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.

Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – how atheism isn’t “cool” per a certain Catholic

(fair warning: if you followed my blog because of food or beer, the following is my unvarnished religious views. You may want to leave now 😊 )

I haven’t had a good target for a while to show just how silly a lot of Christians are. (I’m patiently waiting for a series about Revelation to be finished to address it). However, I found a link to this gem. The author is supposedly a journalist, but the quality of this post is questionable at best. At best, he may be intending to write for a tween audience, but in my experience, such poor writing and such poor arguments are nothing new to the TrueChristian™, and the generations younger than mine really don’t like being talked down to by an adult.   The following article, hilariously titled “Atheism is the uncoolest choice ever and I can prove it” is from the National Catholic Register, (part of the EWTN group which has various tv stations, amongst other things. It does have quite a few pictures associated with it. I’ll just put a description in where a photo would be and those interested can go to the link to see the images themselves. I will have some images of my own. The bits in italics are our author.

Let us begin the fun!

I’ve read a number of stories about how atheism is seen as “cool” by many young people, especially among college age youths. That’s funny to me because I couldn’t think of anything less cool than becoming an atheist. So, just in case any young people are reading, here are eight reasons that atheism is the in-coolest choice ever.

Hmm, I do wonder where these articles are, since the author can’t be bothered to link to them; but my knowledge of these is that they are by and large written by theists who are wondering why younger folks are leaving their religions. They seem to need to claim it is because it is “cool” rather than the religions’ claims cannot be supported, they preach hatred, and because people have access to information that earlier generations didn’t. It seems that these people haven’t actually ever talked to an atheist and still try to equate atheism with nihilism. There are some articles that wonder if atheism can be “cool” if they have a “church” which seems no more than a place to hang out with friends. And some atheists who claim that it is indeed cool to be an atheist e.g. that it is very good to be one, not the intimation that it is “fashionable”.

Considering that atheists are still given grief in the US, (see the lies below that our author tries to spread) and often killed in other parts of the world hacked to death by machetes, one wonders how “cool” anyone would think this to be. It’s more acceptable, since I don’t have to worry about being burnt at the stake at least here in the US (which always could change), but it certainly isn’t “cool” (very good, fashionable or hip).   More atheists have come out of the closet, so it may appear that it is fashionable and new to point out that religions are false and no source of morality, but sorry dear theists, we’ve been here ever since there was a religion to question. We didn’t say anything because theists can be violent and murderous, e.g. what happened to Giordano Bruno, the victims of the Inquisition, the Protestants, Cathars, etc killed by Catholics, the Catholics killed by Protestants, etc.

8) Religious people live longer, happier lives, according to numerous scientific studies. I know you atheist types are all about the SCIENCE even though you pretty much get all your scientific information from Huffpo articles with clickbait headlines like “Watch Bill Nye completely own a Creationist!” or “How Rolling Your Eyes is the Greatest Debate Tactic Against Christians!” (Rule of thumb: if the article you’re reading contains exclamation points, it’s probably not a respected scientific publication.) But I guess because you’re an atheist who will live a shorter life maybe you don’t have time to read actual scientific journals. I mean, something’s gotta’ be cut out, right?

But on top of shorter lives, studies indicate you’ll be more miserable too. So while your life won’t be longer, it might just feel that way.

Oh it’s just so painful to see the author trying to be so “cool”. Nice to see quite a pile of false witnessing from a TrueChristian™ too.   It seems that our hepcat author doesn’t think that young people might actually do some research and not question his outright lies. Why does he feel the need to try to lie to young people in order to convince them he is right? Sorry, our author, but many of us atheists, if not all of us, read scientific articles from actual journals. In doing so, we know that your claims about theists living happier lives isn’t limited to one religion. (one such study here) That makes the Christian, and especially Catholic, claim of having the one true religion bogus. A Muslim, a Presbyterian, a Hindu, a Zoroastrian, a Wiccan, all have the same effect, and this would indicate no special god needed. I do wonder about the supposed studies that atheists are more “miserable”. I don’t recall any and as my own personal experience shows, I’m quite happy. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for a theist to claim that atheists are unhappy, lonely, angry, and more “miserable” with no evidence. It is a technique used by anyone who wants to pretend that someone who doesn’t’ agree with them is somehow less than them.   It’s also because a lot of theists believe that atheism equates with nihilism and happy to say, it doesn’t. As for longer lives, that doesn’t seem to be the case either if you look at worldwide trends. This article, admittedly from not a journal, has some excellent points and a good bibliography. Continue reading

From the Bar and the Back Room: nostalgia on my part – Blennd and a new beer

Like most regions, humans come up with foods that are beloved locally but pretty much unknown outside of a day’s travel. I grew up in western PA which has this stuff called Reymer’s Blennd. This is a orange and lemon fruit based syrup that you mix with water to your taste.

It’s been around for a long time and now is made by Byrnes & Kiefer (B&K) Manufacturing, in Callery, PA, just north of Pittsburgh.   It is a bit hard to get a hold of, (horrors, amazon doesn’t carry it!) but one can still get it in various grocery stores in western PA. I have yet to find a place that you can order it from online, without paying a crazy amount for it or having to get an industrial sized quantity.

Blennd is a unique thing. Orange juice concentrate and lemon juice are its flavorings (it contains 15% actual juice, and it’ll give you quite a hit of vitamin C). Despite the acidity of these, Blennd doesn’t have a harsh aftertaste like a lot of juice based beverages, that are marketed as healthy or for kids. Something that is close to the taste, and is a wider distribution is Turkey Hill’s Haymaker Punch in the lemon flavor. If you’ve read the Little House on the Prairie books, you’ll recognize that punch as something Laura and Pa drank when working in the fields. Along the lines of these types of drinks are shrubs, which are vinegar and fruit syrups that one mixes with water. We also indulge in just vinegar to sip, and have tried a lot of infused ones.

just like this one!

Blennd has a very smooth consistency, thanks to some of the chemical thickeners in it (sodium hexametaphosphate, xanthan gum and propylene glycol) . And it has high-fructose corn syrup, which may frighten some people, but heck, if this is going to harm a human, I certainly should be feeling some effects thanks to the gallons of Blennd I’ve drank over the years. It was the go-to drink for any church picnic or family reunion, kool-aid was a distant second.   An aunt had a huge galvanized steel drink cooler that found its way everywhere from the barn when hay was being baled, to weddings. I probably got my zinc quotient for my entire life from that thing.

Since we hadn’t had it in a while, I asked my parents to bring some along when they visited recently. And since we have quite a full liquor cabinet, I decided to figure out what was the best mixer. I think anejo tequila is the best (I use Lunazul) since it works well with the citrus flavor.   Vodka is a close runner up, and Blennd really hides the alcohol, which can be a good or bad thing. Bourbon is okay, but reminiscent of a rather redneck blend of Mountain Dew soda and whatever kind of whiskey one might have. And rum makes what amounts to a very smoothly textured variant on a daquiri.

Blennd, along with chip chopped ham (a loaf of ham bits sliced raggedly and as thin as possible), are archetypical of the western tail end of Appalachia. For me, it’s comfort food. Indulging in a bit of nostalgia can be a remedy for how crazy the world is.

We also made a new beer kit. The kit was Northern Brewers White House Honey Porter kit (ours was a partial mash and it seems they only have the extract kit now). This was from a recipe from the White House during President Obama’s first term (I think) when it was nattered about having a beer with the president. It is a very good porter, but I honestly can’t tell that honey has anything to do with it. Ours is as dark and transparent as a cola soda.   A definite one to make again. And a reminder that there can be decent people as president and not that orange idiot that we have now.

I also bought NBs Don’t be Mean to People: A Golden Rule saison kit. They got together with a bunch of North Carolina breweries to make this to point out that North Carolina’s HB 2 was pure discrimination against the LGBT (and I’m sure I’m missing a few letters) community. NB is donating proceeds from the sales of this kit to the NC LGBT community, which I very much like. Not sure if I’ll brew that soon or if I’ll wait until this fall.

NB also has this nifty, and expensive, toy, a pico brewery!   Ah, to have won the lottery and play with this stuff.  🙂

That’s all. Eat and drink well!

(I don’t get any recompense from any of the companies mentioned.  I just like their stuff!)

Not So Polite Dinner Conversation: where we find “religious freedom” meaning no more than fear and bigotry again

Today, our not so very religious but very ignorant president of the US has signed an executive order allowing religious organizations to get more politically active.  I think it is disgusting for all of the pandering by the GOP and the receiption of such pandering by TrueChristians but honestly, it’s a great thing for those of us who like to show how much of a fail most religions are.

Imagine, if you will, this scenario:

Church A will claim that its followers should vote for “x” because they will claim that their god is totally behind this person.   This will start in the primary season for every candidate.  Candidate “x” fails. So they have to revise their claims of who is this god’s anointed and move on down the line.   Hmmm, were their holy messages from their god wrong? And how does one explain how each church claims that their candidate is the right one when the next church makes a different conclusion from their also holy messages from purportedly the very same god?

It’s a great way to show that the claims of religion are no more than the claims of humans who want control.

Then we have another scenario, which is far more unpleasant:

Church A says that Candidate X will win.  And he doesn’t, but Candidate Y does.  Now, will Church A support the new winner because, at least in the Christian bible, it is claimed that their god chooses the winner every single time, no exceptions?  Every leader is in place because this god supposedly wills it. And will the winner now accept that churches stood against them?  What would or could he do against those who have declared that he was not this god’s chosen?   Are they a “true” religion in his/her eyes?  What will become of that lovely “faith-based” funding if you aren’t part of the true religion?

TrueChristians will make up some excuse on why their claims of someone being divinely ordained to be elected fail.  They have before, witness the fail of Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and the usual passel of failed prophets (who never seem to get stoned to death as per this god’s requirement).

Of course, this also allows people to discriminate as long as they have a “religious” reason to do so. I wonder, how long will it take for Protestants to discriminate against Catholics, for Christians to discriminate against, well, anyone else, etc.   I’ve read such pitiful complaints on how Trump “betrayed” the LGBT community. The naivety to assume that this liar would follow through is unfortunate.

Alas, the antics of the ignorance and the antics of the religious will harm us all with the schadenfreude that they will bring upon themselves.  But in any case, thanks theists, for showing that your claims of entities supporting you and only you are false.

As for the passing of the TrumpCare “healthcare” bill by the US House of Representatives, it does to show that the GOP doesn’t give a damn about people but only party. Trump doesn’t want it called TrumpCare because he knows it is shit and doesn’t want his name on it, just like the legislators gave themselves an exception to it because it is shit.

For all of the claiming of how great this bill would be, how it would be even better than the ACA, we see a bill that removes protections for pre-existing conditions, removes the requirement that insurance cover maternity care, and removes the funding to support special needs kids who can go to school with the appropriate medical support. So much for the miner who has black lung as a pre-existing condition, so much for the woman who is pregnant and who has a high risk pregnancy where it risks here and the fetus, so much for the kid with spina bifida. Considering how much these idiots tout the bible, they certainly forget one of the few decent remarks in the bible: Matthew 25“45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

It still has to get through the US Senate.  There still needs to be the evaluation by the Congressional Budget Office on how much this nonsense will cost and what the real impacts it will have.  We can hope this is ended there.  But there is no reason to think that Trumpty Dumpty and his minions won’t be just as stupid in the future.

From the Kitchen and from the bar – new beers, new food and a tattoo!

Well, we never made it to the March for Science.   I did watch it on CSPAN, and they had pretty good coverage of it.   Some of the signs were priceless. I did like the one that read something like “we knew it was going to rain because of science”. I find it terribly weird that some people are offended that anyone dare have fun making the signs and dressing up, seeming to indicate that we all must be the stereotypical scientists with no senses of humor and no lives outside the laboratory.

This is to catch up on some of our gustatory and other adventures over the last few weeks.

On a visit to the grocery store, I found a “prime” top round aka London Broil. Prime generally indicates a cut that has a lot of marbling in it, and that is just a weird thing to claim for top round which is very, very lean. But there are other ways to determine “prime”, so maybe that’s how it works.   In any case, my curiosity got the better of me and I bought it since it was on sale. I couldn’t tell it was any more tender than a regular top round (the south end of a north facing cow).

I found a marinade on Saveur’s website. Since I didn’t have fennel, I used some star anise that I’ve had lying around.   I generally don’t care for the flavor of anise/licorice but I do like it in combination with other things. Spouse made a very hot fire in the charcoal grill and we had flames licking up around the meat as we like, and grilled it to a nice medium rare. Cut on the bias, it was tolerably tender and had a great flavor. We had it with fried potatoes and onions.

During that same shopping, I also found a pair of small beef tenderloins for about half their usual price. They were netted, which indicated that they weren’t holding together well (being three separate muscles).   But they’ll make a treat for beef stroganoff, or just slices of it raw since I tend to like that kind of thing. Continue reading