The Road

It’s February.

I call this, somewhat unsubtley, the suicide month.

So what better time to pick up a classic post-apocalyptic novel that’s been on my list?  That’s right, go all in!

In short, it’s the story of a man and his son.  The man tries to keep his son alive by scavenging in a nuclear-ravaged wasteland while traveling south in a bid to survive the oncoming winter.  In so doing, he attempts to maintain certain higher standards of conduct which most have abandoned for the sake of basic survival, and instill them in his charge.

The book’s been around for a while now, so there’s reviews a plenty if you want to delve into the discussion.  And like all renowned creations, there’s volumes of criticisms.  To save you time, I’ll reduce them down to the top two complaints and comment on each:

  1. It’s repetitive.  Yes, it does tend to touch on the same topics and events, but that’s because the same problems keep arising and don’t go away.  Each victory is minor and fleeting, without permanently fixing anything.  It’s a narrative of how things just don’t get better.
  2. The writing style is juvenile.  I don’t think this is a fair assessment, because it’s essentially the running monologue in the man’s mind.  I don’t know about anyone else, but my internal thought train is just that–an ongoing collection of observations, conversations, analyses, decisions, and memories; all devoid of punctuation or grammatical syntax.  And that was clearly intentional by the author.

It does ultimately end with a glimmer of hope, that the ethical codes are not extinct.  It’s a depressing journey, but a good one for the heart of winter.  Keep the fire.


Security Upgrades

It’s always high on the list of recommended things to do when you move in to a new residence: change the locks.  The reasoning is obvious: there’s no way to tell who has a copy of the key.  And for all of my various incremental home security improvements, they’d be mostly rendered moot if some acquaintance of the former owner had a key and chose to “visit”.  So I finally prioritized a deadbolt swap.

Of course, if I’m doing that, why wouldn’t I take the opportunity to go beyond a simple lock change with a standard residential model and explore something a little more high security?

Introducing, the Mul-T-Lock Cronus Junior!

Grade 2, so a step up (I’m assuming).  I think grade 1 would have been a waste of money.  (I recently reinforced the door hardware with oversized strike plates and 3.5″ steel screws, but the supporting structure is ultimately wood.)

And the tumblers are actually doubled–tumblers inside tumblers.  Cool idea.  Having explored lock-picking in my youth, I can’t imagine the difficulty here.  This isn’t just adding more tumblers, it multiplying the complexity.  How do you bump pins when each pin is two pins with different shear lines?

And the price point was 3-4 times that of a standard hardware-grade variety, so not crazy.  All in all, a good match for a residential application.

However, the bolt assembly was anything but user-friendly.  And while that wasn’t necessarily attributed to the manufacturer, it does have a certain intolerance if existing cutouts aren’t perfectly true–something a residential-targeted product should have.

For example, the bolt hole and lock holes weren’t quite aligned.  I could still feed the parts together, but the internal shield then put sufficient tension on the bolt assembly that the bolt wouldn’t extend to the final locked position.  A fair amount of trial and error was required before I isolated the problem, which involved some additional boring and filing.

That problem solved, I mounted everything and tried to throw the bolt.  It wouldn’t budge, despite working fine before threading the screws.  So I disassembled everything and worked the bolt manually with a screwdriver, which worked fine.  I took a break before smashing something.

It saves everyone after you a lot of work if you’d just do the job right the first time.

Additional experimentation revealed that the bolt assembly was being pushed down slightly too far, so the bolt was catching on the strike.  The door, having been cut wrong, protruded the strike slightly into the jamb, and when mounting the strike it bent the jamb, causing obstruction.  So I shimmed the strike against the door to prevent bending, reassembled the lock, and tried it again.

The thumb switch. Note also the aforementioned extended strike plate.  All hardware upgraded to 3.5″ steel screws (hinges included).

The key worked, but the thumb switch didn’t.  Not very useful.  I disassembled the lock again and pondered the parts, eventually concluding that I needed to rotate the internal metal sheaf once so that the neutral position aligned with the thumb switch neutral position.  I reassembled the lock and tried again, both key and thumb switch, in all possible combinations between the two…dozens of times.  Finally, it worked as expected.

In conclusion, the door’s inconsistent cuts combined with the lock’s low error tolerance made what would normally be a 2 minute project a 2 hour one (additionally, the instructions didn’t cover installing the cylinder into the lock, or adjusting the bolt between its 1 3/8″ and 1 1/2″ settings, but those were reasonably intuitive with some observation and tinkering).  But at least the lock is finally replaced and upgraded.  Though in all fairness, after removing the old one, it was a really solid lock.  All metal, thick parts, and lots of shielding and reinforcement.  Had I possessed a tally on all the keys made for it, and were it not a decades-old standard 5-pin system, I would have left it as-is.

No weathering yet, but it matches the existing hardware pretty close.

Still, it’s nice to have one more security upgrade completed.




I love meat.  I hunt.  I worked in a butcher shop.  I clean it, cure it, season it, cook it, serve it.  I’d raise it too, but city ordinances take a dim view of such practices.  And with hunting seasons limited and public lands far away, I’m generally relegated to the suburban method of procurement: grocery stores.

And the problem with said stores is that they tend to only carry cuts that are popular, or at least reasonably in the public knowledge.  The hangar steak is my favorite, but was impossible to find…at least until the public became aware of it.  Of course, when that happened, when I could find it, it was unreasonably priced.  Supply and demand I suppose.

So it goes.  But on the other hand, the general public’s growing curiosity towards alternate cuts has also increased the supply part of the equation.  And so I’m able to find “junk” cuts, like pork belly.

Pork belly is, of course, the part used to make bacon.  And bacon, being a holy gift to us mortal men by powers beyond my comprehension, sat on my shopping list were I ever to see it offered.

And lo and behold, one day it was indeed!  I bought a 10 pound slab.

Of course, acquiring was only the first and smallest step.  I needed to cure and smoke it.  But how?  I’m sure this is the burning question in your very soul at this moment, no doubt also sharing my analysis of bacon being a boon of divinity.

Lacking experience, I needed a baseline, so I followed this recipe.  I take no credit:

How to Make Your Own Bacon

However, I will offer my suggestions, learned through trial and error.

Use a Food Saver bag for the curing part.  This was very effective in removing most of the air, so the meat remained completely immersed in brine.  Not much massaging needed.  Just time.

I don’t have a smoker, but a charcoal grill worked just fine.  It was hard to avoid temperature swings, so be diligent with the fussing.  Better it stay cool than get too hot.

I added wood chips, placed in a foil cup and filled with water.  As the water evaporated off, it steam-smoked flavor into the meat before the dry heat finished the cure.

Reduce the salt by half.  I wasn’t going to leave the bacon sit out, so I’m pretty sure this is safe.  Also regarding salt…

After cutting and before final cooking, soak the bacon strips in water for a half hour.  Otherwise it’s just really salty, even with the reduced salt brine.  I don’t know how they do this step commercially, but if you don’t, your family will complain.

And there you have it: bacon!  “Healthier” bacon, and manlier because I made it myself (I’m in agreement with the above cited article).  And now that I know what I’m doing, I can create my own custom cures.  Experiments!

But first: homemade breakfast sausage…