Monday, September 28, 2009

Book Status

While this blog relates to (and with some postings, draws from) my book Guy's Guide to Domestic Engineering, I have not written about my getting-published experiences. I was afraid of TMI, too much information, and your eyes would glaze over.

I've been pretty focusd the past three months. As such, I've reread the book ten more times, and the publishing editors have read it four times. As I write this, the book is being proofed in final layout form. I expect those corrections within two days, and then I have one last shot at it.

I'm amazed at how much I still find, and have resigned myself to the reality that it will probably go into print with a few errors - hopefully less than the fingers on one hand.

The schedule should deliver a final product in about two weeks. At that time I will get my free contractual copies and the book will be available for purchase on the publisher's website, I have no idea what its value is, but iUniverse has awarded me Editor's Choice, a merit awarded to only ten percent of their authors.

For those interested I will post purchase instructions on this blog at that time, and send out an email to a preliminary list of friends and family. It will take another 6-8 weeks to go up on websites like Amazon and Barnes and Noble, or to learn if I'm getting any interest from the retailers.

Meanwhile, I have been hard at work piecing together my marketing plan. I am up to 600 email addresses, and another 100 snail mail addresses. Four videos, each about four minutes long, have been shot, edited and posted on my YouTube page. One more will be shot for an even five.

When the book is minimally available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble I will fire off an email blast announcing its availability and provide the link to the YouTube videos. The link will also be posted on my Facebook page. Hopefully those will be enjoyed enough to be forwarded throughout cyberspace. I will also launch my new website, This blog will then be available only on that site.

Yes, I am self-publishing. I beat my head up against the traditional literary agents' (and publishing houses') doors for nine months. No residual headaches. It is nearly impossible to become a first-time nonfiction writer without a platform. Platform? I am not a celebrity, sports professional, national politician, doctor-of-whatever, talk show host, or Julie* of the movie Julie & Julia. In other words, I don't have at least 100,000 followers who think I walk on water - which, by the way, I don't. That is why I learned to swim. If you are in the ozone layer of fame and/or fortune, you don't even have to write well. Publishers will hire someone to ghost write your book.

Self-publishing is swimming of another kind - upstream. Less than 7 percent of all published books sell more than 1,000 copies. I hope that when the time comes you will help me join that elite group and kick the odds in the ass - even without a platform.

* Maybe I should change my first name to Ernest, write a blog about replicating Emeril's recipes and dream of a movie entitled Ernest & Emeril. Then again, maybe not. Emeril uses too many ingredients with too many steps. My eyes glaze over.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Deeper-in-debt Dining

A blog that I link to,, recently gushed over a meal at restaurant outside of Barcelona, Spain called El Bulli. El Bulli has been designated the #1 restaurant in the world for the past three years. Reservations are nearly impossible at this 50-seat gem. The Amateur Gourmet tried for years and finally scored this summer.

Once there, he and his partner ate and drank their way through the menu and wine list, forking over $1,000 for the evening.

PJ and I will not be dining there soon.

Before the advent of the green economy (having less of the green) we used to eat out once a month. The tabs kept inflating, even if our waistlines didn’t.

In a recent blog I wrote about eating in on our anniversaries lately. Still, I read Irene Virbila every week in the LA Times. Irene is their restaurant reviewer. I like to stay informed in case one of our ships lost at sea finds land.

When Irene gives a restaurant three-stars I take notice. This week she lauded Studio, the restaurant at the Montage Laguna Beach Resort. The Montage sits of a bluff overlooking the Pacific. After diving for my Food Lover’s Companion bible several times while reading her review, I got to the meat and potatoes part—the prices.
Appetizers $23 to $29
Main Courses $43 to $53 (only $53? Must not be using Kobe beef)
Desserts $15

Writing of the wine list she opined, “ …there are enough good wines under $100 to keep anybody happy.” That’s a relief.

Speaking of diving for my foodie dictionary, ever wonder why it’s more and more difficult to translate fine dinning menus—even the ones in English? Guys don’t like looking menu-challenged, or sporting that deer-in-the-headlights look at a high-end restaurant, or the prices. And it’s a bit tacky to bring your Food Lover’s Companion with you.

Just when you think you understand menus, they change, not just the recipes, but also the terminology. Chefs need you to feel intimidated. That way it’s easier to get away with gouge prices if they call a puree, coulis; a dumpling, quenelles; or cake, gateau.

Stay on task, guys. Once you earn your BS in domestic engineering (and one of your ships docks), and you venture back to Le Glitzy Brasserie, you will be able to parle with the best of them.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Costco Cruising

No matter how large the megastore, one-stop grocery shopping is not possible for any self-respecting cook. My list includes eight Southern California shops. Yes, I said eight. The list includes Vons, Ralphs, Costco, Trader Joes, Produce World, Whole Foods, Bristol Farms, and the Wine Exchange. I’ve also added a farmer’s market on Thursdays. Vons earns most of our weekly business. I take out a loan whenever I shop at Whole Foods or Bristol Farms.

Costco is a monthly experience. If you don’t have a Costco in your zip code, think Sam’s Club, both of which are the size of zip codes.

I usually plan my Costco trips close to noon. That way I can do lunch. Not at their fast food concession, but sampling their samples.

For the uninformed or people who don’t get out much, Costco is like shopping at a warehouse. The aisles are wide, the carts are large, and the packages are daunting. Once I needed salt, but the only offering was something in a burlap bag weighing in at twenty-five pounds. I e-mailed Costco the next day explaining that I wasn’t planning on feeding the Third Army. No doubt this will shock you, but Costco did not reduce their salt packaging after receiving my e-mail.

I’m wondering how long it will be before you just drive your F-150 down the aisles and pile on provisions the way I used to stack alfalfa bales on the hay wagon back in Indiana. I find hay a bit over the top on the roughage daily requirement chart, so we limit our hay consumption to alfalfa sprouts.

Pound per pound, Costco offers the best value beef in the country day in and day out. All beef is minimally USDA Choice.

If you use the Costco’s of the world for most of your perishables, and you have a large family, you will need four refrigerators or a separate refrigerated public storage facility. Fortunately, as empty nesters, our freezer can handle at least a month of stored proteins.

If you use Costco for non-perishables, you will need space the size a car would occupy in your garage. But if your halfway house junk is already occupying that space (if it’s there, it is half way out of the house), then you need to kick one of your kids out of the house and stock the non-perishables in their bedroom.

It will be okay—builds character, and reduces your monthly household expenses. Tough call though—Costco versus children. I would at least wait until they’ve reached eighteen. I’m a softie when it comes to children.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Getting Hammered

No, not that kind of hammered.

When I introduced this blog I mentioned that I would occasionally toss a rant into the crockpot. This is such a time

This morning PJ handed me a document she had withheld from me since Friday because she didn’t want to ruin my weekend. Good move. It was an announcement from her deputy district attorney association that healthcare costs were going up again this year, this time by 16%. Not to be outdone, dental care costs are jumping 24%. In the past the County of Los Angeles has paid for such rate increases, without hitting the DDA’s paychecks.

So, we have our own personal context to the current healthcare “debate.” I use quotes because what we have is not a debate.

Earlier this summer my Discover Card interest rate was 8.9%. It is now 13.25%. This was no trigger tied to an introductory rate. I called Discover, knowing I was wasting my time, and knowing I would be talking to someone who just needs a job and cringes over calls like mine. I asked the reason why, also knowing that I have not missed or sent in any late payments. The answer—economic conditions. Let me see, the current Federal Reserve prime rate is 3.25%, the lowest in years. Economic conditions my ass. I’m going way out on a limb here and guess that just maybe the new regulations passed by Congress and signed into law in May of this year allows ample time for the jacking up of rates until the law takes full effect next summer.

Here’s a little tart morsel: penalty fees for the major credit card companies (there are six who control 90% of the business) increased to $18 billion in 2007, up from $10.7 billion in 2002, a 68% increase in five years. Talk about an ROI (return on investment) on ramping up their lobbying and campaign contribution budgets.

Paying the bills is a major duty for domestic engineer guys. I used to pay bills once a month. There was always a grace period. I screwed up and missed a payment maybe once a year, but not due to cash flow issues. It was due to screw-up issues. Now I pay bills throughout the month. Mistakes happen. Their “gotcha” devices are a maze to manage.

Managing a household budget is becoming as challenging as managing a small company. Most of us did not matriculate through college with a business degree.

On another front, I have a bit of a lead foot. Even so, my speeding tickets are few and far between. My recent infraction cost $370, nearly twice as much as the last time. PJ has a bum knee and recently forgot to hang her handicapped parking decal on the mirror, though it was in full view on the dashboard. The fine was $283.

Me thinks more major grumbling should be directed at the healthcare industry, the credit card industry, and the punitive fines from our municipalities, than flapping our jaws over taxes, which at least on the federal level have been holding even or going down for most of us. States are another matter.

These other areas are much more taxing.

Here in lies the end of this rant.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

This and That

When there are certain emergencies that require you to dial Men-With-Butt-Cracks, try to avoid scheduling your nap when they occupy your home. You might be able to expand your Mr. Fix-it credentials.

I confess to enjoying the company of my computer while these Bob Vila clones are around, especially if I know there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell of my stepping up the next time the same problem occurs. But now and then, I pay attention, thinking, “I can do that.”

I am gaining bravado when it comes to the underpinnings of sinks, kitchen or bathroom—as long as I’m willing to dislocate a shoulder now and then.

Today was one of those days. I cleaned out a mostly clogged pipe under my second kitchen sink. Better yet, my shoulders are intact. Since very few scraps ever go down the backup sink, I have no idea how so much could congeal* there. Calcification, I get. I got rid of most of that as well.

I’m feeling so cocky, I just might tackle replacing a couple roof titles next week, or when the weather dips below 100 degrees. Must be September.

Last week I once again proved why women still need men. PJ had managed to entrap a large cricket under one of my serving bowls. The bowl had been handy in the bathroom because she had used it to soak her fingers. Women go soak themselves a lot. But she needed me to complete that icky task. I captured the cricket with a paper towel, but not so firmly as to harm it. I released it onto our patio table. For some reason it just sat there. I think it was an indoor cricket. I gave it a goose and off it flew into the wilds of Anaheim Hills, and smack dab into the middle of our palm tree. It fluttered to the ground, stunned.

With the current fire infernos in southern California, PJ is looking askance at our fire hazards. That would be our trees and bushes. She is hinting that I begin major trimmings, even if it meant yours truly pretending he is spider-man with a chain saw. Like that could happen. Men over fifty have no business out on limbs, endangering their limbs. I will get three bids. I have learned that what begins with a passing suggestion will erupt into a full-scale assault on my manhood, and time, in a few weeks.

That Tucson-style landscaping is looking better and better. Lower water bills, too.

*Okay so I used a cooking term, congeal, to describe a plumbing problem. It happens to cooks. It could be worse. I could have made a verb out of a noun and said, " so much could glob there.” Like that’s never happened before.