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Wednesday 2018.3.21

Happy Springtime

Yesterday was the first day of spring. We are well on our way marching toward summer. If I remember correctly, the days are getting longer by the most amount each day, about 2 minutes.


Here in Southern California we are marking the beginning of spring with some serious rain, the first significant rain all season. There have been storms and one dropped so much rain in a short period of time to cause debris flows that destroyed homes, killed people, and closed down the 101 freeway in Montecito. However, none of the storms amounted to much accumulation of water in the reservoirs.

The rain falling now is making a difference. What we've needed is a slow-moving storm that would drop rain for several days on our region. It started raining in earnest yesterday and will continue through tomorrow night and possibly into Friday. In preparation, I lit my oil lamps and let them burn a few minutes to eliminate any accumulated wax. I'm ready, should the power go out.

As is my custom, I opened the drapes during the day and watched it rain outside, warm and dry in my home. I can't help thinking what work might be like, the smell of wet umbrellas and rain coats in the office. I joked with one neighbor, telling him I prepared for this storm by locating my umbrella and shaking the dust off it. It would be the first time I used it, to go check the mail.

One serious storm, of course, won't help us break our way out of this drought. We need several of these. But the rainy season will be over soon; so there isn't much time left. However, it was fun to watch it rain outside while sipping a cup of hot coffee at home.

Another DIY Medical Procedure

Last week Wednesday I mentioned having ordered from Amazon a device that removes moles and skin tags. It arrived on Monday and looks like this:

I looked online to see how it works and found nothing, so far. My guess is that when the tip of the pen touches the skin it causes a little arc, or spark, the heat of which slightly burns the skin. I think hair removal devices work the same way. The voltage is low but the amperage (current) is high enough to generate heat.

I did a video testing the device on a little bump on a finger. You can watch it by clicking the graphic.


Later, I worked on a couple moles on my face. Doing due diligence, I did have a dermatologist look at them to make certain they weren't skin cancer. They're not. I also researched those too. They come with age. Our body can remove unwanted deterioration as it develops, but as we get older that ability degrades. The deterioration ends up on the surface as a mole or liver spot. This pen is supposed to help eliminate the buildups.

It can also be used to burn off skin tags. Given that my last procedure to remove a few skin tags cost me $300, this pen (at less than 10% what I paid the dermatologist) is a bargain if it works. The reviews and YouTube videos I saw said it works as advertised.

I've only just started testing, but I feel confident. Which leads into:

More Experimentation

Later yesterday I decided to experiment with a rather large skin tag under my left arm. I had read it was better to attack a skin tag from the base rather than from the top down. I did this by positioning the needle point of the pen at the base and then pressing the "Out" button to zap it. I did it several times. Did it hurt? A little. I was, after all, burning skin. I'll know in a few days whether or not it was successful.

Sunday 2018.3.18

The Changing News

There was a time when I might turn on the late news in the evening to hear a few last developments or the latest opinions of some story that broke earlier in the day. Now, more and more I am seeing cable news programs having to scrap their planned content and cover something new, on the fly, as the latest story breaks only minutes earlier.

It happened again Friday evening as I tuned into my favorite MSNBC program, The 11th Hour with Brian Williams. I like his program because he seems fair. He allows contributors to answer his questions without interrupting them after only a few words.

The worst is Chris Matthews. He asks for an opinion from someone and then almost immediately interrupts them with another question, and then another, and another. I can't watch his program Hardball. If Matthews wants to do all the talking, MSNBC shouldn't put contributors on his show.

Williams had to basically start with a new program at 11:00 PM (EST) after two new stories broke during the evening. FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe was fired by the Justice Department late Friday and Donald Trump's attorney Michael Cohen filed a $20 million lawsuit against Stormy Daniels, alleging 20 violations of the non-disclosure act protecting Trump from revelations about their sexual affair.

More and more, the news is changing to entertainment rather than information. Part of the reason has been the cable channels sensationalizing the news to attract more viewers and improve ratings for higher profits. But the government itself, especially Trump, are to blame for creating the sensationalism by their daily actions.

Who Knew?

On Wednesday evening I received an intriguing email from someone in Japan. She tried to donate to my web site using the Donate button you see at the top of the left column, right beneath the camper/trailer graphic. Her donation was blocked. I asked PayPal for help and got nothing useful from them. She contacted PayPal in Japan and learned they block payments into and out of the country. The Japanese can only donate to fellow Japanese. (Maybe Donald Trump should put tariffs on my recipes going to Japan?)

In exploring PayPal I found a new feature. It's a PayPal.me link that can be used to instantly send someone money. For me, it is PayPal.me/DennisViau. She used it successfully to send me a generous donation. She said she was thankful that she could now contribute something rather than taking my recipes without showing some appreciation. Thank you.

Seeing an opportunity here (I am, after all, reading books about Donald Trump), I created a new button to use on my recipe pages.

Make a donation with PayPal

The recipes are free and I don't require, or even request, any compensation for them. This web site, along with my YouTube channels, are among the pastimes I set up for myself to enjoy in retirement. I don't always feel like cooking and writing recipes (I've been taking some time off recently, eating the foods I stored in the freezer), but I do enjoy sharing my recipes. And if others want to show their appreciation, donations are always welcome.

And So Let the Maintenance Begin

Having found this new method of receiving donations through PayPal, I now face the daunting process of updating all my recipe pages (all 580 of them) with the new link. I'm not complaining, however, because most of them have a simple error on them, a meta tag that is in upper case letters rather than lower case. That might not mean much to you, and it doesn't affect their available on the Internet, but it means the recipe pages have a red X toward the bottom on my software, indicating an error. I've been wanting to fix those. Now I have an excuse.

I am starting with the recipes for my ten most popular videos on YouTube. I'll do the others later. And, to be honest, I don't know if many people even look at the recipes on this web site. They can get nearly all the information they need from watching the videos.


I mentioned in an earlier blog the books I've been reading. They help me to understand something. When Donald Trump says on TV — "I have no investments in Russia; I have no dealings with Russia; I have no loans from Russia" — he is probably telling the truth. The reason is that he often sees himself and his Trump organization as two separate entities. When it serves his needs, he compartmentalizes. He might have no personal involvements with Russia, but that doesn't mean his business dealings are isolated from Russia.

He did that when speaking about the bankruptcies. He never filed for bankruptcy — but his businesses have. He believes this gives him a better credit rating when asking to borrow vast sums of funds from banks (which his businesses borrow, not him).

USA banks won't lend to him anymore. He's a bad risk. He can borrow money from Russia because they are less concerned with repayment of his loans. They can squeeze him for favors, such as helping them launder money through the American real estate market. Interest on loans might earn a bank millions of dollars, but money laundering schemes can earn Russian oligarchs billions of dollars. Which would you choose?

And, Finally, Some Books

I finished reading The Truth About Trump and started reading Russian Roulette.

The Truth book is more of a brief biography of Trump — his childhood, education, early real estate deals with his father, etc. I haven't read much of the Roulette book yet, only four chapters, but it appears to be so informative, I might want to read it twice. I blogged about the books, along with some news, in my latest Kitchen Vlog. You can link to it here:


Wednesday 2018.3.14


I had the same symptoms this year as I had three years ago during winter. Back then, I went to the doctor because I had severe pain in my lower abdomen. I thought I might have a bladder infection, having suffered one earlier when a hospital gave me a staff infection. The doctor found no sign of infection. By late that evening the other symptoms manifested and proved that it was a case of the flu.

I get a flu shot every fall, especially now that I am well into my 60s. Flu can be dangerous for someone who is elderly. This year, according to the Center for Disease Control, the flu shot is said to be about 25% effective against the virus strain that is causing most illnesses and deaths. Federal health officials projected more than 50,000 Americans would die from the flu this season.

Having a flu shot, even if I get sick, is better than going without one because the vaccination can reduce the symptoms and help a person recover more quickly. I felt ill for one day and only mildly ill the following day. Today I am feeling normal again, except for the back pain.

My Aching Back

I continue to heal from my back injury. I've been through this enough times to know what to expect. Recovery, especially as I get older, takes a while.

More Home Treatment

You might remember I cauterized my own nose back in November. I did this in a Kitchen Vlog video. You can watch that video by CLICKING HERE.

I mentioned in the video seeing a dermatologist for moles and skin tags. The good news was that there is no skin cancer, which I was worried about. The bad news was the cost. Because I had a few skin tags removed, I had to pay for the entire visit. That visit, along with the copays, cost me a total of around $300. If the skin tags hadn't been mentioned, the visit would have been covered by my insurance.

I did some research on YouTube and found there is a little device that zaps skin tags and moles to remove them. I like little appliances like that. I know the doctors don't like them because they can't charge a patient (or the patient's insurance company) for a treatment done at home. I ordered the device.

I'm hesitant to recommend it because moles can be really serious. Really. Their appearance, especially on skin where there were no moles before, can be a symptom of melanoma. That can be a very serious form of cancer. If untreated, especially early, it can be fatal. As I said above, I went to a dermatologist and confirmed that I do not have skin cancer. Never remove moles until a dermatologist has an opportunity to examine them. I feel as though I can't say that enough.

The device won't arrive until next week. Lately I've seen Amazon hold an order as long as seven days before shipping, probably to cause enough impatience to persuade a shopper to pay $99 per year for Amazon Prime. I won't do it because I can wait 10 days for something to arrive, especially an expensive item. That Haier portable washing machine I ordered would have cost me $53 to ship if I hadn't taken advantage of Amazon's free shipping.

Going Nuts

Not literally. However, several months ago I said in a Kitchen Vlog that I looked forward to the books that would eventually be published about Donald Trump. I said the books were probably being written at the time. If I had only known…

The books are coming out faster than I can read them, and I'm retired. I have plenty of time. There is almost nothing worth watching on TV. I'm probably too old to take a speed-reading course — besides, I like too many of the details to skim over them; I read every word.

It seems like two new books are published for each one I read. I'll probably never catch up, but at the very least, I feel informed.

So What?

The Washington Post did a lengthy and detailed (tedious) analysis of the voting yesterday in Pennsylvania, complete with lots of graphs. I tried to read it, but lost interest quickly. I do enjoy statistical analyses sometimes, but this time was too much.

In a nutshell, what did we learn from the special election? The 18th Congressional District in Southwestern Pennsylvania has been a Republican stronghold for many years. In some elections the Republican candidate won unopposed — no Democratic challenger ran for office. In an average race Rick Saccone would have won easily. Trump won in the district by 20 points in 2016. Conor Lamb's victory over Saccone represents a shift. Enough registered Republicans voted against Trump to give the election to Lamb.

I stress against. Not everyone in Trump's base is turning against him, but some are beginning to display their impatience with him by voting for a Democrat. I've said it often in the past — many voters use their ballot to protest.

Donald Trump and Mike Pence's efforts to rally votes for Saccone failed to produce results. You might remember that some Republican candidates did not want George W. Bush's support in their race in 2008. His endorsement was considered toxic to their campaign. We might see the same happen this fall and in 2020. As Trump continues to tarnish his presidency, Republican candidates might avoid his help. This might be especially true if the midterms this November swing to the Democrats' favor.

Sunday 2018.3.11

Daylight Saving Time

Here in the USA most of the states switched to Daylight Saving Time (DST) early this morning. We moved our clocks ahead so that the sun sets an hour later, giving us an extra hour of sunshine in the evening.

I like DST. I like having that extra hour in the evening. For people who wake up to the sound of an alarm clock in the morning, it might mean getting up in the dark, which might not be pleasant. I'm retired; so I wake up when my brain says it wants to. DST helps me when I do cooking videos because I have an extra hour to shoot the final photographs of the food — I prefer to do that photography using natural lighting.

Some states, like Arizona, don't switch to DST. They remain in Standard Time year round. Other states (Florida is considering it) are thinking of remaining in DST for the entire year. During the Nixon administration the country remained in DST for an entire year when OPEC manipulated oil production to raise prices. It was thought DST would help people use less gas and oil. It didn't. If I remember correctly, the energy saving was less than 1%.

I did a little research and one site said Benjamin Franklin came up with the idea of Daylight Saving Time, thinking people would burn fewer candles in the evening. Another web site said there are fewer auto accidents during DST.

I don't know if I care about moving to DST year round here in California. As I said above, I'm retired. It won't affect my getting out of bed in the morning, but that additional hour of daylight in the evening might be welcome. However, I don't foresee any change. It seems like every time we switch from one time to the other, there is talk about remaining permanently in one or the other. But nothing is ever decided. That's government for you.


I finished reading my sixth book about the Trump fiasco. Some might not agree with that characterization, but I don't care. They're free to write their own blog.

The book is Media Frenzy: Donald Trump, The Press, and the War Over the Truth by Howard Kurtz. Lest you think it is another diatribe against the president because it has the name "Donald Trump" in the title, it was more about the media storm surrounding Trump. There is the intense media coverage of every action of the president and there is the over-reaction of the media every time Trump refers to them as Fake News and the Enemy of the People. Hatred begets all kinds of actions and reactions.

One quote seems to sum it up appropriately: "Just as with the hurricane in Puerto Rico, a tragedy wasn't big news until it became a Trump story."

I thought it was a well balanced narrative. Yes, Trump creates a firestorm of controversy nearly every time he signs an executive order or speaks extemporaneously in public. And, yes, the media has had its gun sight trained on him since he announced his candidacy, looking for every little (and large) detail to criticize vehemently. It's books like this that give me some perspective on the daily news. Is it truth or is it hype?

Although I consider myself more liberal than conservative, and I live in a bastion of educated liberal thinking on the West Coast, I shy away from the overly-liberal media. I eschew most of MSNBC. Rachel Maddow — sometimes called "Rachel Mad Dog" — is the most offensive. While many of the network's programs offer news and opinion, Maddow's show is news and attitude. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams is my favorite. Thankfully, it comes on at a reasonable hour here, 8:00 pm.

And thus I read books. It seemed appropriate that the next book to read should be The Truth About Trump by Michael D'Antonio. I started reading it yesterday.

How is My Back?

It still hurts. These injuries take weeks to heal. I've been through this several times. As I said in an earlier blog, I am thankful this one wasn't bad enough to prevent me from getting out of bed. There have been no spasms — just stiffness and pain. I can even ride my bike to the store and back. I'll be fine in a few weeks. In the meantime, I walk around a little stooped over.


We are getting some much-needed rain this week. It rained yesterday, although the morning was a little amusing. Once again, we were in a doughnut hole of dry weather while the rain was falling all around us. Here is a sample of the weather radar at about 10:30 yesterday morning:

I live on that coast, near Santa Barbara. The weather was coming from the west. Zooming out on the radar, the bulk of the storm was approaching. Later in the morning it arrived and we enjoyed steady rain during the afternoon. I opened my drapes. One of my favorite pastimes in retirement is to be home, dry and warm, watching it rain outside. I was not disappointed. By this morning the rain had passed. Another storm is due to arrive later this week.

As For Cooking…

I am still using up frozen foods, keeping with my New Year's Resolution to empty my freezer. I have eight cups of homemade chicken stock remaining, of the more than 42 cups that were in there. The stock will be gone before the end of March. I have enough chicken trim to make more stock, which I'll need later.

Beef chuck steaks are thawing. I'll use those to make more Beef and Bean Chili in my Instant Pot later today. Seeing the back of the freezer at some shelf levels is like seeing light at the end of a tunnel.

Chili is a trade-off. The steaks get used, but the chili will be portioned and frozen. I'll probably use some of the chicken stock to make a cheater beef stock by adding some Better Than Bouillon brand beef base. It works well. And the chili won't last long. I love a bowl of chili in winter, especially when it is cold and raining outside.

And I continue to take time off from doing cooking videos. I want to sit and read. I don't want to stand while my back is sore. I'm still eyeing English Muffins as my next video project. When the freezer is near empty I'll need to think about cooking again, and that will probably result in more videos.

Wednesday 2018.3.7

My Back is Out Again

I wasn't doing anything. I was sitting. But I felt the rip. I think it happens when I spend too much time on my feet. The strain builds up until finally something lets go. Thankfully this isn't one of the really bad times when I can't get out of bed. I am moving around, albeit pushing an office chair in front of me for support, like using a walker. By the weekend I hope to be back to normal. There is a Pedego group ride on Saturday I want to attend, if it doesn't rain. Currently, the weather service is predicting a 70% probability of showers.

As for what I did to cause the strain — I think I did too much laundry. With a new washing machine expected to arrive, I let my dirty laundry pile up. Then I did it all in a few days. It was probably too much and a back muscle finally sprained.

So this blog isn't a long one because it isn't easy sitting here typing.

My Kitchen Vlog

I did do a Kitchen Vlog, talking about the very long article in the upcoming New Yorker magazine, about Christopher Steele and his dossier. You can watch it by clicking this graphic:


Sunday 2018.3.4


The Paris-Nice cycling race starts today and will continue through next Sunday. I checked the participants list. Some big names I know and like — Chris Froome, Mark Cavendish, Peter Sagan — won't be there. They're probably in other races. Or maybe it's the weather. Europe has been bitterly cold.

Oh Joy! Oh Rapture!

For some people, laundry is more of a chore than a pleasant pastime. For me it's a joy. No more hand-washing. I finally have a washing machine. And it works great. I did a Kitchen Vlog of the unboxing and installation, and its first use. You can watch it by clicking the graphic. You'll also get to see what my home's living room looks like.


On the day my machine arrived I did eight loads. They were small loads. Four shirts, underwear, socks, a bath towel, jeans (each washed separately). I let dirty laundry back up, knowing that a washing machine would soon arrive. And I read about the importance of not overloading the machine. Some people reported a loud knocking noise during the spin cycle. The load was probably off balance or the machine was overloaded. You can't load it up like you can a full-size washer; it has only one fifth the capacity. I did small loads. Every spin cycle was quiet. And for a single person, the capacity is fine.

The spin cycle, by the way, works great. My clothes come out damp, not dripping wet. I can hang them anywhere, not just over the bathtub. And they dry quickly. Even heavy jeans don't take long to dry. And now that I don't need to worry about clothes dripping as they dry, I put up as second drying line in my home office. It's out of the way, but in a convenient place to use.

I vow never to think of laundry as a onerous chore again. If you want to know a really arduous task, try doing your laundry by hand in a five-gallon bucket. I did that for years. Using this portable Haier washing machine is a luxury. And, even better, when the laundry is done I roll the machine away and store it in a closet. I won't go so far as to say it makes doing laundry fun. However, it makes the task so easy, it's a blessing, and for that I'm thankful.

Some Moderate Rain

We finally had some decent rain during a two-day period. There wasn't enough to cause major debris flows like the last storm. It was enough to water the landscaping and rinse surfaces clean.

Where I live we had about half an inch of rain. Stations in the north part of the county reported less. At the top of the mountains the most rain fell, four inches, which makes sense. The forecast was for "orthographic rainfall." Higher elevations would receive more rain.

The storm doesn't help us much with our drought situation. We are still at about 30% of our average normal-to-date rainfall for the season. But my landscaping is watered. Hopefully we'll enjoy a few more storms like this one before the rainy season is over.

Another Group Ride

The local Pedego dealership scheduled another group ride on the 10th of this month. I really enjoyed the last one — partly because it was a fun ride and partly because I was pleased at how easy it was to transport my bike down to the city with my bike carrier. I'm watching the weather forecast. It's early, but there might be rain.

And, Finally, How Am I Doing With My New Year's Resolution?

February was another successful month. The groceries I bought were milk for coffee, butter, eggs, and two more Costco rotisserie chickens, which I deboned and put in the freezer to use for soup with my chicken stock. The total was $53.31.

I'm down to only 12 cups of chicken stock remaining. That will be six more meals of chicken vegetable soup. I have enough chicken trim to make a little more stock when I need it.

I started this month with buying a few more groceries — pasta sauce, elbow macaroni, rice, and onions. As I mentioned last month, I want to use up some frozen ground beef to make Mom's American Chop Suey. I ate a bowl last night. It's one of my favorite comfort foods.