Sauerbraten

A dinner centered on a Sauerbraten makes one think about a grandma toiling away in the kitchen from the early morning hours until evening. Remember those days? When cooking was done in pots and delectable delights cooked slowly for hours. If you’re going to make a Sauerbraten, then get ready for an entrée that takes three days to prepare. Of course, your patience and palette will be richly rewarded.

Sauerbraten for a 3 – 3 ½ pound rump roast.

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2 Onions

1 Cup Red Wine Vinegar

1 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar

1 Tablespoon Salt

½ Tablespoon Black Pepper

1 Tablespoon Ground Mustard

1 Tablespoon of Sugar

12 Whole Cloves

2 Bay Leaves

12 Juniper Berries*

3 – 4 ounces of crushed ginger snaps** (Final ingredient for sauce. NOT part of the marinade)

*I couldn’t get any juniper berries this time around. I’ve made Sauerbraten with and without them. Skipping the berries will not destroy the Sauerbraten and make it inedible. You’ll be fine.

**Find dark gourmet ginger snaps, those blonde ones won’t cut it.

Step 1: Dice the onions, combine all of the marinade ingredients and bring to a boil. Then remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

Step2: Get a frying pan (preferably cast iron) fired up. Rub the rump roast down with 2 Tablespoons of vegetable oil. Next, sear the roast for two to three minutes on every surface. Remember, color equals flavor.

Step 3: When the meat and the marinade have cooled, put both into a glass bowl and cover. Avoid aluminum foil or bowls. The acid in the vinegar will react with aluminum and other metals, because the combination of the two is a battery.

Marinate the Sauerbraten for three days. If the marinade covers the meat then just leave it alone. If not, then turn the roast every day or every twelve hours.

Step 4: Place the meat and marinade into a covered vessel. I use enameled cast iron by Le Creuset. It is perfect for this type of cooking. Cook at 325° for 4 hours.

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A Le Creuset Dutch Oven

Step 5: Remove Sauerbraten roast. Place it on a cooling rack. Use a wire mesh strainer and filter all of the liquid into a sauce pan. Add 3 oz. of crushed Ginger snaps. If your sauce isn’t thick enough, then continue adding ½ oz. increments. 

Step 6: Eat! Mangia! I really enjoy a sweet white zinfandel to offset the sour part of Sauerbraten. However, there’s nothing wrong with a high quality “brewskie” either.

I served this Sauerbraten up with spaetzl (German pasta) boiled, then sautéed in butter and cream, Rotkohl (sweet n’ sour red cabbage), and Kartoffelklöesse (Potato Dumplings).

If you make this Sauerbraten recipe or are planning an honest attempt, I’d love to hear from you.

DON’T GO – COMMENT BELOW!

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Buttermilk Blueberry Pancakes

Does anyone ever scoff at the idea of a Buttermilk Blueberry Pancake? Well, I’ve never met a person who resisted such a mouthwatering temptation. In fact, I do not think any other food can top these flat bundles of joy when it comes down to a comfort food contest. Let’s face it, if Buttermilk Blueberry Pancakes with maple syrup and softened butter are on the menu, you do not need anything else, except for a properly brewed cup of coffee to wash them down.

*Please note that I generally abhor manufactured food. Also, I am not working in an industrial kitchen with all sorts of expensive specialized equipment. Even my photo equipment could use a few upgrades. Therefore, you can easily replicate any of my recipes in order to cook from scratch.

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Ingredients

2 Cups of All Purpose Flour

2 teaspoons of Baking Powder

1 teaspoon of Baking Soda

½ teaspoon Salt

3 Tablespoons of Sugar

2 Eggs

2 Cups of Buttermilk + 1 Cup of Milk

4 Tablespoons of melted butter

Frozen or Fresh Blueberries (I use 4 blueberries per pancake) * Do not place in batter.

*** Yield 10 Buttermilk Blueberry Pancakes *** I used a standard ladle to deliver the batter.

Notice: the first 5 items are dry and the rest are wet.

Combine your wet and dry ingredients in separate bowls, and then add the wet mixture to the dry. Yeppers, it’s just that easy. And think about the money you’re saving and the health benefits. When you cook in this fashion, you know what’s in your food.

Things to remember: 1) beat the eggs before combining, 2) shake your buttermilk, 3) do not over mix. I know many pancake aficionados out there swear by blending the batter with a fork. However, I find that forks do not scrape in flour that lingers in a bowl. It’s just easier and more efficient to fold with a spatula. Just remember not over mix. Simply fold until the flour disappears. Lumps and clumps are good things in a pancake batter. 4) If you’re using frozen blueberries. Place some in a sealable plastic bag and soak in warm water. Then start working on the batter. The blueberries will be thawed by the time you’re ready to use them.

Get your favorite pan or griddle ready and preheat your oven to 180 degrees. Lightly grease your pan with some butter wiped on with a paper towel. Put some batter in the pan and let them cook on one side. Drop some blueberries on top before flipping.

Place cooked Buttermilk Blueberry Pancakes on a plate and keep in the oven while you finish off the rest. Not only are these jewels a tasty experience, but also a very satisfying cooking experience.

Are you going to try out this recipe? How did they turn out for you?

History in a Fantasy Novel

The history of your world should play a major role if you are writing a fantasy or even a Sci-Fi novel. Imagine how a reader will feel when they are dropped into a civilization or a post-apocalyptic setting without any knowledge. Surely this scenario can make anyone feel like a stranger in a strange land. History is an essential part of world-building.

Of course, one has to naturally avoid long-winded historical passages when world-building. After all, it’s a fantasy novel not a history textbook. Earlier, I discussed the use of Technology In Your Fantasy World. Dropping such hints tells us where a civilization or society currently stands, but it doesn’t speak about how they got there.

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Reflect for a moment upon Gandalf returning to Bag End to impart his knowledge about the Ring to Frodo. The scene plays out with a sense of urgency rather than seeming conveniently dropped into place as world-building filler material by Tolkien.

In my upcoming fantasy novel, An Easterly Sojourn, I only delve into several great ancient battles and religious history. Both are incredibly linked to the main plot and the mystery at hand for the main character.

Another “history” would be backstory for characters. I used some of the same techniques and will discuss the in a future post.

I cringed at the thought of adding a chunk of history and sweated profusely when chapter 3 “Religious Relics” was read at a critique. Oddly enough it passed with flying colors.

The trick was to “seed” the history in the previous chapter.

In chapter 2, there are two sub-characters discussing and comparing historical notes. The main character listens and sometimes get frustrated by their knowledge. He wants to jump in and ask questions, but feels foolish. Later, he’ll accost one of them alone for the information he needs. His sense of “itching” for more information transfers to the reader. A sense of urgency made everything in chapter 3 flow without the aforementioned “contrived” element and seems perfectly plausible.

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History and backstory have to be present in order for a complete world-building experience in a fantasy novel, but many feel intimidated by it. How about you? How are you handling history or backstory in your novel?

Baby Francesco’s Nursery

Before, there was ugly medium shag carpet, and old dingy dark brown trim, which matched the window sills, doors and jambs.

The first thing was to rip up the carpet, padding and remove the staples; all 10,000 of them (not really that many, it just felt that way). Then I used some wood putty to repair any damage on the sill, door and closet jambs. The sill looked like a big dog teethed on it years ago.

Next I removed the old dark stained trim, and disposed of it. Don’t ever want to see that again.

When the wood putty dried I sanded the dark stain away. First I used a rough pad, and then decreased the coarseness of the pads for successive sanding sessions.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The doors arrived sooner than expected. They’re pre-hung and slipped into the rough opening without a hitch. Although, I purchased new brushed nickel hinges to match the handle, because I really hate electroplate brass on doors.

For the next step I primed the entire room and closet interior. These walls hadn’t been painted in years. It took two full coats and in some spots three to get an even appearance.

Now I was ready to paint. I drew the birch trees on the wall with a light pencil and painted around those edges.

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For St. Francis and his animal companions I took a different approach. I had a roll of brown paper, so I drew the figure and animals on that. When I was satisfied, I cut out the components and affixed them to the wall. I traced around them with pencil and blocked in their edges. I basically turned it into a large coloring book.

 

Next I applied the toast color to three walls and added details to the trees and colored in St. Francis.

With the painting done the next item of business was the Pergo. These boards were a little wider than other laminates and went in with a lot of tweaking and tender loving care. The most difficult part was the trap door. The builder didn’t cut a straight opening.

Gee thanks Mr. Builder, now I have to work around someone else’s shoddy work.

The T-mold provided the edge for the trap door and door entrance.

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For the trim, I used 1×4 MDF board. It cuts, sands, and takes joint compound easily. The best part about using MDF is no jado cuts for inside corners. As you can see, I used a 1/2’” overhang for the top of the window and doors, providing a modern but “western” look.

 

After caulking and compounding, I painted the trim. The last step was the electric switches, outlets, and switch plates. A dimmer switch will work wonders in a nursery.

The last step was the closet doors and blinds. Bi-fold just seemed the best way to go for better access, and the white blinds appealed to my “less is more” philosophy.

 

This Baby Boy Needs A Name

The anticipation of a new #baby brings many new trials and tribulations. Our latest conundrum is choosing a name. My wife and I have been over this issue many times. At one point, I proposed an idea. “How about putting a bunch of names up on the blog and see what others think?” To my surprise, she laughed and agreed.

In my family, we always name children after grandparents. My dad was Francis and my father-in-law was George. We’ve been kicking around different combinations, but I must admit feeling exhausted from the process.

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Of course, there is always the Catholic tradition of selecting a name from a Saint’s feast day. If he’s born on St. Patrick’s Day then he gets to share his name with the Saint, and that Saint becomes his guardian.

Time is running out. There’s only about 7 – 8 weeks left before (baby boy name) emerges into this world.

 

Cast your vote from among these variations and a few others

 

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R.I.P. Greg Lake

Way back in the 1970’s, I put my first album by Emerson Lake & Palmer (ELP) on a turntable and was summarily hooked. It wasn’t long before my collection grew, as did my taste for bands with unusually long songs considered unfit for top 40’s radio. Only late night FM DJ’s would occasionally risk playing such material.

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Photo by Jean Luc and used under CC License

The amazing Bass and Guitar playing by Greg Lake will be missed. Of course along with musicianship came his ability to write timeless classics. Gone are the days when I used to play passages over and over from an album, trying desperately to copy those notes on my guitar.

Emerson, Lake, & Palmer’s self-titled first album was a brazen and loud announcement to the world that rock music had evolved into a higher realm. I remember teaching a music appreciation class back when I was still with the NYC Department of Education. Naturally the textbook assigned mostly dealt with classical, folk, and jazz music. However, the last chapter did make mention of notables from rock. Of course, Emerson Lake & Palmer warranted a few paragraphs.

There are many ELP songs and full albums on You Tube. If you’re not familiar with their music, have a listen and try to understand the depth of our collective loss. Remember ELP was one of those classic rock progressive bands that didn’t just make songs; they made albums. And those albums explored particular musical themes and subject matter.

Thank you, Greg Lake for all of your creative energy, which not only entertained, but also amazed. You were more than a musician, composer, and lyricist. You were a pioneer who transported your fans into other realms.

DO GO – LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW!  Tell me about your fond memories of Greg Lake.

P.S. I know all about Greg’s time and legacy with King Crimson as well. But for me, he’ll always be the “L” in ELP.

Click the Pic below and go to Ernesto San Giacomo’s AMAZON author page.

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Did Your NaNoWriMo Dreams Come True This Year?

This year’s #NaNoWriMo was both a success and a miserable failure.

I caught a particularly nasty flu, one like I’ve never experienced before. This illness literally put me down for 12 days. Although I tried to write, it affected my attention span. Only about 250 words got pumped out during that time. However, I did manage about 6K, and that was enough.

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Courtesy of NaNoWrimo.com

Usually the NaNoWriMo event calls for completing a novel and hitting the golden 50K word count. Well I was out to finish a draft that was started a year earlier. The Frozen War is the title of the second book of my forthcoming fantasy series The Tales of Tyrennia.

My writing procedure is quite different from other authors. Typically an author writes an exhaustive first draft, and then refines by cutting large amounts. I simply do not operate that way. My goal is to get the story down on paper. Sometimes that means it is hardly a novel at the end. I tend to shy away from calling it a first draft, rather, I prefer to call it Version 0.5.

In college, my creative writing courses were in screen-writing. Perhaps that is the reason why I produce copious amounts of dialog without any exposition, description, or body language. For those of you who write, it should be easy to see how 10-15 pages of dialog can turn into 35 pages later.

NaNoWriMo 2016 is over and so is draft 0.5 of The Frozen War, which roughly stands at 104 pages and about 22K words. However, it will be shelved for a while as I complete the editing of book oneThe Tales of Tyrennia: An Easterly Sojourn.

Did your NaNoWriMo dreams come true this year?

How does my Writing procedure differ from yours?

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Trump: “Because You’d be in Jail.”

I keep seeing many postings on Facebook and Twitter concerning this retort by Donald Trump during the 2nd Presidential Debate. The on-line “chatter” concerns the scary premise that if elected to the Presidency, the evil Donald Trump will exact justice against political opponents by tossing them en masse into jail like a third world dictator.

Anyone espousing such a ridiculous interpretation is either a fork-tongued devil or a blithering idiot.

As of today, as I write these words, we already have a third world, corrupt Justice System. The FBI, DOJ, and IRS are supposed to be free and independent of politics. However, after seven years of the Obama administration, they have become corrupt servants of the Washington insider ruling elite class. Donald Trump didn’t create this situation, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton did.

Anyone who saw the FBI news conference by James Comey knows that the DOJ should have indicted Hillary Clinton. The evidence then was overwhelming and subsequent leaks have dramatically revealed more of the underhanded and foul deeds of the U.S. State Department during Clinton’s tenure.

Trump

Donald Trump By Gage Skidmore used under CC License

A few days before the news conference, Bill Clinton had a clandestine meeting with Attorney General Loretta Lynch. We’ll never know what was said during that time. However, it is plainly obvious that some type of deal was struck.

Now you know the backstory. Let’s return to the original quote: “Because you’d be in jail.” Notice that in the context of the debate, he is talking just to Hillary, a plainly guilty person. What he’s really saying is, “If I were President, your guilty ass would be in jail. Because a Justice system under my administration wouldn’t let the guilty go free simply because they have friends in high places.” Most right-thinking Americans would agree wholeheartedly with that sentiment.

However, some are using social media to loosely interpret the quote as “When I’m President, I’m going to toss you in jail whether you’re guilty or not, simply because I don’t like you.” Of course, the only two reasons for spreading such a misleading interpretation are 1) The poster is a blithering idiot who doesn’t understand the complexities and subtleties of the English language. 2) The poster understands the true meaning but takes the opportunity to twist words around intentionally like a fork-tongued devil.

Sorry, I know I don’t usually rant over these political nonsense games. However, obfuscating the obvious really gets under my skin.Therefore, the next time you see someone playing this game, send them over here for an education.

The Power of a Single Word

As a Conservative/Libertarian, I usually aggravate many people because my desire for level-playing-fields. Now here’s one concerning an issue that I can no longer ignore. I must insist upon voicing my proverbial two-cents.

I see the word “Mafia” thrown around a lot. My basic question is why must the Italian word be used? Of course the true expression is “Organized Crime.” It existed within the borders of the U.S. long before Italian immigration, and around the world.

However, in the hyper-sensitive-garbled-disjointed-asinine-workings of the Politically Correct Mind, they refuse to see their hypocrisy and ridiculousness, when they say things like…Chinese Mafia, Russian Mafia, Jewish Mafia, Mexican Mafia…and so on. Yes, I’ve seen and heard them use such terms many times. They also don’t care about such expressions as “spaghetti western,” but that is the subject for another post. I have touched on this subject in a previous post entitled Why I’m Not A Liberal.

I just saw a Facebook Post concerning the “Book Review Mafia.” I throw my hands up and look to the heavens in disbelief.

In the spirit of fairness and equity

I’m going to create a verbal level-playing-field. I will use the Arabic words (as best as I can transliterate) Irhabi (Terrorist), Irhabin (Terrorists), and Irhab (Terrorism) from now on. Of course the politically correct and tolerant Liberals will have a collective case of apoplexy and start screaming terrible rants in my direction. Quite frankly, I couldn’t care less.

Of course I will even use the Arabic to describe those Irhabin organizations from parts of the world that have nothing to do with Islamic or Arabic society or culture. Do I sound ridiculous? Well, referring to the IRA as an Irish Irhab Organization is no more nonsensical than saying “Chinese Mafia.”

Naturally, a level-playing-field and fairness are the last things the PC police want or care about. I voiced my objection many times as to their lack of sensitivity only to be rebuffed. The PC police simply do not care. Therefore, I no longer care about how many PC automatons turn plaid in anger, stomp their feet, and throw hissy fit tantrums.

You know you’ve done it too

I know some of the most decent, caring, and well-intentioned people have committed the errors that I’ve stated above. Don’t worry; I don’t think less of you. I’ve just become too accustomed to it over the years. However, if this post makes one person stop and think, then my job has been well done.

Have you ever casually thrown the word “Mafia” around?

The Crazy Kaepernick Conundrum

Most people have a position on this issue, and it is usually wrong, or should I say half-right? The issue is of course how do you feel about San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin #Kaepernick kneeling during the National Anthem as a sign of protest concerning police treatment of African-Americans.

Some say that he has every right to kneel during the National Anthem. Um… right but also wrong.

Others say that he shouldn’t ever protest against the Anthem in such a way. Um…wrong but also right.

The issue is not whether or not he has the right to protest. The U.S. Constitution is clear on that matter. However, the problem is based upon the “when” and the “where” of his protest.

There are many other legal activities other than staging a protest. For instance, if you’re over 21 years of age and have a valid form of identification, you can walk into a bar and order a beer. However, you can’t do that on the job. Imagine some sanitation workers pick up some trash and then walk into a bar for a few minutes before returning to work. What would happen if some cops or firemen did the same thing?

So yes, Colin Kaepernick has every right to protest. However, if he tried to stage a protest rally on my front lawn, I’d tell him to go somewhere else. He should do it at his own house, in front of city hall, in a public park, in front of The White House, or on any street corner. However, he should not be doing it on the job, which of course means on somebody else’s property, while wearing a uniform and brand name logo, and in front of a paying audience.

That’s right. The people in attendance paid to get in. They paid to see a football game, not watch a media-hyped protest by a second-stringer desperately seeking attention.

In the end, I blame the San Francisco 49ers. As his employer, as the owner of the property, as the owner of the brand name franchise, and the uniform which he wears, they should’ve told him to stay in the locker room.

Can you do this on your job? Can he do this on your property?

 

Hooked by Les Edgerton

I’m somewhat selective when it comes to craft books. Sometimes I feel like most Indie-Authors spend more time reading craft books on writing than they do writing. And let’s not forget about the money spent. As for self-help books for authors, I have a scant but awesome collection. I usually spend a lot of time reading blogs, taking notice of titles mentioned, and then taking aim for that special book.

My first chapter was bugging me. After we (The Queen and I) would edit about eight chapters, we’d discover something new and start all over again. Well, I can comfortably say that now I feel as if we’ve finally “got it.” Yes, the “Queen” and I were doing an awesome job, but we were still treating the first chapter like any other…big mistake, and thank God we had the intuition not to publish.

I took one of Kristen Lamb’s on-line seminars concerning “Your First Five Pages.” As I look back upon the seminar, it was very informative and helpful. Later, she made a blog post about first chapters and recommended “Hooked” by Les Edgerton.

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Like a vigilant and eager student, I clicked over to Amazon and purchased Edgerton’s “Hooked,” and a copy Kristen Lamb’s “Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a digital world” (still reading this one).

After reading “Hooked,” everything that Kristen explained during the seminar became crystal clear. I guess I needed time to absorb at my own pace. After all, I haven’t been a student for a millennium or two…well maybe three. O.k. you can stop laughing at me now. 🙂

Within Hooked by Les Edgerton, the “crafty” author-coach will explain to you the importance of an opening line, the first page, the first plot points, and yes, how they all coagulate into a rockin’ first chapter. Also, how to introduce a character, and the incredibly sticky subject concerning backstory, i.e., when to use it and when to avoid it.

On another note, Edgerton delivers with a style that keeps you reading and entertained. It would seem that he took his own advice.:-) Let’s face it; this subject in the wrong hands could turn drier than dust faster than a teenager can answer a text-message. But with Edgerton, the read is smooth sailing.

I can give “Hooked” by Les Edgerton a hearty and well-deserved recommendation. Also, you should check out Kristen Lamb’s blog and take one of her classes too.

What are some of your favorite writing-craft books?

Snuggle and Watch These Christmas Favorites

It just wouldn’t be Christmas without these movies and TV specials. My wife and I always curl up on the couch and watch our favorites throughout the season.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964) d. Larry Roemer and Kizo Nagashima

Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town (1970) d. Jules Bass & Arthur Rankin

Christmas in Connecticut (1945) d. Peter Godfrey

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) d. Frank Capra

Miracle on 34th Street (1947) d. George Seaton

A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) d. Bill Melendez

The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) d. Brian Henson

The Bishop’s Wife (1947) d. Henry Koster

Come to the Stable (1949) d. Henry Koster

Scrooge: A Christmas Carol (1951) d. Brian Desmond Hurst

Scrooge (1970) d. Ronald Neame

*Cast & Crew information, plot summaries, and reviews for all of these can be found at IMDB

In the past, I’ve made a few blog posts listing my favorite movies from the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ’80s.

We tend to watch all of these as Christmas approaches. However, my wife and I have decided to snuggle up with A Muppet Christmas on the 25th, and then spend some quiet time in front of the fireplace with some chocolates and some plum wine.

How does this movie list of my Holiday favorites compare to yours?

How The Catholic Church Built Western Civilization by Thomas E. Woods, Jr.

Never was History so exciting, enticing, and revealing. Within these pages, Mr. Woods divulges enough information to leave one feeling somewhat foolish for not knowing all of the contributions of the #Catholic Church.

Woods negates many modern secular (and sadly all too common) bigoted anti-Catholic historical notions.  If one believes that the Church was (and still is) an enemy of science, that economics started with Adam Smith, that human rights began with the enlightenment, or that the Medieval period was the “Dark Ages,” then this book will serve as an eye-opening cure.

Thomas E. Woods, Jr. holds an A.B. from Harvard and a Ph.D. from Columbia. Of course, as a true academic scholar, Mr. Woods does not simply unload his personal opinions onto the reader. There is a staggering amount of painstaking research behind all of his claims. Yes, he quotes from the tomes of those medieval thinkers, but also from other historians who are not Catholic – some of whom even espouse a history of being unsympathetic to the Church. Yet they too agree with Mr. Woods, and thusly prove his points.

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The chapter on science alone makes this book worthy of one’s time. However, the author delves into the raw roots of other disciplines and philosophies concerning art, architecture, international law, and economics, to name a few. Woods’ treatment of the logic and reason-based proofs for the existence of God by St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Anselm also serve as enough of a reason to immerse oneself into these pages.

I must admit, I had previous knowledge of some of the history, like the true story of Galileo, the Church’s creation of the university system, and the scientific method. However, this book has launched some new heroes for me, like Thierry of Chartres, Father Boscovich, and Father Francisco de Vitoria.

If you would like a taste of this book without a purchase, there is a show on EWTN hosted by Mr. Woods entitled The Catholic Church: Builder of Civilization. Each episode could be described as a “talking-points-outline-lecture” for each chapter. I stumbled onto the show one Sunday evening and then promptly purchased the book.

Besides his proofs about the Catholic Church’s role in history, Woods also espouses a discourse as to why these advancements did not occur within Pagan or Islamic civilization. How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization by Thomas E. Woods, Jr. is one of the most pleasurable, enlightening, and enjoyable historical reads to ever grace one of my bookshelves.

My Favorite Films of The 1980’s

Some of these might not be the greatest or even have any appeal to anyone. Some of these films are here because of the experiences I have had with them. Hanging out with my college buddies and watching these movies brings back many fond memories. While other films I discovered while taking classes in Cinema Studies.

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Public Domain Clip Art courtesy of Pixabay Openclips used under CC License

 

50. Raiders of the Lost Ark……….d. Steven Spielberg

49. The Terminator……….d. James Cameron

48. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off……….d. John Hughes

47. The Princess Bride……….d. Rob Reiner

46. A Passage to India……….d. David Lean (UK)

45. Ran……….d. Akira Kurosawa (Japan)

44. Full Metal Jacket……….d. Stanley Kubrick

43. Victor / Victoria……….d. Blake Edwards

42. Aliens……….d. James Cameron

41. The Elephant Man……….d.  David Lynch (UK/USA)

40. Airplane……….d. Jim Abrahams, Jerry Zucker,  David Zucker

39. Mephisto……….d. Istvan Szabo (W. Germany / Hungary / Austria)

38. Radio Days……….d. Woody Allen

37. Salvador……….d. Oliver Stone

36. Fast Times at Ridgemont High……….d. Amy Heckerling

35. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home……….d. Leonard Nimoy

34. The Blues Brothers……….d. John Landis

33. Big Trouble in Little China……….d. John Carpenter

32. Highlander……….d. Russell Mulcahy  (UK)

31. Caddyshack……….d. Harold Ramis

30. Easy Money……….d. James Signorelli

29. Conan the Barbarian……….d. John Milius

28. The Money Pit……….d. Richard Benjamin

27. Back to School……….d. Alan Metter

26. Labyrinth……….d. Jim Henson

25. Pale Rider……….d. Clint Eastwood

24. Ghostbusters……….d. Ivan Reitman

23. Amadeus……….d. Milos Forman

22. Brazil………..d. Terry Gilliam

21. Fitzcarraldo……….d. Werner Herzog (W. Germany)

20. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan……….d. Nicholas Meyer

19. Clash of the Titans……….d. Desmond Davis

18. Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears……….d. Vladimir Menshov (USSR)

17. My Beautiful Launderette……….d. Stephen Frears (UK)

16. The Empire Strikes Back……….d. George Lucas

15. Under Fire……….d. Roger Spottiswoode

14. Gandhi……….d. Richard Attenborough (UK / India)

13. Spaceballs……….d. Mel Brooks

12. Raging Bull……….d. Martin Scorsese

11. The Shining……….d. Stanley Kubrick

10. The Natural……….d. Barry Levinson

09. Pink Floyd: The Wall……….d. Alan Parker (UK)

08. The Right Stuff……….d. Phillip Kaufman

07. Blade Runner……….d. Ridley Scott

06. Sammie & Rosie Get Laid……….d. Stephen Frears (UK)

05. Cinema Paradiso……….d. Giuseppe Tornatore (Italy)

04. Koyaanisqatsi……….d. Godfrey Reggio

03. Queen of Hearts……….d. Jon Amiel (UK/USA)

02. Stop Making Sense……….d. Jonathan Demme

01. Wings of Desire……….d. Wim Wenders (W. Germany / France)

How do my favorites match-up with yours?

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When You’re Left Behind

I am not referring that book and later TV series. I’m talking about what happens when you’re a military spouse and your significant other (in my case it’s my wife) is sent overseas.

That’s the reason why you haven’t seen me blogging for the last couple of months. The adjustment is difficult and I’ve been bogged down. Many other things demanded my attention.

Evening is the worst part of each day. I’m accustomed to her not being around during the day. But with each sunset, we’re not together. Either enjoying dinner, snuggled on the couch, reading, or playing LOTRO (Lord of the Rings on Line).

For those who been visiting this blog for a while know about my love of cooking. But when there’s nobody to share it with, it loses its appeal.

However, on the writing front, I formed a new on-line critique group. My fantasy novel is just getting better all the time. With each passing week, noticeable refinements are put into place. The short stories are doing well too.  The small critique group here in town has provided me with a few insights on my shorts stories.

Tell me how you’re doing?

Progress Report: #amwriting

I’m plodding through the first draft of my fantasy novel The First Light. I’m into chapter 16 and it stands at 35K words. However I broke a major rule and let the editor look at the first sixteen chapters. To my surprise I didn’t hear a tirade about cutting and slashing. Rather, she told me I needed to add more material. News like that really made my day, because I always find it easier to add than to remove.

paperball

A Crumpled Paper Ball by Turinboy used under CC License

I also have three more short story collections waiting in the wings. I had wanted to publish one short per month as per my new year’s writing resolution. However, marketing considerations have forced me to adjust the timelines and put stories together in collections rather than singles.

The next collections to be released will be:

Stasis and Other Dystopian Tales

  1. Stasis (new extended edition)
  2. A Pound of Flesh
  3. Glossies
  4. Persons of Interest

(Stasis is finished, and A Pound of Flesh & Glossies have their first drafts completed. Persons of Interest is still in the first draft stage.)

The Lighter Side of Horror

  1. Little Red Revolution
  2. Dungeon Paths
  3. The UFOs
  4. Kindred Spirits

Liars and Fools

  1. The Psychic
  2. Wings
  3. The Candidate
  4. Adrift

I don’t have a specific timeline for these any more, as my wife and I are ramping up to move, and my time is being eaten up by a lot of other responsibilities. I hope to get at least two of these collections out by the end of the year, though.

How is your work progressing?

Duck Dynasty Part 2: Why the Battle between Religion and Gay Rights will never go Away

(See Part I)

The main point of contention here is sexual perception.  Secular society’s sexual values have been “Kinseyed”, i.e. developed and nurtured according to Dr. Kinsey (a zoologist, by the way). In his 1950’s report on human sexuality, he equated sex to simple genital friction. From that point of view, one source of friction is as good as another. Also, it would mean that human beings are no different from any other animal on the planet. That’s how many in the secular left look upon sex. That is also why they can’t, or to be more exact, refuse to understand the religious perspective.

I’ve heard it said that religious people look on sex as filthy and disgusting, and that they believe it should be a male dominated subjugation of women.  I’ve also heard that there’s no joy possible in sex between religious people – images of Puritans copulating between a hole in the sheet are often brought up.

But what’s the truth?  How do religious people look upon sex? For starters, it is not seen as something filthy or disgusting.  Rather, it is something mystical and spiritual.  After all, in having sex, couples are imitating God in the creation of life. Neither is sex joyless. Studies have shown that religious couples often have a busier sex life than non-religious couples, and walk away more satisfied.  A Google search will find numerous blog posts and articles concerning sex and marriage among religious couples that are quite open and frank. As for female subjugation, Pope John Paul II wrote The Theology of the Body, and argued in previous books (1950’s) that men should take great pains to ensure a woman’s pleasure.  Even the Pilgrims and ancient Israelites allowed women to divorce if their husbands weren’t pleasing them.

God blessed them saying be fertile and multiply; fill the Earth and subdue it. Gen 1:28

So much for all the stereotypes.  Then why does secular society persist in perpetuating them? And why do religious people get painted as domineering control freaks ready to burn at the stake anyone who disagrees with them? The simple answer is that liberal secularists are actually the control freaks.  They can’t stand anyone disagreeing with their point of view, whether it be gay rights, abortion, civil rights, etc.  And heaven forbid that you might convince other people to your way of thinking. Therefore anyone who does disagree must be portrayed as evil and close-minded, regardless of how vocal they might be or how much power they actually have.  The current treatment of Phil Robertson proves it.

Phil does not hold a public office, nor can he enact any laws. He is in no position to deny anyone’s civil rights. Also, he only said that he doesn’t see any logic to homosexuality (nor does any high school biology textbook). He was basically practicing the art of Apologetics: here’s what I believe, and why I believe it. Apologetics is never meant to convert, indoctrinate, or threaten one who refuses to change sides. Phil has no real power over anyone, nor was he proselytizing.

However, it is Phil’s popularity with the masses that makes him a threat to left wing activists.  People admire him and listen to what he says.  And since Phil doesn’t believe what secularlists believe, he is dangerous and must be crushed out of existence. I can almost see the boots, the uniforms, and hear both German and Russian accents. Sadly, the voices of the vicious left speak modern American English.

Until the secular left learns to tolerate other viewpoints – as they preach we should all do – then no, the battle between Religion and Gay Rights will never go away.

Gaming Etiquette

There are quite a few websites out there with a handy list of “Do’s and Don’ts” which don’t take very long to peruse. The lists are not extensive, but offer a quick and easy guide to making more friends than enemies, and to keep precious game time fruitful and fun.

For me, the three most annoying things that one player can do to another are Kill Stealing, Node Stealing, and Ignoring.

Kill Stealing occurs when you’ve cleared the way to a boss and are restoring your health or power to prepare to take him on.  Suddenly, another player runs past you and hits that boss, effectively “stealing” him.  Now you have to wait for the respawn.  It’s just plain annoying.

Node Stealing is similar. Here’s the scenario: you come upon a crafting resource node such as ore or wood, but there’s a mob right next to it.  You have to kill that mob to get to the node.  But while you’re engaged in battle, some little twerp runs in and nabs the ore.  How rude is that?

The last thing that gets to me is getting Ignored.  No, not put on someone’s Ignore list.  Say you’re down to your last sliver of health – or even dead – and other players just run on by.  No heal popped, no one joining in to save your rear.  Makes me glad it’s not my physical body lying in the street.

So how do different gaming communities rate?

The worst in my experience is World of Warcraft (WoW). If you like to do underhanded things to other players, and don’t mind when it’s done back to you, then this is the place for you. Anti-etiquette seems to be the norm on the few servers that I’ve tried. Kill Stealing, Node Stealing, and Ignoring happen all the time, along with a lot of choice words in chat.

Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR) comes next. The players there generally abide by the standard rules, but once in while you’ll run across a selfish moron who steals your kill. But generally other players will heal you, and don’t swipe nodes.

And the winner for the most etiquette-based gaming community: Lord of the Rings Online (LotRO). I’ve only had two nodes stolen from me in five years! Other players will jump in and help you in a tough fight and if your toon goes down for the count, you will get a rez. Also, most players will send you an invite to group up if you’re both going after the same boss. Most importantly, when LOTRO opened up Eastern Rohan, they introduced “open-tapping.”  Even if someone else “steals” your kill, just do one point of damage and you get credit for the kill as well.

What other good and bad gaming communities have you found out there?