Monthly Archives: February 2019

The All-American Sun Oven

It was the 23rd day of February. The outdoor temperature was in the 40’s. The snow was melting. And most importantly, the sky was clear blue. So I decided to bake a loaf of bread in my All-American Sun Oven.

The sun oven uses no electricity, propane, cow dung, or any other fuel, except the flaming hydrogen gas of the sun.

My little ball of dough growing and rising, trying to become a big ball.

I used a simple French bread recipe, but any bread recipe will do. And you don’t have to bake bread. Anything that can be baked in a regular oven can also be baked in a sun oven. Including Baked Alaska. At least that’s what the All-American Sun Oven literature claims.

But so far, I’ve only baked bread.

Proofing in the Pyrex. It still has rising power. Go dough, go!

I wanted to try this oven a few weeks ago, but then we were hit by a pox of precipitation that cut off my hydrogen fuel supply. The literature claims that it will work under partly cloudy conditions, as long as the sun is peaking in and out of the clouds. But our refractory weather wasn’t even doing that much for me.

Back view of the All-American Sun Oven.

In the wintertime you have to confine your baking time to the two hours before and after solar noon. But screw that. At 9:30 am, about two-and-a-half hours prior to the 11:59 am solar noon, my oven had pre-heated to just 260°F. I felt impatient. So I stuck the bread in there anyway, even though the recipe calls for 30 minutes in a 400°F oven. But hell, it’ll warm up, I figured.

Front view of the oven, baking my baguette. The oven will hold a pan up to 8.5”W X 12.75”L X 6.5”H.

The weird thing is that the literature claims you can leave food in the solar oven for much longer than you can in a conventional oven, and it will never burn. Nor will it dry out, due to the way the oven is sealed. Well, we’ll see.

At 9:30 am, the oven temp was only 260°F. Almost touchable.

By 10:00 am, the oven temp had risen to 350°F, with the outdoor temp at 48°F. The bread had also risen a little more, but still looked pale white. However, with these higher temperatures, I expected caramelization to occur soon, with browning of the bread top.

10:00, and 350°F. The bread should be browning soon.

About every 20-30 minutes you must go outside and rotate the oven a little, so that it tracks the moving sun. But checking on the oven can be advisable anyway, for warding off your dogs, in case you’re broiling steaks.

By 10:30 am, the oven temp had only risen to 360°F. The bread was still as white as my fanny.

10:30, and 360°F. Come on, bread, where’s your tan?

At 11:00 am, the oven temp was back down to 355°F. Steam was streaming out of leaks in the seal, carrying the heavenly scent of baking bread. That’s because I accidentally engaged only one of the two latches that seal the glass lid.

11:00, and 355°F. Still working on that tan.

At 11:30 am, the oven temp had dropped to 350°F, with the outdoor temp up to 50°F. The bread top had browned some.

11:30, and 355°F. Finally some real brown is showing up.

At solar noon, 11:59 am, with not a cloud in the sky, the oven temp had dropped to 325°F, with the outdoor temp still at 50°F. There was no breeze. So I do not understand why the oven temp had dropped at the same time the sun had reached zenith. I suspect it may have to do with steam that formed on the inside glass, blocking out some of the sun’s rays. But it may also have to do with me only latching down one of the lid latches. Oops.

11:59, and 325°F. Notice the condensation at the bottom?

At 11:59 am, the bread came out hot from the oven. It had a crisp, slightly golden brown crust, but was soft and moist on the inside. It was thoroughly cooked, and not doughy. The crust was a bit too thick for my preference, but my wife thought it was just right. I think maybe an hour less of cooking would have produced a thinner crust, better to my personal liking.

Fresh and hot, out of the oven. Looks good enough to eat.

But the most important thing, was that the bread tasted delicious. After two-and-a-half hours of baking you’d think it would be burnt to a crisp, and rock hard all the way through. But no, it was very edible.

Delicious. Especially after I zapped it in the microwave for a few seconds, to soften the butter.

If you haven’t fallen asleep yet, and you’re still interested, click this link to learn more about the incredible All-American Sun Oven.

[This post paid for by nobody. I just like this oven.]

Dear Mom

Gibber Jabberin, one of the frequent commenters on this blog, has been away for a few days. Her mother passed away, and she has been attending her funeral in Ontario.

She wasn’t told by her father just how sick her mother was, until it was too late for her to have any conversation with her. But Gibber has been estranged from her mother, and father, for many years. She once had a blog dedicated to discussing her issues concerning her parents and other family members. I wasn’t a follower at the time, but I’ve heard it was quite a lively blog.

There was much Gibber wanted her mother to understand about her, which she was unable to communicate, due to her mother being unwilling to listen, and due to her unexpected passing. And so, after her mother passed away, she wrote a letter to her, read that letter to her at a private visitation, and then left the letter in her casket.

The tragedy here, as I see it, is that she could never get her mother to listen to her while her mother was alive.

Take care to listen to your children. Even if you disagree with them, at least try to understand them. You can be close to those you disagree with, as long as you try to know what’s in their heart. That’s all it takes.

Here is the letter Gibber wrote:

Dear mom,

You died yesterday.
You decided I didn’t deserve to know you were sick. I’m not sure how I lost that right when all the abuse you and dad brought caused me to have to walk away for my own sanity. I’m not sure how that took away my right to being your daughter.
I found out you were dying two days before you did and therefore I had no chance to say the things I needed to say to you.
You died yesterday.
Your last email to me wished me a happy Birthday and then mentioned that you didn’t know what went wrong. I responded back that I wanted to tell you but you both wouldn’t listen. Then I never heard from you again.
You died yesterday
Blaming me once again for the family break, when I was the last one to contact you. I wasn’t the one that abused you.
You died yesterday
Thinking the worst of me, despite that fact that you’re the one who turned your back on me. You looked the other way when I was raped at ll. You looked the other way when your brother abused me, and out rightly told me you chose him over me. Your daughter. You looked the other way and told me I was a burden and you were too busy on many occasions when I had broken down with the heartache of it all.
You died yesterday
And despite it all I was trying to make it there to see you before you went.
You died yesterday
Forgetting that I was constantly there for you when you fought your first battle with kidney failure. I was there. For you. Despite the abuse.
You died yesterday
Thinking I hadn’t done enough, wasn’t good enough and didn’t deserve to know you were sick.
You died yesterday
Never being a real mother too me. You both only had your own best interests in mind.
You died yesterday
Making me feel like I had to earn the right to be your child. Why couldn’t I just be your child because you were my mother? Why was so much expected of me? You were never grateful. You only saw what I didn’t do, not what I did do.
You died yesterday
Never sharing the experience of our first home, never looking after me in my illness. Only caring what was going on in your life and what I hadn’t done/been for you.
You died yesterday never protecting us from dad’s abuse. You chose to stay and allow him to abuse us and you. Why?
You died yesterday
Never being a real mother to me. It seemed you had no maternal instinct.
You died yesterday blaming me for everything.
You died yesterday
Missing out on so much. Oh how I wished you knew me. How I wished you knew how much you were missing out on.
You died yesterday
Never having a mind of your own or knowing who you were because dad wouldn’t allow it.
You died yesterday and I didn’t know who you really were. Nor did you know who I was. I only started learning who I was in my 40’s because I was away from you both and all the control. I liked who I became. You wouldn’t know that.
You died yesterday
Never sharing my grief or my joys.
You died yesterday
Never knowing how I grieved for us, how I longed for my family to be whole.
You died yesterday
Never taking responsibility for any of it. Never saying you’re sorry.
You died yesterday
Preaching Christianity but not really living it. Sadly you and Dale taught us how horrible it is. You were not good role models or representatives of God and who he is.
You died yesterday
Never knowing how badly you hurt me. You broke my heart because you thought I should pay. I lost the right to be there, to see you before you went, to say goodbye while you were still alive. You robbed so much from me and it was deliberate.
You died yesterday
And I never got to tell you goodbye in person.
You died yesterday
Leaving me to write you this letter that you will never hear
You died yesterday
And now I have to say it in this letter
You died yesterday
And I forgive you.
I forgive you for all the cruelty, neglect, betrayal, hurt, and heartache you caused.
You died yesterday
And I forgive you for dying.
Dying before I had the chance to say all this in person.
Once again.
I forgive you.
I love you.
I always loved you and I wish you knew that.
Goodbye for now
Mom.

The Craziest Idea

“That’s the craziest idea I’ve ever heard!” laughed Bob McCulloch. He was the same McCulloch who’d made a fortune in manufacturing McCulloch chainsaws, so he knew the difference between a good idea and a crazy one. Nonetheless he cogitated on it for a while, and it grew on him. It occurred to him that sometimes crazy ideas can also be good ideas.

He’d come to Lake Havasu, on the Colorado River, to compete against his brother-in-law, Ralph Evinrude. Bob had excelled in chainsaws, and wanted to do the same with outboard motors, just like his B-I-L, Ralph. He planned to test the motors he developed, on the waters of the lake.

Little did Bob realize that his venture into outboard motors would drift over to real estate, and eventually take him to London.

The federal government had closed a military base at this lake, and returned the land to the state of Arizona. And the Arizona government was stuck trying to figure out what to do with these 26 square miles along the shore.

But Bob got an idea, he offered to purchase the land for less than $75 an acre, with a promise that he would develop it. In 1963 he cut a deal with the state, and suddenly found himself in the real estate business.

And now he faced the challenge of attracting buyers. Turned out, almost nobody wanted to live in that hell hole. Lake Havasu sits in the broiling hot, miserable, low desert. The average high exceeds 100 degrees from June through September. The record high is 128. And the waters from the lake make it a humid, sticky heat.

And besides, it was in the middle of nowhere. There was nothing going on at Lake Havasu except howling coyotes, sunbathing lizards, and chirping crickets. Few came to look. And most who did, left without buying any of McCulloch’s developed parcels.

London Bridge in the late 19th Century.

Meanwhile, in England, London Bridge was falling down. This famous, historic bridge had been built in 1831, and right from the start began sinking at the rate of one inch every eight years. Furthermore, it had not been designed to withstand 20th century motor vehicle traffic. The weight of such traffic accelerated and distorted the sinking. By 1924, the falling down London Bridge was three to four inches shorter on its east side, than on its west.

In 1967 the city of London decided they’d better build a new bridge, before the old one sank completely below the surface of the river Thames. But rather than demolish the old bridge, they put it up for sale.

And that’s when Bob McCulloch heard the craziest idea that ever encountered his ears. His real estate agent, Robert Plumer, suggested that he buy London Bridge and move it to Lake Havasu, as a way to attract curious tourists and potential customers.

McCulloch won the bid, at $2.46 million dollars. The historic structure was meticulously dismantled, and each stone was numbered, to assist in reconstruction. It was shipped through the Panama Canal, to Long Beach, California, where it was then trucked to Lake Havasu.

London Bridge at Lake Havasu, as it appeared from a paddle boat we rented last month. Many homeless ducks live here, that shamelessly panhandle for crackers from soft-hearted people such as my wife.

London Bridge was reassembled, by the numbers, on a peninsula that jutted into the lake. Then a canal was dug that passed beneath the bridge, and that turned the peninsula into an island, with the bridge connecting the newly-formed island to the Arizona mainland. And since it was reconstructed on solid earth, and fortified to withstand motor vehicle traffic, London Bridge would no longer be falling down.

Swallows make their mud nests beneath the edges of London Bridge. There are also divots in the stonework of the bridge, caused by Nazi strafing during the Blitz.

On October 10, 1971, London Bridge was officially rededicated, before a gobsmacked public. News of this incongruous relocation spread coast-to-coast. Curious, prospective buyers flooded in on free flights offered by McCulloch, to stand on this newsworthy bridge and take a tour of properties for sale. Soon, McCulloch recovered the entire cost of the bridge, in land sales, and transformed his red ink into a diluvium of black.

The underside of London Bridge. Rumor has it that unicorns have been sighted here.

In 1970, one year before the reconstruction of the bridge, Lake Havasu City had a population of just over 4,000 hardy souls. By 1980 it had swelled to 15,000. And today it boasts more than 53,000 residents.

Modern cars can now pass over the top of London Bridge, without creating a sinking feeling.

Bob McCulloch was almost sunk, from his purchase of worthless desert land. But a sinking bridge connected him to success. Sometimes, when you’re desperate, you have to strive very hard to dig yourself out of a hole. Sometimes you just have to be lucky.

An antiquarian lamppost atop the bridge, with Lake Havasu City in the background.

And sometimes you have to try the craziest idea you ever heard.

Here’s another crazy idea. You can bring your significant other to London Bridge, and lock your love together, at this railing.

Coffee Is Poison

Seems everyone drinks coffee except Mormons and Seventh-Day Adventists. I’m not a religious man, but I think those Morvantists have got it right. Coffee is poison. And an abomination.

My wife is addicted to coffee. When she wakes up to start the day, she never says to me, “Good morning.” And if I initiate by saying, “Good morning,” to her, she replies with a scrunched-up scowl and screechy, “Fuck you!” And that’s because nothing civil is allowed to happen in our house until she’s had her morning cup of Joe.

She once threatened to divorce me if I ever spoke to her in the a.m. again, before her lips have touched coffee.

And that’s the sort of madness that is brought on by this black poison brewed by the billions, around the world. It’s no wonder we live on such a crazy planet. No wonder we have wars, disasters, and global warming. Coffee is the culprit. It makes people behave irrationally. It causes dysfunction and disrupts public safety. And all that percolating java every morning has got to be what is heating up our atmosphere and melting the polar icecaps.

I can’t count the many times people have told me they can’t function without their morning coffee. Really? Why have folks allowed themselves to sink so low as to be that desperately dependent upon this drug? And why let yourself be at the mercy of an industry that cares more for its profits than on your ability to be productive? If you get so destitute you can’t afford to buy coffee, they don’t care if you lose your job and end up sleeping in a gutter. If you don’t have any money, you just don’t get your fix, plain and simple.

Have you heard that Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, is plotting to destroy the world? He’s drank so much Espresso, it’s rewired the neurons in his brain, and turned him into a caffeine-crazed monster. The caffeine has tricked his brain into thinking he can run for president as an independent, and actually win. But what will really happen is that he will split the Democratic vote, and ensure a Trump reelection. And I doubt our planet can withstand another four years of comrade Trump in the White House.

Blame coffee. Coffee will be the death of us all.

Stop the madness! If you want to save yourself, and contribute to the salvation of our big, blue Earth, you must stop drinking big, black mugs of coffee. And you can do it if you put your mind to it. You can kick the coffee habit.

Sure, you may have to slap yourself around for a while, every morning, until your withdrawal symptoms recede. And you may get the shakes and shits and have to fight off the urge to commit mass murder. You may even have to check into a rehab clinic. But with self-discipline and determination, you can free yourself from the demon-pull of java juice.

Imagine how nice that would be. Think of the improvement you’ll realize in your relationships, including with your spouse. Consider all the money you’ll save. And reflect on how proud of yourself you’ll feel, knowing you’ve done your part to fight global warming and Trump reelection.

It won’t be easy for you to quit. So here’s a few motivational slogans to reflect upon, while fighting the urge:

• The best part of waking up is tapwater in your cup.
• You ban coffee, and have richness worth much more than a second cup.
• Fill yourself to the rim: Avoid Brim.
• Be good to your last drop, without one drop of coffee.
• You’ll be starved of bucks when you think work can wait.
• Juan Valdez is a drug dealer. The richest kind.
• A 100% Columbian never needs coffee.
• To be mountain grown, you must grow out of the coffee habit.
• Avoid coffee, and you’ll taste as good as you smell.

The sooner you kick the coffee habit, the better off you, and the whole world, will be. And you will never regret it.

Because coffee is poison.

Try watching this youtube video, for more motivation to quit the coffee habit: