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Sunday 2017.5.28

Uh-oh!

Ever since I was a child, I've had occasional canker sores. If you are not familiar with them, they are shallow, painful sores inside the mouth that can be brought on my stress, infection, or other causes. From what little I know, they are caused by a virus that most people carry. It hibernates, sometimes for years at a time, in the nerves and occasionally comes out of hibernation to erupt in the same spot as before.

I rarely get them. Maybe one every ten years. However, I caused myself a worse problem. One day I was patting a sore dry with a swab so that I could put some Kenalog oral paste on it. The medicine (triamcinolone) treats the sore effectively, helping it to heal in a few days. After patting the sore dry, I noticed a bit of saliva on my upper lip. I patted it dry and only later realized I transferred the virus to a new location. Now I get cold sores there.

Again, they are rare. I had to do a word search through my Blog Archive to learn what I did last time that was so effective. It was back in 2011, nearly six years ago. I put a little dab of Kenalog on a band-aid (plaster in some countries), moistened it a few drops of hydrogen peroxide, and adhered it to the site.

The last time I did this, the sore never erupted. It never progressed beyond the stage it is at right now, a little bump at the top edge of my upper lip. I repeated the treatment a few times each day and it went away after several days. I'm doing it again.

Of course, that gets in the way of doing videos. I can't do a cooking video with a bandage on my face. True, most of the time the camera of focused on the food, not my face. I thought I might get away with covering the spot with a little makeup and powder, which I use to keep the shine off my forehead. (Someone told me to avoid a shiny forehead because that looks like I'm perspiring and that gives the impression the recipe is difficult.)

Even drinking coffee is a challenge. I keep a short length of plastic tubing in the cupboard; I use it as a straw. I'm using it now.

There are worse things I could be dealing with, but — thankfully — I'm not. I am 65 years old and I don't take any medications. Genetically, I appear to take after my father's side of the family. They all live into their 90s and never take any pills. Their one common condition is loss of hearing. Both my father and his mother started wearing hearing aids at a relatively early age. My hearing is fine. That's one bullet I dodged.

And so…

I'm Taking Some Time Off

You might have noticed there is no new recipe and video this week. Partly that's because of the bandage on my lip; partly it's because I don't have any new ideas.

I've been working on a recipe someone sent me a long time ago: Sour Cream Apple Pie with Walnut Topping. I've been trying to figure it out. One problem is that some of the same ingredients are repeated in the filling and the topping:

4 to 5 tablespoons sugar (raw or brown)
1 tablespoon of cinnamon
Pinch of allspice, clove, and ginger

I have been looking at other recipes on the Internet to see how they compare. I always research a recipe before doing it anyway, so this doesn't add any difficulty.

However, I don't feel like cooking as much when we get into the warmer months of the year. Last summer I featured a new recipe every other week. Summer is not a good time for revenue anyway; so it doesn't hurt the bottom line much.

Vlogging the News

Thankfully, I was able to do my latest Vlogging the News videos before putting a bandage on my face. It was an odd week for news. Trump left the country for his first international meetings with other heads of state. There seemed to be little in the news — at least very little that interested me. Then on Thursday everything hit the fan. I was taking notes while watching TV (I keep a little television on my desk in my home office), writing down names as journalists were interviewed, so that I could look for their latest news stories.

First it was Ben Carson saying poverty is largely a state of mind. Then Trump's second attempt at an executive order to block Muslims from entering the country failed in an appellate court. And then the TV news announced that Jared Kushner, Trumps son-on-law, is now "under scrutiny" by the FBI as they continue their probe into possible collusion between Trump's campaign officials and Russian operatives.

Since then, it has been revealed that Kushner attempted to open a private back channel with Russia, hoping to use a secure Russian facility here in the USA to have conversations with the Kremlin. And so Trump returned from his international trip to face even more controversy — so much so, there is now talk of the president considering a White House war room peopled with lawyers and advisers to deal with the "fake news" press reports. It's getting interesting.

Wednesday 2017.5.24

Building Computers

Someone asked me to use one of my Kitchen Vlogs to talk about how I build computers. That was helpful. I didn't know what I would vlog about next. Maybe others work through dry periods too, when no new fresh ideas come up.

I videoed it yesterday. Not surprising, the video is more than 30 minutes long. There is a lot that goes into building computers.

I usually aim for 12 to 14 minutes in my vlogs. If I remember correctly, that is the "sweet spot" for YouTube — just long enough to contain useful information, but not so long as to cause viewers to lose interest.

Even if I had heavily edited the computer build video, I couldn't have gotten it down to an ideal size. There is simply too much information — motherboards, central processing unit, random access memory, coolers, power supplies, peripherals. So I didn't bother cutting it. The length will be good enough. Those videos don't get much attention anyway. Even after several months, few of them have been viewed 100 times or more.

To view the videos, here is the link:

My Kitchen Vlog

Or CLICK HERE.

News Too

I've been working through the doldrums with the news too. In the past several days I found only two stories that interested me enough to talk about. Certainly, the terrorist attack Manchester, England is an important news story, but there isn't much to dig down into. Trump's new budget proposal has everyone talking, but it's not an actual budget. It's a wish list only. So there isn't any real news there until the budget is negotiated and finalized.

The only story I found with any meat in it was the report that ex C.I.A. chief John Brennan knew the Russians were attempting to affect the outcome of the election and he feared members of Trump's campaign team might be aiding the Russians. I'll probably shoot that vlog video this afternoon.

Cooking

And in cooking too I am feeling kind of dry on ideas. On the wall above this desk is a recipe someone sent me a long time ago — Sour Cream Apple Pie with Walnut Topping. I looked at it occasionally, but there were other projects that seemed more important.

One issue has been a decline in YouTube revenue for creators. There have been several reports on YouTube. Some of it has been because YouTube was feeling the heat from advertisers who pulled their ads because they had been attached to videos of an unsavory nature. I saw one video complaint in which two young men — they looked to be about college age — complained about YouTube demonitizing their channel because their videos were filled with controversial subjects and offensive language.

I experienced a drop in YouTube revenue too. It wasn't much of a decline. I don't earn much anyway. But it was enough to recognize the drop. I know baked goods do well; so I tried to recover by doing Popovers and a remake of my Homemade Bread video. Both videos did about average, each at around 1,000 views, so far. It might just be the time of year. My videos tend to be viewed less during the warmer months of the year. Maybe people are thinking of picnics and barbecues rather than cooking in the kitchen. During the fall, leading up to the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, by videos do very well.

Sunday 2017.5.21

Lost for Words

This blog might me a short one today. I've been sitting here trying to think of something to write about.

There are news stories and politics, but with Trump in Saudi Arabia, there hasn't been any embarrassments being covered in the news. And as for politics, we might need to wait until later this year, or next year, for anything important to happen. Although there have been many predictions, especially lately, of Trump's days in the White House being numbered, few predictions about Trump have turned out true.

I did record a Vlogging the News video on Friday. Here is the link:

Vlogging the News

Or CLICK HERE.

Spoiled

The Tour of California cycling race took place during the past week. Those of you who read my blog regularly probably know I enjoy watching bicycle races. Commercials are the down side, and the Tour of California seems to have more of them than most other sports events. Besides the regular commerical breaks, within the tour there are advertisements for sports equipment and even for California tourism. I estimate that about half of each hour of broadcasting goes toward commercials. My new home theater system gives me a way around that problem.

I record each day's stage. Rather than watch it live, I watch the recording, fast-forwarding through the commercials.

Wednesday 2017.5.17

Still Experimenting

After reading the comments about Sunday's upload of the Popovers video, I decided to experiment with another idea. Popovers are so easy to make, you can be spontaneous with them.

Rather than using the popover pan, I used some of my ceramic ramekins, filling them about ¾ full after buttering them well. Here is a photo of how they looked after baking:

Popovers

That baking sheet, by the way, is my home cooking sheet. It doesn't clean up perfectly anymore. The sheets I use in my videos are kept separate, well wrapped in plastic. As you can see in the photo, the popovers rose very well.

While they were baking I melted a cup of my frozen homemade chicken stock and then used that to make some gravy. Then I added some mixed vegetables and some chopped cooked chicken. After cutting the top off of one of the popovers, I spooned some of the chicken/vegetable mixture inside to make a sort of popover chicken pot pie. Here is a photo:

Chicken Popover Pie

It was actually quite good, if a little messy to eat (and that explains the paper bowl beneath it).

Would I recommend it? No. Four of the five popovers were not hollow inside. If I had to guess why, I would estimate it was because I did not warm the ramekins first. When using a popover pan, the metal heats quickly, and so the baking and rising proceed well. With the ramekins, it looked like they were taking longer to begin rising because the ceramic dishes were taking too long to fully heat up. If I were to do this experiment again, I'd warm the ramekins in the oven for 5 minutes before pouring in the popover batter.

Earthquake

Yesterday evening I videoed today's vlog, about books, A Room With a View specifically. I reviewed and timed the video, watching it on my video camera's little screen, and then I went to hang up the shirt I wore for the video. Just as I was putting the shirt in the closet I felt a brief shaking and heard the noise. Earthquake.

As I always do now, I went to my computer and looked up the U.S. Geological Survey web page on the Internet. It took less than a minute for the quake to appear on the map. It was rated at 4.1 magnitude and the epicenter was directly west of here, about seven miles away, just off the coast in the Santa Barbara channel. It was followed by a smaller aftershock, but I only heard that one; I didn't feel anything.

When there is a quake I am always interested in knowing where it was because it could either be a small local shaker, or we could be on the fringe edge of a major quake down in the Los Angeles area. The local shakers are usually short and more of a jolt. The distance quakes, if they're large, give us more of a rolling, swaying motion that lasts longer, like several seconds.

Thankfully this was a small quake. I certainly didn't suffer any damage, except to my nerves. I don't like earthquakes. Even though I have lived in Southern California for more than 40 years, and have been through a few of them, I never like them. They scare me.

Here is a link to my latest Kitchen Vlog:

Link to A Room With a View

Or CLICK HERE.

Sunday 2017.5.14

Happy Mother's Day

If you're a mother, I hope your family celebrates you today with flowers, a beautiful gift, or perhaps a pleasant meal. If I might make a few gift recommendations:

Those are just a few suggestions.

Working On the News

My Vlogging the News channel on YouTube continues to be my favorite, for several reasons:

  1. No shopping.
  2. No cooking.
  3. No dishes, pots or pans to wash (except my coffee cup).
  4. And shooting the video and editing takes less than an hour, not all day.

I am envious of others who have a much more prefessional presentation style than mine — people like Keith Olberman, who yells a lot during his video, or Chuck Thomas, who seems so comfortable with his material. Of course, they have been in broadcasting for many years. I haven't.

I've been doing cooking videos for nearly seven years; so I am comfortable with that format. If you compare my recent videos to those I made six years ago, you can't help noticing how much smoother I am in front of the camera now. I am working on developing that same comfort with my news vlogs.

I'm trying to find a better balance between looking at the camera and the papers in my hand. I think it's important to have those news stories in print, and to refer to them during a presentation. I am not a news journalist and I don't have a team of journalists doing research for me. I'm only a vlogger and from start to finish — research, shooting, editing, uploading — it's only me. I do it all. But I'd like to look better at it.

I researched teleprompters, but they don't seem appropriate. For one, they are expensive. To purchase one large enough to work with my laptop computer would cost me around $700. Second, I don't want my presentation to look canned. I want my videos to have more of a spontaneous look to them. And I want to have fun with the news. A script might take away some of the fun.

Many years ago, when I had a job, I gave weekly presentations before an audience. Sometimes there were only a few people in the hall; sometimes I spoke before hundreds of people. I was comfortable doing public speaking. I knew my material and although the audience changed from week to week, my material remained basically the same. With news, it changes from day to day; so I can't memorize an outline. I need help.

One new experiment I am trying is to set up my laptop computer, just below the lens of my video camera, on a second tripod. Using Notepad and setting the font to a big size, like 36 point, I write a very brief outline of my talking points. During the video I scroll through my outline using a wireless keyboard in front of me, also out of view of the camera. This guides me through my presentation.

I need to practice. I shot a video on Thursday using the technique. There were three edit points to correct mistakes. The goal is to do an entire video all in one take, but human imperfection being what it is, three edits to fix mistakes ain't bad. I am getting better at it.

Yesterday morning I shot another Vlogging the News video. After restarting a few times to get the ball rolling in my head, I was able to do the entire video all in one go. No stops. No edits. You can watch the video here:

Vlogging the News

Or CLICK HERE.

I'm feeling better about the process. My news videos aren't popular, and I don't know if they ever will be. So far, none have been seen many times. My cooking videos started slowly too, and look where they are now.

A Trip Down Memory Lane

You would probably need to be fairly advanced in years to remember the Laugh-In TV shows back in the late 1960s. It's hard to believe those shows were first broadcast nearly 50 years ago. We watched them faithfully.

A few decades later I tried to watch them when they appeared as reruns. I couldn't enjoy them. The jokes were too silly and corny. And it left me wondering why we enjoyed them so much back in the 60s. My guess is that we were somewhat traumatized by events in Vietnam and the humor was a welcome respite for us.

Here's the point: I found some of the shows available for download on the newsgroups, AKA Usenet, and got them. I laughed and laughed. Why are they so funny again now? I suspect I am feeling somewhat traumatized by events in Washington and the humor is a welcome respite.

Wednesday 2017.5.10

Dots

Something kept me awake Monday evening. As many of you know, I follow the news and I vlog about it on YouTube. Earlier this week I began to see how the dots are connecting up. Here are a few:

• Russian oligarchs launder their illegally-gained millions through banks in Europe and the USA.

• More than half the $5 million real estate sales in the USA are for the purpose of money laundering.

• Trump is a real estate mogul.

• Two of the popular banks uses for money laundering are Deutsche Bank and the Bank of Cyprus.

• The bank of choice for the Trumps is Deutsche Bank.

• At least one of the Russian oligarchs owned a penthouse in Trump Tower in New York.

Then there are the names:

• Preet Bharara — his office was investigating money laundering in New York.

• Michael Flynn — former national security advisor, fired for connections to the Russians.

• Sally Yates — had warned the White House of the compromise of Michael Flynn.

• Paul Mannafort — spent nearly $8 million in cash for Trump real estate, including a $3.7 million condominium in New York's Trump towers.

• James Comey — former director of the F.B.I. and was part of the investigations into connections between Trump campaign officials and Russian operatives.

• Jeff Sessions — U.S. Senator, recused himself from the Russia investigations because of his contacts with Russians.

• Devin Nunes — member of congress, mishandled CIA evidence of collusion between Trump's campaign staff and the Russians.

And the list of names goes on and on.

And then yesterday James Comey was fired by Donald Trump. Today the news is speculating about the motives for that firing. The White House is claiming he was fired for his mishandling the evidence of Hillary Clinton's emails, which Trump praised at the time. The news is reporting this rationale is inconsistent with the facts. Many in congress are calling for an independent special prosecutor to investigate the White House.

It appears to me that the web that has trapped Trump and many associated with him is beginning to tighten and the president is making the situation worse through his non-presidential antics. Many are now comparing the Trump White House to the Nixon White House and the Watergate scandal.

I am wondering how much longer Donald Trump will be the president. I used to think he would survive long enough to run for re-election in 2020. Then I thought he might quit soon after the Republicans lose control of congress in 2018, if that happens. Now I am wondering if he'll even survive this year, or even the summer.

There is so much news, I sift through and read as many as a dozen news stories each day. On my desk in front of me right now are stories from Mother Jones, CNN, Business Insider, Washington Post, ProPublica, New York Times, and Bloomberg. And those were from yesterday. MSNBC is on the TV I keep in home office, and I have three computers running in the office, one of them used exclusively for the news.

The news has been coming so quickly, my Vlogging the News videos are being done more often. I uploaded one on Monday and then another one yesterday. Here is the latest link:

Vlogging the News for May 9, 2017

And I'm already gathering news stories for my next vlog.

Meanwhile, My Other Vlog

I used today's Kitchen Vlog to show some ways I save money. I'm not a cheap person. I'll spend money on something I really want. As just one example, in 2015 I built two new computers and they cost me $6,000 each. If there are ways to save money, however, I'll take advantage of the saving. As another example, I bake my own bread. I enjoy it, but I buy the 25-pound bag of flour at Costco. My cost for bread can be as little as 25¢ per loaf.

Here is the link:

My Kitchen Vlog

Or CLICK HERE.

Sunday 2017.5.7

More Popovers

I've been experimenting with popovers. Having that pan makes it fun, and I have a formula (the set of ingredients) that is pretty much fool proof. Now I am looking for a method of preparation (MOP) that I can trust for perfect popovers every time.

Here is what I tried this week. I have a little battery powered mixer. Using the whisk attachment, I mixed the batter until smooth, whipping more than a little air into it as well. I wondered…

When I baked the popovers, they came out almost exactly as they should — nice rise, crisp exterior, hollow creamy interior — but with a weird "skin" on top. The bubbles in the batter rose to the top during the baking and the top of each popover had a peeling, flaking skin (I could see the bubbles baked into it) that looked like some sort of skin disease. Note to self: "Don't whip air into the batter."

The following day I experimented again. This time I stirred the batter with a spoon (what did cooks use many decades ago before electricity and batteries?). I also slightly warmed the batter, floating the bowl in a sink of warm water. The result was much better — high rising and a softer texture inside. Here is a comparison photograph.

Popovers

Here is another photograph of the popovers still in the pan.

Popovers

Compare these to those in the picture below, in Wednesday's blog. I got much higher rising.

I GIVE UP!!

I surrender. I am turning in my apron (and I would relinquish my toque if I had one). There are no rules!

You won't believe this: Another fan of my web site and YouTube channel wrote to tell me how she makes "fool proof" popovers. She uses almost the same formula, but she doesn't heat her oven. She puts the batter in the pan, puts it in the cold oven, and then she starts heating it. After 40 to 50 minutes they come out of the oven looking glorious!

Okay. So I chose to break all the rules. Ingredients at room temperature? Hah! I started with eggs and milk cold from the refrigerator. Blend the milk and eggs well? Not on your life! I stirred with a spoon. Add the flour and blend until smooth? I gonna see you around! I stirred with a spoon until lumpy. Pre-heat the popover pan? You should live so long! Heat the oven? Don't hold your breath! I started with a cold pan and oven.

No rules. And how did they come out? They didn't rise quite as high as those pictured above, but they look good enough to serve. Here's a photo.

Popovers

Now, if someone would just come up with a no-bake recipe, I could say I'd seen it all.

Vlogging the News

On Friday I uploaded to YouTube another news vlog. In this one I talked about the new repeal-and-replace health care bill passed by the House of Representatives (that is unlikely to make it through the Senate), along with other interesting stories. The New Yorker did a long article that explained what it takes to impeach a president. Here is the link:

Vlogging the News

Or CLICK HERE.

Wednesday 2017.5.3

Pesto Lamb

When I purchased the racks of lamb for the sous vide video I also bought a boneless leg of lamb at Costco. That gave me an opportunity to redo another old YouTube video that I did nearly seven years ago. My Pesto Lamb recipe. Here is a photo I shot in 2014. It still looks good enough to use.

Pesto Lamb

I won't update the recipe here on the web site because I've been making this roast lamb the same way for many years. Why tamper with perfection?

This is a recipe I created for myself and I eventually entered it in a nation-wide contest. I didn't win first place, but I won a place in an America's Test Kitchen cookbook. It's titled "Cook's Country Best Lost Suppers." The idea behind the book was to gather and publish otherwise unknown recipes.

The flavor of pesto goes perfectly with lamb. Many people don't cook lamb because they don't know how to work with it. You can roast it the same as you would a piece of beef. For me, the trick is to create flavors that work well with the somewhat bold flavor of lamb.

I made the pesto Sunday evening, coated the meat inside and out, wrapped it in plastic, and stored it in the refrigerator overnight. On Monday morning I started it roasting.

As I already said, I cooked Pesto Lamb many times. It always turns out wonderful. In fact, I am known among my friends for this roast. They often list it among their favorites.

I'm not sure when the video will be uploaded to YouTube. I was expecting a popover pan from a fan of the web site (it arrived on Monday). She is very generous and she likes to say the gifts she sends me are her way of thanking me for the many hours of kitchen enjoyment I have given her through my videos. She actually watches them in her kitchen, following along as she prepares the same food. Although many people have prepared the dishes in my videos, she has probably done more of them than anyone.

I made popovers yesterday. The video will be uploaded to YouTube in coming weeks. Here is a photo.

Popovers

Vlogging the News

I added something new to my Vlogging the News YouTube channel. I occasionally watch videos that instruct creators such as myself in ways to improve their exposure on YouTube, without paying for advertising. One of the suggestions is to create a trailer video for the channel. It's a short video that new visitors to the channel will see, encouraging them to subscribe. Subscribers don't see the trailer.

There are some "rules," or maybe "best practices" is a better description.

  1. The video should be 30 seconds to 1 minute in length.
  2. Put the "hook" or "grabber" in the first 5 seconds.
  3. Show the viewer what to expect.
  4. Ask them to subscriber.

I always feel funny saying something like "please subscribe." It almost seems like I'm begging. So I came up with something a little different. "Join me here…" and finishing with my favorite graphic for the channel. You've seen it here, the one with the fan and the media outlet logos streaming out of it.

I did my trailer video. It was 48 seconds. I can't do much better than that. I tried to make it fun. I explained only a few details about what I do and why. The trailer always ends with a "Subscribe" button; so that should be good enough, hopefully. (And, according to the numbers I can see, no one has seen the trailer yet.)

As I did with my cooking channel, I just launched videos onto YouTube and waited for things to happen. I never paid for advertising. Now 7½ years I have more than 13,000 subscribers and my videos have been viewed more than 1.5 million times. Nothing has gone viral, but I have a body of work I feel good about.

To see my latest vlog, here are two links:

Vlogging the News

My Kitchen Vlog