Thursday, June 26, 2008

Stalkers Rejoice!

I recently discovered that my house has been added to Google street view (and even though it's not very web 2.0 of me, I'm NOT posting a link to my address. Figure it out yourselves, sickos - and bear in mind that I rig the Kentucky burglar alarm nightly).

For those of you not familiar, using Google and an address, you can look up a picture of any listed property. In my case, the picture was taken last fall, and all they have on my property is a lovely view of one of the soon-to-be whacked trees in front of my house.

While the internet is supremely useful in building communities and keeping track of friends and family (or total strangers, for that matter), I'm not sure how comfortable I am with the idea that anyone can hop online and look at my house. There's such a thing as being TOO close or too wired in. Unfortunately, the alternative seems to be to cut yourself off from the world entirely, and I don't think I'm quite ready to move to a little cabin in the woods (perhaps after my manifesto is complete).

At the very least, they could have at least let me know so that I could have raked up the leaves. Wow. Talk about embarrassing.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Normalcy Returns (or Long, Rambly Post About Not Much at All)

Things finally returned to a semblance of normalcy over the weekend. After all the planning, prepping and celebrating, we discovered that the inside of the house was one mountain of crap piled upon others, and the outside looked as if the prairie was threatening to reclaim the land.

Now I've long loathed yard work, so much that I've considered buying a goat. However, since I can barely handle taking care of a dog, I'm not sure I could do much better with a goat. Besides they smell funny and they scare me (I once watched one attack my brother; true story - he was posing for a picture, and the goat looked up with hate and malice in his eyes, lowered his head and butted my brother right into the ground. Then the goat kicked sand in his face and laughed at him . . . or something like that. My memory gets a little rusty at times).

In any case, the yard needed some major therapy, so I woke up bright and early Saturday, dug out the lawn mower and got to work. Afterwards, I discovered that using a weed eater that's falling apart can be a painful experience (those little cords hurt! And the rocks and crap it kicks up? Not fun at all).

Finally, I broke out the tree trimmer and started working on the tree in front of the house. For several months, I've watched pedestrians duck as the low-hanging branches threaten to take off their heads, and while I found it funny for awhile, I realized that standing on the front porch while laughing and pointing at them wasn't a good idea. Plus, I recalled that things like that annoyed the hell out of me in my dog walking days, so the branches had to go.

In short, I remembered again why lawn work tries my soul.

However, it wasn't all drudgery over the weekend. I also broke out the new toy - some friends bought us a deep fryer for a wedding present. Now, I realize that this might seem like a Bad Idea. I love fried foods. I also have a marked tendency to burn the bejeesus out of myself while in the kitchen, and I'm not above setting off a grease fire here or there. However, I'm happy to report that the inaugural fried chicken did not cause me or the kitchen to light up like a bonfire - and it was cooked through! Now I just have to remember not to cook everything in it. One of my life goals is NOT to have a heart attack before I turn 40, and a deep fryer in the kitchen probably won't help that too much.

Basically, it was a pleasant, mundane weekend; something that's been missed around here for quite some time. Can't wait to have a few more.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Cooking With Gas No Longer

Things have settled down since the wedding, so I've been able to return to some of my more mundane enjoyments: namely cooking. I celebrated the lovely weather Tuesday night to fire up the grill and fix some bratwurst.

However, this time I decided to mix things up a bit. The latest Cooks Illustrated inspired me to try something new. First, I sliced up an onion, dropped the slices in a bowl and seasoned them with a little salt, pepper and thyme. I microwaved the onions, then placed them into an aluminum tray and placed the brats on top.

The plan from there is to put the wrapped foil tray on the grill for several minutes, letting the fat render from the brats onto the onions, and then remove the brats and finish them on the grill. Unfortunately, my grill simply doesn't generate much heat.

When I moved into the house, the grill was built in, which is a nice feature, except that over the years, I've learned that it simply doesn't get very hot, and when you're grilling, very hot is where you need it to be.

And after this experiment, which after awhile turned out okay, I'm done with the gas grills. I have a very small charcoal grill, and after using it a few times over the last year, I'm ready to move up to a larger charcoal model - I like the flavor better, I like the hotter fires, and frankly, it's more fun cooking with charcoal.

Any suggestions or favorite models? I'd love to hear it.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Old Tyme Religion

Much as I try to tune it out, the "culture wars" keep creeping into my consciousness from time to time. And frankly, I find most of them to be utter bullshit.

Take the separation of church and state. Basically, there's a custody battle going on over the founding fathers, and just what their intentions were as they framed the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Were they god-fearing Christians, hoping to settle a new Christian nation, and achieve the ideal City on a Hill, or were they ardent rationalists or deists?

Steven Waldman attempts to answer these questions in Founding Faith: Providence, Politics, and the Birth of Religious Freedom in America, which he largely does.

I think it's very easy to view historical figures as static portraits on a canvas. They don't move, they don't change, and they always remain the same, so it becomes very easy to not look at the founding fathers as actual people, with the same strengths and weaknesses. Take Thomas Jefferson, someone the right wing loves to take out of context. Jefferson believed in Jesus - but as a philosopher. He utterly rejected the divinity of Christ. In his spare time, Jefferson wrote his own version of the Bible, one that contained no references to the supernatural: no miracles, no healing, only Jesus teaching his followers. In fact, Jefferson had little use for organized religion.

Madison actually wanted even more separation between church and state, but political realities and necessities forced him to compromise. Washington frequently used religion to rally his troops, but he rarely attended church himself (as did most citizens in the early years of the nation).

Waldman does a fine job researching the views of several founders, and he comes to the conclusion that the truth lies somewhere in between the two sides of today. While some founders weren't comfortable with the idea of state-supported religion, others saw little or no problem with it. However, Madison and Jefferson were firmly in support of a strict separation between the two.

While the book is a little dry and academic at times, it is still an interesting topic and well worth the time.

77 (out of 100).