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08 January 2010

Nog Love

Now that it's been taken off of the shelves, I wanted to say a word about the best egg nog I've ever had. I assure you, my exuberant declaration is not the opinion of a newbie to nog. I consider myself to be something of a connoisseur, in fact. I have tried the majority, if not all, of the major and/or available brands of egg nog (non-alcoholic) and I have yet to find one that comes close to this Organic Valley offering. Those of you who never consume egg nog without alcohol are not welcome to comment on this post. I am discussing egg nog that can stand on its own and this product does so and shines! The fact that it is organic and natural is, of course, a bonus, but this nog is brilliantly executed. Unfortunately, the vast majority of egg nogs on the market are flavored to strongly, often with artificial flavors. This results in the bouquet smelling much like bubble gum flavoring. This, being the standard, sets the bar abysmally low for egg nog quality. Organic Valley's egg nog is not only exceptionally well balanced, its flavor is perfectly understated when compared to all the other offerings. I rarely, if ever, wax rhapsodic about a product, but this one blew me away this season. Kudos to you, Organic Valley! You've made an amazing product.

08 December 2009

Journey of the Blade by Chuck Pippin

The KSMA blog has just published Chuck's article on his bladesmithing journey. Go check it out here.

11 June 2009

Our knife rights are being taken away

Those of you who know me, know me to be blade-crazy. Well, they want to take the majority of my blades away. Please go to this PDF and take a look at the situation. I'm going to do my part to raise hell about this!
My friend Terry Trahan has an insider's perspective on this (he's employed by a knife manufacturer) and he has a synopsis of this on his blog as well: WeaselCraft

30 May 2009

Gathering of the Tribes 2009

This was my first Gathering with this group. Indeed, I knew these folks only through their collective web presence. Any apprehension that would normally occur when heading into the home turf of a bunch of strangers was assuaged by my correspondence with the primary host, Chuck Pippin. I was confident that I was going to be training with like-minded brothers and sisters. The experience exceeded my wildest expectations.
I had signed up for the combat sessions as well as the blade-making class. All instruction was very well thought out and executed without feeling regimented. The atmosphere was so relaxed, in fact, that I never felt uncomfortable, pressed for time or out of place. This, believe it or not, is no small feat. The balance of top notch instruction with a welcoming, accepting and ego-free dynamic is one seldom realized. The Gathering of the Tribes accomplished this effortlessly and with a competence rarely seen.
The combat instruction included San Yun Do answers to bladed attacks from Chuck Pippin and Don Young, the Sword and Shield applications of Maharlika Kuntaw from the incomparable Brian "Buzz" Smith, Pencak Silat Pertempuran's Ales material brought to us by Sterling Heibeck, Nick Gutschow's Silat Sherif groundwork movement reminiscent of Harimau, Krav Maga from Craig Gray and Kapatiran Suntukan Martial Arts (KSMA) material (Nick Stick) from the man himself, Jay M. Carstensen. Terry Trahan brought WeaselCraft to the group with an impressive display of skill and no B.S. self defense. Mel Hebert brought some of his personal flavor of Rossi Kuntao to the group, energizing everyone and facilitating some light entertainment in the form of flying bodies. The instruction was of world class caliber and I was blown away by the dynamic fostered by all who participated.
The bladesmithing class was amazing! Although Mel and I started with forged blanks, there was plenty of work to do to turn them into blades. The instruction was thorough and incredibly enjoyable, taking some of the drudgery out of the process. I'm hooked! Chuck's instruction and guidance was impeccable and detailed. Ian Robbin's depth of knowledge and understanding with regards to the smithing process was a wonder to observe and a pleasure to learn from. The experience has crystallized my intent to start making knives.
The bladesmithing experience segues nicely into the most extraordinary aspect of the Gathering: The generosity and hospitality. Handle woods, tools, machine time, steel and even Chuck and Ian's time can be claimed to have been paid for by the nominal fee. But, the bladesmithing class and the time put in by the teachers was invaluable and more than exceeded what we paid.
The most amazing example of generosity was the lodging, food and acceptance that was offered to all. Chuck and his wife, Jeanne, took in a complete stranger and treated him as though he were royalty. I pulled into Chuck's driveway and was greeted like an old friend. Perhaps I've gone soft in my stable, comfortable old age, but I've never felt so welcome and accepted in my entire life. Jeanne was amazing! She was the rock upon which this whole shindig was built. She kept us well fed and happy and opened up her home to the rabble that are the warriors that descended upon it.
Overall, the Gathering of the Tribes 2009 was an experience of a lifetime. I feel like I left there with an entirely new set of brothers and sisters for life. Thank you to all who made that weekend one that I will always recall with fondness.

05 August 2008

Meditations on Violence by Sgt. Rory Miller

I just finished this book and it's a must read! Most of you know that I am generally averse to pushing recommendations on folks, but this book actually inspired me to write a review on Amazon! This is the text from that review:
This book, in 169 pages, articulates truths that you cannot find in dozens of others on the subject. Rory Miller has written a seminal text on the subject of real violence, while simultaneously shattering the fantasies of the majority of martial artists.
I have already started to incorporate the concept of the "monkey dance" and the "GMD" into lessons for my students. I even used the process predator as an example of mindset in one of my classes last week.
While I experienced more than my share of street altercations in the 1980's, I haven't been involved in an unrestrained, unexpected episode of violence in over 16 years. The tendency to stray from reality in one's training is very real and should be a constant fear in every martial artist's mind.
I have purchased countless copies of Sanford Strong's "Strong on Defense" for my students and fellow combat scientists over the years. This book, "Meditations On Violence," will now be added to those purchases, as I believe that everyone needs to read what is contained here.
This book is one of the most sobering and important books out there on the subject of violence and our interaction with it.

12 May 2008

Had to throw this up here...didn't see where I'd posted it previously

A list of stupid republican arguments against gay marriage

  1. Being gay is not natural. Real Americans always reject unnatural things like eyeglasses, polyester, and air conditioning.
  2. Gay marriage will encourage people to be gay, in the same way that hanging around tall people will make you tall.
  3. Legalizing gay marriage will open the door to all kinds of crazy behavior. People may even wish to marry their pets because a dog has legal standing and can sign a marriage contract.
  4. Straight marriage has been around a long time and hasn't changed at all; women are still property, blacks still can't marry whites, and divorce is still illegal.
  5. Straight marriage will be less meaningful if gay marriage were allowed; the sanctity of Britany Spears' 55-hour just-for-fun marriage would be destroyed.
  6. Straight marriages are valid because they produce children. Gay couples, infertile couples, and old people shouldn't be allowed to marry because our orphanages aren't full yet, and the world needs more children.
  7. Obviously gay parents will raise gay children, since straight parents only raise straight children.
  8. Being gay is disgusting. Which is why lesbian porn isn't a 3.5 billion dollar a year industry.
  9. Gay marriage is not supported by religion. In a theocracy like ours, the values of one religion are imposed on the entire country. That's why we have only one religion in America.
  10. Children can never succeed without a male and a female role model at home. That's why we as a society expressly forbid single parents to raise children.
  11. Gay marriage will change the foundation of society; we could never adapt to new social norms. Just like we haven't adapted to cars, the service-sector economy, or longer life spans.

08 February 2008

Say again?!?

Listening to NPR yesterday curled my toenails. Apparently, there is a backlash against the biofuel industry. Okay, so what's that mean? Here's what I heard yesterday:

Study: Ethanol Worse for Climate Than Gasoline

Listen Now [4 min 5 sec] add to playlist

Farmer gathers sticks from burned farmland
Ricardo Azoury

Farmland in Brazil is burned, in preparation for planting corn and beans. A new study finds that ethanol production drives such land clearing, contributing greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Corbis

All Things Considered, February 7, 2008 · At first blush, biofuels such as corn ethanol and soybean diesel seem like they would be great from the standpoint of global warming. The crops soak up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as they grow, and that balances out the carbon dioxide they produce when they're burned. But until now, nobody has fully analyzed all the ripple effects of this industry. And Tim Searchinger, a visiting scholar at Princeton University, says those effects turn out to be huge.

"The simplest explanation is that when we divert our corn or soybeans to fuel, if people around the world are going to continue to eat the same amount that they're already eating, you have to replace that food somewhere else," Searchinger says.

Searchinger and his colleagues looked globally to figure out where the new cropland is coming from, as American farmers produce fuel crops where they used to grow food. The answer is that biofuel production here is driving agriculture to expand in other parts of the world.

"That's done in a significant part by burning down forests, plowing up grasslands. That releases a great deal of carbon dioxide," Searchinger says.

In fact, Searchinger's group's study, published online by Science magazine, shows those actions end up releasing huge amounts of carbon dioxide. The study finds that over a 30-year span, biofuels end up contributing twice as much carbon dioxide to the air as that amount of gasoline would, when you add in the global effects.

"Right now there's little doubt that ethanol is making global warming worse," Searchinger says.

Searchinger's team says these fuels are turning out to be anything but environmentally friendly. Alex Farrell at the University of California, Berkeley agrees.

"I think this paper will have major implications for the use of biofuels around the world," Farrell says.

Here in the United States, the federal government is offering large subsidies to encourage corn-based ethanol. That's a boon to Midwestern farmers and provides a domestic supply of fuel. The Bush administration is calling for a vast expansion of this industry, as part of a plan to reduce gasoline consumption by 20 percent.

"If you care about greenhouse gases," Farrell says, "then this expansion of the corn biofuel industry is going in the wrong direction."

Farrell says the new study will clearly need to be verified with similar analyses, but he says the overall conclusion looks solid. And it's not just an academic matter. Federal law says future biofuel sources will eventually need to be certified as benefiting the climate. If the new study holds up to scrutiny, America's main biofuel industry, corn-based ethanol, would flunk that test.

"Well, what is their solution?" asks Matt Hartwig, a spokesman for the Renewable Fuels Association, a trade group. He says the world needs more energy and ethanol is filling a need.

"I mean, sure, today ethanol production or renewable fuel technology itself is not perfect. But it is evolving and becoming better," Hartwig says.

But the new study concludes that even vast efficiency improvements in ethanol production won't change the equation. As long as the starting material is grown on farmland, Searchinger says, biofuels will be bad for the planet.

But Alex Farrell at Berkeley sees a way out of this. He says the focus of the biofuels industry needs a rapid change of direction, away from using cropland — which is where most U.S. biofuels come from today — and toward other sources of starting material.

"We could replace all of the ethanol that we consume in California just using waste that goes to the landfill today, and turning that into ethanol," Farrell says.

Environmentally friendly biofuels could also be made from agricultural waste or grasses grown on land that's not suitable for crops. The biofuels industry is heading in that direction, but the technology to make use of fuels other than corn and soy is still in its infancy.

Well, that's interesting. When did any of us that are clear thinking supporters of biofuel so much as imply that we were talking about corn ethanol or soy diesel?!? Is this another case of the media and the more evil spin doctors manipulating us to believe that this is the problem?!? Wake up everyone!!! My fellow treehuggers, you were NOT talking about corn and soy! Don't let them think you were!!! We were all talking about composted waste and waste oil from those poison boxes (McD and the King) and even the holy grail of HEMP biofuel!!! What? Hemp? But that is a plant too, right?!? Won't that cause all the destruction that those other plants do?

The short answer is NO...and go read a book! The longer answer is that hemp requires less space and water than corn or soy AND it is multipurpose!!! Replace that corn with hemp and you don't just have a more nutritionally dense food source (more protein than soy!), but you also have fiber for cloth, rope and a plethora of other products...and it makes great biodiesel. If the current trend is toward corn and soy for fuel, DON'T BLAME US (Loraxes) --- someone is making money from those choices. NPR, you should be ashamed for perpetuating this spin, although I applaud your effort to balance it out at the end. Please, kids, don't believe the hype!!! This is not what we ordered! Send it back to the kitchen and make them do it right! I agree with the studies conclusions in that we MUST stop the powers that be from steering energy solutions toward these engineered crops that are raping the earth and giving nothing back. However, I take issue with the argument that we would have to expand production of corn and soy to maintain our food stores while growing for fuel. When the hell did we start running out of corn and soy?!? People, we have had a food surplus in this country alone since the early sixties!!! Farmers are subsidized for that very surplus every year. Don't shuffle blame for shortages away from the gross mismanagement of a surplus! They are trying to dupe us kids...keeping us confused robs of us of our collective power and makes them filthy rich.

This has been a public service announcement from your friendly neighborhood lunatic. Thanks.