Sunday, April 30, 2017

Latest Publishing Update--"The Big Book of Bootleg Horror Vol. 1"


     I'm happy to announce that another anthology is out which features one of my horror stories.  As you can see from the cover above, this one comes from HellBound Books, whose website address is:  hellboundbookspublishing.com  I'll include the "blurb" below:

Twenty tales of terror, darkness, the truly macabre and things most unpleasant from a delectably eclectic bunch of the very best independent horror authors on the scene today!

S.E. Rise, Kevin Wetmore, Paul Stansfield, Craig Stewart, Shaun Avery, Jeff Myers, Marc DeWit, Timothy Wilkie, Quinn Cunningham, Melanie Waghorne, Marc E. Fitch, Stanley B. Webb, Tim J. Finn, Ken Goldman, Ralph Greco Jr, Roger Leatherwood, Vincent Treewell, David Owain Hughes, J.J. Smith and the inimitable James H. Longmore.

In this superlative tome, HellBound Books have embraced the taboo, gone all-out to horrify and have broken the flimsy boundaries of good taste to make The Big Book of Bootleg Horror the perfect anthology for those who take their horror like we take our coffee - insidiously dark and most definitely unsweetened.

    The paperback format is $15.99, and the Kindle ebook version is $4.99.  Enjoy!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Slovenian Mineral Water

     I have to admit, that up until very recently I wasn't entirely sure what mineral water was all about.  I can recall the use of it in the classic 1980's movie, "Heathers," but that's about it.  (For those that don't remember, in the film it's a sign of how backward and homophobic the town was, as consumption of this beverage made folks automatically question one's sexuality.)  Well, basically, mineral water is simply water that has minerals in it, such as salts and sulfur compounds.  Certain areas in the world are famous for their mineral water sources, as these were often supposed to have medicinal and healing qualities.  Spas often sprung up around them, and then people started to bottle and sell these waters.  Some are naturally carbonated.
     Obviously, Slovenia has some of these naturally occurring mineral water sources.  The brand I bought was Radenska.  In addition to marketing a few types of mineral waters, they also make flavored waters (their Oaza line), and carbonated soft drinks (their Ora line).  The former includes some exotic flavors, such as thyme, linden/honey/lime (linden is a tree sometimes used in herbal teas and tinctures), and elderflower and white tea.  I thought I was trying two types of mineral water, but alas I was careless and bought two bottles of the same kind by mistake, as the labels were slightly different.  So the only kind I was able to locate was their classic mineral water.  This beverage has high concentrations of calcium and magnesium in it.  Which is also the distinction of what constitutes "hard" water.  "Soft" water is water with low concentrations of magnesium and calcium.  (And evidently waters with a moderate amount of these substances are just "semihard, regular" water, I guess.)  If your home water supply is "hard," that can have negative effects.  Boilers' function may be affected, and household pipes may get clogged with mineral deposits.  Also soap may not lather properly in dishwashers and washing machines.  (Alternately, I've stayed in some hotels with overly "soft' water, which is unpleasant, too.  It feels greasy--like you still have soap on your hands even after rinsing thoroughly.)
     Anyway, I tried the classic Radenska, which came in a 1.5 liter plastic bottle, and a 1 liter glass bottle.  I had it chilled, but plain, and then over ice.  I could tell a difference between this and regular tap water.  Not really in a good way.  It wasn't as refreshing, somehow, as normal water.  A major factor was probably the carbonation.  Plus, to be fair, I think I've tried domestic mineral waters in my life, and came away similarly unimpressed.  So, while I didn't like it, and wouldn't recommend it, maybe avid mineral water drinkers would enjoy it.  (My father, for example, said he liked it just fine.)
     Finally, to throw out some very brief info about the country of Slovenia, it gained its independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991.  In 2004 the nation joined NATO and the European Union.  And the 2012 Global Peace Index rated them as one of the world's most peaceful countries.




















Saturday, April 22, 2017

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Amish Cup Cheese

     We return once more to Amish cuisine.  Or the Pennsylvania "Dutch," as they're often called, which is incorrect and confusing.  That's a corruption of the word "Deutsch," or what the Germans call themselves.  So the Amish are originally from Germany, not The Netherlands.  The Amish, and the related Mennonites, are best known as being hardcore pacifists, who live a traditional, rural life, eschewing many modern technological inventions, such as zippers, computers, cars (for the Amish, that is, Mennonites sometimes drive black, nonfancy autos), etc.  The Amish and Mennonites live in other U.S. states (and parts of Europe and Canada), such as Delaware, Ohio, and Indiana, but the Keystone State-dwelling ones are the most famous.
     I happened to be in the heart of Pennsylvania "Dutch" country, near Lancaster, when I came upon something new in a huge grocery called Maple Farms.  It was authentic Amish cup cheese.  This is a soft, spreadable cheese, which gets its name from the container it's usually stored in.  Appropriate--a simple, basic name from folks who value plain things as a philosophy.  The cheese dates back to the late 1600's. when the Amish first settled in Pennsylvania, before it was even a U.S. state.  It's based on the German cheese called Kochkase (aka Koch Kse), and is also sometimes referred to as "soda cheese."  Cup cheese is made with soured milk which is then heated, strained, and melted.  Many consumers report a mild flavor, similar to French brie.  More infamous, though, is the purported odor.  Some think it has a strong, rank smell, akin to the notorious limburger cheese (see September 24, 2012 post).
     The kind I got was made by September Farms, out of Honey Brook, PA.  The label listed its ingredients as being processed American cheese, pasteurized milk, salt, rennet, and cheese culture.  It was about $5 for an 8 ounce (226 gram) container.  The cheese was light yellowish in color, and was indeed very soft.  Gooey, almost like a dip in texture.  I was surprised, and oddly disappointed, sort of, to discern no horrible scent.  In fact, I couldn't detect much of any odor, good or bad.  The taste was mild, and similar to liquidy American cheese, only a tad saltier.  Basic, but tasty.  Good both by itself, and on a cracker.   I was maybe a little let down that the flavor wasn't more strong and distinctive, but it certainly wasn't negative  My father tried it and had the same positive reaction, and echoed my opinion about the cheese's lack of terrible odor.
     All in all, then, I would recommend Amish cup cheese.  But if you're looking to gross someone out with a foul-smelling food, I'd look elsewhere.  (Or at least not buy September Farm's kind--it's possible this dairy tones down the smell.)

















Saturday, April 15, 2017

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Fijian Ginger Candy

     As with previous posts, the topic's origin is more than one place.  The ginger does indeed come from Fiji, but the company that packages it and distributes it, the Ginger People Group, is based in the U.S., California specifically.  This business is aptly named, as their products all revolve around ginger.  They make several kinds of ginger-based candies, ginger beer, and ginger energy drinks.  Also various products designed for ginger's alleged medical benefits, which are said to aid in digestion, help battle prostate cancer, nausea, and arthritis, and boost circulation, immunity, and energy, among others things.  The wonderful cable television program "Mythbusters" actually tested the notion that ginger pills can ward off seasickness, using a bizarre seasickness torture chair, and found that they actually worked, with no side effects.  (It was graded "plausible" for other, more detailed reasons--see episode guide for more information, if you care.)  According to the Ginger People Group, Fiji boasts some of the best ginger on Earth.  They cite the island nation's nutrient-rich soil, pristine ecosystems, and natural tropical rainfall irrigation.  Also, the farmer's strategy of rotating the crops with cassava and taro supposedly pays dividends, too.
     To give a very brief overview, Fiji consists of over 330 islands, and over 500 islets, in the Melanesian area of the Pacific.  The island's inhabitants traditionally used the term "Viti" to refer to their home, but their neighbors the Tongan Islanders used the name "Fiji."  English explorer Captain James Cook help promote the Fiji term, and it's stuck.  The island group has been independent since 1970, and a republic since 1987.  Alas, it's also been marked by political instability, with several military coups and other governmental changes during this time.  One of its old nicknames particularly interested me--the "Cannibal Isles."  In this case the title, often used inaccurately to deride an enemy country, appears to be accurate, as there is evidence that Fijians did partake in this controversial practice.  The Guinness Book of World Records even has one for the person who ate the most people in their life.  A Fijian chief, Ratu Udre Udre is listed as the champ, with at least 872 (and perhaps up to 1000) individual human victims consumed.  (This number was taken from the tradition of keeping a type of stone for every human eaten, and counting the pile later.)  (Furthermore, I don't mean to pick on the Fijians here.  Every country has had, shall we say, morally questionable cultural practices at one time or another.  This particular bit of historical trivia just piqued my interest.)
     But back to the product.  I ate a bag from the company's gin-gins line, the basic crystallized ginger flavor.  Other flavors in this line include spicy apple, peanut, uncrystallized ginger drops, double strength, super strength, and hot coffee.  The individual pieces were about .75 by .75 inch cubes (or about 2 cm. by 2 cm.), which were light brown in color, coated with crystallized sugar.  The texture was firm and chewy, but not exactly crunchy.  To be blunt, these candies were very much like the other dried, crystallized ginger candies I've had over the years.  Which is to say, excellent.  A nice spicy "bite," but not too much.  I love ginger, and ginger candy such as this has always been very tasty.  I don't know that the Fijian ginger was better than the other company's ginger, but it certainly wasn't any worse, either.  If you like ginger, you'll probably enjoy these.  Also, not surprisingly, these candies are billed as being all-natural, fat free, vegan, and gluten free, if you care about any of these things.  Finally, don't know if this is coincidental, but the gin-gins cartoon logo mascot is a little funny and strange.  It's a anthropomorphized piece of ginger, complete with limbs and a face, who's reclining on a pile of dried ginger, and tossing a piece in his (or her, that's not clear!) mouth.  Or, put another way, this individual is lying on the dried, dismembered corpses of his/her comrades, while also cannibalizing them!



















Saturday, April 8, 2017

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Mexican/Japanese/American Peanut Snacks

     As readers can tell from all the slashes in the title, this one is more than a little confusing.  When I first picked these up, again from a Wegman's supermarket, I thought these were Mexican, since they were clearly marked, "Made in Mexico."  That the product name was "Samurai," complete with the appropriate sword in the logo, I figured, was kind of random, just a marketing decision.  But it turns out I was wrong.  "Japanese peanuts," usually referred to as "cacahuates japoneses" or "mani japones" in Spanish-speaking countries, and as "cracker peanuts" in English-speaking nations, were invented by a Japanese-Mexican.  Yoshigei Nakatani immigrated to Mexico in 1932, married a local Mexican woman, had kids, and converted to Catholicism.  Somewhere between 1945-1951 (sources vary), he developed a new kind of snack, by coating peanuts in wheat flour dough and then frying them.  He sold these in Mexico City, and they quickly became popular throughout the country.  Several others came up with versions of his snack, so now you can buy many variants of these special peanuts.
     Alas, I purchased an American knockoff.  From Tuty, a company that started in 2005 in Texas, and now has plants in Mexico, too.  (They also make other peanut-based snacks, cheese snacks, sweet bar snacks, and alternate flavors of cracker peanuts, including chili, habonero, and sriracha.)  According to a blog I read, although Tuty's Samurai peanuts are popular in Mexico, many Mexicans consider the Nishikawa ones to be the best.  Tuty's website is rather sparse about its history, or other information, but, to be fair, they are pretty new.  Also, they sometimes refer to this brand as "Samura," since the handle of the sword hanging below the word in the logo makes the "i" at the end of the word.  Even though it's clearly meant to be "samurai,"--it doesn't make much sense.
     Anyway, I had the classic Samurai coated peanuts, the coated peanuts with lemon, and the cacahuates, the uncoated chili-flavored peanuts.  My notes for each are below.

Samurai classic coated peanuts:  Look like tiny potatoes with their coating.  Taste pretty good, but since I really enjoy peanuts, this isn't unexpected.  Slightly salty, and tangier than most peanuts.  Overall were more than solid.

Samurai coated peanuts with lemon:  Slight lemon tang.  Didn't like as much as the classic one, or the chili ones.  Lemon flavor not as good. Not a very pleasing flavor pairing.  Not atrocious, but not especially tasty, either.

Samurai uncoated chili-flavored peanuts:  Just peanuts covered in reddish spice powder.  Spicy as advertised.  Not overly hot, but a nice "bite."  Pretty good--liked these better than the lemon ones, but not quite as much as the classic coated.

     Therefore, I would recommend these, except maybe for the coated kind with lemon.  It's pretty difficult to mess up peanuts as a food, and the "cracker peanuts" seem like a decent to very good variant of them.  (One notable peanut-based snack that is terrible is the Southern U.S. cultural abomination known as "boiled peanuts," which take a tasty treat and turn it into a revolting, salty mush.)  I wish I'd tried a more authentic Mexican/Japanese type, though.  Hopefully I'll get the chance, and then I can compare them to the Tuty ones.

























Saturday, April 1, 2017

Unique or at Least Rare Major League Baseball Feats and Records

     The baseball season is nearly upon us, so today I thought I'd discuss some unusual happenings in its history.  And good luck to my Phillies in the upcoming season.  Assuming that their young players progress nicely, and that they don't have too many injuries, I think they could possibly win 75-81 games this year.  (I'm realistic.)  As usual, I'll use some statistical shorthand here and there.  A three part "slash," such as .250/.320/.430 indicates, respectively, batting average/on base percentage/slugging average.  And for position players, a number followed by a plus sign, like 100+ indicates OPS adjusted, or on base plus slugging average, adjusted for time period, stadium, etc., with 100 being average, and above that good, etc.  Positions are abbreviated 1B for first baseman, SS for shortstop, OF for outfielder, P for pitcher, etc.  Let's get to it.

   Sometimes, baseball is a family affair, with brothers, or fathers and sons all having time in the majors.  Here are MLB's 3 generation families:

1) OF Gus Bell (1950-64) sired 3B/OF Buddy Bell (1972-89), who then fathered 3B/PH Mike Bell (2000), and 2B/3B David Bell (1995-2006).

2) 3B/SS/1B Ray Boone (1948-60) fathered C Bob Boone (1972-90), who in turn produced 2B Bret Boone (1992-2005), and 3B/1B Aaron Boone (1997-2009).

3) Then there's the pitching Colemans, with Joe (1942-55), Joe, Jr. (1965-79), and then Casey (2010-14).

4) PH/C Sam Hairston (1951) produced PH/OF/1B Jerry (1973-89), who then sired 2B/OF/3B Jerry, Jr. (1998-2013), and OF/PH/2B Scott (2004-14).

5) SS/2B/3B Dick Schofield (1953-71) produced SS Dick (1983-96), who in turn was the uncle to OF Jayson Werth (2002-present), who's stepdad was 1B/OF/C Dennis Werth (1979-82).

    Sometimes, fathers and sons even played on the same team.  For example, Hall of Fame OF Tim Raines played with his son, Tim, Jr., also an OF, with the Baltimore Orioles in 2001.  OF/1B Ken Griffey (1973-91) played with Hall of Fame OF Ken, Jr. (1989-2010) on the Seattle Mariners together in 1990.  They even hit home runs back to back on Sept. 14, 1990.

     Moving to umpires, Hall of Famer Ed Runge, his son Paul, and his son Brian, all umpired in the Majors.

     On Sept. 15, 1963, the San Francisco Giants had an all-Alou outfield, with Felipe, Matty, and Jesus all playing at the same time.

     Incredibly, 5 brothers from one family all played in the Majors.  Most notably, Hall of Fame OF/1B/2B Ed Delahanty, along with 2B/3B/OF Jim, 3B/2B/SS Tom, OF Frank, and OF/2B Joe, in the late 1890's, early 1900's.  Next up is the O'Neill family, who sent brothers Steve (catcher and manager), C Jack, SS/2B/3B Jim, and P/OF Mike to the Majors in the early 1900's again.  To be fair, if it wasn't for MLB's shameful race barrier from the late 1800's to 1947, the Bankheads might have had 5 major leaguers, too.  Pitcher Dan did make the Majors in 1947, while his brothers Sam (INF/OF), Fred (INF), Joe (P), and Garnett (No positional information) all played in the Negro Leagues.

     Obviously, the most exciting way for a game to end is on a walk-off play, when the home team wins instantly in the last inning.  It's happened eleven times in the final game of a World Series.  Winning teams listed first.

1912 Boston Red Sox vs. New York Giants, Game 8 (Game 2 called for darkness).  Larry Gardner's sacrifice fly wins the championship in the 10th inning, 3-2.

1924 Washington Senators vs. New York Giants, Game 7.  Earl McNeely's double (some sources claim it was a single) knocks in the winning run in the 12th inning, 4-3.

1927 New York Yankees vs. Pittsburgh Pirates, Game 4.  Pittsburgh hurler Johnny Miljus's wild pitch allows Yankee Earle Combs to score the winning run in the 9th inning, 4-3.

1929 Philadelphia Athletics vs. Chicago Cubs, Game 5.  Bing Miller's double in the 9th inning wins the Series, 3-2.

1935 Detroit Tigers vs. Chicago Cubs, Game 6.  A single by Goose Goslin plates the winning run in the 9th inning, 4-3.

1953 New York Yankees vs. Brooklyn Dodgers, Game 6.  Billy Martin's single knocks in the winning run in the 9th inning, 4-3.

1960 Pittsburgh Pirates vs. New York Yankees, Game 7.  Bill Mazeroski hits the first walk off, Series-winning home run in the 9th inning, Pirates winning 10-9.

1991 Minnesota Twins vs. Atlanta Braves, Game 7.  Gene Larkin's single over a pulled in outfield wins the game 1-0, in the 9th inning for the Twins.

1993 Toronto Blue Jays vs. Philadelphia Phillies, Game 6.  Joe Carter's home run in the 9th inning wins the Series for the Jays, 8-6.

1997 Florida Marlins vs. Cleveland Indians, Game 7.  Edgar Renteria's single scores the winning run in the 9th inning, 3-2.

2001 Arizona Diamondbacks vs. New York Yankees, Game 7.  Luis Gonzalez singles in the winning run in the 9th inning, 3-2.

     Two players have hit a grand slam home run on the first pitch they saw in the majors--Kevin Kouzmanoff did it for the Cleveland Indians on Sept. 2, 2006, and Daniel Nava did it for the Boston Red Sox on June 12, 2010.

     The record for the most total bases in one game is 19, set by Los Angeles Dodger Shawn Green on May 23, 2002.  He hit 4 home runs (tied for the all time record), 1 double, and a single.

     The record for most rbi in one game is 12, held by two St. Louis Cardinals players.  Hall of Fame 1B Jim Bottomley got his on Sept. 16, 1924, while OF Mark Whiten did it on Sept. 7, 1993.

     Probably the ultimate sign of respect is when a batter is intentionally walked with the bases loaded, since that guarantees that one run will score.  It's been done 6 times:

1) Abner Dalrymple of the Chicago Cubs, on August 2, 1881.

2) Nap Lajoie of the Philadelpia Athletics, on May 23, 1901.  (He won the Triple Crown that year, leading the league in batting average, home runs, and rbi.)

3) Del Bissonette of the Brooklyn Dodgers, on May 2, 1928.  (I'd never heard of Bissonette, but he hit .320/.396/.543 that year, so it makes sense.)

4) Bill Nicholson of the Chicago Cubs, on July 23, 1944, second game of doubleheader.  (Nicholson had already hit 4 home runs total that day, over the two games, so this is very understandable.)

5) Barry Bonds of San Francisco Giants, on May 28, 1998.  (All time home run leader Bonds was obviously an incredibly dangerous hitter, a sure fire Hall of Famer if he hadn't done PED's.)

6) Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers, on Aug. 17, 2008.
         (One source claimed this was done to Mel Ott, too, but I couldn't confirm it.)

     Toby Harrah did something no other shortstop ever did before, or since, on June 25, 1976.  He played an entire doubleheader while having no defensive chances.

     On August 4, 1982, Joel Youngblood became the only man to get hits for two different teams, in two different cities, on the same day.  He got the first as a New York Met in a day game in Chicago.  Then, he was traded after the game to the Montreal Expos.  He flew to Philadelphia in time to play in their night game vs. the Phillies, and got his second hit.

     Consider poor Larry Yount. On Sept. 15, 1971, while playing for the Houston Astros, he was announced as the next pitcher late in the game.  This was his debut in the majors.  However, he injured himself while making his warm up throws, and had to leave the game without throwing a single pitch.  So by league rules he's credited with appearing in one game, since he was officially announced, but he's the only guy to never actually participate in any game action!  And alas, while he healed up and pitched in the minors afterwards, he never was called up to the majors again.  He's also the older brother of Hall of Fame SS/OF Robin Yount.

     The most batters faced by a pitcher without getting a single out in a career in held by Elmer "Doc" Hamann, with the Cleveland Indians on Sept. 21, 1922 vs. the Boston Red Sox.  He faced 7 batters and gave up 3 hits, walked 3, hit 1 batter, and threw a wild pitch for good measure, giving up 6 runs.

     On a similar note, the highest lifetime ERA for a pitcher (excluding men like Hamann, who's ERA is infinity because he didn't record an out), is 189.00, set by Joe Cleary of the Washington Senators on August 4, 1945.  He gave up 5 hits, 3 walks, 1 wild pitch, and 7 earned runs in one third of an inning.  (He's also the last Ireland-born major leaguer.)  He was relieved by Bert Shepard, in his only major league appearance, who pitched 5 and a third innings, and gave up only 3 hits, 1 walk, and 1 run.  Shepard's unique because due to a war injury he only had one leg!

     The record for most lifetime at bats without a hit, pitchers excluded, is 23, held by 2 players.  Larry Littleton, with the 1981 Cleveland Indians, and Mike Potter, with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1976-77.  Potter did walk once, and Littleton 3 times.

     Continuing with negative individual records, only one guy ever made 4 errors on one play--Mike Grady, with the 1899 New York Giants (couldn't find the exact date, or much detail.)  Reportedly, while playing third be first booted a ground ball for error #1.  Then he threw the ball over the first baseman's head for error #2.  The right fielder then threw the ball to Grady to catch the baserunner near third.  Grady dropped the ball for error #3.  Then, as the runner broke for home, Grady threw the ball over the catcher's head, into the stands, for error #4!  Although he was terrible on this play, Grady was a good player overall, in his career from 1894-1906.  He finished at .294/.374/.425, with an adjusted OPS of 126.  He also helped save a family from a fire about a year later.

     The all time worst choke by a team leading with 2 outs in the 9th inning, and no baserunners, was the Washington Senators vs. the Cleveland Blues (later Indians) on May 23, 1901.  Pitcher Casey Patten had a 13-5 lead, and opened the 9th by getting the first two outs.  Then, he, and a reliever, proceeded to give up 6 singles, 2 doubles, 1 walk, a hit batsman, and a passed ball, total, as well as 9 runs, to lose 14-13!

     Outfielder Rick Bosetti had an obscure career from 1976-82, with the Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals, Toronto Blue Jays, and Oakland Athletics, finishing with a line of .250/.288/.338, and an OPS+ of 72.  However, in 1979 he told the press of his, shall we say, unorthodox accomplishments.  He claimed to have urinated on the grass of every ball park in the league.  In interviews he said this was done before the games, while the stands were empty, but others claimed he sometimes did it during the games, during pitching changes, just to prove that he could do it without being caught (supposedly he stood up against the outfield wall, covered himself with his glove, and went).  Assuming the rumors were true, he certainly risked being arrested for public urination/indecent exposure in one of the more dramatic, weirdest ways possible!

     Enjoy the season.  Thanks to www.baseball-reference.com, several blogs, and "The Baseball Hall of Shame" book series ( by Bruce Nash and Allan Zullo).