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Wednesday 2017.8.16

Another Anniversary

Monday was the seventh anniversary of this web site. It started in August 2010 with one recipe and no videos. I now have 275 recipes in the Archive and 292 videos on YouTube with 1.7 million views and more than 14,000 subscribers. As the accomplishment of only one person, me, I feel pretty good about my body of work. And I keep going.

Hearing from people around the world makes me feel good too. Earlier this week I heard from someone in Russia who wrote to say he made Ciabatta according to my recipe and it turned out excellent.

On the other hand…

Time to Make Adjustments

I've been through this decision process before. Now, reflecting upon the anniversary of this web site, maybe it's time to make some changes in my vlogging efforts. During the past 28 days my Kitchen Vlog gained two new subscribers and lost five. Each video gets fewer than 90 views and it has been that way since November of last year. No growth. Instead, I've been watching the vlog's popularity slowly decline. And, really, who wants to listen an old man talking about himself? So maybe it's time to read the writing on the wall.

Vlogging the News is doing worse — four subscribed, two unsubscribed, each video averaging fewer than 50 views, a steady decline since March. This makes sense. Very few people are really interested in the news. As I've written about before, I used to be a member of a World News Discussion Group. We could never expand beyond five or six people, and only four of us talked about the news. One or two others would attend to hear what we had to say. And one guy, whom everyone liked, said he never paid any attention to the news. He just liked the association.

I won't abandon my efforts altogether. The vlogs serve as a useful outlet when I feel like I want to talk about something. But I have very little interest in them otherwise. Even the news this week — Donald Trump appearing to embrace white nationalists — was dramatic, but I was too disgusted to talk about it. But a few words about forgiveness:

There has been talk on TV saying we should all forgive. Forgiveness isn't like some holy ATM — you ask, you get. There are scriptures in the Bible (Luke 3:8 and Acts 26:20) that talk about "works befitting repentance." The principle is that forgiveness follows change — a person stops doing what is bad, turns around, and starts doing what is good. To simply forgive what happened in Charlottesville isn't enough. We need to see change first.

I mentioned in Sunday's blog the possibility of vlogging instead about football. It might generate more traffic. My comments about the controversial elimination of Peter Sagan from the Tour de France cycling race because of his dangerous move at the end of the stage on July 4 (resulting in injuries and the withdrawal of Mark Cavendish from the Tour) received nearly 2,000 views. That's certainly not viral, but that one video was 40 times more popular than the others. People love sports, and that video was about cycling. Imagine what a controversial vlog about football might do. Of course, like my cooking videos, maybe it would be another over-saturated video genre on YouTube. There is only one way to find out.

I'm not a big fan of sports, but I do enjoy watching college football. As I mentioned in Sunday's blog, I liked watching Penn State football last year because of their quarterback, Trace McSorley (even though I didn't get my new TV until near the end of the season). Penn State's season starts on September 2nd with a contest against the University of Akron. It will be broadcast on ABC. And with a 65-inch TV now, it will be fun to watch again.

So, I'm starting to feel excited about vlogging again.

Meanwhile…

I have one last vlog on my computer. I uploaded it this morning. Here is the link:

Save Social Security

Or CLICK HERE.

Sunday 2017.8.13

Anticipating Autumn

It is barely mid-August, but already I'll looking forward to fall. In the late afternoon I think about tea. I don't drink tea during the summer, but for some odd reason unknown to me I crave it during the winter months. Maybe it's because the first thing I usually did when coming home from work in winter was to warm myself with a cup of hot tea. I commuted to and from work each day by bicycle and in winter that ride could be cold.

I also like soups and stews in winter. I consider my Real Texas Chili recipe as a stew.

We now have a Smart & Final Plus store in the neighborhood, besides Costco and Albertson's (all of which are within walking distance). I like S&F because they email me their sale advertisement each week, on which they usually have some protein source on sale. This week it's boneless chicken breasts for $1.69 per pound. I watch for beef. The last time they had beef chuck (my preference for chili) it was marked down from $4.99 per pound to $2.99. I bought three pounds.

I also make my chili a different way now, thanks to a suggestion from one of the fans of my YouTube channel. He recommended I use my pressure cooker, which he saw me use in another video. It works great. Rather than cooking for two hours, it cooks for 20 minutes and the beef is melt-in-my-mouth tender. I add a little more flour though because the cooker holds all the moisture inside, which means the liquid doesn't thicken enough. The last time I made it I put several portions in the freezer to enjoy in winter. And the next time S&F puts chuck on sale again I will make chili again. You can never have enough chili in the freezer in winter.

More Movies

I'm still trying to catch up on some of my movie watching. I saw a British two-part made-for-TV series called Neverland, yet another attempt to explain how Peter, the Lost Boys, and Hook ended up in the land where no one grows up. I got through it, but barely. Then I watched an older film I hadn't seen, Network. Brilliant! Oddly, the IMDb web site labeled it a drama, but it is truly a black comedy. I really enjoy good acting and this film featured many fine performances. And yesterday I watched St. Trinian's, another sequel to the 1954 film The Belles of St. Trinian's, which I have, but I haven't watched it yet.

Cold Sore

As I mentioned in Wednesday's blog, another cold sore was erupting. This one looked like it would be quite a battle. Usually a little bump appears first, like a pimple, and that's the warning. This time, however, something that looked like a developing blister started forming. Gross, I know, but it might help explain why I thought I might not do any videos for a while.

On Thursday morning, despite the blister, I did a Vlogging the News video. I used a little powder to hide the slight discoloration, which looked a little pinker than my normal skin. I did a pretty good jog disguising it. I can barely see it when I look closely at the video, and I can see it only because I know it's there. If you're the type who likes to search these things out, it is right above my upper lip, a little toward my right side. However, I wouldn't advise looking.

I was anticipating looking fairly deplorable for a week to ten days, despite my efforts to fight the sore. I've explained the story before in older blogs, but for the newer fans, here is what happened:

Ever since I was a child I've had canker sores inside my mouth. They say they happen because our parents kissed us too much when we were babies, giving us the herpes simplex virus. Nearly everyone carries the virus.

Thankfully, I suffer a sore only about once every 10 to 15 years — maybe even less often. To treat them, a dentist (they specialize in oral issues) gave me a prescription for Kenalog in Orabase, the generic of which is Triamcinolone Acetonide in Dental Paste. It's easy to use. Dry the affected area with a bit of gauze, apply a little dab of paste, and let it be. Repeat two or three times per day. The sore goes away in a few days.

One day I was doing the treatment and I saw a little wet spot on my upper lip. I used the same gauze to dry it, and only realized later — too late — that I had probably transferred the virus to my upper lip. Sure enough, in a few days a cold sore erupted where I had dried the skin with the gauze. Bummer! I've never had a cold sore before, and I was not happy.

The virus, by the way, harbors in the central nervous system, traveling along the neurons occasionally to erupt on the surface. It doesn't spread; it stays in the nerve. And like most viruses, there is no cure, only treatments.

The prescription medication works on a canker sore; so why not on the cold sore if it's the same virus? I tried it and it works. The sore goes away quickly, if it erupts at all. For several days though I walk around with a bandage on my upper lip, holding the medicine in place on top of the sore. A small price to pay for avoiding a full-blown cold sore.

And so I was walking around with a bandage on my upper lip, sipping coffee or water through a straw to keep the bandage clean. Yesterday I went without the bandage. The sore never developed. The blister appears to be healing well. I am looking good enough to make videos again.

As for that Vlogging the News Video

Here is the link. There hasn't been much in the news lately, but I wanted to talk about the perceived threat from North Korea and the F.B.I. raiding Paul Manafort's home and seizing tax forms and bank records.

Vlogging the News

Or CLICK HERE.

Future Vlogs?

I had a thought. Last fall I started watching college football on my new 65-inch UHD 4K TV. Brilliant video. I like college ball anyway because the athletes are in better shape. By the time they get into the pros they are a lot heavier and a lot slower.

In particular, I liked watching Penn State because of their quarterback, #9, Trace McSorley. He was an amazing athlete to watch, especially when launching a pass.

And so, I am considering doing vlogs about Penn State football. Their season starts in early September. I'll try to catch games on TV when I can, and hopefully McSorley won't go out with an injury. I think football might generate more traffic to my Kitchen Vlog than talking about making dust filters for my computers (the vlog with the fewest views, only 51).

As for Today's Feature Recipe

Look at how young I was back then. I shot that video more than five years ago.

Wednesday 2017.8.9

Looking Up / Looking Forward

The doldrums of July seem to have ended. I am speaking (or writing) financially. I graph my YouTube earnings, getting the latest estimate each day.

To explain: The default in Google/YouTube is a 28-day estimate. You can change the parameters, but I stick with the default because it's easier.

The worst period of the year was July 1 - 28. So, seeing the glass as half full rather than half empty, I can say one of my birthday presents (my birthday is July 28) was to see a turnaround in the numbers.

I have seen this before. Summer, especially July, is the slowest period for my cooking videos. July and August are vacation months. They are also warm months when people don't want to spend time in a hot kitchen. (As I write this I am munching on a slice of cold pizza.) In summer I often eat cold sandwiches. And, suffice to say, I don't feel motivated to shoot cooking videos.

Last year I tried a summer schedule of uploading to YouTube every other week. There seemed little rationale for knocking myself out for the slowest time of year. I am doing the same this year. When I do upload, it isn't a video I shot recently; it's a video that I've had "in the vault" but never uploaded to YouTube. This is the case with the current feature, Risotto Primavera, and it will also be true for this Sunday's feature, Scallops with Chorizo Ragù.

To complain just a little, the scallops video isn't one of my best. In particular, I pronounce "chorizo" wrong, a little too hard on the Z. I thus get comments, "It's chor•EE•so, not chor•EE•tzo. Whatever. I usually remove those comments (they don't help anyone to be a better cook) and if the person is annoying enough I permanently hide all their comments from my channel (they can write them, and see them, but no one else will see them, not even me). Okay, enough complaining.

I also need to continue remaking some of my oldest videos. Someone requested that I do a remake of Chinese Dumplings (AKA Pot Stickers). Supposedly, "pot stickers" isn't correct. I didn't research it, yet, but someone said pot stickers refers to dumplings that are boiled then fried, or fried on one side then boiled. My dumplings are only boiled.

And Another Movie Watched

I never saw the 1968 Cleopatra film with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. It was quite the spectacle, and very long — four hours and ten minutes.

My Latest Kitchen Vlog

This morning I uploaded another Kitchen Vlog video to YouTube. Someone suggested I do a vlog about the landscaping project I completed a couple years ago. In the video I use many of the photographs I took of the project, including pictures of my shed and my home's new copper plumbing. Here is the link (click the graphic):

My Kitchen Vlog

Or CLICK HERE.

I will probably take a little more time off from making videos because this morning it looks like I need to do battle with another potential cold sore. I usually beat them before they look nasty, but I need to keep a bandage over the area to hold the medicine I use. I have one Kitchen Vlog video in the vault for use later. Next week might be the time to use it.

Sunday 2017.8.6

Is it Delivery, or is it DiGiorno?

It's definitely not delivery! It's advertising.

Taking advantage of a sale at the local Smart & Final store, I bought some DiGiorno pizzas. They're edible. That isn't to say they're good, but you can swallow without difficulty.

I have my own recipe for Homemade Pizza, for which I'm well known. I remember a friend telling me that he had the same thought whenever he ate pizza: "It's good, but it ain't Dennis'." A good pizza benefits from good ingredients and good preparation. See the recipe, but here is a picture of my own original pizza baking in the oven.

My homemade pizza

What was my first DiGiorno pizza like? It didn't heat all the way through, even after 20 minutes. It was warm inside, but not hot. I would have left it in the oven longer, but it was browning around the edges. I was concerned it might burn. The flavor was acceptable, even though it was made with too much sauce.

So what can be done to save frozen pizza from itself? I experimented (and if you saw Wednesday's blog, you know I had enough to experiment with).

1. Forget the freezer. Yes, store the pizzas in the freezer, but let one thaw, still wrapped, in the refrigerator. Overnight works wells.

2. Heat the oven hotter than the package directions recommend. DiGiorno says 400°F (200°C). I tried 425°F (218°C) and I liked it enough not to experiment any further.

3. Use a pizza stone. Let it heat before putting the pizza on it. Some say it should be heated for at least one hour. It doesn't need to heat that long unless it's really thick. I let my stone stay in the hot oven about 30 minutes past the time when the oven reaches full temperature.

4. Use a pizza peel if you have one. Sprinkle the peel liberally with corn meal and lay the thawed pizza on the peel. You might need to help it off the cardboard bottom if it is sticking. Then slide it from the peel onto the hot pizza stone.

5. Bake 15 minutes or longer, until the cheese on top starts to brown and the dough around the edges is well browned. 20 minutes works well for me. Use the peel again to transfer the pizza to a cooling rack. Let sit a few minutes; then slide onto a cutting board for slicing and serving.

Although I had some extra ingredients to improve the pizza, I found that they didn't do much good. The original pizza was too flawed to benefit from enhancements.

A Quiet Week

Last week was a quiet week, compared to the week before. I mean quiet in terms of news. The previous week was uproarious. It was difficult to keep up with the daily reports. I had to take notes. This past week was relatively calm.

One think I did appreciate is that Congress is limiting the power of the president. That's a good thing, and maybe we have an out-of-control Donald Trump to thank for that. They limited, among other things, the president's ability to fire special counsel Robert Mueller.

Thinking back to my high school days, I remember learning that the three co-equal branches of government were to prevent abuse of power, a response to King George wielding too much power over the original 13 colonies in America — "taxation without representation," etc. — that led to the American Revolutionary War.

I haven't seen much in the way of "checks and balances" in recent decades, although there are examples — Nixon being forced to resign office rather than suffer impeachment.

An example from the current administration: Although Congress usually leaves for an August recess, the Senate is officially choosing not to adjourn, thus preventing the president from making any recess appointments. With the Senate technically in session, any appointment nominations by the president require the review and approval of the Senate. Another example: Trump's tweet to keep transgender persons out of the military still hasn't been acted upon by the Pentagon.

The United Nations

More interesting was what happened at the UN Security Council. The United States purshed for harsher sanctions on North Korea for its testing of intercontinental ballistic missiles. China and Russia have permanent veto status. Either nation could have vetoed the measure and it would have been dead. Instead, they both voted in favor. That is usual because communitst countries typically protect each other from the UN.

I suspect China voted for the measure because (1) they were coming under criticism for not doing enough to reign in North Korea and (2) they value trade with other nations and wouldn't want to do anything that might damage that trade.

Russia was the real surprise. After Congress voted overwhelmingly for harsher sanctions against Russia for its interference in our elections, Putin ordered several hundred American personnel to leave the country. Then he called Donald Trump weak and impotent for signing the bill. It would have been useless to veto it because Congress had more than enough votes to override his veto; so he reluctantly signed it. Some thought Russia would have vetoed the Security Council's measure. Instead, they approved. I can't explain it.

Movies

So what did I do with my quiet week last week? I watched some movies that have been on my to-do list for a long time.

Four Weddings and a Funeral. A cute, if slightly contrived, romantic comedy. The confirmed bachelor falling in love is an old cliché. The earliest I can think of is Cary Grant in Arsenic and Old Lace. Nonetheless, it was an enjoyable and satisfying film. I like good acting. Speaking of which:

I also watched Much Ado About Nothing. Shakespeare's iambic pentameter in the hands of seasoned British actors is a gem to behold. Other than Keanu Reeves, all the performances were top notch. And a bit of trivia: I played Antonio in our college production many decades ago.

Bernie. This was an odd one. Initially, I thought the pairing of Jack Black and Shirley MacClaine was unusual, but it worked well. The true oddity was that it was based on a true story — a man who kills his benefactress and hides her body in a freezer for several months — but it was filmed as a mockumentary. Weird, but enjoyable.

Foster was another gem. Good British acting is irresistible. I've like Hugh Grant since he appeared in Withnail and I. It was a very engaging movie and I enjoyed every minute of it. The ending was unexpected — I knew nothing about the film when I sat down to watch it. Now that I know how it ends, I want to watch it again to see how all the pieces fit together.

I also watched Best of Show, which I'd seen before. It's such a good comic film, I wanted to watch it again. And I learned something new from the IMDb web site. There wasn't a script; only a 16-page outline. The performances were mostly improvisations. A similar style was used by Rob Reiner for This is Spinal Tap. And writer Christopher Guest also wrote and directed Best of Show.

There are more movies to watch. I am enjoying my quiet summer.

Wednesday 2017.8.2

Is it a Key Lime?

Ever since I was given five citrus trees I have been wondering what they are. I knew one was a dwarf tangerine because the nursery tag was still on it. The other tags were illegible. One I identified as an orange because it produced one piece of fruit, so far, and I tasted it. One had mystery fruit on it that looked like aliens from outer space — and it turned out to be Buddha's hand lemon or lime (I'm still waiting for one to ripen to see if it turns yellow or stays green). One tree has yet to produce any identifiable fruit, although there are some that are beginning to develop. And the fifth tree produced a few pieces of fruit that I juiced and tasted in the Kitchen Vlog video I made on my birthday (see it on YouTube here).

A friend watched the video and suggested it might be a Mexican lime, known by other names such a key lime. I Googled it and found a good description and photograph on Wikipedia. The photo very much resembles the fruit I harvested from that tree — round, bright yellow when left to ripen on the tree, acidic, many small seeds, and no nipple at the apex.

I had lunch with two friends yesterday. One of them worked in an orchard here in California and he knows quite a lot about trees and fruit. When I described the fruit to him, he said, "Yes, that's a key lime."

The woman who gave me the trees said one was a lime. I was waiting for the more common lime — oval, green, nipple at the bottom — commonly known as the Persian lime. Maybe she meant "key lime". So it appears all the evidence now identifies that tree as key lime. Okay. And with that one identified as the lime, by process of elimination I feel confident the Buddha's hand is a lemon, more accurately known as simply "Buddha's hand".

Four down, one more to figure out. And, as I said, that one has flowers and little fruits developing on it. If they mature, I might finally solve the mystery of the trees.

Tropical Storm Emily

Emily concerned me, for two reasons: 1) my twin brother and his wife live on the west coast of Florida and they are in the area of most rainfall; and 2) it was a storm that appeared suddenly, almost without warning. Could the USA, especially the current Washington administration, be surprised my a more destructive storm striking the nation (besides all the ones currently raging inside the White House)?

I heard from my brother. Yes indeed, they had rain, but no flooding. They live in a newly developed area where careful consideration was given to drainage planning.

As for Washington, I wish I could feel confident the nation's capital is prepared to deal with crises. Should a major earthquake damage Los Angeles or San Francisco, I feel Sacramento will be better prepared to deal with the disaster than Washington. Trump would probably send Jared Kushner anyway. "You deal with it."

Thunder, Lightning, Rain — Oh My!

We are enjoying a rare thunderstorm this morning. My brother says they get them on almost a daily basis this time of year in Florida. When I was a child in New England we would see the storms building toward the north — huge tall thunderheads (cumulonimbus clouds) like columns in the sky. We knew it was time to go home and within half an hour or so the rain would start, with thunder and lightning.

Today the storms are rolling in from the east. It is rare to see rain in summer here. I'm hoping we get enough of it to water my landscaping, although I doubt it. The rain never lasts longer than a few minutes. One heavy downpour of 15 minutes would be enough. If only.

But, with lightning in the sky, I'm saving my work often as I write this blog. You never know. Although it rarely happens, the electricity could go out any time.

Got Pizza?

I normally do not succumb to impulse shopping. I do, however, look at some advertisements and think about the sales. Case in point: The local Smart & Final Plus store advertised DiGiorno 2 Packs of pizzas, normally $9.99, for $7.99 if you buy four boxes. Yes, that's eight pizzas.

A pizza parlor pie typically costs around $17 to $19 each, plus the gasoline to drive there and back, or the tip if you order home delivery, and tax too. At around $4 each for the DeGiornos, I figured I was getting a good deal.

The sale couldn't have come at a better time. My freezer had a lot of room in it — but not quite enough. The directions say to put them into the oven frozen; so allowing one box to thaw in the refrigerator wasn't an option. After several minutes of shifting things around, I succeeded in squeezing the fourth box into the freezer. Phew!

Just in case, I stopped at the grocery store and bought some mozzarella cheese, pepperoni, and Italian sausages. I'm a cook. I'll try one pizza as is, but I am prepared if I think the pie could use a few enhancements. And even if the pizza is good enough without additional toppings, why not add them anyway? If I remember correctly, each additional topping at the pizza parlor adds another one or two dollars to the final cost. Think of it as compounded savings.

My Latest "Vlogging the News"

Last week there was enough news to leave my head spinning by Saturday. I couldn't look away, lest I miss something. And this week its happening again, but, so far, not with the same rapidity. I vlogged about it. I'm not sure that was a good idea. In one day I lost three subscribers. I only had 66 anyway; so losing three was a moderate hit.

Here is the link to that vlog:

Vlogging the News

Or CLICK HERE.

And, Finally, Al Franken

I finished reading his new book, Al Franken – Giant of the Senate. In chapter 45 he wrote something that confirmed what I had believed for a long time.

Asking whether the mainstream media had a liberal bias, I argued, was asking the wrong question. Their bias was toward getting ratings. And that meant reveling in conflict and sensationalism. And if that meant putting lying liars on the air, then so be it.

I started another book yesterday — Uncovering Trump by David Fahrenthold. He tries to discover where all the money went after Trump claimed he collected millions of dollars for veterans and charities.