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2016-11-11

Why We're Stuck With President Trump

The reason why we're all stuck with Trump: Obama didn't do enough. Sad, but there are enough people in the country who feel left out, who feel they've been ignored and forgotten by the Powers That Be. Obama was elected because he promised "change." He accomplished some stuff, but not enough. Many, many people are afraid they're going to lose their current lifestyle – their jobs, their homes, their families, what have you. To many of these people, the current status quo wasn't doing enough. They want the system to be shaken, enough so they feel safer and more secure – in general, not because "the Mexicans" or "ISIS" or "Insert Enemy Name Here" are out to get them. Hillary represented the status quo. She was going to adjust the current system, and that wasn't enough. The popular support for Bernie Sanders was that he was running against the status quo – against "Wall Street," which is easily seen as the status quo. If Bernie Sanders had been the Democratic candidate, he would have kicked Trump out because he was running against the status quo, and he's a better person than Trump. But Hillary managed to grease the Democratic party enough in her favor – as the Wikileaks emails reveal – that Bernie was rejected and she became the Democratic candidate. No one would have believed her if she ran on a platform of "massive change," because her whole career demonstrated otherwise. The stupid email server thing was a way for people to attack her, yes. But if she had been a legitimate outlaw and game-changer, the way Trump was seen to be, the email stuff wouldn't have mattered any more than the crap about Trump's put-downs of everyone around him (especially women, other communities, Mexicans, Muslims, "the blacks" as he says, etc.). Hillary wasn't going to change things, and so people felt any other choice was better…and they went for Trump.

They went for Trump because the country is still a two-party system. The people want things shaken, but not massively broken and started over from scratch as the third parties want. So they went for Trump. The crap about Trump's terrible behavior wasn't enough to stop him, because he was seen as the guy who would shake things up the way people wanted, and want them, to be shaken up. And there was enough of this popular outrage against the status quo to get Trump in. Obama was given another chance to "change" in 2012 (and he was re-elected because Mitt Romney was more of the same, but even worse), but he didn't do enough. So, we ended up with Trump. Now we have to put up with him for four years. He'll probably make a mess, he'll probably cause a lot of damage. But if the Democrats don't recognize this and find a way to really, really shake things up and really change things for the people by 2020, then Trump will stay.

And for the record, I voted for Hillary because I abhorred Trump's character. I still do. I didn't want Bernie because I personally object to a number of his policies. But if he had been the Democratic candidate, I would indeed have voted for him because I do abhor Trump. However, regardless of my own opinion, the general, popular feeling was that Bernie represented enough people that, if he had ran, he would have shaken up the status quo enough to get in.

This situation was an eye opener for me, because I'm a political neophyte. I hope it's an eye opener for many people. Two little comments about the current protests saying "Trump isn't my President:"

  • By acknowledging Trump was fairly elected on November 8, 2016, you demonstrate you're a better person than he is.
  • At least Hillary can say, "I'm not telling him the two back toilets in the East Wing have been stuffed up since 1952."

I found this video after writing this little piece, I promise: A Trump Victory: How It Happened


2016-04-25

As with any hobby, there are niches and cliques where the hardcore geeks get into shouting arguments over the silliest little details. In cast iron, I'm a geek and nerd for Birmingham Stove and Range, a brand that went out of business in 1992. I enjoy the fact that these cast iron pans are great users, and I'm fascinated by the history and the mystery of this company. Posted on the Facebook group for Birmingham Stove & Range cast iron:

"I know of one person running a Facebook group - not this one, but I'll not mention the name because I don't want to cause arguments over this - who suggested it's the fault of research on groups like this one that eBay prices for things like BS&R are going up. It's certainly true that eBay speculators are gathering up this information and using it to jack up the prices of their listings. Now on eBay you can see folks trying to sell "BSR Red Mountain - RARE S SERIES!!!" and the like. However, I actually prefer this state of affairs for one reason: the history and the information is being preserved and not lost. Folks like Saunders and Hugh aren't going to live forever – no offense, folks! smile emoticon – and those of us who know and enjoy BS&R would rather see the legacy of this company live on in the future, even in the heritage of its cookware. Besides, much of those eBay listings are from speculators who use any excuse to inflate their prices. In general, eBay is far overpriced and often (not always, but often) not to be trusted. The best prices can still be found in the vintage treasure hunt; but it's especially because eBay is overpriced that the Facebook selling groups like Iron Man, Patriot Cast Iron and Black Iron are becoming as popular as they are. Besides, there are speculators and shysters out there, no matter what we do. Just yesterday in Sweetwater, Tennessee, I came across a guy running an antique store who knew his iron…sort of. He kept pushing me to look at his Griswolds and Wagner, and showed me a very impressive Etowah with lid that he was selling for $250. Heaviest skillet I've ever held, including older spiders - it was an impressive piece. That same guy was selling a fake Griswold #0 at a price of $39.95. I pointed out to him that it was a fake, and he nodded with a smile and said he knew that. He didn't make any hit that he'd be dropping his price, either. This Facebook group can't be blamed for that, not in any way. I did find a rather rusty Century No. 8-B (7) there and bought it from him for $10, because he obviously didn't know what it was. It's doubtful he'd ever know BS&R because he wasn't a specialist in the history of cast iron; just an antique vendor following the trends and the hot brand names."


2015-11-04

Regarding the so-called "right to know" argument for labeling GMO foods: We do not have any "right to know" based on conspiracy theories and scare stories. That's all the GMO "controversy" is: scare stories based on conspiracy theories. We do not have a "right to know" about deadly GMO toxins in our food - because there aren't any.

  • We also do not have a "right to know" about the UFO evidence being covered up by the government - because there isn't any.
  • We do not have a "right to know" about the true architects of the 9/11 attacks, because they have already been revealed.
  • We do not have a "right to know" about chemtrails, because there aren't any.
  • We do not have a "right to know' about atheists or Muslims sitting in office in the halls of Congress, because it's none of our business. This is a scare story based on faith, not science.
  • We do not have a "right to know" about same-sex couples marrying in your state or country, because it's none of our business.
  • We do not have a "right to know" about the vast number of people injured and made autistic by vaccines, because there aren't any.
  • We do not have a "right to know" about the true cause of AIDS other than HIV, because there isn't any.

And that is why we do not have a "right to know" about toxic GMO ingredients in our food. There aren't any.


2015-10-30

I recently acquired and restored a gate-marked 19th century 8-quart dutch oven, and this weekend I'm going to give it away to a family in New Hampshire. I can't post this on the group because we've been discouraging giveaways to strangers, and I can't post this on my own Facebook because they're on my friends list and will see it. So, I have to confess here.

These are new friends I visited for the first time last week. They're very nice people, and they live in poverty because they are struggling to recover from some very tough times – they were both homeless and drug users for a while, until they met one another, cleaned up and married, and had two kids. One of the toddlers is autistic; and they have several health issues themselves. When I saw in their kitchen that they only have one small cast iron skillet, I felt I needed to make a donation to help them out. Among other things, they need more cast iron for cooking to increase their iron intake. So, I'll be visiting them on Sunday to give them the big 8-quart pot, a Lodge chicken fryer, and a Lodge 12-inch skillet. I also have a spare chef's knife to replace their dollar-store kitchen knife. None of these had been acquired at great cost; the chef's knife was purchased for $5 at a flea market, and I've been working to get it sharp and in working condition.

Meanwhile, the main reason for giving away the gate marked pot is because I already have a BS&R #10 sized dutch oven, which is about the same size. Having two cast iron pots of the same size would mean one of them would gather dust while the other was used. Given a choice, I'd prefer the BS&R because it's a lot thicker, and I prefer thick iron for use. Also, I'd only paid $15 for the gate marked pot – it was an exceptional bargain. So, I'm really not losing a lot of money by giving this stuff away to friends who need them.

Sorry, I just had to get that off my chest.


2014-12-09

Some silly thoughts pass through my mind as I'm driving to work in the morning. This morning, I found myself thinking of Santa Claus and the problems he might face in the 21st century – especially since kids could leave their webcams on in an attempt to catch him in the act and prove that he really does exist. What would you do if your kids said to you, "Daddy, can you leave the webcam on so we can see Santa when he comes?"

Now, I should say that I have two adorable nieces (my wife's sister's daughters) who are ages four and two. The oldest one has just reached the age where she knows about Santa and his yearly visits, and she has been mesmerized by all of the Rankin-Bass Christmas TV specials as they've aired on TV this year. She can barely contain her excitement about Christmas and the presents she's going to get. So this morning, I got to thinking: What if we got Mommy and Daddy to turn on the webcam and record Santa's visit for the girls?

Unfortunately, my sister-in-law isn't enough of a Net geek to even have a webcam; and if I offered to let her borrow mine, she'd most likely refuse because she knows very little about it. So alas, we won't have the opportunity to record Santa's visit this year. But even so, I thought about ways to make this happen as I drove to work this morning. So here's my suggestion to you: maybe YOU could surprise your kids by recording Santa on your webcam.

Here's what to do: First, you'll need a Santa suit (or a relative wearing a Santa suit), a webcam, and a recording program. Set up the cam at an angle so that it can capture most of the view of your living room and Christmas tree – but not the entire room, so that there are still areas where people could sneak around without being caught on camera.

Place the kids' gifts in a couple of sacks (pillowcases and laundry bags should suffice). You may want to ensure that the kids sleep through this little show, so be sure to give them turkey sandwiches and maybe a sip of wine (if you agree with the idea of kids having a special sip of wine on Christmas), to ensure they fall fast asleep. Set up and test the webcam, and show the kids that you're going to sneak a picture of Santa for them.

Wait until the appropriate time – it doesn't have to be too late in the evening; maybe an hour or so after the kids are asleep. And when the time comes, you get to put on a show for them. You can record Santa sneaking into the house (through the front door, that is – after all, he has a special golden skeleton key that can open any lock), bringing his sack to the Christmas tree, and unloading it. (He may have to take two or three trips, if you're the type of family who lavishes your kids with tons of presents at Christmas!) Of course, since Santa loves his work, he will be jolly and happy as he unloads his pack. Then, just as he is ready to leave, Santa can suddenly notice the webcam and come take a close look at it…and laugh with delight, realizing that he is on camera. Finally, in a move that will really blow your kids' minds, Santa would then take a couple of candy canes out of his coat, show them to the camera, and sneak off-camera towards the kids' rooms. After a minute or so, he comes back in sight of the camera, waves happily, and exits out the front door.

When the kids wake up the next morning, they would find candy canes under their pillows. And when you play back the webcam and they see Santa in their own living room, they should be excited and joyful in a way that you yourself will remember for the rest of your life. :)

And be sure to upload the video to YouTube!

(A repost of an old Usenet message from eight years ago…)


2014-09-23

Trying to link it all together. RSS feed for my Google+ page: gplusrss.com/rss/feed/2b99e53a8c661808ab1f28107c49ad5e5421fda08f24e


2014-09-22

After all this time, I finally have a working Twitter feed for my Web site. Welcome to the Internet.


2014-05-21

The "Food Babe" has a bachelor's degree in computer science, and before she became a radio personality she was a banking consultant. She is not an expert in genetics, in chemistry, in biology, in botany, or in anything whatsoever to do with food, nutrition, or food safety. Her mantra is "don't eat anything you can't pronounce," which is an admission of ignorance and outright stupidity. (I'd better stop taking acetylsalicylic acid, a.k.a. aspirin.) What she has learned is how to get attention for herself by scaring people with conspiracy theories, scare stories, nonsense, and outright lies – that's why she's become a prominent figure in the "alternative medicine" field and frequently appears with dangerous quacks like Mike Adams (Natural News), Joseph Mercola, and of course Alex Jones. And, sadly, people believe her and follow her every word…then declare the rest of the world to be "sheeple" who need to "wake up." I refuse to step into a Whole Foods Market or shop the "organic" section of my local supermarket because of this misguided hysteria that "natural is good and processed is bad." Thanks for nothing, Food Babe.


2014-05-17

The tale of my trip to the Brimfield Antique Show on May 17, 2014:

www.facebook.com/modemac/media_set?set=a.10152874333862576&type=1


2014-05-12

On Saturday morning, I cleaned out the electrolysis tank and refilled it with fresh solution (tap water and washing soda). I kept the Erie kettle there for a full 36 hours, and took it out last night. The results were much more satisfactory.

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kettle9.jpg


2014-05-09

The Erie kettle was in the lye tank for a full three weeks, and that appears to have taken most of the paint off. I took it out of the lye on Wednesday, scrubbed it with steel wool and Barkeepers Friend, and I've had it in electrolysis over the past two nights. However, I don't think my electrolysis setup is doing a good job: I can barely get 2 amps of current in my tank with the 12-volt 10-amp charger, and there have been hardly any bubbles or foam despite all of my efforts to improve it. Yesterday morning I scrubbed off a lot of black paint residue (and got it all over myself); this morning there was hardly any paint coming off, though there were still rust stains. Until I can figure out what I'm doing wrong with the electrolysis, I'm going to fill the inside with a 50-50 vinegar-water solution tonight and let it soak until tomorrow evening. That should clean up the inside, at least.

Fortunately, I haven't discovered any cracks; so the indication is this pot can be cleaned up to the point where it can safely cook again.

The markings on the bottom of the pot are more legible; there's some pitting, but not too much. The writing on the bottom can be seen as: "ERIE" PATD. MAR 19, 1891. 827 8.B.

The initial discovery of this huge 1890s-era Erie (Griswold) stovetop kettle: April 14, 2014

Further progress: May 12, 2014

Kettle4.jpg
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2014-04-14

If I hadn't seen this one, I wouldn't have believed it. Last week I'd mentioned the once-famous, and now gone, Spag's market in Worcester, Massachusetts has recently re-opened as an antique marketplace. I dropped by there again today to look around. I was on the lookout for old kitchen knives, and didn't find anything satisfactory (one that looked nice, but too small for my needs)…and then, I came across this. This is a huge cast iron pot, measuring about 11 inches deep and 13 inches across at the widest point. I've seen these a number of times at antique shops in many locations, but without exception these pots have been rusty and cracked, often with holes punched in the bottom to make them into planters; essentially worthless. Except that this one…wasn't. AND, it was at a price far, far lower than one would expect for an iron pot of this sort. Antique vendors usually slap a ridiculously high price on a pot of this size because of the ongoing belief that "old is good, big is good, therefore old and big is better." I picked it up and examined it closely for cracks, and could not find any. The pot had been painted on the outside and inside, and brush marks indicated this was not a manufacturer's paint job. What's more, there was a mark on the bottom, partially obscured by rust or pitting. All I could tell was this: ER-- (maybe Erie), 82A, 8B, and something in the center that appeared to be -ARDMAN—-. I've been burned before, when I acquired a huge gate marked enameled pot last year that turned out to have lead in its structure. So, the first thing I did with this one was get a lead paint test from Lowes hardware. I tested both swabs on the pot, inside and outside. Both came out negative! So that means I can treat this one in the lye bath, and see if it can be restored.

According to the Cast Iron Cooking group, this piece is likely a Griswold (Erie) Flat Bottom Bulge Kettle, which can be dated to somewhere from the 1890s to before 1910.

Restoration update: May 9, 2014
Further update: May 12, 2014

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2014-03-03

If you want a cure for insomnia, it would be hard to top this: a half hour video of me, talking and talking about antique cast iron pans.


2014-01-02

So, I accidentally stumbled across the reason why I was banned from Reddit. After six years on Reddit, someone posted my name to a board especially for "reporting spammers." There was even a comment on this board that expressed surprise I'd been on Reddit for six years. Based on the number of votes, two people said yes and one said no. And just like that, I was banned from Reddit. I emailed them several times asking for an explanation, and never received a reply. Then, over a year later, I came across this entry by accident, as no one had informed me of it. www.reddit.com/r/reportthespammers/comments/12ir74/modemac/


2013-12-31

It seems as though each year I start off by saying how the New Year will be better than the last one was, and then the year proceeds to suck. That certainly seems to have been the case for 2013. This year is ending in the wake of a lot of disappointments: I went to visit friends and had good times; then I returned home to consequences that practically ruined the experiences and cost me at least one good friend, who is now trying to smear my Web site as "Satanic" and dangerous to young children (and doing a poor job convincing anyone of this). This was after I spent most of the year preparing for the National DOG, which I enjoyed immensely; but thanks to this stupidity, I have to selectively edit my own memories of that trip to preserve any semblance of the good feelings from there. Meanwhile, my travels earlier this year to conventions were fun, but lacking; I don't see myself returning to to the convention scene again. Even seeing Nine Inch Nails turned out to be a disappointment, as Trent Reznor has proven himself to be pussy-whipped ever since he got married. Meanwhile, I've had to redouble my efforts at work to be a properly subdued cubicle slave, and I'm no longer cooking for the office. Considering this, the only genuine success I can claim for this year has been the explosive growth of the Cast Iron Cooking group.

I suppose I can be glad that I still have a job (barely), I still have a home, and I still have my health. If this sounds whiny and pathetic – welcome to my life.

It's a wonderful 18 degrees Fahrenheit right now, with the temperature expected to be in the single digits tonight. I'm definitely not in a mood to go and brave these temperatures in Boston tonight, so I've been at home, cooking. So far I've made a sirloin roast with vegetables, cooked using rendered duck fat reserved from making roast duck last week. A loaf of bread is in the oven right now, with 15 minutes to go. Cooking always makes me feel better, and that should at least help me to say goodbye to 2013 in a good mood. At least it's over – that's certainly something to celebrate.


2013-12-16

What the heck is figgy pudding? This is: www.youtube.com/watch?v=lCBjcGbi9w0


2013-11-13

As an outside observer (since I have no intention of converting to Islam), I’ve been fascinated by the mystery and tradition of the Hajj, the Muslim holy pilgrimage to Mecca. There’s a rich history behind this annual ritual, and a great attraction to it because of the way it makes all of the pilgrims equal – rich or poor, regardless of nationality. Or rather, that’s how it used to be. Within the space of a mere ten years, the Kingdom of Saudia Arabia has transformed the holy city of Mecca into the world’s largest, most expensive, and probably gaudiest luxury resort and shopping mall. Pilgrims aren’t going on the Hajj anymore; they’re taking a vacation trip to Kaaba Land, the Holiest (instead of Happiest) Place On Earth ™. So when crowds in Iran shout “Death to America” these days, they’re ignoring their own hypocrisy of how they allowed their own culture to be subverted and destroyed by modern-day greed and commercialism. See also:


2013-11-12

As I drove to work today, on a day that I’d scheduled for vacation but had to cancel because the boss asked me to come in and work, the following songs played on my iPod. This was in shuffle mode, and these came on at random:

  • The Rolling Stones – “Paint It Black”
  • Neil Young – “Southern Man”
  • The Moody Blues – “Legend of a Mind”
  • The Police – “King of Pain”
  • Neil Young (again)- “Old Man”
  • Nine Inch Nails – “Heresy”

On this day of all days, I could read something into that.


2013-11-11

I've been working on a lot of cast iron restoration over the past few days. About a month ago, I took two cracked gate-marked cast iron skillets to a welder and had them sealed. At this moment, the smaller of the two pans is in the oven on its second coating of seasoning; while the larger pan with the wonderfully elaborate handle is in electrolysis right now. With any luck, I'll be able to begin seasoning it tomorrow evening. All of this has put me into a routine, in which I've developed a method that appears to avoid flash rust: when the pan comes out of the lye bath or electrolysis, scrub it thoroughly in the sink with soap, then rinse all of the soap off to leave bare metal. At this point quickly towel dry it, then apply a coating of vegetable oil to the entire surface of the pan, top and bottom, immediately so as to block oxidation. From there, place it on the stovetop burner at low-to-medium heat, in order to thoroughly dry it without burning on the vegetable oil. After twenty to thirty minutes, turn off the burner and let the pan cool off completely. This appears to solve the problem of flash rust: from here, the pan is covered with a layer of oil that prevents rust. I don't consider this to be seasoning, but it lets me leave the pan on the stovetop in this state for a day or more before I get around to properly seasoning it, using Jeff Rogers' method. Over the next couple of days, I give it two coats of vegetable shortening seasoning, then for the third seasoning I melt on beeswax, and season that in the oven at a slightly higher temperature (425 degrees F). And finally, after this comes a fourth layer of seasoning, again with vegetable shortening. I might even do a fifth layer after that, if I feel like it. The entire process takes time, as it's spread out over several evenings of work (since I work at the office during the day).

The gate-marked cast iron pans: www.facebook.com/groups/castironskillet/permalink/549889515094888/


2013-10-30

(Hello to the folks from the "Cast Iron Cooking, Classifieds and Hellraising" group who are reading this blog in order to laugh at my crazy "magic" bullshit. :) This one is probably going to make you think I'm completely batty.)

A first draft:

Is Scientology actually black magic?

During the 1990s, I was an outspoken opponent of the Church of Scientology, and I enthusiastically participated in the criticism and opposition to the organization, labeling it as a cult and openly deriding its efforts to keep its "secret" OT Levels I to VIII (Operating Thetan) documents private. This was nearly twenty years ago, as I write this (in October of 2013). I've learned some things in the years since then, and my perspectives and beliefs have changed somewhat. First of all, I will state that I do not "hate" Scientology with the vigorous and venomous enthusiasm I had in the 1990s. I still know for a fact that the organization itself is an elaborate sham, designed to destroy the lives of its practitioners in order to make money for the ruling elite of the Church of Scientology. This, sadly, is still true.

Meanwhile, in the past few years, I've been researching and experiencing techniques in meditation, including mental exercises meant to assist with meditation. This is what brought me into the realm of Chaos Magic. Much of the practice of Chaos magic involves the use of focusing exercises, in order to reach a state of spiritual awareness usually referred to as gnosis. At this point, it is that a "magical" effect can be enacted. How much of this is truly "magical" is open to personal interpretation, and that's one of the aspects of Chaos magic that I like. However, in exploring the methods and techniques of meditation, I've come to the realization that this is very similar, if not identical, to the techniques practiced in Dianetics and the secret "upper levels" of Scientology.

In other words, it is possible to state: Dianetics and Scientology are not science - they are magic.

Dianetics

L. Ron Hubbard devised a series of pseudo-scientific trappings to dress up magickal ritual, and he called it the "science" of Dianetics.

The basic practice of Dianetics is that of an "auditor" trained in the use of a Scientology E-meter. The auditor asks questions and encourages the practitioner ("preclear") to close his or her eyes, relax, and enter a state of "dianetic reverie" – in other words, meditation or self-hypnosis. From here, the auditor asks a series of questions designed to re-create incidents in the preclear's life. This is monitored through the use of the E-meter, which supposedly detects the occurrence of "engrams" created by these incidents that occurred over time.

(The actual functioning of the E-meter is a matter of considerable controversy. I agree with those who say it actually detects physical impulses, the body's electrical activity, and the like. In terms of magical activity, I would say the E-meter is not actually necessary.)

Over time and repeated auditing sessions, the preclear eventually reaches a state of "clear," in which these "engrams" have been supposedly cleared out of his or her psyche. The state of clear is not unlike the state of gnosis that practitioners of magic look to achieve.

However, this simple form of meditation and self-hypnosis is only the first step, and the "magical" aspect is actually well hidden. The plunge into the realm of "magic" comes when the preclear achieves the state of Clear. At this point, the Church of Scientology then begins pressuring the initiate to advance into the further levels of Scientology, and reach for the level of OT (Operating Thetan). It's here where the "magic" of Scientology really comes into play.

Scientology

When Scientology's critics claim that Hubbard actually used "black magic" when he designed the system of Scientology, they were actually correct. There have been reports that after World War II, Hubbard spent some time with Jack Parsons (and even briefly met Aleister Crowley, who wasn't especially impressed), and spent some time engaging in occult rituals. This was likely the basis for Hubbard's foundations in magickal ritual, which he later worked into the foundations of Scientology. Hubbard devised a system of self-hypnosis with Dianetics, and he cloaked it in the facade of "science." After the Dianetics fad died off, he took on the "religion" angle and developed the system of Scientology. The methods of focusing and "creating your own universe" within Scientology are, in fact, the same techniques used in the practice of magic.

One of the basic mantras repeated by Hubbard (which he called "axioms") is a statement that is one of the basic assumptions of magic: If it's true for you, then it's true. This is the idea of the power of belief, and it is one of the fundamental ideas of magic.

Hubbard devised the system of Scientology to address the "spiritual" aspect of oneself. Scientology begins with the assumption that "you are a spirit" – a thetan – and moves on from there. (A lot of this had to do with Hubbard creating a "religious" system in order to remain non-profit, but I won't get into that here.) While Dianetics looks at engrams and "incidents" that supposedly occurred over the course of a person's life, Scientology looks at "past lives" – and it is here that the magical aspect of Scientology flowers into full bloom. Scientology addresses the "spirit," and it is looking at the same unknown aspect of ourselves that we cannot codify or define: the part of oneself that makes up our personality, our creativity, and our consciousness. It's here that "magic" resides.

The basic system of Scientology practice uses an expanded version of Dianetic auditing: the E-meter is still used, and an auditor is still involved; though now they are using the E-meter to (supposedly) audit "thetans" (spiritual or past life incidents) rather than "engrams" (psychological incidents). The exercises of the "secret" OT Levels also consist of mental exercises that fairly reek with the idea of magical ritual. Because the Church of Scientology's is well known for attacking anyone who even hints that they may have a copy of their "unpublished, copyrighted, undocumented trade secret" materials, I am not suggesting you obtain a copy of the OT documents for yourself. Fortunately, there are sites on the Internet that offer legal summaries of the OT writings, such as the OT Archive at Operation Clambake. An examination of the OT materials will show that this is essentially magical meditation: it involves "projecting your intent," "thought beams," "placing yourself in other beings," and other aspects of magical concentration that are regularly seen in rituals and incantations.

If you want a look at one of the strangest and most hysterical works of "non-fiction" ever written, track down a copy of L. Ron Hubbard's book Have You Lived Before This Life? This book is the result of Scientology auditing sessions that address the incidents that supposedly occurred in the past lives of Scientologists, including incidents that took place on other planets, in other galaxies, and often dating back millions or billions of years. Looking at this book from the view of Chaos magic, I realize that Hubbard did exactly what Chaos magicians do when they create magical entities and assume their aspects. Through Scientology auditing, Scientologists are practicing magic of the same sort seen in many rituals and cast spells. Hubbard created a magical effect in his subjects, causing them to experience gnosis and invent images and "memories" exactly in the same manner that magicians engage in astral projection, create magical realms, and populate those realms with magical entities. The past lives of Scientology, the other universes, and the other galaxies and planets all existed within the realm of magic, and Scientologists are using their "advanced tech" to travel there and visit these realms. It's not scienceHave You Lived Before This Life? is not a document of the actual scientific history of this universe. (For that matter, neither is Hubbard's other famous "historical" work, A History of Man.) Rather, it's magic. It exists in the mind of the Scientologist, and as such it is as true as he or she believes it to be.

This is the summation of my theory: that Scientology is actually a kind of magic – a magickal system devised by L. Ron Hubbard especially to benefit himself. He cloaked it in the guise of "religion" in order to escape prosecution and taxation, but its basis actually formed on magic.

This also explains why some former Scientologists still claim to have found a benefit from Dianetics and Scientology.

Of course, there's one fundamental, inescapable difference between the magic practiced at the Church of Scientology, and magic practiced by pagans and magicians worldwide. That, of course, is the fact that the Church of Scientology charges thousands of dollars for this magical training. The rituals and magic exercises provided to Scientologists come at an astounding cost, and the entire structural system of the Church of Scientology is designed to keep Scientologists trapped within the system, paying for a level of magical expertise that could just as easily be achieved for free, or at a far lower cost, by embracing a different magickal path.


2013-09-23

Today I brought my 19th century enameled cast iron pot to an environmental testing service, in order to determine once and for all if the makeup of the pot was infused with lead. The result was some bad news: the pot did indeed contain lead, in both the enamel and the iron itself. I found it hard to believe, but that was what the results showed.

Lead was a common additive to the makeup of enamel and vitreous glazes, all the way to the 1970s when regulations on lead content and lead removal were enacted. Because of this, when I acquired a huge 14-quart cast iron pot with an enameled interior (from the Marietta, Pennsylvania foundry; with an estimated manufacturing date of the 1850s through the 1870s), it was suggested I have the enamel checked for lead content before I tried any serious cooking with it. The question of lead in antique cast iron has dogged enthusiasts and collectors for a long time; and I decided to find out once and for all. So, I made an appointment to take the pot to a professional environmental testing service today, in an office park located in Woburn, Massachusetts. I arrived at a small classroom where a training course for professional lead paint and chemical inspectors was taking place. The instructor greeted me and I placed the pot on a table at the head of the class, and he took out a case containing a very high-tech X-ray gun, one that he claimed had a cost of about $40,000. According to him, this device is used by manufacturers of airline parts, and it was really heavy duty. He placed the gun inside the pot on the bottom of the cooking surface, and ran it for about thirty seconds or so. I could see a faint florescent light at the point where the device contacted the surface of the pot. Finally, he lifted the gun out of the pot, and used a digital screen on the top of the device to read the lead content of the enamel. First of all, a red warning on the digital screen gave a "FAIL" reading, along with a number. The instructor explained that current government EPA standards for lead content in construction allow a limit of "nine parts per million." The lead content in the enamel of the pot: "over two thousand parts per million." Next, he took one of those lead testing sticks that you can buy in a hardware store, and tested the surface of the pot to determine if it was leeching lead. The testing stick did not change color at all, and it did not detect any lead on the surface of the pot. This meant the lead was infused in the structure of the enamel itself. So as far as cooking with this pot was concerned, his words were, "I wouldn't eat from it." He then told a little scare story about how scientists had exhumed the body of a man hung for murder in England, and found a high lead content in his body – "No wonder he was so bad."

From here, he then took the X-ray gun and used it on the outside of the pot, where there was nothing but bare iron. The result of this test: it still failed. He told me that it was extremely unlikely the gun could penetrate a quarter inch of heavy iron and read the enamel inside the pot; therefore, the iron itself was infused with lead. This was a real eye-opener to me, and I asked, "I thought lead would boil away during the manufacturing process?" He said, "They added lead to make it more malleable."

So as a result, I am now the owner of an antique cast iron pot that would be little more than a display piece if I were to keep it. While there is next to no chance of any lead from this pot contaminating anything, just from casual contact, it would be a different matter entirely if I cook in it.

I have to admit I was surprised to be told that a cast iron pot could indeed have lead infused in the metal itself. However, I am a strong believer in scientific proof, and I'm not going to reject the result of this test just because I don't like it. It certainly does give pause for consideration, nonetheless.

Given the results of today's testing, I need to make statements about two subjects related to this:

First of all, I am not cancelling the Cast Iron Cooking video contest because of this. I had decided to give away my Lodge 12-inch camp oven especially because I had acquired this antique pot for cooking. Nonetheless, I am not an Indian giver. I had promised to give the Lodge camp oven to the winner of the contest, and I will still do so. I don't have many opportunities to cook outside, anyway, and as such the Lodge pot has not seen a lot of use. So rather than let it take up space, I'll still be giving it away.

In spite of the statement that there was lead within the iron itself, I remain convinced bare and unenameled cast iron is safe for cooking. The statement "they added lead to make it more malleable" would be seen more for purposes of heavy construction where iron was meant to be withstand heavy pressure without cracking, such as in the making of wrought iron girders and beams for building construction – not with kitchen utensils. Furthermore, it has been demonstrated that slag removal is a standard part of the Bessemer process of making cast iron, which had been in regular use since the 1850s to 1860s. (See also: Wikipedia - ''Bessemer process''.)

Reference: Distribution of Contaminants during Melting of Cast Iron, Environmental Protection Agency

Meanwhile, there's another question to address: does this have any effect on my recent, frequent, and determined statements about cast iron from China being free of lead? Upon consideration of this, I state the following: No, cast iron from China STILL doesn't contain lead. Why not? Because this test today was from a cast iron pot made around one hundred and fifty years ago. Manufacturing technology has come a long way in the past century and a half, and they simply don't use the same process today that they did in the 1800s. Saying a cast iron pan today has lead because a 150-year-old pot has lead, would be like comparing a modern-day handgun to a Civil War pistol. So because of this, I will still stand by my statement about modern-day cast iron being free of lead.

Restoring an antique 19th century cast iron pot, part 1: 2013-08-25
Restoring an antique 19th century cast iron pot, part 2: 2013-08-30
(Regarding Asian cast iron and lead: Cast Iron Politics)

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2013-09-20

Update on the huge 14-quart 19th century cooking pot: I've been informed this pot is from the cast iron foundry at Marietta, Pennsylvania; it's not from England as I first thought. My biggest concern for this pot is whether or not the enameled interior contains lead – if it does, then I can't cook with it. So, on Monday I'll be bringing it to a professional lead testing service, and they'll use an X-ray gun to examine the enamel for lead. The results will be interesting, regardless of what happens.

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2013-08-30

After working on the big 19th century cast iron pot since Sunday, here are the results so far. It doesn't look too bad – far from flawless, but in workable condition. I think it's time to season the pot, tonight. The Google search was correct, as I can barely see a logo on the bottom that looks like "MAR" "TC C Co" "A". The middle part definitely stands for "T&C Clark & Co." I'm not sure what the "MAR" is - month of manufacture, maybe? The "A" must be a model type or a mold number.

September 20, 2013, pdate on the huge 14-quart 19th century cooking pot: I've been informed this pot is from the cast iron foundry at Marietta, Pennsylvania; it's not from England as I first thought. My biggest concern for this pot is whether or not the enameled interior contains lead – if it does, then I can't cook with it. So, on Monday I'll be bringing it to a professional lead testing service, and they'll use an X-ray gun to examine the enamel for lead. The results will be interesting, regardless of what happens.

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2013-08-25

This was probably the best flea market score I've had in quite a while, including discovering my Griswold dutch oven at Brimfield for $10. One of the larger flea markets in Massachusetts is the Grafton Flea Market; in more rural areas of the country, this might be a mid-sized market, but here this is one of the bigger ones. Most of the stuff sold there is the usual junk, but once in a while a treasure can be had there. Among the many stands there was one vendor selling a bunch of vintage items, mostly military cast-offs from the early to mid 20th century: genuine Army helmets, metal meal mess trays, wooden boxes with ammunition labels branded onto them, and various vintage metal items…including several pieces of cast iron. I saw a Wagner Krusty Korn Cob corn stick pan there, but I still haven't been interested in getting one…but when THIS caught my eye, I stopped dead in my tracks. He was selling it for $20 and would not go any lower, but I still feel I ended up with a bargain, nonetheless. It's a HUGE cast iron cooking pot, with a gate marked bottom and an enameled interior. The enamel doesn't look in too bad condition; there are a few chips and cracks, but no major gaps, and it looks decent for a pot that dates to before the year 1900. The outside is covered with a layer that is flaking off; I suspect that's probably paint, not seasoning or enamel.

And did I mention this thing is BIG? Its measurements are: top rim, diameter: 13 inches inside rim, 13-1/2 inches outside rim; height, 8-1/2 inches including underside heat ring; 8 inches deep inside! At a weight of fifteen pounds, this thing is probably just around the size of my Le Creuset 14-inch cast iron pot. With no actual stamp on the pot except for "14 QTS" (14 quarts) and the gate mark, I needed to do som research to identify the maker of this pot. I looked online and found a picture of a pot with the exact markings, including the "14 QTS" stamp: au.picclick.com/Vintage-T-C-Clark-Co-Large-151085784792.html Based on this, that means this pot is likely to be a "T & C Clark & Company large enamelled cast iron cooking pot cauldron." T & C Clark was a British manufacturer founded in 1795, who produced a lot of cast iron in the 1800s into the 20th century, but apparently shut down or went out of business in the 1960s [1]. Another reference [2] states: "1839 ~ Thomas and Charles Clark of Wolverhampton, Staffordshire, patented a way of 'glazing and enamelling cast-iron, holloware, and other metallic substances'. They were iron manufacturers, not gentleman scientists like Rinman and Hickling, and their company went on to produce and market enamelled metal items for cooking, hygiene etc." This likely dates this pot to the latter half of the 19th century.

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2013-04-16-a

As an exercise in Chaos magic, I developed my own personal system for producing magical readings based on Tolkien's Elvish writing, the Tengwar. (Tolkien has had deep personal meaning for me for most of my life – and I'm over 45 years old now – so I felt there would be personal significance in choosing the Tengwar as my "magical alphabet.") My system for reading takes some getting used to. I am not versed in tarot readings, and this gives me both an advantage and a disadvantage in that these readings are not influenced by the tarot. However, they also take a while to produce, as I am still familiarizing myself with this system. It's not the type of system where I can sit down with a person and produce an immediate reading; one reading seems to take a while.

Chaos magic stems from the subconscious, so I decided to ask the "collective subconscious" (if it exists) a question about the Boston Marathon bombing. The actual question shall remain a secret. Based upon the translation of the question into the Tengwar, and its distribution into the kuru tekele reading system, the following result occurred:

{nd} Dark {t} Light {s} Dark
{th} Light {hw} Neutral{r} Light
{m} Dark {mb} Light {n} Dark

This translates to:

Self:

{hw} hwesta (breeze): Light: A light wind can be refreshing, as it blows across one's face and cools a hard worker. It may bring scents and sounds of pleasure, drawing us into further delights. Dark: A breeze could also be the first sign of an ill wind to come, an omen of change.

Present:

{r} ore (heart): Also defined as one's "inner mind," the heart is the center of caring, compassion, and thoughts about the world outside of oneself. Love springs from the heart, and many deeds of Men have been accomplished by following the guidance of one's heart.

{th} thule (spirit): The soul, the inner being, that which gives us our sense of self. Strength and durability of spirit can help a person overcome adversity, difficulty, and strife.

Past:

{n} numen (west): …but the West was open only for the Elves, and it was taken away from the reach and sight of Men. The West can be a sign of an unfulfilled goal or purpose, something one can strive for during their entire life but never reach or accomplish.

{mb} umbar (fate): Destiny, that which controls and guides us, and which shapes our future. The appearance of Destiny as a sign is certainly a portent of an important event, something memorable and possibly life-changing.

{m} malta (gold): Desire for gold is seen as the epitome of greed, miserliness, and selfishness. It is a lust for possession, the amassing of precious things, or the seizure of something one cannot have but desires above all else…even illicit desire and lust.

Future:

{s} silme (starlight): Stars, comets, and the distant glow of the planets (as opposed to the twinkle of stars) can indeed be omens of things to come, meaning that a time of strife and difficulty may be approaching.

{t} tinco (metal): The mark of civilization is when Man first began producing metal tools, moving from the Stone Age into more sophisticated metals, progressing to higher levels of technology. Metal is "processed," the result of civilized metal processing. Foundations are made of metal. Metal can be seen as "building a structure" or "embarking on a project."

{nd} ando (gate): A gate can be opened (by friend or foe) to allow the world access into a private place, revealing secrets and weaknesses one is trying to hide from the world. It can also be a barrier to discovery, a sign that the seeker cannot enter and finds his way blocked.

From this, my reading of the Boston Marathon bombing seemed to produce the following:

The first part of the reading applies to the Self, namely to the subject of this reading. The winds of change are definitely blowing, for we know the Marathon will never be the same after yesterday's tragedy. (There will certainly be a strong military presence there next year.) But there's a suggestion here that even in spite of this tragedy, something positive may come from this – a change that will caause everyone to move forward in a manner even better than before. There's a lot of patriotism involved here, and the usual message would be "we will return even stronger than before;" though there's a suggestion that there's something even more than this here. I hope there is indeed a positive aspect to this, though I (and everyone else) certainly wish people didn't have to be killed and hurt for this change to happen. This positive aspect is reinforced by the fact that random selection also produced the symbols for "heart" in the East, and "spirit" in the West. Both of these, of course, are positive aspects for caring and openness.

However, upon examining the Past, the reading is less friendly and more menacing, especially when we take yesterday's events into account. We start with the sign of an unfulfilled goal or purpose, something one can strive for during their entire life but never reach or accomplish; and we move to Destiny, that which controls and guides us, and which shapes our future. This moves on to lust for possession, the amassing of precious things, or the seizure of something one cannot have but desires above all else…even illicit desire and lust. This, I think, can be applied to the person who accomplish this despicable deed. It suggests that this person could think he has been chosen by Destiny – maybe by his religious faith – to commit this horrible act, maybe out of frustration or hatred. I don't want to stereotype and state that it's the mind of a typical "foreign terrorist," because it could also apply to someone who grew up here in the USA – think of Timothy McVeigh and his supposed "strike" against the Powers that Be when he blew up that building in Oklahoma.

From here, we move on to the Future. Here we see omens of things to come, meaning that a time of strife and difficulty may be approaching. However, the positive aspect of the Future is "tinco," the Elvish word for "metal," and this can apply to the building of a foundation; giving strength and durability to one's creation; or even providing reinforcement and strength. The final aspect of the Future is curious: it suggests the opening of a gate to allow the world access into a private place, revealing secrets and weaknesses one is trying to hide from the world. This could be applied to the other aspects of the future, meaning that it will be difficult to locate the person who did this. Expect the manhunt for the Boston Marathon bomber to last for a long time, possibly in the same manner of the time it took to hunt down Eric Rudolph, the Atlanta Olympics bomber. Curiously, Eric Rudolph also seems to match the profile given in this reading. Perhaps the person who did this may have his own selfish and hate-ridden motives, in much the same manner as what happened in Atlanta.

This system for magical readings can be seen on my Web site under the title of Reading the Tengwar. I'm also starting a Facebook group for this, if anyone is interested: www.facebook.com/KuruTekele

2013-04-01

Some sigil magic to celebrate this day, the day of Eris and Operation Mindfuck. I hope someone gets the joke at the 1 minute mark. www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4NlWmtaNp0


2013-03-14

Every time I plan a vacation trip, I get the idea of doing one of these stupid projects that require me to run to the ends of the earth. I'd mentioned that I'm going to Anthrocon in July; and on the message board for the con, I casually mentioned the idea of throwing a "chocolate party." Those words have been going through my head, and now I'm thinking, why not throw a chocolate party in my hotel room? First of all, a trip to the Necco outlet store north of Boston should provide a few pounds of high-quality chocolate candies at a reasonably low cost; I'd just need to pack them in a cooler and bring them along. But now, an idea popped into my head, and of course I'm wondering if this could be made into reality. What if I put together a pot of molten chocolate, and provided a big bowl of cut up fruit, plus sticks for them to dip the fruit in chocolate? The fruit would not be a problem, neither would be the sticks (wooden skewers are a buck for a pack of 50). But, the melted chocolate? Either, I could get one of those chocolate fountain thingies – which look nice, but they're made of cheap breakable plastic, and I don't want to clutter my apartment with a single-use toy like that. OR…here it comes…I could put together a setup with my cast iron for melting chocolate. (You knew this was coming, didn't you?) I could bring my induction stovetop (to provide a fireless heating source), the round potjie pot, and a smaller (stainless steel) pot to fit inside the potjie. I'd boil water in the pot, and use that to melt the chocolate in the smaller pot. This would give me an excuse to set up my potjie, which does look cool. And here I go again, planning another dumb project. This happens every time. Someone shoot me.


2013-03-11

I'm continuously amused when these little "magical" coincidences show up. This one occurred when I baked a Giant Cookie in Cast Iron and put together a cooking video over the past weekend. Not only were the pictures of the cookie a hit – over 10,000 views between Reddit and Imgur – the curious coincidence came when I prepared the video for YouTube. I was stymied on the choice of music to use for the video, until I stumbled across another Sun Ra track. The title of this piece would appeal to any magician: "A Call To All Demons." When I placed this into the video, the music synchronized quite well with the editing, even though I hadn't planned it that way at all. It just fell into place, and it worked. Yet another of those strange little coincidences that can't be explained, and one that could easily be called "magic."


2013-02-17

This weekend's trip to New York City (more on that later) has had more magic than I anticipated – and nearly all of it has been good. Definitely one of the highlights of the weekend was our visit to the Tahuti Lodge of Ordo Templi Orientis (The OTO), and taking part in the Thelemic Middle Pillar – an hour-long exercise in meditation, and generation and focusing of energy, that left me more refreshed, relaxed, and content than I've felt in a LONG time. There were ten of us there, and the experience of performing a communal meditation was far different than the self-practice I've been doing since I started using magic (or "magick with a K"). Even as I meditated and let my mind roam, the skeptic in me still noted now the repeated incantations and slow breathing exercises were inducive to creating a minor deprivation of oxygen, which makes the mind and body more conducive and accepting of exactly the sort of feelings and sensations we achieved yesterday. That, of course, is a large factor in how people get sucked into religious cults of the kind who deliberately use this experience to control their flock. (Think of the love bombing" techniques used by many Bible cults.) However, these were thoughts I already knew and were familiar with, nothing new; and no one there was trying to "control" us. We just had a relaxing and pleasant session of meditation and incantation – and because of that, I just let myself enjoy it immensely. Combined with the other major emotional moments of last night, this was definitely a high point to the year 2013 so far, one that I will be hard-pressed to top.


2013-02-09

Taking pictures and video of the big blizzard in the New England area:


2013-01-24

Posted to Facebook's group for Steak & Blowjob Day: Okay, I joined this group in order to post this: Every year on Wikipedia the same thing happens. Someone creates the entry for Steak & Blowjob day, and Wikipedia promptly deletes it because it's "not notable." Because this is a "joke" holiday and because it was originally created by a Rhode Island radio DJ, these criteria exclude it from inclusion as an officially recognized "holiday." The fact that thousands of people worldwide know about Steak & Blowjob day – and many have "participated" in it (ahem :) in the years since its introuction – apparently aren't enough. In order to stand erect…err, I mean TALL…alongside Talk Like A Pirate Day, Bloomsday, Pi Day, and other "funny holiday" days, Steak and Blowjob needs OFFICIAL RECOGNITION of some kind. There are a little less than two months to go before March 14, 2013. This Facebook page has nearly 9,000 likes (and I'm not the guy who created this page, I'm just someone who joined in order to post this). Surely there are enough people here to spread the word and get some kind official media recognition for Steak & BJ day. What we need is CELEBRITY ENDORSEMENT and a NATIONAL NEWS STORY! A mention on CNN and a press release by some celebrity or another should be enough to get "national recognition" of Steak & Blowjob Day. Can this be done in less than two months? Which celebrity do we need to give a BJ to in order to endorse it?


2013-01-06

This was a cooking experiment in progress. A simple three words will describe it: bundt apple pie. No, not cake - PIE. An apple pie with a crust and filling, baked in a cast iron bundt pan.

My newly acquired cast iron bundt pan was ready for use, and I'd been bursting with excitement over it. I'd even had a bundt cake recipe all chosen out as the first thing to bake in it – Alton Brown's Apple Spice Bundt Cake mix. However, thoughts come unbidden to my mind that often distract me; and while I was driving to work the other day, I had let my mind wander. (I prefer to let my mind wander than listen to idiot-oriented morning radio). In the space of a few fleet moments, thoughts had flashed through my head about how I had a cool heavy iron bundt pan – one that would kick ass over a thin, lightweight bundt cake tin. It was just like the times I'd cooked pies in cast iron, ones that were far superior than a pie baked in a pie tin…and then the three words flashed together. BUNDT APPLE PIE. Why not use the cast iron bundt pan to bake an apple pie?

When I looked on Google for any examples of a pie in a bundt pan, I'd found exactly ZERO. Evidently, no one has done this before – everyone bakes cakes and sometimes other things in bundt pans (Hello, Janine and her chicken! :) ), but apparently no one had written anything online about baking a pie in a bundt pan.

COOL!

Thinking the idea over, I realized there was only one major difference between baking in a bundt pan versus a pie tin: at the end, you flip the whole pan over and let the result stand on its own. Therefore, the key to this idea would be to use a pie crust recipe that resulted in a solid crust, one that would allow the pie to hold together when flipped over, and keep the pie filling from leaking. And, based upon my experiences with steaming British steak and kidney puddings, I knew exactly what would be called for: suet. I reasoned using a shortening or lard pie crust recipe, and simply substituting suet for the lard, should give a pie crust strong enough to hold together. Indeed, the previous week I'd baked a Christmas pork pie with a suet crust, and that had produced a very solid and satisfactory crust – it required a knife to cut it, but the crust was still tasty and not "chewy" or rock-hard. This was the way to go!

And so, here was my first attempt at making an apple pie in a cast iron bundt pan: Bundt Apple Pie


2013-01-01

I went out on New Year's Eve in search of adventure, but there was little to be had. Nothing bad happened, but nothing good either. Last year's New Year was the best I'd had in a long time, then the rest of the year seemed to go slowly downhill after that. I can only hope things improve after this, then. New Year's Day was better, as I had a chance to see Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. More about that in a bit.

It occurs to me that "traditional" cooking can indeed be a kind of cooking magic, because I'm giving respect to history and casting my spell (through my cooking) to achieve the effect intended with today's dish: a meal meant to bring good luck and prosperity. And so, I'm hoppin' on the Hoppin' John bandwagon today, and it's my first time making Hoppin' John. I've only been cooking for a little over two years, and today was my first time following this Southern tradition on New Year's Day. This was also my first time eating Hoppin' John – because I'm a New Englander from an Italian family, dishes from the Deep South didn't show up on our table very often as I grew up. Fortunately, as those of you who make this regularly will know, this is one of those dishes that are simplicity itself to make. I live in a Brazilian neighborhood and consequently pork pieces can be had in abundance here; there's a chain of Hispanic-themed supermarkets called "Seabra" that have everything you would ever want for Latin American cooking. So, picking up a big bag of pork pieces, including jowls and hocks, was no difficulty at all. From there, it was simply a matter of soaking a pound of black-eyed peas overnight, and then adding all of the ingredients together in the pot: peas, a pound of pork pieces, the extra leftover pork fat from yesterday's ham, chopped onion, chopped red bell pepper, salt and pepper. Bring the pot to a boil, then simmer it for an hour and a half. The recipe I used said to then stir in long grain white rice and simmer it for another 25 minutes until the rice was soft; some recipes say to make the rice and greens separately, and serve the pork and beans over it. I didn't see any problem with cooking the rice directly in with the dish, as it certainly added flavor and made for a much thicker broth. From there, the dish was sided with some steamed kale and spinach, and Southern style cornbread. Happy New Year! (P.S. - it's hot! I don't mean spicy, I mean piping hot!)


2012-12-31

2012 began with a fun time last New Year's Eve; but the year as a whole dealt some hard knocks for everyone, and it only seemed to get worse as the months passed by. I can only hope, as the calendar begins anew, that we all manage to keep our heads above water. The highlights of the year were relatively modest, and the true highlight was certainly meeting and becoming close friends with Aquaisces Mancuso; and spending many fun times with Panik EVlynn Bedlam. There really haven't been too many highlights of the year that didn't involve these two wonderful persons, between running to conventions and camping and visiting Boston with Nina, Panik, and Jessica Darling; with some great cooking to help keep me occupied for much of that time.

On the other hand, lowlights included spending the first half of the year planning for the National DOG in Texas, then having to give it up because of car problems. (But I did get a terrific new car out of the deal, again thanks to Panik.) And the year has closed with a series of family tragedies, as no less than four close relatives ended up in the hospital; one of them, sadly, passing away.

Is it any wonder why all I seem to do is post to Facebook about cooking? It's rather appropriate that one highlight and lowlight of the year was cooking what may well have been my final dinner with the person who changed my life forever.

Well, I still have a job and I still have (I hope) my health. And I still have my family and a few friends. At least I can be thankful for that.

Hello, 2013.


2012-12-25

December 25, 2012, 4:10 AM. I just wrote the following message to a young lady, whom I'd chatted with last night: "Good morning. I wanted to tell you that I just dreamed about you…no, not THAT way. :P I had a dream and you were in it - a science fiction kind of dream. This was unusual because I never remember my dreams – and I mean NEVER. For my entire life, I've always forgotten my dreams almost instantly upon waking up. I've always been envious and jealous of people who have vivid dreams they can describe in detail.

"Actually, compared to the dreams others have, this one was somewhat disappointing…because it was short, and it ended just as it was getting interesting. As I said, it was a science fiction kind of dream where I was in a big corporate office kind of building full of futuristic equipment, and you were there. The machines were beginning to come to life, and I remember that I was trying to protect you…but then I woke up as we were in danger. That's usually what happens when I have a nightmare, though I can't say this was a nightmare. I'm not upset or scared by this – just amused that I remember the dream at all. And I hope you don't mind the fact that you were in it. :)"

To the two or three people who might actually be reading this – no, I'm not covering up any pornographic details of that dream.

I think it's time to open presents.


2012-12-21

The corned beef went over very well at work – people gobbled it right down! Not many of them tried it with the cranberry sauce, though. I think it was just because it was something new – after all, cranberry sauce is supposed to be a turkey dish. How dare someone try it on beef? Well, I took a serving of the beef and tried it myself with the cranberry sauce…and personally, I thought it was terrific. I’m not just saying that because I cooked it, either. :) I feel it turned out well enough for me to declare the recipe satisfactory. Hopefully someone will try it…and if you do, I hope you like it: Yuletide Corned Beef


2012-12-18

There aren't many venues available to tell people you've devised a system of magical reading, it appears. I posted it to Reddit's [ /r/occult] forun and got some upvotes, but no comments. Shortly after that, I was banned from Reddit because they considered that to be spamming. Go figure. Tonight, as I prepared my Saturnalia holiday cards for mailing, I found myself writing a spell of forgiveness for someone I didn't expect to forgive.


2012-12-13

Having developed it to the point where it can now be put into general use, here is a system of divination and magical readings based upon J.R.R. Tolkien's Elvish writing, the Tengwar. This particular alphabet has had personal meaning for me for two-thirds of my lifetime (since the late 1970s, in fact), and as such I decided to adopt it as my magical alphabet when I embraced Chaos Magic. Consequently, the method of reading takes its ideas from Sigil Magic (for the generation of the characters) and the Futhark Runes (for assigning "meaning" to the symbols). Some folks would see the significance of my introducing this system on the date of 12/12/12 – but, as with many occurrences in magic, this is a coincidence. It's also a partial coincidence that I developed this system at the time of the release of the first of the movies in The Hobbit trilogy. I realized that this would be a good time to introduce this to the public, as the movies are bringing J.R.R Tolkien into the public eye once again. However, this system is not based upon the movies – if it was, then I would be using the Futhark Runes instead of the Tengwar. Also, just as important: I am not selling anything based upon this system or the movies. By the way, I know about the Lord of the Rings tarot deck. I have never looked at it and I don't own a copy.

Reading the Tengwar


2012-12-12

As I was driving to work and pondering thoughts of the upcoming day, I laughed to myself. Then, with a shock, I realized how long it's been that I'd been in such a jovial mood. I haven't laughed to myself in a long time…longer than I'd realized until just now.


2012-12-11

As I was taking a walk before work to relax and meditate, an idea for the tengwar reading system popped into my mind - just like that. I think I can make it work, and have it done in time for the premiere of The Hobbit this Friday.


2012-12-05

So, ever since the Chaos ritual over Thanksgiving, I've been trying to develop a system of magical writing based on the tengwar of J.R.R. Tolkien. It's not finished. I'm still working on a way to actually generate the correct symbols in a satisfactory manner. (I don't want to just draw letters out of a bag, the way the Runes do; or shuffle them at random in the manner of the Tarot.) The method I'd tried ended up producing a large number of symbols at a time, using only a small pool of different characters – 36, the number of characters devised by Tolkien. Then, tonight, I considered that if you give a light (good) and a dark (evil) definition to each character, the number you have to choose from doubles from 36 to 72 – the same number of options as the Tarot itself. So that may be a sign that I'm moving in the right direction.


2012-11-30

I'm slowly working towards creating my own Alphabet of Desire. Not having a lot of artisitic talent, it seems to take a long time to come up with the desired symbols and assign the proper meaning to them. I'm using the Runes as a starting point, then adding and changing them where I feel it's correct to do so. Austin Spare's Alphabet of Desire was based on a hexagram with six points, and obviously I'm aiming for an octogram to match the eight points of the star of Chaos. If you've done something like this, what are the meanings you assigned to each point? In a yin-yang opposing-poles fashion – and based on the emotions I most often experience in my life – my points seem to be: Love/Hate, Pleasure/Pain, Wisdom/Ignorance, and Want/Fulfillment. (Laughter falls under pleasure, loneliness under hate, the blind faith I often encounter goes under ignorance.)


2012-11-27

Perusing the Book of Runes has made me realize the similarity of all the existing systems that use a random generator to produce results. Whether it's runes, or tarot, or I Ching, or numerology, astrology, or graphology, the method used for divination is the same: produce a random spread, then apply a system to read "meaning" into the results. The system applied to read the results is what separates divination from true science: you apply a system of symbolism to the results, then you then apply those results to yourself, personally, using intuition and faith. This, I think, works best when you use a system you create yourself: because you're basing it on your own intuition and experience, it makes it easier for you to apply the results to yourself. Fortunately, the tendency of the human mind to evoke patterns and meaning into seemingly random occurrences allows many people to apply the same results to themselves, as well. The end result: when you apply this reading to someone else, there is a good chance that person will feel as though it applies to himself or perself, personally.

For example: today I've been assigned by my employer to leave the house at 5 AM and drive 45 miles to go to a job. Out of curiosity, I looked for a reading of the Runes and asked a simple question, "What will happen today?" I ended up with the following:

The rune spread was three runes laid in a triangular layout. This is known as a "Fork." The Fork spread is used at critical turning points, to understand the dynamics of an important decision. Stone Runes are most commonly used for questions about the natural world and things beyond human control.
The left rune represents the first possible outcome. Uruz symbolizes the Auroch, a member of the ox family that became extinct long ago. This rune represents the strength, bravery, and endurance of this animal of old. Uruz portends the ability to meet problems head on and to overcome them. When the world was new, warriors used to test their strength against the Auroch. Hence, this rune has come to represent the masculine principle and the capacity to meet a challenge.
The right rune represents the second possible outcome. Nyd represents many things, most of them unpleasant - heed it well. Constraint, delay, loss, need, and sorrow are all frequently seen in this rune. Nyd speaks most strongly of pause, the hallmark of the both the timid and the patient, and is often interpreted as foretelling a delay in the effect of other runes that it accompanies. Fortunately, even where there is misery and danger there are valuable lessons to be learned - the trick is to learn them before you are overtaken by despair.
The bottom rune represents the critical factor that determines what will come to pass. Inguz is the rune of completion and fertility. The presence of this rune suggests that tasks which have been initiated will come to fruition. This rune is associated with Ing and Frey, it is this connection that explains its connotations of both fertility and sexuality. The variant of this rune shown here is reminiscent of the twin strands of life, and of the challenge and rewards of bringing together things complimentary.

Now, I could apply this to myself as a warning that today's job is going to be more difficult than expected. Given that is a common occurrence with my work, that would not be especially surprising. If it does turn out to be a difficult job, I could say this was predicted by the Runes. And if it turns out to be an easy job? Then I could just brush aside the results and apply it to something else, perhaps with the excuse that "applying a strict time frame of today to the prediction makes it less effective." That's how the vagueries of fortune telling and cold reading work.

Nonetheless, I still have an urge to go ahead and create my very own Alphabet of Desire, based upon the Runes plus a special system of writing that I've taken very personally since junior high and high school: J.R.R Tolkien's tengwar Elvish writing. More on this later.


Update: The road trip turned out to be one of the easiest I've ever done: I drove an hour and 40 minutes, walked into the place, and had the entire job finished in ten minutes. So as I left, I figured the runes were wrong. Then this afternoon at the office turned out to be one of those crazy days where every call coming in was a nightmare. I ended up being on the clock from 5:00 AM to 6:45 PM. So who knows?


2012-11-25

I was ready to experience magic during this past long weekend, as my companions and I had prepared for it. I was even fortunate enough to take part in my first full magical ritual, complete with the invocation of several deities of Chaos (including Ut-Nephishthim the World Mage and the Black Rabbit of Inle), empowerment of magical items, and the embodiment of Choronzon. That was only the beginning of the magic of this weekend, which included my own ritual (preparing a lavish Thanksgiving feast) that was largely successful in its own right, and then topped off with a trip to Central Square, where we acquired several useful tomes of information.

I've experienced tarot readings before, but have always had trouble getting into it. Nonetheless, my interest was piqued enough for me to look into enhancing my sigils with traditional magic, and to this end I picked up a copy of The Book of Runes. This is a simple introduction to Norse Runes, their magical meanings, and suggestions on properly reading them. Upon examination of the book, I immediately noted that this is exactly the same methodology used for tarot readings, although the 24 Futhark runes here provide a simpler, more archaic, and mor "rough" system than the tarot. It offers the basics of runecasting, from the simple Odin's Rune – draw one single rune and apply its meaning to yourself at that moment – to the Three Lifetimes Spread, in which five runes are placed in a cross formation, with the placement of each rune having significance and meaning from "Past" and "Future" incarnations, to "Birth and Childhood," "Present," and "Future in this life."

After waking up this morning in a haze, I had the idea of taking my own name, "MODEMAC," applying the sigil rule to it (remove vowels and duplicates), and translating it into the Runes. This gave three letters:

M D K

Translating these letters into the Runes gives the following:

3runes.jpg

As it turned out, this was listed in the Book of Runes as a "Three Rune Spread:" "The number three figures prominently in the oracular practices of the ancients. The Three Rune Spread which, according to Tacitus, was already in use 2,000 years ago, is satisfactory for all but the most demanding situations."

Reading the runes from right to left, the three symbols represent: Opening, Breakthrough, The Self. Curiously, this is suspiciously similar to the tarot reading I received last night, in which it was declared that I have a big change in my life coming, one that will make everything I've done before seem like a prologue. That is, if I make it happen - it's not going to happen if I sit it here and let the Universe deliver it to me.

And that was my first foray into runic magic. I was curious as to whether these runes could help with my crafting of sigils. The meaning and symbolism imparted into these runes, after nearly two thousand years of use, suggests that I may be on the right track.

("Magical ritual?" "Invocation of deities of Chaos?" As I've said, magic is mostly bullshit. If anyone is actually reading this, then a few of you already know that. I leave it to you to figure out how much of this is true.)


2012-11-22

Due to how the schedule for this long weekend turned out, we'll be having our Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow instead of today. And that's fine, as it gave me the chance to do a lot of cooking in preparation for the feast. Apple pie…pumpkin pie…cornbread…the turkey brining on the balcony…and rabbit braising in the oven as I type this. Tonight will be a full ritual and Invocation of Chaos…then tomorrow comes the biggest cooking I've done so far. I cooked those turkeys for Thanksgiving last year, but this is going to be a bigger meal: ten dishes, including a fully roasted turkey! Thanksgiving 2012: I'm looking forward to it.

(The Invocation of Chaos is also going to be quite interesting, as it will cleanse an item I've had and wanted to wear without having any bad memories attached to it.)


2012-11-16

After my Web site changed around last year, one person copied portions of my old Web site in order to bring back the old “High Weirdness Project.” I couldn't have cared less about the name, but I was incensed that he was essentially taking my writing and my work and putting it up on another Web site. The initial home page of that site described me as “deceased.” At that time, I wrote an email asking that it be taken down, and got the usual response: rather than give me any direct reply, they quipped to each other how “butthurt” I was and ignored my request. So I decided to just ignore it right back, figuring it would die of apathy and lack of use and attention. Apparently it did: www.highweirdnessproject.com


2012-11-01

Cleanup from a week's worth of cast iron cooking - the pumpkin pie for last Saturday's Halloween party, plus several pots for preparing the chocolate cobbler from last night. I had a smaller number of kids last night than I was expecting - maybe a dozen, perhaps more, in groups of three and four, and I ended up with some vanilla ice cream in the freezer, and somewhat less than half a pot of chocolate cobbler. The toys I'll be saving for an opportunity; I get the feeling an event will occur where I'll be able to donate a bag of cheap party toys. (These aren't Christmas present type toys.) This neighborhood has lots of kids – I've seen them as I walked downtown. So where were they last night? It wasn't until I returned home that I learned a lesson in how times have changed these days. My neighbors had returned and were parking in the parking lot. Their kids were there in costume with them. Where did they go? They TOOK THEIR KIDS TO THE MALL for Trick-or-Treating. Apparently the local mall was packed with kids in costume. The parents these days don't "trust" one another to let their kids go trick-or-treating, so they all go to where they feel it's safe to walk around with their kids in costume, in the mall. That, I have to admit, disappointed me – not just because I didn't see as many kids as I'd hoped, but also because I can't believe how brainwashed people have become. Thanks to Wal-Mart and shopping malls, they would rather go there instead of being in their own neighborhood.

On the plus side, I did get to dress up in costume and treat kids to some sweets on Halloween. It's far more than I was able to do last year, so I can't complain.


2012-10-30

Back from New York and the storm is over. Now it's time to get back to cooking – just in time for Halloween! Last year Trick-or-Treating was "postponed" due to the blizzard we had two days before, and I missed it. This year it looks close, but they're talking "chance of showers" during the day and "mostly cloudy" at night, so we should be able to make it this year. This is something I've been wanting to do since last year. Everyone just gives out packaged candy to the kids, but I want to cook. I live on the third floor of an apartment building (with a locked front door), so no one is going to come up to my door for Trick-or-Treating. Therefore, my plan is: dress up in costume, go outside to a street corner near my apartment building (in a neighborhood full of kids), and set up a table with three cast iron pots. The potjie pot is full of chocolate cobbler, and it looks like a "witch's cauldron." The smaller pot (actually, it's a Lodge deep skillet chicken fryer) has chocolate sauce, and I'll be scooping out chocolate cobbler and chocolate sauce into cups with vanilla ice cream for the kids. If the parents don't want their kids taking ice cream from a stranger, the big Lodge dutch oven is full of toys, and the kids will get one each from there. While it's good, of course, for parents to make sure their kids are safe taking candy from strangers on Halloween, I personally think the urban legend of "razor blades in apples" is overrated, and parents should let their kids have some chocolate and ice cream because I'll be right there with them. This is different from the usual Trick-or-Treating, and I hope to have fun tomorrow night.


2012-10-19

Demonic Goddess needs funds to wreak havoc and destruction upon the West Coast of America! Donate enough and California will fall into the sea at last. [Donate via Paypal]

And meanwhile, a major update to the Web site for Incite Entertainment Group.


2012-10-13

Franks, Boston baked beans and New England brown bread

Saturday night in New England: enjoying a meal of franks :), Boston Baked Beans, and New England brown bread. The dishes all succeeded wonderfully! At an antique store in New Bedford, I found something that caught me by surprise: a genuine Boston ceramic beanpot. There's no manufacturer logo on it, but it's stamped USA on the bottom. As a born-and-bred New Englander, I knew I had to get this. And so on my last day on the pager before vacation, I spent the day slow-cooking a traditional New England meal of the kind enjoyed for generations. The beans are absolutely delicious, so much so that I changed the main meat ingredient in the baked beans recipe from "salt pork" to "slab bacon." (Regular strip bacon will also work fine.) I did overfill the pot, to the point where I had to drain some of the liquid off; but this in no way prevented the beans from being thoroughly cooked, soft, and brimming with that baked bean flavor. And they're not too salty. New England brown bread, meanwhile, has been largely forgotten by most of the world, even here in New England. This bread isn't baked but rather steamed – it's steamed molasses bread in a can. I prepared it in that manner, using a 28-ounce tomato sauce can and a steaming basket in my 6-1/2 quart enameled cast iron pot. I ended up steaming the bread for about an hour and fifteen minutes. The batter had filled the can about two-thirds full, and it expanded to fill the can completely. After letting the can sit for ten minutes, I shook it gently out of the can and onto the plate. As you can see, it held together and did not fall apart, nor was it undercooked. This is not a "sweet" bread, but the molasses and raisins give it a lovely taste all its own. And I can see why it all goes together with the baked beans. I am very happy with the results of today's cooking. I think it's the best meal I've put together in a while.


2012-09-08

September 8, 2012: Today was my first time visiting the Brimfield Antique Show. This is an antiquing event held in western Massachusetts three times per year. It's enormously popular among hobbyists, collectors, and anyone who enjoys antiques of any kind. At its peak today (Saturday) there were easily several thousand people in attendance, and traffic on the route to the show area was backed up for miles – literally. However, even though I'd barely planned ahead, I managed to do almost everything RIGHT today! I avoided nearly all of the traffic; I found exactly the items I looked for, at great bargains; I didn't spend a lot of money; and I saw a lot of amazing sights. Even though I'm hardly a veteran antiquer, I strongly recommend take a few precautions when you go to the Brimfield Antique Show, because it will avoid you a lot of frustration.

First of all, I left the house at a little past 6:00 AM and arrived there at 7:00 AM. The show runs on the schedule of a yard sale, with some stalls (allegedly) opening for business as early as 6:00 AM. I arrived before the massive crowds of visitors, and I had my pick of the parking lots; yet, I still chose a parking lot on the outer perimeter of the fairgrounds, about a 5 to 10 minute walk away. This meant that when I left the place to return home – at only 11:15 AM, because I was exhausted – I didn't have to inch my car through thousands and thousands of parking cars and walking people. It also meant I was early enough score one genuine bargain, one that I would have missed if I'd arrived later that morning.

My agenda was modest, and I was looking specifically for two items: a cast iron muffin-and-cupcake pan, and a 7-inch American-made cast iron skillet to replace my Asian-made one. (I figured there would be enough variety to make a selection like that.) I stuck to my guns and mostly avoided temptation (ahem)! In all, I ended up spending $60 for the entire show, including parking and four specific items that (I think) were all great bargains.

Brimfield Antique Show: www.brimfieldshow.com/


2012-07-14

Whew. Today I was finally able to spend a day cleaning up, unpacking, and putting things away after my out-of-state camping trip last weekend. I'd brought along three big cast iron pots – a Lodge 5-quart dutch oven, an 8-quart Best Duty potjie (a South African cast iron pot that looks like a medieval cauldron; it's a lot of fun to have this!), and a huge Bayou Classic 16-quart dutch oven (this one is a monster – 15 inches diameter and 8 inches tall). We put these pots through a lot of use on the camping trip, and as a result the big pots had some wear and tear. The potjie pot had been used to make vegan stew with tomatoes, and as a result there was a thin layer of rust on the inside of the pot. The big dutch oven, meanwhile, had some traces of rust because it had never been heavily seasoned; I'd burned off its initial wax coating (used for shipping) and oiled it before taking it camping, but I hadn't given it a thorough seasoning. So today, as I cleaned house, I took the effort to season these big pots in the manner they deserved.

These pots were so big that I could only season them in the oven one at a time. I prepared for this with a trip to the dollar store (Dollar Tree is a frugal cook's best friend!) for cheap washcloths and sponges. To clean the dutch ovens I used apple cider vinegar, and for the seasoning I used reserved bacon grease – grease that I'd collected in a glass container during previous times I'd cooked bacon. The bacon grease was at room temperature, not heated.

The actual effort of seasoning these pots was simple, but it took a lot of time and effort because the pots were so BIG. It was simply a matter of doing the following:

In the kitchen sink, I added vinegar to the bottom of the potjie (about 1/8 cup), added about a tablespoon of kosher salt (for friction), and gave every inch of the pot a thorough scrubbing with steel wool. I scrubbed inside and out, and the result was a coating of ugly black goo, all over the potjie and the inside of the sink. I then rinsed it all out with water from the sink (I didn't use detergent), poured about 1/8 cup of bacon grease into the potjie, and use a dish cloth to rub it all over every inch of the pot – again, both inside and outside. After this, I used several paper towels to wipe off the inside and outside of the pot. A grease coating for seasoning cast iron doesn't have to be dripping or sticky; all it needs is a thin sheen of a coat in order to season properly. I placed the potjie on the bottom rack of my oven, upside down so that any extra grease would not collect on the bottom of the pot. From there, I did the same thing with the iron lid to the potjie pot: pour on about a tablespoon of vinegar, vigorously scrub every inch with steel wool, rinse it off, apply bacon grease with the cloth, towel it off with paper towels, then placed it on the oven rack alongside the potjie pot.

From there, I closed the oven door, heated the oven to 500 degrees F, and let it cook at 500 degrees F for 60 minutes. Note on heating the pots: be sure to have open windows and fans for ventilation, and take down your smoke detector! This produces some heavy smoke, which will set off your smoke alarm if you're not careful. Also, this should be a standard for everyone but I'll say it just to be sure: DO NOT LEAVE YOUR HOUSE when heating up a big pot to 500 degrees in your oven! This process should be supervised for every moment until the oven has been turned off and the pots cooled down.

After this, I turned the oven off but left the pot in the oven to cool down. After 30 minutes, I used heavy oven mitts to take the pot and lid out of the oven (they were still very hot!) and place them on the stovetop range to cool off some more. After about another 15 minutes, they were still very warm but not burning hot, so I used a separate dishcloth (not the one I'd used with the bacon grease) to apply a thin layer of generic store brand vegetable oil to the pot. I just poured a little oil into the bottom of the pot – I didn't need a lot, maybe only a teaspoon of oil – and used the cloth to wipe every inch of the pot with oil, inside and out. This left the pot shiny and black. From there, I did the same with the lid. Finally, after letting it all cool down, I was able to put the potjie pot in its place, and turn my attention to the huge Bayou Classic dutch oven.

I used the same process on the 16-quart dutch oven that I'd used with the 8-quart potjie pot:

  • 1) Scrub every inch vigorously with vinegar and steel wool;
  • 2) rinse it all off;
  • 3) use the dish rag to cover every inch of the pot with bacon grease;
  • 4) wipe it off with paper towels so as to leave a thin coating of grease;
  • 5) place it in the oven, upside down;
  • 6) do the same process with the iron lid;
  • 7) heat the oven to 500 degrees F;
  • 8) cook it at 500 degrees F for 60 minutes;
  • 9) Let it cool off in the oven for 30 minutes before carefully taking it out; and
  • 10) after cooling off some more, apply a coating of vegetable oil to every inch of the pot and lid, top and bottom.

After all this, I thoroughly cleaned the grease out of the sink with dish detergent and dollar store sponges, then threw them out – grease cloths, sponge, and all of the paper towels used to clean the pots. That's why I'd purchased them at the dollar store. :)

Here are the big pots after seasoning.

Seasoned cast iron pots

See also: Seasoning Your Cast Iron Pan

2012-06-30

After spending/wasting my entire life struggling to please others, it would be nice to go somewhere and just be spoiled for once. And to the first idiot who says, "you'll be rewarded in the afterlife," fuck you and fuck God.


2012-06-24

Ancient Wikipedia history (ten years ago): this guy uses my history during Wikipedia's early days as proof that Wikipedia today is worthless, and that I can't be trusted. :)
wikipediocracy.com/2012/05/23/wiki-paranoia-part-ii-newsgroup-trolls-gays-and-patrollers/


2012-06-19

Time to start making some concrete plans for a cross country trip in October…to the 2012 National DOG. First up: figure out how long it will take. tinyurl.com/cic-ndog-2012


2012-06-05

Long night on the pager; four calls between 11 PM and 4 AM. After getting up at 4 AM to take the latest call, I took advantage of the extra time to do something I rarely do - attempt to make art. The result, for whatever it's worth, is here.


2012-05-31

Unexpectedly, I found myself casting my first protection spell last night. Me, the cynic who doesn't believe in magic even as I call myself a Chaos magician.

I worked late again last night, and just before going to bed I took a look at Stickam's "Pagans Unite" video chat room. Lo and behold, there was a bit of drama taking place. It seems that one person there, mentioning no names, was saying how her boyfriend or ex (I was't sure which) was stalking and harassing her. A thought popped into my head, and so I concentrated for a bit, then sent her the following message in IM: "I've recently invoked my first entity, a dragonfly-like spirit. For the past month or so, I found myself repeating this series of letters without really knowing why: XJQNY. [This is true, I really have been doing this out of habit. This particular phrase just popped into my head and I've been repeating it, without really knowing what it means.] Lately I envisioned a name and form for it, and it became Xaj Quny, an insectoid spirit that I've had following me around. He hasn't caused me any harm. I've just cast a sigil and sent him to you – maybe he can help you. If you call his name, he'll come to you. I hope that helps you a little bit."

In effect, I engaged in the pagan and magical version of prayer. Do I expect her ex to suddenly drop dead from a heart attack? Hardly. My hope was simply to cheer her up a bit. Whether or not my spell has any effect, the intent was for her to believe I was casting a spell to make her feel better. That's what magic is - the power of belief. If it helped to cheer her up a bit, then that means I was successful. That's all.


2012-05-20

I practice cooking magic. Since the first reaction I get from pagans when I say this is, "what the hell is cooking magic," I should explain that cooking is a hobby that helps me to meditate. When I'm working my way through the preparation of a tasty dish, I can cut myself off from the world around me and immerse myself in the immediacy of the moment – in other words, I can achieve gnosis through cooking. In the same manner that a musician finds gnosis when he's on stage in the middle of a rockin' set, or a writer makes his magic as he produces a story that comes from his soul, so I consider cooking to be my magic.

On Friday May 18th (a date that used to have personal significance in a previous life), I came across an article on jazz musician Miles Davis and his cooking. It seems Davis wasn't only a musician, though he will forever be remembered for his legendary contributions to jazz – he was also a decent cook. The article described how the author took it upon himself to re-create Davis' chili recipe – and how, to him and him only, the results were magical. He even wrote, "And for a second, while I extemporized my way through the cooking, I swear Miles entered the room." This truly is cooking magic…and I knew that I had to make this recipe myself.

First came the ingredients. Yesterday (Saturday morning) I wrote on Facebook, "So…last night I came across that recipe for Miles Davis' chile recipe. It requires a three hour slow simmer, and I thought it would be good to make it today when I'm home on the pager. So I figured I'd go out to get the ingredients at Price Chopper, because they're open 24 hours and I wouldn't have to go today, when I'm on the work pager (again). And I decided to walk to Price Chopper because it was a nice clear night. But…as I was getting my shoes on, I got a call from work. I had to do an emergency after hours shipment from our supplier in Louisville, Kentucky. Normally this would take about five minutes, but due to a clerical error it ended up taking over an hour. So finally, it finished up and I had the chance to go out and do my food shopping. At 12:30 AM. I decided to still walk to Price Chopper because I was wide awake from the work call, and ended up going to bed at 2:30 AM." Thanks to the recipe, I got to have fun playing a stereotypical role – walking the streets alone, dressed in black. That was ridiculous, and it was fun. :)

And so, while calls came in on the pager, I set about making Miles Davis' chili. A lowly beginner attempting to emulate Miles Davis? I was certain I wasn't the first. On my Cast Iron Cooking Facebook group, I blogged my experience.

1:30 PM: Miles Davis' chili in the making. ( The recipe is here: www.gilttaste.com/stories/1016-miles-davis-s-chili ) Earlier this morning I looked for other comments on the Web about this chili, to see what kind of a cook Miles really was. I did find one comment from a guy who tried this recipe and didn't have a lot of success – it came out very soupy for him. And as I went over the recipe and read this guy's description of how he did it, I felt that he had the right idea when he said how Miles was a disciple of from-the-hip invention, and he didn't want to follow a set of instructions. Based on this, I decided to use the actual ingredients listed by Miles instead of the listing given by the author of this article. I used the general measurements – 2 pounds of ground chuck, 32 ounces of crushed tomatoes and kidney beans – but other than this, I decided to forego actually measuring the ingredients, and I threw it in to see what would happen. I heated up the bacon grease (from this morning's bacon) and browned the ground beef in it; into this, I added diced red and green pepper (half each of red and green), kosher salt, and pepper from the grinder. For the mustard, I used a big squeeze of mustard from a plastic mustard bottle, plus a shot of vinegar; after this I put in the tomatoes and kidney beans, then added the remaining spices. For the cumin and chili powder, I added enough for it to seem right (and for me to smell it). After this, I used the remainder of an open container of broth I'd had in the fridge. The mustard plus vinegar are giving this sauce (it's more like a sauce than a chili at this point) a strong vinegar scent – which suits me just fine, because I happen to love vinegar. :) It's also a pleasant change of pace from recipes of this sort, which usually call for copious amounts of ketchup. The resulting mixture did turn out rather liquid, so after heating it at a setting of 6 (just over medium heat) to bring it to a boil, I lowered it to 3-4. I'm letting it simmer on the stovetop in an uncovered pot for at least three hours to reduce it. And I'll be serving it over pasta.
3:00 PM: After an hour and a half at a setting of 3-to-4 on the stovetop, the chili has thickened nicely; I've just put the cover onto the pot in order to let it cook more thoroughly. The taste isn't bad, either: despite the large amount of mustard and vinegar, it isn't overwhelming the beef and the peppers. A lot of people like their chili with a bit of a burning sensation, of the kind that coats your tongue. If I were to add cayenne pepper to this chili, I'm sure that would add the burning sensation to it; but that's not my favorite way to enjoy chili. I've added more ground pepper to it. There does seem to be something missing - maybe a little background sweetness to it. It's not too strong, but the meat still tastes a bit bland, even when mixed in with the other ingredients.
3:30 PM: After only 30 minutes more, I checked the chili and found that covering the pot had brought out more of the liquid. So I uncovered it once again and reduced the heat down to 2. I've also mixed in about a teaspoon of curry. On the whole, this chili isn't bad so far.
5:30 PM: The verdict on the finished chili: thumbs up! It's actually a mild chili, not the kind at all that hits you with a strong taste or burns your tongue. But served over pasta with a topping of cheddar cheese (not enough to drown it, just enough to flavor it), it's quite delicious indeed! The large amount of mustard, plus vinegar, added at the beginning had completely absorbed into the chili, and it did not overpower it; since the recipe used mustard instead of ketchup, it wasn't sickly sweet. I can barely taste the curry I'd added an hour before it was done; but this is tasty enough that I don't have to add any other seasonings to it besides the cheese. Volumes have been written on Miles Davis and his immortal, legendary status in jazz. As a cook, I'd say he was a decent one as well. This isn't world-class chili here, and it won't win any awards; it's a basic, everyday chili that just happens to have Miles Davis' name attached to it. This recipe is worth a try – you'll most likely enjoy it.

The chili was delicious – but I'd cooked it more for the experience of making Miles' chili rather than for the chili itself. It was a pleasurable experience – and I realized I'd achieved gnosis.

And what magical results did I see from this? For one, relaxation and achievement. I was on call with the work pager yesterday, and Saturdays on the pager are usually hell – idiots from all over the country call me with equipment emergencies that have to be solved NOW, even though they're on a skeleton crew with weekend staff who know nothing. Yesterday turned out to be one of the quietest and most relaxing days on the pager that I've had in a long time…so much so, I was able to finish a lot of housework, including three weeks' worth of laundry. That in itself is magical. :)


Update, 8:00 PM the same day: If "magic" is an explanation for the strange little coincidences that happen in your waking life, then yesterday's cooking magic definitely produced some magic today. :) Pager is done, it was an absolutely gorgeous day out, I didn't have a lot of money (though I had some), and I had all day to myself. The little voice in my head just said to take a long walk to the Wayside Inn, exactly like when we were kids. Who was I to say no to the little voice in my head?

So I was off, spending the better part of the day walking across town, treading the same paths my brothers and I had wandered a good thirty years ago. And the little magical coincidences started occurring, finally culminating in my meeting not one, but two lovely ladies, but also discovering yet another addition to my cast iron collection – at a substantial discount. I celebrated my new find by making a gin slinger (sugar, lemon juice, lemon peel, boiling water) in my Chaos logo drinking glass. Not a bad way to end a day of magic.


2012-05-11

At some time around a year ago, I broke away from my old crowd over too much petty politics. I left behind a lot of whining about "butthurt" and pointing of fingers at the people who had been "banned." At that time I resigned from Scrubgenius, preferring not to know or care what was being said. Today, by accident, I learned that Scrubgenius had been given a new name and my membership in the group had been reinstated. When I looked at it, what did I see? A lot of whining about "butthurt" and pointing of fingers at another group of people who have been "banned." I resigned from the group once again. I'm glad I left when I did.


2012-01-19

Now that the holidays are behind us, the big sci-fi convention is over, and the dishes I'd planned are all cooked and consumed, I finally have time to resume my quest for wok hei! I may not be climbing to Tibetan monasteries atop dangerous Himalayan mountain peaks, but I am still determined to create the ancient and legendary stir-fry taste in my own kitchen. I am also learning that a properly made Oriental-style stir fry is a delicacy to be enjoyed. Unlike the dose of MSG and grease you get when you order Chinese take-out fast food, this stir fry is healthy, tasty, and very filling. An hour from now I most certainly will not be hungry again. So, even if I never achieve wok hei, I am gaining practice at creating a superior stir fry – a skill that will prove useful the next time my friends come to visit.

In this stage of my quest, I'd put together a Web page describing the preparations and stages in preparing a wok hei stir fry. Including 45 minutes to heat the cast iron wok to 500 degrees, the preparation time came to about 45 minutes…I had everything prepared, and the oven beeped 500 degrees just a few seconds before the rice finished cooking. The actual frying took only 1/3 as much time – 15 minutes – and any experienced stir fry chef would still consider this to be far too long. That simply means I'll have to continue practicing, so that I eventually reach the point where I can toss my meat (make all the crude jokes you want about that!) with the best of them.

The Web page: Wok Hei - The Mystical Art of Stir Frying

As the stir fry was still smoking hot in the wooden bowl, I started eating it. The broccoli was still bright green and crisp, yet unquestionably cooked through; and this time, there was only a bit of a hint that any part of it had burned in the wok. Furthermore, I tasted the ginger in the broccoli, giving it an interesting taste and aftertaste. The beef was chewy but not overly tough. The rice was brown throughout, thanks to the soy and hoisin. Best of all, the dish was fresh and it lacked the greasy, oily residue you get when you order beef-and-broccoli at any Chinese food takeout joint. Even more, the entire dish was piping hot – hot as in temperature, not as in spicy. I've never been a fan of drowning my food in hot, hot spices, as I like the taste of broccoli, beef, and rice. Best of all, there was indeed a smoky flavor to the entire dish – a taste that suggests it had seared but not burned!

Was this wok hei? I still didn't know…largely because I have yet to taste "true" wok hei cooking. In fact, until this evening I had been planning on going into Boston Chinatown this coming Saturday and trying a restaurant that supposedly uses wok hei in its cooking (the Hong Kong Eatery). However, they are now talking about snow arriving this Saturday, which means it would be better to wait a little longer before I discover what wok hei is like – and to compare it to my own cooking, and see if this beginning cook with an electric stove…and a heavyweight cast iron wok…succeeded in joining the ranks of the ancient Cantonese stir fry masters with my very own wok hei.

(I like the way the camera caught the billowing smoke in this photo!)

stirfry2.jpg


2012-01-12

As I'd mentioned previously, I practice cooking magic. I seem to have developed this compulsion to feed people, and I had been planning on indulging in this by cooking up a storm at the Arisia con this weekend. Yesterday afternoon I began designing a sigil to post on the door to my hotel room – I was planning on casting a spell on everyone who glanced at my door. :) The intent behind my sigil was, "you will enter this room and you will be fed." However, despite numerous attempts, I could not come up with a sigil that felt "right," one that satisfied me. This morning, I called the hotel and was informed that convention guests are specifically prohibited from cooking in their rooms. This has dashed my plans to cook at the con. It's enough to make a magically-inclined person think that the inability to come up with a satisfactory sigil yesterday was connected to this – the magic was not manifesting because I would not have been able to achieve my intention. In spite of this, I still hope to have fun at the con, and I'm still planning one event in which I get to feed people (without doing any cooking): a Saturday morning cartoon breakfast.

What to do at the con, other than cook? I suppose I could be like everyone else, follow the schedule, attend the panels, and hang out. That's what I'll likely end up doing, though in addition I hope to see some familiar faces…or even better, meet new people.

One thing I've gotten an idea of doing is bringing the cast iron pan I'd purchased, especially to paint as a design for the new logo of the Cast Iron Chaos Web site. That would make a decent project, I think: after I'm unpacked and settling in, I'll start painting it over in my hotel room tomorrow, and hopefully have the additional layers finished and dried out by Saturday. Then, I'll lay my onyx ring in the center of the pan and attempt a cleansing. I've always liked that ring, and it was a special present given to me back in my old life. I don't need to get rid of everything that connects me to the past – last year Morgan said to me, simply, "keep your pretty things" – but it would be a good practice to attempt to "cleanse" the ring, purify it, and wear it as a new magical object. (Since Arisia always has a sizable pagan contingent, I might be able to find a person or group who could aid me in this.)


2012-01-05

My declaration: I am a Magician.

After learning the joys of cooking over the course of 2011, and accepting Chaos magic in the fall of the year, I enjoyed a wonderful New Year of cooking for guests and casting sigil magic – both of which were hugely successful. I believe I am at a new level of experience (so to speak) in cooking magic, and I am confident that I can proceed as an experienced beginner and not a neophyte. Therefore, I am announcing to the world at large:

Yes, I am a magician!

I am practicing a version of Chaos magic that I simply refer to as cooking magic. Not only am I cooking some good food and actually receiving compliments for it, I'm enjoying great satisfaction and even happiness that stems from my cooking. This, to me, is magic. It's the feeling of knowing that I am making my own creations, achieving satisfaction from them, and using them to help others (even if it's simply by making a pizza for the neighbors who live downstairs, or by cooking turkeys for homeless political activists on Thanksgiving day). This is my magic, and it's a kind of magic that I am proud to embrace. The tools of my magic are among the most ancient of magical items – cast iron pots and pans, steel knives, herbs, meat and vegetables, and fire. The spells I cast are recipes, and the results of my magic are a conjuration of wonderfully delicious food that I gladly make available to my friends, family, and lovers (if any). Just as important, I find cooking to be a good way to practice meditation, as a way to explore my inner self, fend off loneliness, learn to stay calm in times of stress (especially at work), and feel good about myself. This as good a reason as any to practice magic.

This is Chaos magic because it comes from my inner self. I am not bowing and scraping to any gods, crystals, mystical "energies," astrological charts, tarot cards, or anything of that sort when I make my magic. However, I do respect these forms of magic, and their practitioners. I have never considered it part of my nature to go out of my way to offend others (though it does happen), unless I feel that magic is being used to intentionally hurt others (can you say "Scientology," boys and girls? Or how about "conservative Christian politics?"). One of the points of Chaos magic that I am still developing for myself is the idea that belief is a tool: the ability to literally change my belief to meet the environment I am in. However, I have taken the first steps in this direction, and I feel that this will help to enhance my cooking magic as well.

If there's one thing I've learned in the past year, it's that the only true magic is the magic you make yourself. But the world is filled with many kinds of magic, some of which I have experienced and want to experience more. I am enjoying this and it makes me feel good. This is as satisfying as any religion I can think of, including the ones I have followed in the past (Roman Catholicism and the Church of the SubGenius). Therefore, until or unless the time comes that I decide I am finished exploring this path, I am declaring myself a Chaos magician.

PRAISE NOBODY!


2012-01-02

The events of the past weekend have made me feel that I've reached a level that I've been striving to achieve with myself, in terms of personal satisfaction. I am no longer an inexperienced cook: I am a cook. (Still a beginning cook, but a cook nonetheless.) I feel great personal satisfaction when I achieve something with my cooking, and this appears to be happening on a regular basis. I'm not fooling myself into believing I'm a superior cook, but I'm satisfied with my progress so far and I'm proud to say that I am a cook. And I believe I have reached the point where I will declare myself a magician: I practice cooking magic. As I've said before, cooking is my magic, and the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction I receive from it is my gnosis. "Spell casting" is another form of ritualized prayer, and that is what I do when I cook – essentially, I'm praying to myself, and the answer to my prayer (spell) is seen in the results of my cooking: good food.

Speaking of which…thanks to an Amazon gift certificate from my brother for Xmas, I've just acquired a cast iron pizza pan! More ritualzed prayer will be coming soon, and the result of this will be some oven baked pizza. :)


2012-01-01

New Year's Day, 2012: This year has already kicked ass over 2011. Last night I had the most fun I've had in years on New Year's Eve, and magic was definitely involved: the exact kind of esoteric and impossible-to-pinpoint magic that I've seen since I embraced Chaos. For this weekend's festivities, I engaged in a summoning ritual and I successfully conjured a cybernetic rabbit spirit from the future, who manifested in many strange and unusual ways. The most unusual, and positive, aspect of this came when I designed and cast a sigil with the intent having an effect that very evening, a scant few hours after it was cast. Rather than phrasing it as a desire, I took a chance and made it a declaration: instead of "My desire is…" I simply stated my intention "Something Unexpected Will Happen Tonight" and sigilized it. I then burned the sigil in a cast iron pan to project it into the subconscious. I may be an anthropomorphic cat at heart, but last night the rabbit was my spirit guide: I followed the white rabbit, and even managed to engage in Kirlian photography that showed the aura of the rabbit. I followed the rabbit and let the magic happen, and the result was that last night turned out to be the best fucking New Year I've had in many a year. I made several interesting acquaintances and met one person who I do hope will be more than just an acquaintance. :) The night's magic began with cast iron and ended with cast iron – true cooking magic. This makes me happy. Some people work magic with candles and cauldrons and pentagrams drawn on the floor. Cooking is my magic. My rituals involve cast iron over a blazing hot stove, wielding metal implements of culinary creation. The results of my cooking magic are slowly manifesting, but I am indeed gaining experience and confidence. Not the least of which was the way I cooked wonderful bacon two separate times in the space of five hours. I will be a beginning cook for a long time to come – but I am now an experienced beginning cook. I am achieving gnosis through my cooking.


2011-11-10

Okay…when compared to the wonderful pho I had in a restaurant (where pho is their stock in trade), my first attempt at making pho was pitiful. :) Then again, as usual the folks at work were hesitant to try something new, anyway. Two of my co-workers took the chance, and one of them thought it was good nonetheless. Still, I made one critical mistake: I boiled the rice noodles early this morning,brought them to work, and kept them in the fridge, where they congealed into a big gooey mass. Oops! (My co-worker consoled me by saying, "Think of it as a big dumpling.") However, I did like the way the broth turned out. I'd used raw sliced beef for the meat, and it still cooked instantly when the hot broth was poured over it. I'd provided hoisin sauce and sriracha chile sauce (the standard condiments for adding onto pho), and at least this made it more palatable.

My next attempt to make pho…and probably my next several attempts…will all be done in the privacy of my own home. :) But still, it could have been worse. And as I said before, cooking consists of many learning experiences and the occasional disaster. This wasn't a disaster, so I can charitably call it a "learning experience." :)


2011-11-08

  • When I came home from work last night, the kids downstairs were playing in the driveway (in the dark…hello, Daylight Savings Time), and they greeted me by name. One of them, whose name I think is Jen, even asked, "Do you need any more taste testers?" :) I guess they liked that deep dish pizza. On the other hand, I noticed they didn't mention the Halloween toys at all. This means their parents probably hid the toys, threw them out, or maybe (hopefully) they gave them out themselves. Since the kids obviously didn't know, I didn't mention it.
  • I can't get that pho out of my mind, especially since I found a recipe for it in the cookbook I use for my bread pudding base (The Cook's Canon : 101 Classic Recipes Everyone Should Know). I have most of the ingredients, but I'll definitely need to make a trip to Kam Man for the meat (oxtail!), star anise, fish sauce, and some rice noodles. Then again, Kam Man might even have pre-made seasoning bags for the broth, and perhaps even pre-sliced meat, since pho is such a popular dish. Pho is to Southeast Asia what pizza is to the US. Since I must do my laundry and ironing tonight, the Kam Man trip will be tomorrow evening after work.
  • One person on the Occupy Boston wiki commented on my proposal for a Thanksgiving cookout: "Great idea! Coordinate this with Dave, who's organizing food donations. If you send me your email I'll get you his number, which I don't think I should put directly here without his say-so. - pcovery" I haven't received an email yet, and no one else has commented on the Occupy Thanksgiving wiki page yet. I don't expect there to be a lot of commentary at all; and I suspect that if I can get even a few people to show up to cook, it will probably be an accomplishment. I'm committing myself to doing it all by myself – if anyone else shows up to cook on Thanksgiving, then that will be good. If not, I'll cook alone. (As George Thoroughgood sings, "Yeaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh, with nobody else…") I've found three possible locations to scout out, and since I have Friday off from work I'll drive around and take a closer look at them: Artesani Park on the banks of the Charles River, across from Cambridge; Franklin Park in Dorchester; and Arsenal Park in Watertown. All three of these places are supposed to have permanent grill setups for public grilling, so I would think there would not be a problem at all if I (and anyone else) show up there on Thanksgiving morning, get out my coals, and start cooking. Each of these locations are listed in Mapquest as being about a 15 minute drive from Dewey Square; and since it will be Thanksgiving, there won't be a ton of traffic to get into the city. Once I decide on a location, I'll make up some flyers and post them in Anonymous-friendly locations – the Occupy Boston tent city, of course, and a couple of college campuses around town.
  • If I end up doing it myself, I think I could cook three turkeys and a pot of vegetable stew. I have two 14-inch pots (the Le Creuset and my Lodge dutch oven), a 12-inch deep camp dutch oven, and the Lodge 5-quart oven. That should be enough to do three birds and a pot of stew. All I have to do is get the birds and thaw them out in advance (on my porch, in a big plastic tub, about three days before Thanksgiving), place each bird in its own pot with marinade, line the tops and bottoms of the pots with coals, and wait about four hours. Simple. Then I'll take the pots, place them in my car (note to self…get a heat-resistant tarp at Home Depot to allow placement of the hot pots in the car!), and drive into Boston to Dewey Square. From there, I'll just wait until the pots are emptied and watch over them so that they're not stolen. Then, I'll put the pots in the car, go to Chinatown, and have some more pho. :) My own Thanksgiving with my family will be on Sunday, November 27.
  • I promised Panik I'd call him last night, but then I was too damn tired. :( I have to call today.

2011-11-07

  • So, my involvement with the Occupy Boston crowd last Saturday caused some drama on the Cast Iron Cooking group. After I posted a message describing what I did that evening, three people on the group announced "I'm done with this group" and said goodbye. They didn't say what had ticked them off – was it my hanging out with Anonymous? I did say that I have no intention of turning the Facebook group into a political group, and that's entirely true. The Facebook group is there for people who cook in cast iron, that's all.
  • But my involvement with Occupy Boston isn't over yet. After last Saturday, I got to wondering what I could do for these folks on Thanksgiving day. I still don't agree with their methods, as I (still) feel that 1960s-style protests are hopeless in the 21st century. However, the basic fact is that these are folks who feel so passionate about their cause, they're willing to camp in the streets of Boston through the coming cold weather. I want to help get these people a good hot meal on Thanksgiving day. It's as simple as that. So, I started my own event on the Occupy Boston wiki: Occupy Thanksgiving. I'm putting together the beginnings of a gathering for people to spend a couple of hours on the morning of Thursday, November 24, 2011 cooking food and bringing it to the Occupy Boston tent city.

2011-11-04

After last evening's excursion, my new motto is: I fed the 99%. :) #OccupyBoston #Anonymous #OccupyWallStreet

Man, I never know how these excursions will end up. Lately, I seem to have had these urges to head into Boston and wander around, to see what happens. My adventures are incredibly tame compared to those who have more of a life than me, but it still gives me something to write about. Yesterday, after finishing my work shift, I wanted to head into town to look for a decent-looking sweater and a couple of things to wear as the weather gets colder this weekend. On Facebook, I stumbled across an announcement of a legalize-pot rally to take place at about 4:00 PM yesterday; I thought that sounded interesting, so I got a couple of posterboards and markers, and headed there to see what was going on. Except that nothing happened – apparently the rally had fizzled out. So, what to do with some posterboards and markers? I realized the Occupy Boston tent city was nearby, so I headed over there and dropped the stuff of with them. And, for the second time, I saw these people shivering in the cold…and I had the urge to get them some hot food. The Occupy Boston community is well-organized in their tent city; they're not a bunch of aimless people hanging out there with nothing to do. They have a social structure, tents for generating power, tents for first aid, tents for meditation, and a food area where they are constantly receiving donations and serving food. Except that they have no cooking facilities at all. Even in this weather, they don't even have a bucket of hot coals. I went up to the folks at the food tent and asked about this, and they replied that first of all, they're not allowed to have any fires at all. Not even hot coals. Some of them blame it on police brutality, of course – it's one way for The Man to discourage them and eventually get them to go home. On the other hand, there are also a lot of thieves in their midst: every time they get some decent quality cooking apparatus, it disappears. So they have to make do with piles and piles of cheap utensils, pots, and dishes of all sorts. And so, just as last month when I was caught up in their street protest, I had the urge to help them out and get some them some hot food, at least for the evening. I went into nearby Chinatown and found a restaurant that agreed to cook up an order of hot soup; I found a couple of volunteers; and we carried two big pots of beef soup and chicken soup back to the tent city, where a lot of people got to eat some warm food that evening. What's more, a number of them had never had Thai pho before; this was their first time eating Oriental food. This crowd is living right next to Chinatown Boston, and they've never eaten Chinese?!? They talk about freeing their minds from media control and they don't even want to try new food? Oh well, at least I got them to eat something warm and hot. And it was good soup, too – a little later I went back to the same restaurant and had a meal there myself. And this pho was delicious! I don't know how they make it, but the noodles had a sweetness to them that I've never tasted before…it's not a sugar or honey sweetness, but I think something that comes from ginger. If this is the result of cooking noodles with Oriental five-spices, then I am definitely going to have to try to make this myself! I loved it! (For those who don't know, pho is a Thai noodle soup that's served with scallions in the bowl of soup, and big chunks of thinly sliced rare-cooked meat on top. I'd recently seen a site somewhere, maybe Time magazine or something, that rated the so-called "50 tastiest foods in the world." Pho was #3 on the list. After last night, I think I agree with that!)


2011-11-03

  • Working a week of 11-hour days (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday) certainly is a way to turn off your brain and kill your incentive to do anything but go home and sleep. After having the day off on Monday, I've worked from 8:30 AM to 8:00 PM for the past two days, and I'm likely to be scheduled for these hours today and tomorrow as well. It only occurred to me this morning that if gnosis is the act of placing your consciousness into an altered state of existence, I should take advantage of the lethargy these work hours are producing and find a way to use it to my advantage. I'm starting to do so with these very words I'm writing (I hope), as I'm going to set myself to design at least two sigils today. I'm bringing my car in for work on Saturday morning and working another 4-hour shift at work Saturday afternoon, but I'll have all of Saturday evening (and night) to myself, along with all of Sunday. I'll plan to set up a rite to activate the sigils, with the hope that they take effect next weekend (i.e. my birthday).
  • And another sign of my current life as a recluse: yesterday I sent an invitation to Mom and Dad to come by for Thanksgiving dinner, along with my brother and Dad's family; but based upon current situations, it seems unlikely that anyone at all will be able to show up. I'm looking at the prospect of being by myself on Thanksgiving. So, I could either sit at home by myself and be depressed…or I can do something about it. My life for the past year has been all about doing something about it and trying new things, and this will be no exception. For instance, I could find a local charity and volunteer to spend Thanksgiving serving dinner to homeless folks. That actually sounds like a decent plan: I'll keep busy, help people and make them a bit more happy (something I've always enjoyed doing), and maybe meet someone as I spend the day with a different crowd of people. It's worth a try.
  • And Halloween wasn't a total wash-out. As part of my planned cooking for Monday night (which, as mentioned earlier, didn't happen because my town decided to postpone trick-or-treating), I'd purchased a big container of vanilla ice cream at Price Chopper. However, I didn't have room for it in my freezer. So, I figured that it would be okay to leave it out on my porch overnight; the first frost was due that night, the temperature would be below freezing, and the ice cream wouldn't melt. Except that it did. We did indeed get a frost that night, but when I checked the ice cream it had melted to the consistence of soft serve. So, what do do with a big container of melted ice cream? I looked online for recipes that use melted ice cream as an ingredient, and what did I find but a pumpkin pie recipe. So, I put together the crust in the Griswold skillet, mixed together the ingredients (including three cups of melted ice cream), and ended up with a wonderful pumpkin pie. (I used twice the amount of cinnamon and nutmeg listed in the recipe.) When I took it to work on Tuesday, they all raved about it. I'm very happy with the results.
  • As I was putting the pie together on Monday evening, there was a knock at my door. The little girl who lives two floors below was there in her witch costume, trick-or-treating. I didn't have any candy but I gave her some toys from the stash I'd put together. I was touched by this, as she turned out to be the only one I'd been able to see with trick-or-treating. So, on Tuesday evening I put all of the toys in a bag, went downstairs, and knocked on my neighbor's door. No one answered, so I left the bag of toys on their doorknob with the following (intentionally saccharine) note: "Thank you very much for coming upstairs to Trick or Treat last night. You've probably heard that the city postponed Trick or Treating until this Thursday. Because of this, you were the only one to come to my place for Trick or Treating, and that made it very special. And that's why I need to ask you and your family to do a favor for me. I have a bag full of little toys, like the kind that I gave you last night. I had planned to give out these toys to everyone who came for Trick or Treating. However, I am going to be working very late all week, and I won't be home on Thursday when everyone goes out Trick or Treating. I'd like to ask for your help. Could you please take these toys, and make sure they are given out on Thursday? You can get as many people to help with this as you like. This will mean a lot to me, because I planned to do this all year. Thank you very much for your help. Your neighbor…" When I checked downstairs later that evening, the bag was gone. I haven't heard anything or seen any kind of a note in reply. I only hope they got the message…and that they understood that I meant this as a friendly gesture, not as some creepy act of child stalking.

2011-11-01

Well, this Halloween sucked in general (even though I did achieve a moment akin to gnosis). I'd been planning for months to have a special Trick-or-Treat for the kids, and I'd also wanted to visit Salem in advance of Halloween in order to see the place in a new (magical) perspective. Neither of these happened, thanks to the October snowstorm.

  • My original plan had been to go to Salem on Saturday, spend Sunday preparing for Halloween, bake my dishes on Monday, and dress up on Monday evening to give out cake and toys. The forecast for that Saturday had been downgraded, first from rain in the afternoon to a downpour, to a full-fledged snowstorm. In October. So I changed my schedule: Saturday I would do food shopping, and prepare a sigil and rite, and go to Salem on Sunday. The weather during the last half of last week was freezing – the 30s and 40s are hardly freezing to a New Englander, but there was just something about the cold that froze me to the bone. So on Saturday I was out clothes shopping, and I found a good thick sweater to keep me warm. It rained during the day on Saturday, but as I was heading home it changed to snow – a blowing snow that was starting to stick by the time I got home. So I didn't have a chance to do my food shopping (which wasn't essential, as my kitchen has a lot of food; just not a lot of fresh food at the moment). I took a couple of videos of the storm on Saturday evening: New England Snowstorm 5:00 PM and New England Snowstorm 6:00 PM. Then I spent the rest of the evening wasting time chatting on Stickam (why not?), and cooking a big pot of chicken with rice.
  • Video taken at 8:00 AM on Sunday morning: New England Snowstorm, the next day. Each time the power blinked out, my UPS power supply at my PC made a beeping alarm that woke me up, and a couple of minutes afterwards I would hear fire department sirens. This happened about four times, before finally at 3:30 AM the power went out and stayed out. And the next morning, the power was out all over town, with no street lights or heat or anything. I called my parents, who live on the border of Rhode Island, and they said they'd only received a dusting of snow, and everything was fine there. However, given how the power to my building had been out for two days after the hurricane this summer, I decided it would be a good idea to get some charcoal for grilling later today, and I drove to Home Depot. They were open! They only had emergency lights on, but they had a credit card reader going and I was able to get some charcoal and a coal bucket. On my way home, I picked up a guy hitchhiking whose truck had run out of power, and we headed east to find a working gas station to pick up a gallon can of gas. As soon as we crossed over the town border, we saw the power was on there; it was only out in my town. This made me decide to head to Salem anyway, as I figured that they should not have been affected by the storm in this manner. However, no more than a few seconds after I pulled out of the driveway to head to Salem, my phone rang. Work was calling, asking me to come in and take emergency calls for four hours. So much for going to Salem…I headed in to work, and by the time I got out of work the power had been restored to about half of my town, including my own building. So, my plan of grilling for the neighbors outdoors with coals had been scuttled. At that point I was feeling despondent – yes, I was glad the power was back, but I felt as though my plans for the weekend weren't working out. So I went to a local bar I've been to a couple of times now, and to celebrate Halloween I had probably the strongest drink I've ever had – Jim Beam 90-proof whiskey, a.k.a. "The Devil's Cut." (Appropriate for Halloween, I thought.) Even when mixed with Coke, this stuff gave me a buzz that lasted for the rest of the evening. I was smart enough not to drink anything else besides that, fortunately, and each time I go to that bar I make sure to walk instead of drive.
  • And so Halloween dawned, without my having the chance to go to Salem. But it was still the day I'd planned for! Because my preparations had been delayed by the storm, I went out that morning to look for the preparations I'd needed. My plan was simple: dressed in my devil's makeup (horns, pointed ears, and my long black coat), I'd set up my metal table on the sidewalk, place two dutch ovens full of homemade sweets there (chocolate cobbler and pumpkin bread), along with ice cream and warm sauce to pour on top. However, the snow had covered up the spot I'd chosen to set up. I wasn't sure where to go now; so I went to the local credit union bank on Pleasant Street, at an intersection where I knew a lot of kids would be going by. I spoke to the branch manager and asked for permission to set up my table in their parking lot, after they were closed. And I was informed that, due to the storm, my town had postponed Halloween trick-or-treating until this coming Thursday. That was that. I found out that the mall was still doing trick-or-treating and encouraging parents to take their kids to the mall (")), but other than that I was out of luck. I'm working overtime for all the rest of this week, so there will be no chance to do anything this Thursday. I now have a put full of toys to get rid of. I think I'll probably give them to my downstairs neighbor, who has two young daughters. They can certainly give them out on Thursday.
  • On the other hand, something did happen on Halloween…something that gave me such ecstasy that I could only consider it to be gnosis! And the details of that, alas, are to be kept private.

2011-10-28

  • One good thing about cooking is the way it helps to warm me up. My apartment is well-heated, but there's been a chill over the past couple of days that gets you down to the very bone. Because of this, I cooked a stir-fry of hot dogs and potatoes last night before bed; then I woke up early after one of those restless nights. To warm myself up once again, I put together a cornbread to take in to work. My cornbreads have had trouble rising lately; I'm wondering if I need to get a fresh container of baking powder. Still, the cute security guard at work liked it. :)
  • The weather forecast for Saturday has become "rain, then snow." Tomorrow, after I get out of work at 1:00 PM, will definitely be the time for me to go shopping, get a pumpkin and carve it, and put together my sigil rite.
  • Note to self: find one of those big bulky "Irish" sweaters for this winter.

2011-10-27

  • One of those "magical" coincidences seems to be taking place. As I mentioned yesterday, I was assigned a big overtime project at work – not difficulty, but time-consuming. I spent two hours last night calling customers, and I'll be doing so for at least the next week (except for Monday, which I have off for a vacation day). This is committing me to staying at home so that I can work on Saturday. This morning, I found that I had an opportunity to travel out of state for Halloween…except that I'm not able to go, because of my commitment to work. And I realize that's not a bad circumstance, because it commits me to the plan I had originally formed for visiting Salem, then staying at home to cook on Halloween. (I'm still glad to be able to assist someone special this weekend, nonetheless.)
  • My staying late at work is causing me to cancel my plans to do the rite tonight. I'll be far too tired to concentrate on it in the manner that I should. It's looking more and more like I'll be doing the magical preparations over the weekend…which still suits me fine, because it will keep me busy for the entire time.
  • I was tired enough last night to simply get some ghetto chicken after work (a.k.a. Crown Fried Chicken). I know I'll be tired again tonight, though I shouldn't gorge myself. I'll have to eat lighter tonight, perhaps doing a vegetable stir-fry when I get home.

2011-10-26

  • Hmm. The long-range weather forecast for Saturday suggests "a chance of rain," whereas Sunday will be mostly sunny. Also, I've been given an after-hours project at work that includes working on Saturdays. This all suggests I'll be going to Salem this Sunday instead of Saturday. That's not a problem, since I have Monday off for Halloween anyway. I could just do my pumpkin carving on Saturday afternoon, if need be. If I get out of work at around 1:00 PM on Saturday and the weather is nice, I could still go them; I'll just leave it open. (The after hours project will give me a lot of overtime, at least, which will be handy since my birthday is coming up. An excuse to splurge. :) )
  • Meanwhile, tonight I'll probably make my favorite standby of Spinach Hash, while preparing to marinate a steak for the Cast Iron Cooking 1,000-member celebration. Looking forward to it.
  • Meanwhile meanwhile :), I'm thinking my sigil for this coming weekend should be something vague and non-specific, both because I'm still a beginner to this and also to leave a mystery as to whether or not the "magic" is having an effect.
  • There was a definite chill in the air last night, the first one of the fall season. I broke out my sweatshirt for the first time. It's getting close to the start of my personal five month "winter clock," which lasts from November 1 through March 31. On the plus side, I came across this wonderfully decadent recipe that would warm anyone up: peanut butter hot chocolate.

2011-10-25

Part 1: The past few days have been alternately tiring (physically) and relaxing (mentally). I've been at work, of course, especially after hours with the pager. I cooked a couple of good dishes and a couple of light ones, as well as gorging myself (and I'm working to clear that excess out of my system at this time). Meanwhile, I've been attempting to achieve a meditative state at least once each day, with varying results.

  • My highlights of the past weekend were cooking a deep dish pizza on Saturday, then spending most of Sunday walking around town and taking in the weather. Hardly the most exciting weekend, I know; then again, anyone who's been reading this blog knows I have very little of what can be termed a social life. I seem to be keeping mostly to myself, though I know this can't last forever.
  • The walk on Sunday was very pleasant, nonetheless. Interspersed with calls from work (unfortunately), I retraced my steps from the many trips that we used to take to the Wayside Inn when we were kids. I seem to have already experienced most of the feelings and memories of the past already since I moved back into this town, as I wasn't constantly reminded of something I experienced thirty years ago as I walked along the streets. But it was a mostly relaxing experience, nonetheless. As a 43-year-old man, I'm quite pleased at the fact that I was physically able to walk from end of town to the other, and back, in what seems to have been about a ten mile round trip. (A year and a half ago, I would have been winded if I'd walked more than a couple of blocks!)
  • Worth noting were a couple of sights, including visiting Strange Brew at its new location on Route 20. While I've never brewed my own alcoholic drinks (yet), I was intrigued enough to pick up a book there entitled Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers, which is a fascinating read in itself. It makes me want to try brewing my own mead, though I think I'd need a different book if I actually want to get down to the nitty-gritty of home brewing.
  • Some basic and easy mead recipes: www.greydragon.org/brewing/mead.html
  • My walk on Sunday was obviously why I was so physically exhausted at work yesterday. I was able to bake a No Knead Focaccia Bread on Sunday evening and bring it in to work, but I was so tired otherwise that I had no urge to do anything last night except go home, make a simple beans and rice dish (which turned out well), and go to bed.

Part II: Last week I received a new book from Amazon, Hands-On Chaos Magic. Far more enjoyable to read than Liber Null was, I think this is the introduction to Chaos magic that I've been hoping to read! It will take a while to work my way through this book, but the writing style is both easy to read and full of useful information. It includes a few basic ways to achieve the frame of mind for gnosis, which I hope to try soon enough. It even delves into the aspect of Chaos magic that made me laugh out loud, at first – the way it mixes the fictional with the so-called "non-fictional." (Technically, it's all fictional, which is why I'm enjoying it on its own terms.) Probably more than any book on "magic" that I've read so far (which aren't very many, admittedly), Hands-On Chaos Magic is the one that has appealed to me the most as a beginner, and encouraged me to delve further into this genre.

  • This has encouraged me to put together a schedule of things to do as I prepare for Halloween. Unlike a lot of pagans, I'm not looking forward to Halloween for its special meaning, increased "power and energy" for that night, doing a Samhain ritual, or anything like that. Rather, as I'd said before, I want to put together a Halloween presentation for the kids trick-or-treating, because I want to have fun and especially enjoy the upcoming night. But as I look forward to it, and continue my attempts to open my mind and achieve a "magical" state of consciousness, I realized only this morning that it's going to be a busy week leading up to it. So far, I think this will be my agenda for the next week, beginning tonight:
    • Tuesday – do more laundry and ironing. An important chore that needs to be done. :)
    • Wednesday – design a sigil for the weekend and prepare for an actual "rite."
    • Thursday – meditate, attempt gnosis, do my rite with the sigil.
      • (Either Wednesday or Thursday, I'll probably cook something fancy; I figure the Cast Iron Cooking group is likely to break 1,000 members by the weekend!)
    • Friday – food shopping and the pager. Do some cleaning for the weekend.
    • Saturday – the Saturday before Halloween, I've gotten the idea to intentionally head to Salem (in the morning hours, so that there will be time and space to park there) and spend the day, or at least the afternoon, there to see what the crowds are like. Given my previous experiences, I don't expect anything to "happen" while I'm there; but I'll do my best to keep an open mind and let whatever happens, happen.
    • Sunday – recover from Saturday, get a pumpkin and carve it, design a sigil for Halloween. Probably relax, and cook. Also, get some small bowls and spoons for Halloween.
    • Monday (Halloween) – I've asked for the day off from work. This will give me time to cook two big dishes – chocolate cobbler and pumpkin bread – and prepare them for the evening. Then I'll take my car out onto the street, to the site I've chosen, and set up my stand there. I'll have my cast iron pot hanging from its stand, full of little toys for the kids, while I set up my food and (hopefully) offer it to the kids on the streets – and their parents. (I obtained the parts for my costume – which doesn't require much – last Friday evening.)

I plan on having a fun and special weekend.


2011-10-21

  • After supper last night, I went to bed at about 8:20 PM with the intent of sleeping the entire night. I slept like a log until just about midnight, then woke up to go to the bathroom and lie in bed with some indigestion until a little past 1:00 AM. The rest of my night consisted of fitful sleep. No gorging on food for me this weekend, definitely; better to work it out of my system. While I've committed myself to making a deep dish pizza, I can probably wait until Sunday to do that.
  • I wonder if this lack of sleep is having an effect on my concentration. Yesterday it was harder to achieve a relaxed state than it had been previously, and even though I attempted to attain the same frame of mind that let me envision the flaming aura the other day, I wasn't able to do so. I won't try so hard to concentrate today; instead I'll just do the "zen" thing and let whatever happens, happen.
  • Posted to the Chaos Magic group on Facebook: "Apparently one aspect of Chaos magic that ticks off other pagan sects is the way we're allowed to pick and choose our deities from any pantheon we want, including fiction or making up our own gods. This aspect appeals to me, as I've long been convinced ALL gods are fictitious. Since they were all invented by mortals, what's the difference between Yahweh, Kuan-Yin, Brigid, Yog-Sothoth, or Darkseid?"

2011-10-20

  • Last night I ate at Pizzeria Uno for the first time in years, and found the experience completely underwhelming. I had a so-called "deep dish" pizza with mac and cheese, also deep-dish. After the past several months of eating mostly home-cooked meals in cast iron, the food I ate there simply could not compare, especially considering how much I paid for the meal. The "deep dish" pans used at Pizzeria Uno are seven-inch aluminum pans, clean on the inside. The outside is coated with a baked-on or burned-on seasoning that gives the pan a blackened look. The "deep dish" is perhaps two inches deep. The pizza crust tasted had a dry taste of flour, whereas the toppings were skimpy and light. The mac and cheese wasn't bad, though all through the meal the thought kept repeating in my head, "…even I could cook better than this!" I gave a standard tip to the waiter because he wasn't the one who'd cooked this; in fact, I doubt there was an actual cook at all in the restaurant. More likely, they just heat pre-made dishes delivered to them by the chain. If nothing else, this has made me think I'll be trying again to make a deep dish pizza this weekend (especially since I'm staying home on the pager this coming Saturday).
  • I'd intended to eat out and then go to bed; but then I was up late again last night. This time, though, I was struggling through a Windows system restore, brought on by my attempts to get my iPod to sync with iTunes. I hadn't been able to sync it for about three weeks or so, even though the iPod was recognized as a USB device whenever I plugged it in. I'd performed the diagnostics, and checked to make sure the services were running; but still it would not sync. Finally, while doing a reboot of the PC last night, the system crashed and I had to do a Windows restore back to about one month ago. After restoring system settings and doing a restore of the iPod, I was finally able to get it to sync. So, somewhere between 10:30 PM and 11:00 PM, I finally loaded the new Peter Gabriel album onto my iPod and went to bed. And then I got up at 5:00 AM (I needed my alarm to wake me this time), only to find out that during the night, Windows had loaded a number of "important" system updates and then rebooted. And once again, I could not sync my iPod. So, out of frustration, I've completely removed all Apple software from the PC and shut it down. I'll re-install the Apple programs tonight and see if that resolves it.
  • At least the pumpkin bread and the fish chowder were nowhere to be seen when I returned to work this morning. Hopefully that means they finished it all last night.
  • If nothing else, I'm looking forward to this morning's meditation as I walk; compared to the past twelve hours or so, it should be very relaxing.

2011-10-19

  • I've been cooking in the evenings rather than sitting down and meditating, though for the second day in a row I was up until past 11:00 PM because of cooking. (And yet, I still woke up before my alarm went off at 5:00 AM.) This time it was a pumpkin spice gingerbread (recipe here: [1]), inspired by a gingerbread my co-worker had taken into the office on Monday. This recipe produced a lot of cake-like bread – so much so, it was too big for the 10-inch cast iron skillet I'd originally planned to use. I had to transfer the batter into the Griswold 11.5-inch skillet instead. It rose in the shape of an orange UFO, but came out well. I then found out my plastic cake carrying containers are missing or misplaced (more likely); so I've had to take the bread in to work in the Griswold skillet, covered with its iron lid. Needless to say, I'm keeping a close eye on it, and taking it home tonight whether or not there is any bread left over.
  • Meanwhile, a good moment occurred as I was relaxing during my morning walk before work. Each day before work, I take a walk to the store about half a mile away, and buy a no-calorie drink (usually flavored seltzer water). Since I've started with meditation, I attempt to breathe and relax as I'm walking, making it into a kind of walking meditation. I have to keep my eyes open and watch my surroundings as I watch, of course, but I still manage to achieve the feeling of relaxation that comes when I concentrate on my inner self, while breathing calmly. This morning, the feeling occurred as I was walking, like a glowing but relaxing flame that began inside my mind at the back of my skull. As I walked back to work, I envisioned the feeling and let it grow, enveloping my head like a soothing, warming fire that didn't burn me, in a manner not unlike the halo of flame surrounding Muhammad's face in those (rare) medieval depictions of the Prophet. I then let the flame grow, feeling it spread onto my shoulders and down my arms, so that if I raised my hand, my mind's eye envisioned it enveloped in flame (like the Human Torch). This was entirely imaginary, of course, created by my own mind…but it was a good feeling, and I let it continue as the flame then moved down my torso into the pit of my stomach, finally flowing down my legs and into my feet and toes. By the time I walked up the hill to my office building, I envisioned myself as a figure of flame, completely enshrouded with a bluish fire, the energy radiating from me and flickering off of my inner self. It was a very good, encouraging and uplifting feeling, one that I know I should strive to repeat when I meditate. Even though the clouds were thick this morning and it was cool enough to see my breath (barely), I was walking with my jacket open and feeling warm. This was a good walking meditation.
  • Tonight, however, I really should get some more sleep. While I'll probably make a stir fry upon my return home from work, I don't plan on doing any more elaborate cooking projects…unless I suddenly get the urge to do one. :)
  • The Surf-n-Turf Chowder received some good comments at work, though as usual most of it remained uneaten. I gave the rest of it to the call center, where it should be quickly finished off.

2011-10-18

  • Cooking as meditation: For the past few days, I'd been pondering a way to make a tasty chowder with fish and pork. Fresh fish is expensive and salt pork is expensive, so I substituted those ingredients and came up with this recipe for Surf-n-Turf Chowder. I spent yesterday evening watching Garfield's Halloween Adventure and the original classic Frankenstein while putting the chowder together. The next time I knew, I glanced at the time and it was 10:30 PM. You know how time seems to fly by when you're doing something you enjoy, and you're caught up in it to the point where you're practically in a trance? That, of course, is magic. It's also what we do, I think, when we meditate. So even though it's hard to find time to meditate when I work full-time, I feel as though I'm getting a bit of practice in.
  • And what is it with political zombies? On Sunday the Ron Paul drones started berating me on YouTube because I called them "Ron Paul drones." By the time last night's comments showed up, I'd degenerated in their eyes to a fucking asshole who is obviously part of the "pro-Israel lobby." Because, as we know, the Jews are behind it all. ") [1]

2011-10-17

  • The long day of walking all over the place and being out of the house on Saturday really wore me out, to the point where I spent all day yesterday relaxing. I was on the pager, which also kept me at home; but it was a very quiet day for calls, thank goodness. At least I did a fresh load of laundry, and cooked a yummy pot of rice pudding. (Tonight I'll make that fish chowder I'd been planning to make.)
  • Besides doing the laundry, I did accomplish something by going to Dollar Tree and getting a bunch of little toys to give out on Halloween. There are enough doodads here to fill my 9-quart cast iron pot, and having the pot hanging from my tripod stand should make for an impressive sight. Since I'm on the third floor of an apartment building and my neighbors have already said they're not much into Halloween, I have the beginnings of a plan in mind…find a public lot in an area where a lot of kids roam around, bring my car there, set up the pot with toys, and play some music while waiting for kids to show up. I still plan on getting food involved in this, somehow.
  • I was so tired I didn't even feel like doing meditation…if only because I knew I would have only fallen asleep. Some people can meditate in lieu of sleep, but I'm only a beginner to this and I have a lot of practice to do before I reach that level. So…I'll keep practicing.
  • I've looked briefly at ways to find other people who are into this, and I realize Chaos magic (or "magick" ")) is a practice that mostly involves solitary practitioners. This, I suspect is one reason why the catchphrase "belief is a tool" is used in this practice – it allows us to find and hang out with other so-called pagans, even if we think the Goddess stuff with the candle energy, crystal energy, herbal magic et al don't really do anything except serve to enhance your inner magic.
  • One amusing occurrence yesterday was the way Ron Paul's drones showed up on my YouTube page to berate me after I called them "Ron Paul drones." [1]

2011-10-16

  • After burning my sigil in the Griswold skillet, I headed out of the house at 7:30 AM yesterday and didn't return until past midnight. It wasn't an uneventful day, but it was very quiet and drama-free. After getting an oil change on the car, I went into Cambridge and found Liber Null/Psychonaut at the Seven Stars bookstore right away…it was right next to the Principia Discordia, no surprise there. Peter Carroll's other books are there as well, but since I'm still working on the basics outlined in the first one, I'm holding off on getting more until later.
  • On the other hand, I went into a music store between Central and Harvard Square called Weirdo Records, which certainly lives up to its name. Musical bulldada masters like DJ Shaver and Dr. Ahmed Fishmonger certainly know this place. A thought came to me, and I asked the girl in charge to recommend a CD to me that I could use for meditation, something in the psychedelic/light techno area. She went right to the rack and pulled out Seven Stars by Christian Fennesz ([1]). Two different "Seven Stars" in one day? Little coincidences like this have been occurring quite frequently since I started this "Chaos Magic" thing. I enjoy it when stuff like this happens…much like when I popped into this Indian food market to get an apple to munch on, and was surprised when the girl at the counter charged 25 cents for it. (Produce prices have skyrocketed this year, as you know.) "25 cents?!?" I asked. She replied, "Well, the larger apples are 50 cents."
  • Occupy Boston protest, October 15, 2011: After I came out of the Boston Public Library and took a look at a city-sponsored event calling itself the Boston Bookfest, a large crowd of proteters marched down Boylston Street past the library. It looked interesting, so I joined in. The result: about two thousand people took to the streets on Saturday to march in protest and express their opposition to the general state of the government today. Most of the folks in the crowd were there to have fun marching in the streets, and they were in favor of the easy things that 99% of us want: end the ongoing wars, tax the rich, reduce military spending and use it on education and health care. The usual Ron Paul drones (trying to latch on to this movement to get support for Ron Paul, their political cult leader) were there, along with the usual "overthrow the Masonic New World Order" folks and other political extremists; but most of the folks were everyday people marching in the streets because it was fun to march in the streets. There was no violence that I know of and no incidents occurred with the police. And like good lemmings, the crowd allowed itself to be herded through downtown Boston into the business district – which is closed on Saturday, so we could rant and chant while the rest of the city went about its business. After the crowd gathered at the Occupy Boston tent city by South Station, most of them went home; but a few hundred or so were still there by 10:00 PM that evening. There was one crowd gathered around listening to speeches, and another crowd was dancing with a bunch of Sufis who had thrown in with them to meditate and chant. I ended up at the food tent, helping to serve food to anyone and everyone who came by. I've long since been convinced that 1960s-style protests have absolutely no effect in the 21st century, because the authorities (i.e. the government and Wall Street) know exactly how to handle them: give them a space to run around in and protest, and keep the stupid police-brutality antics to a minimum. The first frost is coming any day, and when it arrives the Occupy Mytown movement will largely disperse. This is Anonymous' flavor of the moment, and like the anti-Scientology movement it will largely fade away, leaving a few stalwarts to carry on and continue. But many of these people are genuine in their discontent, and I found the best place to be was at the food tent serving food. That allowed me to help these people have a good time and feed a few homeless folks as well, while not having to put up with political speeches.
(Regarding my statement, "Ron Paul Drones:" If Ron Paul ever endorsed a movement like this, he'd be laughed out of the Republican party. Yet, his drones still latch onto any left-wing grassroots movement around in the hope of getting followers from among the political conspiracy extremists who gladly endorse him because Ross Perot is gone, Lyndon Larouche is about to drop dead of old age, and Jesse Ventura is retired.)

2011-10-15

  • I consider cooking to be an important part of my magic – in fact, it's why I decided to try magic in the first place. Last night was fried turkey: no, not the incredibly dangerous whole turkey deep-fry method everyone here knows about, and some have accomplished; just a couple of turkey drumsticks fried in the Griswold skillet. These were not frozen drumsticks; I'd purchased them tonight at Price Chopper. (There are two other pairs of turkey drumsticks in the freezer, and I will be certain to defrost them in the fridge for a good day and a half, at least, before cooking them. I had a 12-inch iron cover on hand, as the photo shows, along with a box of baking soda and a fire extinguisher.) I heated about 1/2 inch of oil to 360 degrees, brushed peanut oil onto the drumsticks, and coated them with salt, pepper, and "generic Italian seasoning." I carefully placed the turkey legs in the hot oil, kept my distance, and kept the splatter screen on for the entire fry. Even so, it was a good thing I kept the splatter screen on and kept my distance. Beginning about eight minutes into the frying, the oil started some major splattering, presumably due to internal moisture from the meat hitting the oil. I turned the drumsticks over after 11 minutes, and immediately after I turned over the second one, there was a HUGE spurt out of the pan that would have given a really nasty burn if it had hit me. Fortunately, I was doing this at arm's length and holding the splatter screen as a shield.
Once the turkey was out and draining on the cooling rack, I wanted to have some frying fun. So I put some dried shittake mushrooms in the hot oil and watched them bubble and float.
The next time I fry turkey legs on the stovetop, I'll be laying newspaper on the floor in front of the stove. This fry did some major splattage. :)
  • I designed another sigil and kept it with me as I cooked, ate, and went to bed last night. This morning I'll burn the sigil once again, before I head out for the day.
  • I'll be doing one of the methods outlined in Grant Morrison's popular essay Pop Magic!, specifically this passage: "…go for a walk and interpret everything you see on the way as a message from the Infinite to you. Watch for patterns in the flight of birds. Make oracular sentences from the letters on car number plates. Look at the way buildings move against the skyline. Pay attention to noises on the streets, graffiti sigils, voices cut into rapid, almost subliminal commands and pleas. Listen between the lines. Walk as far and for as long as you feel comfortable in this open state. The more aimless, the more you walk for pleasure of pure experience, the further into magical consciousness you will be immersed." I like doing this anyway, so this won't be especially different from my usual wanderings. I'll just be keeping my mind open, and seeing who I end up meeting.
  • My Web site seems to be averaging about 300 hits per day, mostly due to the popularity of the other sections here – the Scientology section, the 2001 - A Space Odyssey section, and especially the bad erotica cliches page. There are a few hits that come in from people looking for the Bulldada Newsblog, but not many. I'm not surprised.

2011-10-14

  • I did another meditation exercise last night, though I don't feel that it was as successful as the last time. I was more physically tired than before, and I kept nodding off, but the instructor's voice woke me up again. Also, I realize that I can't keep replaying a pre-recorded meditation lecture, because the fact that I'd heard it all before actually lessened my concentration and made it harder to focus. I've downloaded a couple of white noise loops from here: [1]. Next time, maybe on Sunday, I'll try it myself and see if I can meditate for a while without falling asleep. One other thing that affected me, I think, is that I've been intentionally holding off on the method most often suggested for beginning magicians to achieve gnosis. :) (I'm sure that's easy to figure out; and yes, it's intentional.)
On the plus side, I can recall at least one instance where I saw a flash of an image in my mind's eye – a split-second image of a glowing TV screen. There was nothing on the screen, it was blank, white, and glowing. Considering that I was meditating in a dark room and had been so for a good fifteen minutes or so when that image occurred, I know that wasn't an afterimage from my PC screen; it was something that had been created in my mind's eye. So far, these images have been occurring only fleetingly, and they seem to be largely random. I presume they're generated in my mind in the same manner that happens when I dream. If it means I'm drifting to sleep and these are actually dreams I'm seeing, then I still consider this a success. I've told everyone I know, repeatedly, that I simply cannot remember my dreams. There have been perhaps four or five instances in my entire life where I remember my dreams for more than a few seconds after I wake up…and that includes the time, about a year ago, when I experienced sex magick. So, if this meditation is actually causing me to remember flashes of my dreams, then it's still more than I'd been able to accomplish previously. Not bad for a beginner, I hope. I'm not at the point where I can declare that I've achieved gnosis, but I know it's there if I work at it.
  • This weekend I'm heading out to look for Liber Null/Psychonaut in the Boston area. Fortunately, the biggest New Age book store in the area, Seven Stars, is located right in Cambridge, and I'm fairly certain I'll find it there. It will give me an excuse to wander around the Cambridge and Boston area tomorrow. It's supposed to be dry but cloudy with "more clouds than sun," and "increasingly windy." I wonder if I can get away with wearing my long coat tomorrow. :)
  • Also on tomorrow's agenda: get some Halloween trinkets. Jessica suggested I give away toys on Halloween, and I like that idea; so I'll look in the dollar stores for bags of little toys. On Halloween I'll fill up my 9-quart cast iron pot and let kids grab them out of there. I haven't given up on my plan to cook, however; I'm still pondering a way to do so.
  • While I'm in Cambridge and Boston tomorrow, I think I'll head to Savenor's and see what else is there in the way of exotic meats. The wild boar sausage definitely gave me a taste to try something unusual, and I'll see what I can find. It doesn't have to be as unusual as wild boar…perhaps something with fish. In fact, after a Google search for a combination of "dutch oven," and "fish," I came up with this recipe for fish chowder. It's a big dish and it says it yields "16 cups," so if I cut it to one-half or even one-third, it should make a nice dutch oven meal. I can even make some rice to go with it as a side dish.

2011-10-13

  • I heated up the wok on the stovetop for a long time as I chopped the vegetables, so much that the smoke alarm went off even before I was finished with the slicing and dicing. :) I used three potatoes and an onion, and I was glad to be able to finish off the broccoli, celery, and carrots. I put all of these together in one bowl, sliced the mushrooms and put them in another bowl (because mushrooms are the last things to go in the dish), then I sliced up the wild boar sausage, put that in a third bowl, and mixed the spices in with the meat. (2 cloves garlic, pressed and chopped; 1/4 teaspoon sage; 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg; 1/2 teaspoon black pepper.) On impulse, I thew a dash of black pepper into the hot iron wok, and it immediately smoked as the bottom of the cooking surface was speckled with tiny red-hot dots of coal. The wok was definitely ready! My lack of experience in cooking regularly reveals itself, because I always make at least one mistake when I cook. I added a little canola oil, which began smoking after only a few seconds; and at this point I should have added the sausage right away. But I threw in the big bowl of vegetables first, and the vegetables seared instantly in the hot canola oil. I immediately regretted this, realizing I should have done the meat first. But it was too late to turn back, so I turned over the vegetables in the wok, then after about two minutes I placed my hand close to the hot food and felt the layer of heat that indicated the wok was still good and hot. And so I then threw in the meat, and mixed it together, making certain to sort the meat and work it through the vegetables so that it would sear as much as possible on the bare iron, beneath the greens. I worked at it in this manner for maybe five to seven minutes, occasionally using my metal wok turner to cut a piece of meat in half while still in the wok, to make sure it was cooked through. This was pork, after all – not just that, it was "wild" pork. Finally, as it looked as though the meat was cooked thoroughly inside and out, I added the mushrooms and turned it all around for another couple of minutes. The vegetables were seared to the point where I was just beginning to get a smell of burning, and I knew I had to get it all out of the wok right away. So I did.
I concentrated on the sigil as I cooked supper. I don't know if the sigil helped (you can't tell what is magic and what isn't), but it was an exercise to keep the image in my mind as I made sure the meat was properly cooked. This was a first step towards what I hope will be a way of making magic with cooking.
And the result was…success! I managed to take it out at just the right moment! The vegetables were thoroughly cooked, with that blackened-but-not-burned taste. And the wild boar sausage had the consistency of steak tips. What's more, they were DELICIOUS! It was a stronger pork taste than you'd usually get from a sausage, which made me glad I had decided not to add any additional sauces to the stir fry. The initial seasoning of the meat was enough. The flavor of this food was standing out. Because wild boar sausage is a rarity, I'm glad I took the time to specially prepare – and now, I'm glad I took the risk of cooking it the way I did. This is good eats!
  • Sigils are supposed to be discarded, and I looked at the suggestion of creating an "alphabet of desire." It makes sense: because the intent of a sigil is to project intent into the subconscious, the sigil cannot be interpreted by anyone other than yourself. I've also seen at least one YouTube video with advice from another magician on making your sigils in other languages and other writings. In essence, the thing to do is create your very own lingua magicus (magus?), a language of magic that only you can understand, and invent your own alphabet to go with that language. Since I've only been doing this for a few days, I realize such a project would take a very long time to accomplish. On the other hand, since junior high I've never lost my love for J.R.R. Tolkien and his Elvish Tengwar writings. Until I develop my own voice and my own alphabet of desire, I could use the Tengwar as the basis of my magical writing, or even base sigils upon them. That would also encourage me to use more curves in my designs, rather than all straight lines. I like the idea, and as I write this I'm getting the feeling that it's the right thing to do.
  • I expect a lot of former readers of my blog to unsubscribe, or have done so already, because I'm writing personal thoughts instead of digging up "bulldada" news on a regular basis. This is intended more for my own perusal than anything else. Still, if someone wants to comment on any of this, feel free to do so.
  • And since my local town isn't offering anything that would allow me to cook on Halloween, I'm putting together the beginnings of a simple plan to do something that night. It's been suggested I give away toys, and this weekend I'll get a bunch of them to fill up some of my cast iron pots. Between that and carving a pumpkin on the Sunday before, this would at least be a start. As for the cooking…I haven't given up yet.
  • * A plug for what continues to be my favorite Webcomic – Freefall!

2011-10-12

  • An introduction to cooking in cast iron: [1]
  • So, apparently "My Inner Spoiled Child" missed my old Web site so much, he took a copy of it and put it up here: highweirdnessproject.com/doku.php He also decided to mention the original site this way:
The First Online Church of “Bob” Ministry (deceased)
I've sent a message to the administrator of Scrubgenius, asking him to post a message regarding this. I've also asked "My Inner Spoiled Child" to kindly remove his copy of my old Web site. After they're done making snide remarks about me, I hope they respect my wishes.
  • I called the city offices yesterday, and finally I was directed to call the Mayor's office. Here were the two people managing the town's Halloween trick-or-treat for the kids. It amounts to almost nothing: all they'll be doing is encouraging local businesses to give out candy to the kids as they come by, and one or two people will be standing on the grounds of the City Hall handing out candy as well. It wasn't a surprise when I mentioned my willingness to cook, and they discouraged it.
  • I finally had the chance to do a formal exercise in meditation last night, sitting in a dark room with ear buds blocking out most of the outside sounds, listening to a beginner's guide to meditation. It lasted about half an hour. During that time there were moments when I definitely began to fall asleep (heh), but fortunately the instructor's voice woke me up. However, there were also moments when I felt sensations and saw brief flashes of images with my mind's eye. At least once, it seemed as if someone whispered my name. All I can do is keep on practicing. The meditation really helped me get over the bad mood I had from the incident I just mentioned with my old Web site. It's not important, and the guy probably thought he was being respectful when he put up that copy of my site. I'm not concerned about it – it will fade away, like my tension did during the meditation. I like this.
  • I designed a new sigil for the page of Recipes in Chaos Magic, though when I posted it to the Facebook group for Chaos magic, it was suggested that I don't publicize sigils; they're meant to be discarded after use. Rather, I should look into the makings of an "alphabet of desire," so I'll take a look in that direction and see what it reveals.

2011-10-11

  • I spent yesterday attempting to remain in the state I'd discovered on Sunday, and was mostly successful – even though it was a hell day for calls at work, I was calm and in control for most of the day. It began to wear on me as 5:00 PM approached, however; still, I managed to get through it. This is a good sign, something I definitely need to keep working on. I was hoping to do an actual sit-down meditation exercise last night, but I didn't arrive home until late and I was very tired. Maybe tonight.
  • On the other hand, I did update the recipe for Impossible Pie and made one last night. :)
  • I need to design another sigil and focus upon it as I practice meditation. I think the purpose of the sigil is more to have something to focus upon, rather than to actually "use magic" to affect the outside world. That suits me fine, as I'm enjoying this meditation stuff. I can actually feel something in my mind when I will myself into a meditative state. I'm not cutting myself off from the outside world. When I enter this state, I take the (brief) lessons I've learned so far and concentrate on my breathing and "feeling" my surroundings – the sensation of my clothes against my body, the rising and falling of my chest as I breathe in and out, the air and wind against my face and head, and I physically relax my muscles as best as I can while focusing my mind. As I do this, there's a sensation in my head that begins with a feeling as if I'm increasing the pressure in my head, but this passes after only a second or two; after this I become very calm and relaxed, with less pressure and tension in my head and body. I then work on maintaining this feeling, even as I'm walking or driving my car or sitting at my desk. It's a very pleasant feeling, and so far it's made me feel quite cheerful. This comes back to my designing another sigil – I think it will be easier to maintain this state if I focus on it. So, that will be today's exercise, I think.
  • However, I still have to call the city offices and inquire about any kind of a Halloween festival I can take part in.
  • And the Cast Iron Cooking group is approaching 700 members!
  • Look – more Muslims outraged over blasphemous cartoons: [1]

2011-10-10

  • I need to make that cobbler again, and contact either the public library or whoever in City Hall manages the upcoming Halloween celebration. I'm told the city does a public trick-or-treating thing on the common, and I want to see if I can get involved with it. All this because I actually want to cook something to give away to kids (and their parents), instead of just buying a couple of lousy bags of candy in a plastic bowl. God (or anyone else) damn this stupid hysteria about strangers on Halloween slipping razor blades into apples.
  • Now that it's Monday, I suppose I can say what the sigil was about. I'd written something like this: "My desire is to receive very few calls on the pager this weekend." And the result? I was inundated with calls on Saturday. That means it didn't work, right? However, the strange thing about all of those calls were: the greatest amount of time (and calls) I'd received on Saturday had to do with one single site that called back several times; two of them were from sites that were sending problem signals to our department every single day, and the sigil certainly couldn't stop that from happening; every other call I received was a very simple one that only took a couple of minutes to resolve; and I even got to sleep the entire night. I was expecting to be woken up by the pager in the middle of the night, which happens nearly every time I'm on the pager, but it didn't happen this time. So, am I making an excuse to justify this? This is what I meant when I said yesterday that these exactly the sort of results to expect when one dabbles in "magic" – especially since I'm am absolute beginner at this. I'd made a very modest request and received very modest results. No results at all? I can't tell.
  • What's more, one of the calls I received on Saturday wasn't from a site at all – it was from our department manager, asking me to work some overtime yesterday. I did, which gave me another chance to spend some time talking with someone cute I've been making friends with. :) Furthermore, after being stuck in the apartment all day Saturday and working until yesterday afternoon, I didn't want to come home right away. I went out wandering to see where I would end up…and I ended up in Salem, Massachusetts. In October. In the middle of their ridiculous "Salem Halloween festival" (which lasts the entire month), as we were having some of the best weather you could possibly expect in New England in October. (It was about 80 degrees and sunny!) I wandered through the crowds of tourists and merchants hawking their cheap witch wares, and I looked for something that would appeal to me. And then, another strange coincidence occurred – one that involved a girl I met there. I'm not going to write about this in detail here on my blog, where the entire Internet can read this. Suffice to say, she appeared not once but twice when I did not expect to see her. I ended up giving her a small gift, because I'm like that (as my close friends know). Did anything else happen? I'm not telling. ;)
  • In one of the witch shops in Salem, I saw a couple of young kids looking at crystal balls and asking each other, "Is this one real? Is this one real?" I couldn't resist the urge to whisper in the ear of one of them, "They're all real." If you believe in them, they're real. (That's true whether I believe in them or not – if you do, that's what matters to you.)
  • And then I posted an introductory message to the Facebook group for Chaos magic: www.facebook.com/groups/62873153619/
  • Next up, to set up a routine to practice meditation. So, what's strange and weird about meditation? The primer I'm using is written by a Zen Buddhist monk, not a magician. I have a genuine goal to aim for with this, too – to achieve something akin to gnosis. (I'd mentioned that yesterday.) As I was in Salem yesterday, I decided to practice "concentration" by using one of the basic exercises while walking through the crowds of tourists. No, nothing special happened when I was doing so, and I don't know how successful I was at "concentration." I simply need to practice this regularly.
  • "The U.S. government has obtained a controversial type of secret court order to force Google Inc. and small Internet provider Sonic.net Inc. to turn over information from the email accounts of WikiLeaks volunteer Jacob Appelbaum, according to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal:" [1] And Reverend Magdalen writes, "Anyone shocked by Google handing over #WikiLeaks supporter @ioerror's email obviously doesn't read @CiscoBlogs." [2] She's right – Google has been handing email addresses to the government for a long time, because they have to. Like it or not, Google has to obey the law, even when the law sucks.
  • P.S.: How seriously am I taking all of this? That's for me to know and you to guess. Serious enough to write it down, apparently. Of course, there are several million other bloggers out there on Facebook and Livejournal and World of Warcraft and Second Life – is Second Life still around? – who are also writing down their personal experiences, even though many of those experiences involve Justin Bieber's hotness and the New England Patriots' weak defense.

2011-10-09

  • So far, the results of the sigil have been…interesting. It's been an experience that, I suspect, any practitioner of magic would immediately point to and say, "That's exactly how magic works;" whereas a hardcore cynic (which I've been, at least until recently) would pooh-pooh the results and say I'm inventing a justification for the fact that nothing happened. I'll go into this in more detail tomorrow.
    • Edit: I originally wrote that as "hardcore skeptic," which is incorrect. I'm a skeptic and will always be one. Skepticism isn't the outright denial of anything, including magic; rather, it's the ability to keep an open mind, question, and encourage experimentation, exploration and research rather than outright denial. A cynic says, "You're wrong because that's just stupid, end of story." A skeptic says, "You're wrong because of the evidence, here and here. See?"
  • For a long time, years in fact, I'd been looking for audiobooks from Robert Anton Wilson, and I'd come to the conclusion that there must not have been any. But yesterday I managed to find a huge cache of them, just like that. This was a very interesting find.
  • I've decided that I'm not going to accept the Star of Chaos as a symbol until I reach the point where I achieve something akin to gnosis – the altered state of existence that comes through meditation.
  • And it's been absolutely no surprise at all to learn there are a lot of internal politics and arguments going on about this subject, even to the point where some people have long since declared "Chaos magic is dead." I wouldn't be surprised if at some point, I'm accused of looking into a subject that's considered obsolete and largely abandoned. This, of course, means nothing. After all, I happily embraced SubGenius for seventeen years, even amidst repeated comments of how that movement peaked in the 1980s and died out after that. Because, as we all know, a philosophical path is only worth pursuing if it's popular. ")
  • Meanwhile, I did some good cooking yesterday - lemon pepper chicken with vegetables, then some rice pilaf later on.

2011-10-08

A year ago…heck, even two months ago…if you told me I would be casting my first genuine "magic spell," I would have laughed in your face. But I can't deny that if you define it as "magic," that's what I did last night. I designed and drew a sigil, and kept it with me as I was cooking last night. Then, after I was finished eating, I destroyed the sigil by burning it in a covered cast iron pan. I didn't have to do that, actually; I was intentionally being flashy and dramatic by doing so. :) I'm reiterating the statement here that magical "energy" does not exist, and what I hope to do is put this image into my subconscious (if such a thing actually exists) as an expression of a statement of intent. Since no one would understand the meaning of this sigil except myself, it can't possibly have any effect on the outside world, or on anything other than myself. Right?

Though, as I was designing the sigil at work yesterday, something unusual happened. About one hour after I'd settled on a design for the sigil, a call came in from one of our customers in regards to a running problem they've been having, one that I've had to deal with while on the pager. (And I'm scheduled to be on call with the pager today.) The call was actually related to the subject matter I'd worked into the sigil. Since this is supposed to be an expression of intent into the subconscious, I suppose I can't state outright what it's about. But no, it has nothing to do with sex. :)

And as any skeptic will point out, this highlights the dangers of magical thinking. Human beings tend to make associations and connections in their psyche that don't actually exist; this is the basis of many conspiracy theories. Because of the call I received at work shortly after designing the sigil, the skeptical part of my mind is shouting, "Coincidence!" On the other hand, the romantic side is wondering, however quietly, "Is it the sigil?" Of course, I can never have a definitive answer to this, because I had designed a very modest statement of intent into it…one that could very likely be achieved simply through everyday circumstance. (No, I didn't cast a spell to win the lottery.) If nothing else, this experience is a very good demonstration of why mystical thinking continues to exist, even in these modern days of high technology. As long as "The Unknown" exists, even something as esoteric and vague as the question "why am I here?", people will be able to refer to it as "magic." This is an aspect of human nature that will always be with us.

But rather than dwell on this subject, I'm just going to relax and enjoy a day at home in some wonderful sunny fall weather. Later today I'll be cooking some lemon pepper chicken in my Griswold skillet with a new cast iron lid. Cooking is fun, and from this fun comes magic.


Later the same day: Much to be done, much to learn, much to practice. I am a complete beginner at this. It's best to start at the beginning, of course. So, I have to set up a regular routine of meditation practice.


2011-10-07

  • Yay, it works! I can use this wiki site as an echo of my Twitter feed. That means I can get around the corporate firewall block of Twitter. And so can you, if you have a username here on Cast Iron Chaos. Just edit your username and add this text to your wiki page:
  <rss http://api.twitter.com/1/statuses/user_timeline.rss?screen_name=modemac>
(Replace "modemac" with your Twitter username.)
As an example, I've set up a Cast Iron Cooking wiki page here with a mirror of my Twitter feed.
  • I found an ebook online yesterday entitled Oven-Ready Chaos, which of course I had to try because of that name. It turned out to be a basic introduction to Chaos magic. Cool! It puts a lot of emphasis on the influence of Discordianism on Chaos magic…and it does a good job explaining why I've found this subject so appealing. In my rant the other day about The Only True Magic, I took magic to task for being so obviously based on fiction, even to the point where the Star of Chaos is lifted from the works of Michael Moorcock. I learned that this is intentional, at least to some Chaos magicians, and that there are aspects of this school that definitely appeal to me. There are unquestionable similarities and parallels between Chaos magic and the other path of (non-) religious belief I'd been following, especially the aspect that admits it's all bullshit and that it has a sense of humor. There's a D.I.Y. approach to this school that not only encourages you to create your own magic (as I said, the only true magic is the kind you create yourself), but also explains that fiction is a basis on which to construct your own paradigm. In other words, there is no difference in reality between ancient fictional pantheons such as the Greek, Norse, Egyptian, and Babylonian mythos and their varying styles of worship and ritual; and equally fictional modern-day mythologies such as comic book superheroes, Star Trek, Star Wars, and The Lord of the Rings. It even gives an example of a Chaos practitioner who did this:
"The final proof of all that being that one of my colleagues had to sit a computer exam, and was wracking his brains trying to think of an appropriate god-form to invoke upon himself to concentrate his mind on programming. Mercury? Hermes? And then he hit on it - the most powerful mythic figure that he knew could deal with computers was Mr. Spock! So he proceeded to invoke Mr. Spock, by learning all he could about Spock and going round saying "I never will understand humans" until he was thoroughly Spock-ified. And he got an 'A', so there!"
This explains why there are a lot of Lovecraftian references in Chaos writings. It also explains how "Simon," the author of the so-called "Simon Necronomicon" seen in many bookstores (and not just the New Agey ones) designed the sigils used in the rituals described in those books. If I understand this correctly, it's an explanation of the Chaos idea that "belief is a tool." Based on this, you could take the most blatantly fake idea around, apply a Chaos theme to it, and come up with something that could be called "Chaos magic." So, could I do a sigil based on My Little Pony and work it into my cooking?!? If these guys are to be believed, yes I could. And what would I get from it? In no way would I expect something outrageous like summoning Great Cthulhu from R'lyeh, or even his cute kawaii chibi version that's become quite popular on its own. No, the only thing I hope to get from this is a way to meditate and make myself feel better…which is what I want to accomplish when I cook.
  • An easy outsider's explanation for what's happened to me: Obviously, I'm compensating for my divorce by immersing myself in cooking, and I'm grasping at this "Chaos magic" stuff as a way to make up for the loss when I threw a hissy fit and left the Church of the SubGenius. Right? Wrong.
  • And I know very well that at least a few other people are reading this. Well, duh – I'm posting it on a publicly accessible Web page. I'm keeping my private thoughts and writings away from the Internet. I wouldn't be writing this on my Web page if I didn't expect someone to read it.

2011-10-06

Some observations:

  • Since I'm just beginning, I'm doing a stream-of-consciousness type of writing here. I don't know how this is going to turn out, or what I'll be entering here in the hope of attracting regular readers. No, I'm not bringing back the Bulldada Newsblog.
  • Whenever you embark upon the study of a new subject, the textbook invariably urges you to keep a diary of your progress. Of course, most of these textbooks were written before the era of blogs and the Internet. Having been sucked into the cult of Facebook, I've been making personal comments on my Facebook page; meanwhile, my cooking efforts have been documented on the Cast Iron Cooking group there. I know some people on that Facebook group would be offended by the content of this Web site, so I'm in a bit of a quandry.
  • I'm reluctant to include a picture of the eight-pointed Star of Chaos on my site. First of all, I'm just beginning on this and I'm still trying to find a symbol or "sigil" of my own. I'd made one a few months ago just before I closed the High Weirdness Project, but I don't know if it's appropriate for my newer and more "personal" Web site.
  • As I was writing this, my manager came by with boxes of donuts and corn muffins. Our company is celebrating so-called "Customer Service Week," in an attempt to boost everyone's morale by serving snacks and things all week. I've just eaten a store-bought corn muffin, for the first time after several months of making my own cornbread. This thing is crap.
  • I'm trying a "Recipe of the Day" thingie at the top of my Web site, with an (obvious) emphasis on cast iron.

p6:modemac@modemac.com