Tuesday, June 30, 2015

There Is No Culture War, No Political Correctness, Only Shame ...

Civilization requires order. Civilization does not require the details to remain the same. It seems to me that there are three big ways that civilization deals with disorder and disorderly individuals:

1. Exile,
2. Execution, and
3. Shame.

For the most part, modern civilization is global. A disorderly individual leaves one location for another, and the person's reputation is bound to catch up. Exile is no longer a thing anymore, as long as the Internet is around.

Execution is in the government's domain. A non-governmental entity -- a person -- who executes another person has committed a form of murder, and is now subject to punishment by the government. Imprisonment is also in the government's domain, as well as most other kinds of punishment.

That leaves us with shame. In the United States, part of the First Amendment reinforces the right of individuals to express their opinions, without any governmental consequences. An American, in America, can speak his mind without fear of imprisonment or execution. On the other hand, if this American says something offensive to at least one other American, then the First Amendment does not protect him for the consequence of a social backlash.

The social zeitgeist, the spirit of the time, dictates who is to be shamed. A while back, it was perfectly acceptable to insult people with disabilities. Now, it's perfectly acceptable to shame those who insult people with disabilities. What has changed? From an objective point of view, nothing much, really, because order happens either way. (Imagine that you're a god or an alien or any sapient entity outside of humanity, and you might agree with my assertions.)

In some ideological circles, last decade, it was believed that "patriots" wholeheartedly supported the actions of the federal government; protestors were committing treason. These days, in those same social circles, "patriots" speak out against the government; those who support the current government are traitors. Of course, there was a change in the political party in power, but the government's actions are about the same as before (e.g., the PATRIOT Act). What has changed? From an objective point of view, nothing much, really, because order happens either way.

I can expand upon this with current events: For a long while, the Confederate Battle Flag was okay to stay where it was; now, there are more voices in favor of leaving that particular symbol to the history books. What has changed? Nothing much, really, because order happens either way.

For much of American history, it was okay to treat lesbian/gay/bisexual/transsexual/queer people as second class citizens (at best) and abominations (at worst). Now, it's okay to shame those who are against marriage equality. What has changed? Nothing much, really, because order happens either way.

For many years, Donald Trump made lots of money for himself and others. He also lost lots of money for himself and others, as well. In that time, his A-hole public persona has sold a lot of things to target audiences, and thus Trump's behavior was tolerated by his peers and superiors. Now, due to the changing zeitgeist and shifting demographics, whatever he said recently is not acceptable to his peers and superiors. What has changed? Nothing much, really, because order happens either way.

From an imaginary objective point of view, there is no culture war. The socially-conservative way of life might be losing ground, or it might be gaining ground, depending on the year. "Happy Holidays" has the same warm sentiment as "Merry Christmas." What has changed? Nothing much, really, because order happens either way.

From this same point of view, there is no political correctness. "Person with _____" might be a bulky use of language, but it ultimately means the same thing as the terminology of yesteryear. Also, that archaic phrasing might possibly be a current derogatory term, and therefore, the speaker would likely be subject to some form of shame. What has changed? Nothing, because order.

If you believe in the divine right of kings, but you live in a democratic society, you might be shamed, for the sake of social order. If you are an agnostic in a very specific theocratic society, you might be shamed, for the sake of social order. If you are a Mormon amongst Baptists, well, you know. If you believe in magic, but you live around scientists ...

Of course, the thing with shame is that the real struggle is the control over it. Maybe the divine right of kings will be a thing again -- it sort of is, with all the celebrity-worship going around. The shift of shame has to be either organic (population changes, cultural evolution, etc.) or subtle (usually encapsulated in genuine entertainment). Any attempt at an overt shift of shame -- preachiness, namely -- probably won't be a successful attempt. Failure, of course, is also subject to shame.

What is the point of all this order? I can only guess, but my guess involves the following: Power will shift among the powerful class, the powerless class(es) will buy all sorts of stuff they don't need, and nobody is supposed to notice anything.

What a shame.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Cobbling Together My "Perfect" Electric Guitar #alittlethunder #fender #gibson

Growing up, my ideal form of a guitar was a Fender Stratocaster with a maple fretboard, black paint job, a white pickguard, three stock single-coil pickups, and a whammy bar. I don't know why the guitar had to be that specific; I must have seen a random '80s pop-rocker earnestly strumming away on a black-and-white Strat on TV.

In 1994, I acquired a Fender Stratocaster with those same specifications. To this day, I cherish playing that guitar. When pretending to be Hendrix, Clapton, or Gilmour, you can't beat jamming on a Stratocaster.

While hands-down my favorite guitar, the Fender Stratocaster isn't my "perfect" guitar.

In 1996, I purchased a "backup" for the Strat: An Epiphone Special II. It is the lower-end, well, lowest-end derivative of the Gibson Les Paul, with a similar body shape. With a rosewood fretboard, sunburst paint job, no pickguard, and two humbucker pickups, my Epiphone is basically a diametrically-contrasting guitar to my Fender. For much of the late '90s and into this century, the Special II wasn't so much a backup, as it was a complementary guitar, especially for recording purposes. For $150, which could have bought a lot in 1996 dollars, the Epiphone Special II was a good buy. Oddly enough, this was the first year that the Special II was in production, so as far as cheap guitars go, it's basically "vintage."

Playing both the Fender and the Epiphone gave me a lot of insight regarding what I like and dislike about both styles of electric guitar. Since the Epiphone Special II is a low-end Gibson, I'll refer to the overall style of this guitar as a "Gibson." I like the non-angled headstock found in most Fender guitars. Gibson guitars usually have angled headstocks, which might possibly break in a freak dropping accident. I would rather transport my guitar with a soft gig bag slung on my back versus lugging around a hard-shell flight case, so I prefer Fender headstocks.

I really don't care about the material used in for the fretboard of a guitar -- maple or rosewood or even ebony, as long as it works. I found, however, the scale length (that is, twice the distance from the nut to the 12th fret, or roughly, from the nut to the bridge) is something worth considering. Gibson-scale guitars tend to have a shorter scale length than most Fender scale guitars. Gibsons are usually 24-3/4", while most Fenders are 25-1/2". All other measurements being relatively equal, a Gibson tuned to standard tuning will have looser-feeling strings compared to a Fender tuned the same way. String-bending is easier on a Gibson than on a Fender.

I dislike hum. Whenever I play my Stratocaster with lots of fuzz, distortion, and overdrive, I tend to select the "in-between" position between single-coil pickups. This usually cancels out the hum of the stock single coil, almost like a humbucker. Whenever I play my Epiphone, well, the humbucker is already there.

I prefer the output jack of an electric guitar to be on the face (like my Strat), rather than on the side of the body (like my Epiphone, and many Gibson-style guitars). When practicing and/or fiddling around on a guitar, while sitting in a comfortable chair, there aren't any cable connectors poking about on a Fender-style output jack location. You'd need a right-angle cable to do the same with a Gibson-style output jack location.

I rarely use a whammy bar, but I don't mind having a tremolo bridge ... or not having a tremolo bridge. The paint job doesn't matter to me, and neither does the shape of the guitar.

In early 2014, I modified my Epiphone Special II. I removed the neck-position humbucker, and replaced it with a single-string humbucker (by Paul "Ubertar" Rubenstein) under the low E string, with the intent to use an octave pedal for some "fake bass" while playing the guitar. In doing so, I replaced the selector switch with an additional output jack, and I rewired the whole mess. The bridge humbucker now has an output jack on the face of the guitar, while the fake bass pickup has an output jack on the side of the guitar. If it wasn't for the worrisome angled Gibson-style headstock, this Epiphone would have been a darn near "perfect" electric guitar. Having fake bass only under the low E string also limits how I play the guitar. It's great for Dropped- and Open-D songs and riffs, but it's inefficient for almost everything else.

1995 or 1996 First-edition Epiphone Les Paul Special II.
In late 2014, I saw a Facebook post from Captain Anderton (known for the Top Gear-like guitar gear videos on YouTube, to me anyway, because of the accents of course) about an invention by guitarist Andy Alt called A Little Thunder. It is a guitar pickup -- a humbucker -- that provides bass notes under the low E and A strings, with no external octave pedal needed. There is also a "low note priority" mode, in which you can play a chord, strum both the low E and A, and the pickup will choose the lowest note to sound out -- preventing some muddy bass chord playing. At the time, A Little Thunder was selling pickups via a Kickstarter campaign.

A little thunder god named Thor, with A Little Thunder humbucker pickup.

I had to buy this new pickup; it's what I attempted to cobble together -- and more! And so I pledged X amount of dollars to Andy Alt's ALT campaign on Kickstarter. I didn't want to replace the pickup on my "fake bass" Special II, and I refuse of modify my Strat, so I was on the search for a new guitar. It had to:

1. Be inexpensive,
2. Have a non-angled headstock,
3. Have a Gibson-scale length,
4. Have a humbucker-sized pickup slot to accommodate A Little Thunder, and
5. Have an output jack on the face of the guitar.

I bought a Squier Cyclone (by Fender) during Musician's Friend's 2014 Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale event. The Cylone's shape is based on the Fender Mustang. Interestingly, the Fender Mustang is a short-scale Fender, shorter than Gibson scale. The Cyclone also:

1. Was inexpensive, at about the same price as my 1996 Special II, but in 2014 dollars -- therefore, way inexpensive,
2. Has a non-angled, straight Fender headstock,
3. Has a Gibson-scale length, longer than the Mustang,
4. Has a humbucker slot in the bridge position, and
5. Has an output jack on the face of the guitar.

With a rosewood fretboard, Lake Placid Blue paint job, a pearl white pickguard, and a tremolo bridge, the Squier Cyclone was a perfect match for my needs.

It's almost as if my Strat mated with my Special II.

Earlier this month, June 2015, A Little Thunder arrived in my mailbox. The ALT pickup was slightly larger than the Squier's stock humbucker, so I had to use some metal files and sandpaper to fit A Little Thunder through the pickguard. After a relatively simple wiring job, we were in business. The inventor himself, Andy Alt, was available online to answer all my installation inquiries.

Lake Placid Blue is a tricky color.

I am so far impressed with A Little Thunder. Compared to my modified "fake bass" Epiphone, my guitar playing is no longer limited to E-string basslines. I have the A string as well, making I IV V progressions simple again, without jumping all over the fretboard! The "ALT bass" tone of A Little Thunder has ample growl, contrasting the sort of thin tone of a single string pickup through an octave pedal. The low-note priority mode has some tracking issues -- it's basically a computer making split-moment decisions on which string to play, so I must applaud the pickup's efforts. Low-note priority works well for slower songs, as well as for dropped-D, power chord riffing on the E string, to prevent muddy basslines. For general rhythm guitar/ALT bass usage, I seem to gravitate toward turning off the low-note priority function, and instead play either the low E or A string, but not both. I have the other four strings for guitar chords anyway, and I don't like muddy bass chords.

A "perfect" guitar equipped with A Little Thunder is a dream to play. It is a guitar that is also a bass. Combine that with a lead vocal microphone with a harmony vocal effect, and a footswitch-triggered drum machine that triggers LED light patterns, well, I now have a band show.

There is effectively a live band at my fingertips and toes, and I could play as many simple arrangements of almost every song in popular music. I can play alone or jam with another musician, and the sound will almost always feel "full." I just have to come up with a good setlist ... and practice.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

A Mini-Sword out of Brass Rod, Wire, and an Acorn Nut

"People who buy things are suckers," once said by the Parks and Recreation character Ron Swanson. I've come to realize that people who buy supplies to make things are suckers, too, but less so than the average consumer. Scavenging and/or plundering might be the way to go, but that's not what this blog post is about.

This Father's Day, I couldn't decide what trivial trinket to purchase for my dad, so I decided to make something for him. Something cool. Something that reeks of badassery.

I decided to make a sword for my dad.

Okay, I decided to make a letter opener in the shape of a sword for my dad for Father's Day.

I initially wanted to make the mini-sword out of stainless steel because stainless steel is said to be a food-safe material. In addition to being a nifty letter opener, a stainless steel mini-sword could also be a meat skewer and/or a drink stirrer.

The sucker that I am, I purchased a variety of annealed stainless steel rods, in preparation for this project. To research some metalworking knowledge, I lurked in various metalworking forum topics. I soon realized that stainless steel is a relatively difficult and tough material to work with, even when annealed (softened by heat). Luckily, I barely touched the stainless steel rods before going to Plan B (or was it C? D, perhaps?).

I decided to hold off on stainless steel for a future mini-sword, and I decided to work with brass instead. Brass is a way softer material than stainless steel to cut, hammer, bend, and heat. Armed with a variety of clamps and vices, three hammers (one, two, and three pounds), a small hacksaw, a mini butane torch, files, grinding wheels, sandpaper, a cordless drill, various drill bits, a center punch, threading die, cutting fluid, a digital caliper, needle-nose pliers, jeweler's pliers, goggles for safety, and a cute-sized anvil -- I decided to work with brass. (I probably used other tools and equipment as well, but I can't remember them all.)

Stop. Hammertime.
I wanted the letter opener's parts to be as analogous to an actual sword as practically possible. A sword usually consists of four parts: (1) Blade and tang, (2) crossguard, (3) grip, and (4) pommel. Each part of the sword makes sure that the other parts stick together. I wanted the letter opener to do the same.

I used a relatively thin brass rod for the letter opener's "blade" and "tang." I wanted the end of the sword to be compatible with my choice of pommel -- an acorn nut (the hardware, not squirrel food). I made the "tang" a bit nontraditional by using a threading die to connect the acorn nut to the "blade" rod.

I tried to hammer the "blade" part somewhat flat, but I don't think I was as successful as I wanted to make the blade flat and wide. I hope a future mini-sword will have a wider blade; I'll have to use more elbow grease, and perhaps, some dragon's fire to accomplish this. In any case, I also used a couple of drill bit grinding wheels, a variety of files, and different grits of sandpaper to shape the "blade" to resemble a blade.

I used a relatively thick brass rod for the letter opener's crossguard. It was so thick, that I used a hacksaw to cut the rod in lengthwise in half. Cutting fluid is helpful when cutting metal. I then hammered and ground the half-rod into shape. A good vice is also helpful for this step. I drilled a hole in the middle of the metal piece with a cordless drill, a drill bit with the same size as the "blade/tang" rod, and some cutting fluid. I then connected the shaped crossguard rod to the shaped blade rod.

Functionally, the "grip" of the letter opener is supposed to push the crossguard flush against the blade, with the pommel keeping the grip in place. I had a few materials choices for this part of the mini-sword. I could drill a rod-sized hole down the length of an appropriately-sized wood dowel. Alternatively, I could use heat-shrink wrap as an ad-hoc sword grip. Since I wanted this particular mini-sword to be made out of one kind of metal -- brass that will hopefully have a golden polished shine -- I used brass wire for the grip. I simply wrapped the wire around the thick "tang" as tightly as possible. My wire-wrapping technique isn't up to snuff, so in the end, there was a presentation side to the mini-sword, and there was an ugly side, with the beginning and end of the wire.

The blade should have been a bit wider.
I did not have to grind, hammer, or bend the final part of the mini-sword -- the pommel. I simply used a brass acorn nut and screwed it to the threading at the end of the blade/tang rod. And thus, the mini-sword is complete.

The letter opener mini-sword isn't quite finished yet. I need to use some metal polish, and hopefully this brass "sword" will shine and sparkle like a pure gold "sword." I should probably seal my dad's Father's Day card envelope really well, so the letter opener can actually be used, at least once. Hopefully, Dad will dig the mini-sword.

I want to wish a Happy Father's Day to all the literal m-f'ers of the world (if you don't mind the complicated humor of the phrase -- fathers, mothers, you get it, right?) ... as well as the dads who adopted their children. Or used in vitro fertilization. And all the father figures of the world, too, regardless of gender. Hopefully, all your children will do something badass for you, too. Yes, I'm patting myself on the back for this D.I.Y. accomplishment. It's shaped like a freakin' sword, people!

I also hope the next mini-sword will be better than this one. I'm working my way up to stainless steel.

Cheers!

P.S. Edited to add the final, polished product present:

The Power of the Sun.

Monday, June 15, 2015

All Hail "The Feels": My Current Fandom TV Schedule. And Sports.

I watched the fifth season finale of Game of Thrones on Sunday. I have read all the currently released A Song of Ice and Fire books, so the big shocker in the finale was not shocking at all. (I started reading the books after the TV version of the Red Wedding, so the Red Wedding was probably the last time I was surprised by the show.) I was a bit surprised by the stuff that's not in the books, or perhaps will be in the next book, but overall I find the show enjoyable.

I like to lump Game of Thrones with similar shows into a super-genre called Fandom TV. Plot holes, infidelity from the source material, and other random silliness are excusable in the storytelling form of Fandom TV. The goal of Fandom TV storytelling is to elicit what the folks on Tumblr call "The Feels."

Making the audience laugh, cry, angry, joyous, etc., is -- and should be -- the ultimate goal in this storytelling form and medium. Fandom TV is an emotionally manipulative medium, but it is not malevolent or evil, as long as the audience knows they're in it for The Feels. I'm in it for The Feels.

I am aware that many fans -- especially on Tumblr -- take their consumption of media beyond whether there were Feels or not. I understand and agree that serious critiquing is a perfectly valid form of media consumption. Personally, I'd rather be entertained by the boob tube and process all the heavy stuff for actual persons, places, things, ideas, and events that exist outside of the boob tube. But that's just me.

Here's my current schedule for Fandom TV, with shows that are currently in production/broadcast/streaming. Canceled shows and completed shows do not count. There are also sports in this schedule because sports -- team sports, especially -- are Fandom TV shows by default and by definition. Cheering and jeering for well-paid players of games? Nonsensical and Feelsy! That's Fandom TV, all right.

Anyhow, starting in Late Spring / Early Summer ...

Late Spring / Early Summer: Orange Is the New Black (Netflix). I could binge-watch the entire new season, but I don't have the time. I'll try to watch a new episode every few days or so. It took me almost a year to watch the previous season. Orange is the only realism-based comedy/drama in my current list of shows that I watch. As you'll see, the rest are fantastic, err, fantastical -- fantasy shows.

Late Summer: Doctor Who (Amazon Video or Google Play). I know that the Doctor and his companion's adventures are broadcast on BBC America in the US, but I don't have that channel. I don't have cable, so I usually buy the episode the next day.

Early Autumn: It's almost unbelievable that Supernatural (The CW) is going to start its 11th season on the air. That's the power of Fandom. I also try to watch Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (ABC), but the enjoyment is optimized when a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie is somehow tied to the show.

Mid-Autumn: NBA Basketball season starts, but the ca-ca-cable companies took my local sports teams away.

Late Autumn: I only really get hyped about NFL Football around playoff time, but Los Angeles will hopefully get a team soon, so we'll see about getting excited about football sooner.

Early Winter: Marvel's Agent Carter (ABC), a period piece, is slightly more enjoyable that its modern-day counterpart. I might give the Marvel Cinematic Universe Netflix show(s) a chance, sooner or later.

Mid-Winter: Vikings (History). As long as the History Channel streams new episodes of Vikings, for free, the day after, for everyone -- I'll be happy. These days, the increasingly obsolete cable companies are forcing networks to restrict the "free" (interrupted by commercials) streaming of their shows. Usually, it's the day after for cable subscribers, and the week after for everyone else.

Early Spring: It would have been time for Dodger Baseball, but again, the cable companies had to choose easy short-term profits over long-term innovation. That's a euphemism for the inevitable extinction of the traditional cable TV business model.

Mid-Spring: Game of Thrones (HBO Now). I have to remind myself to cancel auto-pay for HBO Now, until the next season of Game of Thrones. My Netflix and Amazon Prime subscriptions are sufficient for year-round streaming. In any case, in the spirit of the sixth season, and the hopeful release of The Winds of Winter, I shall paraphrase a verse from the Bible, Ecclesiastes 9:5 -- You know nothing, Jon Snow.

Those are the only shows I watch for The Feels, if short-term memory serves me well. Recently, I watched Resurrection (ABC), but I think they might have canceled that show. In years past, there were shows like Lost (ABC) and Breaking Bad (AMC but I binge-watched on Netflix and bought then-current episodes on Amazon Video). Decades ago, there were shows like The Simpsons (Fox), Friends (NBC), and Seinfeld (NBC). Yes, I am aware that Homer and company are still on the air, but Fox, or whoever owns The Simpsons, should just edit short gags and jokes from past episodes, and upload those short clips on YouTube. They could make all sorts of extra money from ads and views and ads and ads. Non-official Instagram accounts have uploaded 15-second clips that basically tell an entire Simpsons joke, to great effect.

In conclusion, shows come, and shows go. I've watched enough TV to not be shocked by anything on TV or in a movie, and/or I read enough George R.R. Martin books to not be shocked by anything in general storytelling. I don't watch reality shows, except perhaps a random episode or finale of Dancing with the Stars (ABC). The first two seasons of Survivor (CBS) were enough for me, as far as reality TV goes ... and game shows, too.

Speaking of game shows, I read recently that American Idol (Fox) will wrap production soon. Good riddance. Idol tried (and somewhat succeeded, sort of) in saving pop music's money-making ability, post-Napster -- but they pretty much ruined the tastes of mainstream audiences in the process. You can't run an entire industry on Photoshopped faces and Autotuned voices -- or can you? It takes talent to have that "powerhouse" vocal sound, but when that's the only vocal styling that's marketed (and marketable) across multiple genres of popular music, then it gets a bit tiresome and ironically generic.

The only news worth watching, in my opinion, are sports scores and weather forecasts and traffic reports. And human interest stories because, you know ...

The Feels.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

#DOMINoNo: Free Pizza by Baseball, and a Domino's Pizza Crust Shoot-Out

There are a limited amount of true pleasures in this modern civilization. For me, one such thing is free pizza. Well, paid pizza is also on that list. But the first part of this blog post is about free pizza.

For this baseball season, last baseball season, and perhaps previous baseball seasons, whenever a pitcher pitches a no-hitter, Domino's and Major League Baseball will give free pizzas to the first 20,000 MLB website members to sign up for free pizza the next day, at noon Pacific time. The social media hashtag for this giveaway is #DOMINoNo.

Today was the first DOMINoNo giveaway of the season. For at least this season and last season, the first DOMINoNo giveaway of the season went down with some controversy. Last year, MLB didn't have enough bandwidth or server "power" to handle everyone trying to get free pizza. The subsequent one or two DOMINoNo giveaways went quite smoothly. In any case, if I recall correctly, I was able to score free pizzas every time.

This year, after a two or three minute website hiccup, it seems that 45,000 MLB website members were able to sign up for the free giveaway, and everyone was under the impression that they were going to get a code for free pizza in their email inbox. The "first" 20,000 did, in fact get a free pizza coupon code, and I was fortunately one of them. (The pizza was delicious.) The next 25,000 or so (as I have read on Reddit and Twitter and places like that) were given a coupon for 50% off a pizza. On the one hand, it was kind of a thoughtful gesture to provide a consolation "prize" for fast clickers who weren't fortunate enough to enter MLB's servers. One the other hand, they weren't directly informed that they did or did not win the free pizza, when they submitted their entry -- basically, bait and switch.

If last year is any indication, any potential next no-hitter DOMINoNo giveaway(s) should be relatively smoother. Hopefully.

While the above took several paragraphs to explain (brevity is not one of my strong suits), the second half of this blog post is about Domino's itself. Back in the '80s, '90s, and maybe even the early 2000s, the quality of Domino's pizza was reputed to be ... lacking. For the past year or so, I have been ordering random configurations of pizza crust style and toppings. I think I have ordered enough Domino's pizza to warrant a ...

DOMINO'S PIZZA CRUST SHOOT-OUT

According to the Domino's smartphone app and website, there are currently four kinds of pizza crust, as well as various pizza sauces may or may not be combined with certain crusts -- it's a bit strange. At the very least, I ordered four different kinds of Domino's pizza crust, and here are my rankings, from best to last:

Today's free pizza had ground beef and pineapple. I also paid for two other pizzas.

1. PAN PIZZA: Before this style of crust was on the menu, Domino's had a not-so-deep dish available for purchase. It wasn't very deep, and it was so-so in quality. Domino's relatively brand-new pan pizza is almost exactly like Pizza Hut's pan pizza, but less greasy. It is basically a superior substitute to the Pizza Hut pan pizza. Perhaps that's why Pizza Hut has been branching out to different kinds of crust. The pan pizza is only available as a medium pizza, and the app only allows a limited variety of pizza sauces for this crust. It is usually cut into eight slices.

2. THIN CRUST: I am a fan of the microwavable, roof shingle-like Mama Celeste brand of freezer-section pizzas. It reminds me of my childhood, like twist donuts. Domino's thin crust pizza reminds me of Mama Celeste's pizza. They also cut the large version of this pizza in to 16 squares (well, 8 squares, 4 round-edged pieces, and 4 corner wedges), so the thin crust pizza might be good for parties and occasions where you have to feed more than ... one or two people.

This thin crust pizza has three different kinds of cheeses and a white cheese sauce, reminiscent of Mama Celeste's four-cheese pizza.

3. "BROOKLYN"-STYLE CRUST: If you order a large Brooklyn-style pizza, they will cut it into six slices. When you eat this extra-wide slice, you're supposed to fold it in half, like a sort of pizza taco. This pizza is certainly fun to eat like a taco, and the cooks usually make this crust extra soft, so you can fold it. If over-sized pizza is your thing, though, I suggest the $10 full pie at the outdoor Costco eatery. You don't have to be a member of Costco to buy food from their outdoor food court. You're limited to four topping configurations -- cheese-only, pepperoni, the works, and the "secret menu" vegetarian pizza (the works minus pepperoni and sausage) -- but it is delicious all the same. I suggest the cheese-only pizza, and hopefully they'll make it extra cheesy for you.

It's the Pizzapocalypse at Costco!

4. HAND-TOSSED CRUST: This is the basic, default Domino's pizza. The bread is thin on the bottom, with relatively large pizza crust, albeit a bit dry, like Papa John's or Little Caesar's round pizza. If you're into this style, I suggest you go for the Domino's Brooklyn-style instead, or better yet, get Papa John's. At least you get a tub of melted buttery oil to dip your dry pizza crust at Papa John's.

Bonus Tip #1: If you're going to Little Caesar's instead, try their square, Detroit-style deep dish instead of their default round pizza. My experience is that Little Caesar's, at least my local one, uses canned mushrooms -- so avoid mushrooms as your topping, if you dislike canned mushrooms.

Bonus Tip #2: This blog post covers large-chain pizza restaurants, so that the random blog reader can identify with similar locations. If you have a local, non-chain pizza place, try to patronize that restaurant more often. You can keep it a relative secret, you hipster you, as long as your local community does its part to keep that independent restaurant in business. This goes for non-pizza local restaurants and other local small businesses as well.

Cheers!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Donuts: Every Day Is National ___ Day, Regardless of Country

Every day seems to be a "national" non-holiday on social media. There was siblings day and puppy day and dog day and another puppy/dog day ... and today was "National Donut Day." There is probably some historical context for the naming of these not-so-high holy days, but the outcome is about the same for most of these holidays -- you don't get a day off, and a handful of hashtags trend for that day, and that day only.

Look, you don't need to be inspired to post things just because it's "National ___ Day" (as I ironically blog about National Donut Day on National Donut Day). Post that cute throwback photo of your sibling and yourself on an arbitrary day; it doesn't have to be Memory Lane Monday, Time Machine Tuesday, Wayback Wednesday, Throwback Thursday, or Flashback Friday. Post that photo of your pet on any day you choose. And all those food photos.  And selfies. You do not need a trending occasion to spam the feeds of your friends and followers.

Since it's National Donut (Doughnut) Day, I want to tell you about my favorite donut of all time: The glazed Twist.

Do the Twist.

The Twist is my favorite donut because (1) it is delicious and (2) for sentimental reasons. It has been my favorite donut since childhood. The local donut shop in my childhood hometown was Winchell's, and they made the Twist. The Winchell's became a Donut Star, and thankfully, their Twists tasted about the same (you can't go wrong with glazed sugar). The Donut Star probably became something else.

In any case, the local donut shop in my current hometown -- an independent, non-chain donut shop -- makes a might good Twist, as well as other kinds of donuts. It's good to be a regular customer at your local, independent store. You're actually affecting the local economy, with maximum effect, as a customer of a local small business.

And that's all I have to say about donuts and money for now. I will have to come up with something either serious or kooky for next time. In the meanwhile, here are more Instagram photos of donuts: