Thursday, December 26, 2013

Are You A Starving Writer? How About A Free House in Detroit?

Okay, so this one isn't free. But plenty of others are.
There's a new program in Detroit that I totally don't want you to know about if you're a starving writer, but I'll tell you about it, anyway. WriteAHouse is a Detroit based community non-profit with the goal of rehabbing abandoned houses, one resource Detroit has plenty of, and giving them to writers. Free. No charge. Gratis.

Writers have to meet certain standards, like not being a violent felon or a total deadbeat. They also need to supply a short bio, a sample of their writing and a few paragraphs about why they deserve a free house in Detroit. They also have to agree to remain in Detroit for at least two years. WtieAHouse will lease the houses to selected writers. After two years, the writers get the deed.

I lived in Detroit for years. I went to college in Detroit. I was active in community affairs. Call me crazy, but I've been thinking of returning for some time. I am totally down with this. If you're interested, check out the WriteAHouse website, look at their pitch on crowd sourcing site IndieGoGo and follow them on Twitter (@WriteAHouse). Just remember, I got there first.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

I'm Asking for Your Help

That's me during my last hospital stay
I've been debating this for some time, but necessity has forced my hand. I'm asking for help. I'm also asking that you share this with your friends who may prove willing to help. Here's my story...

Those of you who know me well know I've done many benefits over the years. With your help, over a nine year period the Coat Party benefits raised many tens of thousands of dollars in cash and thousands of warm coats for Austin's homeless. Many of you may also remember SteveFest, where, with your help, we raised thousands of dollars for Steve Marangi, a friend who was dying of terminal throat cancer. With your help, I was able to give Steve a stable place to live pay his medical expenses and care for him for the last year of his life.

We did all of this together through the power of micro donations. Some chose to give more, but most gave $5 or $10, and because there were many of us working together, we were able to do great things. In every case, 100% of the money went directly to the cause. Venues waved their normal fees. Many people worked for free. It's something that to this day I'm very proud to have been a part these events. It's now time for me to swallow that pride.

Today, I'm the one who needs help. I'm hoping to use that same power of many people giving a little to help me make it through what is proving to be the hardest time of my life. With your help, I can make it through this time and once again be in a position to help myself and others.

I've had number of orthopedic surgeries over the years - a dozen knee reconstructions, a reconstructed shoulder, a double spinal fusion - as well as a fractured pelvis that kept me down for over a year. In all of these cases I was lucky enough to be fully insured. For the last three years of this period I was on COBRA. Though it cost me around $900 per month, it was well worth it, even with significant deductibles and copays. Since COBRA expired, about 6 years ago, I haven't been able to get any kind of insurance at any price, due to so many pre-existing conditions.

Fast forward to today.

About seven months ago I had a bad fall and severely injured my lower back. I spent ten days in Seton Hospital. As a result I can't stand for more than a few minutes or walk more than a few yards at a time. As you might imagine, I'm in constant pain. The fix is series of three major surgeries that will fuse all five of my damaged lumbar vertebrae into one using metal rods, screws and plates, a total of about 20 hours on the operating table.

If all goes well, I'll spend about two weeks in the hospital, then a few more weeks at an inpatient rehab facility. Most of this will be paid for through the Medical Assistance Program (MAP), but I'll still have significant costs, not the least of which is rent, food and basic necessities. I haven't been able to work for the past year and won't be able to work again for another year or so. I've lost my home of twenty-two years. I've racked up debts I can't pay and face expenses I won't be able to pay any time soon. Worse, I've lost dear friends who had faith in me that I am now unable to repay. I've tried to get various benefits, but so far haven't been able to cut through the red tape. I have no income and no savings. And so I'm asking you for help.

I know there are many far worse off and far more deserving than I. I encourage you to help those people, also, not instead of. But if you can spare $5 or $10 or whatever you can give, even if it's only a dollar or two, know that every little bit helps. I don't want anyone to give more than they afford. If you're in a position to give more, I'm in no position to refuse. I pledge to you do my best to be worthy of your support now and in the future. My problems are ultimately my responsibility. I'm just asking for a little help. If you'd like to help, but prefer to do it in other ways, please email me and I'll provide you with the information you need.

My PayPal account is tied to my email address:

You can easily send money through PayPal through the following link. You use a PayPal account or a credit or debit card.

Thank you for listening to my story. With your help the future story will be much brighter. Please don't hesitate to contact me through Facebook or via email with any questions or comments you may have. To those can help and those who can't, thank you and God bless.


John Avignone

Friday, May 17, 2013

Obama Derangement Syndrome, Part Eleventy-Eleven - Former White House Marine Liaison Officer Speaks Out On Umbrellas

Have you seen the latest POUTRAGE to catch fire in Lower Wingnuttia? Even by wingnut standards, this one is pure bat crap.

Disgraced hack Tucker Carlson's crapfest, The Daily Caller, has dived to new depths of inane asshattery with a story accusing Barack Obama of... Having a Marine hold an umbrella during a press conference in the rain.
The commander in chief of the American armed forces today forced a violation of Marine Corps regulations, so he wouldn’t get wet.
 The horror!

Apparently Lower Wingnuttia is AGHAST at Obama's TYRANNICAL DISREGARD for the HONOR of the Marine Corp! This latest poutrage erupted over a photo of two Marines holding umbrellas for Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan during an outdoor joint press conference in the rain.

The image behind the latest wingnut poutrage
The Daily Caller claims it's against Marine regulations to hold an umbrella...
According to Marine Corps regulation MCO P1020.34F of the Marine Corps Uniform Regulations chapter 3, a male Marine is not allowed to carry an umbrella while in uniform. There is no provision in the Marine Corps uniform regulation guidelines that allows a male Marine to carry an umbrella.
This, of course, is complete and utter nonsense. Marines are not allowed to *carry* umbrellas in uniform, but there is no regulation that prohibits *holding* an umbrella for someone else.

But DC goes even further down The Stupid Hole. Not only do they completely misinterpret Marine regulations, they go on to claim that not even the President of the United States can order a Marine to hold an umbrella without the express permission of the Commandant of the Marine Corps.
Not even the President of the United States can request a Marine to carry an umbrella without the express consent of the Commandant of the Marine Corps, according to the Marine Corps Manual.
Apparently Tucker's wingnut loon writers and editors can't quite grasp the meaning of the term COMMANDER IN CHIEF.

I know someone with extensive experience with Marines holding umbrellas for dignitaries. My father was a captain in the Marines. He was stationed at 8th & I in Washington, DC, and served as a White House aid under Eisenhower. When I ran this story by him, he couldn't believe anyone would make a fuss over something so common.
"It's standard practice to hold umbrellas for visiting dignitaries and the president and vice president. We did whatever we could to make dignitaries comfortable."
Asked about the claim that the president can't order a Marine to hold an umbrella, he said...
"That's absurd. Of course he can. He's the Commander in Chief. He could order a Marine to stand at attention in his skivvies, if he wanted."
From 'Full Metal Jacket,' actual Marine drill instructor R. Lee Ermey runs drill in skivvies
So, there you have it, straight from the mouth of a Marine who was in charge of the White House Marine Corp detail. Like so much of the poutrage out of Lower Wingnuttia, the entire story is just one huge, steaming pile of Tucker.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Cheap Guy Tip #73 - Rack of Lamb Genghis Khan

Rack of Lamb Genghis Khan, as served at The Lark
Okay, so rack of lamb isn't exactly cheap. But it is delicious. For a special feast, it's hard to beat a rack of lamb. This rack recipe was the favorite dish of Genghis Khan and dates back more than 900 years. This version is from Marcus Haight, currently a professor at a prestigious cooking school. For 17 years, Marcus was the Chef de Cuisine at The Lark, a 4 star restaurant in Bloomfield Hills, MI. Before that, Marcus put in time at both Le Bec Fin and at Les Francais, with my mentor, Jean Banchet. For decades, Le Bec Fin and Le Francais have been considered by most experts to be the two best French restaurants in the US.

First up, Marcus' recipe exactly as he wrote it. After that, some of the secrets that take this dish from great to spectacular.

Rack of Lamb Genghis Khan - Serves 6

3 lamb rack (8 ribs each), trimmed, silverskin removed
1 cup Hoisin sauce
Lamb marinade

Place the lamb and marinade in a plastic bag, tie and place in refrigerator for 48 hours. Remove lamb from marinade and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour before cooking. Brush with hoisin sauce. Place lamb on rack in shallow roasting pan and roast in a hot over (450 degrees) for 15-25 minutes for rare lamb, depending on the size of the racks, or longer for a greater degree of doneness. Let rest 6 to 7 minutes before carving.

Lamb Marinade

1 cup onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
3 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 cup honey
3 teaspoons curry powder
1.5 teaspoons cayenne pepper, ground fine
2 teaspoons Coleman's mustard powder
2 teaspoons black pepper, ground
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup water

Combine all ingredients

I don't like to mess too much with recipes that have been around for 900 years, but there are a few tips that can greatly improve this already great recipe. First off, forget the oven. You can't get the kind of carmelization that makes this dish work (see photo) in a home oven. By far the best way to cook this dish is over hardwood burned down to coals. Alternately, grill over a charcoal or gas grill with wood chips to add smoke flavor. For either method, a very hot covered grill with the racks placed for indirect heat work best. If you're cooking over an open pit, keep the racks to the sides and out of the direct heat. You want it hot, not flaming.

Grilling instead of roasting takes a little extra care. Keep a careful eye on your racks. Use an instant read thermometer to check for doneness. Lamb is best served rare to medium rare. For rare, pull the racks when the internal temperature in the middle reaches 120 degrees. For medium rare, 130. Medium (just a touch of pink), 140. Well done, don't even bother making this dish. It's a waste to overcook lamb.

After removing the racks from the grill, let rest about 10 minutes before carving. Separate the rib chops into individual rib portions, serve.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Schadenfreude - Darrell Issa's Car Alarm Company Is Doomed

The convergence of automobiles and smart phone technology spells the end of the line for high end car alarm companies like Viper.
I was recommending a phone tracking/recovery app, AntiDT (Anti Droid Theft) to a friend on Facebook and I had an interesting thought. With smart phone technology being integrated into cars, and powerful free tracking/recovery apps like AntiDT available for both Android and iOS, there's no point in expensive car alarm systems like a Viper any more. This video shows what AntiDT can do...

Your smart phone equipped car will call your cell phone, text you and email you if it's stolen. You'll be able to track your car on your phone or computer in real time using GPS and cell tower data. Not only will you be able to remotely shut down your car, you'll be able to take a picture of the thief and even lock him in. With the exact location, the cops will be there in minutes. All for free.

Gosh, that's sure going to be tough on high end alarm makers like Viper. Probably drive 'em right out of business. What a shame. If I sound facetious, it's because the company that makes Viper alarms was founded by and is still owned by none other than wingnut PITA extraoridinaire Rep. Darrell Issa, R-CA, chair of the powerful House Oversight Committee and source of endless BS investigations based on every wacky wingnut conspiracy theory poutrage du jour.

Jeez, that's tough, Darrell. Bad luck. My heart's pumpin' pisswater for ya...

Update: A friend brought up a good point I didn't address in the post...

"There's a lot to be said for an alarm blaring to dissuade a thief who just smashed in your window to not be too thorough when rifling through your car looking for stuff to take."

Very true, but it's a virtual certainty that a new car equipped with smart phone technology will also have at least a basic, very loud, alarm. Combined with smart phone tech, this is still enough to seriously impact Viper's business. Sure, they can still sell alarms for older cars, but their bread and butter market - expensive new cars - goes away. I doubt they can survive on legacy cars only.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Draft Stephen Colbert For Pope!

Did you know any practicing Catholic in good standing can become Pope? Yep, it's true. It's also true that pressure has been mounting on the Catholic Church for some time, now, to select a Pontiff from the New World. That's why good friends of ours started a grass roots Facebook campaign to draft practicing Catholic in good standing Stephen Colbert to be the next Pope. From the draft Colbert page...


The time has come for a New World Pope. Draft Stephen Colbert for Pope!
It's a little known fact that any practicing Catholic in good standing is elligable to become Pope. It's also a little known fact that Stephen Colbert is a practiciing Catholic in good standing. It's also a fact that for decades, now, pressure has been mounting on the Church to select a Pope from the New World.

Given this convenient coincidence of facts, the answer is obvious. The time has come.

Draft Stephen Colbert for Pope!

Draft Stephen Colbert for Pope is not affiliated with Stephen Colbert, drafting, the Catholic Church or any other person, thing, idea or organization. 
We couldn't be more proud to be the first to bring you this exciting development. Who better than Stephen Colbert to become the next Pontiff?  Stop by today and "Like" this page, then pass it on to every upright ambulator you know! Acording to little known by-laws of the Vatican, if the draft Colbert page gets 1 million likes, Stephen automatically becomes the next Pope. As far as we know...

Thursday, January 10, 2013

No, Hitler Did Not Ban Guns - And Neither Did Mussolini, Castro, Stalin or Pol Pot...

1/17 - UPDATE: As the gun nut counter arguments have become repetitive, not to mention weary, stale, flat and unprofitable, I'm not going to answer individual gun nut stupid arguments anymore. Instead, at the bottom of this post you'll find a synopsis of the top stupid arguments  in no particular order, and my rebuttals. If you're a gun nut and you don't see your favorite stupid argument here, by all means, regale us with your keen insight.

Gun nuts take it as a matter of faith that terrible dictators were only able to rise to power after they had disarmed their own people. This is quite simply not true. In the most commonly cited examples - Hitler, Mussolini, Stain, Pol Pot and Castro - gun restrictions played absolutely no role in gaining or maintaining power.

The Propaganda Professor has a great post detailing why the oft repeated gun nut claim that Hitler banned guns is wrong. Hitler actually loosened gun regulations in Germany...
The gun culture is right about one thing, however. Hitler really did enact a new gun law. But it was in 1938, not 1935 – well after the NAZIs already had the country in its iron grip. Furthermore, the new law in many ways LOOSENED gun restrictions. For example, it greatly expanded the numbers who were exempt, it lowered the legal age of possession from 20 to 18, and it completely lifted restriction on all guns except handguns, as well as on ammunition.
PP does point out that the Nazis did prohibit Jews from owning guns, among many other prohibitions. But the idea that a small minority with a few weapons could have stood up to the German war machine is risible...
Under their reign, Jews were prohibited from owning guns, just as they were prohibited from doing many things. And it has become an article of faith among the gun culture that had they been armed, the Holocaust would not have happened (that is, among those members of the gun culture who know that the Holocaust really did happen). But the concept of a handful of citizens armed with hunting rifles and Saturday night specials fending off an army is delusional hubris peculiar to gun addicts. 
Jews from Prague's ghetto on their way to the trains

Taking it a logical step further, Jews in Prague still had guns. Jews in Warsaw and Kracow had guns. Jews in Paris had guns. Fat lot of good it did them. The claim that if only Jews in Germany had been armed, the Holocaust would never have happened is risibly absurd.

The gun nut appeal to Godwin, aka going Hitler, isn't the only oft repeated lie. "Castro banned guns in Cuba," is popular, as well. This is also untrue. Cuba has restrictions on long guns, but any citizen can own a hand gun. Not to mention, the revolution didn't succeed because Castro took guns from Cubans. It succeeded in part because he gave guns to Cubans.

"Mussolini banned guns!" No, he didn't. Il Duce used propaganda and political manipulation to gain and hold power. While he did speak publicly in favor of gun control, he did not ban guns in Italy. What he did do to consolidate power was introduce the Acerbo Law, which changed the way elections were run in Italy to greatly favor the Fascists. Italy under Fascism was a police state, but not because guns were banned.

"Pol Pot banned guns!" Again, not true. Pol Pot banned Vietnamese weapons traders. Guns were already in extremely short supply, even for Pol Pot's own army.

"Stalin banned guns!" Nope. He had nothing to do with Russia's strict gun control laws, enacted as Stalin was coming to power. At no time in the revolutionary period were guns banned in Russia, nor were guns - or the lack thereof - a factor in Stalin's rise or his grip on power.

Sadly, reality doesn't seem to matter. Those who believe these myths will continue to believe, facts be damned. But that doesn't mean the truth should be subverted, and the truth is these gun nut claims are not accurate, at best.

Here's the top gun nut arguments so far, with my rebuttals...

1. Read the headline, gun nuts. THAT'S my point.

Not one of you has been able to refute any of my facts. Comically, many of these nuts believe it's up to me to prove the facts true. Not surprising  Very few gun nuts were on the debate team or know the first bleeping thing about forensics. FYI, ignorant gun nuts, in any debate, if you believe your adversary's statements to be in error, it is incumbent upon YOU to refute them authoritatively. And no, "Nuh uh," or, "Is not," do not refutations make, duh.

2. "Obama (Congress, etc.) has armed guards!"

You are not the president of the United States. You're just a gun nut with delusions of adequacy. How bleeping stupid must one be before one is unable to understand that the most powerful office in the world merits extra protection, especially as more than a few presidents have been SHOT? Is fork in the face stupid sufficient or must one be super dense, black hole, singularity-type stupid?

3. "In Australia (or England, Sweden, insert your favorite country to hate here) crime went UP after guns were banned!"

This one is double dumb. First off, it's simply not true, which is why not one of these nuts can provide any kind of citation to any such thing. Second, none of the favorite gun nut target countries banned guns.

4. "Chicago! (or NYC, LA, Detroit, etc.)

Gun nuts are too ignorant to know bringing up Chicago disproves their own argument. The fact is Chicago banned hand guns in 1982. Beginning in 1983 and continuing for 28 years, the murder rate trended consistently down, falling every year except 2.

In 2010 the Supreme Court overturned Chicago's ban. Once again cheap hand guns were easy to come by. Guess what happened? The murder rate skyrocketed.

As to comparing large states with large urban areas to empty rural states, what, are you gun nuts really THAT bleeping stupid?

5. "Mexico has strict gun laws and it's still flooded with drug gangs using illegal guns!"

Good point! Yes, Mexico is suffering terrible problems at the hand of drug cartels. Drug cartels that supply the American market using guns they bought legally in Texas, then smuggled into Mexico. IOW, our taste for drugs and our gun culture are in large part responsible for Mexico's troubles.

6. "Cars kill more people than guns!"

They do, which is why we require drivers to be licensed, which requires passing proficiency tests every few years. We require all vehicles to be registered with the state and pass inspections at regular intervals. We require liability insurance. We tax all vehicle sales, retail and private. By all means, yes, let's treat guns just like we treat cars.

7. "Hitler disarmed the Jews. If the Jews had guns, there would have been no holocaust!"

Yes, Hitler disarmed German Jews in 1938, long after the Nazis had consolidated total power and long after they had subjugated German Jews, taking not just their guns, but their citizenship, businesses, livelihoods  homes, possessions...

Not to mention, Jews in Warsaw, Paris, Prague, etc., were not banned from owning guns until after Hitler had conquered their nations. Six million died. Fat lot of good their guns did them against the Nazi war machine.

8. "Criminals don't obey the law, so gun laws won't work!"

Following this toy train of logic to its inevitable flaming wreck, because some people will break the law, we shouldn't have any laws at all.

9. "You can't stop every tragedy!"

No, you can't, but it's stupid to argue that since we can't stop all tragedies we shouldn't try to stop any. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

10. "Banning weapons won't work!"

Learn to read. Nobody has suggested any such thing. Stop listening to those voices in your head.

11. "Israel and Switzerland have lots of guns and low crime rates!"

Both Israel and Switzerland have extremely strict gun laws, duh. Thanks ever so much for proving my point that gun control, does, indeed, reduce violent crime.

12. "The assault weapons ban didn't work!"

Nonsense. The rate of mass shooting during the ban was MUCH lower than before or after.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Biggest GOP A--hole of the Year - DebraLee Hovey Makes Early Case

CT GOP State Rep. DebraLee Hovey
The GOP produced a bumper crop of a--holes in 2012, but barely a week into 2013 Newtown, Connecticut's GOP State Representative DebraLee Hovey is making her case for GOP a--hole of the year. This nut has it all. First, she makes an idiotic and insulting post to Facebook, which she follows up with an "explanation" that, of course, just makes things worse. Then, she issues the standard GOP non apology apology. Here's how it happened.
2012 GOP cast of clowns
Last year, with a bevy of big name GOP a--holes running for president, a nobody GOP state rep like DebraLee Hovey could never make the a--hole big time. With the likes of Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Michelle Bachmann, Herman Cain, Willard Romney, not to mention this guy...

Grand Champion Asshole Donald Trump
...sucking all of the a--hole air out the room, what's a small town stupid a--hole to do? Wait for a terrible tragedy to shine the national media spotlight on her little backwater, then jump on the a--hole train with both feet, that's what.

It seems Hovey was peeved that, in the wake of the Newtown massacre, shooting victim Gabby Giffords was meeting - in private - with families of the Newtown victims. What really peeved her was that Giffords hadn't bothered to notify Hovey of her visit, though no not stupid, not crazy person has yet to come with any reason why private citizen Giffords would be required to notify her of anything. To express her displeasure, Hovey took time out from her Florida vacation to post to her Facebook page...

Apparently the voices in her head told her this was crazy, even for a GOP a--hole, so a bit later she "explained"...

Putting aside the fact that Hovey seems incapable of crafting simple sentences with basic noun/verb agreement, what apparently chapped Hovey's stupid ass was the fact that two state wide elected leaders, a US Senator and the Lt. Governor, were invited, but a nobody sate rep, who was on vacation anyway, wasn't, because politics, that's why. With such a rich collection of stupid in such a compact package, where to start?
First off, Rep. Hovey, you are neither a leader in CT politics nor a state wide elected official, duh. Second, I can only assmue by "another political," you mean Gabby Giffords. FYI, Rep. Hovey, Gabby Giffords is not a politician. She doesn't hold any office and isn't running for any office. She is a private citizen, and as such can go where she damn well pleases without notifying you or any other stupid a--hole of her plans, duh. Finally, Rep. Hovey, "political motives"? This was a PRIVATE meeting, held in PRIVATE, with no cameras allowed. The names of the families attending wasn't even released. So, either these are the crappiest politicians in the history of politics or there were absolutely no "political motives," much less pure ones, duh. 

Gabrielle Giffords, with husband Mark Kelly, leaves the Newtown Municipal Building. Photograph: Michelle Mcloughlin/Reuters

Finally, your towns? Really? I had no idea. I thought you were merely an elected representative, a servant of the people. I did not know you actually owned Newtown, or any other town in your district.

It's only January, but Hovey will be hard to beat. You heard it here first: The Biggest GOP A--hole of the Year for 2013 will be DebraLee Hovey. Congratulations, Rep. Hovey. You worked hard for it. You earned it. You deserve it. And boy, howdy, are you ever going to get it.

UPDATE: Here's the text of Hovey's non apology apology...

"The remarks I made regarding Congresswoman Giffords' visit were insensitive and if I offended anyone I truly apologize.

My comments were meant to be protective of the privacy of the families and our community as we work to move on, and were in no way intended as an insult to Congresswoman Giffords personally. Our community has struggled greatly through this tragedy, and we are all very sensitive to the potential for this event to be exploited for political purposes. This is what I wish to avoid.

The events of December 14th affected all of us deeply and like many others I am still working through my grief and trying to come to terms with what happened, how we as a community and a state move forward and how we can prevent horrific events like this from occurring in the future. My deepest condolences continue to go out to the families, the community of Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown and Connecticut."

So, IF she offended anyone, THEN she'd apologize? Hey, moran, you've already offended countless people. That's why you've been forced to eat crow. Duh.

However, credit where credit is due. How, er, selfless of you to take the heat just to protect the privacy of the private people at this private meeting held in private.

And OF COURSE you didn't mean to insult Gabby Giffords! Why, who'd find some crazy shrew screaming, "Hey, you, get out of my towns!!" insulting?

Boy, howdy, it's a good thing this POLITICIAN was just taking time our of her busy vacation scedule to complain about not being invited to a meeting in her POLITICAL district, which is totally not being political!

Congrats, DebraLee (which is a totally not stupid name), on coming up with an "apology" even more stupid than the stupid thing for which you were apologizing. That takes talent. Mom was right! You really are special! No doubt you'll be a rising start in the GOP clown show.