From the Kitchen, from the Bar and from the garden: a meandering post about various things

I haven’t had a food and drink post for awhile. A handful of weeks ago we decided to see if we could grill whole Cornish hens on our small barreled shaped grill. We didn’t want to butterfly them which would be simpler, but to have a little whole chicken for each of us.

Many years ago, I was a member of a medieval recreation group called the Society of Creative Anachronism. I was friends with some folks who were part of a somewhat parallel group called the Tuchux, a group that recreated fantasy barbarians, and got their name from the rather atrocious Gor books by John Norman (very bad fantasy of a fellow who ends up on a alien planet where his fantasies of submissive women come true). They are quite a bit more egalitarian than the Gor nonsense and were some coolest people I ever met in my sojourn in the SCA (it’s been about a decade since I’ve had any contact with the SCA). At one of their Yule Feasts that I was kindly invited to, we each got a small loaf of fresh bread and a roasted Cornish hen and it was the best feast I think ever had. I wanted to recreate that.

We managed to do so by putting a pile of charcoal on both side of the grill aka indirect grilling and putting the chooks between them for about 45 minutes and then moving them over the dying coals to crisp up the skin for about 15 minutes at the end. I do recommend getting the biggest charcoal chimney as you can get because then you never have to worry about having lighter fluid or having that nasty taste on their food. We use brown craft paper to light ours since some inks smoke like crazy.

As for a recipe, all it was consisted of thawed chooks, with butter stuffed under the skin and smeared over the skin. Continue reading

Not So Polite Dinner Conversation: Antics of Christians in the news, in a blog, and in a newsletter(NSFW because of what they said)

(note to my readers: if you followed this blog because of your interest in my recipes, brewing or drink reviews, you may want to back out now.  Anything that is titled “Not So Polite Dinner Conversation” is my unvarnished views of politics and/or religion. You’ve been warned 🙂 ).

Here are a few random things about religion. The first is about an opinion piece published in the New York Times by someone who really is afraid of anyone not like him. The second is a brief bit about what a pastor thinks about justice and the bible, and the third is just a few bits of crank mail from my FFRF newspaper and a link to a good blog post about the new bible “club” in the White House. The newspaper also has some very nice essays written by young atheists of color for a scholarship contest.

The NYT ran an opinion piece by Rob Dreher, a conservative Christian, “Trump Can’t Save American Christianity”.   Of course, Mr. Dreher is certain that his version of Christianity is the only true one.  He’s also one of the fellows who thinks that Christians really need to segregate themselves from anyone who disagrees with them.   Of course, that’s rather inconvenient and even he doesn’t follow his own recommendations.  Writing for the NYT isn’t exactly conducive to doing what he says.

He’s also jumped from Methodism, to Roman Catholicism, and now is with the Eastern Orthodox church.   Funny how the magical and divine “truth” can change, isn’t it?

In the article, Dreher wonders if Trump can do anything to alienate conservative Christians.  At this point, it certainly doesn’t seem to be anything, considering the circus that has been going on for more than 6 months.  Ah, but Dreher is sure that Trump isnt’ the problem, it’s is an “increasingly faithless people” aka those who don’t agree with Mr. Dreher.  He claims that the lack of people who agree with him will lead to a “calamity for civil society in ways secular Americans do not appreciate”.   Of course, all we have is this chicken little nonsense about how bad it will be, nothing to show what this would be or anything to support the claim.

One of the claims that Mr. Dreher makes is that Americans are not following “authentic Christianity” and are following something a Notre Dame researcher calls “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism”, something that Mr. Dreher insists is a “pseudoreligion” and it isn’t his version of Christianity.   The problem here is what is “authentic Christianity”?  We see that Mr. Dreher has gone from one sect to another, which would seem to indicate that Mr. Dreher has no idea what it is either.  If he gets disappointed with one, he decides another might have the right answers, and that certainly isn’t an unusual thing for Christians.

Now, Mr. Dreher is sure that all of the nonsense that conservative Christians have done with the Republican Party aren’t enough, and that the GOP isn’t doing what he wants.  The slide into the secular abyss is because his religion failed somehow.  Ah, but how you may ask?  He’s sure that Trump is a symptom of this problem, which at least he may seem to realize that Trump is no kind of Christian, literalist or liberal, a thing that many Christians can’t quite seem to grasp.  What he returns to is that Christians (again only those who agree with him) need to separate themselves from the world.   They cannot listen to anyone who has a different opinion, they cannot consider that they are wrong.

Conservative Christianity has been its own enemy when it comes to losing believers.  The constant adherence to outright lies is rather stupid in this age where information is easily available.  People have realized that the myths of the religion are nonsense and that morality does not come from one sect of one religion.  As always, this particular form of Christianity depends on fear and ignorance to exist, and Mr. Dreher certainly uses those tactics in his article.  “You must run away! You must not listen to anyone else except me!”   Everyone else must be cast as an enemy to fear.

As much as Dreher may see Trump as a symptom, Dreher is using the same pathetic attempts at controlling people.  He seems to need external validation and keeps poking his head out of his imaginary fortress to get it.     Continue reading

Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – Christian “Science” and the art of the con

Well, this week, the Christian Scientists here in Harrisburg mailed out fliers about how they were going to have a healing talk down at their church, by Josh Niles (a supposed veteran which make me wonder why the local VA hospital isn’t empty).   There are few things I find more disgusting than theists making baseless claims on how they can heal people when hospitals are full, especially veterans’ hospitals and children’s hospitals.  The deceit that is involved is amazing for a religion that supposedly cares about the truth.

I shot them an email and asked for evidence of this healing, and why they can’t heal anyone who actually has been hurt.   They unsurprisingly directed me to the party line, and offered no reason why they haven’t healed amputees, people with documented cancers, etc.  The claim was “Christ Jesus had a remarkable healing record and Christian Science has an excellent record too.” Directly me at this “excellent record.” I pointed out that they had no evidence, and I received this in reply “You may recall that there was a multitude of sick people at the Pool of Bethesda and only one was healed by Jesus. That man was receptive to what Jesus said to him and was obedient and was healed.   The rest were “waiting for the moving of the waters”, a material approach of hope for healing and then only for some that made it to the pool.” The problem with this is that JC only talked to one fellow at the pool, who was just like the others. Why not speak to the others and heal them? And why doesn’t JC say “hey man, illness is an illusion, and only prayer in this certain way will heal you”, like the CS leader Mary Baker Eddy?

Well, how about we look at that “excellent record”?   As a background, Christian Science, aka the Church of Christ, Scientist and The First Church of Christ, Scientist,  is a sect of Christianity invented by various people and Mary Baker Eddy is the most famous of them.  She claimed that sickness is an “illusion”, is the result of thinking “wrongly” (aka blame the victim) and can be cured by prayer alone.   They also think that only their claimed spiritual world is real and that reality, this place that we inhabit is illusion.  I do have a lovely ladle of molten steel they might take a dip in if they are sure of this.  We also have the claim that CS is getting back to the “real” Christianity, a claim that many many sects make.

Incidentally, a word to advice to Christians (and other theists) who are reading this, ready to insist that CS isn’t “really” Christianity: think about how your sect compares with this one and how all of you have no evidence for your claims.  However, I will admit that Christian Science is only slightly less silly and bizarre than Scientology in my estimation ( just read about malicious animal magnetism, which is hard to distinguish from spiritual warfare, imprecatory prayer and thetans).

What is amusing about this is that the religion doesn’t say you can’t use modern medicine, but they claim that their prayers are better than it.  So, it isnt’ surprising that these are the stereotypical Christians who praise their god when it was the hard work of medical professionals who actually helped them.   Of course, they’ve managed to also murder children and kill themselves with this ignorance.  One might counter my claim of murder with claims that these people don’t know what they are doing, however, if their religion allows going to medical professionals, then they know that they have an alternative and one that works.  Either that, or they are truly delusional (delusion: a belief that is: certainty (held with absolute conviction), incorrigibility (not changeable by compelling counterargument or proof to the contrary),impossibility or falsity of content (implausible, bizarre, or patently untrue)  and should be considered as mentally ill as the next person who has delusions.  You’ll note that the common definition of a delusion has religion or culture as an out for such beliefs, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, other than to protect the sensibilities of those particular beliefs.

So, we have a religion that claims that they can heal, much like how evangelical Christian preachers who claim they can heal, practioners of other religion and practioners of various types of spiritual or energy healing.  We also have record of MBE making claim that she was not healed in order to attempt to seek damages from the city. Continue reading

Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – on this Fourth of July

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has a good post for the Fourth of July, our national holiday here in the US.

“On this date in 1776, Thomas Jefferson’s “Declaration of Independence” was adopted, after a vote approving it on July 2. Its secular purpose was to “dissolve the political bands,” and it inaugurated the anti-biblical idea that “governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Jefferson was a Deist who was highly critical of Christianity, and whose revolutionary document made references to a “Nature’s God.”

Jefferson was indeed highly critical of Christianity and created “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth” aka the “Jefferson Bible” by keeping only what he found to be the worthwhile bits of the gospels.  Hew as not a Trinitarian and he found Paul to be a “corruptor”. His “Nature’s God” is not the one in the bible, nor are the values in the Declaration biblical values. His letter to Dr. Joseph Priestly (if you remember your 9th grade science, he’s the fellow who discovered a bunch of gasses) is revealing about what he does believe.

The Declaration says:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  

The laws of the bible, which, per the bible, are still in effect since the heavens and earth haven’t passed away yet, do not support these truths at all.  They indicate that there are special humans that are indeed “chosen” above others.   It also has a lot of laws in it that, if followed, would be considered crimes today, e.g. murdering anyone who isn’t following the Sabbath (whenever that is).

“That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

And what does the bible say?  “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. ” – Romans 13  This is where the concept of the “divine right of kings” comes from for Christians.   The bible claims that governments come from its god; the Declaration directly denies this.

Of course Jefferson was no saint.  He believed that the indigenous peoples of the Americas were less than he was, and tried to promulgate this nonsense, for the declaration also says this “He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.” 

And then we have, what Ray Comfort, wannabe theocrat, vermin in chief,  and supporter of the failed Ark Park, has to say about the holiday: “Get a fun hat, or a full costume, and simply extend a tract with a warm smile saying, “Happy Fourth of July.” The holidays make giving out tracts easier than ever. It’s a very disarming and inviting time of the year to receive a gift from a stranger.” 

Really? The image is from the video that Ray presented as such a good idea.  You’ll note that it takes deceit to get people to take his tracts since they don’t mention a bit about his religion when you look at them.  They go out of their way to hide their religion behind an Uncle Same costume and an image of a million dollar bill, that has this pathetic threat and demand of obedience on the back of it.

As always, it’s all about them needing external validation for their beliefs and bothering others, making false claims for their own benefit.  They want only their version o Christianity to be the religion in the US.  I’m quite happy to stand against such theocratic nonsense and enjoy my democracy today.  Ray can shill for his religion because of those rights that Jefferson et al put into the US law.  It’s a shame he chooses to abuse such a thoughtful gift from two plus centuries ago.

If you want a bit of amusement, click this link to hear Christian emails sent to the FFRF read aloud (definitely not safe for work considering the foul language used by some of these Christians).   This a couple of years old, though they are still going on strong in the paper.  If you’d like to see the most recent, I’ll make a scan.

Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – when the SCOTUS ignores facts to funnel public monies to churches

Unsurprisingly, the conservatives on the SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) ignored the fact that church in the recent Trinity Lutheran case admitted that their playground that they were requesting state funding for was part of their ministry.  It was not a case of “but think of the children” in wanting a safer playground, but “we are using the playground to proselytize to children, and we don’t want to use our own money to make it safe.”

It’s a shame that so many Christians find that they must lie about so many things. So much for claiming that their holy book is something that they follow, when it says that their god hates lies and liars.

“The most important fact in the Supreme Court’s recent decision, Trinity Lutheran v. Comer, didn’t even make it into the majority opinion. The silence of the seven judges who held that Missouri must give taxpayer funds to a church on this point was deafening, especially to anyone looking beyond the superficial media reporting and its inevitable shot of a playground. This crucial fact, passed over in the majority, was highlighted by the dissent upfront.

The omitted fact is simple: The playground at issue was, by the church’s own admission, part of a ministry directed at children and intended to propagate the faith. Here’s how the church explained it:

  1. The Church uses “teaching” to carry out its mission to “make disciples.”
  2. The Church does this partly through “the Trinity Church Child Learning Center,” which has the playground that is the subject of the case.
  3. The Learning Center serves as “a ministry of the Church and incorporates daily religion and developmentally appropriate activities into . . . [its] program.”

This case is not about playgrounds or skinned knees or keeping children safe. It’s about the government funding a religious ministry that targets children…”

For the entire article, please click here.

What the Boss Likes: So we went to Boston

About two weeks ago now, we took an extra-long weekend up to Boston.  My spouse has been working on a fiction story set there (and in New England, Cthulhu donchaknow? 😊 ) and it seemed as good as any place to vacation.

We took the train overnight to the city. That made for one long day without much sleep, since it is very rare in the US to have sleeping berths. We sat in seats that reclined only a bit.

from our room

Getting there about 8 AM, we were able to drop off our luggage at our hotel and they were kind enough to call us when a room was available. We stayed at the Kimpton Hotel’s Nine Zero, and I always try to stay with them because of their policies.   The only thing that wasn’t great there was their attached bar, which really could stand someone who had more design skills than early frat bar. A hundred yards of decent fabric, or hell, broadcloth, would go so far!

Boston traffic is entirely insane and I am so glad we took the train. Most streets are one-way, and definitely not meant for the easy passage of modern cars, being crazy narrow. No wonder they had such misery trying to get rid of the snows that the big blizzards dump. There is simply no where they could possibly put the stuff even if it would be plowed. Boston, at least the actual city is pretty tiny, and no problem to walk it.

We went to Boston Common and it’s smaller than I thought, but has a great carousel with a kitty to ride. We also went to the Faneuil Hall, much smaller than it seems in photos, and filled with tourist tchotchkes. There is a farm type market nearby and it was nice. Behind it, toward the bay, is the market hall which is Foodcourtia, surrounded by national brand shops. It felt like there were about a zillion tourists from China, Korea, Japan…. I’m not sure. They certainly wanted the lobsters. The chowder and lobster roll weren’t that great (I’m of course spoiled by my spouse’s chowder recipe). We also got a little lost and ended up in the Italian area of Boston (like I said, Boston is small). There is one fantastic liquor store there, V. Cirace & Son, that has about 20 bottles of things I haven’t seen other places like Batavia Arack.

That evening we found a great bar/restaurant literally down the alley by our hotel, Barracuda. It was on a second floor, which is a bit unusual. Tiny place, but it was friendly to everyone, and had great food. It also would make such a great bar to send

the alley where Barracuda is

characters to in a role playing game like Shadowrun, with a skylight that just begs to be crashed through. We had some great fried fish and scallops and beers, including one that became a favorite, Allagash White.

Next day we headed to Salem, of witch fame.   We went by fast ferry which took about an hour to get there and was a very nice addition to be able to be out on the water. Some folks tried to set out on the unprotected part of the deck, which got them wind whipped. Salem is mostly a bedroom community for Boston, though it does have the usual tourist stuff. A lot of it was cheesy and we indulged in the cheese. We got our photos taken in witch costumes. We also went to a nice classic dark bar/dining room that one can see “made men” taking dinner at, and stopped at a brewery. We went in some of the new age shops and picked up some incense that is very full of the good resins: Fred Solls. More expensive than a lot of incense but worth it. I used to consider myself a Wicca and it was kinda neat being back in those stores.

What’s amusing is that in high school I played an old witch in a play (complete with bringing my real live pet cat on stage with me). It’s amazing how close the images are, me in make up at 17 and me now in these silly photos.

We got back just before dinner time and hadn’t made a decision where to go. We were a bit nuts and ended up at the Union Oyster House, a fixture of Boston and where *all* the tourists go. Many thanks to the staff who got us in quick despite no reservations, and where we got the fastest service I’ve had in a long time so bravo to the kitchen staff. We tried the chowder there and it was better than the other but still not what I wanted. I got a raw seafood appetizer as a meal (oysters, clams and a couple of jumbo cocktail shrimp) and I’ll be damned if I can remember what he got. Oysters were good, clams are a bit gamey for me.

We went up on Beacon Hill on Saturday, and found this fabulous (and expensive but everything edible, with an exception below, is expensive) bakery/pastry shop, Tatte. We got in line, and then got coffees and two pastries, a cream cheese Danish and a thing I can’t remember the name of, other than it probably sounds something like “queen” but isn’t spelled like that. It was a layered pastry, no filling but a caramelized sugar top.

We then headed to the Boston Public Library which was gorgeous and in amongst the very very high end stores, like Hermes, Chanel, etc. The murals in the library were wonderful (pictures on Flickr). My favorite is this https://www.flickr.com/photos/boston_public_library/7727592768/in/album-72157630936484918/one, which I interpret as Sophia conquering the pale Galilean. I’m sure that’s not what was intended. 😊 There was also a book sale in progress by the friends of the library group. After that we were feeling the stress of traveling and dealing with people, retreated to our room and read our prizes from the sale and the ones we brought along.

The last day found us an outdoor arts market just south of Chinatown (and just down from a Whole Foods). Had some nice stuff but we didn’t have much way to transport it back. We wanted to do dim sum in Chinatown so we headed there for brunch. I don’t remember the restaurant we picked because there were so many and we just picked one that looked nice and had a few signs in English in the windows. Most signs were in some dialect of Chinese. At the restaurant we got three things, soup dumplings (where they are filled with broth and you have to suck out the juice before eating), a scallion pancake with beef and chilis rolled inside and bao which were also fried like potsticker dumplings. All very good, especially that pancake!  This was the only reasonably priced (from a central PA standpoint) food on the whole trip.

That’s the highlights. Hope you liked the review.

Not So Polite Dinner Conversation: about that Revelation thing…

or saying that the nonsense in Revelation will be happening “real soon now”

I’ve been waiting for Pastor Dave to finish his series on Revelation. The part I was most interested in was how he would handle chapters 19-21, which we had discussed but where he never was willing to give me his interpretation of it.

I’m very glad that he did get a chance to tell me what he does believe. He pretty much follows what I’ve heard other pastors say so this is not against him personally but what Christian pastors claim and how that doesn’t track with reality.  Using Dave’s blog as a source for such things makes it easier to refer to such actions.

In Revelation 20, Satan is released. Whom is he released by? God, for there is no other possibility since supposedly this god locked up this entity. This is after God has everyone who doesn’t obey him murdered (Revelation 19). Dave makes the following claim that there are people who haven’t accepted this god and they chose to follow Satan:

Satan goes and deceives again. Now isn’t this incredible. Here are these nations and they have had all the benefit of seeing Christ’s reign at work. They’ve had every opportunity to hear the Gospel. They’ve seen the way that God’s people love one another and their good deeds.  They’ve been able to read God’s Word for themselves.  They are not ignorant of God’s goodness seen in this beautiful creation. Yet, when Satan turns up again, what do they do? They fall into line with him.”

This is not true. Believers in this god, that this god accepted as true believers and didn’t murder, are the only humans who exist at that point in the story. “Come, gather together for the great supper of God, 18 so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and the mighty, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, great and small.”19 Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to wage war against the rider on the horse and his army. 20 But the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who had performed the signs on its behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped its image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. 21 The rest were killed with the sword coming out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh.” – Rev. 19

This god allows the second most powerful being in the universe to go among them again with no defense from this god at all (very much like in Genesis, but heck in that, it’s just as reasonable to say this god had no idea the snake was there). Dave says this which agrees that it is this god that is intentionally giving back power to its archenemy: “Satan’s power to deceive is taken away by the truth of God’s Word as it points to the Gospel robbing him of his ability to cause us to despair under guilt and shame and refuting the lies that he tells about God and us.” here.

This god, if omniscient would know that its action of giving back power to its archenemy would cause his true believers to fail, and if this god is omnipotent, this god desires and requires this outcome. The only reason that anyone would do this is that this god needs a final bloodletting, more violence and more punishment because it somehow likes it.  It intentionally allows believers to be deceived again. Now, whose fault is it?

The author of Revelation, like the author of Romans, and pastors/priests/imams/etc, all depend on a claim that most religions have, that only their god exists, only their god created the universe, and everyone should see that it was *only* their god. However, this depends on one of their claims being true, and there is no evidence that any theist’s claim is accurate. They could all be false, with not one true religion to be found with one true, or many true, gods.

If each god is so obvious, then why can’t believers, even within sects, convince each other that they and they alone know the one true god and what it really wants?

Dave’s evident answer to why Satan is released is no more than “It is our responsibility to respond obediently to God’s clearly revealed truth.” It seems that this god goes out of its way to make sure humans haven’t a clue on what this supposed “clearly revealed truth” is.  We end up with an entity that can’t leave well enough alone and has to repeatedly convince itself it is in charge. It does not defeat its archenemy, it has to work with it to do what it wants. It chooses death and eternal suffering.

To finish, Dave also is sure that revelation is meant for now, that the end time are upon us “Jesus is coming soon, so be ready, alert, excited and expectant” And that’s what every single Christian has claimed for thousands of years now. What will happen when Dave will be on his deathbed and none of the claimed prophecies of Revelation, that JC will return imminently (ready to take place, hanging threateningly above one’s head) have come to pass? Well, there will be one more Dave in another church somewhere who insists that *his* version is the true one.

Honest.