Archive for November, 2007

What is a man –

29 November 07

Forgive me if I drag the Church in fairly heavily. I am an Orthodox Christian – and I do mean way down deep – all the way. I cannot discuss things that really mean much to me without explaining the Church’s position. Especially since in this country “Christian” has become such a pejorative, partly due to the antics of the fringier protestants, and partly due to the reactionary hatred of Christianity (as mis-understood) by the phase 4 liberals. Remember my 5 classes of politics? I find it interesting that the ACLU is all for the University of Michigan (I think?) putting in footbaths for Moslem students at $25,000, but has a hernia if some Christian wants to pray on campus. Lets see – Christians are worse than people who want to kill us? Shows the consistency of modern hatred of Christians.This whole Sex/Sexuality/Gender thing is somewhat overrated. Look here, lets start with sexuality. We here in America think that where there’s an itch, it must be scratched. Pish and likewise tush. In the Orthodox Church we have had gay priests for CENTURIES. Here’s the rules: a married man may be Ordained. However all Bishops are single (either widowers or never married), and no ordained man may become married. If one is gay, then one confesses same. If one is ordained and/or living the Christian life, there is NO sex outside marriage. Period. We do not get emotional about what lights your fire – there is NO sin in being attracted to the same sex. You just don’t have to follow the itch if you are not married to same. (I’m only speaking within the Church, this is not directed at anyone outside). Even active gays are dealt with the same as anyone else who is having sex outside marriage. This is not to say that the Bishops don’t look extra hard before they ordain someone gay – they do. And said individual does not go around blabbing it to the rest of the world. Gossip, cruelty, indifference are just as deadly as licking the wrong organ if not more so. Please note: we do not think that our views should be the law of the land. These rules are for us, not everyone else. And outside the church we rather think that each individual must make up his own mind as long as he harms no one else. Please note that Church doctrine and the position of the individual in that Church are not always the same. Individual Orthodox are just as capable as anyone else of being cruel assholes. They just don’t have Church backing in hatred. There is no place for hatred within the heart of the practicing Christian. It must be rooted out with prayer, fasting, and confession. Hatred is a deadlier sin than just about any other and separates us from the Man-Loving God who is Master of the Universe.

Now 99.9% of the vocations and avocations and general living tasks in this world don’t require a pecker or a pussy or boobs or whatever to fulfill. There may be some things that generally men are better at or some that generally women are better. But ultimately, individual skills, physique, etc. are the determining factors. Football (yech!). OK. Most women would get creamed, but then so would I. There may be many women who can do it – let ‘em. Who cares? Now socially, I am an old atavism: when I go dancing, I lead, woman follows. Me Tarzan, you Jane, etc.

Now in the whole gender thing, what IS a real man? I don’t really like this term. It doesn’t get to the heart of the matter. I really like the Yiddish word mensch. The Yiddish meaning of the word is actually pretty simple: a good person, a role model. Now this gets closer to the roots of the thing.

A mensch should:

Have personal integrity.

Be capable of kindness to those under him or in his care.

Be respectful and polite to everyone he meets.

Be strong when needed.

Be firm when needed.

Be gentle when needed.

Be brave when needed.

Be capable of discerning which is needed and when.

Show the love of God to his neighbors and see the face of God in each child of God, even the Moslems, and I really have trouble with this one.

Know when to apologize, even to a child, if necessary.

Be humble before God, and be neither arrogant nor falsely humble to other people

Be prepared to protect those under his care, even with his life, if necessary

Be the head of the family even as a good captain on a ship.

Come to think of it, I struggle with just about every item on the above list every day.

Now nothing of the above list has beans to do with being a bully, putting anyone else down, etc. My observation is that a man who needs to marry a maid is in sad shape and is not much of a man. Also if one has to bully those weaker to feel superior, treatment, up to and including surgery to remove the ugly growth above the neck may be indicated. It doesn’t even have to do with sex, a mensch is still a mensch even if his balls get shot off.

Now the list for a woman is just about the same thing, isn’t it? The only difference is in the last item, which (unless she is single) should read:

Be the fit helpmate even as a good executive officer on a ship.

And likewise, a woman is still a woman even after a hysterectomy or mastectomy.

Now a general note on all this: even as any good captain in his right mind will consult the xo on any major decision and then stand responsible for the results, so it should be in a healthy relationship. Things can shift back and forth according to the abilities and so forth of the individuals at hand. Herself is an exceptionally intelligent and capable human (well, not so much physically, any more) and I damn sure respect her brains and opinions and listen to her on most anything. However, on decisions that affect the ship of this household – the ultimate responsibility is mine, even if it is her decision that we are going with, I am still responsible and must not reproach her if everything does not turn out perfectly. (Told you I was an atavism).

I don’t belong to the camp that thinks that gay or tranny or adulterer or whatever are just choices. There is too much decent (not pop-junk) science that shows that there are differences. However, I do think that we do control our reactions to whatever nature/nurture and experience have brought to our tables. My favorite sport once was adultery, but when Herself and I married I determined not to practice it again. I haven’t and won’t. This is not meant to be anything other that a general comment on our society. Too many scratch any old itch that they have at the moment with little thought of the consequences. This will lead to a downfall of society in general.

General affect can be a real misleader. Some of the most testosterone laced manly men that I have known are queer as a three and so on. I also remember a fellow that my ex knew. He was one of the absolutely nelliest guys I have ever know. I mean he swished with the best. Any normal reaction would be that this fella’ needed wrist splints. He was also one of the most dedicated (and successful) womanizers I ever met.

What does all this lead to? Hell – I don’t know. Take it for what it’s worth.


There are Geniuses and then there’s us –

26 November 07

I am not a genius. I am, and so is Herself, a near-genius. The IQ – a silly measure of things if there ever was one, is pretty high. I myself have scored anywhere from a low of 138 to a high of 172 on these stupid tests. One number is the top 2%, the other is the top 1%. Which is true? Who knows? Who cares? Since these tests are age related it would probably be much lower now that ossification of the gray cells is taking place. Herself was/is a member of Mensa, for whatever that’s worth (about negative $100.00 in annual dues).A near-genius is capable of quick comprehension and of relating the current topic to information already at hand. We can get A + B and pretty quickly get to C or maybe even D while the rest of the class is try to figure out what an A is. A genius can make the intuitive leap to information not presently known, and can see relationships and patterns that have never been seen before. A genius can take A + B and get somewhere between G and H and then backfill. That’s not us.

Those of us in the near-genius group tend not to do as well in life as the true geniuses, who are quite frequently singled out for special education and for unique and financially rewarding jobs.

The schools don’t know what to do with those of us who are only highly intelligent without the divine spark of genius. We usually got whatever concept was being taught the first time, and the teachers just wanted us to siddown and shuddup while they went over the same damn thing 10 more times for the dummies. We would be bored to tears at that point. Mostly we would just tune out and miss the next concept because we were off in la-la-land (either dreaming or reading a hidden book). Sometime we (or at least I) would misbehave in class when we (I) just could not stand it anymore. That doesn’t get one points with the teacher or the dummies. Back in the day it also got me into bad company and some really bad behavior.

What kills us in life is that there are so many interesting (and easy) things to learn and do that it is impossible to stay with any one thing for long. I get interested in things, learn them from books/doing/talking to others. Then I master (or nearly master) the thing at hand, teach it to others, get bored, and move on to the next fascinating aspect of God’s universe. I know Herself does the same. Sometimes, we come back to an earlier love and revisit time and time again over a period of years. Sometimes, it is just enough to know how the interest works.

In life, frequently the most successful are those of the 110 to 125 IQ range. They have enough marbles to understand the tasks at hand, and do not generally get as distracted with all the other fascinating things that there are to learn/do.

I might also point out that inner motivation counts more than anything else. There are people in this world who are not terribly bright by IQ type measurement, but who have the drive and the desire to succeed, and do so.

Often the true genius is not terribly smarter than we are, but has much better focusing ability.

Something to Offend Everyone –

24 November 07

This country is in a mess. If we do not get several things on track, our grandchildren, if they survive, will not live in the USA. We will collapse and someone else will be ruling. Here is a set of suggestions to think about. If you read far enough, you will probably find something that makes you angry. Good. Just think about it a bit and formulate a concise and coherent rationale for your disagreement. Not emotion. Good logical reasoning and preferably a rational and workable alternative. Ready, set, offend!

Illegal aliens. Deport them. If they are violent offenders, execute them. This will rapidly reduce the population by somewhere around 40 million, relieving the strain on our infrastructure considerably. Do make it easier and faster for desirable people to immigrate legally, and do get a viable green card program going. But enforce the leaving deadlines. And just because a non-citizen drops a kid does not make said kid a citizen.

Oh yeah, the farmers will whine about getting the crops in. Fine. Several possibilities here. First off, the cost of produce can rise a bit because of all the money we will not be spending on the illegals. Then non-violent prisoners could and should be used to gather the crops. Let them work for the cost of keeping them. Really, they are still stealing from us every day. Get a WPA type program going for some of the able-bodied on welfare. Same as prisoners, they are stealing from us every day at gunpoint.

Legalize, regulate and tax drugs. It is ridiculous that smokers are penalized more severely than the druggies. I have never seen anyone commit a violent crime or vehicular homicide because of being under the influence of nicotine. Catch to this – if someone commits a crime while doped up maximize the penalty. Being doped up is a choice that did not have to be made.

Same for booze. If you drive under the influence you are indicating a callous disregard for anyone else’s life. If you have lost your license and repeat, you should be executed.

Set up a Storyville or Amsterdam type red-light district. Legalize, regulate, and tax prostitution. Keep drugs, prostitution and the like in given geographic areas such that those who want them know where to find them. And those who do not want to see this kind of junk will know where not to go.

Stop sending jobs overseas. The corporations that are doing this are guilty of economic sabotage. Don’t buy from corporations who do this or you are aiding and abetting. Stop buying foreign cars. Stop letting Detroit sell us stuff we don’t want. American manufacturers will do what it takes to get your dollar. Use these dollars to change the way they do business. It is absurd to send aircraft engines to China for repair. Look at the outstanding job the Chinese have done for us with children’s toys. It is true that between the unions pricing themselves out of the picture and the non-support (somewhat justified) that the airline industry has they are in a tremendous economic squeeze.

Stop government pork barrel spending. We don’t need bridges in Alaska that cost more than all the people served by it will make in their collective lifetimes. I did not force these people to live on remote islands and see no reason why I should pay for their bridge. I see no reason why I should pay for the “arts” other than by purchasing the works of the “artist” if I like them. I am being forced to fund art projects that are crap and totally offensive to me. At gunpoint. Why? If someone wants to paint a picture that offends me they have that right. I should also have the right to not support that artist. Let him starve if enough people do not support his junk. I might point out that if the city fathers of Minneapolis had spent less on poor art and more on bridge maintenance, several people would still be alive. If New Orleans had spent less on welfare and artsy stuff and more on dike repair, things would be somewhat different today.

Stop paying women to have illegitimate children. Provide free birth control. Provide mandatory sterilization for those who cannot support children and insist on getting pregnant. I am not the father. I am not responsible for raising that kid. Provide a good education and vocational training for the kid. But nothing more. Quit paying non-productive people to reproduce. We can’t afford them as pets. They constitute a sizable chunk of the criminals which are costing us a fortune to house and the social cost is horrible at best.

If politicians break the law toss them out of office immediately and make them ineligible for office ever again.

Exclude no evidence from a trial. If it was illegally gathered, punish the cop or official responsible. Do not punish the rest by letting dangerous criminals loose. If evidence is falsified or an innocent knowingly prosecuted punish the offending official heavily, very heavily.

Hold schools accountable for educating the kiddies. Do not let kids out of school without a knowledge of English, mathematics, history, geography, etc. Eliminate sports program participation for any student who does not have at least a B average. Hold children to an acceptable standard of dress and behavior. Enforce decent and respectful behavior in the entire campus. Do not get more bent out of shape about a butter knife than crude behavior and inappropriate dress. Zero tolerance usually means that the school administration does not have any brains or judgment at all. If they are not qualified, then fire them and hire someone who is qualified. Do not allow whining from students or parents to overrule the primary mission of educating the children.

Have separate girls and boys schools. Do not sexualize children. They don’t need it. It is not the place of the school to provide sex education. It is their place to provide English, math, etc. It is the parents responsibility to provide sex education. It seems that the school people want to make little sex machines out of each kid. It is not the place of the school to provide birth control. It is their job to teach civilized behavior.

Stop supporting stores and television shows that thrust aggressive and sexual ads at children. Do not allow advertising that is aimed at children at all.

Penalize parents who do not take care of their children – severely. It is rather too bad that people don’t seem to take any precautions so that their recreational sex is just fun and not fruitful. Of course, if people were responsible enough to be good parents they would be responsible enough not to be creating unwanted children. Used to be before birth control was available that social pressure and the stigma of having a bastard kept people much more careful. They still had all kinds of sex, but were generally more careful. Now that birth control is cheap, easy, pretty reliable there is no excuse for creating bastards, but the social stigma which should be greater for being that stupid and irresponsible is no longer there. As a society we have completely lost any sense of morality.

Insist that mandatory birth control be part of welfare. Terminate any benefits for those who violate. Enforce sterilization for males who father children and will not support them.

Insist that the Constitution be enforced. Protect the rights of all individuals. Don’t make laws for minorities, either against – as in the odious Jim Crow junk, or for – as in the stuff that would single out black, female, homosexual, or whatever for special treatment. Equal treatment for all people. As long as someone behaves in a reasonably civilized fashion that individual should not be discriminated against in opportunity, education, jobs, housing, etc. This does not mean that social discrimination is not possible. Everyone has people that are liked, and desires to socialize with same. They also have people that are not liked, and do not desire to socialize with same. That is discrimination. When we join a special interest club to socialize with people of like interests, that is discrimination. Every time we decide that we like one object better than another we discriminate. Learn what words really mean and use them properly. As a side note: if we can not discriminate socially we are lacking the foundation of all other rights.

We need to take the Australian approach to Moslems. Tell them straight up that they are welcome if they want to assimilate. They are not welcome to come here and try to change us. They are not welcome to plot against us. They are not welcome to use their mosques for centers of hatred. They are welcome to come here and live by our rules. They are welcome to peacefully practice their religion. If they don’t like this attitude they should get the hell out of our country.

Why is it that the libs and/or atheists that “hate religion” seem to feel free to kick Christianity everywhere/whenever possible? When are the Moslems going to be told where to get off? Or do the libs/atheists only hate Christians? Or do they lack the guts to tell the purveyors of murder and destruction that they are not going to put up with their crap under the “freedom from religion” lie?

Here’s one: mandatory execution for serial anything. Child molesters, rapists, murderers. No insanity defense. Anyone who would commit cold-blooded murder is insane by any rational definition. Consider execution of repeat offenders. Consider executing violent offenders. Consider flogging rather than imprisonment as a punishment for misdemeanors. We don’t owe people that are a danger to society a free ride.

HERSELF SEZ: The Ol’ Curmudgeon and I have a couple of disagreements here (and we still love each other – see, it IS possible!). First, I totally disagree about legalizing and taxing hard drugs (narcotics, major hallucinogens). Yes, legalize and heavily tax smoking and booze, and maybe, MAYBE, marijuana. But not LSD, not psilocybin mushrooms, not any narcotics for recreational use. On the other hand, let licensed medical practitioners prescribe unlimited narcotics and marijuana for the patient with intractable pain or who is terminally ill with ongoing pain problems.

Second, I disagree about mandatory sterilization of fathers of more than one illegitimate welfare infant. I think the mothers of more than one illegitimate welfare infant should be mandatorily sterilized, too. If a couple can *afford* to raise a child, without government assistance, fine. But this business of validating irresponsible reproduction is for the birds. And if you don’t think many of the welfare moms get pregnant at 16 in order to get away from momma, think again. And if you think these same welfare moms don’t get pregnant in order to raise their welfare income, think again. I’ve personally seen both too many times.

Third, while I agree totally on sex-segregated education, I go a few steps further. Uniforms should be required. PERIOD. No more baggy pants. No more tank tops. No more tee shirts. Uniforms do not need to be any more expensive than “regular” clothes. A brisk trade in outgrown uniforms will soon spring up, I assure you, and parents will more likely require their children to be more careful of their clothes if uniforms are required. And I believe in competition. Highest grade on each test should be rewarded. Highest grade average at the end of the school year should be rewarded. Fewest days absent should be rewarded. Validictorians and Salutatorians should be given all the rewards and honors possible.

It took several generations to produce the current crop of sleazy attitudes, and it will take several generations to tighten up morals and behaviors. But if we don’t start now, it will be even longer before the desired outcome will occur.

Bah, humbug –

22 November 07

Hollyweird is strange on many fronts. Nowhere is it any stranger than on Christmas.

The staunch liberals would like for Christmas (and Christians) to just go away. There are schools all over that will not allow Christmas decorations. If we object to “Sally has two daddies” or “Jimmy has two mommies” then we are nothing but a bunch of homophobes and should not have a voice in what is taught to our children. Flip side. Let one jackass object to Miracle on 34th Street and the principal and/or school board will forbid showing the film so that the aforementioned jackass is not offended.

If the Hollyweird types were true to their hyper-liberal convictions there would be no Christmas films being made. Instead, they are true to two things: the liberal agenda to destroy Christmas, and, first and foremost, the almighty dollar. What does happen is that the Christmas films made have nothing to do with Christmas. Die Hard, Lethal Weapon and many others were deliberately scheduled for Christmas release. Don’t get me wrong, I do like these movies, but what on earth do they have to do with Christmas? Answer – nothing at all.

Or the movies are deliberately to the detriment of Christmas and/or the perennial “What is the true meaning of Christmas” pieces of fluff. Hate to say it, but the two that first come to mind are How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Berenstain Bears’ Christmas Tree, both by liberal Jews. No – I am not anti-Semitic, I simply state that neither Jews nor liberals are qualified to address “The real meaning of Christmas”. It would be as presumptuous if I were to write a children’s book on the real meaning of Hanukkah or Ramadan.

As a side note to conservative types: be advised, Christmas trees, Santa Claus, snowmen, winter wonderlands and any of those other commercial and/or pagan symbols have nothing to do with Christmas. Nothing. Even Dickens’s Christmas Carol does not have anything to do with Christmas. Not that I would deny your use of these symbols. Not at all. But do be aware that they are not ultimately all that important.

Christmas is Christ Mass. The celebration of the Incarnation of God as Man. The beginning of the Redemption and Recreation of the fallen world. Nothing else. Not warm and fuzzy feelings. Jesus was not a good man. He was not a prophet. He was either God, as He stated, or He was stark, raving, totally mad.

See what I mean? Ghosts of Christmas don’t have anything to do with the Redemption of the fallen world. Love of Man flows from Love of God. Thy neighbor is the second commandment, not the first for a very good reason. We cannot truly love our neighbor if we do not love God first. Placing Man in the place of God will inevitably lead to self-hatred and disgust with the very people we claim to love.

Our Church is on the original, Julian Calendar. Christmas is celebrated on December 25th, as it is in the Gregorian Calendar. There is slippage between the two calendars and dates no longer match. Currently, Julian December 25th coincides with Gregorian January 7th. This is sometimes called Old Christmas or Russian Christmas or Greek Christmas. Many ignorant people think that the Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas on January 7th. Not so, we use December 25th – Julian. Notice the difference. Anyway, the point is that in my Church we really don’t care what the Western Christians do. We don’t care whether Western Christmas is commercialized or not. What we do say is that the Western Christians should be free to celebrate as they choose. The libs and atheists are welcome to ignore the whole thing if they like, but they should not be allowed to cram their beliefs down everyone else’s throat. Freedom is ignoring other’s conduct if it does no one harm and is not morally repugnant. Forbidding another’s harmless conduct is denying freedom. Liberals do not want freedom, they want to dictate how others live.

If we object to having Moslem holidays shoved down our throats then we are hateful bigots. If we object to having our traditions trampled all over then we are hateful bigots. If we try to live a life in the love of Christ then we are hateful bigots. Notice that Christians cannot win where atheists/radical liberals are concerned. At some point we have to tell these people to get a grip, grow up, get used to it, or get over it. The only appeasement that works is if we become exactly like them. That is their agenda. And to them I say – BAH, HUMBUG!

We will not accept this –

20 November 07

A dear friend once asked me what I meant when I said that most of us conservative types would not object so much to homosexuals if they behaved themselves in public. She said that most of the gays she knew did behave. The above is a good representation of what us straight types object to.

From the Orthodox perspective (which is where I come from), we are more sorrowed by the Roman Catholic Bishop giving these people communion than surprised. First off, communion implies being in accord with the doctrine of the church at hand. It is clear from the dress and behavior of these people that they are not in accord with the doctrine of Rome. Further, their web site makes it abundantly clear that they are not Christian in any sense. They are an anti-Christian parody.

This doesn’t particularly surprise us Orthodox types. First off, in the Orthodox Church, you are given Communion by name. So – you must be known by the Priest. It is considered normal to check in with the Priest before you plop yourself into a Communion line. Even when the Bishop is visiting, the Priest, or a Deacon who knows the parishioners will be standing beside the Bishop to tell him your name (and to indicate if you should not be communed). If you are an unknown quantity, the Priest or Bishop will query your standing: what is your name? What is your home parish? When was your last confession? Have you fasted? Are you properly prepared? Since we firmly believe that this is the literal Body and Blood of Christ we are not going to Commune someone who is not prepared by prayer, confession, and fasting. It absolutely is the duty of the Celebrant to safeguard the Precious Gifts, not to throw them to the unworthy or unprepared.

This issue here is not whether someone is homosexual. We do not condemn someone for being attracted to someone else. We do condemn any sex outside marriage. We will not Commune an adulterer or a philanderer – that’s a matter of Church Doctrine and is rather firmly enforced. When the woman caught in adultery was brought before Christ, He did indeed say “Woman, your sins are forgiven”. But He also said “Go and sin no more“. The sin no more is often overlooked in this non-moral age, just as the sins forgiven was ignored in the hyper moral atmosphere of Puritanism. Christ did not waste words. He meant all of His words. We cannot Commune someone who is not earnestly striving to sin no more. This does not mean that we will make it. But we must try. In-your-face celebration of sinning is not a possible Christian position.

When nailed on his communing of Nancy Pelosi, whose beliefs and actions are clearly and publicly not in compliance with established Roman doctrine, this particular bishop just shrugged his shoulders and said that he was not a “gatekeeper”. This is not in accord with the Orthodox understanding. In the Sacrament of Ordination, the Bishop places the Lamb into the Ordinand’s hands and says: “Receive thou this pledge, and preserve it whole and unharmed until thy last breath, because thou shalt be held to an accounting therefore in the second and terrible Coming of our Great Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ”. I have talked with many Priests about this, and every one of them states that at that moment their knees just about buckle. They know that this is serious business. And they regard their priestly function as one of grave importance. This is not to say that we don’t have some bad priests and bishops, we do. They are human. But it is proportionately very few. A shepherd most certainly is a gatekeeper.

As an Orthodox Christian I cannot tell the Roman Catholics what to do in their church, but I can comment on behavior which is clearly not in accord with Christian doctrine. And this is certainly not defensible on any level. Of course, we are not terribly surprised since we regard the Romans as schismatic and the first protestants. In this country, our culture descends from Western European (Roman) culture, and we have been taught that the Orthodox East left the Roman West. Well, t’aint so. See my earlier article about why I am Orthodox for a discussion of this point.

Apart from my reaction as an Orthodox Christian there is my reaction as a United States Citizen. I see little difference between this in-your-face offensive behavior and a deliberate punch in the face. Both are deliberate assaults. And these freaks know it and glory in it. Why is immoral behavior “progressive”? There is a great deal of difference between the behavior of a reasonable and thoughtful and considerate person who happens to be homosexual and the antics of these demented self-hating creatures who are trying to be as offensive as possible. The responsible gay community does not do itself any good by tolerating these pervert’s behavior without condemnation. What this does is strengthen the opposition of the “Religious Right”. And, while laws may get changed, there is little chance of acceptance by “middle America” until these people are publicly and clearly rejected by the majority of the gay community.

HERSELF SEZ: The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence is now an international organization with a missionary agenda. If there is not a chapter near you – – there will be. Just wait.

Ovens and How to Fake It –

17 November 07

The traditional oven that evolved in most settled technological cultures bears little resemblance to our modern home ovens. The traditional oven was made of refractory material: stone, brick, adobe, or something similar. The method of cooking was not direct fire as is the case in the modern home oven. A desirable refractory material has two principal properties: it can withstand thermal shock and it is a good heat sink.

Let us look at the properties and methods. To withstand thermal shock means that the material will not shatter or deform or degrade when exposed to the intense heat of the fire. A good heat sink means that the material will readily absorb a great deal of heat from the fire and release it in a slow and steady manner. With material that has these properties an oven was constructed that had a fair number of shelves to hold the baked goods. Usually somewhat of a beehive shape.

To use the oven a fire was constructed, usually with faggots rather than split wood or limb wood. The reason is that the thinner branches of the faggot burned hotter and faster than the larger pieces. When the walls of the oven had reached maximum heat and all the fuel had been consumed (1.5 to 2 hours) then the smoke vent was closed, the oven was raked and swept out and usually mopped which left the oven in a moist state. Therefore there was no smoke or ash to contaminate the bread. The bread was loaded and cooked by the residual heat. It was possible to get more than one baking from the heat before the oven had to be fired again. The mopping moisture/steam contributed to the formation of a nice crust. When we get to the medieval period the town baker needed to produce enough that the ovens might be fired two or three times a day, and the first firing was fairly easy since the oven would still be warm from the last firing.

This whole operation is sometimes known as indirect baking in a falling oven, since the oven temperature was gradually and steadily decreasing. Therefore the bread was frequently loaded into a higher temperature oven than we use and the temperature was somewhat less by the time the bread was done and removed. Oh yeah, when we talk about loading and removing bread it was not done by hand. That’s suicide in that large and hot an oven. No, a peel was used to slide the goods in and out. You can see a peel used in most pizza joints today. It does take a bit of practice to get things in and out without making a mess or getting burned.

Now the point of all the above is how are we to duplicate the old style ovens and why should we bother? Taste and texture is the answer. We cannot get the rich crustiness of the old methods in modern home ovens without a bit of ingenuity.

Refractory material makes it possible to plop a standard round loaf down and have an immediate flash of heat into the bread resulting in a nicer and fuller oven spring than can be achieved by sliding it in on a cookie sheet. There are a couple of ways to get there, other than by building a bread oven in the back yard. First, you can spend from $30 to ridiculous on a pizza stone. These are usually round and don’t fill the whole available space. However they do work quite well and require very little maintenance. The next step up is the ceramic liner for the oven. These work wonderfully, but they start high and get higher.

However, for the dedicated tightwad there is a much better option. Go to the local big box Homey-D, Lowes, or equivalent and get quarry tiles in the flooring department. These are bricklike tiles 6” x 6” by 3/8” or thereabout. Should be less than $5.00 for enough to do the job. Take out the top rack and line the bottom rack. Instant refractory oven. Note that it takes longer to heat the oven than you are used to since we want the tiles or stone to absorb all the heat possible. This will not hold the heat that a full ceramic oven would but then we are not going to be baking the number of loaves that would be done in a commercial oven.

To duplicate the burst of steam that mopping the floor of the oven would produce we need only a simple spray bottle. Squirt the oven fairly heavily at loading time. Squirt again after about 30 seconds. Squirt again after a minute. That is usually enough.

For the professional baker all this is unnecessary. The sophisticated modern commercial ovens are programmable for varying temperature over time and have programmable steam injection systems. It takes a good bit of technology to make modern ovens duplicate the action of the original ceramic ovens.

On the Nature of Heat –

15 November 07

Look here, engineers and physicists, this is really simplified for home cooks, so don’t get too wrapped around the axle about the lack of precision here. And away we go –

As cooks we are concerned with heat. Cooking is by definition the preparation of food by the application of heat. Heat usually changes the food chemically and/or physically, so that it is safe and flavorful. Yes, we do speak of cooking in regard to some kitchen activity that does not require heat, but then we are just being sloppy with the language.

So, just what is this heat stuff? How does it work? How do we harness it for our taste buds?

We may regard heat as molecular action. The warmer the substance, the more excited and active the molecules are. Conversely, the cooler the substance, the less active the molecules are. Heat always flows downhill – from a warmer object to a cooler object in direct proportion to the temperature difference between the two, as modified by the efficiency of any insulation between the two. Second law of thermodynamics, if you care.

You do know that we can neither create nor destroy energy? We can, however, change form. That’s what we do when we change fuel into heat. We change the energy present in the fuel source to heat, which is just another form of energy. Back to the subject at hand –

Heat may be transferred by three methods:
1. Conduction, or direct touch. When you touch a hot stove and burn your finger it is by conduction.
2. Convection, or hot air (actually currents through a gas or liquid medium). When you feel the warm air coming from the supply registers of your furnace, this is convection.
3. Radiation. The sun’s energy travels to the earth through radiation. When you bask in the warmth of a fire, most of the heat transferred to you is radiant heat.

We cook with all three methods.

The skillet primarily uses conduction to transfer the heat to the food. This is especially enhanced by the use of fats in the skillet as the oil, grease, or whatever. Fat is a very efficient conductor of heat. Although I suppose one could also argue that the use of fat makes it into the convection category. (Sometimes it blurs a bit).

In baking convection is the primary heat transfer method. The air in the oven is heated and transfers to the food. There is some conduction as well as when a loaf is placed on a hot oven stone and the hot stone helps promote maximum oven spring before the top crust forms as well as crust formation on the bottom.

The main place that you see radiant heat in cooking is in broiling, where the heat source is above the food.

So, how come the top of the oven is hotter than the bottom? Heat rises. Lesser heat falls. Doesn’t cold fall? Not really, there is no such animal as cold unless all molecular activity has stopped – absolute 0. Somewhere around -460°F if memory still works. Cold is a nice human word to describe how we feel about it, but there is still heat there. Even when we’re shivering. Anyway, as a given material is heated the molecules become more excited and the material expands, which reduces the density when compared to the same material at a lesser temperature. Gravity works. The denser material flows below the less dense, and voila – heat rises. For the engineering/physics/curious types: Check out Boyle’s law, the ideal gas law, and all the other uglies that describe the heat/volume/pressure relationships on the net. This is why/how air conditioning, cooking, fire, heating, and most industrial stuff works and a significant chunk of our world depends on these little relationships.

Not to confuse things too much more. But I will anyway. There is a significant difference between heat amount and heat intensity. Intensity is easy – how hot is it? We measure in degrees, whether F (Fahrenheit), or C (Celsius [precise] or centigrade [sloppy]) or K (Kelvin), or whatever. We can feel intensity. Amount is measured another way. Here we use BTU, which is British Thermal Unit. A BTU is the amount of heat energy required to raise one pound of water one degree Fahrenheit. (The metric johnnies use the joule). Now this may be a little hard to grasp at first. A simple illustration with two questions should clear it up for you.

I have a one pound piece of steel. The temperature is 100°F.
I have a 10 pound piece of steel. The temperature is 80°F.
Which one is hotter?
Which one contains more heat?

The one pound at 100°F is hotter than the 10 pound at 80°F.
The 10 pound at 80°F contains more heat energy than the 1 pound at 100°F.

There you have the difference between amount and intensity.

It takes more energy to change state than it does to heat the same substance. A pound of water (liquid state) at 32°F. To boil that pound of water at sea level takes 1150 BTU of heat energy. About 84% of the heat energy is spent going from 212°F water (liquid state) to 212°F steam (gas state). There is also a large expansion in the volume that steam occupies vs. the same stuff in the water (liquid) state. That is why boilers can explode and what makes your teapot whistle.

There is a use for all this nonsense in the kitchen! We can never get higher than 212°F water at sea level. So 212°F is the hottest we can get food by boiling. Notice I said at sea level? We can get hotter than 212°F if we change the rules. If we get a pressure cooker, it changes the internal pressure as the water starts to boil! By raising the pressure we raise the boiling point, therefore the food cooks hotter, therefore faster. Conversely, if we try to boil water at high altitude, the boiling point is lower than 212°F and the cooking time is greatly extended. For instance, assuming that barometric pressure is 29.92 inches Hg, the boiling point of water at 1500 meters is 203°F. It gets worse as we go up the hill. I won’t even get into the whole barometric pressure routine, which does affect boiling point. We would also lose pressure as we went up said hill, but let’s not overcomplicate the mess. Main thing to note is that the guys at the top of the hill will probably need to extend boiling time of a given recipe (they already knew that). However – us lower down types need to know that we may need to reduce time a bit for a mountain recipe. Swiss, Carpathian, West Virginia or whatever recipes may need a bit of adjustment and careful watching the first time or two through them.

For those masochists that want more, there is a ton of good physics stuff out on the net. Search and ye shall find (with a good search engine).

Gender and the IRS –

13 November 07

A woman is suing the IRS to deduct the expenses for the sex-change process she underwent. She argues that because gender-identity disorder is a recognized mental disorder that is generally treated with hormones and surgery, the costs are legitimate medical deductions.

I don’t know that I buy this argument. At the moment this accomplishes the desired goal. But classifying this as a mental disorder ignores the medical aspects of having one gender brain in an opposite gender body. If male/female are exactly the same other than the externals and the hormones produced by those physical glands then this is indeed a mental problem. And a curable one at that.

However, if male/female are different because of real physical brain differences, then incorrect gender is a physical defect no different from any other and could/should not be treated any different than any other surgery to correct any other genetic anomaly. If this is not imagination then no amount of head pshrinking is going to mean a thing.

Brain scientists seem to be more and more convinced that there are subtle but measurable differences among male, female, gay, and lesbian brains. Are these “non-standard” brains defective? Are they normal? Where do these differences originate? From stresses in the womb? From external chemicals ingested while growing the fetus? Genetic inheritance? Chance mutation? Or are they normal products of normal reproduction? These questions really should be answered before we decide the wrong gender is a mental problem.

This is hardly in the same boat as choosing to have lips puffed up (which looks like hell, anyway). It does not seem to me to be in the same league with vanity surgery at all.

Now the whole gay born/made argument has to be reexamined. I had a very well known, somewhat liberal, psychiatrist wistfully tell me years ago that he was sorry gay had gotten popular and pc. He had never seen anything as easy as “turning” something like 90% of the gays who came to him for that in very short order. I had to point out that the ones who came to him already had the desire to be turned. And the will can overcome a boatload of adversity.

So, I will state what should be the obvious. Some gays are made. Whether self-made or “mama made him that way”, or whatever. Some are just situational. And some are “born that way”. Eventually a simple gene read should be able to tell which is what. But right now, a little rationality is called for.

Likewise we will possibly be able to diagnose the gender misplaced and correct it while young. One of these days. But, for now, anyone who is desperate enough to survive the whole gamut of testing, head shrinking, and the painful surgery involved damn sure ain’t kidding. A bit more drastic than just sticking some silicon in a boob. So, IRS, back off.

Of course, if we had something rational like the fair tax, the damned IRS would not need to be informed of the private affairs and motivations of citizens anyway.

Some Ruminations on Warfare –

10 November 07

Just some rather superficial observations. When I was much younger I studied von Clausewitz, Sun Tzu, strategy, tactics, legal theory of war and all that sort of stuff. If I drug in all that went behind these ruminations, I’d have a thick book instead of a short essay.

Observation the first: Whenever some theory of war as fought by some set of rules comes about, someone who does not play by the rules kicks butt. The knights and heavy cavalry had it reasonably well until people figured out grouped pikes – yes, the phalanx was revived. Then the unsporting Brit peasants started using bows. This was rough on knights and horses.

Observation the second: When a bunch of civilians is involved with the how, the result is chaos and loss. It is quite correct for the ruling civilians to say what the objectives are. For a nation, military force is an instrument of national policy. Therefore the ruling civilians can say what the objective is, the mistake is to allow the civilians to dictate how the war is fought. Look at the abortion that jackass Carter made of the Iranian hostage rescues. Yeah, it was Jimmy that micro-managed those soldier’s deaths and failure. The Congress is following the same path to failure. If you give the military an assignment, get out of the way and let them do their jobs.

Observation the third: Unless great care is taken, a military ossifies in peaceful times and loses the ability to think flexibly. It has been observed numerous times that we always fight the last war for the first half of the next war. Great daring is not the path to promotion in peacetime. Great tacticians are not trusted by bean counters and are cut off at the knees during the peacetime preceding the next war.

Observation the fourth: Most of the America hating people of this country have migrated to the left. These people will not only not serve in a voluntary military, they will do their dead level best to tear down the military so that no one will defend our country and its interests.

When a society loses the will to defend itself, it will surely fall. I saw an interview on FOX news where a woman was suing to prevent the military from recruiting in schools. Her cowardly son, of course, would not even consider service. When she was asked if we should even have a military, she would not answer. I suspect that she knew that she would be revealed as the fool that she is. Make no mistake – the worst enemies of this country are not those external who will do the conquering. The worst are the cowards and traitors who are rotting from within. The irony is that these adamant proclaimers of their ‘rights’ are the ones who will kiss the invader’s butts the fastest. Or die. I hope you America hating libs enjoy bowing down, for your conquerors will require that you not only bow to Allah, but you also bow to your masters as the slaves you will be. You will have brought it on yourselves and your children. I will bet the farm that you don’t have the guts to stand up to your Moslem conquerors and insist on your ‘rights’. Try telling them that you have the right to your own opinion.

There is not a country in the world that has any resources worth mentioning that can ‘study war no more’. As surely as they try that, some envious neighbor will take those resources. It is only by being willing to fight an invader that invasion is prevented. Conquest is not dead in the world.

The other thing to worry about is hatred. If a country or a people is viewed as an object of hatred, someone will inevitably try to remove the hated object from the planet. Ask the Jews about that. You can also ask the various tribes in Africa that have been targeted for extermination by their neighbors. The only thing that will stop genocide is military force.

Oh yes, let’s have the UN police the world. Well, the UN will not function even at its current incompetent level without US tax dollars and US troops. The UN ‘peacekeepers’ have committed some of the worst acts in history. The Belgians serving in Somalia regularly tortured children. Belgium is part of the ‘civilized’ European Union that regularly lectures us about ‘civilized behavior’. Do you libs really want people like that dictating your behavior? I don’t. I say that you people will either wake up or you will see modern civilization go up in smoke.

BTW – one particular incident in which two Belgian soldiers roasted a child over a fire and was caught on film was dismissed by the UN as “a form of playing without violence”. Really? It is nice to know that the UN considers it ok to roast someone. It isn’t violence, it’s just playing. The UN’s policy is to not embarrass member nations..

You don’t see stuff like that in the liberal US news media, they are too busy digging up any dirt they can on our country. According to the liberal media it is inhumane to keep killers taken on the battlefield at Gitmo, and you have certainly heard a load about that. But you haven’t heard beans about UN atrocities. Check it out. It happens. It’s real. Now tell me once again how we don’t need a military, the UN or Santa Claus will protect us.

Oh yeah, we have passed beyond all that. Well, we only have to look within our own society to see that people have not changed since the dawn of time. We can see gays that have been brutally murdered for being gay. Blacks have been killed by whites for being black. Whites have been killed by blacks for being white. People are routinely murdered for less than twenty dollars. Nations are not any different. The fact is that the psycho nations will kill for little or no reason. We cannot stop murder in this country by talking nice to the murderers. We cannot stop a psycho people by caving in or talking nice. It someone wishes you dead, you can only stop that happening by force. Or by running far enough away. We haven’t yet figured how to pick up a country and move it into hiding. Only the military option will keep you alive and free.

Oh well, we deserve whatever bad happens to us. 9/11 was our own fault. People don’t attack unless provoked. I say again, look at crime. According to this logic, the women raped and tortured to death asked for it. The taxi driver brutally murdered was the one at fault. The convenience store clerk killed for pocket change was the aggressor. I guess I’m just too stupid to see that. I believe that aggressors should be stopped. You can’t do that without organized force. That’s called a military. They are still necessary.

Ol’ Curmudgeon Away!

7 November 07

Herself sez: The Ol’ Curmudgeon is away for a few days, but will return to the blogosphere on Saturday. I miss him!!


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