Thursday, May 28, 2009

Enough is enough already...

I'm mad as Hell and I'm not going to take it anymore. But I'm not just going to rant about it, I have a solution, and it's an ACME Thunderer whistle!

Are you getting phone calls from scam artists trying to sell you vehicle warranty extensions? Or how about new low rate credit cards? It doesn't matter if you're on the supposed "no-call" lists, it's all a scam and these sharks don't play by the rules. They even go to great lengths to hide their true identity and from where the calls are originating. Has your Caller I.D. displayed a number such as 0-000-000-0000 or 1-999-999-9999, or FLORIDA?

Their first deception is hiding the origin of the call.

Next they say (a pre-recorded message) "we have been trying to reach you." LIAR!

Third, they say "your vehicle warranty is about to expire!" LIAR!

They know nothing of your vehicle warranty, if you have one, or if you even have a vehicle!

Lastly, the message will end with a bit of promise, "this is the last courtesy call we will make to you!" LIAR!

They will call you again and again and again until you either sign up or disconnect your phone.

The one accurate part of the message is, "press 9 (or whatever number they have chosen) to speak to a representative now before your warranty expires!"

That is the chink in their armor and here is the solution.

Get yourself a nice quality whistle (I prefer ACME Thunderer's)

or any obnoxious noise making device and place it by the phone. Next time you get a call and your caller I.D. displays something you know to be bogus, don't ignore it, answer it!

Press the number specified and when the scum-bag operator (they know what they are doing) answers to hopefully sell you something you don't need and up their chances of making quota this month, you give them a lung-full of ACME Thunderer right into their cheap Plaintronix, headset!

A few people doing this would be a rare annoyance. But if EVERYBODY did it... we could put them out of business! (and have a little guilty fun doing it).

I got this idea from Mrs. SpecialEd. In her college days she was subject for a time to a regular prank/obscene caller. She was also a lifeguard who knew a thing or two about whistles. When the obscene caller called, she gave him what-for with her trusty ACME Thunderer and lo and behold, after a couple times, the calls stopped! (I still can't get that ringing out of my ears! :) )

Friday, March 13, 2009

The perfect bowl of Red!

Does such a thing even exist? Or is it the mythological Holy Grail of chili heads everywhere?

We've had some 60 degree days this week and even though it's 39 degrees as I type, there are some trees starting to bud. So Spring is coming and Winter is on it's way out... (not soon enough! I may have been known,in the past, as Eddy the Yeti for my love of snow and winter but wheelchairs and snow do not mix!)

So even with Spring upon us and Summer's humidity and cooling bills roaring down the tracks in our direction, I am still clutching tightly to my cast-iron Dutch oven and wooden spoon (chili stick) in pursuit of that perfect bowl of Red.

The more I try the more I have come to realize that simple is best and less is more. As an old friend who is a food critic and editor for our local rag (It's Gannett owned) recently put it:

There's a certain beautiful purity in its authentic treatment.
Well Eric is a journalist who gets paid to talk purdy. Me, I'm just a hack blogger who likes to eat but we are both saying the same thing. Minimalism. Original, Texas chili was little more than meat and chilies. I've had Lamb and Black Bean Chili, Cincinnati Chili, Chili made with smoked brisket and even Vegetarian Chili! (talk about an oxymoron). Don't get me wrong, they can all be done very well but I wanted to get back to the roots of chili. Meat; venison or beef and cubed not ground! Ground beef is good, it's much easier and much quicker to prepare but some chuck cut into 1/2 inch cubes and simmered for two hours is so worth the effort. Chili Powder; lots of chili powder. Good chili powder, not the McCormmics from ACME but good quality stuff like Gebhardts or Pendery's from Texas or else stop at one of the ubiquitous local Mexican markets and buy yourself some dried Ancho, etc., and grind it up at home in your coffee grinder.

Then... just keep it simple! I prefer cubed meat to ground but cubed meat takes more preparation and longer to cook, so as opposed to almost no prep time and 20 minutes simmering, cubed meat will require dicing the meat and two hours or more of simmering. It can take a little time to cut 3-4 lbs of chuck into 1/2 inch cubes. It's worth it!

Basic chili:
  • oil

  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

  • 1-3 onions

  • 3 lbs cubed chuck

  • 2 tablespoons cumin

  • 5 tablespoons chili powder

  • 2 teaspoons salt

  • 2 tablespoons paprika

  • cayenne pepper to taste

  • 1 6oz can tomato paste

  • 4 cups water

  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano

  1. Poor a little oil in a heated skillet or Dutch oven. Saute the garlic and onion until soft.

  2. Add the beef and brown on all sides.

  3. Add the spices and tomato paste, stirring well.

  4. Add the water and bring to a strong simmer for 15 minutes.

  5. Reduce the heat and simmer about 2 hours until the beef is tender.
It should be "good 'n thick." If not either use some flour or masa harina to thicken it up. Masa harina is corn meal that can be found in most markets now. If you can't find any mas harina, crumble up a handful of tortilla chips until really fine and stir that into your chili pot.

That is a basic pot of chili. To go from there you can substitute a number of items for the water, such as beef broth, tomato juice, V-8, beer, etc. You can also mix your chili powders (try some chipotele chili powder for a smokey, earthy flavor.) If you must you can add diced some green and or red peppers but before you do that try some chipotele peppers or chipotele in adobo sauce.
Also you can add tomatoes in almost any form if you like. But remember, authentic chili should get its color from the chiles not from tomato and paprika.


Ok, here's my take on beans. I don't mind beans and have been eating them in chili for years but for many people beans are a deal breaker. Beans should be prepared on the side and added by choice. Besides, beans don't always hold up so well in the pot.

One last hint:

Chili gets better in the pot after it has sat in the fridge overnight. The leftovers are almost always better than the first serving. (a tip for anyone entering a chili contest, cook it a day or two in advance!)
For futher reading:
The Ultimate Chili Book by Christopher B. O'Hara
A Bowl of Red by Frank X. Tolbert
The Great Chili Book by Bill Bridges

Friday, January 2, 2009

"I don't know nuthin 'bout no restrospect, but lookin' back..."

Thank you to heavy weight boxer Larry "the Easton Assassin" Holmes for the immortal words that make up today's title!

Here we are again, another year gone by another one started. Looking back at last year's New Year's post, I did ok. I made a point to reconnect and stay connected to a few friends that had drifted away. I didn't do as well as I hoped but I made progress.

The Saturn is still in the garage neither sold nor donated, just taking up space and grating on Mrs. SpecialEd's last nerves. At least I turned in the registration and we are not paying insurance on it.

The house is still a disaster, we've made progress in some areas and lost ground in others. It's tough just keeping the tide at bay.

The GrillDome although not used as much recently has still hung in there and not let me down. I did some pulled pork a few weeks back for a nephew in need and also smoked some salmon on Christmas Eve for a couple of lucky SpEd Siblings as surprise Christmas gifts.

And speaking of cooking Christmas gifts, something has happened and Mrs. SpecialEd and I totally blew the fudge this year. We made about five batches and only one of them really turned out right. The others hardened in the pan, on the spoon halfway from the pan to the cooling dish, anywhere but the right spot. We followed our usual recipe from the past, used a thermometer, did everything we were supposed to do but no luck this year. We had to resort to Costco and some fudgie wudgie brand fudge for our special friend who was counting on us. (you know who you are!) But it's ok, fudgie wudgie is awesome stuff!

I got my HAM license and have been on the air on the local 2 meter and 440 mhz bands. Still saving for that HF rig but I began studying the Morse code in earnest when I got a tutoring program on CD from the ARRL for Christmas then downloaded a free program from the web called G4FON to compliment my practice.

As with any year there have been ups and downs and pluses and minuses, this year taking a backseat to no other. BUT (and here is the gist of this message for the three of us that actually read this blog) in spite of the roller coaster ride ups and downs of another year and as bad as the economy is, blah blah blah... we are still plugging away and moving forward. We have a roof over our heads, food in the fridge, good health, (humans and doggies), the house is heated and praise whatever Gods may be, the x-box, cable tv and Internet still works! Matter of fact the SpecialEd Boys declared this "the best Christmas, ever!"

Happy New Year everyone!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

CQ, CQ, CQ... KB3RUX in da house!

After putting it off for years and years, I decided that it was either now or never so last month I got a book and started studying for an Amateur Radio License, more commonly referred to as a HAM license.

I got myself a little handheld dual-band (2 meter and 70 centimeter) radio. (think walkie-talkie).

I studied for the first element, the Technician Class license but then with a week to go before testing, I found out I could keep testing as long as I passed so I got a book and studied the last week for the second element or General Class license.

The big day arrived last Saturday, October 11th, and I went to a local library for a testing session. There were maybe 8-10 of us testing for the three different levels. I zipped through the first test and the testing coordinators asked me if I wanted to take the second one so I said "bring it on! I zipped through that one fairly quickly too so I was offered the third test. At first I declined as I knew I was not prepared and it's about 40/45% longer of a test also.

Well the testing coordinators convinced me I had nothing to lose and would at least get an idea what the test was like so I agreed.

I did NOT zip through the third test and they say I got just about half of them right but no matter, I achieved my goal and then some, so it was a good day.

Next the waiting... You aren't official, and can't transmit until your name and new call sign appear online in the FCC database.

Well after checking everyday it finally showed up on Thursday. Due to other things going on like day to day life and such I did not make my first transmit until this afternoon. A short contact with a couple guys from not too far away. The 2 meter and 70 centimeter bands are only good for local transmissions but with the use of nearby repeaters I can reach most of Northern Delaware as well as lots of Southeastern Pennsylvania, Southern New Jersey and Northeastern Maryland.

Having attained the second level or General Class, I am licensed to transmit on frequencies that will get me across the country and around the world but I need to save my pennies for a radio that will do that. But with my van going in the shop, and Annie going to the Vets and SpecialEd Boy #2 starting on braces, etc., etc., it won't be anytime soon.

So from now on, I am no longer SpecialEd, Eddie, Mr. Ed or Hey You... I am KB3RUX, that's Kilo Bravo Three Romeo Uniform X-ray!

73's and hope to catch you on the airwaves!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Zombie Mosquitoes From Hell!

No it's not a B movie from the 1950s or another outrageous book by Australian children's author Andy Griffiths. It's really about mosquitoes, The Asian Tiger Mosquito to be exact or more formally Aedes albopictus.

These are not the brownish salt marsh and woodland pool mosquitoes I remember from my youth but a newer species to the US.

As their name implies, they are originally from Asia but are so invasive they are now found on every continent, excluding Antarctica! They were first found in the US in 1985, in a shipment of used tires in Houston, TX and now range over most of the South and as for north as Maine.

They are very aggressive and are outcompeting the native species of mosquitoes we are all used to. You know the little brown ones that usually only came out at dusk? They are also described as "fast biters" meaning they are done draining your blood before you have a chance to swat them. I don't even feel the bites, just the horrendous itch that comes afterwards.

These buggers are active throughout the day and don't seem to be put off by the smoke billowing from my cooker. I can't go out to my cooker or even sit and smoke a relaxing pipe without having to spray myself with bug spray.

Well this week when I placed another order for smoking wood from Lexington Outdoors of Maine, I checked out their anti-pest products. The world's greatest customer service rep, my friend Dorie, is sending some samples of Ole Time Woodsman Fly Dope for me and some NoSkeeto mosquito barrier for the yard.

It may be a little late in the season but hopefully by this time next week I will have reclaimed my backyard!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Best Thing About August?

In the otherwise oppressive, drab, dreary, dog days of August, there is something that makes it all worthwhile. Something golden and sunny that tastes like summer... peaches!

I've made two cobblers so far and they turned out very well but not quite what I'm looking for. (the great thing about this trial and error routine is that even the errors are pretty darn good!)

Admittedly, the ratio of peaches to crust was a little off here but no matter it was delicious!

I'm looking for a crust that is a little more crumbly than what I've come up with so far. So, if anyone would like to share their favorite cobbler recipe, I'd greatly appreciate it.

Now for some homemade peach ice cream!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Dog Days of Summer

As most Retrievers have an affinity for water, this is one happy pup!

It also helps to keep his mind off the BBQ... at least temporarily.

How can you NOT, love that face?