Friday, December 31, 2010

Out of Time




I found out why the kitchen clock stopped working!

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Twelve Two Two Fondue 7 - Soon!

Hopefully, we will be streaming the Seventh Annual Twelve Two Two Fondue party, aka Flamingo Fling, tomorrow starting around 4pm CST.

See you at: Twelve 22 Fondue TV

Also, check out our sister party in Las Cruces: New Mexico Fondue

I'm melting with anticipation!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Heard on the Phone

Hey, you got home OK?

Yeah, it was quite a trip. I had to go east to go west and my luggage went to Chicago and it was a mess.

Oh, well, I'm glad you finally got it sorted out.

Well, it would have been a whole lot better if you had sent a private jet to pick me up.

Long pause. Uh, OK.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Sad But True

Some things you can't make up. Overheard at a local restaurant:

Diner 1: Ugh, after Christmas I'm going to become a vegetarian!

Diner 2: Not me! I am strictly carnivore.

Diner 3: I'm quite happy to be an omnivore.

Blonde girlfriend of Diner 3, slapping his arm, exclaims: You are so not an omnivore! You'll eat anything!

Me: *facepalm*

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Orangette






My good friend, Molly, is the most talented person I know. She writes a blog, writes a column in Bon Appetit, runs a restaurant and authors books. Where does she get all this energy?

I think it's from Orangette, which is the name of her blog!

I decided to make orangette this weekend. I needed oranges, sugar and chocolate. What could go wrong with that!

Here's the blueprint:


Oranges
Sugar
Chocolate (semi-sweet drops did the trick)

Cut off the orange peel into strips. Boil them in water for 10 minutes. Refresh the water and boil them twice more. Meanwhile make a sugar syrup out of 3/4 cup sugar dissolved in 1/2 cup water. Boil the peel in that for about 15 minutes. Remove peel and place on a rack to "set" for about a day. They say an hour, but it takes much longer for the peel to dry.

Then dip the sugared peels into melted chocolate and you're done. It's messy.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Kink's a Winner! (We knew that.)

From my friend Jerry Coyne's blog. Jerry, a kat lover, ran a contest to provide a picture and a 250-word story about your favorite kat. I wrote about Kink, of course, and who wouldda thunk it, Kink won! Here's the posting from Jerry's website:


Kitteh contest winners!

December 11, 2010 – 10:08 am
I’ll announce the three winners of the kitteh contest today: the first two runners-up this morning (they’re in no particular order), and then the grand prize winner this afternoon. Winners: be sure to contact me via email to claim your prizes.

As I said, the celebrity judges had a hard time. There were about 85 entries, many of them awesome. Thanks to Miranda Hale, Russell Blackford, and Ophelia Benson for making the difficult choices. I’ll be highlighting many of the other entries over the next few months.

The first runner-up (and by “first,” I mean “presented first”) is the combination of Doc Bill (human) and Kink (cat). Remember that each entry comprised both a picture and a story. Here’s Doc Bill’s:

My Best Friend

On the day I brought Kink home we stopped at the veterinarian’s office. Poor little Kink, barely 4-months old, had been poked and prodded all morning long and now had to suffer one more indignity before going home.

Doc Geoff pronounced Kink a paragon of fitness.

Putting Kink back into his travel container I commented idly that I needed to swing by the grocery store to get a box.

Geoff looked at me over the tops of his bifocals and asked, “Why?”

“Well,” I replied somewhat uncomfortably, “don’t kittens live in boxes until they can, uh, get around?”

Geoff regarding me as if a Bocydium globulare had landed on his knee said, “I suppose.”

We made our farewells and, shortly, Kink and I were home. Doc Geoff’s voice, however, was lodged in my skull, “I suppose.” Over and over.

That afternoon Kink made himself quite at home eating cat food until he could hardly walk, running up and down the stairs and playing with all the cat toys. He took a couple of cat naps but was ready for bedtime when we all turned in.

I walked into the bedroom with Kink and said, “You know, I think he’d feel more comfortable if he slept with us for a few nights.” I placed Kink behind my knees where he purred himself to the Land of Nod.

Four years later he’s still there and I can’t imagine it being any other way with my best friend. Thanks, Doc Geoff.


This is a picture of Kink on his first day in his new home:

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Twelve Two Two Fondue Seven

Coming to a house near you!

Yes, you can host your very own Twelve Two Two Fondue at your house, invite your friends, have fondue and celebrate.

This year the International Fondue party will be held on all seven continents!

Ours will be broadcast on Internet TV, details to follow.

Meanwhile, get the cheese, get the pot, get the booze and get the friends and get ready for

Twelve Two Two Fondue Seven!

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Not Again!

I remember distinctly when I took down the Christmas Tree.

I checked it carefully for any missed ornaments. I emptied the water from the stand and blotted it dry. I hauled the tree to the street to be picked up by the recycling crew. I carefully dismantled the stand, dried and oiled the parts and put it away for another year.

I did all this ... yesterday.

Yesterday!

What, are you kidding me, that was nearly a YEAR AGO??? No way! Can't be possible!

But, there I was this afternoon hauling down the well-oiled Christmas Tree stand from its lofty perch in the garage and afixing it to our 2010 Christmas Tree.

I'm sure I'll have a dream about afixing the stand every night for a month, only it won't be a dream. How does this happen? When I was a kid the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas was an e.t.e.r.n.i.t.y. We had time in school to get all revved up about Christmas by making presents, decorations, practicing Christmas shows and all sorts of things. Now it's put up the tree, put up the tree and put up the tree.

What happened to the time? How do I slow it down? How do I stop it!!!

This is an observation, not a complaint. Christmas is my favorite time of the year. I love the lights (even the Santa Helicopter next door), and all the confusion and joy. It's a great time of year. And I get to play Christmas music, although I'd play it year round given the chance.

Putting up the Tree again? I can't hardly wait!

(Neither can Kink!)

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Insane Storage



My new camera, a Nikon D3100, produces pictures (at full resolution) that are 3.2 Mb each. With this chip I can store about 10 pictures.

Ten thousand pictures? Are you InSaNE? Are you cRaZY? Are you NUTZ?

It wasn't that long ago that a cassette of pictures was 12, 24 or 36. And you had to send it off to be developed. Double prints? Yes, please!

(Ah, that's going to cost you a pretty penny!)

Now, you can take 10 pictures for every 1 you would have shot back then and either keep them, discard them, print them or send them off to be printed, or publish them on-line in a variety of ways.

Where will it end? Cameras that shoot pictures at the atomic level? Time will tell.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

No Mo NaBloPoMo

Finally, it's the end of November!

Sort of like where did November go? And, yea, it's the end of National Blog Posting Month.

The next big event is the International fondue party on December 22nd. Get it, Twelve Two Two Fondue. Never mind, just be there, OK?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Biscuits Better

I had a leftover to deal with. Turkey and stuff in a soup. Well, leftovers and leftovers. What to do? So, I thickened it with a roux of flour and butter, then whipped up a batch of biscuits and baked the whole thing.

The result? Sort of a turkey pot pie topped with biscuit.

The reviews? Rave!

I'll put this in my book.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Oops!

I was thinking to myself, "This is stupid. You're going to hurt yourself."

Right before the Kitchen Devil serrated bread knife sliced over the top of my knuckle.

Ohhh, that's gonna sting, was my next thought.

Kitchen Devil 1, knuckle skin 0

Saturday, November 27, 2010

My Dinner with Molly

I'm not a cyberstalker but I play one on TV.

That makes no sense to anyone born after 1970, I'm sure.

That said, I have a lot of virtual friends, people I've "met" over the Internet and with whom I've had many electronic exchanges, some very lengthy, but who I have never met in person. I don't remember the first person I met through the Internet but I remember the first most famous: Dr. Jill Tarter, director of SETI and the inspiration for the Ellie Arroway character in Contact by Carl Sagan and the movie by the same name, Jill being played by Jodie Foster. Well, one degree of freedom from Carl is pretty good right out of the chute! I wrote to Jill after reading an article in Science that provided her email address. It was a whim, and I was astounded when I got a reply. A very nice and thoughtful reply. We had a few exchanges and that was that.

My first Internet Fling!

Inspired by this success I boldly went where no electronic pen-pal had gone before and contacted, when possible, people who piqued my interest. Imagine my astonishment when the Poet Laureate wrote me a personal poem. And so it went.

Now, back to today's subject which is Molly. Molly is Molly Wizenberg who writes the Cooking Life column in BonAppetit magazine. I met Molly through her website, Orangette, and in time got willingly conscripted to help her test recipes for her upcoming book. My task was to follow her recipes exactly and not improvise. Out of character I assure you! But, I did it and what I learned was that Molly's recipes worked! I didn't need to improvise.

Which brings us to tonight. I'm doing Molly's Lentil Soup. Smells good and I'm looking forward to snarfing down the whole thing. I'll provide the recipe later but right now the timer went off and it's dinnertime!

Friday, November 26, 2010

New Nouveau

The new Nouveau Beaujolais is out and it goes down smooth.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

First Thanksgiving

It was grand.

Rather, it was unexpectedly grand.

Eons ago, before the Internet, when we still got information from papyrus and clay tablets my friends in England where I was living at the time asked me if I could cook them a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner. Well, after eight pints of beer anything is possible so I agreed, "Sure! No problem! We'll have a feast to remember!"

Several days later I was reminded of my boast to roast and I was hoist by my own inebriated petard.

But, fearless is as fearless does and I set out to buy the stuff of stuffing and other stuff. I got a turkey, potatoes and plenty of wine and beer. If this didn't work out I hoped at least to create a Fog of Success.

I had no kitchen at this time, you see, and I would be cooking at a friend's flat. When they asked if Mark 4 would be a proper temperature to cook a turkey I said "yes" with more assurance than I felt. The only thing I remembered, dimly, about cooking was a Rule of Thumb: 20 minutes a pound plus 20 minutes. In short, although that's pretty short, it means: cook until done.

Well, to make a long afternoon short I produced my very first Thanksgiving Dinner in an unknown kitchen for a bunch of graduate students and friends. We had the turkey which we cleaned to the bones, mashed potatoes (my first attempt), candied yams (lots of guessing but no complaints), local vegetables cooked by my host and sous chef, all preceded and followed by copious amounts of liquid depressants.

Thanksgiving. Seriously, what can go wrong? Friends, family, food and drink. It doesn't matter if the turkey would be approved by Betty Crocker and the decorations certified by Martha Stewart. What is important is the day, being thankful that one has friends and food and drink, and to take pause from the Rat Race at least for a few hours to reflect on what is really important in life.

Happy Thanksgiving to All.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Ready to Launch, er, Lunch

T'was the night before Thanksgiving and all through the house
Not a creature was stirring except me and Kink in the kitchen cooking the midnight stuffing.

Here's the blueprint:


1 nosey cat
ground sausage (sage and hot)
Spanish onion
chopped celery
garlic
rubbed sage
chicken stock
cornbread
some chopped baguette
this and that
don't forget the chopped pecans
don't add anything weird like squid or "parts"

Cook, mix, pack lightly into a baking dish and cook at 350 for an hour or so, or less. Cool, refrigerate until the next day and use to stuff the turkey and serve as one of a million side dishes. Don't make enough for leftovers to prevent fights.


Kink and I are sitting here, smelling the stuffing cooking and already it's looking to be a wonderful Thanksgiving Day. Thyme will tell.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

They Gather for the Feast

Thanksgiving is upon us again. My favorite time of the year. Cool, crispness in the air. Autumn leaves. Chance of snow.

Or, as we say here in Houston, warm moist Gulf air, high humidity, hello Mr. Muggy and a certainty of condensation.

Preparations have started already. Lists are being made. Recipes discussed. Should we do something new? How about a tofu turkey? Uh, that gets voted down every year and I think it only gets discussed so it can get voted down.

The gathering this year will be much like previous years: giant turkey, trimmings to feed an army and enough wine to float a navy.

And, I'm sure after three or four rounds of my Famous Bean Dip appetizer someone will be in command of the air force.

Just saying.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Queso

You can dream it ...

... or you can have it.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Dunning

"It's worth the drive," we were told.

"The road's a little narrow. Try not to end up in a ditch."

"It's a beautiful drive, if you get back OK, of course."

"I don't remember if your go right or left at the fork. If you take the wrong way you can't turn around."

And so began our journey to Dunning Vineyards near Paso Robles, California. I felt good about the trip because I had a rented car. Can't turn around, no problem, just leave the car and walk home.

Lions and tigers and bears! Oh, my!

It was a nice drive and a combination of good directions and small, handmade signs got us to the property. Up the hill to the left was a rambling, Central Coast farmhouse and ahead of us up the hill were rows of grapevines. To the right was a huge barn with a small sign on the door that said "Enter."

Charming.

We went in and were surrounded by rows and rows of giant barrels. The place smelled like wine and oak and sawdust and maybe just a hint of nutmeg.

In short order we met the owner and vintner who set us up with a row or four of glasses to sample the wares. Later that evening I was told that the sampling went great, the wine was great and we ordered a great quantity to be shipped to us in November.

To be honest, I had mostly forgotten we ordered the stuff when the doorbell rang and a straining UPS guy plonked down a box of plonk; "Sign here."

Tonight we uncorked the dream that is Dunning.



Dunning Vineyards

Take Highway 46 West from Highway 101 just over three miles to Oakdale Road. Head right onto Oakdale and drive one-half mile.Turn right onto Las Tablas Willow Creek Road and drive about 1.2 miles. Bear right onto Niderer Road and continue about one mile. Turn left up the path to the winery.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Friday, November 19, 2010

Words of Wisdom

I have a good friend, well, more a cousin many times removed, whom I've never met who does something with food in New Orleans. Check down below during the Great Tasso Experiment and you'll find a link to his blog. Anyway, although we've never met it's clear we fell from the same tree.

Danno writes:

I never follow a recipe, but you can always find nine, or so, cookbooks open on my table when I’m cooking it. I always search for a new technique, they almost always turn out good, but once in awhile, there is magic in the pot.


Exactly right. That's how I cook. Every meal is an experiment, done from scratch and following my instinct. Mostly usually all in all and, eh, give or take a few, my meals are rated by much gnashing of teeth and yum-yum sounds. Occasionally I produce a monster like the Not So Great Tasso Curry.

No pain, no gain. Judging from my weight I've had a lot of pain!*

Just today I was looking up recipes for corn bread. Corn bread, you say, who needs a recipe for corn bread? Well, nobody does, you just add a bit of this and a bit of that, squint at it and it's corn bread. Every once in a while, though, somebody will come up with a new trick that's worth trying if for no other reason than to hear your family complain about the nasty corn bread. Makes them appreciate the every day stuff all the more. I must say, the anchovy corn bread was not something to repeat.

Take boiled water, for example. Who would look up recipes for boiled water? I do! Turns out that if you add water to a pot a teaspoon at a time and stir vigorously, your boiled water will come out lighter and fluffier. I tried it and it's true!

So, get out there and check out those recipes. No telling how it will improve your every day fare!











*French for "bread," get it? Never mind.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Tasso Curry. Just Say No.

I had a brainstorm while working on a curry dinner. What if I boiled up some lentils and added my freshly smoked Tasso. I wonder what that would be like? Also, I could add some red curry paste. That should zing it up a notch.

OK, don't try this at home.

Seriously. Smoked ham curry is not a good thing. Yeah, you can eat it if you try and if you're very, very hungry. Take my word for it, curry spices and smoked ham are like peanut butter and chocolate. No, that's wrong. More like peanut butter on a filet mignon.

Just don't do it.

Ever.

Pinky swear.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tasso Done. Now What?

Here it is, the final product. Seasoned smoked pork loin.



Parts of it look ham-like, but nothing like the infamous Ham Ribs, nor is nearly as salty since I didn't soak it in brine overnight. However, I thought it would come out a bit more pink.

Alas. Tasso version 1.0

Now comes the big question. What to do with it. For now I'll break it into smaller pieces, bag it and freeze it.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Beatles!



OMG! There be Beatles!

Get ye to the iTunes store and revel in the madness!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Henryk Górecki

Polish composer Henryk Górecki died on November 12th leaving behind a small body of work and one very remarkable piece, the Symphony Number 3, Symphony of Sorrowful Songs. Although this piece was composed in 1976, it gained prominence and worldwide fame in a 1992 London recording by conductor David Zinman featuring soprano Dawn Upshaw.

I remember hearing a report on NPR while driving to work about this piece and they played a bit of it. It might have been the second movement; I don't remember and I haven't been able to find the original audio report. However, this much I do know. For the first time ever I pulled over, stopped the car and listened to the rest of the report. I fished around for a scrap of paper to write down then name of this composer and I only got part of it right: Goriki. Polish. Symphony.

I put the scrap of paper in my wallet and carried it around for a year, stopping in every music store I visited looking for this recording. I looked locally and when I travelled I checked out music stores but to no avail. This is before Google and Amazon, remember! (How did we survive?)

Anyway, over a year later I was in Phoenix and while browsing a large music store there I found it. Under the letter G in the classical section. Symphony No. 3. I bought it.

Although the first few times I played the piece I really enjoyed it, my epiphany didn't come until one fateful evening, home alone, I decided to follow along with the program notes and read the lyrics in English because the symphony was sung in Polish.

My life was changed. Forever.

Once I read the lyrics and understood the Sorrowful Songs I understood. I felt the pain, the anguish, the despair, the hopelessness and the hope, the healing and the optimism. All at once. Unfortunately, or maybe it's a gift, I can no longer just enjoy the music for music's sake. I know what it means and it affects me profoundly.

The songs are about loss, fear, anxiety, all the horrors of war and love. Ultimately love. Love for lost ones. Love for hope. Love for loved ones.

"And you, God's little flowers
May you blossom all around
So that my son
May sleep happily."

In talking with people who have listened to and understood this symphony there are different "tipping points." Points during the piece where one's emotions rise to the surface like a pot of boiling pasta ready to overflow, an emotional release that can't be stopped. For me it's around the 6-minute mark during the second movement. This movement consists of a series of building ascending tones that reach a wail of sorrow (to me) at this point. Even though I know it's coming, or perhaps because I know it's coming, I can't resist my own emotional release.

I find the middle of the first movement an introduction, or a warning, of what's to come.

Oddly, I really like the Symphony of Sorrowful songs, but only play it when I feel a need for catharsis. I don't listen to it for joy but feel some joy at the end. I guess it's like a rite. I'm going to play it tonight, strap on the Bose QC-15's step off the cliff. I know where I'm going; I've been there before. I owe it to Henryk and the people he wrote about.

Here's a sample. The second movement. Watch out for the 6-minute mark.



First Movement

My son, my chosen and beloved
Share your wounds with your mother
And because, dear son, I have always carried you in my heart,
And always served you faithfully
Speak to your mother, to make her happy,
Although you are already leaving me, my cherished hope.

(Lamentation of the Holy Cross Monastery from the "Lysagóra Songs" collection. Second half of the 15th century)


Second Movement

No, Mother, do not weep,
Most chaste Queen of Heaven
Support me always.
"Zdrowas Mario." (*)

(Prayer inscribed on wall 3 of cell no. 3 in the basement of "Palace," the Gestapo's headquarters in Zadopane; beneath is the signature of Helena Wanda Blazusiakówna, and the words "18 years old, imprisoned since 26 September 1944.")
(*) "Zdrowas Mario" (Ave Maria)—the opening of the Polish prayer to the Holy Mother


Third Movement


Where has he gone
My dearest son?
Perhaps during the uprising
The cruel enemy killed him

Ah, you bad people
In the name of God, the most Holy,
Tell me, why did you kill
My son?

Never again
Will I have his support
Even if I cry
My old eyes out

Were my bitter tears
to create another River Oder
They would not restore to life
My son

He lies in his grave
and I know not where
Though I keep asking people
Everywhere

Perhaps the poor child
Lies in a rough ditch
and instead he could have been
lying in his warm bed

Oh, sing for him
God's little song-birds
Since his mother
Cannot find him

And you, God's little flowers
May you blossom all around
So that my son
May sleep happily

(Folk song in the dialect of the Opole region)


Postscript - I'm sitting here and the second movement has started. I'm in the grip already. Ah, the purge has begun.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Four Seasons Rating




Dear Four Seasons Fancy-Dancy Hotel in Austin,

Thank you for a lovely stay in your nicely groomed, well kept hotel this weekend. You get 10 Points for the attentive, quick and polite valet parking attendants who took care of our car swiftly and efficiently. You get another 10 Points for a painless check-in. Also, we award you 5 Points for a nice view of downtown Austin, including the Hampton Inn Downtown right across the street. More about that later.

Furthermore, you get 15 Points for the invisible housekeeping service which swept away litter, turned down our bed and provided fresh towels every hour whether we needed them or not, and 5 Points for the thousand thread, imported cotton, personalized bathrobe that encouraged me to take two more showers than I planned. I was going to award only 2 Points for the cantaloupe shampoo but will up that to a full 5 points just for the entertainment value of hearing people exclaim as I passed, "Wow, do you smell cantaloupe?"

Ten points for being on the rickshaw route to the Drunken Mile, aka Sixth Street, although we decided to walk. Still, it was nice to know that we could take our lives in our hands on the way back if we so chose.

All in all, a very impressive score. Nearly a perfect score. Nearly.

HOWEVER, I am compelled, compelled I say, to penalize you for the High Crime of charging me Eleven Bucks ($11) for High-ish Speed (?) Internet access a grand total of Eleventy Million Billion Gazillion Points, which puts you sort of in last place on Planet Earth. How can you charge the prices you do, supply your customers the high quality products you do, pamper and serve them with great professionalism and care, then INSULT them here in the 21st Century by charging them for Internet access? Why not charge for water? I'm sure yours is the best! Why not charge them for electricity? I'm sure your electrons are Class A! Why not charge them a quarter for using the elevator?

I. Just. Don't. Get. It.

Finally, I award the Hampton Inn Downtown Austin Eleventy Million Billion Gazillion Points even though we didn't stay there. (But next time will.)

So, there.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Tasso Phase I




Nola Cuisine Tasso Recipe

I've had an interest in making Tasso ever since I read about it on the most excellent food blog, Nola Cuisine. However, I didn't have a smoker so all my Tasso dreams went up in smoke (which I didn't have.)

That's all changed with the arrival of my most recent obsession, the Cookshack Smoker. I've been looking for things to smoke! (er, don't quote me on that, kthx.)

I've already done fish, ribs and a chicken, just for practice, you see, and now I'm ready to get serious. To be totally honest I don't even know what Tasso is, but if Danno says it's good then that's enough Kool-Aid for me Fortunately, Chef Google knows all about Tasso and would tell you that it's lean strips of pork, highly seasoned, smoked and it's used in small quantities to flavor beans (think red beans and rice), soups, gumbos and anything else that would benefit from spicy porky goodness, like a bowl of Cheerios. That's enough for me, fire up the smoker!

Not so fast. Making tasso is del-i-cate or you'll ruin the spell, as the Wicked Witch of the West said. It takes three days to let the rub sink in, then a few hours of air drying and about 4 hours of smoking.

"Tastes like chicken" is something I'm not looking forward to hearing after all this! Not likely, either, considering my ninja Ham Ribs-fu. It's gonna be ham-licious.

Full report in a few days.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

OMG, Roy's!!!!

OMG! WTF! WK! IANAL!!

Roy's Hawaiian Fusion restaurant in Austin has CLOSED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I need more exclamation points!!!!!!!!!

Oh, this is a tragedy! Where will I get lobster sauce pot stickers? Where will I get volcano chocolate soufflé? Where will I get such S A T I F A C T I O N ? ? ?

I am so sad. What has the world come to?

Blech.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Smart Technology

You know when you drop your Blackberry in the pool it doesn't work any more? The Blackberry, that is, not the pool.

Wouldn't it be cool if the phone could figure out it was being drowned and turn into a fish until you pull it out?

I'd totally buy a FishPhon.

Seriously.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Carl Sagan 1934-1996




From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of particular interest. But for us, it's different. Look again at that dot. That's here, that's home, that's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.

- The Pale Blue Dot by Carl Sagan

Pizza Strike

This week I was home alone and my schedule got me home late and I was just too shattered to think about cooking a meal even a boiled egg.

What to do, what to do?

Then I remembered all those "spam" emails I had been receiving and decided to call in a pizza strike from Papa Johns. It was too simple. I logged on to the website, selected my pizza preferences, paid for it right there on-line and the thing was delivered about 30 minutes later!

You can get food from the Internet! Al Gore never told me that. Nothing short of magic.

Am I the last to know about this?



Yum, anchovies!

Monday, November 08, 2010

Uneasy Truce



Kink the cat at 12 pounds.

Tripp the dog at 80 pounds.

It's an uneasy truce, big dog versus sharp cat.

So far the match has been Sharp Cat 1, Big Dog 0.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Ham Ribs Part 2

"Ham ribs is a term we never want to hear again."

Yes, Dear.

I dunno, I like salt. I thought EVERYBODY liked salt! Hey, pass the salt. I've heard that forever and even said it myself a few million times. Salt of the Earth. Old salt. Salty language, even. It's everywhere, why not in pork ribs?

"What am I ever to do with these ham ribs?"

I had a suggestion, but thought better of it. For once.

"Shove them in the ... fridge ... for now and I'll figure something out."

It turns out the solution was right under our noses. A wonderful breakfast treat, ham hash with jalapenos topped with a sunny side up egg. With toast.

Here's the blueprint:


2-3 ham ribs, deboned
1 potato
1 onion
1 jalapeno

Chop it all up and sauté it in butter or oil until the potatoes are cooked. Add pepper to taste, but NO SALT! Cook up an egg and serve the hash with the egg on top. Fork it all down as fast as you can.



It was so good I'm thinking about making ham ribs again.\

What's that, dear, over whose dead body?

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Ham Ribs



"Why do you experiment with our food? Even Dr. Frankenstein didn't do that!"

I hear this a lot around my house. I've been working to find the Perfect Rib Smoking recipe, but today was not my day. A dog visiting us thought they were great! Lucky dog.

The change in the Rib Routine was to do a pre-soak in a brine solution made from 1 cup of Morton's Tender Quick and 4 cups of water. This was successful with salmon and I found a few recipes on-line. What could go wrong?

Well, the brine soak "cured" the meat somewhat, but I was quite surprised to see how much "somewhat" that was when I cut into the finished product.

"Wow, that's really pink."

"Looks like ham."

"Tastes like ham!"

"Salty like ham. Pass the water or a few gallons."

Later that evening ...

"Whatcha looking up."

"Ham recipes. I figure if you can't beat 'em, join 'em."

Friday, November 05, 2010

Penny for the Guy!

Happy Guy Fawkes Day!

Except for Guy, of course, who would rather forget about the whole thing.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Rushin' Chili

Not Soviet style, just done in a hurry.

I threw some stuff together to make a chili for a blustery, cool-ish day here in Houston and it was Out-Stand-Ing! The chili, not the day.

Here's the blueprint:


2 lbs beef
2 onions, chopped
3 jalapenos
5 tomatillos
1 box chopped tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste
garlic powder
ancho chili powder
salt
dried chopped onions
cumin powder


I fried up the chopped onions, then added the beef chopped into half-inch cubes, added the chopped jalapenos and tomatillos, tossed in some water, the chopped tomatoes and stirred it all up. Then I added the spices, adjusted the water and put it under pressure for 30 minutes or so.

Then I reduced the pressure, added the tomato paste, tasted it (OK!) and put it under pressure for another 30 minutes. Finally, I just let it sit for 20 minutes while I got other things organized.

Result: El Perfecto!

My rule of thumb is that all a chili needs is 2 hours of cooking. The rest is fate.

The Fates graced me tonight.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Attack of the Catalogs!

They're coming! Clogging your mailbox. Daily catalogs from LL Bean, Land's End, Williams Sonoma and Think Geek! Each day brings more catalogs, thicker catalogs, promoting stuff you can't live without. Fur-lined coffee makers, oak slippers, toothbrushes for your cat, John Boehner orange peelers.

What I need is a mailbox catalog so I can order a bigger one. I'll have to look into that.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

HallowThanksMas

The Christmas decorations are up at the local Mall. They've been up for a week. I had to fight my way through Christmas decorations at my grocery store just to get to the Halloween candy.

Let's see, should I hand out Butterfingers this year or candy canes? I had a choice.

Poor old Thanksgiving! Not even a shelf to itself. Nope, just a little stand at the end of an aisle with cans of pumpkin pie filling, Karo Syrup and cranberry sauce. Thanksgiving which is the dinner dry run for Christmas has been caught in the squeeze.

Pitiful.

I think we ought to simply give up on the holiday competition and combine the whole mess into one Mas. I'd call it HallowThanksMas, a national holiday season lasting from October 30th until January 8th. Why Jan 8? Well, that's a common last day for returning gifts to retail merchants.

It's all a blur anyway, why not make it official.

Yep, if I ruled the World ...

Monday, November 01, 2010

Happy Birthday, Kink!



Kink the Cat turned four years old last month. He finally grew into his ears ...



... and out of the basket!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween 2010

The witches pulled into the parking lot and piled out of their cars.

“Oh, it’s a bit cold!”

“Nonsense, it’s just right! A ‘bite’ in the air, eh, sisters?”

They all laughed, even the cold one.

“Tonight’s the night!” said one, and they all broke into a Phil Collins song.

The trail up to the cave was easy to follow, lit by a full moon. The witches laughed at the Park Service sign reading, “Enter Cave at Your Own Risk.”

“Once we’re in there it will be THEY’RE own risk!” They all laughed, although some nervously.

The witches shuffled up the trail to the cave. The trail was wide and even, thanks to the Park Service, but, even so, some of the witches felt a shortness of breath as they climbed towards the cave.

“Whew, I definitely need to get back to the gym!” They all laughed.

Although the entrance to the cave was somewhat small the cave itself was surprisingly large with enough room for several hundred witches. The five who entered the cave had room to spare.

The first witch entering the cave carried a battery powered lantern which she turned on casting weird shadows on the walls of the cave as the rest of the witches entered.

“Well, here we all are,” announced the witch with the lantern, “All Hallows Eve. Let the Las Cruces Crucible come to order!”

The witches clapped in appreciation and looked at each other in anticipation.

“Settle down, settle down,” the head witch extolled, her hands held out and waving the witches to be seated, “All in good time, all in good time. Now, who brought the caldron? Great, and the burner? Fine, and the other stuff? Fantastic.” Each witch on cue raised her hand and pointed to her offerings.

Then, without much bother the witches set up their fire, caldron, offerings and settled down to an evening of incantations and fun.

After a few rounds of beers and tequila shots the witches were feeling quite merry indeed. No one noticed that the caldron was bubbling fiercely and throwing off a few green sparks.

Feeling very merry indeed the witches danced around the caldron and with each turn was given a shot of tequila. Dance, shot, dance, shot!

Suddenly the caldron went very quiet. The steam stopped, the bubbling stopped. Everything stopped. The witches stopped dancing.

“Did the fire go out?” asked one.

“Nope, it’s still going,” replied another.

They drew close to the caldron.

Suddenly, the caldron became red hot, glowing incandescent and from the center rose as if to fill the cave ...

Sarah woke up in her car, sitting in the driver’s seat, clutching the steering wheel. It took her an hour to unclutch her fingers and it was only then that she noticed that her clothes were singed. Sarah remembered fire and screaming and something else.

Something else.

Something that came out of the caldron.

She remembered running for the cave entrance and scrambling out, running blindly across the desert to the car park. Then nothing. She blanked out.

She looked around. All the other cars were gone, so, maybe everyone else went home and she slept the night in her car.

Humph, Sarah thought, they left me here. Some friends. And she drove home.

In the subsequent year Sarah tried to call her friends in the coven but it seems that all had disappeared without leaving a forwarding address. Furthermore, Sarah observed, she lost all interest in tequila.

“Devil’s brew,” she would tell her friends, then shiver for an hour.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Conversation with an Artist



Me: So, you see, this is trees on a road. Autumnal etc. What the eye sees, the finite. HOWEVER, the Soul sees Hipstamatic. The indefinite..

Artist: lol. you're such a hipsta poet.

Me: You infected me. I'm not seeking a cure.

Artist: i'm not sorry

Me: I thought you would not be.

Artist: you thought not wrong

Me: I'm glad I didn't think so.

Me: Jayse, I can't hold a candle to you, although if I dripped red wax on you I'd totally photograph it in Hipstamatic ... Lucifer and Ina's 1969. Yeah, that would be cool.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Thinking Inside the (microwave) Box

Hey, I hear water running!

No problem, I'm on it.

(minutes later)

Hey, I still hear water running!

I said I'm on it and I'm on it.

(microseconds later)

Why is the water running? Why is the water still running? I can hear it!

OK, I'm waiting for it to get hot, OK? It takes time. Small pipe, long distance. Rate times time times pipe equals not soon hot, OK?

I got it, I got it! Sheeeesh, what a grouch. How much hot water do you need?

About a cup.

One cup?

Yeah, maybe a bit less.

Well, why didn't you put a cup of water in the microwave for 30 seconds. That would have been much quicker, don't you think?

No, I don't think.

I would say "obviously" but I won't.

Thank you for your restraint.

By the way, when's dinner?

About two hours, as soon as I get this butter churned ...

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Friday, August 27, 2010

Game Over

"Hey, whatcha doin?"

"I'm playing this new pinball game on the iPad. Just like the real thing, except I can't tilt it."

"What's tilt mean?"

"Well, that's when you bump it ... hey, get out of the way ... I can't see the ball!!!"

"Tilt like what? Like when I purrrr?"

"Kink! I can't see what I'm doing! Move your butt!"

"Ohhhh, look at the little ball go! Hey, I can get it, really I can! Watch this ..."

"No, Kink, not now! We can chase the mouse toy later. I'm about to beat my high score!"

"What's a high score? Ohhhh, look at the ball go! I can get it, really I can ... Watch this ..."

"Kink! Uh, never mind. Game Over."

"What's Game Over?"

"Nap time."

"I like this game! Chase the ball, Game Over and Nap Time. We'll take a cat nap and play again, OK?"

"You're on, Kink, you're on."

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Ta-chich! Ta-chich!

That's the sound mockingbirds make when there's a predator around.

I'm always looking for signs of predators after that incident in Antarctica, but that's another story.

This time I was grillin' ribs on the BBQ when I heard "ta-chich! ta-chich" which is mockingbird for "cat."

I looked around but no cat. So I called ...

"Kink! Old buddy, Kink! Where are you?" And soon enough a pair of Kink-ears appeared behind the fence.

"Ah, Kink-O, you old mockingbird hunter, they're up there!" I pointed to the live oak tree but Kink wasn't interested seeing as how his cover had been blown. Besides, the aroma of the cooking ribs got his full attention. He ambled towards the back door and meowed to be let in.

I opened the door and he headed right to the kitchen table, found a spot right in the middle and proceeded to groom his hindquarters, as they say in polite company.

Ribs in 10 good buddy, I said!

Kink flicked his tail in response.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Soonish Come

Sat all day in Sacramento and finally shipped out, on mule, this afternoon.


*sigh*

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Soon Come

Status: Prepared for Shipment


Stay tooned!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Another Terabyte!

I can't believe I ordered a computer with a terabyte of disc storage!

I didn't even see my first terabyte until 1997 when I started a job to, among other things, manager a whopping FOUR terabytes of disc storage.

Now, my kids complain with sarcastic t-shirts:


Dad went to Disney World and all I got was a lousy terabyte!


Back when I was a kid we couldn't even afford binary; all we had were 0's. The rich neighbors down the street had 0's AND 1's. In an engineering lab in college we built an 8-bit storage latch out of transistors, barely above bearskins and flint knives, and clocked data in using pushbuttons. You got an A if your latch didn't catch fire.

I got a B-.

(It was a small fire, hardly worth using a fire extinguisher on. Srsly.)

My cat, who has more bytes in his flea collar than Carter has liver pills (look it up) got an A to give you a clue.

I don't know what I'm going to do with another terabyte. Did I mention that I already have three? Yeah, this will be number four, not to mention the multiple of gigabytes wandering around the household. Since my entire life fits into a flea collar I'm thinking about renting out the extra space.

I could become a byte slumlord. Sorta like the ring of that. At least I won't have to worry about plumbing.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Autopilot

An autopilot is a good thing in an airplane.

Not so much in a car.

Today I was on autopilot. Just driving along, singing radio songs, drinking coffee and having a good time.

Too bad “autopilot” missed the turn.

So, there I was, cruising down the highway when suddenly, out of the blue, a Red Light.

Cue Scooby-Doo.

Arrrrrrrroooouuuuugggggghhhhh?? Red Right??? Ruh Roh!

There shouldn’t be a red light on the highway to Austin, but that’s because I wasn’t on the highway to Austin. I was on the road to Moronville, population me.

I turned off the Metallica, put away my guitar, dumped the ineffectual coffee out the window and made a U-turn at the designated U-turn-4-Morons U-turn place. Judging from the tire marks in the lane I wasn’t the first.

When I eventually arrived at my destination I used the excuse that I got stuck behind a herd of sheep, which always worked in England, and that seemed to be OK. Nobody challenged it.

Next time I have my truck serviced I’m going to have them check that autopilot. I think it’s flakey.

Friday, August 06, 2010

ET No Phone Home

I forgot to take my cell phone with me the other day. Left it on the counter. Just walked out of the house like it was 1989.

No. Cell. Phone.

Actually, to be precise, I forgot to take my shirt pocket computer with a built-in phone.

I was mapless. Facebookless. Googleless. And helpless.

About ten minutes into my drive to the airport, and too far gone (in many ways) to return, I habitually patted my belt where my iPhone lives only to pat my belt.

No phone. No computer.

Just belt. Just panic.

For an instant I thought that I had put the iPhone in the console as I often do, but the console was empty save for some parking receipts, a few pennies and an empty Tic Tac.

No phone.

What to do, what to do?? I couldn’t check on traffic conditions. I couldn’t check on the weather. I couldn’t call that high school friend I’ve been meaning to call for the last 30 years. I was helpless.

How did we survive 1989? Srsly!

Finally, at the airport, I picked up my passenger and my first words were not “Hey, how was the flight?” or “Hey, you must be exhausted, do you want to grab a coffee or a bite to eat?” or “Hey, good to see you!” rather it was “I can’t believe I left my iPhone at home!”

My friend, sensing alarm, proffered her Blackberry and asked, “Do you need to make a call?”

I looked at the Blackberry and had a quick fantasy about grabbing it and licking the display in some sort of techno-orgy kind of moment, but snapped out of it (realizing it wasn’t an iPhone) and replied, shakily, “No thanks, it can wait.”

We drove home in silence.

My iPhone was there at home in its dock fully charged and somewhat sad that it didn’t get a ride to the airport. For my part I promised not to leave it Home Alone again.

1989, pffft! No wonder we moved on!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Shazam!

Whatever happened to just chilling out?

When did it become law that you had to be doing something all the time?

I’m not complaining, I’m just observing.

I’m observing that when I was at the PostNet shop sending off a package I didn’t have the zip code, so I looked it up on my iPhone.

There was a song playing on the radio in the store and I Shazam’d it and downloaded a copy to my iPhone.

While I was waiting for my ticket to be rung up I checked out the Huffington Post for the latest political drama.

And when I left the parking lot I checked the traffic to figure out if I should take a detour or just drive over summer school students stupid enough to be standing in the road.

Door Number B for failing calculus students for 500, Alex!

I should be sleeping but there’s a mud wrestling contest in the Ukraine to watch!

Da!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Chiquita

Cat People.

You’re either cat people or you aren’t.

Of course, who can resist a kitten rubbing around your ankles, pulling your shoelaces, purring and looking at you with pure love.

Of course, who can resist a little puppy, all movement and action and never ending slurps going in your mouth, up your nose and in your ears.

Everybody loves puppies. Everybody loves kittens.

Those of us who raise puppies and kittens to adult animals also know that the love doesn’t end with the pulled shoelace or the slurped ear. Love matures over time and, perhaps, it’s the gentle extension of claws into your belly as your cat gazes up at you in abject adoration, or the simple sigh of a jowly muzzle resting on your knee in total contentment.

We humans may never know the minds of our pets, but who of us could claim to know the minds of our fellow humans. If I gathered a bunch of pet owners together I’m sure that in their stories would be a common theme. A theme of love, devotion, trust and, yes, heartbreak and sadness, usually at the passing of a beloved companion.

We do not mourn for the departed. We mourn for ourselves. In loss.

And that brings me to Crystal.

Crystal is a friend of mine and she had the extraordinary fortune to live with a cat, Chiquita, for nearly 19 years. Crystal never really knew “family” without Chiquita who was her friend and companion for nearly two-thirds of her life. As Chiquita grew older, developed diabetes and moved into her Golden Years it was clear that she wouldn’t live forever, but Chiquita was forever young, playing, leaping, pouncing and loving.

We all think our pets will do that. Twinkie the Goldfish lived nearly ten years; nine years, eleven months and three weeks longer than we thought he would! Truth is, it’s sooner than later; we outlive our pet kin.

As you have figured out by now, Chiquita died and even knowing that outcome in advance Crystal is still coping with the loss of her treasured friend and companion. We pet owners are all Crystals at some point. We mourn our little friends, miss their antics and presence and, if we’re lucky, learn to treasure our brief time with them.

So, here is Crystal’s tribute to Chiquita which I have yet to read without a tear coursing down my cheek. Not out of sadness but out of understanding and love for the animals we bring into and make part of our lives.


Chiquita

I Miss you.

I miss being awakened by your deranged meows at 3,4,5 or 6 in the early morning. You've even saved me a few times from being late.

I miss you poking me in the eyes, and the ear with your white poofy schitty paws, and sharp nails to pull my hair just to wake me up.

I miss you walking towards me and falling over on your side so I could pet you when I came home from work...I still look for you.

I miss you looking at me through the mirrors while I was washing dishes in the kitchen or when I was fixing my hair or putting on make-up in the restroom.

I miss you waiting for me to get out the shower so you could attack my wet legs and feet!

I miss your random and sporadic sprints across the apartment.

I miss how when I would pet or hug you, I would instantly feel better, even if I was crying.

I miss giving you exaggerated kisses even when you didn't want me to!

I miss watching you sitting on YOUR chair in front of the window looking as pretty as can be and soaking up the sun rays.

I miss you climbing your way around the couch and sneaking behind me to beg for my food! I miss sharing it too.

I miss your Presence, I never knew what being "alone" felt like until now.

I Miss You and Love You so much and Forever Grateful that you grew up with me, been by my side, brought me comfort for everything I've gone through, and filled my heart with unconditional love for so many years.

I will join you again in Heaven my Pretty Kitty.

Chiquita was born sometime in April or May of 1992 and placed to sleep on April 19th 2010.

Her 19th Birthday was to be celebrated next month on May the 5th.



Thank you, Crystal, from all of us.

Catable

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Two B and not Two B

It is cruel to apply for a seat upgrade using somebody else's email address.

The delight of "You've got mail!" announcing breathtakingly that you've been upgraded from 28-C, which is so far back that it's not even on the plane, to 2-B where the cashews are warmed and the flight attendants fart rainbows, and the seats are so wide that you can't wait to get home so you can stuff yourself with chocolate just to fit in more snugly, only serves to intensify the whiplash of the realization that the Golden Ticket email is for

Someone. Else.

Oh, the fall heralded by a cartoon trombone, whaaa Whaaa WHAAA!!

Then YOUR official boarding pass arrives announcing that you've been moved from a balmy 28-C, conveniently located 9 millimeters from the blue ice generating toilets to 59-K; not even on the plane. No, you're placed in a little pod and towed behind the plane by a rope. Well, at least I've got a pod.

On the bright side, I've only got 2,455,300 more miles to fly to qualify for Plastic Elite status. With that I'm guaranteed a toilet seat! Every time!

Can't wait!!







(posted from my iPad)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Little Protein

Zinfindels have been on the menu recently. A rediscovery.

We tend to go through wine phases. There was the Cabernet Phase, the Chardonnay Phase, the Chenin Blanc Phase, the Petit Sirah Phase, the Pinot Grigio Phase and the Pinot Noir Phase, to name a few.

There never has been nor ever will there be a Reisling Phase. Just saying. No offense to the Reisling Bros.

I'm usually pretty careful pouring the first glass out of a bottle to scoop out any bits of cork or "stuff" that might come out in that first pour, but if I get a piece of something floating around, it generally goes down the hatch quite happily.

Tonight, though, I ended up with a bit of something I didn't think went in the glass when I poured it, but sometimes I blink. As I chomped on it with my front teeth I tried to figure out if it was a piece of cork or a piece of dinner.

Didn't feel like cork. Not potato. Definitely didn't taste like chicken (which rules out NOTHING). Not springy like cork. More like a soggy potato chip, but I hadn't eaten one of those in a week. Some texture, slightly crunchy. Who knows?

A Mystery to be solved later, if at all.

Hmmm, I thought, just a figment. Or a fig newton! Ha, I crack me up.

Smiling, I turned and reached for my wine glass just in time to see another kamikaze fruit fly dive into the ruby surface and shortly thereafter float immobile on the surface.


Oh little fruit fly
How you dive into my glass
Mystery is solved

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Concerned. Sincerely.

There’s nothing like the First day of Spring. So, special I’ll capitalize First. Twice.

Yeah, technically, it’s not the actual first First day of Spring, but here in south Texas Spring sprungs early.

This weekend was it. Warm sun. Cool breeze. Mosquitoes still asleep. Perfect.

I was all decked out. Gloves, old t-shirt with a peeling, snarky design that said “I’m with STUPID” over an arrow pointing to the right (love that shirt!), faded blue jeans and mud-crusted boots.

Let’s dig!

There was a lot to do. The compost needed turning. The trees needed trimming. The sheep were in the meadow and the cows were in the corn.

First. Day. of. Spring!

Humming to myself, I set out to greet the day. “Inna godda da vita, baby, doncha know my heart is true ...”

My reverie was broken by a shout from the garage.

“OMG! The sprinkler system, it no work!”

I was shocked, but pulled myself together and shouted back, “OMG! Your grammar, it no work!”

I thought about pondering a dirt clod I’d just dug up. Pretty little thing with what looked like half a worm hanging out. But that tiny part of my brain that keeps me from getting hit by a bus or doing things preceded by shouting, “Hey, y’all, watch this!” told me that I had better high tail it into the garage and find out what was wrong with the sprinkler system.

Or at least appear that I was concerned.

Yeah, that would do. “Concerned” generally involved “no work” and that was fine by me. Besides, a faulty sprinkler system wasn’t nearly as ripe as planting some shrubs, that, granted, might later dehydrate and die due to lack of aforementioned sprinkling, but already my cognitive resources were stretched to the limit and my brain was full.

One thing at a time.

Strolling into the garage I affected my best “concerned” with a hearty, “Wazzzzzzzzzzz?” complete with Jazz Hands.

“I thought I’d test out the lawn sprinkler system after that hard freeze and, so far, none of the zones work. I’ve tried them all. Maybe the valves are turned off.”

I heard most of that but it was along the lines of, “Blah blah sprinkler blah blah none blah blah work blah blah something off.”

Nodding my head knowingly I replied quite correctly and appropriately, “I’ll check into it.”

“I’ll check into it” is a phrase I learned many, many years ago and it has been a veritable timesaver. I can’t count the hours I’ve been able to go about my business, examining dirt clods or whatever, by the grace of “I’ll check into it.”

Occasionally, I have to provide an update and I can always get away with a couple of, “Still checking on it,” whatever “it” is. Maybe three times on a good day.

Today, though, as I was walking back to my shrub hole and that fascinating dirt clod I had one of those rare moments of insight.

If you pointed a Brain-O-Scope at my head you would have seen an old set of gears spinning into motion, engaging other gears and turning faster and faster until enough brainpower was generated to illuminate a small light bulb about a tenth as powerful as a nightlight flashing the word,

“E REKA!” (The “U” burned out years ago.)

From the dim past came a fragmented conversation. Somebody, I think it was the Sprinkler Repair Guy, telling me, “You have to drain the system for winter. Turn off these two valves and stick a screwdriver in here until the water stops squirting out. That will keep the back pressure valve from exploding in the Spring. Got it?”

I heard, “Blah blah blah two valves blah blah,” and I remember turning the two valves. I don’t recall no dripping thing after that.

Whatever.

I was quite pleased with myself that I had figured out why the sprinkler system wasn’t sprinkling: the water was turned off at the back pressure valve.

All I had to do was flip the valves to the “ON” position and we’d be in business.

I went around to the side of the house and was doubly pleased with myself to see the valves neatly turned to the “OFF” position. Next to examining dirt clods I love being right.

I bent down, grabbed the valve handle with my soft, little, inside-person hands and gave a mighty twist.

URRRRRRRRRRGggggggghhhhhhhh!

Nothing. I looked at my delicate palms and figured I’d have a nice bruise there in the morning. I lodged that away as my Excuse Number 55 for Not Doing Yard Work; should be good for a week. I needed a tool and I knew just the tool. This was a plumbing problem and every amateur plumber knows the best tool was a large pipe wrench.

I returned to the garage in confident strides, found my large, red pipe wrench exactly where I left it hanging about eight years ago, and returned to the scene, soon to become the Shrine to the Sprinkler Fixing Hero.

I bent over the pipe, fixed the wrench to the valve lever and gave it a mighty pull.

The valve turned as if buttered. Easy Peasy. I imagined a Hero’s Welcome.

Then, several things happened more or less at once. Actually, they happened in sequence, but so quickly it seemed to me it happened at once.

This is the chain of events in slow motion.

City water at mains pressure surged into the back pressure valve cavity generating a lot of pressure. The back pressure valve tried its best to shunt the excess pressure through the orifice beneath the brass cover and nearly succeeded. Unfortunately, the structural components that hold the whole thing together, that had been weakened by excessive freezing temperatures (and probably by not having been drained properly) gave up the ghost and failed catastrophically.

“Catastrophically” is a word that is followed by a brass cover shooting into my jaw followed by a spout of water attempting to reach a height of ten feet through my nose.

Of course, my first instinct was to drop the wrench and I acted on that. My second instinct told me that the entire city water reservoir was draining through this pipe and I had to shut the valve.

What would Captain Kirk do?

Must. Shut. Valve. Save. Spock.

I bent over the open valve, the jet of water pounded my chest and I scrabbled in the gravel for the wrench handle. After what seemed like an eternity or three seconds at least I got the jaws on the valve handle and wrenched it Righty Tighty. The wrong way.

Of course I wrenched it the wrong way! Righty Tighty, Lefty Loosey, but I was bending over the valve and had entered Bizarro World where everything is backwards. With water pounding even harder I wrenched the other Righty Tighty and the torrent ended with an audible “Glerk!”

I stood up and wiped water from my eyes and face just in time for the Audience to arrive.

“Wow! What happened to you? You’re all wet and I think you’re bleeding from the chin.”

“Just a flesh wound,” I said gallantly, “a scratch. I found the problem. The back pressure valve is broken. We’ll need to get the plumber out here to fix it.”

“But, what happened?”

“Nothing,” I replied, trying to hide the wrench behind my back.

“I see you got out The Wrench. Remember the last time you used The Wrench. Cost us about $200. What’s this going to cost us?”

“About the same. I could have drowned out here, you know,” I said trying to change the subject, “as if you're concerned. Seriously!”

Then came the unexpected.

Laughter.

First a little titter, then a couple of ha-ha’s and finally a long, extended bout of guffaws and rib-holding hilarity.

“Your shirt! Your shirt! Look at your shirt!”

I looked down. The force of the water had washed off some of the old, faded lettering. It no longer said “I’m with STUPID.”

The “with” was gone.

In silence I walked back to the garage making a squelching noise with each step and made a couple of mental notes:

Call plumber.

Recycle shirt.

Srsly.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Proof in the Berry

For all you skeptics out there here's the blueberry farm ...





... and the blueberries in a little plastic box just like I said.






Ain't that right, Kink?

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Berry Blues

"Hey, back from the gardening center already? Wha'd you buy?"

"I got a couple of blueberry bushes and a fig tree."

"Nice going! Blueberry pancakes in the morning and pork with figs on Wednesday."

"Uh, how do you figure that?"

"Easy peasy! Blueberries are ready to harvest in 4 hours and figs take a couple of days max. I'll go upstairs and print out some recipes."

"Not so fast, Emeril, how do you figure blueberries grow to harvest in 4 hours?"

"Aw, come on! I'm an expert blueberry farmer on FarmVille. You know, that farm game on Facebook. And figs, too. I've got an entire orchard of figs. Never actually thought of planting a real fig tree. How tall do they get? Do I need to go out and buy a ladder."

"A ladder? What for?"

"To harvest the figs on Wednesday, silly! I guess I could wait until Wednesday morning, see how tall the tree is and get the ladder then. You're right, that's more prudent."

"Do you know anything about blueberries or figs? I mean, really."

"Yeah, I know everything. It's pretty simple, actually. You click to create a plot of fallow ground, then you click to plow it, then you select blueberries and click to plant them. Then you wait 4 hours for the blueberry bushes to grow, click to harvest them and you're done!"

"What happens to the blueberries after you click to harvest them?"

I had to ponder that one. It was outside my Facebook worldview, but shortly I made the connection.

"Somehow they get transported in little plastic tubs to Kroger's," I offered as a reasonable explanation."

My wife considered this revelation carefully.

"Tell you what," she said at length, "we'll plant the blueberry bushes this afternoon. By the time we're asleep the berries will have been harvested and by morning they'll be at Kroger's in little tubs."

I nodded. She's a genius, my wife. I jumped on the thread.

"And I could get up early, go to Kroger's before breakfast, buy the berries, which are technically ours to begin with, but who's to argue with the right for Kroger's to make a little profit along the way, and we can still have blueberry pancakes!"

My wife smiled at me as she does to bichon frise owners or Volvo drivers, but to be fair a Volvo may have just driven by.

I smiled, too. Because I knew that from here on I could go up to Kroger's at any time and pick up my very own blueberries.

It's good to be king.

Now, about those figs ...

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Friday, February 12, 2010

Valentine's Day - Sort of

(Editorial note: The previous post about Sin Zin was number 666. Oh, yeah, the Devil made me do it!)

Now, Valentine's Day.

I have a checkered past about Valentine's Day. OK, to be truthful a "checkered" past would be about even-steven good days and bad days, like a checker board. About 50-50. On even years, for example, I would have pulled out all the stops: dinner, dancing, cards, flowers, limos, livestock and the whole nine yards.

Odd years would be nothing. Nada. Zip. Not even a Hallmark "Roses are red, violets are blue ..." No, that would be Zilch.

But, in actuality I'm like mostly a black checker board with a few white spaces. Mostly zilch and little zap.

Alas.

So, for this year I decided to think ahead and managed flowers, an old cat and vegetable soup with dumplings!

Get it? Dumplings?


Anyway, here's the blueprint:

Flowers from 1-800-Flowers

Cat from the Animal Shelter, circa 2007.

Vegetable soup prepared from fresh vegetables simmered in vegetable stock with a bay leaf.

Dumplings from Bisquick with a cup of milk.


Check out the pics below. I think this is my lucky night!



Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The Sin of Zin

What is it with Zinfandel wines??

Back in the day the zins used to be the Wine of the Day, not something special.

Over time the zins got supplanted by the cabernet sauvignon and in turn by the pinot noirs, but the zins always hovered in the background as the wine to have if you wanted something more robust than a pinot but less heavy than a cab sav.

Zinfandels used to be labeled as Beringer Zinfandel, Simi Zinfandel, Mirassou Zinfandel and so forth.

Not any more.

Check out these labels:







I'm not sure what to think about these labels but the wines sure are good!

I especially like Flock by Smoking Loon which is quite different from other wines under that label. It has a rich, smooth, old taste with a nice finish and not much after-finish. That is, it goes down smoothly and doesn't kick you in the ass as a reminder.

Nice touch.

I approve this message.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Tamagoyaki, I go yummy!

Years ago I bought a Japanese omelette pan. I had no idea how to use it so I used it like a regular omelette pan. The results were not good. I fell back to my traditional omelette pan and forgot about the "square experiment."

Silly me.

Recently, a friend of mine showed me how to use a Japanese omelette pan to make tamagoyaki, a Japanese omelette.

"It's done like this," he said.

"Ah, so!" I said.

Now our weekend breakfasts have jumped a level. Last weekend we had tamagoyaki with sautéed talapia filets and this weekend we had experimental mushroom and cheese tamagoyaki with miso soup, rice and bacon. (On the theory that everything goes better with bacon!)

Here's the blueprint:


For the tamagoyaki.

several eggs (I used 5 for two people)
oil (I used seasoned Wok oil)

For the miso soup.


small bowls
miso paste
dried seaweed
firm tofu chopped
hot water



The key to tamagoyaki is oiling and rolling. The pan should be only lightly oiled using a paper towel dampened in oil. That's all you need. Use only a little egg and rely upon successive layers to build up the omelette.

Like this.

Step one, pour a little of the beaten eggs into a very lightly greased pan.



Step two, after the eggs have started to set, remove from heat and gently roll up eggs as shown.



Step 3 push the egg roll to the other end of the pan and regrease it lightly using the soaked paper towel.



Step 4 and beyond. Add more egg, Roll and push and regrease. Repeat 3-4 layers.



When you are done, dump the omelette on a plate to cool slightly and cut into chopstick bites.



The result.



Here's a Japanese YouTube that shows the process although I didn't do all the flipping stuff, I simply rolled it up using chopsticks!

At least you see here how it's done.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Happy Homecoming Day

Three years ago there was a new cat in the hood.

This little guy.



We fed him and watered him and made sure he got plenty of sun and the occasional, (OK, many!) cat snacks.

And he grew into this handsome guy.



Happy Homecoming Day, Kink, and many more!