Tuesday, August 29, 2006

All the World's a Meme

Wouldya looky at that? I got tagged by Alien Ted
I’d only do this for you, Dr. J!

1. Three things that scare me:
Irrational people
Running out of garlic powder

2. Three people that make me laugh:
Joe the Eon
Ron White

3. Three things I hate the most:
Abject stupidity
Bad drivers

4. Three things I don't understand:
Cat psychology
How to be fluent in a foreign language
Baking cakes
(I was going to say “women” but in reflection they’re not supposed to be understood.)

5. Three things I'm doing right now:
Planning a trip
Emailing friends
Trying to dissuade the cat from chewing the power cord.

6. Three things I want to do before I die:
Be fluent in French
Write a book
Buy 1000 shares of the next AOL

7. Three things I can do:
Cook by instinct
Survive in the wilderness
Program a computer

8. Three ways to describe my personality:

9. Three things I can't do:
Watch TV
Refrain from making a smart-ass comment

10. Three things I think you should listen to:
Fleetwood Mac
Your best friend

11. Three things you should never listen to:
People who offer unsolicited advice
The inner voice that says “One bowl of chocolate almond ice cream won’t hurt!”

12. Three things I'd like to learn:
Macromedia Flash programming
To play the guitar

13. Three favourite foods:
Anything Mexican, even fennel enchiladas
Hot chocolate souflee

14. Three beverages I drink regularly:
Red wine
Water (ha ha, that’s a joke, son!)

15. Three shows I watched as a kid:
Twilight Zone
Outer Limits

16. Three people I'm tagging (to do this):
Bret who didn’t show up
Shane for the sauce. BBQ sauce, that is.
Pammer because she has nothing else to do

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Writely or Wrongly

Tonight I experimented with a collaborative writing session. Using Writely (www.writely.com) a friend of mine and I collaborated on a story. So, this is Version 1. We're going to make some refinements to the rules and produce another unique piece soon.

This was a trial.

Here's the blueprint:

1. A mutual friend provided a seed sentence.
2. We each wrote a sentence in turn to add to the story.
3. Go to 2 until everybody gives up.

The idea was to write a story with several different styles mixed up. Version 1 had a few interesting twists and turns as we got into the project, but I'll provide an analysis of that later.

Meanwhile, here is Version 1 of Ganymede Dreams:

When he saw her rounding the corner he immediately nanocleaned the collard greens from between
his teeth. She had just returned from the colony on Ganymede, and he knew she would be looking for a man, a real man, not some android like last time.

He thought back to the "last time." Things were going swimmingly, until it started to rain. He accessed the network using his internal connection and entered a request for a little local sunshine. It wouldn't do to have her freeze.

As the weather magically cleared, she walked past him without so much as a glance in acknowledgement. He turned to watch her retreating figure. Heels. Legs. Skirt. Shirt. Hair tight in a bun with long steel looping pins. Weapons, obviously...the legs, not the pins.

Disappointed by the rebuff he pulled the InsulTek tighter around his neck. Even though the temperature was minus 270 degrees, it seemed to drop just a few more.

He shivered and sighed. His breath froze and dropped to the surface with a tinkle. He turned and strolled back into the bar where Chartreuse waited for him. In a bottle.

Chartreuse on the rocks with a splash of methane and a soft ginger cookie on the side. He swirled the green liquid, took a bite of the cookie and thought about home. Far away. A long time ago. A hot planet with a beach of sand. He felt the sand curl around his toes as he wiggled them deeper and deeper until the waves lapped at the bottom of his shorts and he felt one with the kelp.

He had never really experienced water, but he liked it. He liked the motion of it and the rapid change from hard to soft. He wrapped his legs in latex whenever he walked the beach.

The beach. She strolled down the beach. The distant sun hung over Jupiter like a dim pearl hung around the neck of a galactic Nubian princess with a huge, striped breast. Gazing at the stars she pondered the infinite, the wheeling of galaxies light years away, surrounding her in a slow waltz (as it was impossible to imagine galaxies doing the watusi which would really wreck the red shift) and, stirred by an almost religious feeling a single thought rose to the surface like a lotus blossom, frozen in liquid methane: Dork.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

When Will It End?

Probably when I stop doing this stuff!

Although, there might be something to this...

You are a Black Coffee

At your best, you are: low maintenance, friendly, and adaptable

At your worst, you are: cheap and angsty

You drink coffee when: you can get your hands on it

Your caffeine addiction level: high

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Who's Sorry Now?

Take that, Tyson Foods!

See the picture? What's it say? Pilgrim's Pride! Yeah! Two for one, too.

So, you're bottom line's going down, Tyson.

One may observe, whoa, dude chill, it's only chicken. Not quite. It's all the Tyson chicken truck and the Tyson chicken truck driver who played a game of chicken on I-10 this morning. He could have just kept his speed, you know, just kept his speed. Boogie along at 65 with that 18-wheeler full of chicken parts and he could have just kept his speed and everybody would have been happy.

But, no, Mr. Tyson Chicken Driver had to speed up, then slow down and basically block us all off the entrance ramp. Three of us trying to merge onto I-10 had to merge OFF of I-10 because Mr. Tyson Chicken Driver wanted to have some fun.

How's my driving?

Chicken S**T! (family blog)

Thank you, Mr. Tyson Chicken Driver, for making my meal choice easy tonight.

Pilgrim's Pride chicken, raised by Pilgrim's the founders of our great country. Lovely, well-groomed birds and well-mannered, too. Why, I'd be proud if my daughter came home with a Pilgrim's Pride chicken boyfriend, they're that good. Pilgrim's Pride, nice birds, courteous drivers; they'd never think to run you off the road. Nope, they just want you to have a special dining experience and so good for you, too. Not only are Pilgrim's Pride birds lean and nutritious, but their drivers won't raise your blood pressure by trying to squeeze you into a crash barrier.

Pilgrim's Pride. A considerate chicken.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Blog Fodder

These quizzes (quizzi?) make for cheap and easy blog fodder as if we need more ruffage in the Blogosphere.

This quiz tells you what kind of programming language you'd be. Like Harry Potter and the Sorting Hat I was hoping to be Pascal. Please, please be Pascal!

Alas, not to be. Better than Slytherian at least.

You are PHP.  You enjoy the World Wide Web.  You are constantly changing the way you do things, and this tends to confuse people who work with you.
Which Programming Language are You?

Friday, August 18, 2006

Return to Luciano

Tomorrow, Friday, we head out to San Antonio to install the Boy at the University of Austin San Antonio, home of the Roadrunners. So, yea Longhorns! Yea, Jayhawks! Yea, Roadrunners! Boo, endowment funds! Boo, alumni associations!

The highlight of the trip will be a return to Luciano on the Strand located at Huebner and I-10.

I am cursed because I must order something different. Woe is me! The filet mignon was sooooooooooooo good I could easily choose it again. What are the odds that I hit the perfect meal at the perfect restaurant the first time?

The odds are good. In Houston, with so many restaurants, it's possible to specialize very narrowly such that you go to a particular restaurant for a particular dish.

Examples are:

Bayou City: Dale's Special renamed Brigantine
Pico's Mex-Tex: Pollo al Chipotle
Sushi Jin: Lunch combination with salmon; side order of ikura
Red Onion: Seafood enchiladas
Tay Do: Pho with spring rolls

Tomorrow I will put my faith in the hands of chef Jesse Perez and deviate from the filet mignon I sense I should order. The filet, however, becomes the benchmark as do all the dishes I've named. The meal will either be better or worse than the benchmark. It's all a matter of risk. How lucky do I feel, punk?

In my dream, chef Jesse Perez strides up to the table. He's wearing a serape, black hat and a cheroot is clenched between his teeth. He looks down at me, holds out a piece of meat and in a gravelly voice says:

This is a USDA Grade A specially selected, by me, personally, ideal, el perfecto, piece of meat which I will cook to perfection and serve to you in such a way that you will be dreaming about it for decades. Now, you can choose another item from the menu, all good and have an OK experience, or you can choose the filet and repeat the experience of a lifetime. The choice is yours. So, what's it going to be, punk? Filet or pot luck?

Will I awake from this dream?

Monday, August 14, 2006

Still Life

Who Should Paint You: Pablo Picasso

Your an expressive soul who shows many emotions, with many subtleties
Only a master painter could represent your glorious contradictions

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Twelve Two Two Fondue and Foo

Foo of Random Synaptic Misfire took time out of his busy schedule training for the 2007 Tour de France to quaff a few pints at the Two Rows.

Foo commented, "Wouldn't it be weird if..."

Yes, it would.

Return to Tinkerbell

Friday, August 11, 2006

Amuse Bouche - Part II

“Here you are, Mr. Two, Table number Six with a view of the patio, and, if you look closely, a hummingbird sanctuary just over there. Enjoy”

I was beginning to like this place already, although the hummingbird sanctuary was a spot on the horizon about 9 miles away. Oh, well, it’s the thought that counts.

My companion was more upbeat and said “Whoa, cool, a hummingbird sanctuary! Right outside our window!”

Presently our wait-staff-person arrived.

“Welcome to Luciano, Mr. Two and companion. I am Dante your wait-staff-person for the evening and I will do my best to ensure you experience dining excellence. If I fail I will turn in my apron, leave this establishment forever and join the Foreign Legion. Ha, ha! That is an amusement on my part I call the Beau Geste. Would you prefer a drink before dinner?”

“Yes,” I said enthusiastically, “I’ll have a triple gin and tonic and a Perrier with lime for my companion.”

“You are very drôle,” Dante replied, “you ordered a fattening drink for yourself and a French water for your skinny companion. You nearly caught me in your prank. That will be two San Pellegrino waters with lime. Very funny, Mr. Two!”

As we waited for our drinks to arrive we glanced at the menu and found ourselves in the middle of a dilemma.

“Holy Moly, I want to eat all this stuff!”

I was more eloquent. “Mama mia sweet Tower of Pisa, look at all this chow!”

Indeed, the menu was resplendent with culinary fare not found at your Golden Arches, Fudrucker’s or Chili’s along the frontage road.

No, we had tapped into the Mode Della Madre.

For Starters we could have:

Red Chile Poached Scampi
Caprese of Tomatoes, Mozzarella and Sliced Meats
Truffled Pan Seared Scallops
Quagilia Cimichurri of Texas Quail and Chickpea puree

Pastas included:

Duck Meat Ravioli with sun-dried Tomato-Serrano Crema
Pasta alla Chitarra Verde
Pennette Alle Vongole

And for Entrees we were faced with

Wild Salmon di Parma
Roasted Pork Tenderloin
Australian Lamb Chops
Filetto Di Manzo with Black Truffle-Veal reduction
Poussin al Mattone with White Truffle-Pecorino Risotto
Veal Osso Buco and Toasted Garlic Broccoli Rabe

Our drinks arrived just as our minds overheated with anticipation.

“Are you ready to order, Mr. Two and companion?” Dante enquired.

“Yes, I think we are.” Taking a guess, “We’d like to start with the Caprese.”

Dante nodded, turned on her heel and strode off to the kitchen. I was in the middle of my “And we’d like to order…” but that would come later.

The Caprese was more than the menu described. Served on an artist’s pallet it was an artistic expression of food in three dimensions: sauce and cheese to the left and right with a tower of meat, olives and endive. The chef signed his masterpiece in balsamic vinegar along the bottom edge. We weren’t sure if we should eat it or frame it. After a quick vote, we ate it.

Subtle and light, the various goat cheeses and preserves contrasted nicely with the herb and pepper bread. Tangy and refreshing.

Dante returned carrying two small square white plates and held them just out of our gaze. Observing the debris on the table she commented, “I see you enjoyed the Caprese. Chef Perez sends you this amuse bouche.” And with a flourish she placed the two small plates in front of us.

The amuse bouche consisted of a perfectly sautéed shrimp, seasoned sharply with red pepper amid a dollop of buttered orzo. Tiny cocktail forks proportional to the orzo enabled us to enjoy the amuse bouche in several bites, rather than slurping the thing off the plate in one go. I guess by this time we were starting to become refined. Extending our pinkie finger we indulged the amuse bouche.


Dante glided by to take our dinner order. Companion chose Anatra Barbacoa Ravioli, the duck, and I chose Filetto Di Manzo, the filet mignon medallions.

Enjoying the ambience of the evening we regarded the other diners huddled around their table candles in quiet, intense conversation. From the kitchen we heard singing. Not a radio, but the chefs delighting in their work. Glancing out the window a flock of hummingbirds in V-formation glided silently to the pond in the distance.

Suddenly, the kitchen doors burst open and several white-clad chefs bustled out dragging along a young chef obviously passed out. They propped the young man up in a chair and mopped his brow with a damp towel. Slowly, he roused and looked around.

Dante glided to our table with a concerned look on her face. “That’s Chef Perez,” she whispered, “apparently, he outdid himself cooking your dinner. Your meal will be out shortly.”

And shortly it was.

The plates were arranged with breathtaking artistic precision. Layer upon layer of culinary art. Taking it all in we became dizzy. Anticipating this effect, Dante held out small oxygen masks for us and we took a few short breaths.

Turning to leave Dante said, “It is not a crime to eat such a masterpiece.” Then, she was gone.

We didn’t so much “chow down” as nibbled around the edges, in silence but with an increasing sense of urgency. Time stood still. The candle flame stopped flickering. People moved in slow motion.

The steak, cooked to perfection, lay astride delicate Japanese broccoli, nestled against a sculpture of garlic-mashed potatoes with the truffle reduction forming an aromatic reflecting pool along the bottom.

The duck ravioli was no less impressive. A piquant duck mixture lovingly wrapped in a delicate pasta case bathed in a creamy, sun-dried tomato sauce. The ravioli were arranged at 43-degree angles from each other, the optimum angular separation for ravioli.

Leaning back in our chairs we surveyed the damage. Perfectly cleaned plates. You could use them again without washing. The busboy rolled by and asked us if we had completed our course. We assented and he removed the plates.

We then got into an intense conversation about dessert. Should we our shouldn’t we. What about the calories? What about the taste! It’s overindulging! We’re worth it! And so it went.

Dante appeared with two plates. On each was a modest warm chocolate soufflé erupting a tiny stream of rich, hot, chocolate lava. "You would not want to live the rest of your lives deprived of these," she explained.

Discussion terminated and, unabashedly, we dug in. We showed those soufflés no mercy. We tamed those bad boys and taught them who was boss! Who da man? Huh, soufflé, you lookin’ at me?

Slowly, our frenzy abated and we sat back exhausted but satisfied. Darkness had enveloped the city and the lights sparkling out to the horizon comforted us that all was well.

Later, outside the restaurant we paused and asked ourselves if such a meal had actually happened. We marveled at the complex chain of events that conspired in close precision to bring us to this exact spot at this exact point in time. Had we arrived in town on Sunday or Tuesday we would have had an adequate meal at an adequate restaurant. Had we turned right instead of left we might have succumbed to the Golden Arches. Had we been in the right lane instead of the left we would have eaten a perfectly OK hamburger. Each error of our ways brought us inexorably to Luciano.

However, on this night, in this town and at this time we experienced something spectacular. A meal with no fault. Excellent food. Perfect service. A mid-summer’s night dream. In San Antonio. Did it really happen? Was it real?

May all to Hilton back again repair,
And think no more of this night's accidents
But as the fierce vexation of a dream.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Amuse Bouche - Part I

Amuse Bouche. French. Literally to “amuse the mouth.” A leetle bite before zee meal beginz. Greetings from zee chef. C’est tout.

We pulled into San Antonio, Texas, home of the Alamo, mid-evening, found our hotel, checked in, determined our comma supply was adequate, searched the Internet for a restaurant and set off again to forage, for food.

The important point to note is that this was a Monday evening. It’s less important that we were feeling like Italian, that is, in a mood for Italian food, not wearing tight t-shirts and riding around on Vespas pinching women’s bottoms, although that appealed to me on another level. Google Search identified three multi-star Italian restaurants within a few miles of the hotel. Google Maps gave us their exact location and driving directions. And Google Earth informed us that two of the restaurants had new roofs.

What Google, bless it’s pea pickin’ little heart, did not tell us (ha ha, joke’s on us!) was that all the suggested restaurants would be closed on Monday. You’d think that Google Maps would have a widget or something that would put like a “closed” icon over the restaurants that were actually closed, rather than encouraging us to check out their empty parking lots intrigued by the prospect of new roofs.

And we did that. One by one. Closed. Closed. Closed.

So, plan A, B and C had all failed. We were out of restaurants, mapless, clueless, sort of lost, hungry and starting to feel the call of the Golden Arches.

As we cruised along the frontage road paralleling Interstate 10 I caught a glimpse of a department store on the other side of the freeway. Dillards.

“Ah, ha!” I thought. A mall! We’re saved. There’s bound to be restaurants over there, and I can buy a new suit. Tally Ho! We turned at the next traffic light and headed to Mallville assured of a Chili’s or a Fudrucker’s or a Subway at the very least. Alas, all those restaurants were to the right side of the road and we were in a left turn only lane. Not a problem, we’d cruise through the parking lot, do a U-turn and be back in business in short order.

But, that would not be the case. Destiny was in charge and Destiny was going to take us where she wanted to go.

As we sought our U-turn a sign in the corner of the mall caught our eye:

Luciano at the Strand

Luciano. That sounded Italian. We slowed and looked more closely. Candles flickered on tables in the window. Shadowy figures moved about. A lady stood at the entrance looking expectedly. She looked at us. We looked back.

“Looks like a restaurant,” I said, “and Italian, and open, and on a Monday. How strange? Shall we?”

With some hesitation we parked and walked up the garden path to the entrance. The lady we had observed was the hostess and she opened the door regarding us closely.

“Are you open?” I asked.

She looked relieved, hesitated for a moment, then stuttered, “Yes, yes we are open. Yes, indeed, we are open! Welcome!”

I half expected to be greeted like Emil as described by a Bulwer-Lytton finalist:

“Genevieve ran toward the door as it slowly closed and grabbed Emil by the lapels of his rain-soaked camouflage jacket, drawing him into her warm embrace, burying her tear-streaked face in the nape of his neck and weeping uncontrollably, as might a mother clutching her son returned home from the horrors of the battlefield, a response Emil could scarcely recall receiving from other Wal-Mart greeters."

Alas, that was not the case.

The restaurant looked nice. It looked expensive. The carpet was new, paint fresh and everything was gleaming.

Our hostess smiled at us warmly and asked, “Table for…” and paused waiting for my reply.

I heard “Table four…” and replied, “Table for two, please.”

With a subtle hand gesture the hostess beckoned a wait-staff-person who shuffled over and grabbed a couple of menus.

“Table number six for Mr. Two and companion.”

“This way Mr. Two,” the wait-staff-person intoned, and in single file we followed her into the restaurant and into the experience that will be described…anon.

(To be continued!)

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Which Way?

The Boy received a compass for his birthday.

His Sister, examining the box it came in, exclaimed, "Oh, look, it comes with directions!"

Well, duh.