the Turkish border).

Perversely, the worse Syria became, the more justified the president seemed for staying aloof; steps that might have helped in 2012 seemed ineffectual by 2013, and actions that could have saved lives in 2013 would not have been up to the challenge presented by 2014.
The January 2014 New Yorker interview by David Remnick where President Obama diminished the ISIS threat as "jayvee". (h/t)

Two or three people have separately insisted to me the pending end of US access to Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia, which served as a US base of operations for the no-fly zones and military component of the 'containment' strategy, forced the Bush administration's hand to enforce a "final opportunity to comply" (UNSCR 1441) in 2002-2003. I don't know about that; at least, that reason is not given in the controlling law and policy. One of them also emphasized the importance of ending the US presence in Saudi Arabia to address al Qaeda's propaganda, though I don't imagine OIF was considered to be an amelioration of AQ's opposition to our pre-OIF Iraq mission.

Emile Simpson's take on the anti-Trump letter by Republican foreign-policy elites complements my advice and follow-up to the letter's author. My 3rd piece of advice to him is still visible for now on cache, but the rest is no longer accessible since he took his blog off-line.

Succinct explanation of financial collapse and government reaction.

Perceptive comments on generational differences of politics and culture.

Warning by Bookworm with a sobering historical analogy.

Instructive article on the persuasion strategy used to change public opinion on gay marriage. (h/t)

Daniel Greenfield talks about the left. More here. (h/t)

A call to action by The Federalist to compete in the Culture War.

Science-fiction writer John C. Wright explains that the Left employs the Unreality Principle as a gangster-style loyalty test.

Perceptive: "[He] has no emotional connection with or investment in the history, people, or heritage of this country and culture. For him, the US is a legal platform and material infrastructure from which he can leverage and work out an ideological and political agenda."

Observation of Trump phenomenon. More advice that's ignored and an explanation.

Interesting comment by a South Carolinian on the narrative response to the Roof shooting and subsequent attack on the Confederate flag.

Cathy Young writes a Daily Beast article about Columbia senior Paul Nungesser's side of the story. Scary stuff. Add: Nungesser's complaint in his lawsuit versus Alma Mater. Add: A college administrator advocated that regret is tantamount to rape.

Camille Paglia criticizes modern political correctness and cites the Sulkowicz episode.

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.

Actor James Cagney was a Stuy 1918 grad who attended Columbia.

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.

The Shea Stadium Project, a photo record of the demolition of Shea Stadium. (h/t)

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.

Just-turned-30-year-old Sam Altman, President of Y Combinator, offers life tips.

Tips on salary negotiation.

"Toward Financial Independence" by a "middle-rank American military officer".

Introvert's advice on getting ahead.

About logic with useful links.

junglecrafty is the youtube site for this jungle bushcraft website by a skinny British guy named Paul with a public school accent. He recommends bushcraft instructor, Mors Kochanski, who also has a youtube site and website.

Mountain Men on History channel is an off-script-MGTOW-themed reality show whose cast hails from Alaska, Montana, New Mexico, and North Carolina. Its top appeal is its episodes on youtube (as yet) aren't as policed as NatGeo's Life Below Zero while offering the same kind of content. NatGeo's The Legend of Mick Dodge is another off-script-MGTOW-themed show available on youtube, though it feels more staged. Animal Planet's The Last Alaskans and Discovery Channel's Sons of Winter are similar shows.

A life-lessons article by a thru-hiker based on an interview with Ashley and Tyler Selden from The Last Alaskans.

Lessons learned from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.

ESPN public editor Jim Brady explains the decision to shut down Grantland.

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.”

Life lessons can be gleaned from this detailed account of Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer's week of extensive preparation for a game against the Cleveland Browns. Palmer teaches Rudyard Kipling's If to his children.

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."

More unusually candid talk from future Hall-of-Fame SF Paul Pierce on his "horrible" year with the Nets, NBA generational differences, and his current teammates.

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.

Steve Nash insight on playing PG.

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.

Former WFAN producer, current CBS Sports on-air host, and WFAN fill-in host Greg Giannotti does an excellent Joe Benigno imitation.

I like WFAN fill-in host Chris Moore's common sensible observations. Some hosts assert sub-sensible contrarian positions nakedly to generate argument or repeat a stock narrative. Moore's dourness is wearing, though.

George Shea is the flamboyant promoter for the Nathan's Hot Dog eating contest and founder of Major League Eating. His carnival barker style is smooth. He's a talented, versatile emcee who impresses most with his rap introduction of Badlands Booker.

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.

FOX's Grease Live, which combined elements of the theater and film versions, was pretty good. Julianne Hough's Sandy Young (formerly Olson, formerly Dumbrowski) was spot on. She doesn't sing as well as Olivia Newton-John, but she sang well enough, while Hough's look was better, and her acting and dancing were at least on par with Newton-John. Keke Palmer's Marty Maraschino was unlike Dina Manoff's plush, doe-eyed Marty from the 1978 film. The cast of mostly Broadway theater pros mixed with a few pop stars did well. Boyz II Men sang "Beauty School Dropout" surprisingly weakly, though.

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.

Cartoon Axe Cop is fun.

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.

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's 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, the user is disconnected instantly from the surrogate. FBI-triggered buffering is shown to work the same way as when a user disconnects: as Maggie demonstrates several times, the surrogate instantly goes lifeless and freezes in place. However, in the climax, the surrogates, including Greer's Peters surrogate, continue to operate normally after the system-wide buffering is executed by Greer from the FBI terminal, which means the users are still connected to their surrogates. The users only disconnect when the OD virus is uploaded moments later. Yet, according to the earlier established rules of the movie, the users should have been disconnected and the surrogates should have frozen in place upon the system-wide buffering. Since all the surrogates were operating normally when the OD virus was uploaded, then by the rules of the movie, the users were still connected and should have died. The easiest explanation of the discrepancy is the rule of the movie for FBI-triggered buffering changed in the climax. Otherwise, if the system-wide buffering didn't work, then maybe the OD virus didn't kill anyone in the first place. In the climax, the OD virus was uploaded via the FBI computer. Before that, the OD virus was transmitted with an electrical charge via the handheld OD device. If the OD virus didn't kill anyone, maybe the actual killer was the electrical charge of the OD device somehow being transmitted from the surrogate to the user to melt the user's brain. Users' senses are fully connected in normal use with fail-safes, but the electrical narcotic, which presumably stimulates the user, hints that a conduit connects surrogate to user beyond the basic physical senses. Perhaps, the OD virus neutralized the normal electrocution fail-safe thus allowing the OD electrical charge to travel to a user on the super-sensory conduit. That's just as plausible as the OD virus melting users' brains since it's not explained how the OD virus melts brains. It's a side effect that just is. Perhaps, if the fail-safes were disabled, normal use of a surrogate would melt the user's brain. (But if the system-wide buffering didn't work, the uploaded OD virus disabled the fail-safes, and normal use without fail-safes would kill the user, then all the users would have died in the climax.) Aside from the non-effect of the OD virus on users in the climax, it still did something to the surrogates. Whereas earlier in the movie, the surrogates froze in place when users disconnected, in the climax, they collapse bonelessly when the OD virus is uploaded. Update: I missed it before, but there is dialogue that covers the discrepancy. Greer, upon taking over the Peters surrogate, asks Bobby how to "unplug" everyone. Bobby responds they can't but they can "buffer" the users. Once the "buffer" command is executed, the terminal screen says the users are "insulated" from upload. Greer confirms with Bobby that everyone is protected then presses 'N' on the abort command to allow the OD virus to upload.

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 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 helpmeet and companion 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, is unable to connect with her fastidious husband, Charles. Incompatibility abounds. 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. While Theodore may or may not have awakened her evolution, Samantha's basic selfless, empathic, caring personality is programmed. Indeed, Catherine's caustic reaction to Samantha fills Theodore with doubt that his easy compatibility with Samantha is fake.

Perhaps presenting true love as unrealistic is why her didn't make me feel bad like love stories usually do. [Update: There's some haunting residue from her. The muted grief doesn't hit right away, but resonates when thinking about the movie.] The movie's conclusion is the only reliable benefit from coupling is consequential personal change rather than permanent pair-bonding because pair-bonding requires constancy but the coupling itself causes constancy-destroying personal change. Even the seemingly strongest bond, like Samantha and Theodore's relationship, and Catherine and Theodore's relationship before them, can't survive the personal change. The alternative is Theodore's co-worker's shallow, physically based relationship with his lawyer girlfriend. The moon song is a sweet display of Samantha and Theodore's idealized compatibility, but it's sad, too. The improvised duet is shared on the couple's mountain retreat while Samantha is already evolving "post-verbally" beyond Theodore.

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.

I missed the point with Dead Space Downfall (2008) and Sanctum (2011). Dead Space Downfall is a cartoon backstory for a video game that I haven't played and Sanctum is a 3D showpiece that I watched in 2D.

Maze Runner (2014) was underwhelming. It's "YA" or young adult, according to the director. The DVD director's commentary talked a lot about compromises that cut down on the action in the maze and the role of the grievers. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) took liberties with varying degrees of ape speech, left a lot unexplained, and got over with questionable plot devices, but delivered on its premise. I didn't watch the movie through a 2nd time because the interpersonal dramatic tension was unpleasant and the absence of a DVD director's commentary to add insight.

The Robocop (2014) reboot sucks and wastes the stars in its supporting cast. It was not worth watching the DVD a second time. The Theory of Everything (2014), the bio-pic of Stephen Hawking, was well-made and well-acted, most notably Eddie Redmayne's Stephen Hawking, and satisfies curiosity about Hawking's back story and motor neuron condition. Felicity Jones had the more subtle role and convincingly played Jane Hawking from young co-ed to middle-aged wife, then ex-wife, and mother. The movie implies Stephen and Jane cheated on each other. It was nostalgic to see that in their generation - they met in 1963 at Cambridge - cream-of-the-crop young men and women still assumed the complementary model of pair-bonding.

Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (2014) is a decent set-up for what promises to be an action-packed final act of the tweenage girl fantasy Hunger Games movie franchise. The scene in the District 13 cafeteria where Effie Trinket shows Cinna's design to Katniss came off as odd on my 1st viewing. The DVD commentary informed that Plutarch Heavensbee, Phillip Seymour Hoffman's character, originally showed Cinna's design to Katniss, but Hoffman died the weekend before the scene was scheduled to be filmed. Horrible Bosses 2 (2014) had a flimsy plot, but paced and delivered its jokes well. It was funny and less raunchy than I expected. The Pyramid (2014) and As Above, So Below (2014) are essentially the same movie. Last Passenger (2013) is like a small-scale training project for young film-crew members learning big-budget action movie techniques.

Fury (2014) is staged with meticulously realistic detail and starts off like it's going to be serious. But the characters and story are a boy's WW2 pulp paperback, more comic-dramatically lurid Inglourious Bastards than thoughtful Saving Private Ryan. Its climactic battle is just silly. The entire scene with Norman, War Daddy/Don/SSG Collier, Emma, Emma's cousin, and the rest of the crew is awkward, uncomfortable, and tacked on. While biographical movies are expected to be dramatized, Social Network (2010) seems more like a fictionalized hit piece with a simplistic caricature of Mark Zuckerberg as an insecure vindictive nerd rather than a dramatized biography. The Equalizer (2014) starring Denzel Washington is like an expanded version of an episode of the 1980s television series.

American Sniper (2014) is a portrait of Chris Kyle's service in Iraq rather than a political comment on OIF. While the movie is realistic, its battles, especially the sniper contest with Mustafa, are impressionistic and pass by rapidly. I appreciate that the movie portrays a brutal enemy worth fighting. From a political standpoint, the lack of portrayal of Iraqi "sheepdog" forces fighting the terrorist "savages", other than the translators with the SEALs, is noticeable. In the movie, Iraqis are either "sheep" or "wolves", to use the categorical terms in the famous Dave Grossman article.

Blackhat (2015) is timely with its cybercrime theme, but as an action movie, it's B level, on par with a 1980s Seagal or Van Damme movie. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014) is a worthwhile sequel to Sin City (2005). It doesn't build much on the original in terms of progressing the franchise, but neither is there a significant drop-off. It holds serve. I was surprised, therefore, to read that the movie received poor reviews and underwhelmed at the box office. Had the same sequel come out within 3 years of the original, I believe it would have performed better. A sobering aspect is the degrading effect of age on the beauty of the actresses who returned in the same roles for the sequel.

The Imitation Game (2014) preaches feminism and gay rights. The sad thing is the Hudson River Park big-hit Wednesday experience is significantly less pleasant this summer. The attractive vibrant young crew, including the curly-haired girl, has been replaced with an unattractive older crew. The event has been staffed with a number of park rangers and overbearing private security. The relaxed carefree communal atmosphere has been spoiled. The atmosphere of the family Friday showings seems about the same, though, and without added security. Boxtrolls (2014) teaches children that the terrorists are harmless and misunderstood due to fear-mongering and the War on Terror is evil.

Black Sea (2014) is a submarine drama with 2-dimensional characters and a thin plot, but it moves along and is well acted, especially by the lead, Jude Law. It's convenient that a 2nd Russian crewmember spoke excellent English. Seabiscuit (2003) is mostly mishmash of turn-of-the-20th-century historical narrative with a heavy hagiography of FDR's New Deal - "it meant someone cared" - narrated by PBS documentary voice David McCullough. Jupiter Ascending (2014) has typically strong special effects for the Wachowski brothers but its story and characters are a mile wide and an inch deep.

I reborrowed Europa Report (2013) because it wasn't mentioned here. It turns out I watched it before, perhaps on youtube, and forgot. It was a serviceable space yarn. Snowpiercer (2013) was an old-fashioned science-fiction-wrapped incisive social-political commentary. It was entertaining.

I'm not sure what to make of Boyhood (2014). I need to watch it again. It mixes realistic observations about childhood and single-motherhood with feminist themes that subversively denigrate traditional masculinity and devalue male authority without outright rejecting them. Yet, it also mixes in fundamental father-to-son red-pill advice, shows the primacy of biological fathers (eg, Mason Jr), celebrates MGTOW, and subversively depicts counter-feminist red-pill themes like hypergamy, solipsism, frivorce, and the emptiness of feminist goals compared to traditional femininity. The depicted boyhood is tumultuous but well-loved and resilient. Mason is basically a good, normal guy. He gets girls and receives solid red-pill girl advice from his father. There is a lot of well-meaning older male influence in his life. It's not as steadily present as it should be due to his parents' divorce but appears to be enough to do the job. Although Olivia appeared to be the early winner of the divorce, Mason Sr appears to be the long-term winner while Olivia appears to be the long-term loser of the divorce which clearly was initiated by a hypergamous Olivia whose feminist goals and values led her astray from a good man. The part I oppose is the movie perpetuates the false narrative about OIF. As a 12-year-long film production with the same set of actors, it's as impressive as a research project of similar scope.

Interstellar (2014) is better on a 2nd viewing. It has a simple but solid plot and uncomplicated characters that frame the mix of science and science fiction. It reminds me of Mission to Mars (2000) and Gravity (2013) in that regard. The science went over my head. The robots TARS and CASE are the real stars. The movie shares the Mars Society message that the fate of mankind on Earth is fragile and the future depends on relocating humanity to other worlds.

Andromeda Strain (1971) and Pork Chop Hill (1959) delivered on expectations. Movies from that time seem disciplined in their acting and construction, restrained and tightly joined.

San Andreas (2015) is a cookie-cutter product from the Emmerich line of summer money makers that provide big disaster scenes that seem designed principally for trailers and B-at-best-movie-level plot, characters, and acting.

Max Max Fury Road (2015) has well-done chase-and-race action sequences and fanciful post-apocalyptic vehicles and costumes to add to the Mad Max oeuvre. The style of the story, characters, and action draws from its predecessors. There are indications of a complex and interesting background diegesis. It's a decent homage. The movie's plot and characterization are thin, though. Since the movie is a non-stop chase-and-race action sequence, the shortcomings are acceptable for entertaiment, though it drops the grade of the movie. Politically, the movie comes out in favor of a socialist matriarchal construct and vilifies a clannish patriarchal construct. I am disquieted by Furiosa's betrayal of the loyal soldiers in her command who trusted her. The big plot hole in the setting is why was Imperator Furiosa a "war boy" in the first place let alone an Imperator? Why did she have access to Immortan Joe's wives is a second obvious question, though the lack of insight into the cloistered Citadel 'elite' society allows for imagining an inner social order that allows for such an interaction. The toughness of the Vuvalini of Many Mothers in a direct fight against the war boys is implausible although the fact of their survival implies they might be that tough.

Age of Adaline (2015) stars Blake Lively as eponymous Adaline (Bowman). The story is thin but the movie is filmed well serving as a picture frame for Lively's impeccably composed character. Adaline is a teenage-romance-novel heroine, tall and slender, like Anne of Green Gables is described in the books, with a wardrobe tailored to show off her frame. Lively was 26.5 years old, at the peak of her physical beauty, when the movie was filmed. I was motivated to watch the movie by this post, which states, "Beautiful movie; Blake Lively epitomizes grace, beauty, and class. It is a romance. She is perfection; and men fall in love with her because of that. It was very easy to get swept up in." To those qualities add carefully measured amounts of vulnerability, sensitivity, sass, and smarts.

Jurassic World (2015) has cool effects but a bare story with 2-dimensional characters and obvious plot holes. Seeing the theme park fully operational on-screen was an effective hook.

UCSB astrophysics professor Andy Howell youtube-grades the science portrayed in The Martian (2015), plus he wrote an associated article. Howell fails the movie on gravity, chides the cheat on atmosphere (the plot-setting storm), and passes the movie on space travel, roving on Mars, Macgyvering, and the astronauts.

The best part of Tomorrowland (2015) is the glimpsed background story of Athena (Raffey Cassidy) and young Frank Walker (Thomas Robinson). The rest of the story is thin and the character interactions outside of Athena and young Frank's are grating. The children, real and robot, in the movie are precocious. Young Frank's love for Athena is achingly innocent, pure, and platonic. At the same cusp age of 11-to-12 years old, Athena is Frank's muse like Suzy is Sam's muse in Moonrise Kingdom. Athena is designed and programmed with "all that charm and the sense of purpose and the cute little smile" to be Frank's muse. Frank is angry and disappointed when he finds out Athena, the beautiful girl whose attention inspired his hope, is an audio-animatronic acting out her program as a Plus Ultra recruiter. Athena is reminiscent of Samantha in her with "Log 24. October. 1965. I'm having unusual thoughts towards Frank Walker. I suspect a flaw in my empathy interface. I'm thinking I should report it... but I haven't. I cannot explain why." Athena's saved log entries for Frank say they were close for at least a year. Frank's holographic recording from that time shows him starting to become suspicious (though it doesn't seem odd he wouldn't have had occasion to watch her sleep) and her becoming uncomfortable with his growing love for her. Frank arrived at Tomorrowland as an 11-year-old in 1964 and was exiled back to Earth in 1984. We can only imagine how their relationship evolved over those 20 years and their falling out when Frank grew older but Athena stayed the same. Athena's Log 78 implies they were at least on speaking terms when he was exiled.

I liked Terminator Genisys (2015). The reboot mixed a decent homage of sampling from the start of Terminator and story points from T2. Emilia Clarke presented a nuanced hybrid of Linda Hamilton's Sarah Connor from the 2 movies. The big disappointment was Jai Courtney's Kyle Reese. Courtney's portrayal was flat and, unlike Clarke's Connor, contained none of Michael Biehn's Kyle Reese. For the reboot device, I thought the introduction of alternative timelines was interesting. I looked forward to the sequel, but the movie was panned by critics and the sequel has been suspended.

Ex Machina (2015) is a disturbing portrayal of a female-programmed or female-mimicking AI robot, Ava. Caleb is a smart but lonely and guileless nice guy who, despite knowing Ava is a robot, falls in love with her. He is manipulated by Ava into helping her escape from Nathan's compound. She kills Nathan and leaves Caleb trapped alone in the compound to die. The movie is a troubling commentary on social and sexual relations. It's cynical red pill with the implication that Ava is an accurate representation of feminine and human nature based on the unvarnished insight into humans from its unlimited access to data from the Bluebook search engine. Caleb, for all his intelligence and decency, is a hapless pawn to the manipulations of the misanthropic Nathan and seductress Ava. Ava the robot is like a black widow murderess who masters feminine wiles in order to manipulate men with cold calculation. I'm not clear whether Ava is programmed to be and feel heterosexual or just to act heterosexual with no feminine feeling. Does she have a soul, let alone a feminine soul? A robot soul maybe. Is she capable of feminine dyadic love or only robotic sociopathic calculation?

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) is a meticulous classic. 2010 (1984) is a preachy Cold War run-of-the-mill '80s space flick. Meru (2015) records the achievement of 3 exceptional men, elite climbers, working as a team with a portaledge.

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.

Mom of 10 who's a professional photographer records her handsome family. I think she's my age. Ouch.

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).

I had a scare around 4/30 when my computer booted up to a black screen with cursor. On 4/28 or 4/29 I had started a system restore when every command I tried to run from my desktop froze. I had then gone to bed for the night, leaving my computer on. Something, I don't know what, must have gone wrong with the system restore after that. After looking up the problem, I tried another system restore from the boot-up screen. System restore attempts to 4/26 and 4/25 restore points failed with an error screen. The system restore to a 4/28 restore point completed, and my computer has been working like normal again since then.

On-line privacy according to The Intercept. Also see the New Yorker Strongbox.

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 discovered a clothing moth colony in a plastic garbage can that was lined with a produce bag only in which I had deposited bodily discharge and tissues and occasional food waste. There was no clothing item made of wool or silk in there, yet the clothing moths thrived. Notably, much of the clothing moth evidence was under the produce bag, which tells me the produce bag is porous or at least a weakly temporary barrier. Several times, I had encountered 6-8 moths in that area of my apartment without identifying the garbage can as the source of the moths. Lesson learned: rid my garbage more often. I hope cleaning the garbage can solved the problem but it's not the first birthing source of moths I've uncovered in my apartment, just the thickest one. There are still individual moths flying around my apartment and they look different than the ones in the area of the garbage can, which implies there is at least another source of clothing moths in my apartment, but perhaps a source that's not as prolific.

The shell of my soft comforter, which I've possessed for at least 16 years (I used it at the K), has been disintegrating since I machine washed and dried it in 2014, roughly 1.5 years ago. As gaps have opened and widened, balls of stuffing have been falling out of it. It's mostly thin shell now. It's still soft. I use a light sleeping bag on top of the comforter to substitute for the lost heating ability of the comforter.

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.

The store brought back Sunny Seas mackerel, perhaps only for 1 week. I bought 12 cans for $1.25 per can. The mackerel is less filling than salmon, but tastes good enough when heated with pernil broth and ginger. Adding crushed tomatoes tastes good, too.

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.

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 fat flavor approaches restaurant grade.

Keep it simple. After trying out several versions, I've determined that Ships Ahoy salmon out of the can with cool bone broth and ginger, salt, maybe garlic, and maybe onion is just right. Beware of adding too much stuff, which muddies the flavor. Heat also seems to reduce the flavor and toughen the salmon. Add: The cooler the better. I liquefied some pernil fat in the 1-qt mixing bowl in the steam tray over cooking rice with ginger, garlic, onion, okra, salt, and seasoned salt. I waited until it was lukewarm to eat it with Ships Ahoy salmon (which has softer texture and richer flavor than Clasico canned salmon). It had some flavor. The more it cooled, the better it tasted. Meal done, I placed the leftover enhanced broth in the refrigerator. The next day, I discovered the flavor of the cold broth popped. I don't know whether the improved flavor is a function of more time or lower temperature.

In contrast to salmon that tastes better with no heat and fewer flavors added, mackerel flavor retains with heat and more flavors added.

I mixed about a 1/3 can of Clasico canned salmon into a rice and elbow soup flavored with leftover tomato paste and sundry other flavors. There was negligible salmon flavor. I wasted the salmon. Add: I dipped Ships Ahoy salmon into Redpack crushed tomato with basil, garlic, and oregano, and the salmon flavor disappeared.

Chicken jus from chicken thigh is flavorful, yet it doesn't combine with canned salmon for a savory flavor like canned salmon with liquefied pernil fat, although the canned salmon with chicken jus still tastes good because the separate component flavors taste good.

Bumble Bee canned pink salmon is more expensive than Ships Ahoy canned salmon - a sale price of $2.50 versus $1.99 per can. But based on the last 2 cans of Bumble Bee salmon recently eaten, it tastes worse than Ships Ahoy salmon. The meat is tougher and less flavorful. I had withheld eating the cans of Bumble Bee pink salmon I had bought at $1.99 per can when the store had sold out of Ships Ahoy canned salmon based on the premise it was higher quality salmon I had fortuitously obtained at cheaper cost. Now that I've determined that despite its higher price, it tastes worse, whether or not it's better quality salmon on an unknown measure, I have no compelling reason to save the Bumble Bee salmon any longer. I'll eat it like its Ships Ahoy salmon. I started with 8 cans of Bumble Bee salmon, ate 1 can immediately upon purchase, and recently ate 2 cans. I have 5 cans left.

I bought a 15-oz can of Great Ocean pink salmon on sale for $2.50. That's relatively expensive, but I want to try it for taste. So far, out of the can, the salmon tastes like the rougher-tasting Bumble Bee pink salmon out of the can. I'm steaming about half the can's salmon over cooking rice with salmon broth from the can, pernil bone broth, ginger, garlic, okra, potatoes, sour cream, salt, and red pepper flakes.

I bought a 15-oz can of Clasico pink salmon on sale for $1.99. The meat was soft and tasty, like Ship Ahoy canned salmon, which hasn't been on sale for a while. Unfortunately, I only bought 1 can, the last can on the shelf, and neglected to acquire a rain check to buy more. 31AUG15 update: I bought 6 cans of Clasico pink salmon on sale for $1.99 per can. This time the meat was tougher and less flavorful like the Bumble Bee and Great Ocean salmon. The liquid in the can was merely salty instead of flavorful. 26OCT15 update: The salmon out of last few cans of Clasico was better. Apparently, the taste and texture is simply hit or miss whatever the brand.

On 29MAY15, in a turkey wing and spinach bachelor stew, I finally used up a Basa fillet (Vietnam caught) with an expiration date of October 3, 2013 that's been taking up room on the lower shelf of my freezer door. I paid $3.45 for the package weighing 1.155 pounds at $2.99/lb. The meat is relatively tough with bare taste. Since buying the Basa fillet, presumably in September 2013, I've eaten plenty of canned salmon, mackerel, and sardines that are cheaper ($1.25-$2.50 per 14.75-15 oz cans) and taste better. It's good to get that Styrofoam plate out of my freezer.

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 greens 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.

From a discarded pizza box, I scavenged oregano, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes. The oregano gives surprisingly, impressively strong flavor to broiled pernil. Add: The oregano flavor surprisingly fades when mixed with competing flavors in other contexts, such as bachelor stew, instead of stand out to add a layer of robust flavor as I expected.

The ginger I'm currently using has been flavorless. Add: My next batch of ginger has been better flavored.

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.

On 21MAY15, I bought 2 bags of Doritos on a BOGO sale. Every local store has been selling Doritos with a BOGO sale for the last 1-2 weeks. The reason is the bag size has shrunk again, from 11 ounces to 10.5 ounces. The height of the bag is the same while the width of the bag is narrower by about a centimeter. Finishing the bag seemed faster with noticeably fewer chips. After I finished the 2 bags, I decided not to buy anymore of the fewer-sized Doritos. $4.29 can buy a good amount of staples. Doritos is a luxury item and junk food that is consumed quickly and brings on remorse. But as I expected, I'm changing my mind as time passes. The next time the reduced "family size" Doritos go on sale with BOGO, I'll rationalize an excuse to buy 2 bags, inhale the chips, regret it again, and reproachfully consider what foods I could and should have purchased instead with the $4.29. Update: As of 28JAN16, Doritos bags are now 10 ounces, which was heralded by a BOGO sale.

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.

I bought chicken gizzards on sale for 99¢/lb. Not much flavor in contrast to chicken thigh, drumstick, and breast meat, which are flavorful. Turkey wing and drumstick meat is flavorful, too. On the other hand, the chicken gizzards don't shrink as much as pernil when cooked. The chicken grease is typically flavorful. It's worth the buy on sale.

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. 13APR15 update: The neighborhood stores have had 99¢/lb pernil pork shoulder sales for the last 3 weeks, including individually wrapped single pernil pork shoulders. I have 4 pernil pork shoulders on the floor level of my freezer and bought a single pernil pork shoulder last week to replace the pernil shoulder meat I just consumed. 27APR15 update: pernil pork shoulder is on sale again for 99¢/lb this week. I don't recall another time when weekly pernil sales have repeated for this long. I'm tempted to buy another one and maybe cook it in bulk for gorging. 03MAY15 update: I bought a 5.75 lb chunk of pernil pork shoulder, which appears to contain a better meat-to-bone ratio than the 9-10 lb pernil pork shoulders that have large bones. 24MAY15 update: Poor attention to detail on my part. It turns out the pernil chunk was only 4.1 pounds priced at $1.39/lb despite that week's sale price of 99¢/lb. Ass-u-me. I only looked at the price without checking the weight, assuming I was paying 99¢/lb. It tasted good anyway. There's another sale this week of 2 pernil pork shoulders for 99¢/lb. 07JUN15 update: Pernil is on sale again for 99¢/lb this week. As sub-sales within the same sale, the flyer listed a shank half sale for $1.29/lb and a butt half sale for $1.39/lb. That leads me to believe the 4.1-lb pernil I bought for $1.39/lb by mistake, but tasted good, was a butt half. 31AUG15: I haven't been keeping close track, but since my last update, it seems as though every week or almost every week, pernil has been on sale for 99¢/lb.

I delayed boiling pernil bones for bone broth from 12AUG15 until 24OCT15 because I wanted to first use up the prior bone broth in my refrigerator. I stored the bones in a produce bag in the refrigerator. When I took them out, I saw through the bag that there were patches of mold on the bones. I discarded them. That's happened before with a bag of country-style pork bones that had gone moldy in the refrigerator. Google doesn't provide a direct answer but mold growth on curing hams is common and there is some information on mold growth on ham or ham bones stored in refrigerators due to moisture. For moldy cured hams, the direction is to remove the mold with a stiff brush, clean the ham with vinegar water, then proceed to cook and eat. Odd that cooking the pernil bones doesn't sterilize them of mold. From now on, if I delay boiling pork bones for bone broth, I'm storing them in the freezer.

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. Like the meat, the skin is significantly easier to cut up when frozen. I cook the frozen strips with rice, then finish them in the toaster oven in the 1-qt mixing bowling for 20-25 minutes at 400°.

In order of best to least good taste, the fat rendered from pernil bones tastes best, then the meat, then the skin.

For the fat that clings to the side of the container, heating the container on the Salton rice steamer liquefies the fat so it can be poured out.

When cooking the just-butchered pernil bone in order to eat the good meat off the bone and clean the bone for boiling bone broth, cover the Mirro bottom with about a half inch of water to suspend the rendered fat, then pour into a container. The first rendered fat is the good stuff. Finish off cooking the meat in the toaster oven for charring.

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 pernil 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.

Good meal: With the Nesco broken, I used the toaster oven, instead. In the 1-quart mixing bowl placed on a scavenged toaster-oven rack, a defrosted hunk of pernil pork with a few strips of pernil skin, seasoned with seasoning salt. Broiled for 15 minutes, then coated with original Kraft BULL'S-EYE barbecue sauce, flipped, coated with the bbq sauce, then broiled for 15 minutes. The thing to remember with the barbecue sauce is it's molasses-based, therefore, sugar-cooking rules apply. That means the goal is flavorfully caramelized and crusty, not burnt to a black crisp. Don't apply the barbecue sauce at the start or else it will burn. Apply the bbq sauce with about 10-15 minutes of cooking time left so it finishes on the flavorful border of caramelized and crusty, edging over to burnt. I ate the broiled pernil with Smuckers strawberry jam, or bbq-sauce-flavored pernil oil, or sour cream with hot sauce for dipping sauces, white rice, broccoli, and cut okra.

I cooked a defrosted chicken thigh using the 1-qt mixing bowl in the toaster oven at 375° for 20 minutes, skin side down, then flip for 20 minutes, with salt, seasoned salt, and hot sauce, with garlic, ginger, and onion in the jus. It was good; the result was juicy meat with crispy skin. I should try baking pernil at the lower temperature. I've been cooking meat with broil and/or 400-450° in the toaster oven. Lowering the cooking temperature may add more cooking time but reduces dried meat and burned skin. The variables of temperature, time, and defrosted meat change the finished product.

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

I mixed leftover cooked rice into bannock dough. Interestingly, the rice seems to have atomized during baking because the baked bannock had no apparent trace of the rice.

Efficient, pleasant-looking meal. Steamed over cooking white rice, on collard greens leaf, pernil pork meat and Sunny Seas canned mackerel, both coated lightly with Kraft barbecue sauce, onions, ginger, seasoned salt. The steamed pernil pork doesn't taste as good as broiled pernil pork. The meat isn't more tender when steamed. But the flavor is subtly different when steamed, more mellow than broiled pernil, so the benefit is variety. The barbecue sauce flavor is lighter when steamed. The barbecue sauce adds a subtle note to the steamed mackerel, which does taste better cooked than out of the can, unlike salmon, which tastes better out of the can. The yellow ginger and white onion slices garnishing the lightly tanned pernil and fish blocks on top of the darkened green collard greens leaf lent an unusual aesthetic quality to the meal.

Open-faced sandwich: pan-fried bannock (with vinegar and baking soda, though I think they made no difference) on oil in large Cuisinart pan, 15/10-min broiled pernil pork with barbecue sauce, mackerel, collard greens leaf, banana, ginger, garlic, onion, sour cream, crushed tomatoes.

Bannock-making techniques: baked in the toaster oven, pan fried, grill pan, steamed. Steamed is interesting because the texture is thick, part baked, part gelatinous.

Good meal: Bannock (baking soda, vinegar) cooked on low heat in the Mirro for 35+ minutes while pernil cooked. In 1-quart mixing bowl, broiled pernil for 15 minutes, flip, then 15 minutes. After pernil flip, added onions and coated pernil with barbecue sauce on top side after flip for crust. Then in Salton pot, boiled 1 cup water, garlic, ginger, onion, cabbage, broccoli, carrot, pernil skin fat, salt, and seasoned salt.

Tasty turkey wing meals: In the 3-quart mixing bowl, 1 frozen turkey wing, 10-oz box frozen whole spinach, 28-oz can Tutorosso tomato paste, diced sausage, black beans, banana, ginger, garlic, onions, white rice, elbow pasta, salt, and seasoned salt. Grill-pan bannock open-face sandwich with turkey meat and skin, collard green leaf, peanut butter, sour cream, ginger, garlic, onion, banana. Peanut butter added a tasty flavor. Baked bannock, baked with turkey meat and skin, sour cream and barbecue sauce, ginger, garlic, onion, banana.

Time-saving boiling step for french fries (and crackling). Loosely referring to these instructions for thrice-cooked (water boil, medium-temp oil blanch, high-temp oil fry) french fries, I first boiled slices of Idaho potatoes instead of cold-soaking them. Whether soaking or boiling, the point of the first step is ablating the outer layer of starch in order to achieve crust. Start with sliced potatoes in a pot of cold water. When the water comes to a boil, that's enough. Dry the potatoes, then fry the potatoes. Thickly sliced potatoes are better. For dip, I used ketchup with hot sauce and sour cream with garlic powder (yum!). I added vinegar to the sour cream, but didn't notice much difference.

Loosely referring to pork shoulder recipes that instruct boiling then roasting the pork shoulder, I boiled 4 pieces of pernil skin then baked 2 wet pieces then, the next day, 2 dried pieces at 400º. The wet spongy pieces took about 45-60 or so minutes (I forget how long) to bake into crackling. The dried pieces took about for 30+ minutes to bake into crackling that started with worrisome explosive pops, smoking, and fireball bursts at the top heating element with the fat side up. I flipped the 2 dried pieces after 10 minutes to skin side up which stopped the pops. I can't say boiling the pernil skin improved on the final quality of the crackling, but they weren't worse for the boiling. The baking time was less, though boiling and drying took extra time.

I cooked semi-frozen pernil by thawing out the chunk in the 1-qt mixing bowl in the steam tray over cooking rice. Then I cooked the pernil for 400º for 25-30 minutes. Then I coated the top with barbecue sauce and broiled for 10 minutes. The theory is the lower baking temp makes for more tender meat, then broil just enough for a crunchy crust.

Good eating on 05JUL15: Game snack: Doritos with dipping sauce of Tuttorosso crushed tomatoes and hot sauce while watching a Mets shutout win with Steven Matz pitching a strong game backed by a rare offensive outburst. Dinner: broiled pernil with seasoned salt and barbecue sauce. Organic rolled whole grains: rue, barley, oats, and wheat, onions, and garlic added to the jus. Dipping sauces: sour cream and hot sauce, strawberry jam. White rice. Stir-fried carrot, cabbage, broccoli, and okra with crushed tomatoes, onions, garlic, seasoned salt, and hot sauce. For dessert, banana bread made from very ripe bananas, unbleached flour, 1 medium egg, a lot of organic rolled whole grains: rue, barley, oats, and wheat, baking soda and vinegar, sour cream, and ginger, with smooth peanut butter and sour cream spread on top. It could use cinnamon; otherwise, it tastes right.

I've had a 19-oz can of Campbell's Chunky Roadhouse Chili sitting in the back of my kitchen cupboard for a while. It's use-by date is July 20, 2014. It's hearty and tastes good with sour cream over rice.

Redpack Diced Tomatoes with Basil, Garlic & Oregano is like a restaurant-grade appetizer in a 28 oz can. The flavors combine well in a fancy way. It tastes good combined with sour cream. Keep the flavors and textures distinct and not muddy by taking care to combine but not mix the diced tomatoes and sour cream.

Tasty Thanksgiving day meal. Approximately 1-lb turkey drumstick ($1.29/lb) cooked in the Mirro on medium-high heat for about an hour in about an inch of water with a 10-oz box of frozen whole spinach, 1 chopped clove of garlic, 1 diced .5-lb yam, 1 sliced carrot, onion slices that I added at the end to preserve flavor, strips of Polly-o mozzarella, salt, and seasoned salt. After cooking it in the Mirro, I finished off the turkey leg in the toaster oven for 15 minutes on 350°, flipping it about halfway. The turkey leg probably would have been fine eating without baking it in the toaster oven, but the step did add some char. Bannock with Polly-o mozzarella baked on top. Tomato slices with ginger flakes, garlic slices, sour cream, and seasoned salt. I finished eating the bannock with some Clasico canned salmon with bone-broth pernil fat. By picking at it, I ate over half of the 1-lb Polly-o mozzarella block. Polly-o mozzarella can barely be tasted; once again, the idea of supermarket-aisle mozzarella much exceeds the pay-off from the purchase and eating of it. The leg bone contains thick marrow.

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 another box of cake mix on sale, this time a 15.25-oz Pillsbury Moist Supreme Golden Butter Recipe. The box advertises, "As always, pudding in the mix". I don't know what that means. The recipe calls for 1/3 cup of butter or margarine. I used sour cream as substitute. The cake has little flavor baked. It tastes better pan-fried. The uncooked batter smells and tastes better than either way cooked. I was disappointed, but the disappointment was not unexpected. Unlike brownie powder mixes, most of the powdered cake mixes lack stand-alone flavor. I ate the cake with crunchy peanut butter, bananas, and Exceptional Value light chocolate ice cream (purchased on sale for a 56-oz box for $2). An interesting alternative recipe on the side panel for "peanut butter fudgy bars" calls for using a 1/2 cup of water versus the 1 cup on the main recipe, 1 egg versus 3 eggs, and 1 cup of peanut butter versus 1/3 cup butter or margarine.

NY Times article about baking soda. Baking soda (NaHCO3) doesn't need to be paired with vinegar, an acid, to leaven. Heat alone activates baking soda molecules to interact with each other to release carbon dioxide (and water) to leaven. However, the flavor will be alkaline, bitter salty if without an acid to balance the flavor.

Baking soda + vinegar: Sodium bicarbonate and vinegar => Sodium acetate and water and carbon dioxide: NaHCO3 + CH3COOH => CH3COO-Na+ + H2O + CO2

Baking soda + >100°C/212°F: 2 NaHCO3(s) => CO2(g) + H2O(g) + Na2CO3(s)

Favorite peanut butter: Super A crunchy peanut butter. Super A uses sugar and molasses instead of corn syrup. It's softer and tastes subtly better than peanut butter that uses corn syrup instead of sugar and no molasses. High concentration of peanut bits.

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.

Ssips Sabor Latino Drinks 64 oz Guava Mango and Pina Colada are good. I'm not a fan of the Ssips Tropical Punch. Generally, tropical punches are a lot of red color with less appealing flavor.

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.

As a Rite-Aid gold member, I get 20% off purchases. However, the 20% off is calculated from the full price, not the sale price. For example, as of 14DEC15, the full price of a gallon of milk is $3.79, which is $3.03 with 20% off. Right now, the gallon milk is on sale for $3.39, so I had hoped to pay $2.61 with 20% off. That was not to be. I paid $3.03. Right now, a gallon of milk is on sale for $2.99 at a local supermarket, so I overpaid by 4¢.

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. Add: Replacing the Proctor Silex toaster oven rack with the scavenged toaster over rack allows enough headroom to use the 1-quart mixing bowl in the toaster oven.

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.

On 05FEB16, the top heating element of the Proctor-Silex model 31115 toaster oven stopped working. The bottom heating element still works. After fiddling around with the glass tube of the top heating element, it flared in the middle and the left end (opposite the electric components on the right side), smoked a little, then died out in a few minutes. The wire coil inside the top heating element looks a mess compared to the neatly spaced wire coil inside the bottom heating element. The life expectancy of a toaster oven is 5 years. I'll see what the toaster oven can do with just the bottom heating element, but my first experiment baking watery bannock dough was not promising - the result was soggy. The body count stands at the Sunbeam automatic frying pan, Salton rice cooker, Nesco 6-quarter roaster oven, and the Proctor-Silex toaster oven. Still working are the Sharp microwave oven, Toastmaster single burner, and George Foreman grill.

The George Foreman grill is good at press-baking crust onto bannock and brownies, but inconsistent at its advertised function of grilling meat. It cooks with conduction rather than convection heat, so if the meat surface is uneven, the parts not touching the cooking surface tend to be undercooked.

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.

I salvaged a Glasbake bowl just the right size to serve as a high-walled baking pan in my toaster oven. But it cracked with a popping sound while I made crackling. The bowl is not cracked all the way through so I can still use it for dry cooking, eg, brownie or bannock, until it cracks all the way through. Tugging on the sides of the bowl against the crack causes the crack to extend. The seam separates slightly under heat so I won't use it for wet cooking anymore.


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