How to Freeze and Defrost Everything Better

Freezing and defrosting food so that it doesn’t become inedible mush is an important skill to learn. J. Kenji Lopez-Alt takes us into the Food Lab to show some very easy methods.

Basically, the trick is to make whatever you’re freezing as flat as possible and get as much air out of the bag as possible. He shows you how to do it with regular zip-lock freezer bags, but we use a Foodsaver vacuum sealer1. It has paid for itself several times over by saving us from throwing away freezer-burned food. It’s also great for saving bacon in the fridge if find yourself using only a few pieces at a time.

Just remember: Air is the enemy of food.

  1. It’s not the same model we have, but a newer version. Ours is a few years old.

Prince of Outcasts

This is a book review for those who have read the previous 12 books of S.M. Stirling’s Emberverse series of apocalyptic fiction, but haven’t read the 13th book in the series, The Prince of Outcasts. If you have not read the series, stop right now and go buy the first novel Dies the Fire or better yet, go buy the 11-volume bundle and get the discount now. You’ll end up reading the whole thing anyway.

As for the current book, we pick up where The Desert and the Blade left off, on the coast of southern California, a great storm suddenly sweeping one of our protagonists off to the West, leaving our other protagonist on shore, trying to figure out what she’s going to tell their Mother.

Like the fourth through 12th novels of the series, this 13th installment isn’t a single contained story. The first three books of the Emberverse were a trilogy, telling a complete story about the first generation of those who survived the Change. The next three told a classic “beginning/middle/end” quest story of the next generation, but they’re not the whole of that story.

The next four after that continue the tale of the second generation, but the pacing and plot shift. No longer are we moving forward in quest-style story, but we’re jumping around in time and place, back and forth across the continent. The pace of the action slows to a crawl. And that’s the sticking point for some fans. They’re so used to a different pace that this feels too slow. In fact, one of the books feels like it’s all about just a single battle!

Finally in the 10th book, the enemy that has been the focus of the previous six is confronted. What’s next?
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The Heart of St. Padre Pio in Boston


Update: They did make it there!

Thousands of people in the Boston area, some even flying in from other parts of the country, are venerating the heart of Padre Pio this week. It is the first time a major relic of St. Pio has traveled outside of Rome and it is here in Boston at the request of Cardinal Seán, a fellow Capuchin, for the saint’s feast day in the Year of Mercy.

The Boston Globe covers the initial veneration in Lowell and it’s funny to read the outsider’s perspective. We, Catholics, are a peculiar bunch and I can see why others think it’s weird. But human beings are weird and quirky, especially when it comes to those we love who are no longer with us.

You have to see George Martell’s photos of the visit on the Archdiocese’s Flickr page. You can see the full range of experiences and emotions that were present.


Melanie and the kids are going to the Pastoral Center in Braintree this morning for veneration. They’re bringing a picture of Padre Pio that came to us mysteriously. Several years ago, Melanie took the kids to daily Mass on Sophia’s feast day and as they come out after, a young man approached them with the picture and said that it was for them. Melanie had never seen him before and didn’t recognize him from the parish at all. The picture has been in the girls’ bedroom since then. They hope to touch the picture to the heart of Padre Pio today and make it a third-class relic.

I don’t know if I’ll be able to go. I hope to swing by the Pastoral Center on my way home this afternoon, but my guess is that after the noon Mass until the end at 5pm the place will be crazy with people.


Fascinating Video of the Last Edition of Hot Metal Typeset New York Times

This video was a 1978 documentary filmed of the last day the New York Times was printed in hot metal typeset in a Linotype machine before it transitioned to computerized cold typeset. The old method was similar enough to original Gutenberg process that old Gutenberg himself would have recognized it.

In the movie we see dozens of men typing each line, setting each line in lead, creating 40-pound blocks for each page that were used to print the paper. What’s equally fascinating is the look at what replaced it, the first computerized systems, which look equally outdated and obsolete.

At the end of the film, we see the grizzled typesetters and others now working at computer terminals in a clean well-lit room rather than hot-type machines in a dark, industrial workspace. And yet even all those typesetters are gone, replaced by even more digital automation. I’m glad this record has been preserved.

Why Non-Swing State Conservative Voters May Want to Vote Trump Anyway


I have publicly stated before that I didn’t plan to vote for Trump or Clinton or Johnson or Stein, that I might throw away my presidential vote this year.

After all, I live in Massachusetts, which has absolutely no chance of giving its electoral college votes to anyone but Hillary Clinton. As a pro-lifer, I won’t vote for Clinton or Johnson or Stein and while Trump has made some noises about being pro-life and appointing strict constructionist Supreme Court Justices, there’s too much crazy in his baggage train.


However, a scenario has come to my attention that may make it more important that I cast a vote for Trump for the good of the country, even though it won’t affect the electoral college.

The FiveThirtyEight blog has an article that posits the circumstances in which Trump could win the Electoral College and lose the popular vote. I can’t think of anything worse for our country. If you thought the liberal reaction to Bush winning that way in 2000 was bad, it will be over the top in 2016. Our already fractured country will just dissolve into bits as liberals and Trump-haters of all stripes declare his presidency illegitimate and seek to overturn it or neuter it or overthrow it. It would tear us apart.

We need to make sure that if he wins, it’s both the popular and electoral college.1

  1. And, no, I won’t vote for Hillary for oh so many reasons, but not least because she loves abortion.

The End of the World and We Don’t Feel Fine

The media often touts economic news as the barometer for whether life is good in America or not. So when a new poll shows a majority of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track even as other news breaks that the middle class is finally starting to reap the benefits of economic recovery, they can’t make heads or tails of it.

Maybe, just maybe, that majority doesn’t base their sense of well-being for themselves or their country on how full their wallet is. Maybe they’re concerned about the breakdown of law and order, the division between races and between ideologies, the forced redefinition of fundamental realities like the nature of marriage or what it means to be a man or woman. Maybe we see violence and death and terrorism and incredible suffering around the world and are uneasy about how it will come to our shores and affect our children. Maybe we look at the media and government and corruption and lies and wonder whether we are self-governing citizens or merely dupes subjected to a ruling class.

As David French writes at National Review:

In other words, there are some problems that are beyond politics. Yes, good policies can adjust incentives, but — at the end of the day — good policies don’t keep families together or keep the needle out of a young man’s arm. As I wrote in the print edition of National Review a couple weeks ago, a true Ronald Reagan-style “morning in America” renaissance is made far more difficult when there is an increasing lack of cultural cohesion and family stability.

Culturally Appropriating Your Noodles

cultural appropriation in your pho

The latest trend in the worsening race relations in the US is cultural appropriation. It’s a grab-all term that basically means that people who weren’t born in a particular culture are not allowed to partake of or speak of aspects of that culture.

The latest dust-up surrounds the cultural appropriation of ethnic food. Today’s example comes from a video by Bon Appetit magazine in which a non-Asian chef discusses how best to eat the Vietnamese noodle soup dish pho.1

The controversy stems from the fact that chef in the video, Tyler Akin, is white and white people are not allowed to “whitesplain” anything from cultures other than their own.

Much of the anger centered around the choice of a white person to authoritatively speak about an Asian food. As the chef shared his personal insights, he never mentioned his fondness for the soup, his personal connections to it. That omission was an editorial mistake. Treating pho as merely a fashionable food negated its rich role in Vietnamese, Vietnamese-American, and now, American culture.

Must every essay and recipe and quick video include a long preamble as to the importance of the dish to a particular culture? Or is the goal simply to force people to eat only food from their own culture?

Two points: First, this is the fracturing of America. We are not a melting pot or even a patchwork quilt anymore. We are an archipelago of race and culture islands constantly at war with one another, with the main enemy being the big white European island in the middle. We are a nation divided, not because of the divisions of the past, but because of the demagogues of the present who use the division to create power for themselves.

Second, cultural appropriation is baloney. Every culture appropriates. Culture doesn’t spring up from nowhere. It assimilates elements from every culture it encounters to grow and evolve. Even in the pho controversy, the critics admit that pho originated in at least two other cultures: French and Chinese.

Yes, it was the French who made beef scraps available, and yes, many of the initial pho cooks were Chinese, but the noodle soup was created in Vietnam. The Vietnamese people made the best of their circumstances and turned the situation into something of their own.

That is cultural appropriation right there. But there’s nothing wrong with it because the Vietnamese took something, modified it, and made it their own.

This current tempest may be about a bowl of soup, but it has its roots in a dangerous trend.

  1. Bon Appetit has apologized and removed the video but it can be seen here.

What’s Old Is New (and Unoriginal) Again on TV This Fall

It’s a cliché to say that Hollywood is bereft of new ideas, but I don’t think it’s ever been more true than in this Fall’s TV season. Here are all the shows that are either spinoffs or reboots or “modern, reimaginings” of old shows or movies:

  • 24: Legacy is 24 with a new Jack Bauer.
  • The Blacklist: Redemption is a spinoff of The Blacklist with one regular character and a new one introduced last season. But without James Spader, The Blacklist wouldn’t be any good and so I don’t this one to be.
  • Chicago Justice is a spinoff of the whole Chicago franchise, after Fire, PD, and DPW, I think.
  • Emerald City is a “modern re-imagining” or reboot of The Wizard of Oz, as in changing everything about the original story except the barest framework.
  • The Exorcist is a reboot of the movie. I wonder if the titular exorcists are even priests any more.
  • Frequency is a reboot of the 2000 movie that starred Jim Caviezel.
  • Lethal Weapon is a reboot of the Mel Gibson movie although the starting premise sounds completely different.
  • MacGyver is a reboot of the 80s series, complete with the bad hair.
  • Prison Break isn’t exactly a reboot, so much as it’s a restart from where it left off in 2009, with the same stars playing the same roles.
  • Archie is a live-action “modern, reimagining” or reboot of the “Archie” comic books. Yes, really. And in all the modern, reimagining shows, they mean taking what was originally hopeful and pure and making it gritty and depressing and “real”.
  • Taken is a prequel to the movies, in which Brian Mills isn’t a vengeful dad, but a young CIA agent. But confusingly set today. And without the Irish accent.
  • Time After Time is a “modern, reimagining” of Jack the Ripper.
  • Training Day is a reboot of the 2001 movie.

And that doesn’t count all the other new shows that are just new versions of old concepts. Network TV is a vast wasteland. Yes, there a few good nuggets, but really, the innovative stuff is now on certain cable channels and streaming.

So what am I interested in this season? I might try an episode of 24: Legacy and see if it captures the old 24 glory days. Speaking of Jack Bauer, I am interested in the new Kiefer Sutherland series Designated Survivor. The previews for the new sitcoms The Great Indoors and Kevin Can Wait were funny and worth a try. Plus, the handful of old shows I watch that are coming back.

Facebook as Global Censor

The editor of a Norwegian newspaper has written an open letter to Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg after Facebook removed a famous documentary photograph from the newspaper’s Facebook page.

The photo in question comes from the Vietnam War and shows a young girl, naked, running in terror from a bombing. It’s horrifying and disturbing and was a key to ending US involvement in that war. Facebook called it child pornography.

The newspaper editor says that Facebook’s standards, written in a California conference room, should not be applied in a blanket way to a global audience.

On the one hand, I can see that there is content that I would find highly objectionable that others would defend posting on the same grounds of diverse opinion and free speech.

On the other hand, I am afraid that a global communications platform used by more than one-seventh of the world’s population (and growing) unilaterally decides what is appropriate and what is not.

Whether it’s deciding that clergy and religious cannot be identified by their titles or declaring certain sensitive topics out of bounds, Facebook as a corporation has too much power.

We used to worry that Google’s control over search results could be used to manipulate the public (and still do). We should worry that Facebook’s censorship could be used to do the same thing.

Change, especially in iPhones, is Inevitable


There are some people who love change for its own sake. Perhaps they even need it or crave it, not because it improves anything, but just because it’s different. But most people don’t like change.

We accept change, but usually with a cost-benefit analysis attached. If we change this, will it improve the experience or make it worse? If I move from this town to another, will living in the new town be better? Will my new job be better? Is it better for me to pay a lot of money for a new car or should I just keep driving my old car that needs repairs?

We are the same way with our technology. I like my old Blackberry with its physical keyboard; why should I go with a new iPhone with a virtual keyboard on glass? My 3.5” screen smartphone is perfectly adequate. That 4” screen is too big.

And that’s the other thing about change: We get used to the change. A new car feels new and exciting… for a few weeks. But then it becomes routine. A new house is an adventure… until it gets filled with our stuff and we sleep, wake, eat, clean and live in it for weeks.

Again, the same is true for our technology as well. When I was contemplating upgrading from my old iPhone 5 (4” screen) to the iPhone 6 (4.7” screen) or 6 Plus (5.5” screen) , I though the 6 Plus would be too big. All the tech press and reviewers talked about how big it was in the hand and too big for some people. I dithered and dallied, but I finally went for the big phone. And it seemed so big at first.

But now, it’s just the size of my phone. I got used to it. Although when I hold Melanie’s old iPhone 4 in my hand it seems so tiny. I can’t believe I ever used a phone that small. So not only do we get used to the change, but it change our perception of how things used to be.

If there’s one truth about technology, it’s that it’s always changing. Apple announced new iPhones this week and one of the changes is the loss of the headphone port. People are freaking out about it. This is a big change for people.

There is no more personal technology today than our mobile phones and apart from taking photos and sending messages, perhaps the most common use is listening to or watching content on them, usually with headphones. This change goes right into the comfort zone so there needs to be a big benefit to such a big change.

I don’t know if Apple has yet provided a sufficient rationale for how it will benefit users. But the reality is that the iPhone is the most popular phone on the planet. People will buy it by the millions. Adjusting to the loss of the headphone port will take some time. Some people will hate it. Some will go to Android phones to avoid the change (which will be a change in itself). Some competitors will tout the lack of a change in their phones as a reason to buy them.

But people will get used to the change eventually. And in a couple of years, perhaps even as few as one year, hardly anyone will complain about it. Phones without 100-year-old analog ports will be the new normal and seeing a phone with one will seem odd.

It’s just the way human nature is.

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