Dec 252013


And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.” – Luke 1:30-31

Merry Christmas to you and your family.

 Posted by at 12:01 am
Dec 242013

I had significant complaints about the man my mother was married to when she died. I could probably still stoke a lot of anger about some of them, if such had any productive purpose.

But he also showed me some of the purest, most honest, most heart-rending grief I’ve ever seen.

My mom’s last week was the longest, least pleasant five days of my life. I couldn’t sleep. Nothing would touch my headache. I ate, but not much and wholly without joy. I started smoking again after a year and a half on the wagon. We hung around UAB, waiting for news. Most of the time it was a push, or it was bad. But sometimes, it was hopeful. So we kept hanging around. That’s how that works.

Our hope ran out that Thursday night. Her cardiologist came and told us that her body was systematically shutting down, and that it was probably time to say goodbye. Indeed, she lived about another 17 hours after that.

As we sat trying to get this news in a box—ever noticed how desperate human beings are to compartmentalize?—her husband, after the worst of his tears, told me that he knew she was the one at their first Christmas together. They didn’t have a lot of money, but my mother was spectacular on a limited budget because she was smart and creative. She bought pomegranates and painstakingly stuck cloves into every square millimeter of the fruits. They smelled amazing. They looked amazing. And they lasted for several Christmases after that, too. No idea how.

She took several old glass Christmas ball ornaments and patiently stripped every bit of paint off them, making them transparent. Then, she refilled them with…things that looked good and made sense. I remember one full of birdseed. I remember another full of allspice. How’d she know to do this stuff? This was the early ’90s. There was no Pinterest.

Do you have any idea how special my mother could make three cinnamon sticks tied up with gold ribbon?

This past Sunday morning, Scott asked the congregation if there was a single person who embodied Christmas for any of us. I thought of my mother immediately, for just these kinds of things.

adventaltarI went to our church’s Blue Christmas service last night, mostly to remember her in a sustained way. I’d never been to one before and wasn’t sure what to expect, but I’m glad I went. I certainly knew it was a substantial risk of my composure. I cry easily and am more likely than not to tear up even in a normal service, and this was one that was subdued and sad from the outset.

And I did. I wept all the way through it. I lit a candle for my mother on the altar. Then, I cried all the way home. But I think I feel better this morning, and better able to enjoy our more traditional Christmas Eve service this afternoon, for it.

Merry Christmas, Mom. I love you. I miss you.

 Posted by at 10:28 am
Dec 232013

Frostbite is an offering from CaJohn’s, and I’ve been wanting to try it for a while. Its positioning is interesting. There’s nothing in it but vinegar, salt, water, and capsicum. So it’s to add heat without imparting flavor of its own. Net anecdotes suggest it’s an excellent drink additive. One fellow I encountered tells of heating up chocolate syrup with it before using it on ice cream. The extract in the sauce has a Scoville heat unit rating of 500,000, so this is strong and not to be trifled with if you think Tabasco is hot.

So how does it do with its stated mission?

I like to heat our beef stroganoff up a lot, so I went with a dozen or so drops of Frostbite over my plate last night. It did a good job of adding the bite, and the bite alone. Its home page suggests using it in beer, and that doesn’t really sound good to me, though I suspect I’ll see what it does for a Bloody Mary sometime before the holidays end. Lea’s going to add some to one of her batches of Chex Mix.

frostbiteI wanted to try it straight, though, to evaluate both its flavor and heat undiluted. So Nathan and I each shot about half a teaspoon of it last night.

Is it flavorless? Not exactly. It’s got a little sour/salty/bitter about it—no surprise given the ingredients. It tastes very much like the vinegar and sport peppers with the yellow top (like what you put on turnip greens), actually. I’d call the flavor subtle and easily dominated, maybe like vodka of reasonable quality?

I’ve spent a lot of time with habanero and ghost pepper sauces lately, and both of those heat you way up, but they do so gradually. The effect is cumulative. That is not the case with Frostbite. The heat is instant and searing, going from zero to maximum in perhaps ten seconds. It was primarily in the back of my mouth and throat. Water or beer allayed it just until I swallowed, at which point it immediately flared again. I put up with it for about three minutes, but Nathan and I both finally relented and had some milk. That had it 90+% extinguished in another five minutes. Not sure how long it would have lasted without the casein.

Frostbite certainly is a pretty and well-named sauce. The capsicum crystals look like glitter in the bottle (somewhat visible in the photo). It’ll draw reliable attention on your party table, and though it’s not a blow-the-back-of-your-head-out superhot sauce, it’s definitely formidable enough to get your attention. (Any knucklehead with his macho on should be permitted to douse whatever with it. Get photos, or better yet, video. See if you can get him to commit to no drink for five minutes.)

Frostbite is a difficult product to evaluate in the usual sense. It doesn’t really have any (or many) direct competitors, and generally when I’m rating a hot sauce I’m thinking of it relative to its peers. I’ll rate it based on how well it accomplishes its mission (adding heat, not flavor), its aesthetics, and its strength.


 Posted by at 4:09 pm
Dec 222013

Phil Robertson, star of Duck Dynasty, was recently asked in a GQ interview “what is sinful?” Here’s what he said:

Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men…It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.

A&E, which airs Duck Dynasty, responded with the following statement:

We are extremely disappointed to have read Phil Robertson’s comments in GQ, which are based on his own personal beliefs and are not reflected in the series Duck Dynasty. His personal views in no way reflect those of A&E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community. The network has placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely.

As I said during the Chick-fil-A debacle last year, these views are not my views, and they may or may not be yours, but they are not radical. They also do not constitute “hate.” It’s disappointing that A&E thinks it’s a good idea to react so swiftly and punitively.

I’ve never seen the show. I just barely know what it’s about. Given what I’ve read about it in the wake of this controversy, though, this suspension may turn out to be a poor business decision. Of course if asked, I suspect A&E would insist it’s merely taking the most principled of stands without such crass regard for the bottom line.

Naturally, this situation has triggered all of the usual politically correct bleating from all of the usual corners. And is there any less self-aware person than one mercilessly setting upon those with differing views in the name of tolerance?

I’m tired of our society’s obsession with sexuality, but I’m much more tired of tongue-clucking and finger-wagging being our national pastimes. Folks, discomfort is kind of the defining characteristic of tolerance. You don’t have to be “tolerant” of things you like.

 Posted by at 2:44 pm
Dec 202013

I have this crazy idea that a properly scoped and functioning federal government ought to be something we only rarely even notice.

That’s the most alien and offensive thing to me about the regime suggesting we should spend our hard-earned Christmas vacation time discussing health insurance.

Folks, government is truly interested only in its own power. It is the ceaseless responsibility of an informed and engaged populace to check that power.

I need government to help me defend my rights, when another would usurp them for his self-interest. I need government to deal with a foreign ICBM attack.

Do I really need government to help me with an annual checkup?

 Posted by at 10:40 pm