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Why are you here…

Prepping for surgery. Photo from yahoo.

 

Hey Ya’ll,

I’m using a slightly different format today so pay attention to the time/date headers because this is a journey back in time. Also, there is a fairly graphic photo at the end of article. If your squeamish, you have my permission to not scroll down. If your nosy, they you’re going straight to the picture. I know how humans think.

 

Better than a emergency room. photo from yahoo

Sunday 21 August 2016, 11:45 EST

Medical clinic, Scott Depot West Virginia

“Mr. Akers, what brings you in today?”

“Doc. I got a new debit card in the mail.”

 

 

How bad could a little knife like this hurt? photo from yahoo

 

Sunday 14 August 2016, 16:35 EST

Couch in the Living Room, Hurricane, West Virginia

“Other than a puppy, what do you want for your birthday?” I asked my son.

“Pocket knife.” The soon to be nine-year-old boy answered.

“Pocket knives are dangerous. You really have to be careful when using them and it hurts when you get cut.”

“Have you been cut before?”

 

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Back Row Right to Left. Gary, Paul, Me, Tracy. Front Row, Deron and Scott. Of course that is Saddam in the background. photo from rob akers

 

Sunday 13 April 2003, 0930 AST (Arabia Standard Time)

Cargo Ramp, Balad Airfield, Iraq

“What did you do Rob!”

“I cut myself again. Can you grab the medical kit?”

“Sure.” The six foot three African-American Navigator passed up some napkins to sop up the blood.

“Hey, don’t tell Tracy.”

“They are having a problem get a pallet on-board. I will be back.”

Three minutes later, Gary returned handing over the olive drab bag with the red cross on the front. When I reached around to grab the kit, I saw a new face looking down at me. “This is Lieutenant Colonel I forgot her name. She is an Aero-Med.”

As he spoke, Scott the co-pilot and Paul the Flight Engineer returned helping to load the airplane.

“Dude, did you cut your leg?” Paul asked

“No, my hand. Just bled a little.” I replied.

“Keep pressure on the wound and hold it above your head.” The flight nurse ordered.

“I know what to do.” I fired back.

“I doubt that.” The nurse said.

Gary, Paul and Scott laughed.

The battle axe flight nurse took her time putting on her rubber gloves and opening her medical kit. “Well the good news is that you’re in better shape than most of my patients. How did you do this?”

“I was trying to tighten up the approach plate holder on the yoke. I couldn’t find a screwdriver so I used my knife.”

Tracy called out over the intercom. “We are closed up and ready for taxi.”

“It is going to be a couple of minutes. Rob cut himself again.” Paul responded.

“When he gets patched up, take all his knives from him. If we ever get steak, I will cut it up like I would for a kid.” Tracy said.

“Maybe we could put a cork on the end of the knife. Like Rupert.”

Everyone laughed.

 

This is me in a alternate universe. Patch on one eye and a cork on the fork to keep the other eye safe. photo from yahoo

 

 

This is probably still clean. photo from yahoo

Saturday 20 August 2016, 22:15 EST

Master Bathroom, Hurricane West Virginia

“Keep pressure on it and hold it above your head.” My wife said.

“I know what to do.” I fired back.

“I doubt that.” She replied.

“What did you do Daddy?” My son asked.

“I couldn’t find scissors to cut up the debt card. There was a box cutter on the office desk.”

“That old, rusty box cutter?” My wife asked.

“Yes, I thought it was too dull to cut the card that easy.”

“Guess where you’re going after church in the morning?”

 

 

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This little gash was a bleeder. The doctor said she would have done a couple of stitches if I come in sooner but she glued it closed and gave me a shot. Fortunately, she didn’t laugh too hard when I told her how dumb I am. photo from rob akers

Back at the helm…

 

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Anytime you have the entire kitchen packed on top of the table. It isn’t good. photo from rob akers

 

 

Hey Y’all,

 

It has been a long time since I got anything out to you guys. Please forgive me but this summer, the family and I have been shaking things up. But we are starting to get the wheels of life put back on and I hope to be able to start cranking out some new material for you. Until then, just a quick recap of what has been going on in this little part of the world.

 

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Almost the perfect view. photo from rob akers

 

 

When I last left off, I was at the beach with the extended family. We enjoyed a great week of hanging out with my parents and my brother along with his family. Not much to add about this week because with 99% of all beach vacations, even if it is bad and there is a hurricane in the area. It is still pretty good. In June there were no hurricanes and no complaints from anyone so it was great. But during the week, we got a couple of pieces of news that did dramatically alter the course of the summer.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/26/west-virginia-flooding-death-toll-rises-to-24/

 

The bad news first. Back home in West Virginia, there was a massive flood that ravaged several counties in the state. The good news is that our county was not affected but the bad news was that some of the most damaging flooding was only fifty miles. We got back from the beach on the first Sunday following the floods that happened on Thursday night. Already, the email was filling up with requests for help. That Monday, we went to the store and bought some supplies to donate. It was not very impressive to see what 200 dollars bought at Wal-Mart. On Tuesday morning we loaded up what felt like a few bags and went to the closest relief center which was in Clendenin, West Virginia. It was important to my wife and I that we took the kids so that they could share in the event. We both feel that we can talk forever about the need to be a good neighbor but having the opportunity to show them what it really looks like is priceless.

 

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Anytime the big crane is on top of the debris pile. It is bad. photo from rob akers

 

 

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photo from rob akers

 

 

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A couple years ago, my wife went on a medical mission trip to Haiti. She said the only difference between Clendenin and Haiti is that the folks in Clendenin have a chance. photo from rob akers

 

 

Driving the back roads to get to the center of town, I really felt like I was in a war zone. The National Guard was out in force with their oversized dessert tan camouflaged vehicles blocking damaged roads or hauling tons of debris out of the area. Arriving at the relief center, it was as unorganized an operation as anything I ever saw on the first week of any new base that I helped to start during a deployment. There were people everywhere. To their credit, there were hundreds of volunteers. I mean literally, hundreds at this one site and there were a number of other sites within a five-mile circle of Clendenin. The one person we did meet is a State Senator named Chris Walters. I don’t normally say nice things about politicians but Senator Walters is the real deal. He spent literally days trying to help his constituents. Until I met Senator Walters, I expected to see the politicians in the area for their five-minute photoshoot. But Senator Walters is working on his second consecutive month of actually leading the cleanup effort.

 

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That is Senator Walters in the red vest. I am convinced that he is the hardest working person in the state. According to a guy I spoke with, the water was over the ceiling inside the grocery store. The river is about 50 yards behind me when I took this picture. The car you see on the right is off loading supplies. There are no cars in line to get supplies. photo from rob akers

 

https://m.facebook.com/cwalterswv/

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I will say this now and I will say it again. The number of people that came to the aid of the flood victims is staggering.  There was a Church group of high school kids from Florida that came to help. There were mobile food camps being set up by people from neighboring states. There were local businesses donating thousands of dollars of food and supplies. There were people taking time off work to go help. And there were the First Responders. It was so cool to see how helpful people are when a real disaster strikes. The America that Trump, Clinton or the press talk about isn’t the real America. But the people working together are all the real deal and when you see it in action, it is humbling and can only reinforce your belief that we are still a great nation.

 

These people didn’t just show up once but they kept showing up, day after day putting in hours and hours of work to help people they had never met. There were two lanes of traffic into and out of the relief center. One was for people who need supplies and the other was for people who were donating supplies. It was about a three to one ratio of people getting stuff to people giving stuff.

 

And these people were not just giving a little either. They would show up with trucks overflowing with expensive items like shovels, diapers, powdered sports drink mixes, cleaning solutions, dog food and everything else that you can imagine. Soaps, clothes, shoes, toiletries, tools, and other things were piled up everywhere mixed in with thousands of cases of water and multiple gas grills cooking hot meals for people. When a car pulled up, the people would ask for a little water or some bleach. What they got was a car full of everything. If you wanted a case of water, you got a trunk full. If you wanted some diapers, you got a month’s supply. Even if you didn’t ask for a hot meal, you got food for yourself, food for everyone in the car and food for people back at their home.

 

My family spent several hours trying to help and we made a scratch but the real effort is still going on. A few days later, another friend and I went back to help again. It was later in the day when we got there and at the relief center, they didn’t need our help. So he asked if I wanted to load up the truck and go find people. It was important to Will because he is from this part of West Virginia. It is personal because these are his people. It was a duty of his because he had spent the week working at the local water treatment plant as a loaner from the local water plant. He knew firsthand the how bad the devastation was because he was working at the plant when the creek rose. It came up thirty feet in a manner of minutes to the back door of the operations center. He stayed at his station because it was his duty to keep the clean water flowing as long possible. The waters subsided from the plant, which by the way is nowhere near a river or creek. It was raining so hard that the water was flowing off of the hills around the plant and creating a lake because it had no way to escape the valley.

 

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It is hard to see the water level mark in this picture. It is about halfway up the beam. photo from rob akers

 

 

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Same bridge. It was underwater when the river crested. photo from rob akers

 

 

Will directed me along the back roads, he showed me houses that had come off their foundations and floated intact a few hundred yards away from where they started. He showed me the bridge that was ten feet under water. He showed me his water plant and told me that he had never dreamed that the water could be that high. We wondered what it was like when Noah got on the Ark. We gave away all of the supplies in my truck, but we had to literally force it on people. They kept saying that they were okay and that there were people who needed it more. I felt like I was talking to someone who was drowning but didn’t want a life jacket because there were people who needed it more than they did. I am so humbled by these people and their attitudes and I have a long way to go before I am that blessed.

 

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A mountain of supplies under the tarps. photo from rob akers

 

 

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This was taken on a different day. It was about 7:00PM and they were shutting down operations for the day. In the background, talking on his cell phone is Senator Walters. photo from rob akers.

Lots of words here, but I feel that it is important to tell the story of how great this nation of people can really be. This is a story you will not hear on the national news. The local news still carries stories about the flooding and to my surprise, they are mostly positive stories about people helping people. Tonight there was a story about a local show choir holding a car wash to raise money to give to a show choir at a high school that was flooded out. People are still going out of their way to help their neighbors two months after the event.  Again, I am humbled and find myself lacking in my humanity.

Clendenin flood recovery: 6 weeks later

 

Earlier, I stated that there were two things that happened to change the course of the family’s summer. It was that we accepted an offer to sale our house.  We agreed to the offer on the former casa de Rob and when we got back, we had to find a new casa de Rob. In just over a month, 32 days to be exact and starting from almost zero, we sold a house, bought a house, moved, went on a small trip to Niagara Falls and had our faith in humanity renewed. The best news possible is that I think my wife and I are going to stay married, not that was in any doubt. The next best news is that we will be keeping the kids but they and the cats are on thin ice. The new news is that hopefully soon, there will be a couple of dogs to add to the insanity. In spite of the boxes, lost household items and general disarray that follows a major family move, Life is good!

 

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Casa de Rob is way too nice for a slacker like me. It is so hard to believe how fortunate a person can be. I am blessed beyond measure. photo from realtor.com

 

 

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You know your stressed when you write these words and don’t figure it out until two weeks later. photo from rob akers

 

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That kid behind me was laughing because I wasn’t smart enough to get my finger off the lens. photo from rob akers

 

 

 

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View from the hotel on the Canadian side of the Falls. Very Impressive. photo from rob akers 

 

 

Until next time, keep on rockin.

 

 

 

 

Site Down For Maintance Until Futher Notice…

 

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That fellow must be really smart. Look at that melon head. Bet he runs like a turtle with those gator legs. photo from rob akers.

 

 

Hey Y’all,

 

Until further notice my site is down due to a failure of the camera to take a suitable photo of me. I have contacted the IT Department here and their response was less than acceptable. They have a meeting scheduled all week and will not be able to address any issues until next week at the earliest.

 

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Those are some ugly feet; glad they don’t belong to me. photo from rob akers.

 

It seems there is a very real lack of motivation by the members on my staff. I am hopeful they get a pedicure in between meetings, but I make no promises. They were able to take a picture of the Strawberry Moon. According to the members of the Medical Department, sent me a text telling me about it.

 

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Quite the impressive Strawberry Moon last night. Hope you got to see it where you live. photo from rob akers.

 

 

Until next time, keep on rockin.

 

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Hope you enjoy the longest day of the year! photo from rob akers

Making the world a better place…

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Sometimes you pick the meat and sometimes it picks you. My technique for cooking this style of meat will be the final picture. photo from yahoo

 

 

 

Hey Y’all,

 

A couple of long days are in the books now. I had my semi-annual training for work and while there is nothing new under the sun, it is amazing what the guys in the school house can come up with to make you think and occasionally look bad when all they do is the simulator but I get to the sim once every six months. What is fun is when they fly a real airplane and they are out of their element. All is well and here is part two of what we started last week. To bring you back up to speed in case you missed last week, I choose to celebrate Memorial Day slightly differently than most. I like to do the things that those who earned the right to have their holiday earned cannot do. I like to spend that day/weekend with family and friends. I also like to grill and burn some meat.

 

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Sometimes you pick the meat and sometimes it picks you. My technique for cooking this style of meat will be the final picture. photo from yahoo

 

 

Last year, I took my grilling experience and added smoke specifically a dedicated smoker. I wasn’t willing (too cheap) to pay 1500.00 dollars for a brand name Little Green Egg or a Primo Brand smoker. I went to the local Home Depot and dropped 325.00 on their cheap version called an Akorn made by King Griller. I know pilots have rich history of having the highest priced toys, but they also have a tradition of being cheap. The old saying is the best way to make a copper wire is to place a penny between two pilots. Anyway I digress, the point of this article is to tell you everything I have learned about smoking meat so that you can too become a grill master. But unlike the guys on television and at the local restaurant, I am not going to play secret squirt games and if I know it then you will know it by the end of this article. I will be writing some things that go against conventional wisdom and I will probably make someone mad. Here is what I think, it is your meat, your smoker, your taste buds and your stomach. Cook it how you like. If some local, backyard purist doesn’t like it; they don’t get seconds.

 

Before I work with the meat, I start the fire. You can get the meat ready first if you want but I like to go straight out and get the meat cooking rather than wait the ten to twenty minutes for the fire to be ready. This is IMPORTANT: use lump coal that is NOT coated with lighter fluid. That will change the taste of the meat. I put a large chunk of hickory wood on the fire at this point. You only need smoke for the first two hours. Afterwards, no wood just coal. Also I do not soak the wood because I use larger portions. One of the resources I trust for smoking says that wet wood doesn’t burn because all you are doing is burning water until it dries out. Then the wood burns. That makes sense to me but other people swear the Earth will stop rotating if you don’t soak the wood.

 

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You can see the wood chunk on the side. Go to Home Depot and buy a burner can. Put newspaper in the bottom and the coal on top. Light and walk away for ten minutes. photo from rob akers

 

 

 

 

I am going to focus on smoking pork ribs and shoulders. But I learned a valuable lesion on Saturday, don’t read the label on the package, look at the meat and see what you got to work with. If it says pork shoulder but looks like a ham you can be reasonably certain that it is a ham. But I am getting ahead of myself. If you are working with frozen meat, depending on the size start unthawing it a day or two in advance. The first thing to do with the meat is to remove the packaging, identify if it is what you expect it to be, wash it off, dry off the moisture, coat it with oil (I prefer olive oil but I think any oil will work), and put some type of rub on the outside. You can also inject it with juice, I like apple juice if I am going to do this. My big hint in this phase is to get medical gloves so that you don’t have to wash your hands every time you reach a new step. Also I like to cover the counter top with newspaper to help with the clean-up.

 

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If it looks like a ham, then it might be a ham. photo from rob akers

 

 

 

It is very important to adjust the openings so that you don’t get the fire too hot or too cold. I really try to get the temperature to hover around 250 degrees but most of the time I am at 300 and at least once in a eight hour cook, my fire is going to go out. If I had a higher quality smoker this might be easier but now that I know what to expect and how to adjust the mixture. I like my cheap smoker. When your fire goes out, I have found the best way to restart it is to use the leaf blower and direct some extra air into the bottom of the smoker. Be careful because you don’t want to blow ashes all over your meat. And once the fire gets going with the high intensity air, it will burn hot and fast. Just enough is perfect, a little too much is like throwing lighter fluid on the fire.

 

 

Make sure you do not put the meat directly above the fire. Always, always, always use indirect heat which means put the meat as far away as possible from the flame. If I have a large cut of meat, I will put in the heat diverter in the center of the grill. All it does is prevent the flame from touching the meat. Cooked is juicy, burned is extremely dry to the point of crispy.

 

 

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If you look hard you can see the heat deflector. The ham/shoulder/whatever cooks slower than the ribs. I started the ribs about three hours before ham was ready. They take about 90 minutes. Sue me, I was hungry. photo from rob akers

 

 

This is the most important step. Check your temperature at least once every thirty minutes to start and shorting that time span as the cook time draws to a close. Also add coal after the first two-hour mark and then every hour whether you think it needs it or not. This will keep your fire burning. The rest of the time is yours. Find a good book to read, listen to some music, swim in the pool, watch the game or whatever you want. But remember to check your fire every thirty minutes. Set your alarm, watch or sun dial to remind you to check your fire. You will be glad you did.

 

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If you really get bored, then you can take a picture of your leg. photo from rob akers

 

 

So now we are five to six hours into the cook. You will have your digital thermometer in the meat and you turn it on for the first time. You should see about 160 degrees if you have been cooking at 300 degrees and it weighs about 8-10 pounds. I always check the meat temperature when I check the smoker temperature because I am a chicken. You will find that the temperature of the meat will stall at about 165 degrees and it will take an hour or two to get the meat above that temperature. I don’t understand the physics of it but essentially the moisture of the meat is evaporating from the skin of the meat so that the heat is released causing a longer cook time. I am told the Texas Crutch technique was invented in Texas and that is the reason why it isn’t called the West Virginia Crutch. Anyway, simply wrap the meat in aluminum foil. This will allow the skin to heat up and prevent the internal temperature from stalling. I will swear by the Texas Crutch as long as I am smoking meat but you can call it what you want.

 

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This was just before I wrapped it in tin foil. I was working fast so I didn’t get a picture of it wrapped up. Just imagine that it is. photo by rob akers

 

 

Now is the time I start thinking about Barb-Que sauces. There are about a million and one recipes but I am too lazy to re-invent the wheel. Also, every region of the world (except the Middle East) has its own style of barb-Que sauce. If you want to have fun go into a Kansas City Barb-Que joint and ask for Memphis style sauce. Or go to Georgia and demand mesquite wood smoke flavor or go to Carolina and request a sweet sauce. About all those places have in common is sweet tea otherwise you are about to start a riot. Being a Memphian, I like a sweet, sugar based sauce. My go to base sauce is Sweet Baby Ray’s sauce because it tastes good to me and it is cheap. All of the following sauce combinations have Sweet Baby Ray’s sauce as the base. But use whatever you like.

 

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This is classic Rob. 3/4 B-B-Que sauce, equal parts mustard and  Worcestershire Sauce. Just try with some different combinations and make it how you like it. photo from rob akers 

 

 

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If you like it hot, take the Rob’s classic sauce and add a drop or two of the Devil’s blend. photo from rob akers

 

 

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I am not normally a vinegar B-B-Que guy but I really love Sweet Baby Ray’s and a splash of apple vinegar. photo from rob akers

 

 

According to my sources, the perfect meat internal temperature is 202. Why you might ask and I have no answer but my favorite guy calls himself Meathead so I am inclined to trust his methodology. Go see his site at http://amazingribs.com

I like to put the meat in a crockpot and then bring it inside. I feel that I can carry it easier and cut it better in the pot. I use meat tongs or a large fork and a sharp knife to shred the meat. Whatever you do just remember that you are working against time because the meat is hot and cooling off and your friends are probably hungry because you told them eat at four and it took you an extra two hours to cook.

 

 

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Yes, the skin is over cooked. The ideal temperature for ham is 165, I cooked it like it was a shoulder up too 202. When I pulled the thermometer out, the juice poured out and it was still very juicy when cut up. photo from rob akers

 

 

 

 

So that is it. I highly encourage anyone who thinks they want to start smoke meat to not be afraid. It really isn’t as hard as the guys on the barb-que shows act. Practice, play around with the meats and the grill and don’t be afraid because the worst thing that will happen is you burn your meat and have to cook hot dogs.

 

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This is all that was left of the ribs and ham after the locusts ravaged the meat. Even when you make a mistake, this is still a successful cook. photo from rob akers

 

 

Until next time, keep on rockin

 

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This is how to cook cat by the way. photo from yahoo

 

 

What Memorial Day means to me…

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This is the symbol that we all expect to see on Memorial Day. photo from yahoo.

 

 

Hey Y’all,

 

I am feeling the post Memorial Day blues today. You know how it is, you get that extra day away from the grind of work and you jump headfirst into the hustle of a weekend crammed full of family events. I know what you may be thinking, (well probably not since most of the time I am not sure what I think) but someone may be wondering why I am so insistent in having a three-day weekend over packed with cookouts, birthday parties and other activities as opposed to doing something more traditional. I believe that Memorial Day is a time to remember those who were willing to paid the ultimate price and they willingly put their lives in jeopardy so that we might be able to fire up the grill and party.

 

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This is from the Rolling Thunder parade in Washington DC on Monday. I am so proud of these men and women making the annual trek across the nation to honor our heroes every Memorial Day. photo from yahoo.

 

 

I am not being flippant, I am being very serious when I say that I think the best way to honor those men and women is to be with family and friends. We may all know a family who lost a loved one wearing a uniform and for them, Memorial Day is just another day to remember their loss because every day to some extent is Memorial Day. They don’t get to spend a silent moment and then going about their lives as if nothing happened. They go about their daily routine with an empty place in their soul because of a little thing called service to the nation. I think about families like Big Joe out in AZ whose step son served in the Marines. I think of a not so little girl whose dad died in a plane crash. I think of Padre Steve whose former Commander took his own life after the war was over for him. Dying on a battlefield or dying in or out of the uniform is the same thing to me.

 

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Apparently this Marine and his Bride chose to get married yesterday after the Rolling Thunder parade. How can this be anything but the best way to honor the nation’s most heroic? photo from yahoo.

 

 

If I go to a cemetery and walk around for a few minutes, what have I really accomplished other than to get a walk in? To me that is a hallow action full of honor and respect, and I am glad that there are people who chose to remember their lives in that manner. But it doesn’t fit with the narrative of how I chose to remember. If I had died over there or over here, I wouldn’t want some guy I didn’t know to walk past my grave and thank the Lord that it was me and not him. I would want that guy to live his life fully, to spend a weekend with his families and friends, enjoying life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is tough and stressful to host three parties in three days. It is tough to fire up the grill and make sure that the meat is cooked to perfection. It is tough to make sure there are plenty of cold drinks in the cooler. It is tough after a long day over the grill to clean the house and do it again the next day. And then do it again the next day. But that is how my family chose to honor those who lost their lives. When I cut into that nearly perfect pork rib, I almost cried because that is how I chose to honor the fallen on Memorial Day.

 

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This is almost the perfect rib. Notice the smoke ring, the moistness of the meat and the almost melted fatty tissue. You cant tell from the picture but the mean really did fall off the bone. It would be more perfect had I trimmed off more of the fat. Rookie mistake but it was the best rib I have ever cooked. photo from rob akers.

 

 

It would be easy to end this article here but that only leaves you with the answer of why I celebrate like I do. Everyone wants to know why but no one wants to teach you how. That is because if you know how then it takes the power of knowledge away from one and gives it to the many. I don’t want to tell you why I am on the path to grill master status. I want you to be a grill master too. I’m not at grill master status yet, but without sounding braggadocios. I am getting pretty good even when I am still making mistakes on every cook.

 

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The Big Green Egg line of smokers. If this was a car, it would be called Ferrari. photo from yahoo.

 

 

Last summer I bought a Kamado smoker called an Akorn. Since I am cheap and even more importantly I couldn’t justify spending 1500.00 dollars on a smoker to my wife I went to Home Depot and bought the knockoff smoker. I have never eaten anything off an Egg or Primo Kamado smoker but there is no way it tastes that much better than what I can produce on my smoker. So if you want to be a master griller like me, go to Home Depot and drop 350.00 on a Char Griller AKorn Smoker. It works like magic and with a little training, it will make you look good.

 

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The Primo line of smoker. If it was a car it would be called Corvette. photo from yahoo.

 

 

 

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This is my personal Akorn smoker. If it was a car, it would be called Pinto. photo from rob akers

 

 

 

 

If you are in the market for a gas grill, do yourself a favor and get one that is infrared heating style. Basically the fire heats up metal and that is what cooks the meat. Since the flame doesn’t actually touch the meat, it is almost impossible to burn the meat. Again, five years ago I went to Home Depot and bought a 250.00 dollar Char Broil gas grill with the infrared technology. It is so easy to cook with; it is almost embarrassing. Set the temperature, throw the meat on, flip it a couple of times and it is ready to eat. But when your guests are eating the meat you just cooked and they are shocked when their pork chop is tender, juicy and well done they will rave about how good you are. You can take the compliments and smile because you know it is all because you got the right grill.

 

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Notice the triangle shaped plate under the grates. That is what blocks the flame and protects the meat from over cooking. I am a huge believer because it works 100%. photo from yahoo.

 

 

I can tell already that this article is going to go long, so we are going to make it a two-day article. Your homework should you choose to accept it, will be to go out and get a smoker. Next week we are going to look at what I created over the weekend, with pictures. I am going to take you behind the curtain, we are going to explore everything from starting the fire to making your own “homemade” bar-b-cue sauces. I am going to show you what I did right and where I failed. I am going to tell you how to restart your fire and how to get that amazing smoke ring on your meats. This weekend I did pork but we will talk beef and chicken too. I cant think of a better way to honor the men and women who serve than by sharing with you the secrets of being a “Master Griller” so that you can live your life in pursuit of happiness and the perfect rib. Maybe together we can honor all the families who gave a son or daughter on the altar of freedom with something to smile about.

 

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Next week we will talk about how you can have the confidence to make this mean for your family and friends. photo from rob akers

 

 

Until next time, keep on rockin.

Master Plan…

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So easy that even a cavecat can do it. photo from yahoo.

 

 

Hey Y’all,

 

I have been thinking a lot about the rest of the year and how I would like it to shake out. Of course, before I state my plan I should recognize that none of us can really see 5 minutes into the future. So as I give you an update on what you can expect moving forward, I will remain rigidly flexible.

 

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Who does number two work for? photo from yahoo.

 

 

Before we look forward, I think we should look backwards a few months. One of the bigger events of my development as a writer is that I actually typed “The End” on book number one. It came in at about 86,000 words and is only eight years in development. About two years ago, I thought I had a finished product but I was wrong. Way wrong, so I cut the first thirty thousand words, and cut the last twenty thousand words from the ending. Completely rewrote the beginning and ending while I kept the middle fifteen thousand words. Then to flesh it out, I went back in and added another twenty thousand words to the total product. That is almost like starting completely over with the same idea.

 

I sent it out to the first three beta readers over the weekend so I am patiently waiting on their thoughts and I am moving forward with book number two which is actually the second half of the first book that I re-wrote. Hope you’re not confused yet, because I certainly am.

 

I will be random in my posts this summer. We have a lot going on this summer with normal family vacation plans, a house that we are trying to sale and if we do then we have to find a new house and actually move. Plus some other things going on with the family, all good trust me which will probably combine to take extra time away from this site. One topic I will be tackling is Bar-B-Que to include some recipes and some of the tricks I have learned from cooking BBQ over the past two years.

 

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That pork shoulder was really starting to look good, it didn’t survive dinner though. photo from rob akers.

 

 

Also during the spring months, I had a stronger than normal bout with anxiety. For all our new friends and readers, I am not a normally nervous or anxious person. I like to think of myself as a calm, steady person who is consistently predictable in my life. But ever since I deployed to Iraq in 2003, I have found that I am just unsettled during the springtime. It seems to creep up on me in March and peaks in April and by the end of May, it seems to have worked its way out of the system. Full disclosure, my issues are very mild and I would not classify my mood swings as harmful, dangerous, or anything that requires special treatment. But it gives me an understanding and compassion for the men and women that suffer from a full blown case of PTSD.

 

I think that part of my increased anxiety this year relates to the fact that I haven’t finished writing about the deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. I have another ten-month period that I need to document but haven’t because the last two rotations were the most stressful and the person I was during that time was the least honorable me. I have been finding excuses to write about that Rob, but I need to get those stories out so I can move on. So you can look for those stories sometime in the fall. It will be a series that lasts a couple of months so there are so many stories both good and bad that I would like to relate to you in general and specifically for my kids who should get to know who their Dad was before they were alive.

 

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I wasn’t always “Angry Dad” but my kids have no idea that I was the inspiration for the Angry Birds game. photo from yahoo.

 

 

Around Christmas, I am sure we will have plenty to discuss with a new President about to take office and of course that is the busy time of the season for me at work, so I will try really hard to finish the year strong by getting book number one finished and complete. At the beginning of 2017, I am going to focus hard on looking for a book agent and I want to start shopping the book. In February, I am scheduled for training with my work and I will be scarce for a couple of months.

 

plan 2

I learned from watching Law and Order to always ask for a lawyer. photo from yahoo.

 

 

Which brings us to late spring 2017, my goal is to have an agent who is actively shopping book number one and to have a completed draft of book number two out to beta readers and to start working on book number three. I know it sounds like a lot but right now all I see is time slipping past me. Two years ago, I was in training for my work and I was struggling to learn a new airplane. It was the only time in my aviation career that I had serious reservations about my ability to learn a new airplane. It was really difficult for me because of a lot of reasons but I made myself a secret promise. That promise was the five years from then, I would have real options about continuing my current career or starting a new career as a real live, highly paid author.

 

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The goal is to be somewhere between the deep end and the shallow end. photo from yahoo.

 

 

I know the odds are stacked against me, I know there are better writers out there and I know that in order to replace my current income I have going to have to be big time. But in order it be big time, you have to dream big time. And of course, all these dreams haven’t been squashed by the four beta readers so I still have a chance to be somebody.

 

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Living the dream…”Mom, Meatloaf!” photo from yahoo.

 

 

Until next time, keep on rockin.

Politics as unusual…

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Is saving the environment a good thing after all? photo from yahoo.

 

 

 

Hey Ya’ll,

 

Hanging out in Indiana tonight watching reruns of the cable network news election results. Today, yesterday if you slept, was the primary for my home plate of West Virginia. Being a good citizen and wanting to be as far away as possible from the polling sites on election day, I voted last week. After school on Thursday, my wife and I took the kids to the court house to cast our ballets. Thinking about it in retrospect, I don’t think I have voted on an election day in over twenty years and I couldn’t tell you where my local polling location is at. I guess it would be an understatement to say that I love early voting.

 

My wife is a Republican and I am a Democrat. In all honesty, I am probably more DINO (Democrat In Name Only) than card carrying, true believer. In 2003, spending most of the year hanging out in Iraq, my good friend Paul summarized the difference between Democrats and Republicans. Paul explained it like this. “A Democrat wants to mess up our country while a Republican wants to mess up someone else’s country.” Looking back at American history, I really have a difficult time disproving his theory. In September 2003, I had to get a new driver’s license because my wife had sold her house and moved into my house. Along with the new license, I changed my political party to Democrat because I was tired of messing up other people’s countries.

 

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Dancing in the streets. photo from yahoo.

 

 

Of course over the years being a Democrat has given me so many opportunities to mess with people because they just expect that I should be a good card carrying member of the Republican party. It is really fun to get the sideways look when I tell people that I am a Democrat. Even better is the awkward silence and confused look that comes from my confession. Of course the worse part of being a Democrat is when those people try to convert me into being what they expect me to be. Occasionally, I come across someone who really wants to engage in a rational discourse on the merits of the political parties and even better when the person I am talking too really doesn’t care who I vote for. They are the best and they are rare.

 

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I have no idea what party Al Capone was a part of but I am sure they loved him. photo from yahoo.

 

 

 

I wouldn’t describe myself as a political junkie but I would say that I am well informed of where the candidates stand on the respective issues. And a couple of thoughts have crept into my mind about this political season and the candidates’ motivations for becoming President. I would like to talk about Bernie Sanders first. If he were taken in a vacuum, I think he is an old school throwback to the days of Ben Franklin and Alexander Hamilton. He is to be exactly what we all want in a candidate; I really think he is honest when he speaks about his political views. I really think that he is a kind hearted man and he tried to walk the talk. On the other side of the coin, when he says that he is a Socialist he really means that he ascribes to the Socialist agenda. I voted for him in spite of the fact that I believe that he cannot win the general election and in spite of the fact that I find that I agree with very little that he says. But in the world of politics, honesty, humanity, and decency mean more to me than lower taxes or gun control.

 

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Bernie Sanders. photo from yahoo.

 

 

I have spent a lot of time thinking about Hillary Clinton and I do believe that she will beat Sen. Sanders’ campaign in a few weeks. But I also think that she is unelectable in the general election. I have to believe that the Democrat leadership is coming around to the idea that she cannot win. They are in a tough place because without the super-delegates, she would have a difficult time gaining the nomination. I think that this e-mail controversy is real and that by the time the Democratic Convention, it will be the millstone that sinks her candidacy. In politics, perception is everything and it will be apparent that her polling numbers will be falling behind Donald Trump’s.

 

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Hillary Clinton. photo from yahoo.

 

 

Speaking of those missing e-mails of Hillary. How embarrassing will it be for the United States when we can’t retrieve them from the servers, but the Russians or Chinese hand over about 20,000 emails they hacked off her supposedly secured private server. I promise you that they would love to embarrass the United States. I don’t think there is any way that President Obama will allow his last days as American President to be embarrassed by an October surprise by the Russians just before the election. There is no way he will jeopardize his legacy by trusting the Russians, the Chinese, the North Koreans, the Iranians, the Mexicans or the Saudis to not leak their hacked information. The United States has a lot of enemies in the world and President Obama personally has make so many nations upset that someone will try to embarrass his during his final days in office. Therefore, I predict that the Democratic Convention will be in chaos for the first three days and on the fourth day, Vice President Joe Biden will be drafted to become the party’s candidate. He will select Bernie as his Vice President and together they will be the chosen ones to defeat the “dark side” of the Republicans.

 

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Joe Biden. photo from yahoo.

 

 

I have been wondering why Donald Trump wants to be President. He doesn’t need the money and he doesn’t need the fame. He doesn’t need the headache and he doesn’t need hassle. Why would he need to be President? That question has been rattling around in my head for a while until the other night I realized what he actually gains. It is the one thing that money can’t buy and no matter what else he accomplishes in this life: he can’t get unless he is President. That one thing is a Presidential Library. The man has hotels, buildings, golf courses, resorts, casinos, and real estate all over the world. He started a university and has a fleet of jets, helicopters, cars and yachts. The only difference between Air Force One and Trump One is that there isn’t a gold faucet on Air Force One. I think he is in this because the only way to have his name live on until the end of time is to have a Presidential Library. I have a good friend who makes it his mission in life to visit every Presidential Library. Morgan is a true blue Democrat but he didn’t blink an eye when he took his family to visit the Bush Presidential Library. It is a big deal to have a Presidential Library and it is the one thing that money can’t buy.

 

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Donald Trump. photo from yahoo.

 

 

Until next time, keep on rockin.

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