Thursday, May 19, 2011

Anti-Gun nuts take aim

I am not what most people would call political. I generally believe that political discussions and debates among common people are fruitless and unnecessary, and I do my best to avoid them. While I also believe that the Government serves the people better as it inserts itself into their lives less, I am no conspiracy theorist. I don't believe that vapor trails from airplanes are the result of the Government spraying drugs into the atmosphere to make us docile (if they are, they need stronger drugs because these ones aren't working), or that every person who runs for office does so with villainous intent (It's probably only about 75% of them)... but I do believe that something needs to be said about what certain politicians are doing to actively and intentionally strip American citizens of their freedoms. Specifically, the restrictions being placed of people's ability to carry guns in this state.

I am not a gun nut, I am not a member of the NRA (though that is mostly because I have other things to spend my money on). I am not some asshole who likes guns because he thinks it means he's bad-ass, nor am I paranoid or afraid that I might be attacked by criminals at any moment.
I didn't own a gun at all until I was 28, unless you count the b.b. gun I had as a kid, and still don't own a pistol (yet). I am just a man who likes the idea of self reliance and believes, as the authors of the Constitution did, that the Government should be ruled by the people, not the other way around.

The United States Constitution says, in no uncertain terms (or so I would think if not for the fact that so many people seem uncertain about them), "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." Now, there seems to be some confusion about what this means, so I will attempt to break it down. The translation, if not into plain English then at least into more specifically defined terms, is this:
Because a thoroughly, and carefully, maintained and ordered group of citizen soldiers is essential for the protection and defense of an undominated and self directed political organization or group of people of a specific character or occupying a certain territory, the just claim of every person to be able and allowed to retain possession of and bring, carry, convey, transport, or have weapons on or with them will not and must not be violated or encroached upon.
So, to simplify... because freedom belongs, by right, to every human being, no person or group can (nor should) force another person to go unarmed, nor hinder them from doings so if they choose.

What is interesting to me about this is that they didn't say, "...being necessary, at this time,...", they said it is necessary... That self government can not exist if people are not equipped to protect themselves.

Yet, just the other day, Assembly members in California voted in favor of a bill to ban open carry of an unloaded fire arm in public (not their first infringement either, by the way). What that means, for those unfamiliar with the terms, is that they would make it illegal for otherwise law abiding citizens to have, carry, or transport a clearly visible gun, even without bullets in it, anywhere except in the privacy of their own homes. Now, if that doesn't count as infringement, I don't know what does.

Proponents of the bill say it's not a second amendment issue, but a public safety issue, or a peace of mind issue, or an economic issue. They say that people shouldn't carry guns in public because things will end badly if armed people lose their tempers (because this is the old west and we all believe the best way to win an argument is with gunfire), They say that people shouldn't carry guns in public because seeing them makes other people scared. They say that people shouldn't carry guns in public because those scared people call the police, and it is a waste of time and money for officers to investigate.
I agree. These are problems, the danger posed by people with guns, the fear in common people who just wanted to go out for coffee, the wasted time and tax payer money spent on investigating non-crimes... but the problem is not that people carry guns in public. The problem is that people are too easily frightened, and don't think logically.

*A criminal is going to carry their gun where you can't see it so you don't know they're a criminal, and you don't know they have a gun (a fair number of law abiding citizens would do this too, and save you the needless fear, if it was really possible to get a concealed weapons permit in California). So, the man with a pistol on one hip and a magazine with bullets on the other means you no harm. You are not in danger from him.
* If you ever have the courage and opportunity to speak with a convicted violent criminal, ask them when they would be more likely to commit a crime... when there are people around who have guns, or when there are not? Actually, don't bother. Just think about it. Would you get violent if you knew someone in the area had a gun and was willing to use it to subdue you? You are, theoretically, safer in the presence of openly armed citizens than you are anywhere else, short of a meeting of the Justice League.
* Police resources and tax payer dollars are wasted every time someone ignores the previous two points and calls 911... It's not because someone has a gun. It's because someone else doesn't think clearly.

To make it illegal for people to carry guns in public is a bit like saying people are allowed to say whatever they want, as long as no one else can hear them. It is stealing from them their fundamental rights, given to them not by the founding fathers but by the simple merit of having been born human.

And somehow, a room full of supposedly well educated State Assembly members failed or neglected to see this, and voted the bill through to the senate... which will hopefully see the tyranny, fear mongering, and flawed logic behind it and vote it down.
Though, if it passes in the senate, and and the governor signs it into law, they will have to issue concealed a weapons permit to any law abiding citizen who wants one, in order to pretend the law is constitutional. So, just try not to think about all the people who will be carrying guns you can't see.

This rare political rant (rare in that I don't often make them, and also in that it was founded on and filled with sound reasoning as political rants almost never are) really didn't even need to be made, I suppose. Even if nothing else I said were true... even if the second amendment didn't promise and defend the human right to protect ourselves, and to carry a gun if we choose to, one statement (the origin of which I am uncertain) is all that should be necessary to stop all of this "gun control" nonsense. Even if you take nothing else away from this blog post, consider the truth of this, "If you make it a crime to carry a gun, the only people carrying guns will be criminals."

I encourage your comments.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Walden Weekends: Wine and Dine

This weekend’s story all started a few months ago, when I went up to my family’s cabin in Twain Hart to drop off some firewood and clear out some brush. I cut up a bunch of Manzanita from the property and took it home, hoping it would be good to use for smoking. After I got home, I did research… by which I mean I typed “smoking with manzanita” into google. As with just about everything I try to research online, most of the results that came back were links to various blogs, message boards, and forums related to the subject, all of which are filled with the smartest people the world has ever known, who have the only opinion on any subject that is worth having. Anyone who disagrees with them is obviously inexperienced, or a moron. What I did, however, learn from researching manzanita on it’s own, without regard to smoking, is that it (and it’s big brother, Madrone) are in the same family as Mesquite… which, as roughly ¼ of the people in internet forums and anyone from the great country of Texas will tell you, is the only wood worth using in your smoker. I would like to get some of these people, smoke one meal with apple, one with mesquite, and see if they can tell which is which.

So it was, with this fresh supply of free hard wood, that I started thinking of a meal to smoke it with. Having made a previous foray into the world of smoking ( ) and emerged victorious, but realizing that the only thing which had been missing was my girlfriend, I began working on a recipe of sorts, and decided to try it out the first time that she would be in town during warm weather.

To keep with the theme of my weekends lately, and to really show her how beautiful it is up in the mountains around here, I planned a rvery nice day for us, starting with a walk through Big Basin, wine tasting with my mom, older brother, and brother-out-law at Savannah Chanelle winery,

then more wine at Mountain Winery,
Mountain Winery: Now with more Douchey-ness

and capping it off with chicken smoked over free manzanita (and madrone that I may or may not have stolen from a turn out along the road inside the state park).

The chicken, as I’m sure you’d remember was the case with the pork even if I hadn’t linked it for you to read about up there, was entirely experimental, and I had my family bring other dishes to go along with it just in case it turned out horribly. They were my guinea pigs. I figured I’d try it out on them before I bring some to a guy I know who competes in barbecue contests every year, and another guy I know who owns Blue Rock BBQ and judges barbecue contests. If my family liked it/didn’t get sick, that would be good, but if two barbecue experts like it, that’s a horse of a different color. (I have since given them each half of a chicken, and am awaiting their responses).

If you don’t care about the ingredients or smoking method, skip until just after the picture of the chickens where I’ll tell you how it turned out. Or, if you’re one of those weirdo’s who reads the end of the book first, skip down there and then come back. It’s ok. I’ll wait.

Ok, ready?

On Tuesday, I went to Los Gatos Meats (because I like the idea of buying meat from an old fashioned butcher shop, instead of a big super-market chain. Safeway’s good and all, but Los Gatos Meats is just a little more local, so……) and bought three whole chickens (plucked, beheaded, gutted, sans feet. It’s a butcher shop, not an asian market), and brought them home to marinate. The recipe, which I hope you won’t steal and make money off of, because I plan to use it at my pub some day is as follows:

*Put chickens in a bag or other air-tight/water-tight container
*Peel the skin away as much as you can without tearing it, rub between skin and meat with crushed rosemary, garlic salt, lemon pepper, onion powder, mint, and paprika to taste.
*Douse in extra virgin olive oil, but not to the point where they’re swimming. You don’t need as much if they’re in a bag.
*Smash up a handful of mint leaves and throw them in, under the skin, inside the body. All over.
* Cut open and juice a lemon and an orange, pour in juice, and throw the rest in the bag for good measure.
That was Tuesday. I let it sit in the bag, in the refrigerator, til Saturday, making sure to flip the bag over twice a day so the olive oil mixture would soak in evenly. Meanwhile, because I had planned for the day to be so full, and knew I wouldn’t have much time to smoke the birds slowly, I soaked some of the manzanita in a bucket of water. That way, after I have the heat going, and some of the wood smoking, the wet wood would be making steam, which would help keep the chicken from drying out. Instead of 12 to 18 hours at 140 to 200 degrees, I would be doing about 4 hours at 250 to 300.

On saturday, I prepared the chickens for glory by rubbing their skin with non-iodized salt (because I was afraid the iodine would turn them pink) to help the skin crisp without burning, tying the wings down (and sticking in some sprigs of rosemary) and filled two soda cans with ShockTop (a Belgian style wheat beer with hints of citrus and coriander), and another with water mixed with more lemon and orange juice (because, believe it or not, there are people in this world who don’t like the taste of beer, even if it’s just a minor element among a multitude of others in their food). This not only added a hint of flavor, but helped keep the chicken moist (I’m sorry. I know, you probably hate that word as much as I do) and tender. But this was all in theory. Again, I didn’t really know what I was doing. I was merely going off of what I guessed would work, and hoped for the best.

Here they are, ready to fly or fail.


It would, perhaps, serve you better to talk to the other people who were there, if you know them, to find out if the experiment was a success. The consensus was overwhelmingly positive on both the beer-butt and orange-lemon-water-butt chicken, and I agree that it was good, but I didn’t fully enjoy it because I was concentrating on what I would add more of, or take away a bit of from the recipe. I think that more mint and lemon pepper are in order next time, as are lower heat and longer cooking time. However, nobody threw up that I know of, and everyone seemed to enjoy it. Even Lucky said it was the best chicken she’d had all day… but, considering that the only other chicken she’d had was frozen solid, and she licks her own privates on a regular basis, I don’t tend to take her advice on culinary matters. I prefer to listen to the human guests who said things like, “this is really delicious” or “I think this is actually the best chicken I’ve ever had” or better yet, nothing at all because they were too busy enjoying the meal.