Monday, November 11, 2019

New site coming soon

I've been on blogger for about 5 years now, but I want to get back to my roots of hand-coding.  So I'll be shifting to Github Pages soon.  If you want a preview as I shift over content you can find it at

Friday, May 24, 2019

VSS365 - Vile

Every society has an "untouchable" class, from the sewer cleaners of the East to the sin eaters of the West. The Assasins' Guild was no different.

For a people to advance, they need a means to remove that which is #vile.

A dirty job still needs workers.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

VSS365 - Gossamer

The blade was thin, and the edge sharpened fine as #gossamer. It would only serve for a single cut.

But then there was only one Prime Minister.


Wednesday, May 22, 2019

VSS365 - Frisson

Father and daughter in the second row

Click, click, click

Tiny people below are having fun.
Pause, #Frisson, Descent

Involuntary scream


Saturday, April 13, 2019

Black Bean Soup

The wife and I do a lot of meatless days during Lent.  But there is only so much pizza, pancakes, and tuna fish sandwiches you can have.  SO we started looking into making some high protein vegetarian soups and stews.  After a few tweaks to some black bean soup recipes, this is our current go to.  We do it in the Instant Pot, which makes it fast enough she can turn on the pressure when I leave work and we're eating by the time I get home.


  • 2 Tbsp canola (or another vegetable) oil
  • 1 medium onion - diced
  • 1 large carrot - diced
  • 1 bell pepper - diced
  • 2 stalks celery - diced
  • 1 lb dried black beans
  • 5 cloves of garlic - minced
  • 4 tsp chili powder
  • 1.5 tsp ground cumin
  • 1.5 tsp oregano
  • 1tsp kosher salt
  • 2 bay leaves
  • juice from one lemon
  • 4 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock if you prefer)
  • 2.5 cups water
  • 1/2 cup Goyo Mojo Criollo*

  1. Set Instant Pot to saute.  Add oil, onion, carrot, pepper, and celery and saute until onions turn clear.
  2. Add remaining ingredients and lock lid. 
  3. Cook on high pressure for 1 hour
  4. Let natural pressure release for 10 minutes, then you may rapidly release pressure.
  5. Scoop out half of the beans and set aside.
  6. Take a stick blender and process remaining soup in the pot until smooth. Return saved beans to pot and stir in.
  7. Serve and enjoy

* - This isn't required but I found it added a lot of good flavors.  If you don't have on hand, you can replace with water.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Buffalo Chicken Stew

Whenever my folks are coming into town and we're not sure when they will get in, we like to have a meal that can be made ready and sit in waiting for guests to arrive.  For the past several visits, this has been the meal requested.  Paired with a hearty loaf of bread, this hits all the pleasure points of eating, a bit spicy, plenty savory, with some smooth creamy bits worked in.  This is based on a recipe found HERE and was originally designed for the crockpot.  That worked great, but we made some minor adjustments so you can Instant Pot it.


  • 1.25-pound ground chicken or turkey
  • 15 oz canned white beans (navy beans generally but anything on hand), drained and rinsed
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup buffalo wing sauce (I like 1/2 cup, but if you have non-spicy guests go lower)
  • 1 package ranch dressing mix
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried cilantro
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • Blue cheese crumbles optional


  1. Brown ground poultry until fully cooked in Instant Pot on Saute setting
  2. Add remaining ingredients except for blue cheese. Leave the cream cheese in a block on top, it will get stirred in later.
  3. Cook on high pressure for 45 minutes
  4. Natural release pressure and stir well to combine cream cheese
  5. Served with a sprinkling of blue cheese on top

Sunday, February 3, 2019

The Cowboy Song - Ukulele Chords

At the end of Joe vs the Volcano, Joe (played by Tom Hanks) strums this fun and simple song on the ukulele.  I've read They wanted something Mr. Hanks could easily play on his own, and given it only two chords I'd say they nailed it.  I've seen this written out in a few different keys, but this is the version I play because it's a) easy and b) I think what they played in the movie.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Cowboy Caviar

Here's a healthy, no cooking, super delicious salad that works as a dip or eaten directly with fork or spoon.  We make it for big parties as it travels well and works best if made ahead of time.  Generally, we serve with scooping tortilla chips.

Cowboy Caviar

  • 1x 15oz can black-eyed peas (drained)
  • 1x 11oz can of corn (drained)
  • 2x avocados (diced)
  • 1/2 cup diced tomato
  • 2/3 cup red onion (diced)
  • 2/3 cup fresh cilantro (chopped)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 clove garlic (minced)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  1. Combine all ingredients and mix.
  2. Let sit several hours before serving with chips. 24 hrs is even better
Notes: Recipe is extremely forgiving of substitutions.  We often swap black beans for the black-eyed peas, frozen corn for the canned, and in winter we use a 2 Tbsp dried cilantro instead of fresh.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

La Vie En Rose - Ukulele Chords

Cynthia Lin Music has an amazing ukulele channel on Youtube with lots of tutorials both for songs and for basic ukulele technique.  Of the online ukulele teachers, she comes across as one of the most professional music teachers, but a very organized approach to teaching from beginners to intermediate work.  (she may have more advanced work but I'm not there yet in my playing).

Here's one of my favorite videos she made:

I made a quick music sheet based on this tutorial so it was easier to follow along and then go practice on my own.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Cuban Pulled Pork

When it comes to hosting a meal, I'm a big fan of pulled pork.  There are many varieties and it can be made as fancy or as simple as you like. This recipe is based on a freeze-ahead slow cooker recipe from as part of one of her $150 Aldi shopping plans where you prep twenty meals.

I liked the idea, but once I got my Instant Pot, I no longer really needed to prep as much ahead.  You can make this is an hour and a half so I can start it when I get home or even on weekends after we clean up from lunch.  Here's my adjusted version.

Cuban Pulled Pork

  • 2 lb Pork Tenderloin
  • 1/2 Large Sweet Onion - Diced
  • 3 tsp garlic - minced
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 3/4 cup beef broth
  1. Combine all ingredients in Instant Pot.
  2. Cook at high pressure for 60 minutes
  3. Natural pressure release for 10 minutes. Then shred pork and stir back into juices.
I generally serve with small flour tortillas and some guacamole.  Served that way, this recipe will serve 6-8 adults.  

Monday, January 21, 2019

Ukulele Hymn - O God Beyond All Praising

Heard this hymn at church, something I've been hearing for years and decided to try it on the uke.  Not an overly complex song, although some quicker chord changes if you're still a beginning.

Download the PDF here.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Privacy and the Internet - Part 2 - Easy and Free

As with all things free, you shouldn't expect the support of paid services. Since the Opera VPN services are available to many people, it may be a choke point. On top of that, your cell phone will need to handle encryption duties it doesn't normally handle. Here's the difference on my (admittedly underpowered) Nexus 5x.

Certainly serviceable for surfing on a cell phone, and would provide enough speed for most video streaming applications.  But let's compare to speed with the VPN off.

The download speed is obviously much faster, but the real difference is in the upload speed, over 12 times faster! This has to do with network choke points, the processing needed to encrypt the information and possibly the limited RAM in my system.

One of the biggest concerns about the free VPNs is always a question of how do they make money.  In some cases "free" VPNs are limited to a lower amount of data, hoping you'll pay for more once you hit the limit and are happy with the service.  This is how Windscribe works (a system I tried for a while and found was rather speedy and had plenty of data for basic browsing, social media, etc).

Some insert advertising into your browser or as pop-ups.  I still use the Opera browser on my phone because it drastically reduces data usage and blocks ads.  Once every few dozen pages I get one ad, but by that point its blocked dozens, so I consider it a win.

The real concern are the ones who may be selling your traffic data to third parties.  I suspect these are not common, but we don't know.  What we do know is you wind up in the same situation you were in with your ISP; namely that one company knows about all of your online history. 

If I had to give advice I'd say a safe browsing VPN from a known company like Opera is safer than open browsing on public wifi.  Not a great solution but definitely the lesser of two evils.  If however you plan on going VPN full time, its worth considering a paid solution.  I've bit the bullet and use NordVPN, but that will be the next blog post.