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Topics - a non-amos

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Whatever / an unusual Christmas
« on: January 06, 2020, 03:02:26 PM »
A friend's knee gave out on Christmas Eve.  Nobody wants to spend Christmas Eve in the emergency room, but stuff happens.

Since then she has not been able to get around very well, at first not even able to make a PBJ.  I have shown up every now and then to deliver some home cooking and do some chores and errands.  Take out the trash.  Post some letters.  Whatever needs be.

Her friend and neighbor Pam has helped immensely.  Pam is the real "feet on the ground" with continual help and companionship. 

This evening I showed up (again) with more food, and Pam asked "What, you have a chef that cooks for you and brings you free food?"  I told her that's about right, and would she like some?  I brought plenty.  By the way, how did you like the shrimp Creole?

After that I proceeded to deliver the rest of the food to people who don't make enough income to make ends meet.

In my book, this is the heart and soul of the Christmas Spirit.  Generosity, giving, and being mindful of others' needs.

It was a good Christmas.

- A

Whatever / toys for 2019
« on: December 03, 2019, 03:23:07 PM »
A few forumites enjoyed similar posts in years gone by.  Here is what I am up to:

I enjoy building toys for needy children, distributed by the US Marines "Toys for Tots" program.  In the past I have made various toys, but lately I have concentrated on biplanes.  These are not the cheap "throw away" toys that this charity usually receives, they are hand made from solid oak.  For me, the hours spent in my workshop are absolutely the best way to get into the Christmas spirit. 

This year I started with only a half squadron, and mistakenly ruined one of them.  I'm down to only two toys to donate, but at least it's more than zero.

Photos to follow; without photos it didn't happen.  I am not going to touch them until the top coat of varnish dries (tomorrow).

Whatever / raspberries etc.
« on: November 15, 2019, 05:07:15 PM »
This spring we had a bumper crop of wild raspberries.  Seriously, every bit of roadside with a vacant lot was overflowing with them. An embarrassment of riches!

I mentioned this at the pub and the server said she did not like raspberries.  They had no flavor; she liked blackberries much better.  She had only tried the ones in the supermarket.  We made a date for me to introduce her to the real ones.  I made some wild raspberry muffins.

She really liked them, but I didn't bring enough.  The next time I brought more.  After that there were no more wild raspberries.  I tried it with commercial blueberries, but it's just not the same.  Since June she has been looking at me with sad puppy-dog eyes asking for more raspberry muffins.

I had an idea.  Maybe use pomegranate berries?   Maybe with some orange zest in the muffin batter?  Maybe a little apple pie spice?

I will have to see how that turns out.

Whatever / safe and sound
« on: November 15, 2019, 04:07:58 PM »
I had hoped to limit my posts to uplifting topics.  Reality intrudes.

We have a loose gunman roving our town, someone with military training and quite likely weaponry to match.  He has killed at least one person.

We are safe and sound.

We were told to stay home and lock the doors.  Barricade.  Our door is not only a work of art, it's also thermally efficient and bullet resistant.  Turn the key and it's a barricade.  My lovely bride is a big fan of having an Engineer on staff.

Enough of that.  Let's talk about new music and cooking ideas and toys!  Uplifting is good?

- Andy

Whatever / music in Ireland
« on: May 28, 2019, 11:26:47 AM »
For the last several years I have enjoyed playing Irish music.  It's delightful.  It can be quite lively or hauntingly beautiful or it can be many other things.

My lovely bride and I just returned from our first trip to Ireland.  We were impressed by their friendliness, the beauty of their island, their history, and by many other facets of their culture.  We are also significantly heavier, primarily due to our new found love of their seafood.

By and large we were not impressed by the music.  Most of their musicians seem to be fixated on Johnny Cash and John Denver, with a few playing Billy Joel or the stray Beatles tune.  It seems that Irish music might be dead in Ireland, or at least on life support!

I would love to be proven wrong.  I would love to hear that traditional Irish music is alive and well in Ireland.  I'm guessing that as much as I hope and wish, that is not likely.

- A

Whatever / Valentine's Day surprise
« on: February 15, 2019, 03:50:03 PM »
I had become too predictable.  Shame on me.  Every year I would deliver a small tray of baklava (the good stuff, from across town).  Since my lovely bride always shared with her coworkers, everyone came to expect it.  I had to change things up.

As soon as my lovely bride fell asleep the night before Valentines Day I went downstairs and started cooking.  By morning she had a basket overflowing with pralines.  Some were vanilla bourbon flavor, others were Kahlua.

When we woke up she noticed the basket.  She tore open one of the wrappers and was skeptical.  It was a praline.  The pralines from the praline shops are really terrible.  She took one bite and exclaimed that this was home-made!  How?  When?  There was much kissing.

She took the basket to work and offered pralines to coworkers in her department and others in every meeting throughout the day.  There were plenty to go around.

In December we had shepherded some of her coworkers around the French Quarter; we knew where to get good food and music while avoiding the long lines.  We also introduced them to good pralines, not the ones in the praline shops.  They really didn't mind having some of the home-made ones.

- A

Whatever / Christmas music
« on: December 05, 2018, 03:39:18 PM »
A couple years ago I got tired of being able to play but not being able to sing.  I went in for voice lessons.  I'm better.  The voice lessons have transmogrified into a jam session that does not always include vocals.  I'm learning a bit of music theory and we have a good jam session.  She brings in something to work on or I bring in something to work on.  Who am I kidding?  I call this work?  It is joy.

I like Christmas.  I also like some (but not all) Christmas carols.  Music instructors usually hate Christmas carols, which is understandable.  They have many young students trying to pick out the melody of "Jingle Bells" or "Frosty the Snowman" and missing the target rather badly.  All day long.  This is another form of Hell.

Last year I suggested we do both Ave Maria and Oh Holy Night.  Nailed them both, eventually.  She was rather proud.  This year we are not restricted to vocals.

I drug in an old Ukrainian Christmas carol that has been one of my favorites for the last 50 years.  Her reaction:  What, you want to play that?!?!  Okey dokey, let's get started.  Show me what you've got.

- A

Whatever / testing, testing!
« on: November 13, 2018, 02:56:18 PM »
I did a rather inadvisable Firefox upgrade and it toasted all stored passwords.

Can you hear me?  Is this getting through?

Please respond, to anyone at all.

Whatever / toys for 2018
« on: September 26, 2018, 01:12:04 PM »
Information for the newcomers, I build toys for needy children.  Taking some time off of work in my basement to build stuff that might make Christmas a little better and a little brighter for those who could really use a helping hand is the best way to get into the real Christmas Spirit.  Some people call me an Elf; I am not offended.

The flip side of that is that I am in a really dark mood when I can't make this happen before the deadline for toy donations.  It's just not Christmas!

I build these toys to be heirlooms, not because they are put on a shelf, rather that they are rugged enough to withstand anything the child is likely to do and be in good condition for the grandchildren.  I also build them to be very "playable", that children cannot resist playing with them (children of all ages).

I have many, many stories about building toys.  They are very uplifting but not relevant.

This year we are going on vacation in early December.  Deadline?  Egads!  I seriously need to start early, so that I can deliver on time, ahead of time, and not need to crash the security at the central USMC collection point for a last minute donation.

- A

Whatever / new hurricane, new benefit concert
« on: September 17, 2018, 12:44:34 PM »
We shall see what level of effort this will require.  Most likely (God willing!) not a Katrina level response, but I am told the food banks are running on empty and refugees have a habit of getting hungry.  Another benefit concert is in order.

Seriously, I can do more good playing music with a little help from my friends.  We shall see what we can do.

Whatever / recording
« on: August 03, 2018, 12:31:19 PM »
I guess we can consider this among the lessons learned.

We had need to record a tune by Carolan (national composer of Ireland) written about a small city in northern Italy (Cremona).  The tune is Cremonea, and the city is the birthplace of the modern violin (and home to a handful of famous luthier families, not limited to Stradivarius).

Our primary fiddler and violinist (yes there is a difference) needed to record this tune to present it to a guy at work who was from Cremona.  This is a personal thing.

Recording is an art form unto itself, and we have not done this recently, so there were many mess-ups.  Eventually we got it perfect, or at least perfect to our ears, and it sent shivers up and down our spines as we played it.

The recording was trash.

Our guitarist has a 12-string with a preamp in the guitar body.  The battery had not been changed for about 5 years.  Changing the battery means restringing the guitar, and she has not had the funds for that.  This situation has been rectified.

We reserve the right to make the angels weep once again, this coming Sunday.

Whatever / new gig
« on: May 04, 2018, 01:30:45 PM »
Have you ever had an opportunity that was just so much the right thing to do that you could not possibly turn it down?

Our fiddler is out for the next month, playing festivals hither and yon.  At the same time, a good friend has need of our services.

We had discussed this within the band.  My friend (a violinist) has been taking care of her shut-in mother for many years.  Her mother has never heard my friend playing with other musicians.  Egads!  This is not right!

Her mother had a nasty slip-and-fall in which she broke her tailbone.  She has been released from the hospital and is now in a rehab center.

My friend would like to play some music for her mother, and would like to play with us.  How could I possibly say no?  This is the right thing to do.

Whatever / meta training?
« on: April 24, 2018, 02:18:43 PM »
Many of you live in the corporate world.  This thread is for you.  Others can tune out or listen in.

All too often, training is used as (or seen as) a punishment.  It can be really dreadful.  Four hours of "not surfing for porn on company time or company computers" and "what not to click on".  Egads.  Half a day wasted for 3500 employees; you can do the math.  Another 3 hours of training in how to use our RFID badges to gain entrance to our workplaces.  Give me a break! The list goes on.

During the worst of this I was required to put together an online training module to prevent massive death, dismemberment, property damage, and legal liability.  OH HELL NO I will not do it like they did.  I have more respect for continuing education.

I put together some short and concise training, did it in a way that kept the listeners' attention, and in the end made it a little entertaining.

Our people in charge of this stuff asked if I could do a short (50,000 words or less, or far less) writeup of how to do (or not do) training.  I put together a short presentation.  This is training for how to do training.  Meta training?

Whatever / cooking for kidney stones (and other painful conditions)
« on: April 12, 2018, 01:16:01 PM »
This might not be considered "medical advice", but it's the next best thing.  This is not my first rodeo.

Always, always follow the doctor's instructions.  If they say no food after midnight the day before an operation, they really mean it.  Rich food, not after 8:00.

Surgeons always want to operate on a strong and healthy patient.  They have a better success rate and recovery time is reduced.

In the case of kidney stones, there is much pain and here in the US it might be more than a month before the operation takes place.  Pain medications are wonderful, and you should not skimp on them, but everything has a side effect.  They kill the appetite when she needs to maintain her strength.  A month of starvation will really play havoc with the immune system.

During that month (maybe more) I try to cook things that would make her hungry in spite of the pain medicines.  Let your creative spirit soar!  Cook some of her old favorites.  Cook something that fills the house with an aroma so delightful that the neighbors salivate.  Punch through the side effects of the medicine; make her hungry!  She needs to eat.  Something about having a strong and healthy patient . . .

Do not violate the doctor's orders.  If he says no food or water for however long before the operation, so be it.  He knows what he's doing.

Post-op is a different story.  She will have an upset stomach but she will be very hungry.  Cook some very plain but very fluffy scrambled eggs, but not more than two or three eggs.  She might want more, but her eyes will be bigger than her stomach (the food will come back up if you serve more).  Serve with one slice of lightly buttered toast.  This is seriously not the time or place to show off your cooking skills, except in how to make the plain scrambled eggs extra light and fluffy.

Do not expect thanks or compliments for the cooking leading up to the day of surgery.  Let's be reasonable.  She was on massive pain medication and does not remember it.  This is not about you, except that you can take some small degree of personal pride in helping her through it.

- A

Whatever / Snails for breakfast? Sounds good!
« on: February 18, 2018, 02:19:59 PM »
I guess I need to exercise my German half every now and then.  In German, snails are schnecken.  They also have a pastry called schnecken with a spiral shape, like a snail shell.

Here in the US we seem to have borrowed (pirated) the recipe and have given it a new name.  They are cinnamon buns (cinnabuns).  Yes, they still have a spiral like snail shells.

Of course I took some small liberties with the recipe, but only in matters that would not affect the mechanics of how it goes together.  I will certainly make more changes in the future, but that is a different post.  Maybe this will incorporate some real maple syrup and/or maple sugar?  Maybe a maple glaze?  Maybe some chocolate covered peanuts?  Do I hear bacon?

 :-H :-H :-H

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