Category Archives: Reviews

Skyrim 10th Anniversary Edition

Yes, that’s correct. Bethesda and their masters at Microsoft are putting out yet another version of Skyrim. Just in time for the game’s 10th Anniversary, it will be released next month. Probably on the 11th, just like the original was.

Why It’s NOT A Good Thing:

The new edition will include improvements that will allow the game to take advantage of higher settings and performance available to newer machines. THAT part is good.

However, PCGamer.com is also reporting that the upgraded code will break all existing mods for the game, and that the plan is to make the basic version of ‘Anniversary Edition’ a forced upgrade of ‘Special Edition’. Ergo, players won’t have any say in the matter for keeping their previous version and the literal TONS of free content for the game produced by other players.

The ‘upgrade’ from MS Visual Studio 2015 to the 2019 version will change the ‘under the hood’ code that free content producers use as “hooks” to connect their content to the actual game. There are roughly 40,500 free mods to plug into the game at Skyrim SE Nexus alone. None of which will work moving forward.

The ability to easily “mod” their games has been a trademark and selling point for Bethesda games for almost 2 decades. They publish a free editor to allow players to create content. For the last few years however, they’ve gotten greedy and were no longer content to make money off of their own work. Now they want to make money off of others’ work as well.

The “Creation Club”:

The Creation Club is Bethesda and Microsoft’s attempt to monetize the work of others AND to increasingly move towards monopolizing distribution of all player created content.

It allows those folks the ability to charge for their work, BUT with Bethesda taking a sizable chunk of any money earned under the guise of quality assurance and providing a virtual store front for the mods. In the mean time, Bethesda releases new updates to their games that break mods which don’t come from their hosting site. That was almost weekly when I last played Skyrim SE (almost a year ago). That in turn left the mod developers scrambling to make patches.

It’s quite the extortion racket that Bethesda has going there. Maybe they were a good acquisition for Micro$oft after all.

Speaking of extortion and bad business… The “full” edition of Anniversary Edition (beyond the forced game engine upgrades) will cost $40 and consist almost entirely of paid mods from their “Creation Club”

TES VI… Some Year, MAYBE…

Let’s not also forget this is yet another stalling tactic for Bethesda to avoid doing any development of Elder Scrolls 6, despite years of fan outcry for the project. That should came as little surprise though when Bethesda’s president went on record as saying they’re “not a two button vending machine and will make what we want”.

And people call Trump a narcissist. How a company stays in business when they’re so deliberately blind to their market is completely beyond me…

Is My 35mm Nikon Now Obsolete?

Cellphone camera technology has officially hit the point of wowing me. I remember the EARLY days of phone cameras when the picture quality was on par with a floppy disk video game’s VGA graphics, lol

Enter the Samsung S21 Ultra:

Image via Samsung.com

One spec sneaked into that pic already; the FRONT camera is 40 Megapixels. By comparison my Nikon D3400 is a 24 Megapixel camera:

Image via Walmart.com

That’s nearly identical to the kit I got at a big box membership store before our honeymoon in Hawai’i. The camera let me take some pretty spectacular shots. Most of the ones I posted here from that trip were actually taken with my iPhone 10 simply because the file sizes were too big with the Nikon:

Suffice it to say the Nikon turned out images that were twice as good and enlarged better. We have five of them on our dining room wall. Apple is still plodding along at 12 megapixels for it’s newest camera phones. The lens quality is better with each new version, BUT the iPhone 13 is still 1/2 the base level image quality of the Nikon.

Let’s get back to the Samsung though:

Image via Samsung.com

Yes, you read that correctly… The primary ‘wide angle’ lens is 108 megapixels!

An actual pic from the camera, via Samsung,com

Samsung is also claiming a 100x “Space Zoom” on it. The folks at the local phone store said one recent customer zoomed in on a water tank on a hill in the distance (eyeballing it, it looked like about 2 miles away), and they were all able to read the print on the water tank.

What is “Space Zoom”?

I had to look this one up myself. It’s a combination of optical and digital zoom. Any true camera nut will tell you that there’s no substitute for true optical zoom. It’s real picture quality vs artificial enhancement. HOWEVER… all you have to do is look at the picture above this one to see that the camera phone definitely seems to have good lens quality also.

Test Drive Pending:

Will it replace a true 35mm DSLR camera? We shall soon find out. My spouse and I got fed up with our insanely high bill from AT&T, and switched carriers. We’re going to save over 30% monthly on our bill and get two new S21 Ultras. We’re just waiting for the phones to be delivered. After some test driving, I’ll report back on the camera quality. Maybe I’ll even do a full review.

Our Nikon D3400 is considered an “entry level” 35mm camera. There are ones out there with higher resolution capability. Most of them come with extremely high price tags also. I’m skeptical that the Samsung’s phone can compete with a professional level DSLR with a good lens kit. Lens size, and even file format makes a difference. RAW files save an incredible amount of detail that even a JPEG loses.

An Expert Explanation (AKA Don’t Believe the Hype)

In fact, I found somebody who did a quickie comparison on YouTube already:

If you don’t want to watch the 5 minute comparison… The image quality was extremely close in most cases, however, when he got back to file format / size and the ability to edit pics at a professional level, here’s what he had in the notes of the video:

“Why did I lightly edit the Canon 1DX Mark II pictures instead of the Galaxy S21 Ultra pictures? Because the highly compressed .jpg images coming out of the Galaxy S21 Ultra would probably have fallen apart if I tried to push the color as much as I did with the Canon 1DX Mark II.”

He goes on to explain that camera image sensor and lens size make a huge difference in how much light can be captured, and thus how much fine detail can be captured. A dedicated DSLR camera has 12x the lens and camera sensor size.

The fact that the newest camera phone can turn out 99% equal quality base images is due to the phone essentially photoshopping the image immediately after taking it. Settings like portrait mode use a combination of minor lens manipulation and built in filters to enhance the the clarity and color of picture.

Conclusion:

A camera phone isn’t likely to replace a true professional’s camera kit for years to come. For the rest of us who simply want our vacation photos to look as good as possible, the need for a dedicated camera may very well be drawing to an end.

Despite the above video being very credible, I will be doing my own testing and posting the results here. We’ll see for ourselves if a camera phone has finally reached the point of replacing a 35mm DSLR for the typical home photographer.

Sleep Number Bed – How It’s Made & Review

Kind of random I know, but that’s my blog.

This post inspired by our battle with our own bed and Sleep Number’s customer non-service department.

Image from Businesswire.com

As you doubtless guessed from my opening and previous post about sleep quality, I have some real gripes here. I’m going to be fair and talk about the pluses we experienced while we owned the bed also. It’s probably easiest to work through things in a chronological order.

We started out looking for a new bed about 5 1/2 years ago when my back was probably at it’s worst, or at least during one of several truly bad points over the years. The advertised fact that the bed could adjust to conform to the needs of a sleeper, and even that sleeper’s changing sleep needs was a powerful selling point for us. You could make it firmer or softer if you had a physically demanding day, etc…

Resting on the bed at the store, it was just as comfortable as a foam mattress like a Tempur-Pedic, but seemed to adapt and support even better as our sleep numbers were dialed in. And that’s the trick; Sleep Number beds are great when you first buy them.

Purchase is where we hit our first snag or grumble though. When you see the commercials and they say “Only X Dollars”, they’re only talking about only the mattress assembly itself. The base costs more, with an adjustable base potentially more than doubling the cost of the bed. Then there’s the topper that goes on top of the air chambers. The more plush or heat dispersing you go, the price goes up, but the topper is disguised as a different model number. “Oh no, the super plush cooling top? That’s our i12 model, not this i8… It’s much more.”

To be fair, the vast majority of manufacturers of numerous products play the “different model” game. Even with other bed manufacturers though, there’s more of a difference in material construction than with a Sleep Number bed. Many of those beds won’t cost you upwards of $3000 out the door either.

Sleep Number Construction:

Let’s get into how the bed is made so that we can actually start talking about where the real problems begin.

Above is our (former) Sleep Number bed. It was a little over 5 years old when we got rid of it. That is about the shelf life for a poor to middle quality inner-coil spring traditional mattress. The reason we bought this bed though is that it came with a 20 year pro-rated warranty. We figured in the end, we’d come out ahead vs buying 3 or 4 supposedly lesser quality beds over that same time period.

If you notice above, the topper or “pillow top” already looks pretty shabby in terms of holding it’s shape, particularly on the right side. The problem is that the topper is primarily just cheap foam:

It’s got the sleep number logo all over it though, so that must make it high end, right? LOL.

Aside from that foam, there’s about 3/4 of an inch (1.9cm) of not very dense or supportive padding in the upper casing. The problem with the foam is that it loses support without you even realizing it IF you’re only judging it’s condition based on it returning to a normal shape after you get off of it.

As a side note, this is an issue I have with Tempur-Pedic; to get warranty replacement of their mattresses, the foam has to show a full 1 inch (2.4cm) of sag or indentation before they’ll replace it, per some internet sources. Foam, even high quality stuff like Tempur-Pedic uses, loses support well before it shows that kind of sag.

Same problem with our topper there. It looked OK if you unzip it, but NO support. Why does that matter? Because the rest of the bed is a glorified air mattress:

Or in the case of our Queen sized bed, two air mattresses connected via a zipper so there’s no gap in the center. This allows each side of the bed to be adjusted to varying firmness levels independent of the other side. If you’re wondering, the construction there is a combination of cloth and some vinyl-like material. Not much different from a decent quality camping air mattress that you’d buy from a department store.

Needless to say, the potential for leaks is there. Unlike those camping air mattresses, these held pressure pretty well up till our move out here from California. More on that in a minute or so.

Oh and of you’re wondering, YES, that IS just a foam block border around the air mattress, on all four sides. The outer fabric shell is primarily what holds the bed together. NOW, for the sake of being complete, here’s what’s under the air chambers:

First, we have about 3/4 of an inch of more foam to act as padding for the air chambers. THEN we have the bottom of the outer shell, secured to the adjustable base via four bolts anchoring wide plastic hold downs:

As you can see, it’s a fairly simple design overall. The air bags provide the firmness level of each side of the bed, and the topper helps the bed conform to your body and feel softer than a basic air mattress would. The hold downs keep the mattress from going anywhere while the adjustable base is in anything other than a flat position.

The air pump’s hoses hook into the head of the air mattress, and keep the mattresses at the desired setting, at least in theory.

Our Actual Problems:

Aside from the topper’s foam wearing out without us being fully aware of it (the air chamber softness can make this harder to notice than with an all foam mattress), the big problem was with air pressure. Customer (Non) Service as well, as you’re about to read.

Twice in the last 4 months we’ve had my side of the bed alternate between not holding pressure and just slowly being completely random in what it would be. I might go to bed at my ideal sleep number, wake up 2 hours later and have the pressure maxed out, and the next time I wake up, it could be nearly flat. This played hell with my back and neck as well as my already very poor sleep quality.

The first time, we called Sleep Number’s corporate customer service. We got told that we could throw parts blindly at it, OR have somebody come out and diagnose the bed. That would cost $100 though. Cheaper than just guessing and going through a pile of parts, right? We went that route.

It took a week and a half for them to get somebody out. We were stuck on our old inner spring guest bed during that time.

Two young guys that barely look out of high school show up, unzip the topper from the main body and take a quick look at the mattress, looking lost the entire time. They call the same 800 number we did, and talk to corporate. Perhaps unknown to corporate, we can hear the other end of the conversation, and they tell the kids to just label it the air chambers and get on to the next call. They sounded quite annoyed that the kids seemed to want to actually do the diagnosis we paid for.

Unsure what to do at the moment due to fatigue and not knowing how to check the other parts ourselves, we throw up our hands and say “fine”.

Here’s the kicker for this first call: Not only did we get charged $100 for a diagnosis that was nothing more than a blind guess, our 20 year pro-rated discount price for the new air chambers was another $200! Being pro-rated and only 25% of the way through our warranty, that means the parts should have been 75% off. MEANING, Sleep Number prices their air chambers at $800 MSRP.

The replacement parts order was also botched, and when we called back a day or two later, the order had never even been placed. THEN it took almost two weeks for the new air chambers to arrive. Yes, if you’re doing the math, that’s a month without the high priced bed. We also told them we’d install the new parts ourselves (it’s really pretty simple). Another three or four weeks later, Sleep Number has two new guys knocking on our door at the crack of dawn saying they were here to install the new parts we’d ordered.

SO, if we’d waited for them that would have been almost two months with no bed.

We put everything together though, and for a short while everything seemed OK. We figured that MAYBE the fluctuations in air pressure were caused by the pump trying to compensate (poorly) for a previous leak and we were good.

Three months later, we were back exactly where we were before.

THIS time, I spend a couple of days online researching things. YouTube and other review sites have several irate reviews about the pump systems on these beds being complete crap, and Sleep Number allegedly deliberately making them that way so they can sell a steady stream of replacement parts.

The crappy pump in question

Between the cost of the parts last time, realizing finally that the topper is worn out also, and feeling very burnt over the diagnostic fee, we had enough. We figured we’d be paying the same inflated prices for a replacement pump and topper, AND that we’d have NO idea how long before those parts or something else gave out again. That was when we opted to replace instead of repair.

Sleep IQ and Questions of Privacy:

Another thing to consider with a Sleep Number bed is their “Sleep IQ” phone app. First, the app is going to want access to quite a bit of your phone’s system. It’s also not just tracking your sleep via pressure sensors in the pump, it’s reporting that info back to Sleep Number’s computers. It will also pressure you to allow the app to monitor your wi-fi enabled thermostat, “to help avoid you sleeping hot or cold”.

All in all, there’s a ton of data about your sleep habits, sleep schedule, and home energy usage, along with God only knows what else from the other phone permissions, that the app data-mines and reports back to Sleep Number. I guarantee you that info is getting sold to third party marketers.

Since the app also claims to stop snoring by detecting it and elevating the upper portion of the bed, one can assume that the app is also using your phone as a listening device. How else is it going to detect snoring after all? Tossing and turning might be detectable via minor, brief changes in air pressure, but snoring??

Needless to say, we never installed the app. WAY too “Big Brother” for us.

Final Thoughts:

First, let me be fair: Our Sleep Number bed was pretty comfortable when we got it. It really helped with my back. MY big issue with the bed is the lack of long term quality and the piss-poor customer service with the company at the corporate level. When one pays a premium for a product, it’s naturally expected that performance and longevity will above average, ideally well above average.

Most fair, independent review sites will show that the Sleep Number bed is at the top of the charts for long term cost of ownership with beds. Even the custom fitted sheets designed to stay put on the unusual construction and movable base are around $250 for a queen set. Sleep Number is as much in business to sell you parts as they are an actual bed.

As you can see from the pictures above, the bed is really just an air mattress surrounded by foam as well. Nothing that justifies a nearly $4000 price tag for the newest models. In short, in my opinion, not only is the quality not there to justify the price, it’s long term costs are too high, AND the combination of foam and air mattress also make it hard to recognize when some parts are wearing out.

It’s also pretty lousy for sex as well. Too much give, and neither side is intended to support the weight of two people.

Buy ANYTHING else, but save your money here. It’s not worth the aggravation.

Spent the Day in the Vault!

The VADER’S VAULT that is!

Yes, that’s right, THE Vader’s Vault; home of some of the best custom made lightsabers on the planet.

So, cool background story… We had to run into Georgia today to take care of some other business. I’d also been gawking longingly at more lightsabers online, and found out that Vader’s Vault “store” (shop really) was only 27 miles away from where we had to go. I talked the spouse into a quick ride with the idea of checking out whatever kind of showroom Vader’s Vault had and asking a few questions.

In short, I wanted to try to get a handle on whether or not Vader’s Vault sabers are actually worth the money. Also get a look at a few sabers as well, I’d hoped. 😁

What I got was completely unexpected. Instead of a quick look and a few questions answered, we got… the grand tour!

We talked to somebody up front, and they went and got the boss (owner). He came out, gave us a quick run down of the stuff in the showroom and then asked if we’d like a tour.

The showroom included this case full of sabers and saber cases from their history:

That saber up at the top is one of only EIGHT real world copies of the “Twisted Fang” lightsaber available in the Star Wars: The Old Republic game.

A couple of other highlights from the showroom:

Their case of manufactured helmets.

More sabers, emitters and some toys on the bottom shelf. That’s a “mouse” droid in the lower right corner also.

That, unfortunately is all the pictures I got. The rear area of the shop had rooms for wiring work, CNC machining equipment, 3D printers, etc… I didn’t snap any pictures back there though because the owner was lamenting how any time he puts something online, there’s a cheap Chinese knock-off for sale a day or two later. They were also working on one completely new model and some tweaks to existing models (relocated power switches and a few other minor things). I have a sneaking suspicion that we MIGHT see that new model for a May the 4th sale too.

For any readers who may be wondering, I asked about the limited availability of sabers right now. It’s the usual supply chain issues. However, they expect to have a few models back in stock in the next few weeks. I did see them working on a batch of “Revancrist” sabers (Darth Revan’s lightsaber):

Those are one of the few sabers still currently “in stock” also.

One question led to a highlight of the tour also. I asked if their special made sabers with crystal chambers were duel worthy. The big guy brought out a Starkiller and explained in detail:

The cliff notes version is that the hilt itself is strong enough for it. The bracing rods on the chamber are full on steel. HOWEVER, their crystals are a piece of clear quartz which could break or break loose in heavy sparring. So, he advised against using such a saber for more than light to moderate horseplay.

Why quartz? Disney has “cool” 🙄 colored epoxy chunks that they sell for ONLY $30, you say? Well Vader’s Vault sabers have the ability to change blade colors, and the Starkiller will actually shine the same color as the blade into the quartz to make it look like that color Kyber Crystal. It will always match the blade no matter the color.

More importantly (lol) for a couple of moments, I got to hold a $2600 Vader’s Vault masterworks Starkiller in my hand. 😁 Well, minus it’s outer cover anyway.

We briefly talked about the differences in blades also. Plecter Pixel blades are just as combat worthy as the old LED tubes. Both are polycarbonate, and will eventually break at some point while dueling. The Pixel blade gives a much better and even light quality and is capable of producing effects that an LED “flashlight” type design can’t. All this at a higher price point, of course.

Personally, I’d probably save the Plecter Pixel blade for “show” sabers and use an LED one for dueling. We’re talking $30 vs $130 for a replacement when it finally breaks.

Bottom Line:

Are they worth the price and increased wait time?

I went in a little wary. Half of me was looking to rationalize buying elsewhere. They really are absolutely worth it in my opinion though. Here’s why:

Better Grip, Weight and Balance: The balance on every saber I got to handle was extraordinary. My two black series sabers (Dooku and Mace) and my Ultrasabers “Fallen” saber:

are just plain stout. They’re like wrapping your hands around an old “D Cell” battery Maglite police flashlight. The Count Dooku saber is majorly off balance as well. I got to hold a Vader’s Vault copy of that same saber. The hilt is slimmer, more in line with what a real sword might have, the finish was brighter too. The machining was done so well that it was hard to see where the parts of the hilt actually connected together.

Better Sound Quality: I’ve heard people complain about Ultrasabers and Saberforge being bad in poor quality or muffled sound. My Black Series sabers are fair in this regard. Not great, but fair. Every Vader’s Vault saber I heard sounded like I’d just stepped into one of the movies. Crystal clear quality with sound effects for everything from swings, blade clashes and defected blaster bolts (all of which a plexer pixel blade’s light will respond to also).

Massive Customization: Vader’s Vault has features that Ultrasabers and Saberforge don’t even offer; hilt lighting and illuminated power buttons for starters. Some of their options they don’t advertise on their site. I suspect that has to do with variable costs involved. I saw sabers that were mirror polished, powder coated, weathered, acid etching engraved, inlaid with wood, leather wrapped… you name it.

THIS, I found out today, was done in the owner’s garage when it was just him and his wife. Imagine what they can do now!

Good Company Working Environment and Customer Service: Why is that important? Because even if you don’t care about the workers’ conditions, a happy staff is highly motivated to excel at their job. That means you get a defect free product.

Customer service should be self-explanatory in importance. If you have any doubts about Vader’s Vault though… Keep in mind they COULD have just run me off, or spent a couple minutes answering a few questions and then politely said they had to get back to work. Instead we got treated to an almost hour long tour with Q&A, looks at all their work areas, a demonstration of all a plexer pixel blade can do, peeks at several models in various stages of manufacture or remodel, and even a sneak peek at a pre-production prototype of an upcoming release.

How often do you see that nowadays in ANY sort of business?

Bottom line, you’re going to get a better saber made of higher quality materials and machined to tighter tolerances, better electronics, more bells and whistles, made almost any way you want, and better customer service.

What you’ll get elsewhere is poorly fit together sabers that can’t even hold up to a Disney toy:

Spinal Decompression Treatment; 6 Months Later

I got asked a very legitimate question a little while ago regarding if I thought my spinal decompression treatment was worth it. Given that I’m still having issues with my back, *I* consider it a reasonable question anyway. 🙂

The very short answer is YES.

The detailed answer, with all the wheres and whys takes a little explaining however.

First, let me start with the obvious caveat that lawyers have none the less made mandatory anymore; your medical professional is the best person to advise you if ANY form of treatment is suitable for you Specifically.

Likewise everything I’m going to write here comes from a layperson. A moderately well read layperson who has put the advice given to personal use and seen benefits, but I am NOT a licensed health care professional in any form. Everybody’s physiology and biochemistry is a bit different too, so results may vary.

A Little Background:

Yes, I am still having troubles, but they’re largely focused on my lower back at this point. The area that I had decompression on was my neck or cervical spine area.

My neck was worse off, which is why the doctor decided to try it first. The degeneration there caused all manner of problems. I had sleep issues, severe headaches that were a mix of extreme tension headaches and migraines, brain fog and trouble focusing, and probably a dozen other issues, including a Parkinson’s-like tremor in my left arm. All that from pinched nerves in my neck caused by the spinal degeneration. My neck was at stage 3 spinal degeneration per the diagram below.

My lower back / lumbar region, on the other hand was at phase 2.

I had the headaches since the mid 1990s also. Since there was no real neck pain to accompany them and the other symptoms, I had NO idea for years that it was actually a spinal issue. Flair ups were bad enough and I was scared enough of addiction to opioid pain killers that I was taking 8 extra strength Advil pills at a time. If I didn’t have a constitution like Charlie Sheen’s, I probably would not have a stomach or liver left at this point. DO NOT do what I did there.

The real breakthrough came about 9 or 10 years ago. I was sitting at the PC, suffering through another severe headache when I heard something on the balcony of our apartment (probably just a bird or the neighbor’s cat). I turned my head to the left, and my neck popped so loud it sounded like a gunshot going off. My pain almost instantly went from an 11 on a 1 to 10 scale down to a 2, and a zero within minutes.

Over the following years, we tried multiple treatment options. Chiropractic treatment was variable. My first chiropractor actually tore a disc in my neck! The one after that was much better, but could only hold the situation at bay pain-wise. Acupuncture did wonders for the pain itself but nothing to fix the actual degeneration either.

By the time I was considering the spinal decompression, my MRI scans showed I was getting close to the point of either surgery or letting the bones fuse themselves together.

Side Note: You can see that process in the diagram above. it’s the body’s answer to protecting itself when it can’t actually heal the compressed disc(s) on it’s own. The vertebrae will literally grow out towards each other and try to fuse together.

Surgery, as I pointed out in previous posts, is expensive and has a very high fail rate over time. Decompression is $4000 vs anywhere from $100,000 and frequently more for surgery that fails regularly, and typically transfers the strain to other parts of the spine. I also saw enough benefit from the earlier alternative medicine that I had legitimate reason to believe decompression could work.

So, LONG story short, I was in nearly 25 year, long-term bad shape and out of options when I tried decompression. It still helped me.

I’ve never told that whole story in 3+ years of time here because I try to avoid personal drama online. It’s toxic and it focuses on the problem instead of moving forward. In this case though, it’s important to understand how bad off I was before treatment.

The Right Doctor Makes All the Difference:

The reason the lower back pain is still there and there are a few minor ongoing neck issues is that I chose the wrong doctor. He was very hands-off, letting his office staff run the computerized automatic decompression table, didn’t communicate well, etc…

We also got off on the wrong foot when we did my initial test treatment to see how I’d respond. The treatment did OK for my neck but he refused to look at my lower back that day, and sent me home in so much lower back pain that I could barely get in and out of the Mustang. I verbally lit him up when I showed up for the next treatment and told him if he did that again, I’d cancel treatments, get a refund for the balance and trash him on every review site I could find.

I didn’t have a treatment problem after that, but needless to say, we were politely cold to each other from then on. My original neck treatment pack was 24 treatments with a review of progress at that point and possible continuation for the full normal package of 36 (12 extra treatments).

He also just gave me the vibe of somebody more interested in dollars than patient well-being, but that is only a personal opinion.

So second long story short, assuming you have options in choice, is to find a doctor you feel comfortable with, will answer questions, and gives the vibe of caring as opposed to wishing you’d hurry up so they can be off to something else. In the case of the greater Nashville area, I had at least 4 other clinics I could have looked into beyond the local one.

My actual progress, combined with my dislike of the doctor meant I never even went back in for the re-evaluation or possible lower back treatment.

The Process Will NOT Be Fun, At First

I wrote about this in my earlier posts. I had quite a bit of subdermal scar tissue along my spine at the neck. Normally this kind of scar tissue only forms as a result of surgery and other “invasive” incidents or procedures. It DOES happen otherwise though, and the longer term your injury is, the more likely the scar tissue is there, or at least fibrous tissue that VERY closely resembles surface scar tissue. In the case of spine problems, the tissue will or may form to try to protect and reinforce the area around a damaged or compressed disc.

Even if you don’t have any subdermal ‘scar’ tissue, keep in mind that you’re still stretching muscles, tissue, etc… that have been constricted and tight for a while. Discs will try to expand to their natural shape also, and nerves will shift. It’s all going to hurt.

With all the scar tissue that broke loose in my neck, I was miserable for the first week. I lived with a cold pack on my neck. I could feel the difference in the type of pain though, and a reduction in the secondary issues I was dealing with. No brain fog, muscle ache pain vs severe migraine pain, etc… The cold packs really did help also and are important for fighting inflammation caused by the treatment.

About half way through the treatments, the pain was minimal, and I was “Hell yeah! let’s keep the ball rolling!”. By treatment 24, my neck felt like it did when I was 20.

Post-Treatment Makes ALL the Difference:

If you want to make sure you get your money’s worth out of treatment, doing the right things afterwards makes ALL the difference. Lead a dumb lifestyle and stress your back, and I’ll guarantee you’ll reverse everything you gained in a matter of mere months. Our forced move away from Nashville (mainly doing it ourselves), and a few other events put a definite strain on my lower back and neck so I’ve felt it first hand.

I’ve also stuck with the therapy and other habits that are undoing that strain and continuing my healing progress.

Here’s the work you’re going to expect to have to do:

Dietary Changes: Simple and sometimes obvious. If you’re overweight, that puts an extra burden on your spine. Sugar causes inflamation. Highly acidic food leach calcium from your bones. Changes do NOT have to be instantaneous. It’s awesome if you can quit cold turkey. If not, work on slowly reducing unhealthy foods while you search for healthy alternatives and ways to cook them where you enjoy eating them. If you’re a sugary drink junkie, like me, slowly reduce them and substitute with water. I do NOT recommend the vast majority of diet drinks as their artificial sweeteners often cause more issues than they fix. Stevia and Monkfruit ‘sugar’ being notable exceptions and natural.

Nutritional Supplements: specifically those designed for bone health and nervous system support. Calcium, Magnesium and Potassium in particular are important, if not outright vital. Get them naturally via food as much as you can. Use high quality supplements otherwise. That means no junk sold at the local drug or grocery store.

Personally, I take Animal Pak vitamins intended for competition bodybuilders. I’m anything but a bodybuilder. However, the vitamins and minerals are top quality and sourced from easily bio-absorbed sources. There are no nasty fillers or binding agents either. Did you know that many cheap vitamins use Plaster of Paris as a binding agent or silicon dioxide (ie sand) as a filler ? Think either of those are good for your digestive system?

Solaray is another good supplement company that I can recommend. Anywhere my main multivitamin falls short, such as the aforementioned Calcium, Magnesium and Potassium, I supplement with Solaray.

At Home Physical Therapy: It will take work to finish rehab of your injured spine. Because my back and neck were in such bad shape initially, I have two home traction units I use (updated reviews on them coming soon). Overall, I think they’re a worthwhile investment if you get the right ones and use them properly and regularly.

If your spine wasn’t in as bad a shape or suffering for such an extended period of time, you can possibly get away with with a massage wand, stretching, yoga and relaxation exercises. If you’re inclined to label yoga as some new age BS for soccer moms, consider that Diamond Dallas Page’s yoga program has literally saved the life and restored the health of some former big name wrestling stars. Scott Hall being the biggest success story.

Bottom line is that you have to maintain flexibility and range of motion as part of maintaining and strengthening your back.

I should include using proper lifting techniques and such as part of the general category of “therapy”. Continue lifting with your lower back instead of your knees and you’re just asking for a return to back pain. Trying to lift more than you safely can; also trouble. Take care of your body and it will take care of you. 🙂

LASTLY; IF You Were Long-Term Sedentary Because of Your Injuries: Remember it will take time to undo all of the muscle loss and weight gain. DO NOT push yourself in some blind determination to return to your glory days overnight. At best, you’ll be so exhausted you can’t do anything. At worst, you’ll re-injure yourself.

Go slow, keep your exercises as low-impact as possible (which is why I like rowing), and progress at a rate your body is comfortable with. Save the macho, “no pain, no gain” stuff for the military, and kids who will end up with their own back issues eventually. You’ll get stronger and more active, it just takes time and a sensible approach to it.

ALL of this should be considered life long stuff also. The biggest mistake that people who injure their backs make is to only do these kind of things until they start to feel better. Inversion tables are a great example. They’re frequently bought by people in the early stages of back pain. They really work too so long as you don’t have bad knees or a couple of other medical conditions that can make them unsafe.

The new owner will use them for a few weeks, feel better, and immediately toss the thing on Craigslist though. Inevitably they end up hurting again eventually too because they didn’t change the habits that got them hurt, or continue doing what they needed to rehab and strengthen their back.

Yes, the exercises and therapy takes time. Quality nutritional supplements cost money also. Consider the alternative of an unproductive, pain filled sedentary lifestyle though.

PAST SPINAL DECOMPRESSION POSTS:

Treatment, Days 1 & 2

Spinal Decompression; Day 5

Where I’ve Been; Grappling with Changing Realities

Spinal Decompression; Day 14

Pronex Traction Unit Review / How I’ve Learned to Use One

Brief Spinal Decompression Update

One Last Spinal Decompression Update

Quickie Review: Coming 2 America

Nope, not the original, the NEW sequel:

I’ll TRY to keep the spoilers minimal here. The premise is that Eddie Murphy’s character Prince Akeem, who has three daughters at home in Zamunda, finds out he has a son back in Queens that he didn’t know about.

Off he goes to New York to find his “proper” heir, bring him back to Zamunda and teach him how to be a proper royal.

There’s also a sort of villain in this one in the form of Wesley Snipes’ character; a General who runs the neighboring country and is trying to force an arranged marriage to have a claim on Zamunda also. In keeping with this being an Eddie Murphy comedy, the villainy is fairly light hearted. Snipes is nowhere near as intense as he is in the Blade trilogy. 🙂

Ultimately the movie comes down to Akeem learning NOT to be his father, and the new Prince finding his place in his newly expanded family.

Worth A Watch?

This one is getting ripped across the internet, and I’m not quite sure why. It’s fairly good, even if not on quite on par with some of Murphy’s earlier work.

The biggest problem for ME was that it came off at points as trying too hard to be Coming to America 1 on steroids. Everything was pushed just a little bit further for the sake of humor. Snipes’ initial entrance into the Zamundan palace looks something like a pro wrestler making their grand entrance at Wrestlemania; just a bit too over the top.

That said, again overall I think it’s fairly decent. If you have an Amazon Prime subscription you can see it free also, so what the heck right?

The movie does do a good job of playing on nostalgia with almost EVERY character from the original having at least a cameo in this one. The only exception being Akeem’s mother and Duke Brothers from Trading Places who Akeem unintentionally put back in business in Coming to America. We do meet a grandson though. 🙂

I’d give it 3 1/2 stars. Give it a look, it’s fun even if it does try too hard at times. It’s worth it for the nostaglia if you’re a fan of the first one.

Quick Review: Superman & Lois on The CW

Last week, the CW Network rolled out the newest addition to it’s lineup of “Arrowverse” shows set in the DC Comics universe; Superman and Lois

Thanks to the events of the Arrowverse version of the “Crisis on Infinite Earths”; Superman and Lois are now older and have a 14 year old twin sons. Meet Jonathan and Jordan Kent:

Jonathan is the one with the blond hair and necklace…

Not as revolutionary an idea as you think. Clark and Lois have a son about that age in the actual comic books who is also named Jonathan (named after his grandfather):

In fact, he’s the current Superman in the latest twisting of the DC Universe. That’s a WHOLE different post to explain however… Let’s get back to the show instead.

Spoilers Ahead:

If you haven’t seen episode 1 yet, it’s probably on the CW’s website. Otherwise, spoilers ahead. Episode 2 is tomorrow though.

The show starts out briefly introducing the current state of the Kent family before Lois and Clark have to head off to work at the Daily Planet. It apparently has been bought out by some internet media conglomerate and is laying off most of the staff. Clark is among those that get the axe. Right afterwards, he gets called away to stop a nuclear reactor from melting down. During that process, we learn that Lois’s dad, General Sam Lane knows Clark’s identity. Significant since Lane has been an anti-alien xenophobic borderline nut in the comics at times. Right now, he’s working with Superman though.

After the reactor is saved, Clark learns his mother has just died of a stroke. Everybody heads back to Smallville (which is NOT the same town or Kent farm that was used in the Smallville show but both are VERY VERY close in appearance).

For the sake of leaving some surprises, I’ll simply leave it that the episode wraps up with Lois and Clark deciding it’s better for the family if they live on the farm in Smallville.

As a side note, there are a few stories dropped about Clark’s past in Smallville that could easily be taken as events from the Smallville series.

My Opinion:

Before the show was even released, I had heard that it was going to focus on the human side of Superman and the family dynamics of the Kents; how Clark has trouble protecting the world and being there for his kids. I went into the premiere with an admitted negative bias.

Happily, I was proven wrong in my expectations. Instead of being yet another excuse for the Far Left to trash a cultural icon, the show was pretty even handed and realistic in it’s presentation of Clark’s struggles with balancing duty and family. It’s a good show that balances the human side of Clark and the struggles of his sense of obligation and right.

IF they keep the same storytelling approach, I think we have another Smallville in the making.

This one is definitely worth watching, and probably the best Arrowverse show thus far. Less emo than Arrow or Flash, even with Jordan having social anxiety disorder.

Quick side notes: John Diggle from Arrow is joining the show, and there will be a Superman & Batwoman crossover later this year that MAY explain what actually happened to the Arrowverse’s MIA Batman.

Learning Martial Arts from a Book (or Video)?

Anybody remember the scene from the first Karate Kid movie where after Daniel finds out that Johnny and his buddies know karate, he checks out a book from the library and is found by Miyagi practicing kicks from the book?

“No can learn karate from book”

With a fairly long background in martial arts, I thought I’d throw a little light on the topic. The people publishing these books (and videos) make a killing on them, and would have you believe you’re just a read and some practice away from becoming Bruce Lee.

If only life were so simple…

The SHORT answer is that anybody of any level can get SOMETHING out of karate books and videos. How much depends upon what you already know.

What if You’re a Beginner?

Your typical books written for beginners can teach you the basics of fundamental kicks, strikes and blocks. None of it will do you any good without a ton of practice however.

The reason Miyagi said what he did in the movie (and instructors will tell you the same thing in real life) is that there are other critical aspects of self-defense that you’re not going to learn from a book:

Basic footwork and Body mechanics to get the most power out of a strike.

When a particular block, strike or kick is appropriate vs using another technique

Target selection for a particular strike or kick

Potential counters for what you may try, and EVERYTHING has a counter.

Timing and set up for techniques

The “secret” (advanced level) tricks that make techniques more effective

And countless other things from not freezing when you take a strike to when it’s better to walk away in the first place.

What a Beginner CAN Get From a Book:

First, there’s the obvious. ANY knowledge is better than none, so long as you understand the limitations of what you know. That last part is the key factor.

Beginners should approach books as a gateway to understanding a martial art, and to see if it piques their interest enough to merit looking into study at an actual dojo. Most books that cover the basics of a style or art will also include information about the style’s history and philosophy. That information can be just as handy as the technique illustrations in feeling out a particular type of martial arts and if it’s right for you.

If You’re More Advanced In Your Knowledge:

The vast majority of martial arts books are truly intended for intermediate to advanced students. “Advanced” meaning 1st degree black belt or above in this case. Many of the early books available in the West were written by Asian masters who wanted to pass on key points of their style to students studying far away from them; students of students, etc… Hyping their style or school to attract new students to it and spread it’s fame is always a secondary goal as well.

Even at this level, a book can’t show every subtle shift of weight, or the ideal movement to transition from one picture or drawing in a book to the next one. It’s expected that the student is familiar enough with the process that the book serves as a reminder more than a teacher.

So Can You Pick Up a New Style From A Book or Video?

Having trained in six arts and done seminars or had a few lessons in just as many others, I feel fairly qualified to answer this one. It really depends upon how similar the style is to what you already know, and if you’re open minded enough to realize some of what your old or current school taught you might not be fully accurate.

“Similar” is an easy enough concept to understand. Kenpo is similar enough to Japanese Karate that the concepts are easy to grasp. Having also studied Wing Chun briefly however, I can tell you that there are numerous subtleties to the art which make it extremely difficult to become competent in as an outsider. Being designed for very close range fighting, and part of it’s defense being “sticking” or maintaining contact with an opponent to more easily sense and deflect their strikes, it’s quite a different experience. An elbow out of position by an inch can mean the difference between safety and having your guard crushed.

The “fully accurate” thing takes a bit more explaining. An easy example is the varying opinions among different styles of the “X-Block” or cross block:

Filipino marital arts (which specialize in bladed weapon combat) teach to pull backwards and slash downward as a counter to this, likely slicing both wrists. Likewise, if used against an overhead club or bottle swing, the length of the club may allow it to still hit the head as it pivots pivots downward. Because of this, quite a few schools now frown on this particular block.

HOWEVER, one has to understand the original intent of this block. It can be used correctly two ways:

The first is to immediately transition into a two handed wrist grab and circle the opponent’s arm into a lock or control technique. Same if it’s used low against a kick, transitioning into an ankle grab.

Second is where most schools have truly forgotten original intent. This, more than most other blocks is meant to be a POWER block. That means it’s executed as hard as the user can. This can literally shatter both of the major bones in the forearm if properly executed. In one book I have, the author details how that happened to him while working with a student and his arm flopped over like a hinge at the break point.

Gruesome, but it illustrates the point about always seeking deeper understanding of how a technique might be used. An open mind is important at every level of learning.

So, to bottom line it, keep an open mind, remember your training, and be prepared to seek other sources of knowledge to supplement what you’re trying to learn. YouTube has a ton of martial arts training videos for example. The vast majority are mediocre quality, but may still be enough to fill in a piece of insight you’re missing.

Keep in mind that you’ll still have your work cut out for you vs real hands on instruction however. At least assuming you’ve found a good instructor.

One Other Note: Caveat Emptor

Quality of martial arts books can vary widely, as with every other topic out there. Some are put together by otherwise decent instructors who don’t know how to illustrate or describe things in a book so that a novice or outsider will grasp them. They assume knowledge the reader may not have.

Other books, as with every other subject, are just snake oil written by people looking to capitalize on a reader’s desire to feel safe or to be a “badass”. Here’s a case and point:

The cover of this ebook alone should be enough to send up red flags for a potential buyer. First and foremost is the bottom line; “The KGB Special Forces system.”

First of all, the KGB was an Intelligence (spy) Agency. It had no “special forces”. Russian special forces are “Spetsnaz”. While they were under the control of Russian military intelligence, that agency (the GRU) was NOT the KGB. The GRU was disbanded in 1992, and the KGB was replaced by the FSB in 1995. So right away the claims of the author become suspect.

Googling the author gets no results for anyone with a background in any kind of martial arts, intelligence or special operations background either.

A less obvious red flag is that any experienced fighter will tell you that knife and gun defense are the LAST thing you ever want to try to learn from a book, especially as a novice.

So while I normally despise Google’s privacy violations, it and Facebook can be valuable research tools in determining if an author is credible. Do your homework before you buy. Investigate the author, check reviews of the book as well. Search for reviews that seem to be written by somebody who knows what they’re talking about too, not just “it’s great” or “it sucks”. If you can only find an ebook version, Amazon’s “Peek Inside” feature can give you an idea if you can make sense of the instructions in there also, or if they’re workable in real life for the average person.

That last bit makes a difference. There’s a ton of SEAL Team related books out there for example. Most of the hand to hand books are written with the idea that you have the superior strength, reflexes and conditioning of a highly trained SEAL Team member though. The best example I can offer here is actually in one of Bruce Lee’s own early books; “Bruce Lee’s Fighting Method: Self Defense Techniques”. In it, he advocates kicking the knife out of an attacker’s hand with a snap kick to the lower wrist.

Bruce Lee can get away with this. The man was clocked hitting 14 times per second. The average person is not going to be that capable and is likely to get a slashed ankle or knife in the leg for trying that. Most of the book is actually very good, but that one technique… ouch.

Let’s Talk Videos Specifically

I’ve spent a great deal of time on books. Videos can be a better option depending upon how detail oriented the instructor is. More advanced details of techniques often get left out of videos because they’re set up to teach beginners. Let me give you a good example:

This is a Kenpo Karate self defense technique against somebody grabbing you by the shirt. Classic bully move that you don’t see that much anymore because attackers realize it leaves them exposed.

There’s a nearly fatal flaw in the technique as 99% of current Kenpo schools teach it though, and it’s visible right in the first 30 seconds. Did you spot it? Don’t feel bad. 🙂

The flaw is that the instructor just throws his arm across the opponent’s hands and steps back to “trap” and extend the arms. In reality, it’s not that hard to just release the lapels and pull away. Kenpo, as it was taught to Ed Parker, was a style that included grappling techniques as well as stand up fighting. It even used to be called Kenpo Juijitsu.

Fixing the technique is fairly easy. First, do NOT just loop your arm over in a big circle to pin the attacker’s hands. It telegraphs big time and an alert opponent will let go to avoid being trapped, and maybe counter with a punch. Keeping your movement small and tight, and similar to a wing chun fook sau (hooking parry) technique is much cleaner.

Second, and most importantly, if you want to keep the opponent pinned and controlled, once you make the grab, roll your pinning hand and forearm downward. This will buckle the wrists and keep them trapped. It will also cause the opponent to move forward at the waist, so that step back and upward strike to the elbows becomes important to avoid a potential headbutt.

So you can learn alot more from a video than a book, BUT sometimes things are left out due to the the viewer’s knowledge level, honest oversight on the instructor’s part, OR because the instructor themself forgot the detail. There are 12 videos on YouTube detailing this technique. I haven’t watched the others, but I’d bet at least 11 of them don’t detail rolling the grab into a sort of double wrist lock.

Even with that said, I still think videos are a better option overall than books just because you can see the entire action, stop it, slow motion it, etc…

I plan on dissecting at least a few other Kenpo videos in the future to show what viewers are missing out in terms of the small details. As for books, do I still think they have value? Judge for yourself:

And that’s only my physical books. 🙂 I’ve learned quite a bit from them but primarily because I keep an open mind and keep digging.

A final note for you authors out there also.

Those books and videos can be a great tool for helping to write a realistic fight scene. I can tell you first hand that nothing thrills somebody with even a basic martial arts background than reading a story where the author actually understands the difference between Tai Chi and Tae Know Do in execution.

Image from thecoolist.com

Scratch Made Chile Verde

With the weather having turned cold, I made some homemade from scratch chile verde to fight back against the cold weather. 🙂

It took some searching to find an authentic, made from scratch version of the recipe. Too many were canned this and canned that. Blah! I finally found one on NoRecipes.com (a jab at AllRecipes.com perhaps?), and am reproducing it here along with a few notes about what worked and what didn’t.

The Recipe:

3 Large Poblano Chili Peppers

2 Medium Anaheim Chili Peppers

3 Large Jalapeño peppers

6 Cloves of Garlic, Unpeeled (Yes, UNpeeled)

1 Extra Large White or Yellow Onion, peeled and quartered

2 2/3 Lbs (1200 grams) of Tomatillo Peppers (roughly 20 bigger ones)

An ounce (25 grams) of fresh cilantro

2 teaspoons of vegetable oil

3 3/4 Lbs (1700 grams) of pork shoulder, cut into 2 inch (5cm) cubes

4 Cups of low sodium Chicken Stock

2 Teaspoons of Honey

1 Teaspoon of Cinnamon

1 Teaspoon of Cumin

1 1/2 Teaspoons of Salt

More Cilantro and Cotija Cheese for Garnish

Important Pre-Prep Notes:

Before we get started, there’s a few important things to note.

First, the oil is going to be used to sear the pork in a dutch oven or pan before adding it into the mix. If you want to get creative, you could cook it on a smoker instead (which I would have done, weather allowing), or some other way. It will also be simmering a while in the final pot so try not to cook it beyond a medium rare so as to avoid drying it out.

Second: As best I can tell, the honey and cinnamon in the ingredients list only serve the purpose of reducing the heat or spiciness of the dish. The seeds in the peppers, especially the Jalapenos, are what generate that heat. If you prefer a milder Chili Verde and remove all the seeds, I’d avoid the honey and cinnamon as they’ll give the dish an unpleasant aftertaste without the heat to balance them

Third: This is a large recipe and will NOT fit in a standard size Crock-Pot or similar slow cooker without halving it. It will easily feed eight hungry people, particularly if you serve it on a bed of rice like my family (and my Latina godmother) used to.

Lastly: If you want to stay kosher / halal, or just find pork unhealthy, boneless skinless chicken breast works fine as a substitute for the pork.

The Prep Work:

Prep Time is supposedly 10 minutes, but I call shenanigans on that. Roasting and peeling the peppers should count as prep work not cooking. Total time with prep and cooking is just under 3 hours, but most of that is just letting it simmer on the stove so the flavors meld together.

Step 1: Preheat your oven to it’s highest setting or put it on broil.

Step 2: While the oven is preheating, Wash the Poblano, Anaheim and Jalapeño peppers and cut slits in them to prevent them from popping. Put them on sheet pans along with the garlic (skin side down), and onions.

Step 3: Remove the husks from the tomatillos and wash them thoroughly to remove as much of the waxy residue from their surface as you can. Cut slits in them to prevent them from popping in the oven and put them on sheet pans as well.

For those that have never seen a tomatillo, here’s what they look like with the ‘husk’:

AND, without the husk or stem:

Note I cut out a small bad spot in the one on the lower right corner. 🙂

Shopping Tip: Tomatillos are peppers, but also related to tomatoes. You can tell if they’re ripe by judging the firmness, just as if it were a tomato. If it’s hard, it’s not ripe. If it’s firm but has just a little give, it’s ripe. If it’s soft, it’s going bad.

Step 4: Put the green chili peppers in the oven and roast until their skins have blistered and started to blacken. Flip them over and roast until the second side matches:

Step 5: Roast the tomatillos in the oven until they’re soft and lightly scorched on top.

NOTE: The main reason for steps 4 and 5 is to soften up the peppers and blister up the skins on the green chilis for peeling. It does impart a little flavor also though. If you want to up the flavor factor, fire roast the peppers on a hot BBQ or over a gas stove burner instead of in the oven.

Image from Nonnasway.com

Step 6: When the green chilies are done, remove them from the oven and let them cool until you can handle them. Remove as much skin as you can from the peppers. It doesn’t have to be a perfect job. The work will be similar to peeling the skin off an onion. Once that’s done, remove the stems and seeds along with any light colored membranes. Then remove the stems and seeds along with any light-colored membranes. Peel the garlic.

One skinned and seeded Poblano pepper.

Remember the above note about seeds here. The Jalapenos are the hottest of the three green peppers, while the Anaheim and Poblano are typically milder. It won’t hurt to leave some seeds in, or even all of them if you like spicy food.

Step 7: Toss all the roasted green chilies, tomatillos, onions, garlic, and main recipe portion the cilantro into a food processor and process until no large chunks are remaining:

Vitamix for the win!

Steps 8 and 9 can be skipped IF you decide to grill the pork (or chicken) instead:

Step 8: Heat a large heavy-bottomed pot or dutch over over medium-high heat until hot. Generously salt and pepper all sides of the pork.

Step 9: Add the vegetable oil to the preheated pot and add the pork in a single layer, leaving a bit of space between each piece of pork (if it doesn’t all fit, then do this in two batches). Let the pork brown on one side undisturbed and then flip and brown the other side.

If grilling or slow smoking the meat, cook to the same level of doneness.

Step 10: Add the green chili and tomatillo puree to the pot, along with the chicken stock, honey, cinnamon (both of which are optional depending upon seed content of the mixture), cumin, oregano, and salt. Scrape up the browned bits of pork juice from the bottom of the pot and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and let the Chili Verde simmer until the pork is fall-apart tender (about 2 1/2 hours).

Lastly, adjust the seasoning to taste and then serve over tortillas, rice, scrambled eggs or whatever excites you. 🙂 Garnish with the additional cilantro and the cotija cheese.

A Couple Quick Final Notes:

First, three hours may seem like alot of time in the modern world, but it’s worth it. Most of that time is just letting it simmer also. No real work to that beyond occasionally checking and stirring it. You will NOT get flavor like this from canned products and a quickie version.

Secondly, the leftovers will slowly get a little spicier as they sit. That’s normal due to the tomatillo seeds (and possibly some of the others) being left in it. Freezing should stop that process and may be necessary depending upon how much leftovers you have anyway. 😉

If you really like spicier food, you might want to try doing steps 1 through 7 a day or two before and keeping the puree in the fridge until cooking day.

And my personal thanks to NoRecipes.com for posting this authentic recipe.

Devilishly Good News

In honor of my hitting 666 followers today:

Yeah, I know… I don’t know whether to cringe or celebrate, LOL…

Still, I have some good news that’s vaguely related if you’re superstitious. 😯

Lucifer was renewed for Season 6 at Netflix!

I guess this is old news for truly rabid fans of the show. Like Seasons 4 and 5, I’d heard alot of up and down about if it was going to happen. Last I’d heard, it was a no-go.

Those who have followed me carefully for any amount of time know I’m not big on evil or glorifying it, so I admit this show’s premise was hard for me to swallow when I first heard about it. HOWEVER, I loved it once I started watching. Here’s the rundown:

THE BASIC PREMISE:

The show is based on the Lucifer comic books by Vertigo (a subsidiary of DC Comics) and developed by Neil Gaiman, the creator of American Gods. Safe to say he has a strong interest in religion and myth, lol.

Anyhoo, Lucifer gets bored of ruling over Hell, and decides he needs a break. He goes to Los Angeles and opens up a Night Club there. He also frequently plays piano for the crowd, as a side note. After a murder case lands at the doorstep of his night club (named Lux), he decides police work is amusing and weasels his way into becoming a consultant for the LAPD, and gets partnered with Detective Chloe Decker.

His consulting typically takes the form of knowing shady people (who end up providing leads on cases), and being able to get people to tell him their deepest wish, OR outright scaring the literal hell out of them by showing them his true nature. Of course he’s super strong and has a few other abilities also.

The Neil Gaiman Twist: Lucifer’s Character

In order to make Lucifer a more palatable character for audiences, the writers went OLD OLD school, and reverted Lucifer from the modern boogeyman to more of a loose interpretation of old (perhaps traditional would be a better word) Judaism. Lucifer is more of a jailer and punisher who watches over Hell (or used to in this case). As he puts it “I don’t MAKE people do anything, I just punish them for it.”

The “Prosecuting Attorney” aspect of Lucifer is missing. He’s also humorously hedonistic, and self-absorbed to the point of being completely obtuse and clueless at points. He did still rebel against Heaven in the show, and has daddy issues because of it.

he actually goes to therapy also, and his counseling sessions are some of the true highlights of a show that is literally overflowing with wry, dry humor.

They were actually a little funnier in the first two seasons, when Linda thought Lucifer was speaking in metaphors about being the devil. The one below is a bit profound actually, and I suspect was Neil Gaiman’s influence / interpretation.

Season 1, Episode 6… A fairly profound counseling session after Lucifer tries to come to terms with having his self-amputated wings stolen. She doesn’t know yet that he really is THE Lucifer.

Over the course of the four seasons I’ve watched thus far, “Luci” has actually grown a bit ‘as a person’ also.

There have been a few biblical ‘guest stars’ also; Tom Welling of Smallville fame played Cain in Season 3. Cain turned out to be the big villain for the season also. At first it looked like he was a good guy operating as a LAPD Lieutenant and trying to make amends for his past sin(s). Lucifer’s “Mother” also appears, as do a few non-scripture angels and demons. THE Eve also appears in Season 4 as Lucifer’s foil, and I understand Micheal the Archangel appears in Season 5. In the show and comics, he’s Lucifer’s “twin” brother (in the comics he has blond hair and blue eyes).

The Crisis on Infinite Earths:

Probably one of the most fun scenes for fans of Lucifer and the CW Network’s lineup of DC Comics related shows was when the CW did their own version of DC’s now-legendary “Crisis on Infinite Earths” story arc. The story arc was the first reboot of the DC Comics Universe.

As the name suggests, there was a great deal of hopping between alternate realities as the heroes try to stop the threat. In the scene below, John Constantine and friends pay a visit to Lucifer looking for some assistance with the threat:

What truly makes the show Lucifer great though is more than the outstanding writing. Every on the show seems to fit PERFECTLY into their respective role and into the group dynamic of the show. Tom Ellis does a perfect job portraying Lucifer, and the same can be said for all the other actors.

I’ll be honest. IF you’re a strict “The Devil is responsible for all the world’s evil” kind of interpretation person, you’ll very likely be offended by the show. If you have a sense of humor, enjoy someone tripping over their own foibles regularly but growing SLOWLY, and understand that human misery is created by humans, you’ll likely LOVE this show.

Personally, I highly recommend it… To all my 666 followers, LOL. 😈