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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Working out again

I was kind of undecided if I should post this or not.  I guess I will - not like anybody's actually reading it.  (P.S.  If you actually ARE reading this, do me a favor and let me know.  Leave a comment.  Something.  I feel so alone... sniff)

I had quit working out after Liz had the operation on her spine.  Being home to take care of things was too important.  Far more important than exercising.  Sometime last month, I hit a milestone.  I went to the doctor's office and when they took my weight, HOLY FUCK!  I was back up to about 195 again.  I decided that I really, really had to do something.  The doctor treated me for my sinus complaints, and a week later, on my follow-up appointment, I asked if there was anything he could do to help me lose weight.  He said, "Sure, we do that."

He wrote me a prescription for phentermine.  

This wonderful shit is the "phen"s in the old drug combination "fen-phen".  That's the weight loss drug treatment that was killing people.  Yep, phentermine, combined with fenfluramine was basiccally giving people cardiac conditions.  It's okay by itself, I gather.  It's only when you put it together with the other shit that it turns deadly.  What to know about mixing weight loss drugs...

Phentermine by itself is a stimulant, and appetite suppressant.  And it really works.  I've been taking it for just over three weeks, and I can tell that my appetite is much less, I don't have the urge to snack, I don't have the urge to eat great huge meals anymore, either.  I could eat them if I wanted to - it doesn't magically shrink your stomach or anything.  It just makes it so there are no hunger pangs.  And it gives you energy to go all day without eating if you wanted to.  I'm not that crazy - I still eat. I have a low calorie frozen meal for lunch, and I have probably half of what I used to eat for dinner.  No breakfast.  (Yeah, I know it's still the most important meal of the day, so sue me.)  I figure I eat maybe a thousand calories a day, and I've really been losing weight.  I'm down to just a hair over 180 pounds, and I like it.  I hope I can keep going so I can finally reach my goal of 165-ish. I go see him again next Monday, and we'll talk.  He might make me skip a month, or he might not.  Dunno.  I guess I'll find out then.

Anyway, since I haven't done this in a while, here's how I look today...

Welcome back to my world.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Best Beach In The World

Something just recently reminded me of The Best Beach In The World.  Haulover Beach, just south of 163rd St, in between Miami and Hallandale, FL.   It's actually a part of a state park: Haulover Park.  I'm not sure what actual city it's in.

Map of Haulover Park

What's so great about Haulover Beach?  I'm glad you asked.

Warning sign.  Here there be monsters...

Haulover is Florida's only 100% legal nude beach.  It wasn't always like that.  At one point in time, the only draw to Haulover Park was the marina.  Hundreds of boaters would use the ready ocean access to put in for a nice day fishing.  The beach was farther away from the city, and harder to get to, so most people went to the more readily accessible beaches to the north and south.  Haulover was left to homeless people who littered, left behind human feces and other wastes,  and basically trashed the place.

In the 80's, a group calling themselves South Florida Free Beaches asked the county for a small section of where they could sunbathe in the nude.  Miami Beach was frequented by so many tourists from Europe and South America that it became an unwritten rule- it's okay to bare your breasts on Miami Beach.  While not strictly legal, topless sunbathing was tolerated as long as you behaved yourself.  Dade County refused.   SFFB sued the county, and eventually won; Dade County had to designate a part of their beach clothing-optional.

Overview of the beach

It was actually a win-win for both groups.  The free beaches people got an area where they could go nude, and Dade County got free labor to help kick out the homeless squatters and keep the beach clean.  The laws remain the same, though.  Lewd behaviour is not tolerated; in fact you can be arrested.  You won't see any kind of activities happening on the nude beach that you don't see on a textile beach-just most of the people doing them are naked.

It's really my favorite beach for many reasons.  Everybody is really polite to each other there.  It's clean. It's quiet. There are an abundance of lifeguards.  There's a little trailer where you can buy anything sunblock to food and drinks.  It's hard to describe the feeling of stepping out onto the warm sand and stripping off all the layers of clothing until there's nothing left but bare skin glowing in the sun.  The wind tickles places that have never felt wind before.  It's relaxing, stimulating, invigorating and calming, all at once.  It feels like there's a part of you that had been trapped under a layer of ice your whole life, dormant.  And now, that part of you finally feels a thaw and wakes up.  It's like being on vacation to some exotic land where there's no job, no traffic, no phones and faxes. The stress just melts away.

Yes, this is me on one of my few visits to Haulover Beach

I only had the opportunity to go there a few times before we moved.  Now that we're several hundred miles away, I may never get the chance to go there again.  Then again... maybe I will.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Geez. I guess it's been nearly a year.

I haven't posted in a while, huh?   Nothing worth posting about.  I think I'm gonna shut this down and delete the posts. Not worth it.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Giving an old war horse a good home.

I have the unfortunate honor of being known around the office as the office "gun guy". So it's common for people to come to me with questions about firearm-related stuff. A buddy of mine came to me the other day with this: 


It's a police trade-in from a local Sheriff's Office. I'm not sure whether or not it's an 870P, or 870 Express, because these are all the markings on the sideplate: 

Remington 870 shotguns are knows as THE standard for reliability and durability.  They've seen combat in various branches of the military, and every police department has relied on them for decades as their go-to rough and tumble weapon.  When the going gets rough, the police pull out their shotguns.  Lately, though, the police agencies all over the country have been getting rid of their riot guns and equipping their officers with AR-15 rifles instead.  it's a move that I actually agree with.  AR-15's are much more suited to the role that a police officer would need than a shotgun.  But that's a topic for another day.  All that concerns me here is this particular traded-in weapon.

It's in rough enough shape, that I can well believe that it was passed around from deputy to deputy since it was built. If I'm translating the barrel code right, it's got a build date of December 1985.  The wood has been beat to hell, the locking block and slide assembly are totally rusty, the barrel has so much carbon and plastic caked in it that I honestly can't tell if it's rusted or just filthy. Even the extractor is rusty. 







My friend goes... "So... ya want it?" 

The price was okay, so I did some mental calculations on how much crap I'd be in with the missus later on. Yeah, I'll take it. Funny thing... When I got it home, I ran some shells through it just to see. At first, it wouldn't take more than one in the magazine. It got all stuck when I tried to load the second round. Once I got that freed up, I found out that it would feed and eject them slicker than grass through a goose. It was stiff, but who wouldn't expect that with all the rust and other crap that had built up on it? I left the bolt, pins, and miscellaneous metal parts soaking in solvent overnight.  The solvent that I use is a mixture of Odorless Mineral Spirits and gun oil.  I got this trick from a friend on an online gun board, and it works well.  You can leave metal gun parts soaking in it for days on end and they won't come to any harm.  It dissolves burnt powder like crazy, and penetrates and loosens up rust and corrosion just as good as some store-brand products that are meant for this purpose.

The next evening, after I had gone to the store to buy a steel scrub brush and a brass scrub brush, I tackled the bad girl. I won't lie here - it took me a good four hours of hard scrubbing and wiping down to get things right. Heck, the barrel alone took me a half hour. First I filled her up with a solvent-based barrel cleaning foam and let her sit. Then I scrubbed her out. Then I did it all again. Then I scrubbed for a good ten minutes with just a bronze brush. In the end, I had to wrap a patch around the brush, soak the patch in Remoil good, and literally scrub back and forth for a couple minutes. I changed the patches out four or five times, and here's how the barrel came out. (There's still a little crap down near the chamber end, but I had to move on.) 


Next was the bolt. There was just a little bit of rusty crud on the bolt itself which cleaned up in short order. The locking block and slide assembly took more than a few minutes. I almost got the Dremel and a little wire wheel out, but I figured that would be giving up too soon. After about forty-five minutes, here's how they look: 



I know, I know - could be better. But time was short, and I had to move on. Luckily, there was no rust at all on the firing pin or spring - I was surprised as all heck about that! Likewise, there was no rust on the magazine spring. I still scrubbed out the magazine tube and passed an oily patch down it, just to be on the safe side. I remember well how it originally hung up on only one shell. The tail ends of the action bars were completely covered in rust where they were in contact with the slide assembly - they cleaned up pretty well also, but I forgot to take before and after pics of them. They ate up another twenty minutes though. This is the parts bath that I had the bolt and trigger pack soaking in overnight. That brown gooky stuff is what washed out of the parts - reminded me of cosmoline, only nowhere near as functional. And yes, that is a bug floating in the solvent. Must have washed out of the trigger pack. 


I'm still not sure what I want to do with the wood. I want to strip it down and refinish it as close to factory original as possible. I lack the proper tool to remove the handguard, though, and I don't want to screw it up. maybe one day I'll get some Magpul plastic and a magazine extension, and tacticool it all out, but for now, it pleases me to have it just the way it is. When you think about it, there's no way of knowing how many officers this old girl rode with and gave comfort to.  I've been in situations where you just don't know if the next moment will require you to take a life, or give up your own.  Having a steadfast companion of solid metal and wood would be comfort indeed.  Who knows how many criminals or people bent on evil were halted in their tracks just by the sight of her?  

The deputies that owned it before I got it never took care of it - this much is obvious. It gives me an odd sense of satisfaction to bring an old warhorse into the stable and brush her down well, give her a good home. It's calming, in a way, to have her around. I haven't named her yet, but I think I will. Not all of my guns have names, but I think she deserves one. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

My Post-Thanksgiving post.

Sorry it's been a while.  Real life has been getting in the way of my posting.  God, how does that happen?

Thanksgiving dinner was a helluva success at our house.  We had twelve grown-ups and 13 children in our house.  Big crowds mean lots of happy noise, confusion, and near-chaos.  It's a good thing we have a big house!  All the grownups contributed something to the meal.  We had four different meats, two potato dishes, mac and cheese, stuffing, a green bean casserole, collard greens, four different kinds of fresh-baked breads... Dang, I think I'm forgetting something.  For dessert, we had apple pies, sweet potato pies, white cake, strawberry cake, marble cake, confetti cake, chocolate chip cookies, fudge brownies... all fresh from the oven that morning.

I'm getting full again, just thinking about it.

All I was actually responsible for was a turkey and a ham. Since that's all I was actually responsible for... that's all I'm really going to post about here.  Sure, I helped in the kitchen by doing all the base scullery work - peeling potatoes, washing dishes, mixing cake batter and cookie dough and brownie mix.  I seasoned the collards, and stuff.  I was plenty busy.  But this post is just about my favorite way of cooking - over an open fire, caveman style!

My day started at six, when the dogs have to go outside.  Nothing unusual there - they go outside every morning at six.  Normally, on a non-working day, I just crawl back into bed once they're done and sleep a while more.  And this day was no exception.  I left word to wake me at seven.

Yeah, I'm lazy, what of it?

She did, in fact, wake me at seven, so I had coffee, scratched myself, and decided that I had better get on with my work.  In an earlier post, I talked about brining the turkey.

I won't get into all that here except to say that the brining process really works.  You can tell the difference when you eat it.  When I smoke meat, I use a charcoal smoker.  It's not as efficient as an electric smoker or a propane smoker, but it's cheaper to buy and you should all know by now - I'm a cheapskate.  Plus, it adds flavor to the food.  In my opinion, it's just better.  Since a good portion of the combustion gases from the burning charcoal are going to be trapped in with the food, you want to keep the combustion process itself as simple as you can.  You really don't want to eat the byproducts of burnt petroleum, so I really strongly recommend that you never use charcoal lighter fluid when you smoke meat.  Not only does it make the meat taste a little off, it's carcinogenic.  I use a charcoal chimney to start the fire.

You pile the charcoal into the chimney as high as it will go.  Loosely crumple up a single sheet of newsprint, and set the chimney on top of the paper.  Light the paper and the heat from the burning newsprint will ignite the lowest layer of charcoal.  The chimney is designed to suck cool air in the bottom and the heat all rises up through the charcoal until the whole mass is alight.  It sounds like it shouldn't work, but trust me, it does.  At the same time that I light the charcoal, I soak the wood chips for my smoker in water.  You can use just about any kind of wood chips.  Lots of people prefer hickory or mesquite for light meats like turkey and chicken.  I had applewood on hand, so that's what I used.  You soak them because you don't want the wood chips to catch on fire, you just want them to smolder and produce lots of smoke.  Each different kind of wood smoke flavors the meat differently.

You can see that all the charcoal is lit - the top layer is just starting to turn ashy.  Another five or ten minutes and it'll be ready to cook with.  Right now, it's so hot that you can only hold your hand a few inches above the chimney for a few seconds at best.

Remember when we talked about making the brine?  We used salt, black pepper, garlic, basil, some other aromatics?  Well, we don't let that crap go to waste.  This is a water smoker, meaning that it uses a pan of water to catch any drippings that may fall so that they don't go into the fire and cause a flare up.  It's also a good way to add extra flavor to the meat.  Instead of using plain water, I use the aromatic brine.  It sits right over the burning coals, and as it steams, the spices also go into the smoke.

Pro tip #1 : Heat the brine to boiling BEFORE you pour it into the water pan.  If you put it into the water pan cold, it'll just soak up that much heat from the burning charcoal, and you want all that heat to go into the cooking of the meat, not into boiling water.

Here's the turkey, on the grill.  Notice how his poor back legs are all splayed wide open, no modesty left at all... Pro tip #2:  If you fail to spread his legs out like this, the juncture of his thighs and body won't gather as much heat OR smoke, and the rest of the bird will be done and that part of him will still be undercooked.  If you do it like I have here, he'll cook all the way through, thoroughly.

I forgot to take a pic of the ham, but this smoker has two racks: one at the top (where the turkey is sitting now) and another one in the middle, sitting right above the water pan.  The ham is sitting on that middle rack.  When I'm doing both, like I am here, I always put the ham on the bottom because I don't mind if some of the juice from the turkey drips down on the ham, but I wouldn't like it if the ham dripped onto the turkey making it taste... well... like ham.

Now, for the most difficult part of the job.  Cover the fucker up and walk the fuck away.  Put the lid on tight as it'll go (which won't be very tight) and just walk the fuck away.  There will be an air gap all the way around the top of the lid to allow for fresh air flow to keep the fire lit, so it's normal to see the smoke billowing from around the lid.  It's also normal to want o lift the lid up and check on how things are going every hour or so.  DON'T.  Walk the fuck away.

Your meat's fine.  It's still in there.  It ain't going anywhere.  It's going to take a minimum of thirty minutes per pound of turkey.  More, since I've got the ham in there as well.  It's simple physics.  The more mass you have INSIDE the smoker to absorb the heat produced by the hot as fuck burning charcoal, the longer it's going to take for the meat to get that heat absorbed.  Walk the fuck away.  Plan on not coming back for AT  LEAST two and a half hours, although three would be better.  Every time you open that lid, you let precious heat escape, which means there' snot as much heat left inside to go into the food.  There's a thermometer on the lid if you're curious as to how fucking hot it is inside.  You don't need to open the lid.  Walk the fuck away.  Find something better to do.  In my case, it was easy.  I had a bourbon.  I don't give a fuck if it was only eight in the morning.  Bourbon gave me something better to do.

I'll take this moment to put in a little aside - it was cold as fuck outside that morning - in the 20's.  I used the time that I wasn't sipping bourbon to build a fire in our fireplace and cozy up the inside of the house somewhat.  It just made the bourbon taste better somehow.  Meat roasting over open flames outside, more open flames going on inside... My inner caveman was at peace.

More smoke going on.  Oh, did I mention that it was "makes your balls retract up into your belly" cold outside that morning?  You can see the thermometer in this pic.  Since I'm a cheapskate and this is a really cheap model of smoker, the thermometer only has three settings:  WARM, IDEAL, and HOT.  Something else I've found is that when it's really cold outside, this thing really struggles with it.  The hottest I could get the fire to burn, even after stoking the coals to the heavens, was just north of WARM and really, really far from IDEAL.

 If this happens, it's not the end of the world.  The meat will still get the flavor of the smoke and brine.  The only thing that will matter is that you'll have to pull it off the smoke at the end of its allotted time, wrap it tightly in foil, and stick it in an over at around 325 for an hour or so.  That's what I had to do.  This has the added benefit of bringing that "roasting meat" smell into the house and makes everybody who smells it hungry as hell.

Here's the ham, after being smoked for six hours and oven-roasted for another hour.  You can tell by the way the meat has pulled away from the bone that it's ready to go.  It was really tender, really juicy (because of all the added moisture from being right above the steam pan) and really delicious.

This is Mr. Turkey, after he had also been oven-roasted for an hour.  Make sure you wrap him tightly in foil if you have to put him in the oven, so no moisture is lost to the oven heat.  Also make sure that you take both meats out of the oven and let them rest for twenty minutes to a half hour.  Keep them tightly wrapped - again, so you don't lose moisture.  As they rest, the juices will even out all through the meat and it'll all be juicy, moist, and tender.  This also gives you time for another bourbon.  Or two.

Well, that's where this tale ends.  Carve them up and lay them out in serving dishes.  Invite the kids, the folks, the in-laws.  Uncork the wine - for the smoked meat I prefer a nicely chilled white zinfandel, but we also had some pinot grigio and both went well with dinner.  I ended up having nearly half the bottle of white zinfandel all to my lonesome.

We laughed, we talked, we ate, we drank.  The kids played games, inside and out.  The WII saw heavy use.  We were all thankful for the blessings that we had received throughout the year, which is the point of the whole thing.  I, for one, was thankful for a lot of things.  We all have our health, mostly.  We're all happy, mostly.  We're all prosperous, mostly.  Compared to some people elsewhere in the world, at any rate.  I still have my wits about me.  I have a few new friends and still some old ones left.  I don't know what the new year will bring, but then does anyone?  I'm sure there will be hardships, and troubles to be overcome.  There will be emotional triumphs and tragedies.  There will be wins and losses.  But there are some things that I'm fairly sure of.

I'm sure that there will be no trouble so great that it can't be overcome.  There will be no victory without cost, and no defeat so total as to be overwhelming.  And no matter what, we won't go hungry.  And isn't that something to be thankful for?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Holy Shit, It's Been Awhile!

This will be my pre-Thanksgiving post, I suppose.   Nothing had really changed in my life.  I'm stuck at about 180 pounds.   My belts are all getting bigger, my pants are fitting looser, my sleeves are a little tighter, so I think I doing okay.  I realize that there are people in the world that have never actually seen me dressed, so I figured I'd offer up the following comparison.   I think I look best fully dressed.   I WANT to work out until I look best naked.   What do you think?

So.   There I am. 

Okay, a quick preview of what's gonna be cooking for Thanksgiving:  I'm gonna smoke a turkey and a ham both.  It's harder to do in a charcoal smoker now that the weather is turning colder, but it should come out okay.  Everybody likes the flavor of smoked meat better than just roasted, so it's worth it to me.  

One quick tip: brine the fuck out of the turkey for a MINIMUM of four hours before smoking it. To make up a brine, use a cup or so each of salt and sugar, plus garlic, black pepper, sage... Whatever aromatic herbs your heart desires.   Dissolve them all in a enough water to completely immerse the bird.  I usually smoke a fairly small one, ten pounds or so, so it'll fit in the fridge in a stock pot.  For larger birds, use a cooler, with a bag of ice on top to keep it cold.  

It's hard to see it in this photo,  but there's a ten pound turkey resting in this stock pot.   Like I said, I've mixed salt, sugar, pepper, garlic, and basil in enough water to cover it.  Rest the bird breast down in the brine.  Do not let it get above refrigerator temperature, or you'll give all of your guests salmonella poisoning!

Until next time...

Monday, October 21, 2013

Never had a single lesson.

I love to cook because I love to eat.  I'll use a recipe book if there's a particular thing I want to make, but usually I just go be what feels right.  I make stuff I like - comfort food.   Here's what I did last night.

Our local grocer sells these "mock tender steaks" for a fairly cheap price.   Mostly because they're not steaks, nor are they tender.  They advise you to marinate them good and well before cooking.  Normally, I'd make my own marinade up out of some soy sauce, citrus juice, vinegar, and various herbs and spices, but I had this marinade from Lowry's in the cupboard and wanted to try it out.

I just thaw the meat thoroughly, place it in a ziploc bag, and make sure the marinade covers it all.

While that's in the fridge marinating, let's look at side dishes.   A few weeks ago, we got a bag of edamame.  I've never had them just by themselves before, so it looked like a good opportunity to experiment.   The shell isn't edible, so I steamed them halfway done and shelled them.

I thought they would be great stir-fried, and as it turns out, I was right.  I seasoned them with a little salt, pepper, and garlic and fried them up in evoo, and they were delicious!

Now, I needed some carbs.  I love baked potatoes, and luckily, so does everyone else in the house.   Mrs. Nudie likes sweet potatoes, but that's no biggie.  I do them just the same.   

Wash them down well, rub with a little oil, and salt and pepper the outside.   

Wrap them in foil, and into the oven at 425 degrees for a while.   

The rest is kind of anticlimactic.   The meat had marinated in the fridge for three hours.   I threw it on a nice hot grill and waited for it to get done.  Have I mentioned before how much I love having a stove top where you can take the burners off and make it into an electric grill? This is one of my favorite things in the world! 

This cut of beef wants to be served rare.  Medium is about all I recommend. My family likes their beef well-done, so you really have to watch out - it's really easy to make it too well done, and it can get a little tough. The marinade really helps out here.  Plate it all up, and voila!