Sunday, January 31, 2010

Making Sausage

Our recent visit to the Fort Worth Stockshow got me to thinking about something....


Yep. I need to make some sausage.

I like making sausage and smoking meat for several reasons. You know exactly what goes into it, you can make it exactly the way you want it, and there's always something primally satisfying about cooking with fire - or in this case fire and smoke. Sausage making fills all those bills. You can't get too much more in touch with your inner carnivore than grinding up an animal, stuffing it into its own intestines, and cooking it over a fire outside :)

The process of modern sausage making that I describe here is a little more streamlined, for convenience sake, but the bones of the whole process are pretty much the same. For instance, I bought my meat and casings. There's absolutely no reason that I couldn't use meat from an animal that I killed myself as well as the intestines of that animal for the sausage. It would just involve a bit more work.

I used a mixture of Pork and Beef for this batch of sausage. The pork was in the form of a 9 lb pork butt roast (bone in). I cut the meat off the bone and into small chunks. After boning I guess I had about 8 lbs of meat or so. I put the chunks of pork into a large bowl and mixed it by hand with 3 lbs of lean hamburger.

You need to season the meat before you grind it so that the seasonings are well distributed in the sausage. You're going to test a bit of the meat before you stuff it into the casings, so you'll have a chance to adjust the seasonings. Its way easier to fix "too little" than it is to fix "too much" - so take it easy. You can always add more if its bland when you test it. My seasoning mix for this batch was as follows:

3 tbls kosher salt
2 tbls black pepper
2 tbls sugar
2 tsps sage
1/4 cup cure

A word here about cures. If you don't use an effective cure when you smoke sausage you run the risk of developing botulism in the finished product. Not a good thing. There are many cures you can buy commercially. There are cures you can formulate yourself. Educate yourself and understand what you're doing if you do the latter.

I use a commercial cure (usually tenderquick), because its easier. I didn't have any on hand for this batch, but I did have some cure that came in a sausage making "kit", so I used the amount recommended in the instructions for the kit.

I mixed the dry ingredients above with a cup of cold water to make a slurry. Then I poured the slurry over the meat chunks and mixed it by hand until well distributed.

As an "extra touch" for this batch I decided to included garlic. But not just garlic powder... no. I roasted 5 complete heads of garlic which I mashed up and mixed in with the seasoned meat. YUM!!

I put the bowl of meat in the freezer for a bit. You don't want the meat frozen solid, but stiffening it up a bit in the freezer makes it grind a lot easier.

While I was waiting for the meat, I had to deal with the casings. One of the "odds and ends" I picked up at Cabella's when we stopped there on the way home last weekend was a package of hog casings.

sausage casings

"Natural" casings come in two main sizes. Sheep casings which are suitable for breakfast link sausage and hot dogs, and Hog casings which are larger. I wanted to make brat sized sausages so I got the Hog casings. They come in a package packed in salt, so you need to rinse and clean them per package directions. After you cleaned and flushed them, you'll want to let them sit in some water for 30 minutes or so to make sure they are rehydrated. I've found that warm water is better since this wakes up some of the latent fat and makes them easier to handle when stuffing.

When your meat is ready to go, you need to grind it.

sausage seasoned

Thats how my meat looked before grinding.

I have a hand cranked grinder that I can use if we are off grid for some reason - but in general I use a home sized electric grinder. Its not the big industrial beast that my Dad has... but it will do the job for small batches that I usually make. I grind using about a medium plate.

Once your meat is ground, make a patty out of some of the meat and fry it up. This is your one chance to adjust the seasonings. If you like the taste, proceed. If you don't, adjust the seasonings by mixing in more of whatever it needs.

sausage stuffed

This is the sausage after we stuffed it. I say we at this point, rather than I, because there's no way in hell I could perform the stuffing operation with my set up by myself. A manual stuffing horn is slow, but manageable by a single operator. An electric stuffer moves too fast. My Mrs. is good enough to jump in and help with the stuffing when needed. The stuffed sausages are left in the refrigerator overnight to dry out a bit. Make sure the rack they are on allows air to circulate around the links.

My smoker is a side firebox iron smoker. It has a vertical smoke chamber that I really like. I removed most of the racks except the top one. I use S hooks from the hardware store to hang the sausage from. My wood this time was a mixture of dry hickory for heat, and water soaked mesquite for smoke. I like to keep the smoke chamber temp between 100 and 150 for the first hour. For the second hour I let the temp come up to around 160 or 170.

Before I lit the fire, I set up my meat thermometer. I have a digital thermometer that has a probe with a long lead. I thread the lead through the smokestack and insert the probe into one of the links. The digital readout is outside the smoke chamber, so I can monitor the meat without opening the door. I usually smoke sausages for 2 hours or so.

sausage smoked

You can kind of see the thermometer probe on the right side of the pic. I took this pic after smoking the meat for two hours. Sometimes two hours in the smoker is enough to cook them completely. Sometimes its not. It depends on how hot the smoke chamber is during the 2 hours of smoking. This batch was only up to 130 degrees internal temp after two hours - so they still had a little way to go before they are done. When this happens I finish cooking the sausage inside the house by baking in a 275 oven until I get an internal temp of the sausage of 155.

Yes, you could just leave the sausage in the smoker until its done. It would be just fine. However, I've found that anything more than 2 hours in the smoke doesn't make it taste any better (to me). It's at its peak, for my personal tastes. At this point I'd rather just get the meat inside and finish cooking it faster in the oven.

The final step is very important: Immediately after the sausages are "done", dump them into a container of ice water to cool them down. IMMEDIATELY! If you just let them cool on their own they will often shrivel up. They'll taste fine, but they'll look like crap. Cooling them in water cools the inside more rapidly and allows them to stay plumper. The sausages can then be dried off with paper towels. Keep the sausages in the fridge, and freeze any that you aren't going to eat within a few days.

Our first meal from this batch: I sauted onions in a little olive oil until tender, and then tossed them with sliced smoked sausages in the pan until the sausage was heated up. I topped the mixture after plating with some diced tomato and a touch of fresh grated mozzarella cheese..... I didn't take a picture, 'cuz I ate it too fast :)


Saturday, January 30, 2010

Paladin's Random Crap

I mentioned a while back about traveling to Winnsboro, Texas for the Autumn Trails Fesitval. Really cool antique car show....

1929 Ford 2

However, the "flea market" advertised nearby was pretty awful. Mostly garage sale stuff and dollar store type imports. About the only thing antique and cool there was something I didn't need AT ALL.

green heater before

So, of course I had to buy it. I had just finished resto-moding one of these - but the price was too good and it was just different enough from my other one that I had to get it.

I haven't wired it yet, but it will have flicker lights inside like the last one I did. Here's how she looks spruced up a bit. The "grill" replacing the cracked and worn out isinglass is actually a piece of gutter guard mesh that I cut to fit.

green heater after

Friday, January 29, 2010

Important Day

22 years ago today, I was pretty nervous.

I didn't have any doubts about what I was going to do, but I've never really been comfortable being the center of attention. I'm more of a back row kind of guy and, while I've gotten better about that with age, way back then I would break a sweat just thinking about standing up in front of even a small group of people.

It wasn't a typically "formal" affair, but I was expected to kick my dress code up a notch from the jeans and tshirt that I normally wore. That meant borrowing a sport jacket and tie from someone, because I didn't own either and had no money to blow on something I wouldn't probably wear again for a while.

You make a lot of decisions in the course of a lifetime. Some will be good, some will be bad, and many will be inconsequential when you look back on them. However, there are times when you take a step and make a choice and that choice changes your life forever. Things are never the same. I can count on one hand, the decisions that I've made that had that sort of drastic impact on my life, and what I did that day would be at the very top of that very short list.

22 years ago the Mrs. and I walked down the aisle and pledged our love to each other forever.

I wake up every single day and wonder how someone could be as lucky as I've been. We only knew each other for 8 months before we got hitched. We dated for about 6 of those months. I don't necessarily recommend that schedule for other folks, but in our case it worked out fine.

I've had people ask me if there's a secret to a long happy marriage. I don't know. I do know we appreciate each other. We actually like each other, in addition to the love. We'd rather spend time together than with anyone else - but we don't smother each other. We share many of the same interests, but we both have things that interest us that the other couldn't care less about.

I don't think there's just one secret to staying together. A relationship is hard work. But when its a good one it usually doesn't feel like work.

Girl Friday - 01/29/2010 - Mary Pickford

The Girl Friday returns this week with one of the Queens of the Silent Movie age:

Mary Pickford

mary pickford portrait

mary pickford 4

I'm not a huge fan of Silent Movies myself... I've only just recently gotten to the point where I can tolerate regular subtitles in a movie without being completely distracted by them. I can still appreciate what Mary Pickford was able to accomplish in the medium, though.


mary pickford car

Mary Pickford was not only one of the biggest female stars of the Silent Age, she teamed up with Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks to form United Artists as an independent film production company. She continued to produce movies well into the age of the "Talkie", when she stopped acting herself.

mary pickford

mary pickford 2

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Is it just me?

Or, does this Season of 24 SUCK!!!!?

We got hooked on 24 during season 2, went back over the hiatus and got caught up with season 1, and have been faithful viewers ever since. We were REALLY looking forward to the new season, particularly since 24 is one of the few television shows that I make time to watch.

I don't know what is up this season, but there's way too many "side stories" that have absolutely nothing to do with the main plot - and they all involve characters that I don't care anything about. I watch 24 because its fun to watch Jack Bauer kick ass and do whatever is necessary to save the nation (and I do mean WHATEVER is necessary).

This season, he's not even featured for most of the show and when he is, he's more concerned with the ex-FBI chick's emotional condition.... Jeez. That's sweet, and all, but when is he going to cut loose an lop someone's head off??

I'll give it another week and if it doesn't get better I'm hitting the eject button.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Road Trip - 1/23/2010

duroc happy sleep

Saw this guy, dreaming the peaceful dreams of the innocent, at the Fort Worth Stock Show this Saturday. He has a smile on his face, as do I whenever we get a chance to walk around at the yearly event.

Its similar to the much larger Texas State Fair, only sized down to be more enjoyable and less irritating. We try to go every year. I think it has rained every single time we've been to the FWSS, and this weekend was no exception. Everything we want to see is indoors, though, and its a pleasantly short dash between buildings.

We enjoy looking at all the animals being prepped for show - most of which are being groomed and cared for by high school aged people. Lots of FFA (Future Farmers of America) kids there and it makes me nostalgic to see them walking around in their blue corduroy jackets, having fun with their friends. There's no Autoshow building like at the State Fair, but there is an exhibitor building where you can find lots of (mostly) Agricultural related vendors. Everything from Tractor sales to western art to saddles/tack.

Usually we get there early, and stay for a couple of hours. After leaving the fairgrounds, we headed up north of Ft Worth to another favorite of mine - Cabela's. You can find some good deals there, even if most of their stuff is overpriced compared to what I can find online. It's such a cool store, I like to go when we are in the area just to look around. I picked up several boxes of ammo for the SKS & WASR (less than $5 a box), and a box of 12ga buckshot - along with a couple of other odds and ends.

The trip was rounded out with a stop in Roanoke, Texas, for a late lunch at the Twisted Root. Buffalo Burgers with cheddar cheese, bread & butter pickles, and fried onion strings - all washed down with home made rootbeer.... mmmmm.....

The place does an amazing business, considering its in a small town that only consists of a couple of streets. They have about 22 tables inside the restaurant, which seat 4 adults per table. When we were finishing up around 2pm every table was in use and there were over 20 people standing in line waiting to order!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Busy, busy

Life has intruded once again into my blogging time.... Girl Friday is taking the week off, but should return next week. Posts in general should pick up soon - since I'm coming off an on -call rotation at work and should have more time to devote to it.


If you visiting here, but get tired of checking back for new posts, you might consider utilizing the "follow" function in the side bar. It makes it easy to see when new posts appear. I use it for several of the blogs I follow, some of which are even more sporadic than mine :)

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Tyranny of the Crybaby

I wrote earlier about us getting the World We Deserve. I wanted to touch on the issue again as soon as I saw a recent news story from a Dallas suburb not far from here. Then, as if by magic, I stumbled across another news blurb featuring a 70+ year long psychological study that actually seems to show evidence of the point that I wanted to make.

Take a walk with me, and I'll try not to wander around too much.....

pugh taylor

This is Taylor Pugh. Really cute kid, isn't he? Taylor is 4 years old, and is in pre-kindergarten in the Mesquite Independent School District ( a suburb of Dallas). You may have seen Taylor recently on the news were you live. For some reason this story has captured a bit of national (and even global) attention. Mesquite ISD has a pretty strict dress code. It includes prohibitions against boys having hair as long as Taylor's.

pugh delton

This is Taylor's Dad, Delton Pugh. He's a tattoo artist. Delton and his Wife don't like the dress code - and that has caused a whole chain of events to occur. Mesquite asked the parents to cut Taylor's hair, and they refused. Since they were in violation of the school dress code, Mesquite put the boy in ISS (In School Suspension), where he was taught by a teaching assistant but not allowed to be in the classroom with his friends. His parents appealed to the school board, but their appeal was denied.

The School Board did offer to compromise with the parents, though. They told the parents that if the boy wore his hair in braids so that it was up and close to his head - they would allow it. The Pughs decided that wasn't good enough. Now they are threatening to take their case to the State Education Board.

Over the course of this circus, the Pugh's have claimed that they didn't want to cut Taylor's hair because he liked it long "like his Daddy's". Later, they claimed that they had to have long hair because of some sort of Native American religious heritage. Recently, the story changed yet again as they claimed that the boy was growing his hair long so that he could donate it to one of those places that makes wigs for cancer patients.

Here lately I think that they have decided to just stick with the "we don't wanna" defense, but don't quote me on that. Given a bit more time I'm sure they'll come up with a whole new set of interesting reasons.

Now you can say that the dress code in Mesquite is too strict and I won't necessarily argue with you. You can argue that Taylor's hair isn't really disruptive to the classroom, and I won't give you much beef about that either. You can point out that hair length has little effect on grade point and I'll shrug and say you may be right. I've heard all of these arguements from both liberals and conservatives. The Libs tend to think the boy has a "right" to have his hair long, while the Conservatives think the "gov'ment" doesn't need to intrude into parenting issues like hair length.

So what do I think? I'll preface my opinion with a little background - since we really don't know each other....

I had long hair for many years. I have a tattoo. My Mrs has a tattoo. My Daughter has a tattoo. I threw away my razor when I graduated high school and I've had a beard ever since.

ironic ritual

It sucks to have a beard and STILL have to shave every day to keep the fur from growing where you don't want it!

I am not against alternative lifestyles among consenting adults. If what your doing is not harmful to anyone, knock yourself out. I've had friends with every piercing you can imagine, and some you really wouldn't want a mental image of. I've met people who have augmented themselves with prosthetics to look like cats or lizards. I've had interesting, prolonged discussions with Pagans, Wiccans, Satanists, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, Christians, Atheists, Agnostics, Discordians, and more - and have developed friendships with lots of these folks over the years.

Its important that you note these things about me, because I want you to understand that my stance on this issue does not stem from any "boys shouldn't have girl hair" feelings on my part.

The fact is, though, that the school district does have the right to set its own dress code. The rules were made by the elected officials on the Mesquite School Board. If the citizens of Mesquite decide that the restrictive dress code no longer reflects their community standards - then they can change the dress code how ever they want. They can use the proper channels to either run for school board themselves - with one of their platform planks being loosening the dress code, or they can back a board candidate that reflects their views. If they can convince enough of their fellow Mesquite citizens, then the dress code will change to reflect the evolution of the society toward looser dress code standards.
Alternatively, if this is an important issue to them the Pughs could move a couple of miles into a school district whose dress code was more comfortable for them, or they could put Taylor in a private school, or they could home school...

But the Pughs aren't having any of that. No sir.
They decided that the best lesson to teach their son is that the rules don't apply to him. If he wants to do something that isn't allowed by society's rules, then he should just disregard that particular rule. Nothing is more important than the desire that he has for what he wants, and that desire must be fulfilled IMMEDIATELY! No waiting around to work within the framework of law and society.... screw that shit.

Just do your own thing and expect society to conform to YOU.

So... why should we care about over indulgent parents and their failure to teach their child that some degree of conformity is necessary to exist and function as a part of even a "free" society?

Because their failure, and the failure of people who mimic them, has a price. Remember the psychological study that I mentioned before? Well, it shows that five times as many high school and college students are dealing with anxiety and other mental health issues as youth of the same age who were studied in the Great Depression era.

Scientists think some of the increase is due to too much emphasis being placed on "outward" appearances and wealth. I'm thinking we can probably attribute a lot of the increase to parents not equipping their children to exist in a "real world" that doesn't recognize them as it's center. My opinion seems to be supported by the following findings (emphasis mine):

The study also showed increases in "psychopathic deviation," which is loosely related to psychopathic behavior in a much milder form and is defined as having trouble with authority and feeling as though the rules don't apply to you. The percentage of young people who scored high in that category increased from 5 percent in 1938 to 24 percent in 2007.

It seems that the youth of America in 1938, even with their very survival in question due to the Great Depression, weren't as screwed up as we've managed to make many of our kids today. All under the auspices of being more "modern" in our approach to parenting. We wanted to be so much more compassionate and understanding and thoughtful than our parents and grandparents in how we raised our children.

We weren't (and aren't) doing them any favors. They are paying the price for our lack of fortitude. We aren't here to be our kid's buddies. We aren't here to live vicariously through them. Our job as parents is NOT to GIVE them everything they want in life.

Our job is to make damned sure that they have the tools and skills necessary to succeed in life and to have the opportunity to find happiness for themselves.

As an important part of that, we need to instill in them the understanding that while this country affords freedoms to its citizens on a level not seen anywhere else in the world - that does not translate as an obligation on the part of society to transform itself to reflect each individual person's beliefs.

See the distinction I'm making here? For too long, we have allowed ourselves to suffer needlessly under the Tyranny of the Crybaby.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Movie report

Man... seems like we are really on a role when it comes to enjoying movies here lately. The last couple of movies we've been to have been "two thumbs up". This Saturday was no exception.


We went to the matinee showing of "The Book of Eli" Saturday morning (if you can call 12 noon morning), and thoroughly enjoyed it. Denzel Washington is one of my favorite actors, and post apocalyptic movies always have potential to be interesting.

book of eli denzel kunis

I won't give away the plot, or slip in any spoilers, but everyone in the movie did a great job. I had always thought Mila Kunis was funny in "That 70's Show", and I had doubts about her being believable in this role. My concerns were unfounded, however. She was great as the survivalist waif, as was Gary Oldman as the evil enemy to Denzel's stoic wanderer. There's a suprise twist to the ending, that I can almost guarantee you won't see coming :)

the book of eli camping

I highly recommend this movie - and I hope our streak of good flicks continues :)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Girl Friday - 1/15/2010 - Scarlett Johansson

As promised a while back, I'm going more modern-day for a bit with the Girl Friday post. This week is a woman whose popularity my Mrs. has expressed some amount of puzzlement over. On more than one occasion, she's told me "I don't see what the big deal is about..."

Scarlett Johansson.



scarlett side

Scarlett Johansson has appeared in movies from the age of nine. She's been one of the few actresses that has successfully transitioned from child star to adult actress. I think she has the ablilty to capture some of the glamor of the old Hollywood Starlets, while still being able to appear "Girl Next Door".



I think she's a pretty good actress, too. She was really good in the Horse Whisperer as a child, and I'm a big fan of the movie Lost in Translation - where she appeared opposite Bill Murray. I've found that people either really like Lost in Translation or they really don't. I liked it much - but your mileage may vary.

scarlett lost in translation

She was also one of the only things on the screen during "The Island" that was worth watching.

scarlett-johansson 4

She's married to Ryan Reynolds, who I also enjoy as an actor. Any girl can go for a crotch rocket jockey or a Harley Guy. But you have to respect a Gal who has the good taste to pick a guy who rides a Cafe Racer....

reynolds johansson cafe racer

scarlett johansson brunette

(PS. She also looks good as a brunette... )

Thursday, January 14, 2010

"New" Zombie Movie..

I saw a trailer several months ago when we were at the theater and then promptly forgot about it until a couple of days ago when I saw the trailer again. There's a movie coming out in February called The Crazies. Its a remake of a George Romero Zombie movie from the early 1970's.

I've not seen the original, but the remake looks promising for those of us that enjoy watching folks battle with the zombie horde on the big screen.

Here's a clip of the Trailer

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Just make the hoop bigger...

You're going to see virtually the same news report parroted in the MSM over and over all day today. It will be something along the lines of "Stimulus Saves 2 Million Jobs".

What you may not see, is this little buried AP story. I had to dig it out of a Minneapolis St. Paul newspaper website:

The White House has abandoned its controversial method of counting jobs under President Barack Obama's economic stimulus, making it impossible to track the number of jobs saved or created with the $787 billion in recovery money.

Despite mounting a vigorous defense of its earlier count of more than 640,000 jobs credited to the stimulus, even after numerous errors were identified, the Obama administration now is making it easier to give the stimulus credit for hiring. It's no longer about counting a job as saved or created; now it's a matter of counting jobs funded by the stimulus.

Then there's this gem:

That means that any stimulus money used to cover payroll will be included in the jobs credited to the program, including pay raises for existing employees and pay for people who never were in jeopardy of losing their positions.

And this:

Recipients of recovery money no longer have to show that a job would have been lost without the stimulus help, and they no longer are required to keep an ongoing tally of jobs saved or created. The new rules allow stimulus recipients to limit the job tally to quarterly reports, making it impossible to avoid double-counting a job that was created in one quarter and continued into the next.

Have you ever seen the child sized basketball goals that are really short? You know, the ones where they make the hoop like 4 times bigger than a regular hoop, and the "basketball" is half the size of a regular basketball?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


This was one of the many calls I responded to at work yesterday.

golden stuck in fence

That's Sandy, the Golden Retriever. She likes to try to get out of her yard whenever her owners put her out in the yard. Sometimes that leads Sandy to try avenues of escape that, in hindsight, aren't very bright.

She managed to fit her head and most of her neck out of the hold she had engineered at the bottom of the gate. Getting the rest of her body through the gap proved more problematic. Sandy's owner discovered her there and called 911. She was afraid that the dog would choke to death and could not figure out how to get the dog loose.

After snapping the picture above, I took my multi-tool and removed one of the two bolts that attached latch bar to the gate. This allowed the bar to rotate, in turn allowing me to lift up on the gate without having to swing it open.

This gave enough slack for the relieved dog to wiggle free. The dog is fine, though I doubt she learned her lesson.

Would that the rest of life's challenges were so simply met.

Monday, January 11, 2010

We Get the World We Deserve

This is a long, wordy post.

Sorry 'bout that, but its necessary. If you enjoy the things I normally blog about - don't worry. We'll return to your regular programming momentarily :)

Since this blog is primarily for me, though, I feel that its important to say something.


I've reached a tipping point, of sorts. It's been building up over the course of the past year, and when I read this story I slid right over the edge - hopefully never to return to my previous position. A brief summary of the story follows, and then a word or two about where my head is at.....

On October 3, 66 year old retired Air Force Captain and ex-Pharmaceutical Company Salesman Fred Rein was working at his part time job delivering Pizzas. He had originally taken the delivery job to help out his daughter, who worked for Dominoes Pizza, when she found herself shorthanded one night. He liked the job and stayed.

People who know him say he often used the tips that he earned to help people in need. He'd buy pizzas for poor people that couldn't afford it, and he once paid a young mother's electricity bill. He didn't brag about doing these things. He just did them.

What Fred didn't realize on October 3, was that the house he was making a delivery too was vacant. Earlier, a 16 year old thug had called in a fake pizza order as a set up for an ambush. He waited in the dark with three of his friends until Fred approached the house. The teen then bashed Fred in the head repeatedly with an aluminum baseball bat that he had brought along just for that purpose. They stole the $20 Fred had in his pocket, as well as the pizzas.

Afterwards, according to the teen, the group of criminals enjoyed their pizzas and then spent the rest of the evening working out and lifting weights.

Clearly, this is an awful crime. It was planned and executed with callous disregard for human life and the law. The person guilty of this crime surely will get the maximum penalty afforded by the law?....


His defense attorneys have argued that the teen should not be tried as an adult because, in their words, the teen has "not yet been afforded the counseling services and treatment programs that are available in the juvenile system".

So, you may be thinking this was a one time instance of bad judgement on the part of the teen. Maybe he's led a law-abiding respectable life up until now. Maybe he just fell in with a bad crowd that led him astray. Maybe he realizes what he's done and is sorry for it.

In truth, the dickhead in question was already on probation for throwing bricks from an over pass into the windshields of oncoming traffic. While in detention, he's flooded his jail cell, manufactured "shanks", and frequently talked about escaping. When the current charges against him were being read before a magistrate, he reportedly giggled and laughed.

When asked by investigators if there is anything he would have done differently, if he could go back and do it over - the teen said only that he would use his fists to beat the old man, instead of a bat.

Now these days you expect a defense attorney to try and get their client off, right? They try every trick in the book to see that there clients gets a vigorous defense. Arguably, that's their job. But surely the Judge in this case would see their way past all that ridiculous wrangling and charge this animal with the maximum crime possible?


State District Judge Jean Boyd agreed with the reasoning of the defense attorneys, and has refused to try the teen as an adult. He'll be tried as a juvenile.

Fred Rein is still confined to a hospital bed. His brain damage is probably permanent. His Wife, who has Multiple Sclerosis, has to make the two hour trip to the hospital to see him twice a month. Fred's hearing has worsened since the attack, so she can no long talk to him on the phone.

He has difficulty communicating, and has short term memory loss. He is often times unresponsive, and was unable to open Christmas presents that his family brought to him in the Hospital over the Holidays. His appetite has dropped and he rarely eats. Even if he lives, this once vibrant, compassionate man will most likely never be the same.


You know who shares a portion of the blame for what is happening in this case?


We get the government we deserve. We get the country we deserve. We get the society we deserve. This case is symptomatic of a larger over all problem today.

I went to sleep for a long time. I decided it was easier to keep quiet. I decided that the "experts" in compassion must be right. I decided that I didn't want to be seen/labeled as "racist" or "backwards" or "unsophisticated" by the intellectuals. I didn't want to be seen as unfeeling, or unsympathetic, towards struggling economic classes. I thought it was too much trouble to get involved with, or even try to follow, politics.

I once took pride in considering myself a "moderate". That's what you were supposed to be, right? If you're not a "moderate", then you must be one of those crazy extremists that hate black people and think women shouldn't work outside the home... right? Intelligent, educated people compromise and find common ground, right? They strive for bipartisan solutions, regardless of the quality of the end result. That's the most important thing, right?... to be in the middle?

In truth, I was lazy and spoiled.

You see, people with much more grit, determination, and foresight than I have built this nation on certain principles and ideas. They weren't perfect people, but they were largely good hearted and steadfast. It's become popular these days to see those people as stupid, un-evolved, and simple. Being painted as mean and uncompasionate by the meanest and least compasionate people on the planet can be bewildering. Being portrayed as impolite and intollerant by the rudest and most bigotted people to walk the earth can be difficult to deal with.

I'm not worthy to stand in my Grandfather's shadow.

I've come very close to wrecking all that they have given me because I couldn't be bothered to stand up for what is right. I couldn't be bothered to do the hard thinking necessary to form firm opinions on the "right and wrong" of particular issues. I wasn't comfortable deciding for myself what I thought about issues, because that would only lead to awkward internal conflicts when faced with a noisy minority of pseudo intellectuals who disagreed.

Just as they do when you question man-made climate change, or dare to oppose radical changes to the way our government rules us, or have the audacity to suggest that maybe getting an abortion isn't solely an exercise of a woman's "right to choose".. the intellectual elite have decided that there should be a simple equation to rule our lives:

Resistance to their world view = uneducated, knuckle dragging, redneck.

Well, not any more.

I'm done sitting on the sidelines. I'm done keeping my mouth shut for fear of being branded with one of those labels. Just as a lie of ommision is the same as an outright lie, my silence and attitude of disconnect have been the same as a vote of approval for many trends that I believe pose a serious threat to our future as a people and as a nation. The intellectual dishonesty of that behavior is devasting when finally admitted.

I'm not talking about running for office here. I'm not talking about becoming a community organizer. I'm not built for that. There's a reason this blog is called the "Reluctant" Paladin.... I'm no leader of men.

I'm simply making a public declaration that, as an individual, I won't be silent any more. In my personal and professional relationships, I won't bite my tongue. I'm not going to keep silent just to get along. And I'm not just talking about here on this largely anonymous blog. It's easy to type what I think. It will be much tougher to make a stand in real life - but that's what is necessary if we want to have some sort of rational, worthwhile world to pass on to our kids and grandkids.

I'm talking about doing the legwork needed to decide exactly what I believe, and why I believe it. Then having the guts to express those beliefs and explain them when challenged. I'm talking about doing my research before elections at all levels. Not just voting in the "big one", but showing up to vote in primary races, local elections, and generally paying attention to what is being done to MY WORLD.

I won't smile and clap politely when the emperor walks by buck naked. From this point on I'm gonna tell him flat out that he has no clothes.

If I want there to be a world left worth passing on to my Granddaughter, its the work that needs to be done. For her sake, I hope I didn't wake up too late.

bailey smile

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Almost missed it...

Do you remember Harry and the Hendersons?

harry hendersons

It was a movie that came out in 1987 starring John Lithgow. Its about a family who finds themselves in the position of being the adopted family of a Bigfoot. they name the huge hairy behemouth "Harry". Its a pretty funny movie, regardless of some of the anti-hunting overtones.

Holy Crap... hard to believe that movie is over 20 years old!

Anyway, one of the funny moments in the movie is when Harry rides in the family station wagon. He's obviously too tall to fit inside comfortably, but instead of slouching down to fit he pushes the roof of the car up. This makes a big hump in the car roof to accomodate his head.

So why am I talking about a 1987 movie?

The Mrs and I were watching TV the other night, and a commercial came on for the GMC Terrain. I wasn't really paying attention - which is my usual state when commercials come on. While the commercial ran, though, I thought I caught a glimpse of something odd.

Although I bemoan much of the modern era, it does have its benefits - one of which is the DVR. I backed the feed up and paused the playback at the moment that had caught my eye. Its only visible for a moment on the video and then its gone without comment. As they are panning around various parts of the SUV, there are little graphics popping up on the screen. They are highlighting various selling points of the car - one of which is the adjustability of leg room and seat position.

Here's a screen capture of what I noticed:

gm commercial capture

Like I said, its only on the screen for a moment and then its gone. Notice the little graphic of the family? Mom, Dad, the kids.... and HARRY!!

I found a copy of the commercial on Youtube and embedded it below. The scene is at around 8 seconds in. I love little subtle things like this :)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Nice Surprise

You know what this is?

red ring

That's the dreaded "Red Ring of Death". It's the indicator light that has told thousands of Xbox 360 gamers that their console has officially crapped the bed. You see, Microsoft cheaped out on the cooling components for the early models of Xbox 360s. The result is overheating that causes solder joints to melt and boards to warp. Once the connections are broken, you're done.

I got hit with this a couple of months ago - just when I was starting to really look forward to the release of Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2. I don't spend tons of time on the xbox. I do enjoy playing it when I do, however. I'm not a role player. I don't race cars. I don't solve mysteries.

I shoot stuff.

My favorite games, by far, are 1st person shooters. I'm a big fan of the Call of Duty franchise - especially the Modern Warfare incarnation. I'm also fond of Gears of War.

Anyway... I was researching online possible DIY "fixes" for my xbox, when I discovered that so many people had experienced the red ring of death, that Microsoft had extended the 1 year warranty to 3 years! I promptly registerd my repair request online, boxed up my dead unit, and shipped it off to the repair shop. That was on December 28.

Even with the intervening Holidays, I've already gotten my Xbox back.... which in and of itself would be pretty awesome. In reality, its even better. Microsoft didn't send me back my old unit. They sent me a brand new Xbox! How cool is that? I would have prefered that the product not be made defective to begin with, but the Microsoft certainly did the right thing in the end.


That's a screenshot from Gears of War 2. Automatic weapons with chainsaws attached. How could it get any better?

Friday, January 8, 2010

Girl Friday - 1/08/2010 - Joan Bennett

Click on Pictures to visit my Flickr account. Some images may be viewable larger there.

Today's Girl Friday is:

Joan Bennett

joan bennet

Joan Bennett began her career right at the beginning of the change from silent films to "talkies". She stared in a string of successful movies as well as stage productions.

Bennett  Joan 3

Bennett  Joan 2

Some of my younger readers may not realize how common it was in the past for mainstream actors and actresses to lend their image to advertising many products that most modern "stars" shy away from promoting. Here's Ms. Bennett in a magazine advert for Chesterfield cigarettes.

joan bennett ad

Joan Bennett was partially shunned from Hollywood after an incident in 1951. She had met her long time agent, to discuss an upcoming TV show appearance. Her husband happened to see the two talking together. Thinking they were having an affair, Bennett's husband snuck up behind them and shot the agent twice. Once in the leg and once in the groin (OUCH!).

The Agent recovered, and Bennett stayed married to this particular husband for 13 more years, but it was increasingly difficult for her to get work on the big screen after the incident. Commenting on her semi-blacklisting, Bennett was reported to have said "I might as well have pulled the trigger myself."


Bennett continued to appear in successful stage productions, as well as TV shows that included a role in Dark Shadows during the late 1960s.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Good vs. Evil

Lots in the press and on blogs about the underwear bomber, the health care debacle, and the (hopefully) disintegration of the man-made global warming hoax. I'm glad to see all of it discussed openly, and I'm following those items with much interest just like lots of you.

However, I noticed a story that you're not seeing a lot of detail about in the national media or in the blogs I follow - at least not since the initial event passed. I'm talking about the recent shooting at the Lloyd George Courthouse in Las Vegas. On Monday, Johnny Lee Wicks walked into the courthouse where he shot and killed a security guard on duty that day. Wicks also wounded another officer before being shot by security officers and US Marshalls.

That's about the extent of the coverage that I had heard before I specifically started poking around on the net for more info.

Let's take a walk......


That's Stan Cooper. He was the 72 year old security guard that was shot by Wicks in the courthouse. He had become a security guard after retiring from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department after a 26 year long career. He was a Sergeant there, where he was described as "gentle", "thoughtful", and "quiet" by co-workers. His Lieutenant stated that he was a good cop, and could not remember a single complaint made about Cooper in his many years of service.

He loved horses, built his own house, and was beloved by his family.

stan cooper family

Cooper was well like by his co-workers at the courthouse, as well as the judges, lawyers, and clerical staff that saw him there on a daily basis.

Now lets swing to the other end of the spectrum.


That's Johnny Lee Wicks. That's his mugshot from prior encounters with the law in Las Vegas, and elsewhere...

"Wicks had an extensive criminal history in Tennessee and California, including sexual assault, domestic battery and murder", FBI Special Agent In Charge Kevin Favreau said.

The murder conviction referenced above was for Wicks killing his brother in 1974. They had argued over weather or not Wick's motorcycle could beat his brother's car in a race - so Wicks killed him with a shotgun. He was sentenced to 55 years in prison, got the sentence reduced to 12 to 15 years due to an appeal, and was eventually paroled after serving only 6 years.

Wicks was living in Las Vegas, collecting disability benefits from Social Security for a "bad leg" that kept him from working. However, according to one of his few friends - Wicks was obsessed with physical fitness, worked out frequently, and appeared to be very fit during their workout sessions. His "bad leg" didn't interfere with his tinkering as a mechanic, and he was apparently in good enough shape to install a new clutch in the automobile of his workout buddy.

Apparently short fused and bad tempered by all accounts, Wicks was very angry when the Social Security Administration cut his benefits. He could think of only one reason for the insult: his race.

In 2008 Wicks filed a complaint against a regional Social Security Administration commissioner, alleging that his monthly benefits had been reduced because he was black. "It's all about race," he wrote in the complaint, although he cited no evidence. "I am no fool."

Ten years earlier, Wicks had tried to sue an apartment complex. He claimed the complex evicted him because he was Black.

On Monday morning, Wicks and his "bad leg" set fire to his apartment before he walked the three miles to the US Courthouse. He walked in the door, pulled the shotgun from beneath his trench coat, and started shooting. He shot Stan Cooper in the chest, wounded another officer, and then fled out the front door as other officers began to return fire.

Wicks ran across the street, where he turned to fire on the pursuing officers again. Three Deputy US Marshalls and 4 Armed Security Officers fired a total of 81 shots at Wicks, striking him in the head and stomach - killing him.

I had hoped to find some reference online stating how many hits vs how many misses, in regards to the shots fired at Wicks. I'm always curious about such reports. It goes to show you how much situational elements, adrenalin, and fear can affect the aim of even trained professionals. I get the impression that there were more misses than hits. I would also bet that the officers involved would have been able to easily hit a man sized target at the same distance - under less stressful conditions.

That's it. I don't see the point in editorializing on the facts of the case too much. One man was an asset that will be missed. The other should have been purged from the earth long ago.

As I read about the case, I found more and more that interested me and I was more than a little puzzled that more of the details aren't more widely covered. I have my own opinions about that. You can draw your own conclusions.

I'm just sorry that the Cooper family have had to suffer such a terrible loss.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

But you promised to be good...

See that A-hole?

That's Said Ali al-Shihri. We kept him locked up in Gitmo for six years after catching his terrorist ass in Pakistan. He was released, in 2007, into the custody of Saudi Arabia for "rehabilitation".

He's now surfaced in Yemen as a leader of the local al-Qaida group. You know... the ones who its looking like are responsible for the near disastrous Christmas Day plane bombing? Yeah, them.

The Bush Adminsitration yielded to pressure and kicked people like this loose from time to time.

Nice job.


You can also read a related story here, from ABC. Seems the Obama administration is looking to offload about 100 of these guys from Guantanamo to the Saudi "Rehab" camps so that Gitmo can be emptied and closed - which of course is key to everyone loving us around the world. At the Rehab camp the inmates can look forward to "art therapy, swimming, and playing sports and video games. ".

Saturday, January 2, 2010


Just a quick post while I've got a moment. We went to see Avatar this morning - the 3D version. I have two main impressions:

1. 3D technology has come a LONG way since the last 3D catastrophe that I went to see a couple of years ago. My Mrs had wanted to see some documentary about under sea life at the IMAX... it was so hard for me to focus on the images on the screen that I came out of that one with a screamer of a headache.

Avatar is in something called "Real 3D". You still have to wear the glasses, but the experience is entirely different. After the first few minutes I got over the weirdness and began to enjoy it. I actually flinched a couple of times, and not because I was startled. My mind actually thought some piece of dust or ember floating around was going to touch my face. Pretty cool.

2. You've probably heard that there's an not so subtle sub-text to the movie. The military, corporations, most soldiers, and the government are all evil. Scientists, soldiers damaged too much to fight anymore, and natives are idyllically perfect. In other words, most of the characters were two dimensional - regardless of the three dimensional format.

Its really hard to miss the message, but for me it was pretty easy to dismiss. I had heard from someone that Avatar was like Dances With Wolves on another planet, and that pretty much pegs it. I loved that movie too, and had no problems recognizing the subtext.

That aside, it was a really enjoyable movie. Fast paced, and beautifully shot, with not too much storyline to get in the way. You'll want to cheer for the good guys and boo the bad guys. We gave it two thumbs up!

You'll have to make your own mind up about "supporting liberal propaganda" and "giving your cash to James Cameron" and whatnot. I'll not begrudge you your decision either way. All I can tell you is the movie was entertaining, and I would recommend it for that purpose without hesitation.

Paladin's Random Crap

A couple of months ago I picked up an antique hand cranked grinder at a flea market.

luther grinder before

That's a Luther Brothers Co. "Sparkler" model grinder. It clamps to your workbench, is cranked by hand, and its chain driven. You know by now that if something is old, I'm probably interested in it. If something is old and has visible gears, I'm potentially gonna love it. If something is old, has visible gears, and moves when cranked with a chain drive belt.... I'm probably gonna drool on myself.

This old girl was fairly complete, but really dirty. The gears would turn, but it was very tight and hard to crank. The only part missing is a small piece for the tool rest that I can pretty easily fabricate at some point.

Here she is when I was about half way through taking her apart.

luther grinder half teardown

No broken parks or other damage. Just some light rust, congealed lubricant, and dirt. I take LOTS of pictures when I'm restoring anything that has more than a couple of parts. You'd be amazed at how quickly you can forget how things are supposed to go back together. As with many things in life, I learned this the hard way. Digital photography just makes it too easy to document stuff.

Here's the girl almost completely taken down:

luther grinder teardown

The aerosol can is PB blaster penetrating oil. This stuff is awesome. I've saved many a stuck bolt/screw with this. Spray some on, let it sit, maybe tap a bit, work at the screw, spray a little more, let it sit.... you get the picture. It almost ALWAYS works when I need to take something apart that's seized up. I've even soaked stuff over the course of a couple of days, in extreme cases. Old tools like this are mostly cast iron. If you bang around on it too much you could bust the casting - and then you're screwed.

The mason jar is half turpentine and half boiled linseed oil. Its my mixture for cleaning up old metal parts. I used a brass wheel on my bench grinder to clean the dirt and surface rust off the old Luther Grinder before I took the picture above. The brass wheel doesn't wear or mar the iron tool, but it removes the dirt and scaly rust. Whey you're done, though, the metal doesn't have that warm look that I like in old tools. Also, it will still show some red, dry areas where the rust used to be.

I use the small toothbrush sized wire hand brush dipped in the turp/linseed oil mixture to brush the entire metal piece. Then I use shop towels to wipe off all the excess. I really like the way it makes the metal look, and it protects it against the rust returning. Just keep it in a sealed container if you make your own. Otherwise the turpentine will evaporate and you'll be left with mostly sticky linseed oil.

Here she is all put back together.

luther grinder after

And here's an extremely short video of her in action.... 'cuz wheres the fun of a hand cranked grinder if you don't get to see it being cranked? :)