Monday, April 30, 2007

Barbecue - The Real Story

Okay, here's the story of barbecue: There are two regions of the country which each follow excruciatingly complicated exclusionary rules, and end up with a restrictive fare rivaling a danged Japanese tea ceremony. These regions, if there is any doubt left, are the Carolinas and Texas. Everywhere else, I ought to add right here and right now, follows the style known by me as "Deep South" which extends all the way to Memphis, whose barbecue is reputedly mighty fine; and I have no reason to doubt that. And maybe further. As we know, places like South Florida (but not North Florida!) and California have no barbecue. They have hamburgers on hibachis. Or tofu dogs and pineapple. Things such as that. What they do in Oshkosh is none of my business. In Texas, at least, certain variations are approved: most all wild game is allowed, such as javelina, rabbit, armadillo (tasty!) and venison. Sausages are quite common as adjuncts on the grill. Fajitas are often cooked with the main course of brisket. (There are no chicken fajitas officially recognized in Texas!) Which brings us to the meat of the matter: chicken is verboten at a public barbecue in Texas, if there is pork in those sausages you DON'T TALK ABOUT IT, and hog meat is not present. Not only that, in Texas the sauce is given short shrift, and barbecue beans are not seen as necessary! Unflavored pintos are often the only beans you get!I find this oppressive, as all these things are presumably allowed in other regions, except of course the Carolinas, where no chicken or beef is recognized as barbecue, and the fights are about things like whether to add a spoonfull of ketchup, or mustard, to a gallon of vinegar when making the "sauce." And the local yokels think that adding one drop of Texas Pete, the hot sauce BANNED IN TEXAS, (didn't know that, did you?) is considered a "secret ingredient." Whereas anywhere else in the country, even Chicago for crying out loud, you can get barbecued chicken, barbecued pork, smoked pork, smoked beef, barbecue beans, hush puppies, pork ribs, beef ribs, THREE kinds of delicious sauce, (medium, hot, and fiery), and the sauce is full of tomato and molasses or brown sugar like God intended, and hush puppies, cole slaw, and any of the suitable meats served on a bun if you desire; it's your choice. Barbecue wants to be free!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Saving Trees with Near-Fatal Damage

After the new yard guy nearly killed yet another two dogwood trees, I wanted to document what to do about it.
A few years ago I decided to grow dogwood trees from seeds. My research informed me that the seeds are inside the red berries dogwood trees get in the fall. I gathered and naturally dried them to make sure the seeds fully formed, and a month later soaked them and peeled off the dried flesh, revealing seeds looking much like little tiny walnuts. I again naturally dried them on a shelf.

In December I put them all in a ziplock bag along with a fully moistened but not dripping paper towel folded up, and resealed the first bag inside another just to ensure they would not dry out. Into the refrigerator they went. This mimicked their normal cold months outside in damp soil.

Around March I took them out of the bags, and gave them a quick whirl in the food processor. I was afraid I would grind them all up, but the information I had said it would only weaken the shells and help them sprout. The advice was good; they didn't grind up at all. I planted them all, and in a month or so had 55 baby dogwood trees.

I started planting them, mostly in my neighbors' yards after getting enthusiastic permission. And a lot of them have died. I have finally realized that their bark is quite tender, and various weed whackers, wielded by these neighbors, had killed them by stripping all the bark off all around the base of each.

One day I was on a construction site where new landscaping was going in, and some established 15-foot crape myrtles were going to be taken out. I asked for one, and the bulldozer operator dug one mostly out, and then yanked it the rest of the way up with a canvas strap tied around the base and attached to his dozer blade. When he yanked, all the bark at the base stripped loose, like a shirtsleeve torn in two at the elbow. It was the time of spring when the sap was still running in the cambium, which is the living layer of bark which transports water, nutrients, and life itself from the root to the branches and leaves. And I knew the completely torn cambium would cause the sure death of the tree. Not wanting to seem ungrateful, and aware that even if it died, the rootball would send forth vigorous new growth, I went on and loaded it on my truck, and headed for home. Transporting a 15-foot tree in a small truck is quite an adventure, by the way.

I went ahead and planted it. Then I got on the internet, searching for "tree wounds" and "damaged bark" and wasn't having much luck, but I stumbled onto a site explaining how to graft, and it mentioned using grafting wax. Aha!

I wound some sterile gauze around the torn "sleeve" of bark, coaxing the torn part back as close as I could get it to reuniting the top to the bottom of the bark. Then, having some beeswax on hand from another project, I melted it and slathered it all over the gauze, making sure to extend it onto undamaged bark all the way around above and below the bandage. I wanted it water tight where no air drying could get to the wound. I used beeswax for its reputed antibacterial properties.

As you can see, (below) the crape myrtle is fine. When I finally unwrapped the bandage (a bit prematurely, actually: in the autumn of that year. I should have waited; although essentially all was well) I saw that the cambium had grown like crazy under the bandage. It had rejoined the top and bottom of the torn area and reestablished a lifegiving bridge over the torn area!
So I have done the same with three baby dogwoods.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Separated at Birth?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

That You Do So Well

You do somethin' to me,

Somethin' that simply mystifies me,

Tell me, why should it be?

You have the power to hypnotize me . . .
Let me live 'neath your spell,

Do do that 'voodoo' that you do so well!

For you do somethin' to me,

That nobody else could do!
- Cole Porter

Once upon a time I had a little Mexican Day of the Dead figure, purchased at a folk art resale store; a little skeleton figure carved of wood who represented Death. I had the bright idea of initiating a little ritual in which I stuck nails into the little figure every Saturday night, midnight, which technically is neither Saturday or Sunday.

I wanted to kill Death.

As I practiced my routine week after week, I grew more intent on actually causing Death injury by my machinations. I felt anger and hate, and nurtured these emotions, directing my enmity with an ever increasing focus on the figurine and what he stood for. I would prepare for my ritual by allowing my rage at Death to grow. My heart pounded and my jaws would clench and I breathed deeply. I filed the nails sharper than they were originally manufactured. I didn't use a hammer, I slammed the nails in with an adjustable wrench. Into its head, its belly, its back; into its eyes and ears.

Impassive, blank, its painted-on toothy grimace remained unchanged, neither threatening nor amused.

Death would not die.

The dirty little figurine began to fray and splinter. The dowels holding on its arms and legs began to crack from my angry blows. The nails would remain until I yanked them out, twisting them savagely to remove them only for me to drive a new one in another spot. Finally the little Death doll seemed ready to crack in two.

By now, almost a year had passed; I had not neglected my ritual a single Saturday (or was it Sunday?), and what had begun as an inspired act of experimental folly had become my own secret religion. I knew I would have to continue, but how? I devised a plan. I walked into a fetid swamp, into a grove of frightened, haunted, twisted oak trees, dying at their roots, and found one, and sawed off a limb as big as my leg, and carried it home, where I chiseled and shaped new legs for the figurine. I painted them to match the originals, and replaced the cracked parts with the new. Slowly, over a course of months, I replaced bits of the little object with new parts, and continued my abuse of the doll.

I am no fool, and I watched and read the news, and paid attention to the obituaries and kept my ears alert to rumors from hospitals. It was not working.

Death would not die.

Increasingly alone, I meditated often during the week, and allowed my rage against Death to grow, filling greater and greater parts of my week, culminating in my weekend's midnight ritual. Sunday afternoons I rested.

I would not be denied. The man at the hardware store told me there was no reason for him to even stock 11-penny nails, but he did anyway, and he sold me a few of them. He was unfriendly.
At midnight Saturday, (or is it Sunday?), with a scream and a curse, in the candlelit gloom of my shrine, I wield my sledgehammer, smashing the nail into Death's chest and splitting the nasty little figurine right through its center, knocking off its limbs in the process and dislodging a knot from its painted skeleton head, and that's when my heart explodes and it feels like God's personal lightning bolt has just gone through my chest, and I fall forwards, and as my mind's eye goes dark under the light of the still burning candles the last thing I see in front of me on the carpet is the little mannequin Death, and his painted-on teeth, and its smile was neither threatening nor amused.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

3 Wheeled Cars

I found this site a few years ago and want to share it with other dreamers. is dedicated to collectors of these cars and their photographs, aiming for a record of every three wheeled car ever made. Go to the "tour" and check out from A to Z these crazy cars, with some incredible mileage estimates, such as 300 mpg on this one (top), and also view some of the historical models. A roof over your head, a little interior heat, room for a bag of groceries.What else do you need? Kids? Buy them some auxiliary pods, put on a trailer hitch, and tow 'em along behind, I say.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Native American Draft Animals

A few weeks ago, I was sent this pic via email. So I did some research. As seen here,

the photo was unfortunately faked, at least partially. So I read the post, and followed to where I saw several actual real moose in harness.
Why was I intrigued?

Jared Diamond's Pulitzer Prize-winning Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies is an excellent book I recommend but a single portion of his thesis raised some doubts in my mind: his observation that no significant draft animals were usable in the pre-Columbian Americas except for South American llamas, which are not very large and strong, and were certainly limited to the relatively small area where they were domesticated in Peru.

I am no expert in the temperament of bison or Innuit sled dogs but I postulated their use might have spread, further in the case of dogs, and of course harnessing bison was never done by native Americans at all, at least that we know. But was it possible? I have done some cursory internet research, and I can't tell. I maintain it is possible to harness an American bison, and train it to plow and haul loads.

(Along the way, I discovered a wonderfully free ebook from Project Gutenberg: The Extermination of the American Bison, by William T. Hornaday available at )

Not only that, but I suspect the dogsled business could have been vastly expanded if its use had been adopted by more of the southern societies in the Americas. Some modified ski-type runners could traverse many other types of terrain than snow. Perhaps the wheel would have been perfected rather than the travois.

Anyway, my surprise and fascination with the moose in harness added another species to my dreams of what might have been. Imagine if a few thousand years ago, native people in the Americas had domesticated the bison (or moose) to pull plows and heavy loads, perfected dog team transportation, developed more productive agriculture. What sort of people might have met the Spanish then?

I will hope my idea will be explored one day in an alternate-history novel I can read.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Of Course It's Eerie, That's the Point

Rusty of Mark Trail, meet Dean Koontz, author. Sqirlz morph

Ships with Tattooed Sails

Remembering the time I invented 3-D tattoos. I was staying at my brother's house, either in the seventies or in 1981. Bob Dylan's song The Gates of Eden, with a line in it "ships with tattooed sails," was playing while I was asleep, and I dreamed of a big ship coming into a harbor, and then I dreamed about a girl with a big 3-D tattoo on her back. It was the old '40s or '50s technology, the view for the left eye in green, the right eye image in red, overlapping. I dreamed she carried the red-green glasses around in her purse, so to display it properly. In the dream, her tattoo was a big sailing ship. My brother had a party that night, and some people from the magazine "Mother Earth News" were there. I told of my dream to several people that night. Soon after that, I moved to Ohio and worked for a year or so before deciding to move back to Texas, where I had chosen the town I wanted to live in. In Texas, I was browsing in a 7-11 store, saw a "Mother Earth News" on the rack, and picked it up. Odd timing! I never looked at that magazine on any regular basis. There, in a comic strip in the back, was my idea, including the slightly silly part of having to carry around the glasses for it to work.

Update: The red/ blue (or red / green) 3-D system will probably not be revived, and some form of the newer polarized lens technology, or something not yet developed fully, such as holograms for the masses, will probably be used for general 3-D use. As for tattoos, the "magic eye" type, used in the '80s for the posters that had people squinting (no help) and crossing their eyes (the key), would make awesome tattoos. Artist H.R. Giger experimented with this 3-D effect with good success.

The Trap

Remember the odd old movie, about 1980, scripted by Bruce Lee, and instructed to be released ONLY after his death, called "Circle of Iron?" NO? Well, in the movie there was a character who held the only copy of a Big Secret Book of Knowledge! And the Bruce Lee character was sorely tempted to possess this book! Well, as it turned out, it was a trap! Whoever possessed the Big Secret Book of Knowledge was doomed to spend his life guarding it!

So I guess I know what I'm in for with this blog.

The Punchline

You can see in the insets those mysterious landforms we see on every globe, and promptly dismiss from our consciousness. They are, of course, placed on every globe in strategic locations, always in the same places. Their purpose, as we know, is to conceal actual Top Secret mysteries. But that's another story!

Photoshop for Hire

The key is to try to keep it subtle....


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