The first iteration of my public mask. Isn't it funny that just a few months ago, antifa members were being told to take off their masks or face arrest. Now we're all wearing masks. If the bank lobbies were still open bank guard would suddenly be the hardest job in America.

My sister says I look like a Marvel comic book villain. She's not wrong. But damn, I need to beat back those eyebrows a little.

4/7 '20 2 Comments
Most excellent! And great check matching.
Anne Mollo 4/8 '20
Agreed! The line-up work is schweeeeeet!

This week's Crock Pot Sunday adventure is Butter Chicken sauce. I've never made this before, since, Indian food was never on the menu in rural New England while I was growing up. I am venturing into culinary Terra Incognita.

I blame Jill. Since I had it one time the Philadel group went to an Indian restaurant for dinner. I've kind of been jonesing for it ever since.

So, damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!

3/11 '20 9 Comments
I would just like to let you know that I'm going to steal the tag "I blame Jill". I suspect I may have a few uses for it. :P
Lay on. It's not copyrighted.
Ray Conrad 3/12 '20
Furthermore, I suspect she'd take it as the compliment it's meant to be.
True. It's an honor. :-)
Crock Pot Sunday was delayed 24 hours due to a St. Patrick's Day party/Westworld viewing party. I threw it together on Monday afternoon and had it over Riced Cauliflower. Disappointing. I am one of those people who can taste bitter, better than average. The bitter flavor cut right through the sauce and really put an odd flavor on the whole dish.

Tuesday I had it over plain white rice. Holy cow, what a difference. Bland is a flavor and the bland flavor of the rice made the sauce sing. This dish was something to look forward to as I was locked in from Tuesday onward.

But that's another blog post.
Ray Conrad 3/21 '20
Glad to hear that it was (when properly paired) a success!

(Though to be clear - I would absolutely have tried the riced cauliflower first too. Gods damned carbs n' shit.)
Matt Lichtenwalner 3/21 '20edited
Many many lifetimes ago, Jeremy and I used to have Indian Food Tuesdays (or was it Thursdays?) where we'd cook Indian dishes at home. MAN were they tasty. It taught me a lot about spices that I hadn't been exposed to as a half-Italian growing up in north Jersey. Cumin? Cardamom? Who?

But yeah, it is a delicious and fairly easy cuisine to make at home, and sooooo satisfying.
Most excellent! You must report on the outcome!

Just last night I whipped up a *lovely* coconut milk curry with swordfish (snagged some on sale a while back and had it in the freezer). I stole the recipe from a website called The recipe there calls for shrimp, which I've also used in the past. Is there a link to the recipe you're using?
Anne Mollo 3/11 '20
My modification of a recipe I found on the interwebz, calling for cauliflower to replace the chicken. WTF!? Especially since I replace the rice with riced cauliflower, double cauliflower is not called for. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Slow Cooker Butter Chicken
yield: 6 SERVINGS prep time:10 MINS cook time: 5 HRS total time: 5 HRS 10 MINS

This rich, creamy Slow Cooker Butter Chicken has the taste of authentic Indian butter chicken, made easy and healthy with everyday ingredients and veggies!

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts — about 4 medium breasts, diced
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 yellow onion — diced (about 1 cup)
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
4 cloves minced garlic — about 4 teaspoons
1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1 (14-ounce) can tomato sauce
2 tablespoons unsalted butter — cut into small pieces (use coconut oil to make dairy free)
1/2 cup half-and-half or full-fat coconut milk — do not use light coconut milk, as it will water down the sauce
1/2 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt — or non-dairy yogurt to make dairy free

Prepared brown rice
Chopped fresh cilantro

Dice the chicken and set aside.

In a nonstick skillet, heat the coconut oil over medium high. Once hot, add the onion and cook until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic, curry, garam masala, chili powder, salt, and tomato paste. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Transfer the onions to a 6-quart or larger slow cooker. Lay the diced chicken on top and top with tomato sauce. Stir to combine the sauce a bit, leaving the chicken pieces undisturbed underneath. The chicken pieces will seem a bit in the way. Just use a spoon to prod the sauce so things are more evenly coated. Scatter the butter pieces over the top.

Cover and cook on high for 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours or on low for 4 to 6 hours, until the chicken is cooked through and reaches 165 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer. The cooking time may vary based on your slow cooker, so check early to ensure the chicken does not dry out.

Stir in the half-and-half. Let cool a few minutes, then stir in the Greek yogurt. (Don't stir in the yogurt right away; if the butter chicken is too hot, it will curdle.) Enjoy warm over brown rice, quinoa, naan, or riced cauliflower, sprinkled with fresh cilantro.
Ray Conrad 3/11 '20

My 13 year old cat, Spot, has been living with a bone marrow cancer diagnosis for 9 months now. Her buddy, Scout, passed in November. Since then I've been her only source of love and affection. 

I should have known something was up when she stopped coming by for love and affection at bedtime. She stopped eating, and with a long holiday weekend coming up I knew it was probably time, before she had to suffer through three days to see the vet. So, I went looking for where she had denned up.

When I found her the look she gave me removed all doubt that it was time. Fortunately, my vet had me bring Spot to her house. My vet gave Spot a quick exam and agreed that it was time.

And just like her buddy, Scout, Spot left as soon as the euthenasia drugs hit her system.

Losing two pets in two months is hard. I like fixing things. But with Spot, and Scout before her, there was no fixing this. And the only choice I had left was to give them mercy.

1/17 '20 5 Comments
I'm so sorry for your loss. Glad you were able to help this kitty have less suffering.
Many hugs and much sympathy.
Anne Mollo 1/17 '20
Oh jeez. You poor thing. My condolences. *hugs* You are such a kind and caring pet owner.
Karen Kuhl 1/17 '20
I'm _really_ sorry man. Losing any pet is super tough. Two so rapidly must be miserable.
I am so sorry. Take care.
Thomas Boutell 1/17 '20

After a bad week, I heard the news on Friday that Neil Peart had passed away. 

My mom and I moved to the Chicago suburbs in 1978, thorougly uprooting me from my Mayberry like life in rural New England. My hometown was an example of late 70's post-industrial collapse. No jobs, no surviving industry, and being located in a valley, no radio signals. We'd get one rock station, that specialized in 60's hippie and acid rock and distantly, on a good night, a pop station out of Westerly, Rhode Island.

And then I got dropped into Chicagoland, and the rock scene there was heavily influenced by Canadian imports. Moxy, Pat Travers, April Wine, Triumph and this little band called Rush.

While my school peers listened to more mainstream bands, the nerds at my school all listened to Rush, among other bands. WLUP would occasionally throw one of their songs on the air, and it was always a good time. While Rush wasn't mainstream, it was at least well known enough in Chicago that you weren't completely ostracized for listening to them.

All of that changed in 1982, when we moved back to New England and the valley of shadow of radio signals. Coincidentally almost in time with Rush's release of their album, Signals. Then, my age peers didn't want anything to do with Rush or Geddy Lee's shrieky vocals. The content of Peart's lyrics was of little interest to them. Rush became my solitary pleasure. The music I listened to alone, frequently when I had time to read the liner notes and contemplate the message that Peart, Lee and Lifeson were sending.

Peart, in his younger years was an admirer or Ayn Rand, and although by his own admission he parted ways with her philosphy, he remained a staunch libertarian. And that belief shone through in his lyrics, and in a way, infected me. Meanwhile, the 80's and 90's rolled on. The albums kept coming, life was good.

Until it wasn't. Peart was rocked by two tragedies, the death of his only daughter and his wife. Rush ended their tour early and went on hiatus. I didn't know it at the time, but Peart took to riding his motorcycle around North and Central America, twice, trying to decide whether he wanted to live or die. As usual, great pain can be channeled into art. And he wrote about his journey in a book, Ghost Rider.

Hiatus usually means a band is done. But around the beginning of 2001 I started hearing rumors of a new Rush album. And sure enough it came to be. My favorite band was back and hopefully would be forever. 

But if you live long enough, you get to see your heroes die.

Peart officially retired in 2015. It was explained that he retired because he could no longer perform at the level he expected of himself due to tendonitis. Of course, it's easy to now surmise that his retirement was related to his diagnosis of brain cancer. 

So, here's Rush being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, an honor that was long denied them. It's a nice snapshot of a happier time and acknowledgement that this little quirky trio from Toronto is, was and always will be cool.

1/12 '20 3 Comments
I've known you 15 years and there is still so much I don't know about you. I had no idea you were a huge Rush fan. Sweeeeet!

Thank you for writing and sharing this snapshot.

Losing Neil, man... this one hurts.
Ouch. I thought he left the band to write steampunk fiction (which he did do in the past few years). He was an amazing musician and inventor - his drum rigs were unreal.
Thanks for this Ray, I listened to Rush as a kid and didn't know the whole story.
Thomas Boutell 1/12 '20

Christmas is just a couple of days away and the hustle and bustle of the end of the year dash is almost over. Once Christmas is over we're into the week between, an almost non-week for those of us who have to work.

My schedule has been overbooked due to Microsoft ending support for Windows 7. We shall not mention Vista and 8.X and their failed promises. Most of the computers I am responsible for are updated, the remainder are scheduled and I'm on track to be legally covered on January 14th when 7 hits end of life. But things have been a little hectic. Not frantic, but there's been little time to rest and enjoy the holiday activities. Sorry if I've missed you these last few weeks. The Christmas cards never got sent, sorry. But rest assured you've all been in my thoughts.

So have a Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, Joyful Kwanzaa, and/or a Happy Festivus. And to all a safe, happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!

12/23 '19 2 Comments
It sounds like you've got things well under control, surely due to your thoughful planning and general kick-assery. If you find you need any last-minute help updating computers, I'm happy to lend a hand, just ask! I upgraded mine from Windows 7 to 10 last week while I was on the road for work and I was shocked at how pleasant it was. Still getting used to the Windows X interface, but I don't hate it.

Merry Christmas and Happy Yule, my friend. I hope things settle down soon, and you can take a breath to enjoy the season for a moment or three.
Jill "xtingu" Knapp 12/24 '19edited
I use classic shell for my more cretaceous end users. My work computer is going last since I need a reliable machine if something goes kablooie. I've had a 10 tablet for a couple of years now. I built a new home computer that is also 10, back in May. Immediately after I stood up the new home computer my old one went belly up. So I've been on 10 for some months. It's interface is kludgey for administration and the program list begs for shortcuts on the desktop. But it is much more usable than 8.X.
Ray Conrad 12/24 '19

A day of highs and lows. In and out all day cooking and going to Thanksgiving dinners. Came home to find my dog Scout can't or won't stand. He's been ill for some little while. I just had to make the arrangements to put him down tomorrow. I already don't like Black Friday. This is just going to add to my resentment.

11/29 '19 8 Comments
Thank you all. It was hard to come to grips with, but once it was done it felt right. My vet anesthetizes and then give the euthanasia drugs. He slipped away immediately as soon as the euthanasia drugs hit his system. Almost as if he was waiting for permission to go.

Ray Conrad 11/29 '19
Oh, Ray... this is such sad news. I'm so, so sorry to hear about Scout. I know how much you loved him, and from the stories you've told me, it's clear he loved his person very much, too. Good recognizes good.

Thank you for giving Scout such a happy life and a compassionate transition. Your vet sounds really wonderful and caring.

What a very good boy.
I'm so sorry to hear it.
Thomas Boutell 11/29 '19
This is a beautiful picture of Scout. What a good dog.
Anne Mollo 11/29 '19
I'm so sorry Ray.
Paul Lord 11/30 '19
Peace to you and Scout.
Brian Rapp 11/29 '19
Aw man. My condolences, friend. <3
Karen Kuhl 12/1 '19
Oh man Ray. I'm so sorry. That just sucks.

Marvin Gaye's isolated vocals from Heard It Through The Grapevine.

11/21 '19 5 Comments
Flawless. Flawless. Without flaw.
Thank you for this.
Thomas Boutell 11/21 '19
This gives me chills. Actual chills. Sigh.
Anne Mollo 11/21 '19
I too love this. In fact, I love it so much I wish there was a version sans the reverb.
Now see, I LOVE the fact that you can so clearly hear that magnificent EMT 140 Plate doing its plate thing here. In the full mix it disappears almost completely, there is almost always a horn stab or backing vocal that runs over the decay. Here you can hear the whole tail, and that shows what it's actually adding to the body of the vocal, at least to my ears. A little emphasis on the high end, some spatial depth obviously, a thickness to the falsetto parts...and yeah, a slight metallic sheen, but come on. That's how the song has always sounded. If you love this vocal performance, part of what your ears latched on to was the EMT 140, it's inseparable.

Plate reverb drives me crazy. I can't dial it in on instruments for shit (plus/or digital algorithms are shit for replicating a giant sheet of metal). It's useless to audition a single sound on a plate algo because the whole point is how it affects where things sit in the mix. Which is what makes it so great for vocals. Which I never record. So.

Anyway this way awesome, thanks Ray.
Paul Lord 11/21 '19

From time to time I get drafted to cook Thanksgiving dinner for some friends who are destitute when it comes to culinary arts. This year's menu:

Crown roast of brined pork loin
Mashed potatoes
Cranberry walnut sausage dressing
Green bean casserole
Corn pudding
Yeast rolls
Apple cranberry chutney

Dessert will be a cornucopia of pies, provided by the hostess.

Of course I have to make the epic quest to the Buy N' Large a week ahead of Thanksgiving to lay in most of the supplies for the feast. Assuming I survive, the meal should be memorable.

11/18 '19 4 Comments
Delicious and impressive! I've never ever seen a crown roast of pork; it sounds like something you would go on a quest for, like the sword in the stone.
Anne Mollo 11/19 '19
I've done a traditional turkey and trimmings and a prime rib for this family's holidays. Basically, I'm working my way through the top tier cuts of meat.
Ray Conrad 11/19 '19
I'm a fan of prime rib for Thanksgiving. This meal sounds amazing and I'm wishing I could be there! Good luck. :)
Karen Kuhl 11/21 '19
Good choices.

Upon seeing me in my costume, everyone said the same thing. "I found him!"

11/5 '19 9 Comments
I love this!!
Anne Mollo 11/5 '19
Love it! Also, this was one of VERY few costumes I had to take a pic of at the Baltimore Comic Con. In fact, I had to chase the guy down to get the pic (he was on his way out). Figured you might appreciate it:
That's fantastic.
Right? It took me a second, and he was moving past me in the crowded space of the con. By the time my brain put 2 and 2 together, I had to hustle back through the crowd to stop him and ask if I could take the picture.

There Waldo!

... I'll see myself out.
Ha! Love it!

I almost didn't recognize you without your face fur!

Also *really* digging those glasses on you.
How do I know I'm getting old? I knew something 'seemed different' and had no idea it was the lack of facial hair. Where's my walker and my pills?

I recently had a friend describe me as a "straight arrow" in a vaguely critical way to someone who passing around their combustible drug of choice. I.E. "Ray doesn't partake, he's a straight arrow."

Pardon my social blindness, but since when was not choosing to indulge in your drug a decision worthy of criticism?

The definition of straight arrow being: A person righteously devoted to clean or conventional living.

Clean? Meh. Conventional? Hardly. Admittedly, my quirks are fairly mundane and my record is clean enough for the government to think I pass a sniff test. Perhaps this is owing to most people not knowing me very well. 

I guess I'm okay with that.

10/30 '19 3 Comments
Well that's some hot high school level bullcrap. Like, you can be 90° from every other norm, but since you passed on huffing a combustible somehow that makes you a straight arrow? LOL

I know there are some folks who aren't comfortable with their own choices unless everyone around is making the same choice, but they need to sit with that discomfort *with their mouths shut*. Anything else is bullying.
Anne Mollo 11/1 '19
Don't forget, m'dear: When people criticize like that, it's almost always a reflection of how they secretly feel about themselves. Someone feels ashamed about their drug use, it seems.

I think you're pretty fuckin' cool, wacky tabacky or not. :)
Jill beat me to it.