Video: My Ramen Noodle Recipe

Be gracious people, this is my first adventure with video. I couldn’t remember which way was up!

We all know Ramen Noodles are cheap. Why else do we buy them? Cooked solo they aren’t very tasty, so I like to spice it up a little and add some fat and protein while I’m at it. In this video I added some pork based meatballs that can be found in the frozen section of any grocery store (I used Homestyle here, but I think I’m going to try Italian next time). I also pre-boil a few eggs to throw in, along with about a teaspoon of oil and soy sauce to help bring out the flavor of the spices. I’m a big fan of serving Ramen with a garnish of a few small squares of Nori, but I didn’t have any with me for this video. For those of you who don’t know, Nori is dried, flattened seaweed. Most know of it as the green stuff that wraps up sushi. In Japan, Ramen is customarily served with Nori fanned out on the side of the bowl.

The price breakdown:

1 bag Maruchan Ramen Noodles – $0.17

1 bag frozen precooked meatballs ~$6.00, calculates to about $0.14 for three

1 dozen eggs – $1.69, $0.27 per egg

Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Soy Sauce add a minimal cost.

Total – $0.58 per bowl!

Other suggestions include Tabasco, Welsh Onions, Lime, Garlic, Ginger, Tuna, Honey, and Spinach. Do you have a favorite way to make good food on the cheap? I’d love to hear about it.

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Dreams Wouldn’t Be As Pure

Gustavo Weissman; named the Pocket Poet because he goes to open mic nights with his pockets bursting with poems. You might be lucky enough to find him downtown on Tejon Street in Colorado Springs, sitting on a bench with his ancient type writer perched in front of him. He doesn’t own a car or even a bicycle, and is staying at a friend’s house, but knows something that others in a similar situation don’t: He has to earn his living. So he writes custom poems for curious passersby, pressing through the fear of criticism that he might encounter from people who don’t get what they expected. This one in particular I paid him $5 for, and asked him to write about his own hometown and childhood.

 

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Embrace the Silence: A 15 Minute Meditation Investigation for Christians

http://www.free-stockphotos.com

 

When it is quiet,

We are so quick to turn the noise back on.

When I was in high school I used to pace back and forth in my room for hours. I couldn’t focus on anything productive or relaxing, and having grown up in a strongly self-disciplined household I was too self-conscious to fall back into something as mind numbing as TV (heaven forbid I should waste my time!) I couldn’t relax. I couldn’t not relax. I just paced up and down. I ended up sitting alone in my room being bored for hours at a time, eventually frustrating myself into a panic. I knew I needed purpose in my life and wanted to spend my valuable time wisely. It was a complete realization of purposelessness in my life, and it weighed hard on me. I prayed, sometimes in tears, that God would give me purpose.

Years later, after reading Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl I found out the name of my condition: the Existential Vacuum. What a poignant expression for such a terrible emotion!

Dr. Frankl puts it this way,

“They lack awareness of a meaning worth living for. They are haunted by the experience of their inner emptiness, a void within themselves.”

“The existential vacuum manifests itself mainly in a state of boredom” and “often eventuates in sexual compensation.”

How pertinent is this for our American go-go-go culture? I think very. Most people experience the existential vacuum at some point in their lives, but how do we deal with it? Instead of facing our EV head-on, we are always finding something to distract us from it: Facebook, pornography, Youtube, television, email, alcohol. The diversions come in many flavors and the list goes on and on. We don’t want to come to grips with the black hole, so we fill up our time with distractions.

Meditate

Ask people who know me if I’m inclined to be free-spirited, hippie-ish, flower-child-like, or a wholehearted embracer of Eastern Religions and they will tell you I’m quite the opposite. I would be the last person you would expect to meditate on a regular basis. So you skeptics have no excuse because this definitely works for me, so I want you to try it. I’ll even double dog dare you if I have to. It might be strange and new if you’ve never done it before, but it’s really easy and requires no bravery whatsoever. Trust me, it will be enlightening.

First find a soft and quiet place to sit. I recommend a bed, but the floor will do just fine as long as you use a pillow. Sit Indian-style (胡座) on a pillow with your legs crossed in front of you in a comfortable position with good posture (no you don’t have to do the Lotus position). Don’t slouch and don’t lay down. Put your hands somewhere comfortable, either on your knees or resting softly together in your lap. The goal is to be comfortable, but not so much that you will be tempted to fall asleep. Set a timer for 15 minutes to start (use e.ggtimer.com/15mins if you’re near a computer), and close your eyes. Keep them closed for the entire duration and DON’T PEEK!

The goal is not to go into a trance, or lucid dream, or have an encounter with the spiritual world, or anything extraordinary. The goal is to be silent and cut off the constant input and output of everyday life. Call it by name and confront your own Existential Vacuum head-on.

I’ve found that because it forces me to remove the constant flash and bang of life, not surprisingly, my meditation time yields the most innovative ideas. I’ll often do it at the start of the day, or when I’m feeling tired or stressed out. It has an almost immediate regenerative effect and I’m usually able to regain another hour or more of focused creative time.

A Deeper Meaning?

For those of us who are Christians, God says something truly amazing in Psalm 46:

“Be still, and know that I am God.”

In the verse before that we find the context of His statement,

“He makes wars cease

to the ends of the earth.

He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;

he burns the shields with fire.”

When our lives are in turmoil and we are literally or figuratively at war, God tells us to be still. I hope you realize the weight of this statement because God is saying that in the silence, in the quiet, in the Existential Vacuum – of all places, He is. Despite your inner ennui, He is. Despite whatever evil seems to be taking over this world, He is still who He says He is. Thank God! because I would go crazy without him.

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My Testimony in Japanese (日本語で僕のあかし)

This is the story of how I came to understand the power of the Living God and took hold of Jesus as my savior. It’s really nothing amazing when compared to many of the miraculous testimonies that I have heard other people have – freedom from drug addictions or pornography, cured from terminal illnesses, called to other countries etc. But it is a personal miracle for me that He rescued me from my sin, and continues to pursue me and mold me into the man I am becoming. For that I am eternally thankful. イエスはすげい!

Translation thanks to Jinju Park.

私がイエス様のことを受け入れたのは五歳の時のことでした。それは、スパークオラマというクラブでのことでした。スパークオラマというクラブでは、よくイエス様を私たちの救いの主として受け入れませんかと勧誘していました。そのクラブでは毎週何人かイエス様を受け入れようと、決心して寄せてくる人たちが何人か出てきました。当時、私の観察によると彼らは、うえの人たちとの話し合いのあと、ある部屋に入ってイエス様を受け入れる準備を行いました。 幼かった私はそれを見て、私自身も自然にイエス様を受け入れようと思うようになりました。そして、私もその部屋に入って、自分の罪を告白し、イエス様を自分の心の中に受け入れました。
そのようにして13年、14年が経ち、私はその後もずっと教会に通っていました。その間、私はバイブルスタディーをしたり、ごく普通のアメリカ人のクリスチャンがすることをやっていたと思います。正直、それは退屈と思えるときもありましたが。私は教会で行われるバイブルスタディーを続けました。
なぜなら、ふだん私自身が霊的に鈍感なので、そのバイブルスタディーが自分には必要だと思ったからです。
それから、大学一年生になった頃、私は家の近くにある、あるユースクラブを紹介されました。それは、私にとっては全く新しい経験でした。彼らは礼拝のまえにスターバックスやベーグル屋さんで働いていました。みんなとてもフレンドリな仲間でした。礼拝のメッセジーもとても良かったし、そこで歌っていた曲もとても好きでした。彼らは自分たちのギターとかドラムとかキーボードなども持っていました。しかも、彼らはその楽器の弾き方もよく知っていました。私は「これは信じられない、彼らはみんなをだましている」と思いました。でも、私は彼らと話してみて、彼らはイエス様に従うために、情熱的に働いていることが分かりました。ただ牧師先生がそのように教えたからではなく、バイブルクイズに答えるためではなく、彼ら一人一人純粋にイエス様を心から愛したからです。ふだん彼らはイエス様について話すのをとても楽しんでいました。それを聞いていた私もすごく感動しました。
そのようにして彼らと盛り上がっていた頃、私は彼らと一緒に中国のミッショントリップに参加しました。ミッショントリップの後、私はまたもう一回、いやもっともっと行きたいと思いました。そのとき、神様は福音を伝える私と共に働いてくださいました。そして、近くではそのユースチームを通して私を励ましてくださったと思います。しかし、なによりもこのような御業すべては、人それぞれが神様に対して、純粋に従おうとするとき、神様を心から愛するときに始まると思います。

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How to Figure Songs Out: Rhythm Guitar and Chord Progressions

If the King loves music, it is good with the land – Mencius

On the mellifluous musical journey to magnificent mastery of the guitar, everybody wants to learn uber-sweet songs on the way. I still remember the first time I tried to learn a song by ear. It was Black Dog by Led Zeppelin, and as you can imagine – I failed miserably. It’s not exactly the first song you want to try learning on the guitar, but I kept at it and eventually got it down, but not without a lot of pain and woe. The problem I had when starting out wasn’t so much the mechanics of the guitar (fingering, strumming, etc), it was figuring out the music theory. Beginners might not believe me, but fingers learn chords faster than brains understand theory. The notes on the fretboard were a kind of mystery to me. I always wondered why one sequence of notes sounded great, and a different one sounded awful. How come people were always using the same set of chords together? How do they know when to use this chord or that chord, and how do they know what notes sound good when played together? The mysteries of the music world didn’t reveal themselves instantly, but rather came through persistence. This article is designed to help you figure out that song that’s been plaguing you, and in doing so, gain a better understanding of music in general.

There is no 10 step method for figuring out songs, but I hope I can give some pointers that will hopefully point you in the right direction. This article is directed toward beginners and intermediate guitar players, but experts might still be able to gleen a few good ideas.

Some people might suggest learning easy songs when you start out, but I don’t like that idea. Why would you learn boring stuff so that you can get to the good stuff? That doesn’t make sense does it? So don’t worry about the songs you “should” be learning, or the songs that you “need” to learn in order to get to the fun ones – ’cause that’s just plain ridiculous. You’ll get tired of playing your guitar faster than you can say “Celebrity Marriage.”

Ears

Start with your ears. Listen to the song at least five or six times before you even start trying to figure it out. The goal is to be able to sing or hum the entire guitar part in your head. This is important because the next step is to go and check out the tabs, which are notorious for being dead wrong. If you can’t hum the song, don’t ever plan on figuring it out with an instrument.

Tabs

The next step in stellar song p0wnage is getting the tabs. I have a love-hate, dualistic relationship with internet tabs, and anyone who’s ever used them can understand why. Tabs, like I said before, are often very wrong. But why?  Why are they always so out-in-left-field-picking-the-daisies-and-otherwise-nonchalantly-soaking-up-the-sun? Because the people who write them are brought up by seedy looking parents who make them live in the basements of dirty houses where every day is Halloween.

Okay, to a large extent, I’m joking (can you tell?). But the truth is, the dictionary on my computer keeps wanting me to turn these “tabbers” into “stabbers”. Who knew? Anyway, moving back to serious, tabs can be very helpful in figuring out songs. This is because stabbers, though often wrong, will often be right, and this is to be highly praised. They have done much of the grunt work for us (for free!) in figuring out songs. This will especially true if the song is a popular one, because then more people have figured out the song. If more people have figured out the song, you have a better chance of finding a skilled stabber’s tab. This should be the platform from which you launch your song learning attack, but take care to use your ears. If something doesn’t sound quite right, then it most likely isn’t, and you’ll have to figure it out yourself.

Finding the key

The second step in figuring out a song is to find the key. This is sometimes called the root or tonic, and in a way, the note which everything in the song rotates around. So how do we find the center of the music universe? If you’ve got some experience under your belt (i.e. you know your scales), then this will be much easier. The first, and often easiest way to figure out the key is to look at the first note played in the song. 90% of the time this will be the root note. With tabs and the first note as a guide, you can find the root of 99% of the songs out there. Just as a rough guide, most songs are in one of the following keys: E, Emin, G, C, C#min, D, A, Amin, and F.

After finding the root note, you want to find the key to the song. Now, key and root are closely related, so try not to get them mixed up. The root note tells us only one thing: the note which acts as the center of gravity. The key however, tells us the root note and if the key is major or minor etc. I’ve included some charts and stuff below that might aid in understanding this stuff a little. Basically, you’ve got two keys: major and minor (there are others, but they aren’t used very often), and these keys define the notes in the scale. At the same time, they define the chords that are assigned to each of these notes. So what this means for us (once we figure out the key) is we have a kind of guide or basic structure for figuring out songs.

To find the key, start with your ears again, and decide if the song sounds happy or sad (nothing to do with the lyrics, everything to do with sound). Use this as a rough point of reference and start messing around in the major and minor scales below while the song is playing, using the root note as a reference. Happy songs are often major, and sad/dark sounding songs are often minor. Monkey around with notes in the minor and major keys until you can figure out which one it is. It will most likely be one of the two (major or minor), where one will sound good and one will sound bad. If not, search the internet for something called “modes”, which might help you out.

Finding the Chord Progressions

Now that we’ve got the key, we can begin figuring out the chord progressions. A chord progression is the sequential movement of chords in a song. Aside from a few simple-type songs, you’re going to find that songs are built up of different sections: Chorus, Verse, Bridge etc. – where each of these different sections have distinct chord progressions. Our goal is to define these sections, and then figure out the chord progression for each one.

It’s snowing outside. I mean, its stellar coming down out there. Like a thousand diamonds it is. I know this has nothing to do with figuring out songs, but Beethoven’s third piano concerto is blasting out of my computer, the snow is raging just outside the window, and I’ve got a cup of hot chocolate here next to me. Just wanted to share that with you. Life is good.

Play the song over a few times and try to pick out the bass line. Don’t worry about majors and minors and 7ths and 9ths and all that jazz just yet. Just the bass – avoiding all the flourishes. You’ll find that the notes are usually in the key of the song, which should really help in deciphering them.

Usually it’s not too hard to solve the bass part, but you might run into something called transposed chords, which can really throw you off. When you feel like you know what the chord is, but the bass note just doesn’t seem to match, then they’ve probably used a transposition. A very common example of this that I’ve seen is G/B. The guitar and other instruments will be playing the full G chord, but the bass sticks right to the B, thus making the G chord not so strong. Transposed chords make it tough to figure out what’s going on sometimes, but it really pays off when you do.

The next step is to work out the chords that are associated with the bass notes you just figured out. Like I said before, each of the notes in the scale has a chord assigned to it.

Capital roman numerals mean major, lowercase mean minor chords

Chords are just given as one example. Use the same idea for any key.

Use this as a rough guide to figure out what chords are played in the song. You’ll find that the more songs you figure out, the more intuitive you get about what chords are played. When I started, I was surprised by the amount of similarity between many of the songs I learned. I kept thinking “How unoriginal!”, but then later came to the realization that these chord progressions have been in use for hundreds of years by hundreds (or thousands) of people. I don’t feel so bad anymore about stealing someone’s progression.  You can get away with it quite easily actually: just call them one of your influences.

Another thing you’ll find is that genre’s have their own special “flavor” of chords. Rock and metal use power chords heavily. Pop and folk stuff will often use full open chords utilizing 7ths to create tension. Then Jazz jumps out like a rebellious child and ignores all the rules using everything under the sun. Each of these styles of music have patterns and chords that they tend to stick to. Once you get accustomed to the style you develop a sixth sense about what’s going on under the hood, thus making you a more intuitive guitarist.

Some other hints for figuring out songs

An often overlooked tool for figuring out songs is video media. Things like music videos and recordings of live shows are a really good resource that I think many people overlook. A few days ago I was getting clobbered by this Mute Math riff in the song “Typical”; I just couldn’t figure it out, and I knew it wasn’t complex. The many tab renditions I found were close, but not one was perfect. Half an hour or so I sat down at this one lick. Then I decided to look it up in the good ‘ole me-tube, and watched real close, and figured it out right away! Don’t underestimate the value of pictures ladies and gentleman.

Another good tool is slow-mo. Audacity is a free tool that will do it, but I think you can figure that one out yourself.

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