Wednesday, February 13, 2019

The Original Pizza Story and The One Ingredient Pizza Sauce

There is a story I was told, time and again.

When the Allied troops were fighting the Nazis in Italy after the fall of Mussolini they eventually approached Naples.

Due to the Volcanic Soil from Mount Vesuvius and other volcanos, the soil there is extremely rich.  The climate in the area is perfect for growing tomatoes that are held to be better than anywhere else.

(Ok, maybe AS good as the home grown tomatoes that are from South Jersey, but I digress.)

However, due to the impoverishment caused by the Fascists and the War, there was very little to go around. 

The troops came upon pizzas made with only about four ingredients.  Crust made from Flour, water, yeast and a little salt.  Mozzarella made from milk from the few cows that were left.  A simple red sauce made with those tomatoes and almost always a touch of basil.

Yep, that's it.  A Margarita Pizza.  Or however my spell check forces me to spell it.

(I have seen it Margherita on Menus as well.  The picture is labeled like that, the article uses the other spelling.)

Crust, Sauce, Basil, Mozzarella Cheese.  Heat in a wood burning oven.  Serve.

It was a hit and brought back to the US and became a favorite here and worldwide.

Mind you, to me, pizza made with Pineapples or Cheddar Cheese are an abomination, but I am quite fond of Mushrooms and perhaps sundried tomatoes on occasion.

About that sauce?

A week or two ago, I went to downtown Miami and went to what was an Italian restaurant.  They had all the prerequisite items on the menu and a simple Marg(h)erita Pizza in their wood burning stove.   I got that and it was excellent.

As I sat there I was pondering the sauce with my lunch partner.  We decided that if there was anything more in that sauce than a little basil and San Marzano Tomatoes, we couldn't tell.

San Marzano Tomatoes are the name for the "DOP" for that area - The Protected Area.

So we got a can.  I used a 100 year old potato masher and mushed them down to a chunky

Then I turned the heat onto medium low and cooked them down for 90 minutes.

Allowing the sauce to cool and rest until the next day, because tomato sauces are always ALWAYS better "tomorrow", I waited.

I made the pizza you see in that picture.  It was almost identical to that $16, Serves One, Pizza.

We cracked it.  Simple is best if you want an Authentic Pizza.

Mind you, I will say that Neopolitan Pizza in any of the major NE US Cities is supposed to be better, but this was an awesome pizza with a no fuss sauce that I would put up against anything I've had elsewhere.

So much for artisanal, you can be an artisan too!

Recipe Ingredients:

  • 1 26 Ounce Can of San Marzano Tomatoes, peeled, with Basil.  (800 grams)

That's it.

Recipe Process:

  • Open can into sauce pan.  
  • Use potato masher to rough-mix the Tomatoes.  If you use a blender, you want chunks so just pulse.
  • Warm the sauce pan to Medium Low - 3 on a regular American Stove.  (You know that Iconic one that goes "Lo", then 2 to 8, then "Hi"?)
  • Cook the sauce, stirring frequently, until the desired thickness is achieved - it took me 90 minutes on a slow simmer.
  • Set the sauce aside in the refrigerator until tomorrow to allow flavors to rest and meld.
  • Use promptly.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

A cat walks into a bar... And out again, and in again, and out again, and in again

I'm a dog kind of guy, not that I hide that very well. 

Thing is that allergies don't let that change much. 

Right now. My boy Rack is being quiet but he is finding his voice. 

Of course, after seeing all the viral videos of the Shiba Inu in Japan that knows how to bark softly, I have to try to train him to do that.

A Warning Bark in a "small house" does not have to rattle the china.  A simple "woof." will suffice.

Yeah good luck with that, right?  After all, how would you know what he's barking at if you can't hear him?

A guy posts a sign needing to hire someone that can type 60 wpm, use a computer and is bilingual

This dog walks in"Woof!"

The man says "What? You going to apply for this job?"

The dog says "Woof!" Walks to the sign, grabs it and puts it in the man's lap.

The man says "Alright...but can you type 60 wpm?"

The dog "Woof!" Walks to the typewriter and commences to typing perfectly, 60 wpm with no errors. The man is impressed and says "There is no way you can operate a computer though."

The dog "Woof! Woof!" Walks to the computer and operates it perfectly. The man then says "There is no way you are bilingual"

The dog immediately jumps up on the chair, sits on his haunches and goes "MEOW!"

Saturday, February 9, 2019

The worst part about being really good at keeping secrets is that... Nobody knows.

We are kind of inundated with ducks here.

Overrun, overpopulated, and overtaxed.

They're not native, and the naive around here keep feeding them.

Actually they're feeding the predators by proxy.  A clutch hatches, and since they don't go very far, you can count how many become a snack for foxes that have moved in as a result.

That is why I would be surprised to hear that one got successful enough to go car shopping.

A duck walks into a Mercedes dealership, and starts looking at cars.

A salesman approaches and says "can I help you sir"

The duck says "yes, I'm looking for a comfortable, yet fast car"

"Don't worry" says the duck "I have a well-paid job, and I can afford a Mercedes"

After some time the duck chooses a car and they retire to the salesman's office to make the purchase.

While the salesman completes the paperwork, the duck produces a large bag, and places it on the desk.

The salesman looks inside the bag, and sees it's full of feathers.

"What's this?" says the salesman.

The duck says.....

"It's a down payment"

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Today I Told Our Postie That I Was Making Soap And Was Not Walter White

Soap making is kind of a weird hobby.

Don't get me wrong, it's a great way to practice your inner Chemist from High School or Junior High, but how often do you want to eat up two hours doing that?

First of all, you can go to a market almost anywhere in the world and pick some soap up cheap.  Pennies.  If you are paying more than $3 an ounce I need you to commission me to make the stuff for you.

Really.  That's a massive rip-off.

Second of all, since it is so cheap, people don't value what it is doing for you or really give it a second thought.

I don't want to be near anyone who doesn't use the stuff, but when is the last time you picked up a bar and thought what it takes to make it.

It makes modern society possible along with dogs and other social constructs.

Third, you look the fool if you make it yourself.

I call it my "Breaking Bad/Walter White Routine".  I'm mixing Lye into Ice and doing so in my front yard.  I have on gloves and a pair of safety goggles.  I'm mixing chemicals outside because there is no stove hood in my house, and it can make nasty chemicals when the magic happens.

I got a raised eyebrow today when the Postie rolled up to my mailbox and I was standing in front of my porch dressed for this.  Mixing and stirring in a plastic Red Solo Cup, I was peering into a milky white toxic witches' brew.

"Hi, Soap Making Day today.  Thanks!"

She got back in her truck after handing me the mail with a shrug.

I then married that witches' brew with the oil mixtures and mixed for a while.

Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, Grapeseed Oil, and Shea Butter.
Add Lye and Water.
Mix with a stick blender for 20 minutes until pudding consistency and you can draw lines on top.

Then add Cinnamon and Cinnamon Essence.

Pour into molds.

Fourth, it takes at least a month before you can test your results.

Yep, your pudding needs to cure.  It gets warm, hardens, and needs to evaporate off most of that water.

But I waaa-naaa!

Nope. Even at a month, I'm rushing it a bit.  Second Week In March today's batch will be ready.

When the soap is hard enough to unmold, I will stand it up on a side on paper in the bedroom to let the drafts waft away the extra water.  Weigh one.  When it stops losing weight, we can use it.

Finally, I have caught myself lecturing the TV.

Remember Beverly Hillbillies?  Granny is always out back by the Cee-Ment Pond?   Makin' her Lye Soap?

Granny, you have Lye or you have Soap.   If you have Lye in the mix when you are done, then you put too much in it.  You will burn when you use it.  Too much Lye bad.  In fact you actually want to go low, leave some of the oils non-reacted so they can moisturize and sooth your skin.

Also, Who on Earth needs a three foot tall cauldron of "Lye Soap".   You will be using the stuff for ages, and if it is a three foot tall cauldron, can you imagine how much of the stuff she's making?

But really, then there's the soaps that scream "VEGAN".  Yeah, the soap probably should be vegan.  Small V.  Because the better recipes are.  Olive Oil for cleansing, Coconut for Conditioning and lather, some other oils for moisturizing.

If you look at that label and it says "Sodium Tallowate" you are washing yourself with Lard.  Sodium Palmate comes from Palm Trees and is killing Orangutans, as is Sodium Palm Kernelate.

And so on.

Rather a lot from a hobby that people would not give a second thought to.

Oh and skip that Liquid Soap.  Way too many chemicals in it to be pure.  You'll end up having cracked skin and blisters.  They try to sell it as a premium product but one average sized bottle cleans like one bar of solid soap.

Don't get me started on that stuff, Liquid Soap is the absolute worst.

So if you see me standing on the front porch with a red solo cup in hand, dressed in protective gear, stirring obsessively, you know what's up!

Sunday, February 3, 2019

What did the bird say to the turtle? Nothing. Because animals can’t talk.

Only in Joke Land can Dogs Talk.   I will say though, if my own dog Rack could talk, it would be rather fascinating.   Of course, I would ruin it by talking back, but that's all part of the bargain.

A man sees a sign outside a house - 'Talking Dog For Sale.'

A man sees a sign outside a house - 'Talking Dog For Sale.' He rings the bell, the owner appears and tells him the dog can be viewed in the back garden.

The man sees a very nice looking Labrador Retriever sitting there.

"Do you really talk?" he asks the dog. "Yes," the Labrador replies.

After recovering from the shock of hearing the dog talk, he man asks, "So, tell me your story." The Labrador looks up and says, "Well, I discovered that I could talk when I was pretty young. I wanted to help the government, so I told the SAS.

"In no time at all they had me jetting from country to country, sitting in rooms with spies and world leaders, because no one imagined that a dog would be eavesdropping.

"I was one of their most valuable spies for eight years. But the jetting around really tired me out, and I knew I wasn't getting any younger so I decided to settle down. I signed up for a job at Heathrow to do some undercover security work, wandering near suspicious characters and listening in. I uncovered some incredible dealings and was awarded several medals. I got married, had a few puppies, and now I've just retired." The man is amazed. He goes back into the house and asks the owner how much he wants for the dog.

"Ten quid," the owner says.

"£10!!? But this dog is absolutely amazing! Why on earth are you selling him so cheaply?"

"Because he's a lying bastard. He's never been out of the garden!!.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Cleavage is like the sun ...You can look but don’t stare unless you’re wearing sunglasses

A policeman was interrogating 3 guys who were training to become detectives.

To test their skills in recognizing a suspect, he shows the first guys a picture for 5 seconds and then hides it. "This is your suspect, how would you recognize him?"

The first guy answers, "That's easy, we'll catch him fast because he only has one eye!" The policeman says, "Well...uh...that's because the picture I showed is his side profile."

Slightly flustered by this ridiculous response, he flashes the picture for 5 seconds at the second guy and asks him, "This is your suspect, how would you recognize him?"

The second guy smiles, flips his hair, and says, "Ha! He'd be too easy to catch because he only has one ear!"

The policeman angrily responds, "What's the matter with you two?? Of course only one eye and one ear are showing because it's a picture of his side profile! Is that the best answer you can come up with?"

Extremely frustrated at this point, he shows the picture to the third guy and in a very testy voice asks, "This is your suspect, how would you recognize him? He quickly adds, "Think hard before giving me a stupid answer."

The third guy looks at the picture intently for a moment and says, "the suspect wears contact lenses."

The policeman is surprised and speechless because he really doesn't know himself if the suspect wears contacts or not.

"Well, that's an interesting answer. Wait here for a few minutes while I check his file and I'll get back to you on that." He leaves the room and goes to his office, checks the suspect's file on his computer, and comes back with a beaming smile on his face.

"Wow! I can't believe it. It's TRUE! The suspect does, in fact, wear contact lenses. Good work! How were you able to make such an astute observation?"

"That's easy," the third guy replied." He can't wear regular glasses because he only has one eye and one ear."

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Rebuilding Unsealed Ball Bearings for Inline Skates and other purposes

Bearings are mechanical.  You need to keep them dry, and you need to keep them lubed.  No
matter what they are in, wheels, skate wheels, or other purposes, they need maintenance.

I have a lot of leftover bearings from when I competed and skated 100 mile weeks like they were going out of style.  That means that in Peak Season, I would be tearing down inline skate bearings once every two weeks.

I have plastic Feta Cheese containers with lids that has my old inventory, and I am going through them.  Just before I left Philadelphia at the end of the 2005 season, I tore down every one of those couple-hundred bearings and refurbished/restored/reworked them.  Lubed and ready they sat in the Feta Cheese container until I needed them last week.

The problem is that an oil will oxidize if left alone long enough.  That was what happened to me.  I found that they slowed me down greatly, and trust me, all those 21,000 miles worth of skating meant I was tearing down a lot of bearings so I know how they should feel.

The good news was that when I did this process to my old bearings from years past, I used them today.  The process shaved a whole minute off a mile, so it's worth it.

To do this, I use the following - your process may vary.
Electric Hair Dryer with a flat metal grid over the heating surface.
Citrus Degreaser.
Paper towels.
Plastic container for bearings and parts of bearings.
A "sturdy" push pin with a fine point.
A container of lubricating oil.  I use Triflow and have for decades.
A Skate Maintenance tool - has a pusher to remove a bearing from a wheel and a hex key.

Understand this is a long process.  Doing this from start to finish for me took 3 hours on a rainy sunday afternoon.  Once you start, you really do have to complete the process by getting the bearings lubed and sealed up once again.  

Take A Deep Breath, You Can Do This!

Keep in mind though, this process is for UNSEALED bearings.  These are bearings where the shields can be freely removed.   If you can't remove the shields and get at the insides, you're done, buy a new set of bearings.  Come on back when you have got them.

Standard Internet Warranty applies - this is at your own risk.  If you ruin your bearings, well that's on you.  I have made every effort to present this in excruciating detail to be as complete as possible by a knowledgeable amateur. takes no responsibilities towards anything that you do as a result.  Sorry, but weasel words are here to protect ... me.

First step is to remove all wheel assemblies from the skate "truck".  Since there are variances in how this is done, I'm being general.  Find the screw or bolt that holds it in, remove the bolt from the wheel, push the axle through the wheel to free it, and set it aside.

Second is to remove all bearings from each wheel.  This gets you to where you have naked metal parts - bearings, axles, and bolts/screws.  Use your skate tool to push the speed kit or anything else in the way out of it.  That should pop the bearing out from the other side.  If no speed kit is used, then you can use the skate tool to seat inside the center of the bearing, lean it toward one side and pull back to extract the bearing.

Third, with a clean towel wipe all old grease and grit from the outside of the bearing.  I do mean ALL.  There is a track on the top of each bearing that must be visible so that you can see the retaining clip.

Fourth, Completely Disassemble each and every bearing and place all parts in the cleaning container.  I will go into detail after I complete this long process.  See below.  No really, go to the bottom of the article where I describe everything in painful detail.

Fifth, Add Citrus Degreaser to the cleaning container and water if you feel you need it.  I use full strength.

Sixth, Cover the container and shake it vigorously for enough time to degrease the bearings.  I usually take more than a minute shaking this up inside the sink.

Seventh, Pour off the solution and cover the bearings with tap water.  Shake it vigorously.  Your water will discolor.  You will see grit get dissolved into the water.  You may wonder why you even started this longish process.

Eight, Repeat step Seven until the water runs clear.  It took me six repeats.

Nine, lay out paper towels.  Bang out the bearings on the paper towels until there is no more water inside the bearings, visibly.   Place each bearing on a dry paper towel.  Repeat with the shields, bolts, screws, C-Clips, and so forth until everything is as dry as possible.

Ten, Using the hairdryer, place each bearing on the grid on the outflow or hot side of the hairdryer.  I tend to put down more than one because this is a long process.  Turn on the hairdryer to full hot and allow the air to dry the bearing completely.  All water must "bake out", because any water left in the bearing will rust it.

I repeat - all the water must bake out because any water left in the bearings will rust them.

Go longer than shorter.   I find a minimum of 1 minute per bearing is needed with my hairdryer, your time will vary.

Eleven, partial reassembly.  Place one shield in a bearing.  Replace the C-Clamp by fitting it in the groove toward the outside of each bearing.  Repeat for each bearing, but only one side.

Twelve, Lubricate the bearings.  Tri-Flow has a drip applicator where you can get a single drop of oil if you squeeze gently.  Each bearing needs three drops of oil.  Spin it gently.  Replace the Shield and C-Clip for the opposite side.  Spin the bearing.  It must spin freely - Tri-flow is a speed lubrication oil (or so I was told once upon a time).  The bearings should spin like a fidget spinner.   Repeat for every other bearing you have.

Finally reassemble the wheels by pushing one bearing into place, inserting a speed kit where they came from, and place the second bearing on the opposite side. 

Once that all is through, you can bolt each wheel into the skate truck and test for speed.   If a wheel is bolted too tightly, it will stop spinning quickly when spun.  They should be free, and the bolts should not come loose.  I use a small square of duct tape and a little "Permatex Blue" to put the retention bolt in place and keep it there under load.

Ok, now that the "general" (yeah right) process has been described, the complete teardown.  

All bearings are laid out in front of you.

Take a bearing, and look at it from the side.  It looks like a ring or a donut. 

Under the outer ring, there is a notch where a piece of flat springy metal sits.  It's in the shape of a Letter C. 

The ends of the C are beveled where one side is beveled away from the rim. 

That creates a notch where you insert the tip of your push pin and pull it away from the rim.

The C Clip should pull away "easily", but you may find that some refuse to come out.  If all of your bearings are like that, you have sealed bearings and you can not or are not able to pursue the disassembly, and you will want to reassemble the wheels without washing them.

If the C Clip pulls away, set it in the cleaning container. 

Under the C Clip there sits a circular metal shield.  It looks like a flat washer but is typically rather thin.  This has to be removed, and it should fall right out with a little coaxing.  I use the push-pin to get one side up then flip it upside down to get it to fall out.  It should not bend or be bent.

Wipe down the shield and C Clip and place them in the cleaning container.

You should now be able to see the ball bearings and the guide that holds the ball bearings in.  The better bearings have a metal guide.  The plastic or teflon guides are useable but will degrade with time and re-lubing.  Not a crisis since new bearings are fairly available.

Now that you have removed both Shields and C-Clamps, place all parts in the cleaning container and move onto the next bearing. 

When all bearings are done, go back up to Step Five since you are ready to actually degrease your bearings.  

Good luck!

Sunday, January 27, 2019

A Sunday Triple Play

Going through things here,  I found three stories, all too short to stand on their own.   So here you go, a Triple Play.

It's easier this way, and besides, the Golden Orb is in the sky and I don't think it's going to last this weekend. 

Quick, go out and look at the warmth and brightness it brings, safely. 

A Buddhist monk walks up to a hot dog vendor and says “Make me one with everything”.

The hot dog vendor hands over the sausage and bun with all the trimmings, and the Buddhist hands over a twenty. The vendor pockets it.

The Buddhist asks “Where’s my change?” and the vendor replies “change must come from within”.

A gun then extends from the Buddhist’s chest and he asks again.

The vendor says “Whoa, man, where did that come from?”

The Buddhist replies “This is my inner piece”.

A renowned philosopher was held in high regard by his driver, who listened in awe as his boss lectured and answered difficult questions about the nature of things and the meaning of life.

Then, one day, the driver approached the philosopher and asked if he was willing to switch roles for just one evening. The philosopher agreed, and, for a while, the driver handled himself remarkably well.

However, when the time came for questions, someone at the back of the room asked him, "Is the epistemological meta-narrative that you seem to espouse compatible with a teleological account of the universe?"

"That's an extremely simple question," he replied. "So simple, in fact, that even my driver could answer it."

A guy is showing his friend around his apartment

The last stop is the bedroom, where a big brass gong sits next to the bed
"What's that gong for?" the friend asks him.

"It's not a gong," the drunk replies. "It's a talking clock."
"How does it work?"

The guys picks up a hammer, gives the gong an ear-shattering pound, and steps back.

Suddenly, someone on the other side of the wall screams, "For God's sake ... it's 3:30 in the god damn morning!"

Saturday, January 26, 2019

I have the memory of a wooly mammoth. It's like an elephant's, but a little fuzzy

I keep a list of jokes on a text file on my Linux server's desktop.  I'm sitting here reading this and think... Hmmm, it's raining, so perfect time for me to post this story.

Or not.  You decide, I won't judge.

A man comes to a priest for confession.

Priest: What’s on your mind?

Man: I have a confession.

Priest: Go on.

Man: A few days ago a girl friend of mine asked me to come help her with a plumbing issue. I agreed and came over to help her out. Once I was about to leave she looked outside and saw that it was raining. She convinced me to spend the night, and so we ended sleeping together.

The next day another girl friend of mine asked me to come over and help her with some yard work. Once we were done she noticed that it was raining and convinced me to spend the night. We also ended up sleeping together.

The day after that a guy fiend of mine asked me to come over and help him with some car issues he was having. It started raining and he convinced me to stay the night, so naturally we also slept together.

What should I do?

Priest: Get the hell out of here before it starts raining.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

My Clock Has Four Legs and Fur or how Rack gets me to inspect the sprinklers

Most people have a very stable schedule.

Oh sure, you leave the house five minutes this way or that, go a different direction once in a while.  What I mean is that if you pull back and look at things at a "One Thousand Foot Level" instead of being specific, you do roughly the same things every day at about the same time daily.

This effect can be seen while looking at pollution levels at a city for example.  Saturday and Sunday has cleaner air.  Monday traffic is a little less than Tuesday because you and a couple hundred people in your city had a case of The Mondays that week.

That sort of thing.

I think that I'm in that sort of a relationship with my dog.  A bit of a feedback loop.

In my pre-dawn haze, almost every single day, I look over at him when I open my eyes.

Rack is almost always looking right back at me.

Ok, so it's 5am, so let me sleep in.  Dawn comes two hours from now in winter, ok?

Didn't think so.

If humans have a semi-rigid schedule, so do dogs.

We get out of bed and get prepared for a lap around town.  Fifteen minutes later, like furry clockwork, we're on our way.

When we're back, he fiddles around doing those Dog Things that he does, but he knows that
when the microwave door opens, 40 seconds later, he gets food.  "Come on over" is something I rarely have to say.

Food, coffee, Spanish, online stuff, and all the sudden he's at my elbow again.  I check the clock, it's just turned 7 and someone else is getting up. 

"Go see 'em!" I say.  It rarely works but I try anyway.  Time for a little attention, and he's back in his corner.

I go back to my own routine and after a bit he's back at my elbow.

It's 7:31am.  My sprinkler systems have kicked on for a quick watering of the pots.  He's looking at me, he knows, it's time.  I have to do the yard inspection.   That's a pretty rigid time there even if the clock there needs to be adjusted.

We're in the yard, I dump my first mug's coffee grounds in the plants because "It's Gardener's Gold!" in this sandbox that we call soil here, plus it can reduce the number of mosquitoes and feral cats that wander through the property.

Dumping the pool scoop in the can, I'm being herded inside. 

I think Rack manages my time as effectively as any cellphone, Palm Pilot, or Secretary ever could.

He does know not to ask for an ice cube on the second mug of coffee, he gets one and that is fine by him.

Similar things happen around lunch where he knows to check what I am making.  I learned that if I tell him that it is chicken or "there's onions" he won't bother me.

I'll give him some homemade yogurt instead.

At 440, he gets up to wander into the kitchen for his dinner and our second yard inspection.  Oh sure, I may be deeply involved in something, but if I am, he'll nudge me along.

Not at 4:35 nor 4:45, but promptly at 4:40.

"Dog?  Can you read a clock?"

Brown eyes lasering a hole through my head.

When we get back inside, I try to reclaim my own schedule. 

5PM on the dot he gets up and walks to the front door.   The house is about to fill up again, I am having more holes sintered in to my head.  Twin brown laser beams are telling me that someone is on the way.

I see the white SUV pull past, then back into the drive.  Time once again to go for a walk.

Yep, dog walk time.

It's almost cause and effect.  He knows what is going on, and has a good understanding of what he is being included in.

Rack, being a McNab Dog, is so intelligent that I have learned just to accept that he will understand what is going on.   If I get up and move for the keys in a certain way that indicates that a car is being used, he tries to invite himself.  If it is a Skate Day instead, when he sees me put my skates or pads by the door, he backs off.

Intense little black and white dogs can't run as far or as fast for as long as I can skate, although the ride would have him beyond excited.

But a herding dog, especially a McNab, is a special thing.  They will manage you if they can, and will understand what you are saying even if you can't see the clock!