Monday, July 18, 2011

Now We Know Our ZYXs

Once I memorized the alphabet backwards, just for the heck of it. I used the "ABC" song after a while to fix it in my memory. Years later, I was pulled over for a random license check / sobriety check. The policeman wrapped it up by asking me, yes, to recite the alphabet backwards --"starting with Q."

I hesitated. Mentally I began singing the "ZYX" song as fast as I could, got my place, and then quickly recited the alphabet aloud, perfectly, backwards from there.

Smart aleck cop. I know he had to be impressed but he refused to show it. He asked me "why I hesitated." I said something like "are you kidding?" or "wouldn't you hesitate?" He let me go and deeply satisfied, I drove away.

Years later I found children of a certain age go ballistic when I sing the "ZYX" song. "NO, NO, NO!" they scream in amazement, dismay, horror and a little glee.

I had the opportunity with my friends' kids this weekend. I even added a bit at the end. "Now we know our ZYXs. That's why we are nervous wreckses."

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Nose On Your Facebook

We are still in the midst of a computer revolution. But I sense a curious inertia among the computer-using public, unwilling to keep learning. One hopes we are not weary of progress. Here are a few things I do which improve my life or finances or convenience which others seem unwilling to do, and I'm unsure why.

Skype. Free telephoning on the internet. It requires a trip to a consumer electronics store, a computer with little input-output jacks, the internet, and the microphone and or speakers you buy at the store, which you likely will be surprised to find very inexpensive. Like under $16 for both if you are lucky. Peanuts in most cases. You find Skype, log in, they test your little rig, and you are on. It's free. You talk to other people like you are on the phone. They are on Skype. For free.

Besides Skype, there is something completely different: emailing to your friends' text messaging phone. That's right, if you are at your computer, there is an email address you can use and send them a text message on their phone. It's usually something like If you are determined to find it you can. Obviously you explain to your friend when you do this. They might be interested in this ability. You can check the Google on "how to email text to Sproink customers" or "Dingdong customers," or "Mojorizen customers." You'll find it. That way you can text them without using your minutes.

By the way, those texting maniacs can also send texts to your email inbox from their phones. Instead of a phone number, usually they can send it directly to your email address. And note that's true even if they don't pay for internet access on their phone plans. If they pay for texting, they have this option. Hey, it might cost them a dime but it's better than both of you paying it. I think text maniacs have a certain number of texts they can use anyway.

Of course you can also send free homemade audio files via email just like leaving a voice mail message if you prefer to talk. You have to download a free audio file program and use your microphone to speak a message. Attach it to the email. I've done it, and it's been appreciated, but I have other options such as Skype. My minutes are so over the limit now, I might do that with a friend who prefers voice contact.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sesame Seed Bun

The sesame seed bun, it is becoming clear, is not well understood. So I will illuminate the arcane nature of its greatness.

Many hamburger lovers don't get it. The tasteless and meaningless things seen on certain fast food hamburgers do nothing for anybody. Check out the Big Mac, in the first photo. Why they actually brag about the sesame seeds on this thing, I have no idea. They are functionally useless. This is the source of the confusion.

The second photo is of my favorite hamburger buns. They have lots of sesame seeds.

(For this article, I realized I didn't know much about the sesame seed plant or its cultivation. Wikipedia's article on sesame seeds informs me that the seeds, African in origin, grow in pods, seen on another site. )

The problem is, the sesame seeds, stuck to the top of the bun prior to baking, never get toasted. I'm not sure why; I suggest it's the moisture in the baking bread which might have something to do with it, but I'm only guessing. Even if the bun is perfectly browned, the seeds remain a bland white, or at best very light yellow. But once you toast the seeds, their wonderful taste reveals itself. Mind you, I have been promised nutty goodness from all sorts of foods, but in this case it's true.

Many will argue the grilled burger is the best burger, and I won't argue. And it's not too hard with a little practice to toast the tops of the buns, and so the sesame seeds, perfectly, on the grill right before serving the burger. But in truth this method sometimes fails, and some parts are too dark, or the seeds are too light. But they do pick up some smoky goodness.

I suggest at least use a toaster oven for grilled burgers' buns. The buns' tops will toast pretty uniformly, as seen in the third photo.

I often cook my burgers, though, in an iron frying pan. A griddle is usually used in a restaurant without an actual grill. Here is where the sesame seed bun can really reach greatness. After the burger is done, I take the buns and toast them top side down in some of the burger fat. This unleashes the wonderful nutty taste of the sesame seeds, and also adds deliciousness to the bread. I recommend this method highly.

The last photo is not pretty, but it was delicious. It was a jalapeƱo cheeseburger, with a thick slice of raw onion, lettuce and mayonnaise. I split and cooked the peppers in the skillet with the burgers. The buns were toasted in the skillet after the burgers were cooked in it.

(What's the best way to assemble a hamburger?)

Monday, June 13, 2011


The superheroes of the comic books are known for flying. Yet upon reflection I find the list of those who fly is curiously short. I will try to compile a list here, and hope for some help to fill it out.

Superman. The premier of flight. We will include all Kryptonians such as Supergirl, Superman's dog Krypto, etc.
The Human Torch.
Green Lantern, with a magic ring. Or technological ring. See Arthur C. Clarke. Anyway.
A few simply have wings: The Angel of X-Men, and Hawkman, (and Hawkgirl, etc.) fly with wings.

I will get out of the way the pseudo-qualifiers:
Wonder Woman has an invisible airplane.
The Hulk "flies" by enormously strong leaps.
Iron Man has jets on his feet.
Thor "flies" by hurling his hammer, then catching the strap at the last second. Yes, it is sort of absurd.
The Atom is so small he is carried on wisps of air, or is subject to, and maneuvers around in, even subtler microscopic forces.
Dr. Strange seems to hover around lots. Usually in odd dimensions, but he can keep his feet off the ground. Using magic.

I am completely out of the loop on the more modern comix heroes. Sorry.
edit March 2016
I realize I quit reading comics in 1968, and have become more aware lately of my laughable incomplete survey.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Mechanical Resistance to Esthetics of Intelligence

Progress along the long and difficult road to correctly designing a reading machine such as the Kindle has been beset by a continuous onslaught of negative paradigms. That ballast, that small percentage of critical mass that causes the ship to sink, is the general new-product-developers' ethos that includes this meme: they don't like to read.

As long as my devices are designed by teams which include people who don't like to read, they will not manage to design a device that satisfies me. Because I like to read. And significant percentages of their design teams possess an anti-intellectual ethos. Who'd have thought it?

They seem to be convinced that at every instant of my reading experience, somehow I would be happier watching cartoons, playing a mindless game, or listening to music or watching a TV show. Perhaps Twittering. The usual stuff marginally literate people do with the Internet. And when I occasionally have the advantage of easily identifying these people, they usually react like cockroaches exposed to the light, and begin scurrying. They scurry and hurl insults at me. They will shovel out a mass of implication, implying I am the oddball, I am the square peg, I am the loser.

This is from people who have insinuated themselves professionally into an industry, into designing a product based on reading, which they themselves don't really like. In short, illiterates run the boardroom.

So I still await the $45 portable reading tablet. It was basically invented 15 years ago, but you are not allowed to buy it.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Unidentified Snake

I was not happy killing this snake, but it was large and the dogs have no sense about these things, so I did the dirty deed. It was, after all, quite large and most important, headed straight for the house.

The head is not in this picture.

The color and markings are so muddy and indistinct I am having a hard time identifying it. Help?

It was about 4½ feet long. 1½ inches diameter in the middle. Its head was not that triangular shape we have been told to notice.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Bandwagon Jumper

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Mitt Graham

It has long seemed to me that Mitt Romney looks a lot like Billy Graham. So much so that I suspect some of the Republican base likes him a bit more than they would otherwise, subconsciously. A morph was born. I guess you can call him Billy Romney if you like.

sqirlz morph

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Shell Game

It was clear this one had to be done, as Mitch McConnell does resemble a turtle.

What the heck, here's the second take on it, too.
If you buy these I will remove them from here. Rachel!
Sqirlz morph

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Bunker

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Thoughts on Emergency Food Supply

A friend came by and we got into a discussion about emergency food storage. I opined most people are clueless about how to do this both reasonably and on the cheap.

A shed tends to get hot in the summer and is not a good place to store food, even canned food, in much of the U.S. And you need to keep your food away from varmints, so some planning or construction, simple but effective, is needed.

If you have a basement, you are already set. If it's unheated, even better. If it is, you should partition off a space, insulate it, and let it come to ground temperature. If you have no basement, you ideally want something like a root cellar. In the U.S. ground temperatures won't go much over 70 F. and that's in Florida. At higher latitudes, lower than that. It should have several feet of soil atop and surrounding it to keep out the summer heat. A dry crawlspace is suitable but an annoyance to access. It will do, though.

The old root cellar, ideal for long-term storage, is unfortunately passe. It was a well-sealed below ground pantry. It should be in well-drained soil which won't fill with water regardless of recent rains. If that's not possible, I have seen on the internet simple buried steel trash cans. My opinion is that you should enjoy a root cellar for regular life even when there are no emergencies going on, so it should be easy to get to on a routine basis. If you wanted to go to the trouble of building one right under your kitchen, with a hatch and a few steps down into it, I think that would be excellent. I know, that's not cheap, and it's old-school. I wish more people demanded such from builders.

Root crops such as carrots, produce, potatoes, and apples will last very well. Canned food, either home-preserved in jars, or commercial canned food, will last nicely at ground temperatures. Excessive dampness must be controlled to keep cans and lids from rusting, though. Plastic bags should work well, preferably clear so you can see inside easily to read labels or see what's in jars.

Unfortunately, wholesale foods are disappearing. By wholesale, I mean 50 lb. bags of flour, cornmeal, oatmeal, dried field corn for making tortillas. Rice, beans, and dried peas. Even the one gallon cans of prepared beans have disappeared from many grocery stores.

Restaurant supply houses are your friend. By hook or by crook, you have to get them to sell to you. Rural communities might still have some working mills for some of this, such as cornmeal and flour.

Ideally you should store food you actually use and know how to use. You won't end up with a ten year old bag of rice if you regularly eat from your supply and replace it off and on.

Keep in mind that a 25 lb. bag of wholesale cornmeal, per dollar, is hugely cheaper than 25 lbs. of cornflakes.

And five gallon metal buckets with lids - or five gallon food grade plastic buckets with lids - are your friend. I wouldn't store food in a metal paint bucket unless it was super-cleaned to zero residue. Or sandblasted inside even. And even then I'd line it with a plastic bag. Again, think wholesale. Buckets are ridiculously priced at big box stores, and aren't necessarily food-grade, if plastic. Try to find a wholesaler, and they should go for much cheaper. Find a restaurant that serves lots of pickles or something that they get in five gallon buckets, and see if you can get some free used buckets. Don't forget the lids.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Fancy That

This dogwood was planted by me from seed maybe nine years ago. It's been through hell, chewed by a bulldog and savaged nearly to death twice by weed whackers. This year is the first it has bloomed. I'm very

photos by Carl Miller

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Posting Pictures with HTML

Here, as promised, is the method to post pictures on various sites which host such activities. I found too many online guides overly short and not quite explanatory enough.

Let's just use my friend TBG's explanation: she knows everything.

img src=""

surrounded by these < brackets >

If you think the size is bigger than around 400 pixels, add only
a width and it will remain the correct proportions, like this.

img src=""

Don't forget the brackets!

And I should note, those arrow-brackets do not have spaces between them and the target URL! And same thing with the quotes around the target URL. And, in her example she put ... at the end, but anyone else should use the entire URL.

And, at least with Microsoft, to get the URL of most pictures on a website, right-click on it, and choose "copy link location" and regular-click on it. Then you can paste it in between the quotation marks you'll be adding.

On this site, though, one must open the picture in its own window by clicking on it, then doing the right-click.

As I mentioned, my long-ago decision to not learn HTML often comes back and bites me.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Russell Platt and the Cabin

It's been a long time. I dug this up and cleaned it up in Photoshop for a friend, who now owns the old site. It's a very large pic; I am not sure the site manager will let us view the whole thing in high resolution. Old Russell left not much of a trail on the internet, having died before its main onset. Here's a story in which he is mentioned.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

One Odd Bird

So I'm sitting in my living room with the door open to the world. And believe me, I've had to hustle and pull a few strings. I searched long and hard for my little secluded apartment backed up against the woods and the creek. God knows the crap I've taken from my totally inept landlord.

But I like nature. This I tell myself. I think of my little secret woodsy neighborhood right smack-dab in the middle of Charlotte with smug glee.

Yet now the mockingbird right outside sets out to entertain me with his song. We are looking right into each others' eyes. He's singing to me. At least, that's what I anthropomorphise its intentions to mean. But slowly the horror grows as I realize the mockingbird's song consists of imitations of car alarms, cell phone ring tones, the walkie-talkie beeps the construction people use, and the curious sounds of brakes and tires squealing and motors growling or purring from a distance. I realize this is now what he knows.

Today it's just this one odd bird. But more birds will soon fly into my yard, and repeat the sounds of the city to me; the sounds I have tried so hard to arrange not to hear.

"Listen!" this one says: "This is my song for you!"

Written by me, Jumper. First appeared in QZ magazine, June 2005, in slightly different form, under the byline of Paavo.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Ropes and Cords

I should pass along a handy tip: Don't coil your ropes to store them, simply feed one end in a bag and hand-over-hand the rope into it steadily. And by bag, I mean a burlap bag, or even an old pillow case. You want a good cloth bag, though. (Or a woven plastic bag. Whatever livestock feed comes in should work. I don't know if potatoes are still shipped in burlap.)

Without cramming loops into it; instead just feed it in straight. Any which way it lies after you feed it in is okay. It will not tangle, or acquire a twist such as coiling will do. It is also better than "figure-eight-ing" your rope, which tends to acquire tangles thus requiring time-consuming hand-ties with string or whatnot. I guarantee it will come out of the bag as easily as it went in. No tangles and easy to store.

The funny thing is, I worked for a third generation timber man for a while, doing tree work, and we always had a hard time with storing the ropes. The "good way" took time, and even then tended to tangle when uncoiling the ropes.

We parted company, and I went on to start my flooring business. There, I had the same tangling problem with my electrical extension cords. I tried every way I knew of, including the famous "chain stitch" method, coiling, tying, and figure-eight-ing.

None were ideal. Either I'd spend far too much time stowing them, or else they'd get tangles. I finally came up with the idea to store them in four- or five-gallon buckets I would find for free and clean out.

When packing up, I would retain one plug end, then feed the straight cord in hand-over-hand letting it curl up any which way it wanted to in the bottom of the bucket. Takes practically no time at all. And comes out of the bucket completely straight. You can store one cord right on top of the other, or stack your buckets if you have several, nesting them so they take up less space. Often I'd just leave part of the cord in the bucket next to the receptacle and only take out the length I needed.

I saw my friend a few years later, and told him of my discovery, at which point he mentioned he had, in that time, discovered independently the value of storing his climbing ropes in a bag.

Needless to say, it seems one could use either buckets or bags for either one.

Here's a YouTube video of someone storing rope in a rope bag. A bit hoity-toity in that he uses a special-purpose, needlessly expensive bag for this, but his willy-nilly technique seems the correct one.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Post-Election Cruising

Here we have another piece from the archives, written in late 1994, by me, Jumper, under the byline "Paavo Dekker," for Lost Dog magazine. My mother might not want to read this. I'm re-printing this today because I'm avoiding writing about Beverly Benninghoff.

by Paavo Dekker

"I did what I was supposed to do, and I would do it again." - Thomas Ferebee, the N.C. native who, as bombardier of the Enola Gay, dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

"You don't want to know, you don't want to see. You want to hide it 'cause it is a can of shit. Everything they told us... 'go fight, go kill'... It's all a lie, a fucking lie... we killed women and children... With all your God and your bullshit dreams... Fuck you. Tell them all, they told us to go... Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not kill women and children, remember? Is this what you taught us?" - Tom Cruise, as Ron Kovik, paralyzed Vietnam war veteran, in Born on the Fourth of July

I like Luther, although he does go off a bit. I saw him late the other night, just like he always is, as long as I've known him, reeling down the gutter, shouting and mumbling in another of his drunken, monstrous fits of loathing and hopelessness. "Turning on the tube, man, opening the paper... it's finally happened," he mumbles.

"No more news. The TV only does gossip, sport, infoid items... they're all just anal-retentive teasers. It's all vacuous horseshit. Anti-intellectual in the worst sense; man, they're against fact altogether. I turn it off before I hurl chunks.. CNN is just the OJ Simpson Network now..." He coughs, leans his forehead against the coolness of the yield sign, and continues in a low rasp:
"Complete informational blackouts. The cold war is over and we lost. 'We the people'... yeah, right. All the various mafias of the world have won. From Russia, Europe, from Martin Marietta to Morton Thiokol, George Bush's boys, Newt Fucking Nazi Gingrich, and Helms and Myrick and Robertson and the DEA and god damned Noriega and Cedras and the cocaine distribution networks... The entire network of transnational business and finance, national governments, the states, insurance companies, communications, manufacturing, banks, it's all corrupt now. When they come to your door, wanting your pound of flesh, your pint of blood, what do you do? What do you say? Man, they're ravaging the world; all the killing, and pollution... extinctions and destruction. The waste." He's sobbing now, the weight of the evening and all the beer just coming on too much for him.

"All the innocent people, man, they're getting fucked. The cops say nobody is innocent, but it's not true, man, it's not true. Like the State Department in their damned policy releases that all our boycotts and blockades -Iraq, Haiti, Bosnia -that it's the peoples' fault when they get no medicines, no milk or baby formula. 'Cause they allow Saddam Hussein or whoever else to stay in power. By the same logic the whole fucking world has a moral right to come and start killing all of us because of the things we allow to occur in the name of the U.S.? Kill us all 'cause we didn't overthrow Reagan... How can we be so blind, man. How can we be so blind? The unspoken thing, man, is that Reagan and the CIA were giving him the fucking nerve gas to slaughter his own people."

I tried to cheer him; mentioned the losses of Ollie North and Rostenkowski, but he'd not hear it. He was on his knees now, far gone into the darkness of the soul that hits after some elections. He shook his head. "Anomalies. Too little; too late. I thought there was no mandate, except for the anti-incumbent sentiment. That people just didn't want the same freeloading bastards in anymore. That there's no real support for the fucking Republicans. I was wrong.

"It's a pro-vengeance vote. Playing on the dark side of the human psyche, the meanness and bitterness of the rednecks and vanishing middle class. They've got the people into total human-sacrifice mode now. They want literal blood, crucifixions, or mass executions on TV. Helms is a sly rat, broadcasting for some lone nut to assassinate Clinton... casting his hate onto the waters of random psychosis, in the hopes of getting Clinton shot...It's typical wicker-man, sacrifice-the-scapegoat stuff. Heathen idolatry. The people aren't satisfied until there are sacrificial deaths, and lots of them, usually their own sons, in war. It makes them feel holy, like fucking Abraham."

His eyes were teary, but I knew he could see very, very well now. "The scarecrow must be burned alive, all that. There's no war now, so the object of sacrificial hatred may as well be the President...after all, he escaped the ritual sacrifice once before.. But they're masters of the psychology. Anything, any crime, to advance their agenda...bastards. Evil bastards!" Spit slowly trickled down his chin, now.

"Their corporate-welfare military rip-off kickback shmooze schemes are bankrupting the country as much as any damned Democrats. Liars, all liars." He was slurring heavily. "It's just like Germany in the '30s. It's all happening again." A spasm passed softly through his frame, and he retched quietly, slumped over, and lost consciousness. I dragged him to the car and, after I was quite sure he had finished vomiting, shoved him in, and we drove off into the dark night.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Are You Experienced? Well, I Yam.

The Mexican grocery is where I went searching for real, authentic yams. As noted below, this is not the American sweet potato sometimes called "yams."

I found them in a bin, ranging in size from the one pictured to almost American football-sized. I got one the size of a big regular potato, seen here. Although not apparent, some of the skins are markedly shaggier than this one was.

It's difficult to find recipes by searching the internet, because of all the confusion. "African yam" turned up some rewarding hits. But once I discovered that the basic dish is known as fufu, I searched for that. Most of the recipes described are pretty similar; it's a simple method: mashed with butter.

When I peeled it, it became very obvious it was not a potato, or sweet potato either. Very slimy under that skin. I decided to not exactly make fufu. I sliced it, roasted it in foil at 400° F. for an hour, and then set it aside. I sliced it up and refried it in some hamburger fat and butter, and then added the extra pat of butter.

A bright taste, if not much to it. Brighter than a regular potato, slightly acidic but pleasantly so.

Certainly good for a hungry person with work to do. It's your basic starchy side dish.

I preferred the malanga.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Anderson Maher

r is it Bill Cooper?
Sqirlz morph


This odd and cunning pasta is called "radiatore," meaning "radiator," of course. I saw some in the grocery store and had to try it.

It's the most interesting thing in pasta I've seen lately. Higher in surface area than rotini or fusilli, it has a unique "mouth feel" I found most excellent. It reminds me of ground beef, in fact.

In researching, I stumbled upon this site, the National Pasta Association.

There, we can see several types of pasta which are new to me. I found especially interesting the pipe rigate, the gigli, ("little ears"), and campanelle (“bells”).

And I really need to get some rotelle, also known as "wagon wheels." I haven't had them since I was a kid, and maybe only once.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Horror

Perhaps here we quote Dusty Springfield:

"Something in your eyes I see
Is all I ever wanted
And something in your smile for me
Is calling out my name
Your eyes, it seems
Are mirrors of my dreams
In ways I can't explain.
And my heart will never be the same."

Or maybe we should just listen to Iggy Pop.
Sqirlz morph

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Finally, Indian

I'm very choosy over which food sites to read regularly or even semi-regularly. Today I found this site on Indian cooking, Hooked on Heat.

Rarely have I added a site to my "favorites" list so quickly. Yum!

Effect of Effects

Decided Maori masks and face tattoos are good for Photoshop filters. Little Shiva comments that such effects are getting old, or words to that effect. I tend to agree. Still, I like this result.

We would have killed for such technology a few years ago. Now it's old hat.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Mike Brown Lives

Little Shiva thought Mike Brown was a fictitious character. How's that workin' out for ya, Mike?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Word is Fuzz

It was around 1964. The wave receded and was gone. We didn't quite sense it, because the British boys were here and we weren't paying attention.

Jimi Hendrix saw it. A lament wrapped in a joke? I like to think so.

So the years passed, and life got busy, and I never much thought about surf music again.

But like a lot of people, when I saw Pulp Fiction, the sound of Dick Dale's "Miserlou" was a strange magnet from the past.

A revisit to surf music was called for. I was hooked. I filled up my MP3 player with surf music, and it is good.

Mike Brown, I discovered, also loves surf music. He is making it now. One of my favorites is "Moonlight Mountain." Listen to it here. Or search YouTube for "The Man from RavCon." Or listen to this alternate number:

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Strange Tubers

After the recent post on yams, I decided I wanted to try some exotic tubers. I commenced with what is labeled malanga in my U.S. market.

Wikipedia's article on malanga has it as a relative of elephant ears. Thought to be originally South American, it's grown all over Middle America and is a main ingredient in a popular fritter eaten in Cuba, for one, known as alcapurias.

I took mine, peeled it, and gave it four minutes in the microwave. Tasted a piece. Flying by the seat of my pants, I sliced it and then decided to brown it in a skillet in a little sesame oil and butter along with a sliced banana.

I'm not sure if the fried banana next to it added to the sensation I experienced, but the malanga sure reminded me of refried plantain. The texture was similar and the starch reminded me of it. It was good. I may have it again. Next time I'll boil it