El Gringoqueño

All a man needs out of life is a place to sit ‘n’ spit in the fire.

Weapons Don’t Belong Everywhere

Before I go off on my rant, I just want to say, I do like firearms, but I don’t own any, because I don’t want the responsibility in my home with 4 children. That’s a personal choice, though.

I have had the privilege of firing quite a few different things in my time in the military and throughout my life.

Despite what the NRA says, there is a legitimate debate on where you draw the line of what you can own, what you can do with it, and who can own it. I don’t think we as a society want homicidal maniacs getting their hands on rocket propelled grenades, do we?

A registry and background check isn’t an unreasonable manner to facilitate our 2nd amendment rights. As a society, we should have procedures and laws, not anarchy, a wild west where the solution to every violent act with a gun is more guns. The first few words of the amendment are, “A well regulated Militia…” Some would argue that personal arsenals were never intended.

And don’t give me shit about the fact that “assault rifle” as a class doesn’t exist. Bullshit. A semi-automatic rifle packed with NATO 5.56 mm rounds and a muzzle velocity of around 3000ft/s is a helluva thing. It’s only purpose is to kill people. That’s why NATO uses these instruments in war. For assaulting the enemy. Sheesh. That the public calls them “assault rifles” is immaterial. You can accurately put a ton of rounds downrange at high velocity and they will kill every damn thing in the way. There is NO, absolutely no legitimate use for these types of military grade hardware in civilian life.

Oh, but it doesn’t do fully automatic, you’ll say. Well, I’m not so sure that’s a positive feature. I never put my M16 on full auto. That’s the way you miss your target and waste your ammo. You can empty a 30 round magazine before your first bullet hits the ground. I’d wager that if the Orlando shooter had modified his Sig Sauer to fire on full automatic, he probably wouldn’t have killed nearly as many people. He’d have emptied his magazine, missed most of his targets, and then been jumped by bystanders while he tried to reload.

Oh, but they’re fun to shoot! I agree, but the downside of mass murder is too much for me. I would very easily give up the right to own any high rate of fire assault style weapon it it meant no more deranged people could kill tons of people on a whim.

Open carry anywhere and everywhere?

If you’ve been on a military firing range, it’s a tense place. Safety is taken very seriously, I’ve sweated blood, I’m sure. You have to be aware to point your weapon down range at all times, make sure you clear the chamber, eject the magazine, put it on safety, exit and enter the firing line in an orderly fashion, all the while being aware that your weapon is to be considered loaded and ready to fire at all times and being aware of those around you. If you’re a good and conscientious person, then you’re going to be on guard during that time. For me, at least, it was stressful. One mistake and people die.

Do I really want some idiot eating next to me in a Longhorn steakhouse with his sidearm or assault rifle? I came to a restaurant, not a firing range.

Firearms are rightfully scary, and I don’t want to be scared 24/7. Everything in its place, if you ask me. Firearms don’t belong everywhere at all times.

Oh, but the only solution to a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

Now let’s also deal with the pathetically unlikely white knight scenario that the NRA likes to promote. Let’s say you’re in a loud night club and someone fires a shot. Do you honestly expect me to believe MORE GUNS in this scenario will fix the situation? Hmm, let’s see, multiple armed un-uniformed members of the general public all shooting at an assailant, but more likely each other.

The Aurora shooter was in a dark movie theater. How in the hell are you going to identify and neutralize the threat without yourself being a target? The “he shot first” defense isn’t going to work when all other gun wielding members of the public see are your muzzle flashes in the darkness.

How stupid is the NRA, Republican politicians?

I have never been in combat, but most anyone who has been in the military goes through infantry training which involves maneuvering and firing (blanks, pyrotechnics etc.). It is confusing as hell. It’s hard to tell where shots are coming from, especially with explosions around. You’re trying to listen to your squad leader, maneuver, and engage your objective. It’s stupid hard, and more often then not, when the oppositions forces are revealed, they weren’t where you thought they were, and they weren’t doing what you thought they were.

When engaged in these sorts of exercises, you’re primed. You know what you have to do. You’re in battle mode. You’re not in a shopping mall trying to find clothes for your 4 year old. You honestly expect to be ready for a gun fight 24/7, identify the assailant and neutralize them before going back to the jean rack?

I. Do. Not. Want. To. Live. In. That. World.

And what do you do with law enforcement arrives? Who’s the bad guy shooter? At least the police wear uniforms so we know they’re the good guys (and sometimes even they shoot each other). Forget the fact that at Pulse in Orlando, the news initially reported multiple shooters. It turned out to be false, but do you honestly expect all gun owners in a crowded loud night club to have some super secret and accurate radar, or like in video games a little tag that floats above your head identifying friend or foe. Bah! It’s stupid. There is virtually no scenario where having a gun to defend yourself makes you or the general public safer. Mostly you’re going to get shot by the assailant or some other armed bystander who mistakes you for the bad guy. This is why we have police, people.

No, the way to make us safer as a society is to make sure that nobody can own a mass death device.

Black Bean Burgers – I Think I Did It!

I’ve been experimenting with black bean burritos for a few years, and I’ve never been satisfied. Too beany! Mouthfeel wrong! Bah. They were good sometimes, but I wasn’t satisfied. You’re never going to achieve meat nirvana, but the closer the better, no?

Why all the work? Why not just eat meat?

There are a couple of reasons, I suppose. I’ve struggled with my weight for years, hovering around 240 at 6’2″, while not obese, it’s about 40 pounds heavier than I should weigh. It’s a drag, but it’s so hard to stop eating. I exercise, so I’m fit, but I just can’t stop overeating.

Over the years, I’ve learned there are some foods that satisfy me quickly, as fast as my impatient gobbling self can eat. Beans of various kinds do this. When I eat beans, I don’t want to follow up munch on sweet or salty snacks. If I have a real hamburger, I have to have fries, salty chips, or onion rings. So good. With beans, though, I just don’t want those things. The beans don’t leave me wanting.

So there’s that.

We’ve also been trying to minimize our meat intake, because of all the bad news over the years about meat in the diet, the meat industry’s affect on the global environment, and the inhumane treatment of the animals we kill and consume. I don’t doubt that someday humanity will mostly stop, but for now, we’re at least reducing.

I think I have solved it. I have made the perfect black bean burger, or at least close enough to perfection for my palate. Here’s the recipe:

One bag (16 oz) of dehydrated black beans. Cover them in water (about 2 inches over), add a cup of brown rice, a tablespoon of lemon juice, 2 teaspoons of MSG, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 whole bulb of garlic (mashed with the salt), a teaspoon of cumin (your preference), and 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil. Let it soak overnight (about 8 hours). After the beans have re-hydrated, cook them for 30 minutes in a pressure cooker on medium heat.

In a bowl, 2 cups of instant oatmeal, a cup of bread crumbs, a cup of flour, and one finely chopped onion. Once the pressure cooker is safe to open, dump the still boiling beans into the bowl with the oatmeal/breadcrumbs/flour and mash/stir it with a potato masher. You’ll be breaking up some of the black beans, but not all of them. You’ll still want some texture in your burger, not a puree.

Let it set and once all the ingredients have come together, mix in 4 eggs, and then form the mixture into patties and sauté them with the oil and skillet of your choice. I like to add a dash of worchester sauce and then a slice of cheese.

Coro de Niños de San Juan Sing “En Mi Viejo San Juan”

Olaia and Jaimito took part in a music festival this weekend. Their encore was this beautiful rendition of “En Mi Viejo San Juan.” Pardon the stupid wind in the microphone. I have to learn to take a better mic when I go to these things.

A Family Lunar Eclipse

We all spilled out onto the terrace, excited to see a lunar eclipse. “What is a lunar eclipse,” someone asked?

“It’s when the earth passes between the sun and the moon,” I replied. I could almost see their little brains all working out that orientation.

I snapped a picture, and by accident got a decent exposure.

Lunar_Eclipse_0006

Olaia with her telescope, I with my camera, we fiddled, and fussed over our gadgets in search of that elusive moon. A hoard of mosquitoes attacked my ankles increasing my agitation as I blindly toggled and switched buttons in the dark. Damn it, I needed to read the manual again. I wanted to capture what my eyes could not, but the camera was foiling me. Olaia scolded the boys for bumping the table as she lost site of the moon yet again.

After an hour of dancing between my camera and the pool to soothe my ravaged ankles, I got another as the eclipse was peaking.

Lunar_Eclipse_0101

By this time the boys has already abandoned their posts and gone to bed. I don’t know how to say this, but it was fun. The worst mosquito, equipment inexperience failure, in the dark with your family is better than just about anything else.

“Hey daddy, would this be the night the water benders would be weak?”

Some Recent Photos

Totally accidental latte art. It looks like stylized logo graffiti that one sees on the streets of Puerto Rico.

Totally accidental latte art. It looks like stylized logo graffiti that one sees on the streets of Puerto Rico.

Pumpkin from my latest harvest. Nice deep beautiful orange.

Pumpkin from my latest harvest. Nice deep beautiful orange.

Always nice to kick back with the wife and a 40. Class it up with a wine glass. "Colt 45, it works every time."

Always nice to kick back with the wife and a nice 40. Class it up with a wine glass. Colt 45, works every time.

Creations: Media Noches, Popcorn, and Drawing

A traditional Puerto Rican sandwich - the media noche, sweet bread, pickles, ham, swiss cheese, mayo, mustard. Yummy.

A traditional Puerto Rican sandwich – the media noche, sweet bread, pickles, ham, swiss cheese, mayo, mustard. Yummy.

Javier jumped on youtube and looked up a super hero drawing educational video and went to town. He's proud of his character. Now he just needs a super power.

Javier jumped on youtube and looked up a super hero drawing educational video and went to town. He’s proud of his character. Now he just needs a super power.

Jaimito has become my popcorn surrogate. Today's batch was the best I ever had. The student has exceeded the master.

Jaimito has become my popcorn surrogate. Today’s batch was the best I ever had. The student has exceeded the master.

Popcorn made fresh with achiote infused canola oil (for that nice yellow color), dusted with powdered sugar and Lawry's seasoned salt. Yummy

Popcorn made fresh with achiote infused canola oil (for that nice yellow color), dusted with powdered sugar and Lawry’s seasoned salt. Yummy

Sinister

Donald Trump’s presidential announcement lit off a firestorm in the Latin world. What a buffoon, I thought. What a moron. Such outdated ideas. How could he have said that? Ridiculous. Still, I dismissed it as the ramblings of a cognitively challenged aging megalomaniac, more like the former owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, Donald Sterling. He’s an idiot, but the comments were so weird, I almost feel sorry for him. ¡Ay bendito! Abuelo necesita su medicina.

We were watching the Nightly Show today, catching up, as we’ve gotten behind, and coincidentally today’s episodes was from the day of the South Carolina shooting. Contrast The Donald’s remarks with those of the white shooter.

You rape our women and you’re taking over our county. And you have to go.

The Donald:

They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.

They sound remarkably similar, do they not? You don’t have to wonder anymore where the voices come from. They weren’t in a crazy person’s violent head, they are all around us. In fact, they are professed by the #2 presidential contender according to current polling.

What was at first, laughable, ridiculous, seems to me now decidedly more sinister.

Landmark Supreme Court Decision

I am very much pleased with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling that same-sex marriage must not be denied anywhere the U.S. Constitution has authority. Great, I think to myself, and like yesterday’s 6-3 ruling on the Affordable Care Act, it’s the dissenters who are most entertaining. I found Scalia’s frothing at the mouth particularly delicious.

Today’s,  would surely not disappoint, I thought. Let’s dive in, shall we?

Chief Justice John Roberts:

“This universal definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman is no historical coincidence. Marriage did not come about as a result of a political movement, discovery, disease, war, religious doctrine, or any other moving force of world history — and certainly not as a result of a prehistoric decision to exclude gays and lesbians,” Roberts wrote. “It arose in the nature of things to meet a vital need: ensuring that children are conceived by a mother and father committed to raising them in the stable conditions of a lifelong relationship.”

Nice, John. Invoke nature. Seriously, that’s the best argument your legal mind can come up with? Nature? It’s always been this way, it evolved naturally. You know what else nature likes to do, John? Turn you inside out and reduce you to plant food. Nature is brutal, cold, uncaring, and life within it is short.

If nature is so great, how come we do so much to change it? It’s too hot; air conditioning. It’s too cold; fire. We invoke the “natural” way when it is convenient to our predilections.

Now, why would Justice Roberts write such a thin non-legal argument in his dissent? I’d wager he just finds gays icky.

A Morning at the Botanical Gardens in Rio Piedras

Lucy, the Tomato Dog

I stepped out in the morning to do my garden walk-through. I have been battling rats that like to eat my roma tomatoes (only my roma tomatoes), and since taking out the family, I do a daily inspection for critter activity. I feel like a detective, looking for flattened areas of traffic, disturbed soil, nibbles, toothmarks, half eaten fruit. What a ton of work it is just for my tiny little garden. I couldn’t imagine having to survive on it.

But today there was a new mystery. There is always a mystery. The critters of the night lead a secret existence, the insects, mice, rats, dogs, and iguanas, little forces of nature with their own agendas contrary to my own.

I almost stepped on today’s mystery.

What is this? I picked up one of the several green tomatoes scattered about. I turned it over. It was sticky and had a couple of large puncture marks about the width and size of our Lucy’s canines. The stickiness was Lucy slobber. I’d know that persistent agent anywhere.

What is she doing with my tomatoes? This is bizarre. Is she playing with them? She’s not eating them, but brings them back to the terrace. I scolded her, “Lucy, stop taking my tomatoes!” I knew she didn’t understand, but whatever.

Over the course of the next few weeks every few days, I would find tomatoes in various states of ripeness placed on the terrace. It was exasperating. I’m not the best tomato farmer in the world, so every single one counts. Stupid dog! Stop picking my tomatoes. She knew I was upset and would cower, “I don’t know what I did to make you mad, master, but I’m sorry,” she seemed to say.

She’s a good dog though, very loving, smart, and craves attention. Olaia calls her an, “attention hoarder.” And whenever I go into my garden, she trots along with me and watches. We know how smart she is, because she’s so easy to train and is eager to please.

And still the tomatoes came, rolling around in the hot sun. Maybe I’m thinking about this all wrong. Could Lucy be trying to help me? When I pick the tomatoes I always bring a handful back and place them on the terrace while I clean up. And while I’m pulling weeds and picking them, there’s Lucy watching me. Could she be imitating me? She isn’t eating or playing with the tomatoes. She delicately picking them with minimal tooth marks and brings them back to the house and leaves them. A-ha! I think that’s it. I have a farmer dog, harvest helper.

If only I could train her to only pick the red ones though… and not slobber on them.

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