Even More Goodies From My Daughter

_20140929_201648

Also included in my little care package were two packs of pepper seeds, she says I can grow these alongside the rest of my “heat” and thinks they will be a fine addition to my Ghost Peppers, Habaneros, Tobascos, and Jalapeños that I already successfully grow. So, my new ones to try are the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion Pepper and the Trinidad Scorpion Pepper. I’ve looked into these peppers, they pack a little heat to say the least. Well, I am always looking for more heat to add to my chili, my salsa, and my own version of hot sauce. We’ll talk about those another time. Anyway, I need to successfully grow these two new peppers first, the we can decide how I will cook with them.

_20140929_201709

How Being Under-Qualified Saved Me

xerxes-41613-2_650x366

Normally I wouldn’t be especially satisfied with being told that I’m under-qualified for a specific job position. However, having the lack of one specific qualification saved me from moving somewhere I really didn’t want to live. Now that I have the definitive answer let me start from the beginning of how this all came about. Before I get to far ahead of myself let me explain the above photograph. It was taken earlier this year by my cousin who lives outside of Bismarck, North Dakota and sent to my mother (his aunt by marriage) to illustrate what a great winter they were having. My mother thought it humorous to show me the photo since I spend 98% of the year in shorts and flip flops. Anyway, back to the story. Seems in my family circle news of me being laid off has expanded out to extended family as well. Well, my cousin, who has lived in and around Bismarck his entire life, works for a company there that manufacturers diesel powered recreational vehicles (RVs), buses, and large specialty vehicles. Anyway, he had a position open and wanted to give me an opportunity to fill it for him.

Our first telephone conversation was short and to the point, he needed my resume. Now, that’s convenient because I had recently updated my resume. After a few days he called me for an impromptu telephone interview. Seems I offered everything he was looking for with one exception, I don’t have any over the counter sales experience. It would appear that being a bartender isn’t considered actual sales experience. Who knew. Unfortunately, this minor detail is a major deal breaker. In many ways I’m not disappointed in the decision, in other ways, financially speaking, it was a let down. I mean, I just let an $80,000.00 a year job slip through my fingertips as well as a company sponsored relocation. So, in that regard it sucks a bit. Perhaps I wasn’t meant to live that far north, because I’m really not a fan of the cold weather or snow.

In review, I would have had to uproot my family, lease out my home & property, and go live in a place that is known for its harsh winter environment. What in the fuck was I smoking! I imagine, if things would have turned out different, that we would have moved. But, I think I would have regretted leaving Texas. Plus, those damn yankees talk funny, it would have been like moving to a foreign country or something. Personally, I think the right thing happened, maybe for the wrong reasons, but I can live with that.

Our Jobs As Teenagers

nillionaire

My 17 y/o daughter and I had an interesting conversation over the holiday break which sparked my daughter’s interest into looking at what other teens make per hour at their part-time jobs. I tried to explain to her that she was very lucky making $10 per hour as well as only having to work 20 hours a week. She is actually pretty damn lucky because her part-time job is working at the church daycare as a teacher’s aide. She has had this job for a little over a year and half. She has never had to work at a fast food place or a place of retail so she knows nothing about how it actually is in a real marketplace for employment. She is lucky in other ways as well, like every bit of the money she earns is only earmarked for things she wishes to spend it on. She has no bills with the exception of putting fuel in her truck. In my opinion, knowing how I grew up, she is extremely lucky she can spend her paychecks as she pleases. She is smart with her money to a degree, she always puts some away in her saving account. She has a hard time comprehending that “most” teens her age with a part-time job are only making $7.25 per hour and work in less than ideal conditions sometimes.

She says I was lucky as I explained to her what I did for money when I was a teen. I made what I thought was decent money at the time back in 1983 because that is when I really started getting paid. I worked with my dad who was a concrete contractor for many years before for basically spending money but never anything to save. I learned many skills working with him that I still value to this day. I was never afraid to bust my ass working in the Houston heat & humidity and not see a dime for my efforts. When I needed money all I had to do is ask, well, most of the time. As the summer between 8th and 9th grade approached I had already obtained my driver’s license, I already had a truck (rebuilt from parts from the junkyard where I found it), I was dating, and all I needed was a part-time job to pay for all the things I wanted to do. Back in 1983 the state minimum wage was $3.35 or something like that per hour. Where I lived teens had a limited choice to part-time employment like working at a fast food place, the theatre (an old singleplex), the car wash, a grocery store, or out on the farms and ranches. My dad offered up $700.00 per month cash (over the summer) to keep working with him and when school started back up it was going to be $350.00 a month cash. Doesn’t seem like much by todays prices, but back then the money would last me a long time. So, no, I never had to go get a minimum wage job while in high school.

The conversation evolved back to today and the struggles over the minimum wages at fast food places. This is where I was told my asshole side came out to play. My daughter wanted to agree with the fight, the fight to change paying employees at least $15.00 to flip burgers, get my order wrong, and waste my damn time. Oh, wait, the money paid isn’t supposed to reflect the quality of service you receive now is it. More money does not mean the skill level and caring just went up. I think it’s a joke. And, no, I don’t know the struggles of the people working in that industry or any other for that matter. Plus, I’m not a fast food eater, mostly because I hate paying for shitty service, shitty attitude, and shitty food. No, you may not argue that everything would be better if these poor mistreated people made more money. You’ll never be able to convince me that paying $15.00 per hour will make the fast food experience better for the customer, and if you believe that bullshit it might be time to re-evaluate your past dining experiences. People, in general, want everything handed to them while they provide little or no effort. Why no, right? Society has been moving in this direction for many years, right? We are victims of our own bullshit, right? Wrong! Get a job, work your ass off, work your way up, try harder than the next person, and stamp out your place in this fucking society as a person that has something to offer back besides an open hand waiting for something to dropped into it. What ever happened to “earning a living” or “working hard” or “getting a job”? They don’t exist, people just sit on the couch and wait for the government check.

I sound a little bitter don’t I? Or do I? Don’t mistake my honesty about all of this for being bitter, just consider that I’m real tired of all the people who complain but are not willing to get a damn job and when they get a job for unskilled labor they complain that they are not paid enough. I can speak for where I live locally and the teens don’t want to work. The ones that do are not doing it for weekend cash they are doing it to help support their household. Those who aren’t teens, what should they be paid? Good question since working at a fast food place is still considered being unskilled labor. I don’t know anymore, it seems, at least on the surface, that the debate will continue about minimum wage, especially in the fast food industry. I guess people are no longer happy with the opportunity to merely have a job and unfortunately in our society there is an actual need for an unskilled labor force. If people want better for themselves then they need to better prepare themselves to be in a different job market that earns more money, not ask it to be handed to them like it is today in the here and now.

So, what should be the wages, the limitations, and the requirements? Hell, I’m in my mid-40s and had to have a second full-time job to make ends meet, and that is with a wife who is employed full-time. I didn’t know all I needed to do was whine a little and it would all be handed to me with no effort on my part. This is the world we live in, everything isn’t equal and nor should it be equal because we all don’t offer equal qualifications and/or work ethics. Be assured that the government will be forced to increase the minimum wage because of all the political pressure that is currently being applied. And, sadly, when the enablers get their way, we as a society, will once again take a few steps backwards. Where does the extra money come from? The consumer will be having the wage increase passed on to him/her through everything they purchase which is soon going to mean that what I make an hour won’t be enough, according to the same standards. Yea, I know, I can speak until I’m blue in the face and still get told I have absolutely no argument. Well, this has been my opinion and I think it will be a giant mistake and the people being served at the local fast food restaurant and at other places which use unskilled labor will soon be seeing a cost increase because the labor still has to be paid for by employers.

Where do we go from here? In my personal opinion, I think that this will just be another nail in the coffin for any business, large or small, here in the United States. Many places already operate on a shoestring budget just to keep the doors open and make some profit after paying the bills. Your right, fuck ’em. Why should I care what people are getting paid. Part of me thinks about the amount of blood, sweat, and tears it took me to get where I am at today. Part of me dislikes it when anything is just handed over to those who are not willing to earn it. I was raised different from that, I was raised in a manner that made me realize I needed to be able to provide something in exchange for compensation. I raise my own children the same way and not look for the free ride. Hopefully I’m alone in the way I raise my kids because if so then this next generation of people entering the workforce are truly fucked. I wonder what would be dropped in my open hand being a white male, 45, skilled, educated, and currently employed. Anything extra for me? I didn’t think so. But I already knew this fact. Anyway, as a society in the United States, we keep throwing money into the burning caldron, before long the people like myself that actually have to earn a living will be out of money and there will be no help, there will be only dust in the bankrupt coffers. Too melodramatic?

I never wanted to be a millionaire, I still don’t want to be a millionaire, and I doubt I will ever want to be a millionaire. Why? I like my life and the people in it. We work hard for what we earn and live a lifestyle which has been great for all of us, all too much money will do is corrupt what we consider to be perfect. Y’all may think one’s life revolves around money, I used to think the same way, but when you have nothing it always brings a smile to your face when you can put a little aside for a rainy day. I’m not saying the minimum wage is accurate, but I’m not the judge of that either, and it is called “minimum” for a reason. The only place people can go when they are on the bottom is up, many people acknowledge that the journey will be long and hard, others prefer to demand something without offering anything more in return. As much as we would all like to think we are worth our weight in gold, the reality is that if we were then we would no longer have value. I’ll leave it up to y’all because y’all should make your own decisions based on your individual opinions. The minimum wage is out of the hands of the “people” and will always be decided by politicians who take only their status into consideration. Fuck it, roll the dice. I hope everyone gets what they are expecting.

holdingMoney

The Places My Combat Boots Have Seen

0000 CB 001

A natural choice of footwear for me is my last remaining pair of Air Force issued combat boots. I have had many pair of combat boots over the years, starting back in 1988. I don’t remember them all, but there are a few that stand out in my mind because of what I was doing when I was wearing them. Currently I have only one pair left out of my collection as I have had to retire so many before it. My very first pair of issued combat boots were in United States Air Force BMT (Basic Military Training). I recall the thoughts of how uncomfortable they felt on my feet since I was in the habits of wearing my cowboy boots which were worn, haggered, stunk like shit, but were the most comfortable boots (shoes) I have ever worn. My new pair of boots were rigid, stiff, and lace up. I can’t remember how to tie my boot at first, I had to watch other new airmen as they laced and tied their boots, as I haven’t had to tie a shoe in a long time, in fact I couldn’t really remember a specific time when I tied a shoe last. I was at a loss. I was going to get kicked out on my first day because I couldn’t tie a shoe, I guess that is what I get for wearing boots for as long as I could remember. I went from owning 2 pair of shoes, cowboy boots & flip flops, to a single pair of combat boots. I better learn fast I thought, I better learn fast. I knew I was excited, this was my first day as a soldier.

After successfully completing BMT and Technical school in Denver Colorado it was noticed that my boots did not fair so well, it was time to get a new pair. Of course, I was told to wait until I got to my first base, Misawa AB Japan, where I was told I would be issued another pair as part of my in-processing. When I got to Japan I was impressed, they don’t mess around when it comes to boots, I was issued 4 pair, two summer weight and two winter weight (insulated) pair, also, I was issued my first pair of mukluks since it was winter in full force in Japan just days after Christmas. Everyone knows that if your feet are cold, your whole body is cold. I wish I would have known that before I got to Japan. How in the hell am I supposed to know how to deal with snow, I’m from Houston in southeast Texas. In late 1990 I was given orders to go to Turkey in support of what will become to be known world-wide as Desert Storm. Time to let go of the snow and the black combat boots, it was time to get introduced to desert styles. The military has a boot to fit most functions, most terrains, and most weather. This was a long 6 months for me, it was the first time I had to remind myself to do the right thing whether anyone is looking or not. I watched people lose focus, make mistakes, and basically ruin their career, I didn’t want to be that guy. I was also involved in the Liberation of Kuwait where I got to see for the very first time in person, up close and personal, the destruction that was causes. Most people think war is a physical element of destruction because we can see physical damages. I saw things beyond that, I walked over the remains of what appeared to be a family caught by surprise as a bomb that was dropped exploded just outside their house. Walking across them was an accident and when I realized what it was I had stepped on I was a bit shocked, it hurt me to see them. Our team leader explained to me that they were not “my” problem and we must move on since we were in the process of locating an area to set up shop. After that day I never wore those boots again.

Soon enough I returned to Japan to finish out the remainder of my tour. After a few years I left Japan and headed to Iceland. Unfortunately I was only in Iceland a matter of a few weeks as I was diverted to be stationed at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. I already had some experience living in the desert so the transition to a zero humidity environment wasn’t that hard on my system.  From New Mexico I would truly see the world beyond what I knew. I visited many places for many reasons doing my assigned job. Leaving became easier over the years, it was the coming home that was hard to do. In mid summer 1995 I was sent to Osan AB Korea to assist in the inspection of some specific munitions components which had been in long term storage. It was time to determine if they were still serviceable and if so prep them for shipment to a variety of bases world-wide. 18 months later I rotated back to the world to be reunited with my family in New Mexico. Things were not good at home, but that is another story, in fact I think I have written about it here once or twice.

In late 1998 I was in Las Vegas Nevada for the 3rd or 4th time for training and I was given orders to go an undisclosed area for the initial drive of what will become known as Operation Desert Fox. My views had really changed about the United States’ role in the world and it really impacted how I performed, I turned off the emotion, I turned off the feelings, and I just did my job. This would be the first deployment I did not get issued fresh boots, probably because of the timeline, who knows. However, when I got back there was a shiny new pair waiting for me. Well, they weren’t shiny yet, but they would be in no time. Eventhough I had a grunt job, I worked in and out of warehouses, a variety of shops, drove a variety of equipment, and walked everywhere as well, two things were always important, a persons attitude and a persons appearance. The first thing a person notices, unfortunately, is a dirty pair of boots, we always were cleaning our boots, making sure they were taken care of and shined with a reflection that rivaled most mirrors. I eventually left the Air Force, I was medically retired due to previous injuries which happened while active duty. I had no idea what being label a disabled veteran meant. I had no idea how I was going to function in the outside world. I was divorced by this time, a single parent to my daughter who didn’t know what civilian life was all about and I had all but forgot. Luckily my dad was there to catch me, offered me and my daughter a place to call home, and gave me a job working with him in his concrete contractor business. Not knowing any better, on my first day of work, I laced up a pair of my steel toed combat boots. Eventually I traded them in for a pair of work boots, finally no laces!

I always fall back to the combat boot as a boot to wear when I know my feet will be in an unruly environment. After the Air Force, my combat boots continued to see service protecting my feet from the elements and my daily life. I have one pair that has been bitten by two different snakes and has seen more blood of animals killed in the hunt than most shoes should ever have to endure. These boots are my “go to” boots. Over this past weekend I was getting dressed to go weed-eat the perimeter of my fence-line. When overgrown like was, it is a fairly dangerous place for feet because one doesn’t know what is in the tall grass. As I laced up my boots Sunday morning I found myself remembering what I wrote about here today. Interesting how a single pair of boots can trigger memories both good and bad. I wore them without incident, I don’t bother cleaning them anymore, I just knock off the big clumps, and then hang them back on the hook, ready for the next time they will serve me well.

0000 CB 002

Scorpion Sting’s Crown Royal Devil Cookies

crownroyalcookies 04

A while back I had this recipe which I was fortunate enough to have found in my e-mail. I posted the recipe with the statement that I was going to attempt them. Now, get this clear, I don’t bake, it’s not really my thing. But, with the aid of my 17 y/o daughter who does bake, I think we came up with a good cookie. Although, we made a few minor modifications to the recipe. If you are going to choose to redo this recipe then the choice is up to you if you do it my way or the way listed. Have both, my treat, do what you will. First, I must mention, my cookies did not turn out as advertised on the recipe, but that’s how they turned out in real life.

My list of ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup melted butter (use real butter!)
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup Nesquik cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 2 whole eggs (xlrg)
  • 3/4 cup Crown Royal Black
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp table salt
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (sifted)
  • 1 tsp melted Dartmoor Devil white chocolate

Preheat oven to 375F. Mix the melted butter. cocoa powder, sugar, and melted white chocolate. On the low-speed, add one whole egg at a time. Add the almond extract. mix in the Crown Royal. Add in the flour, baking soda, and the salt until it all combined and a smooth texture. Make 15 equally sized balls, roll them up in your hand. Place them on a cookie sheet lined with tin foil equally spaced apart. Bake for 13 minutes. Cool on rack and then enjoy. We didn’t wait as you can see. For those of y’all unaware of what the Dartmoor Devil White Chocolate is just do a search on my blog for information. Here’s a hint, it’s made with the Bhut Jolkia pepper. The original recipe is below.

wpid-513ef4bc3bee8c1e2a5f1cec7f532711.jpg