Saturday, October 31, 2009

Panda's Wuss-Name Will Get His Lil' Butt Kicked

OK, so today I’ve got more than a little bone to pick with the San Diego Zoo. Yep, those guys who used to love getting on the Johnny Carson show with Joan Embry and baby critters from all over the world.

You see, 3 months ago or so there was a new baby panda born at the zoo. For some reason this has been big deal stuff ever since the Chinese “loaned” (it’s really a lease, but who’s quibbling) a boy and girl panda to the Washington Zoo back when Nixon was President and Mao was still in charge of China.

Anyway, whenever pandas get together to make a baby panda there’s always some sort of contest to name it. And they’re not named until they’re 104 days old—and it’s invariably some wussy name that if it were a people cub would guarantee a daily butt-kicking on the playground.

When Pandas do this:

You get this: And it will need a name.

Maybe we should do that to our own kids—wait until they’re 104 days old to name them. Maybe that would result in cooler, more normal names that would keep our kids from getting beat up on the playground and assure that they would get picked earlier for kick-ball teams.

Anyway, I digress.

The San Diego Zoo has a website and a “pandacam” which is also where you could nominate names for the new panda. They had to be in Pinyin—which is the phonetic form of Mandarin.

OK, before I go any further, let me just say that yes, we entered the naming contest and no, our suggested name didn’t get picked as one of the 5 finalists even though it was, without any doubt at all, the single best name all of which will be explained if you’ll just be patient enough to keep reading this rant. So I’m just a bit ticked.

Why is it that these little defenseless critters always get such wussy, sissified names? I mean, for crying out loud they’ve got names like Ling Ling, and Ping Ping, and Ming Ming and Ding Ding. Bleeeeeech!

And the finalists for this contest are no better (bear with me a little more, I WILL reveal the best name which although it didn’t make the finalists, shall hereinafter be the name by which we will call this panda). The top 5 are: Fu Sheng which means “blissful San Diego” (WTF?), Xiao Long or “little dragon” (he’s going to weigh 300 lbs or more), Xiong Wei or “extraordinary bear” (sounds a bit like Yogi Bear who was “smarter than your average bear”), Yong Xiang or “eternally blessed” (by whom? And for what?) and finally, Yun Zi or “son of cloud” (what? clouds have kids?).

Now this male cub has 2 sisters. Their names aren’t too bad (for girls!). One is Su Lin which means “a little bit of something cute” and the other is Zhen Zhen which means “precious”. But they’re girls! This is the only boy. He needs something special.

He needs a name with just a bit of attitude (better yet, with ‘tude). He needs something unmistakably masculine. We can’t make the mistake made with Rudolph who had the handicap of both that name AND a goofy looking nose. This little guy begs for something that sounds tough like he can both protect his sisters and put a little “whup-ass” on them if they get out of line. He needs to sound like he’s from “the hood”.

Now my wife thinks that every living, pet-like creature should have pretty much the same name. If it’s a goldfish or a kitten or a puppy or gerbil or even a panda they should all have the same name. And she’s got a point.

(OK, you’ve been a patient reader so now I’m going to tell you the name that beats all other names).

It’s Spike. Spike the Panda. Just plain Spike. In Pinyin that translates to Chang Ding.

Chang Ding. It’s got a certain “j’ne sais quois”, doesn’t it? OK, that was hoity toity. It’s got ‘tude! It’s so right.

Chang Ding. Spike. I even think they’d like that in Beijng. Beats the hell out of “Blissful San Diego”.

Anyway, if you want to see the panda cub, go to Tell ‘em Chang Ding sent you!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Real Men! He-Men! Pictures! Who's the Manliest of Men?

I decided to do a post on real men. There's all kinds of stuff out there about manly-men, real men, sexiest men, etc. And we can go all the way back to the 40's and the "original" "He Man Woman Hater's Club" founded by Spanky and Alfalfa.

So, let's take a look, OK? Don't just skip to the end of this to see the winner, scroll through and check out the beefcake. You might come across someone who you think is more deserving than my choice.

So is it Brad Pitt or Daniel Craig? What do you think? Scroll on.

No. They're just too pretty.

Or maybe it's Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson or George Clooney?

Nope? Scroll on.

How about those bastions of "the American Way" Glenn Beck or Dick Cheney?

Naw, I don't think so either.

So, how about Hugh Jackman or Johnny Depp? Both good looking, kind of mysterious guys.

OK, so keep scrolling.

Maybe you think it's Will Smith? Or how about Matthew McConaughy? Both great looking, popular actors.

But they're still not quite "it".

But hey, it's the World Series, so how about Derek Jeter or Ryan Howard?

Naw, I'd just be jealous of these guys.

Or staying with athletes--maybe one of my favorites, Brett Favre?

Close, but still no cigar--even though he's crying in this picture.

Nope, here's my candidate. A real man. A guy who does what he loves.

......almost there

You see, he's my son Michael and he's with my granddaughter Raegan. This is a picture of a real man. A manly man. Doing manly man things. Scroll down and see.

We need more men like this. Or as they say sometimes "You da man!"

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Totally Honest Car Salesman--Honest!

Selling cars for a living is one of the hardest, most stress filled things I’ve ever done. Straight commission. Monthly minimum quotas. Oh yeah, if you don’t earn enough in a given month to cover your time, you get paid “hours” which means minimum wage for your efforts (at least here in California). At many dealers that’s also when they “blow you out”, which is a euphemism for getting fired.

When I first moved to California, I went to work for a Ford dealership almost, but not quite, on the border of Mexico. It was an interesting environment for a middle aged white guy who had just moved from Iowa.
But enough of the “background” In the late 90’s SUVs and pick-ups were all the rage and Ford was a good brand to sell because of the popularity of the Explorer (also known as the “Exploder”), Expedition and F-150. And, we were eagerly awaiting the arrival of the new mega-SUV, the Excursion.

People wanted big, bigger, biggest and the Excursion was the biggest and baddest. Customers were interested in the most massive SUV they could get. They equated it with safety (kind of like the idea of an M1 tank rolling over and crushing lesser vehicles).

I was one of the first to sell an Excursion (late 1999 for the launch of the 2000 Excursion). A customer came on the lot interested in the vehicle and wanted to order one to fit his exact specifications. It was a 4x4, XLT, 5.4 liter V-8, all the whistles and bells and leather interior. It was the first $40,000 vehicle I ever sold. And I would make a whopping $200 commission on the deal. Wow!
As I was discussing the process with the buyer he told me, “I want one with zero miles on it, that’s why I’m ordering it.”

“Well sir, that’s not going to be possible,” I replied.

“Why not?” was his question, just a little bit miffed.

“Well, they all have a couple of miles on them. They drive them off the line, and then for a couple of miles to make sure everything works, then load them on the transporter.”

“So, how many miles will it have?” he asked.

“Well, no more than 5 or 6”, was my response.

“OK,” he said, “just make sure that it’s no more than 5 or the deal is off.”

Well, I was just a bit nervous because I had seen new vehicles come in with more miles than that but I was still excited over the prospect of the “status” of selling one of the first of these big SUVs that none of us had even seen yet.

It took about a month and one day I got word that the vehicle would be coming in on the transporter the next day and I should get hold of my customer. When the transporter arrived, I had already made an appointment for the final paperwork and delivery of the vehicle.

I watched the transporter pull onto the dealership and saw the brand new, olive green with tan trim, special factory order Excursion perched on it. I had already tipped off the guys in the back that this vehicle was for a special order, was being delivered that evening and that I needed it PDI’d right away. (PDI means Pre-Delivery Inspection where all the fluids are checked, etc. to make sure the vehicle is ready to be driven. Then it’s detailed.) I went back and checked the odometer reading and breathed a sigh of relief. Four miles on it. Good.
The customer arrived at 6 p.m. and I grabbed the keys and went to “fetch” his new Excursion. He was excited and so was I. I came cruising around the side of the building sitting up high in this huge SUV, window down, elbow out, grinning. The buyer was grinning too. I parked it and climbed out.

“How many miles are on it?” he asked.

I handed him the key, and said “Take a look. It’s got 4 ½ miles on it.”

He checked the odometer, and poked around for a bit inside obviously liking what he was experiencing for the first time. His very own “testosterone-mobile”.

I got just a bit brave. “So, why was it so important to have virtually no miles on it?” I asked.

“Well, I wanted to make sure that I was the first one to fart in it,” he responded still smiling.

My smile disappeared, replaced by a look of surprise. “Man, I wish you had told me that before,” I managed to stammer.

“Why’s that?” he asked.

And with total honesty, I responded, “Because, it’s too late.”

He bought it anyway. And that’s what happens when an “old fart” sells a new car.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Cheap Bastid's Lazy Dad Lasagna (Baked Ziti)

Now that fall is here and it’s getting cooler in a lot of the nation, it’s time for some dishes that warm you up as well as fill you up. That’s what we’re cooking today. Lazy Dad Lasagna or Baked Ziti.

Back when my kids were in elementary school in Iowa, one of my favorite places to take them out to dinner was a new restaurant on the South side of Des Moines called Fazoli’s. This is a franchise chain that is growing with restaurants across the country. It’s a “fast food” kind of Italian place. The kids loved it because it was eating out and eating some of their favorite foods and I liked it because it cost maybe a dollar more than going to a fast-food burger joint.

Their favorite dish at Fazoli’s was Baked Ziti. After we had it a couple of times I thought to myself that I could cook it at home for even less money. And, surprisingly it’s easy, inexpensive and really good. Plus, it’s a casserole dish that can be made the evening before and then popped in the oven to cook after a day’s work and provide a terrific family meal—just add a small salad and maybe some garlic toast and you’re good to go.

A couple of Cheap Bastid thoughts first:
If you’re ever kicked yourself over not having garlic toast try this: Use hot dog buns! We keep a package frozen in the freezer all the time. You pop them in the microwave to thaw (about 40 seconds on medium covered with a damp paper towel), plop a bit of margarine on top, sprinkle a bit of salt and garlic powder and maybe even some parmesan cheese, stick ‘em in the oven for about 8-10 minutes and you’ve got garlic toast!

One other thing before the recipe. You’ll notice by the picture that I use Hunt’s canned spaghetti sauce. I sure do and I’ve done it for a few years now. There’s a couple of good reasons. The first is cost. I can get it for 99 cents at the grocery or dollar store (actually my grocer had it for 79 cents last week). Ragu, Prego, etc. are all going to be $2-3 or more.

Second, Ragu and Prego run about 220 calories per 1 cup serving versus 190 for Hunts because Hunt’s has 1 gram of sugar to 26 grams for Ragu and 24 grams for Prego. Hunt's doesn't taste sweet like other sauces (spaghetti sauce isn't supposed to taste "sweet) and so it's easier to build more flavor in it. Besides, if I want to sweeten it, I can add honey. I’m going to take any sauce and “doctor it up” with spices like oregano, cumin, crushed pepper and garlic to make it taste better.

OK, here’s the recipe:
Lazy Dad Lasagna (Baked Ziti)

1 lb ground beef OR Italian sausage (or you could use a half lb of each)
1 28 oz—(can not jar) Hunt’s spaghetti sauce
1 bag “ziti” or penne pasta
12 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
Parmesan cheese
Garlic, oregano, cumin, basil, salt & pepper

Cook pasta according to directions BUT for this recipe it should be al dente (fancy word for a bit underdone) because you’re going to bake it.

Brown the ground beef/Italian sausage and drain. (If using ground beef season it while browning—garlic, salt, pepper, oregano and cumin. It makes a big difference in taste.) For this recipe, I used ground beef and put some fennel seed and crushed red pepper in it to give it a bit more of the Italian sausage flavor.

Put the cooked pasta in a big bowl. Then add the meat and sauce. Add more salt, pepper, oregano, basil and garlic. How much? ENOUGH! Taste it! Plus, I like a little kick too—add a bit of chipotle, cayenne or crushed red pepper flakes (only 1, not all!)

Add the mozzarella and stir, stir, stir to mix everything together. Taste test it again & add spices if needed.

Dump all this into a big baking/casserole dish. Put a light layer of parmesan on top, cover and put in the oven for 45 minutes hour at 375. Everything should be hot and the cheese “melty”. (I like to uncover it for about the last 10-15 minutes to make the tope “crusty” like lasagna). Put back in for another 10-15 minutes if needed.

Serve it on plates, let it cool just a couple of minutes, then really, really enjoy. This is a family meal that everyone’s going to like.

The Cheap Bastid Test: So how did this do on budget? Well a pound of ground beef was $1.95 (although I used ¾ lb.). Figure about $2.50 if you use Italian sausage. The pasta cost $1. I threw in about 20 cents worth of onion with the meat. The sauce was $1 and the cheese was the priciest part of the meal at $2.49. So we spent $6.64.

This dish provided 7 meals (meals not servings), dinner for 3 one night, dinner for 2 the next night and lunch for 2 the 3rd day. So that’s less than $1 per meal. Not bad. Add salad and garlic bread at dinner and you add about another $.50 per serving. That’s economical eating and, quite frankly is about $.75-$1 a serving less than lasagna.

That’s the Cheap Bastid Way: Eat Well! Eat Cheap! Be Grateful!

When Did Men's Skivvies Become "Unmentionables"?

I switched from tighty whities when I got in college. Not because of college mind you but because that’s when Hane’s Slim-Guy Racers came out. Tapered, cotton sheeting boxer shorts that were more “manly” than the briefs I had grown up wearing.
I didn’t change styles again until switching to boxer briefs 5 years ago. They’re more comfortable, hold things in better and provide just a bit of support to the thighs. All these years, I’ve thought that there’s only one thing really needed to improve men’s underwear and that’s to make them 2-toned—brown in the back and yellow in the front. But, no one’s ever done that. Maybe I should have “invented” them myself.

But, to get back to my topic. Drawers are drawers. My Dad always wore white baggy boxers that he got at the Air Force Base Clothing Exchange store. I’ve never given any thought to what kind of “fashion” I wear to keep my butt covered. (Although I remember having a pair of black, tricot boxers which really came in handy one time when I was umpiring a high school baseball game and ripped the seam out of the back of my pants while crouched behind the plate and had to stay that way for 7 innings).

A couple of years ago, I bought my wife a set of silk long-johns before a winter trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico. And then some silk briefs for a birthday gift the following year. Both of these came from a catalog called “Wintersilks”. This company now sends me their catalog and e-mail updates of sale items.
Women's underwear in Wintersilks "Holiday Preview" catalog
So, I got my “Holiday Preview” from Wintersilks about a week ago and was flipping through it. Nothing much was getting my attention. I paused at some of the women’s clothes in case something caught my eye that I might like to get for Carolyn (they’ve got some great silk sweaters, tops, etc.). And there wasn’t anything on the 2 pages of lingerie either. So I kept flipping through. There were 3 pages of men’s underwear. What the hell?

Where the colors of briefs and underpants on the women’s pages were almost all pastels or neutral, the colors of the men’s underwear were vivid ranging from glisteny black to hot red and everything in between. While the offerings for women’s lingerie were all pretty conservative—no French cut or string bikini or thongs the men’s selection was quite a bit more extensive and, to say the least, risqué. What the hell?

Men's underwear in Wintersilks Holiday Preview catalog (page 1 of 3)
When did men start wearing lingerie or “unmentionables”? When did you start seeing styles of men’s underwear that look more like something you’d see on a shapely model in a “Frederick’s of Hollywood” catalogue? There were briefs, bikini briefs, boxer briefs, string bikinis, thongs and (to borrow a term from Dr. Todd on “Scrubs”) banana hammocks. Now, I have never been a prude (I guess I am an old fart prude now) but I was aghast. My eyes were like saucers.

Men can now wear cross-dressing underwear under the guise that it’s men’s underwear. Men can now indulge their narcissism in their choice of drawers. I mean if I were in a locker room and some guy was changing to work-out gear next to me and “dropped trou” to reveal a thong I think I would just up and leave.
Are guys anxious to show off their “scanties” to the ladies? Or to other guys? Is this the result of “metrosexuality”? Are these the same guys who now want to convince the rest of us neandrathals that we need to shave our body hair including the “happy patch”? (I’ve got more hair on my chest than on top of my head). Thanks but, no thanks.

And what about the banana hammock? Do they send you a free sock for stuffing the front if you buy 3 pairs? I’m just wondering.

I guess I’ll just stick to the plain colored boxer briefs that I can get on sale at Target or WalMart or Kohl’s. They keep everything where they belong. Now, if they’d only make them with an activated charcoal filter everyone around me would be happier.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Rockers Pissed About Guatanamo Bay Music

From the AP wire and Yahoo News today:
Rockers including Pearl Jam, R.E.M. and Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails have joined the National Campaign to Close Guantanamo.

They’re angry at the continuing existence of the prison and the ongoing holding of “detainees” at the facility. Perhaps the rockers are angriest of all at the idea that their music has been used for years to break down detainees’ resistance to interrogation.

Interestingly, the rockers waited until 2009 to voice their anger, unite on the issue and speak out.

From AP: “At Guantanamo, the U.S. government turned a jukebox into an instrument of torture,” said Thomas Blanton, executive director of the National Security Archive.

“Based on documents that already have been made public and interviews with former detainees, the archive says the playlist featured cuts from AC/DC, Britney Spears, the Bee Gees, Marilyn Manson and many other groups. The Meow Mix cat food jingle, the Barney theme song and an assortment of Sesame Street tunes also were pumped into detainee cells.”

Barney? Meow Mix? AC/DC? The Bee Gees? Now I can empathize with some of this like Britney Spears (that alone should be classified as torture) and some might say the vibrato of the Brothers Gibb would be painful after a while but, come-on.

Also, according to the AP report: “In one case interrogators played music to "stress" Mohamedou Ould Slahi, a citizen of Mauritania who has been at Guantanamo for more than seven years, because he believed music is forbidden, the report says.”

“Over a 10-day period in July 2003, Slahi was questioned by an interrogator called "Mr. X" while being "exposed to variable lighting patterns" and repeated playing of a song called "Let the Bodies Hit the Floor" by the band Drowning Pool, according to the committee's report.”
Now, I’ve never heard of either Drowning Pool or that song and I imagine that it might be some sort of uncomfortable head-banging heavy metal.

My issue has all along been with the notion that these people are there, incommunicado, in the first place under the flimsy rationale that a U.S. military installation in a foreign country is on foreign soil and is consequently not subject to U.S. law or the Constitution—a notion that I’ve always thought was the worst form of legalistic legerdemain.

So, music was played and played loud and these rock stars have just now figured out that it was their music being played. Perhaps they should sic ASCAP on the Pentagon. Perhaps the military should have had it’s “official bands” re-record the music so that they weren’t purloining the recordings of these stars. I can just envision Marilyn Manson being interpreted by the brass and drums of a military marching band.

Jayne Huckerby, research director at New York University's Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, received a top secret CIA document dated December 2005 in which the agency explains that the use of loud music or white noise is needed "to mask sound and prevent communication among detainees." If decibel levels are kept at 79 or lower — roughly equivalent to a garbage disposal — detainee hearing won't be damaged, the agency said.

So, with that in mind, maybe it would be beneficial to come up with a list of music which would prove to be effective at getting recalcitrant detainees to “talk”. Music that could be played at or under 79 decibels but would still be incredibly effective at getting into the detainee’s head and ultimately getting them to “talk”.

I’m thinking such musical masterpieces as Celine Deion’s rendering of the theme from “Titanic” or perhaps the most insidious piece of music might be The Captain and Tenille’s version of “Muskrat Love” which was banned at Buckingham Palace two decades ago. What else? How about the Archies doing “Sugar”? Or maybe the Pipkins’ 1971 rendering of “Gimme dat Ding”. Or Napoleon XIV’s famous “They’re Coming to Take Me Away”? And for sheer torture, Ethyl Merman doing “There’s No Business Like Show Business” (or maybe a cross-dressing impersonator).

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

He Ain't Heavy, He's My 'Taters

We’ve got a grocery store we go to just for produce. Their produce is fantastic. Their prices on other things tend to be high because the place is kind of a cross between Trader Joe’s and Henry’s. It’s called Frazier’s Farms.

About once a week or so we take our produce list to Frazier’s to stock up. Now, this place is about ¾ of a mile away from our apartment so often I’ll walk. It’s a straight shot and it’s getting exercise at the same time that I’m getting fresh veggies. So I walk it. And besides, bell peppers and onions and tomatoes and squash and lettuce, maybe some apples or limes too, aren’t all that heavy, especially since it’s a week’s worth for 2 people.
Until I need potatoes.

And even potatoes aren’t bad. It’s just a sack of potatoes, drop the bag into a paper grocery sack, lift it by the handle and it’s a balanced load—produce in one hand, ‘taters in the other.

Now, I’m referring to the 5 lb. sack of potatoes that the store sells for $1.99. OK, no big deal, right? Right.
So, I’m in the store about a month ago. I’ve got my list. ‘Taters are on it. Except for one thing. I can get a 10 lb. sack of ‘taters for $2.49. Hmmmm, that’s 5 more pounds for half a buck. Not bad. And if we’ve got too many, Carolyn can take a small sack over to her Mom’s.

So I pick up the 10 lb. sack and take it along with my basket of produce to the check-out. I love getting a whole week’s worth of salads and fresh veggies for cooking, etc. for about $8 including the $2.49 for the ‘taters. It appeals to the “Cheap Bastid” in me.
I love cutting summer squash into planks, painting it with a bit of oil, slapping some spice on and putting it on the grill. I enjoy making fresh “pico de gallo” or getting cilantro and parsley for freshly made chimichurri. So the produce is really a bagful of treasure to take home.

Until I bumped myself up to a 10 lb. sack of ‘taters.

You know, I’m a healthy, in reasonable condition kind of guy. You kids will think I’m an old fart but old farts can usually work you kids into the dust in just a little while.

But, those damn potatoes seemed like they were gaining weight the whole way home. It’s just 10 lbs. But by the time I was half-way there, I was thinking of doing a Hansel and Gretel thing and marking a trail behind me with potatoes. My arms were starting to feel like they had been stretched a couple of inches each from switching the bags back and forth.
I had a sack of iron ingots. I was carrying 3 bowling balls in one paper sack. It’s like I had a list to port or starboard depending on which hand I was carrying the sack with the potatoes in. My elbows were starting to hurt from the stretching on my tendons. Why are the blocks suddenly each a half mile long?

I was sweating. I didn’t wear a hat or visor and sweat was running from my bald head to my eyes as I waited for-effin-ever at the final intersection for the traffic and pedestrian crossing lights to change. It’s the last half-block. The home-stretch. It was like the scene out of Forrest Gump where he’s carrying Bubba on his back while the F-4s come screaming overhead dropping napalm. And I was mumbling to myself, “the next time she wants potatoes, she can go get the damn things herself”.
It was only 10 lbs. of ‘taters, dammit! Shee-ut! Now, when I go to Frazier’s and know I have to buy potatoes…I take the car.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Cheap Bastid's Chinese Steak

Fall is here and we’re cooking more inside. I’ve always loved cooking in the wok. Wok cooking is simple. Typically the hardest part is the prep and having everything ready to go before cooking. But that’s simply a matter of “slicing and dicing”. Chinese-style cooking is also something that goes well with Cheap Bastid’s love for simple, inexpensive, fresh ingredients. And, proteins like meat especially go further Chinese style making it even better for diet and budget conscious folks.

Here’s one of my all-time favorite Chinese recipes to cook and especially to eat. This dish is pungent and tasty. It combines beef with my favorites of tomatoes and onions along with an aromatic sauce that I’m sure you’ll enjoy.

It’s served over rice, or with rice on the side, whichever you prefer. So first, I’m going to provide my basic rice recipe which I got 25 years ago from “Madame Wong’s Long-Life Chinese Cookbook” which came with my first wok. This is as close to “foolproof” rice as you can get without investing in a rice cooker.

And yes, the rice will stick together when you serve it and that’s the way it’s supposed to be. You can’t eat rice with chopsticks when the grains are all separate and going their own way. And I think this tastes far better than “Minute Rice”. It’s just basic, long-grain rice that I buy in bulk at the grocery store for $.79/lb.

2/3 cup long grain rice per serving (rice—not Uncle Ben’s
or Minute Rice any other boxed rice—just rice)

Put the rice in a sauce pan. Rinse with cold water about 4 or 5 times to clean it. Rinse by covering it with cold water and swirling it around then draining the water (you don’t need a strainer, just gently pour the water off). After rinsing, cover the rice with water—put enough water in the pan so that when you poke your finger in it to the rice, the water comes up to your first knuckle (about ¾ inch).

Put the pan on the stove UN-covered with the burner turned on high. When the water is boiled off—about 8 minutes—turn the heat as low as it will go, cover the pot and let it steam for about 20 minutes. By the way, the water is “boiled off” when there are “craters” in the rice with bubbles popping out. When you cover and turn the heat down, the remaining water will cook off while the burner cools.

Usually, when you cover the pan is when you can go ahead and start heating your wok to cook the rest of the meal. All your prep for the wok should be done, and you can just start cooking. This will usually mean that the wok cooking is done and the rice is done at about the same time.

Chinese Steak

1-1½ lbs sirloin steak
¼ cup soy sauce
Couple of good splashes sherry or wine
Tbsp Ginger
Tbsp Garlic Powder
Diced onion—about 3 tblspns
2egg whites (give the yolk to the dog)
3tbsp cornstarch
1 cup oil for frying
2 tomatoes cut into wedges—about 8 wedges each
1 cup onion cut into appx. 1” long slices

Sauce: 4 tbsp Worcestershire, 4 tbsp ketchup, 2 tbsp sugar, 2 tbsp soy sauce, 2 tbsp red wine vinegar. Mix all together in advance.


Using a meat tenderizer/mallet pound meat on both sides. Cut meat into 1” cubes then put into a non-metal dish or into a 1 gal. freezer bag. Mix the soy sauce, sherry/wine, ginger/garlic powder & diced onion together and pour over meat. Marinate at least 2-4 hours. Add the egg white and cornstarch and mix thoroughly into the meat mixture.

Start the rice. Put wok on burner, burner to high, add 1 cups oil. Heat until water flicked on oil immediately sizzles off. Add meat in small batches (about 1/3 at a time) and fry 2-3 minutes per batch—allow oil to reheat between batches. Drain on a plate or in a pan lined with 2-3 paper towels.

When meat is done, let oil cool then drain all but 2 tblspns of oil from the wok. Reheat the wok. Add onion and cook for 1-2 minutes just until they start to soften. Add the beef and stir fry for a couple of minutes. Add the sauce and and stir all together. Add tomatoes, mix everything and serve over rice. Serves 4.
This smells fantastic during the final cooking when the meat and sauce and onions and tomatoes all get together in the wok. And it tastes just as good. It’s got just a bit of “heat” (enough to make the top of my head sweat a little) and that comes from the worchestershire.

Did this meet the Cheap Bastid test? Well, the sirloin cost $2.00 on special at Stater Bros. And I used about ½ lb of rice for another $.40. Plus, 1 lb of tomatoes for $1 and half an onion for about $.25. Total budget for this great dinner for 2 was $3.65. And there’s left-overs for tomorrow too.

That’s the Cheap Bastid way: Eat Well, Eat Cheap, Be Grateful

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Gaaaack! My Wife Tried to Poison Me!

Gawd, I love my wife but sometimes I think she’s trying to “do me in”, “knock me off”, “rub me out”, “off me”.

You see, I’ve got this favorite glass. It’s the only one I use. I don’t wash it. I might rinse it occasionally, but I don’t wash it. I love it when I pour milk into it and the little residue of cranberry juice turns it just slightly pink. Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I’m unsanitary or lazy, it’s just that this is my glass. I’m the only one who uses it. It’s my lip germs, so why bother, right?

So last night, somewhere around the 10th inning of the Yankees/Angels game, I was thirsty. I went out to the kitchen and picked up my glass next to the sink where I usually put it after sloshing some water in it from the last time I used it.
I grabbed the jug of cranberry juice from the fridge and poured the glass about 2/3 full. Walking back to my flatulence invested throne in the living room, I took a sip. It tasted odd. I took another, bigger drink. “Hmm, is the cranberry juice going bad?” I thought to myself. I held the glass out at arm’s length, twisting the glass back and forth, inspecting it, then shrugging.

Settling in to watch the rain drenched finish of the game, I didn’t really think anything of it again until I took my next sip. “Blecccccccch!” It tasted worse. And then it dawned on me.

“Awwwww, dammit,” I thought to myself as I spit the vile, nasty, rancid tasting cranberry juice back in the glass. “She’s trying to kill me again.”

Yep, my beautiful, gorgeous, raven-haired wife had thought she’d do me a favor again (actually she was doing herself a favor, I think). She had poured about a quarter of an inch of freaking vinegar into the glass and let it sit to remove some of the accumulated crud in the bottom of the glass. “Why, why, why! The inhumanity! She’s trying to poison me!”

And I, of course, without bothering to check in the dim light reflected onto the glass from the open refrigerator door, just poured in the juice and started drinking. “Gaaaack!”

Now this isn’t the first time that this happened. That’s why I was able to figure out so quickly (only 3 or 4 drinks from the glass—how oblivious is that!).

Perhaps this was some sort of subconscious revenge on the part of my wife for my having accidently dropped and broken her personal salad-ice cream-soup bowl the day before. The mind works in surprising unconscious ways, you know.

So I guess now I have to have a secret spot to “hide” MY glass. It’s just a simple jelly glass with little cartoons of goofy dinosaurs on it. But it’s mine even though it used to be hers. It’s mine, mine, mine!

I guess I’d better go out and find her a new bowl before she comes up with some other form of insidious torture—the thought of her devious creativity is too frightening to contemplate.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Something to Think About--The GFW Equation

I wrote this about 6 years ago. It's one of those true stories that might just make you think a bit. I hope you enjoy it.

The GFW Equation

In the early 80’s, I had a friend named Lew Giesking who was the City Engineer in the small city in northern Iowa where I was the Chamber of Commerce Executive. Lew and I worked closely on a number of projects in the community, from planning a new swimming pool to the extension of infrastructure to a new Industrial Park that the Economic Development Corporation I also headed had purchased on the edge of town.

Our oldest sons were the same age and played on the same Parks and Recreation Baseball team. Occasionally, we’d schedule a meeting and would get together at the baseball field where our boys were playing. We’d have plans and documents spread on the hood of one of our vehicles and would be discussing the project at the same time that we were hollering out encouragement to our kids.

One particular day, as we were talking, I asked him a question. “Lew, I notice that your van has GFW Construction painted on the side of it. Now your name is Giesking, so that’s the ‘G’, but what does the F and W mean? Are those your partners?”

“No,” he responded with a smile, “They’re not. What GFW stands for is my priorities in life, God, Family and Work, in that order.”

Over the years, I’ve remembered that short conversation many times. What a wonderful way to try to live your life. As I think about it, at the time we were engaged in the “FW” part of it. We’d slipped away from our respective offices and ventured into the hot, muggy Iowa summer sun to share something with someone in our family while at the same time get a little work done.

But more importantly, we all sometimes tend to get our priorities a little bit lopsided. Today’s world tries to put an inordinate demand on us for work. We forget about why we work and all too often let what we do become who we are.

We can’t all paint “GFW” on the side of our vehicles. Maybe we need to make up a bunch of those bracelets that were popular a while back that said “WWJD” or “LiveStrong” but this time in big letters have them say “GFW” as a constant reminder of what our true priorities ought to be.

Because, maybe—just maybe--if we honored God and Family more by remembering what our priorities should be, then the Work part would go a lot better too.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Freshmen Don't Win the Heisman But Obama Wins the Nobel Peace Prize

Freshmen don’t win the Heisman Trophy do they? Well, it’s possible but hasn’t been done. From time to time there is a freshman who sets NCAA football on fire his first year but no freshman has ever won the award. And only 2 sophomores have done it.

Why? Well, the Heisman is awarded to the outstanding football player in NCAA football each year. It’s for individual accomplishment but it’s also more like an MVP award in terms of the player whose efforts and accomplishments contributed to the success of his team. Freshmen typically have to prove themselves for more than one season before being seriously considered for this honor.

Well that’s certainly interesting this time of the year when NCAA football is in full swing, when individual stats are starting to roll up, injuries are starting to take their toll on promising seasons and the talk starts to turn to the almighty BCS.

So where am I heading with this? Not football.

Pres. Obama was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize last Friday. I did a “tongue in cheek” blogpost suggesting that his reaction was probably the same as Ralphie’s in “A Christmas Story” when he was helping his Dad change a flat tire. “Oh, fuuuddddggge.”

I literally could envision Obama getting word of this honor over breakfast with Michelle and turning to her and groaning out “Oh, fuuudddggge.” I get the impression from his response about being humbled by the award that he realizes that he was like a Freshman receiving the Heisman based on talent and potential more than on his level of actual accomplishment.

I really wish that the Nobel Peach Prize had not been awarded to the President. He’s had a remarkable first 9 months in office but I’m having a hard time justifying just exactly what he’s managed to get done to facilitate, promote and achieve peace in this world in that period of time. He’s been more of a janitor—cleaning up the messes he was left with as of the date of his inauguration.

The man’s plate is so full that he just doesn’t need any more crap that distracts from the serious issues and threats to the nation’s economy or security or the welfare of its citizens. Every time he turns around there are insidious roadblocks thrown up by the opposition party, so-called experts, “pundits” and even from within the ranks of his own party and supporters.

This becomes a distraction. It is an honor and Obama has indeed been gracious about it. As have previous American Peace Prize honorees Jimmy Carter and Al Gore. As have members of the “loyal” opposition John McCain and Tim Pawlenty. But guys like GOP Rep. Gresham Barrett of South Carolina and others have been at their typically mean-spirited worst. There was even a comment made last Friday from one Republican expressing mock dismay that apparently there was now an “affirmative action” criteria for the Nobel Peace Prize.

That’s why this is a distraction. That’s why it would have been better for the Nobel Peace Prize Committee in Oslo to have either found another deserving candidate or, as has been done in the past, decline to present an award this year. With the way “peace” has been going in the world, it’s hard to find a legitimate candidate and maybe that would have been the best scenario.

As it stands, here is an honor which the President really hasn’t earned—yet. In coaching parlance, Obama has a "tremendous upside". I would have far preferred that the Committee wait until the President’s "upside" has been more fully realized when peace is not only “at” hand but “in” hand.

We have a freshman receiving an incredibly prestigious award. What’s he going to do for an encore, to prove that he deserved it in the first place?

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Office's Jim and Pam Niagara Wedding has Barf-O-Rama

Carolyn and I have been eagerly awaiting the Office’s episode featuring Jim and Pam’s wedding. If you didn’t see it, it's worth watching on Hulu.

This was a wedding in the grandest tradition of this quirky sitcom. Every cast member’s character was true to form from Dwight to Meredith to Kevin to Michael. And it was a hoot. We really liked Kevin’s wig and his clumping down the aisle wearing Kleenex boxes for shoes to the wedding ceremony.

But what we laughed hardest at was the scene at the beginning of the episode where Pam warns Dwight that the smell of his hardboiled egg lunch makes her nauseous (she’s pregnant in the show’s plotline) and if he eats it she’ll puke. Dwight peels his hardboiled egg and conspicuously takes a bite while staring sneeringly at Pam.

The result is arguably the first chain reaction barf ever filmed/taped for network television. Here it is courtesy of barfblog. (That’s if you want to check them out).

Amazing Reactions to Obama Peace Prize Announcement

Reaction to the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to President Barak Obama has startled pundits and journalists across the nation and the globe this morning.

So far quotes have been received by the media from Congressman Joe Wilson, pundit Glenn Beck, former VP Dick Cheney, Nobel Peace Prize honoree and former President Jimmy Carter and a spokesperson from the Taliban speaking on condition of anonymity. Amazingly each of these had the identical comment although for a variety of reasons.

The comment, as received in this news clip attributed to Peter Billingsley:

Monday, October 5, 2009

Nothing Good Happens After Midnight

There’s a reason why the Fairy Godmother told Cinderella to be back by midnight. Remember? She was late. The coach turned back into a pumpkin, the footmen back into mice and Cinderella from a gorgeous princess back into a waifish stepdaughter.
What’s the reason? It’s simple. Nothing good happens after midnight.

Five 17 year olds partied on Saturday night here in the San Diego area. They were good kids. They were affluent kids. They were drunk. They were driving too fast. Now one is dead. One is in critical condition with blunt head trauma. Two had minor injuries and one is in jail. He’s charged with felony driving under the influence and gross vehicular manslaughter. Five young lives that will never be the same.

The accident happened at 1:45 in the morning. Nothing good happens after midnight. Especially to kids. Especially to parents.

What went wrong? The classic “perfect storm” for immature drivers (hell, for any driver). Too much speed. Alcohol. And five 17year-olds partying; distracted, showing-off. Only 2 were wearing seat belts. The 1 year-old car was full of air-bags but they won’t protect properly if the people in the car aren’t buckled up.
What’s the lesson here? Well, for one, parents try to do their best and are absolutely aghast, horrified and devastated when a tragedy such as this happens—especially to them.

There were too many kids in the car. Five 17-year olds, drinking, yields just too much testosterone for safety.

They thought, as do all teens, that they are immortal. They’re not. Sheet metal can’t win when there’s too much speed and immoveable objects in the way. And once the sheet metal goes, the living tissue inside is going to get hurt.

Alcohol was involved with kids 4 years too young to legally drink and never old enough to drive drunk.

Speed. Speed plus booze plus distracted equals only one thing. Disaster.

Odds are they could do the same thing 100 times and make it home OK. But, that one time when they don’t results in catastrophe.

Parents, teach your children. Monitor them. Have inviolable rules in place. Enforce them. Even when it makes them and you uncomfortable. That’s the way to love them.

Because nothing good happens after midnight.