Friday, July 31, 2009

Fun Fact Friday - You drive me up the wall!

I am enthralled by the silodrome, more affectionately known as the 'Wall of Death'. Twenty years ago I saw a movie titled Eat the Peach, where the protagonist, an Irish national, decided to build himself one of these contraptions after watching an Elvis film. An obvious work of fiction, since most people can only muster up the energy to tear their eyeballs from their sockets and fill the void with lye after watching one of those.

Of course, you can call me 'Crash' all you want, I know I'm not Captain Stable when it comes to riding on dry, level pavement. (Just Google 'microcows' and check out the photobucket album!) However, the thought of this rush thrills me.

The concept is nowhere near new. Originally, cycle tracks were made of wooden planks, and in an effort to make the races more accessible, portable tracks were built. In 1915, Erle 'Red' Armstrong built the first silodrome, in an effort to show off and sell more motorcycles for his employer, Indian. What thrills me is that originally, the 'Whirl of Death' as it was originally dubbed, was set up INDOORS. Take that, monster truck jam!
Copycats abounded, and more of these walls showed up at fairs here and abroad. The shows survive today, many riders still using vintage stripped-down Indians and Harleys. And they kick ass.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Beer me!

Eager to jump on any health trend that works in my favor ("Bacon prevents Alzheimers! Couch Potatoes Live Longer!"), I feel compelled to share the following article.

So, go have a pint! I'm off to encourage the addition of stout to our company wellness program.

Sláinte Mhath!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Apostrophical Power

So it's Tuesday, not WeNerdsDay, but after perusing my homepage and seeing how many news stories are using apostrophes in the headlines I thought I'd mention it here.

I have been a grammar nerd from time to time, and certainly have been on the side of the righteous when it comes to the its/it's debate, but this is larger than that. Perhaps sarcasm doesn't need its own font (though I still like the concept of reverse italics), it just needs apostrophes.

Simply by applying apostrophes to a simple headline, the whole meaning is brought into question. It's the little differences. Example:

The new retirement plan versus The new 'retirement' plan

The whole meaning is brought into question. Amazing how two little marks can introduce so much doubt, suspicion or doublespeak to a simple sentence.

Iran 'releases 140 demonstrators' versus Iran releases 140 demonstrators

Really, if you were a demonstrator, which headline would you prefer?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Dinnertime - Chicken Curry

In case you haven't figured this out by now, I am not a photographer, that's Lori's job. I am only allowed to use a camera if I promise not to pass my shots off as photography. Obviously, I'm not a food stylist, either. I regret the cilantro on the picture above, but since I ate this soon after I took the shot, there wasn't the opportunity for a do-over.

However, when it comes to flavor, this is a winner. Lori and I love the flavors of India, but it gets pricey going out - mainly because I want to order everything on the menu. In fact, given the opportunity, I would have made some paneer saag to go along with this, it's one of my favorites.

Indian food gives me the opportunity to work with a dozen or more ingredients without feeling guilty, since so much good food is simple. However, the layers of flavor in an Indian-style dish cry out for this.

1 star anise
1 shallot or half a small onion
3 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp grated ginger
1 Tbsp curry powder
1 Tbsp red Thai curry paste
large handful fresh cilantro
1 large jalapeno pepper
1 Tbsp coriander seed
1 Tbsp mustard seed
12 oz canned tomatoes or tomato puree

Combine Blend to a smooth puree. If you want less heat, you can seed the jalapeno or even put in half - or you can add a second one for see-through-time heat.

1 Tbsp vegetable oil
4 chicken breasts or 8 thighs, skinless and boneless, chopped
1 red onion, sliced into strips
8 oz plain yogurt

In a large skillet, heat the oil and add chopped chicken. Brown on both sides, then add onion. Once onions are soft, add curry sauce and reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer while you cook rice to accompany the dish. (Did you miss the note about 'see-through-time hot'?)

Just before serving, stir yogurt into the curry and heat through. Serve over rice and accompany with naan or other flatbread.

Makes 4 servings. Enjoy!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Fun Fact Friday - The Pilot Episode

I am awash with knowledge. Sweet, useless knowledge.

I thought I'd share the nerdly things I learn during the week here, so you have fun things to talk about this weekend. Bore your family! Alienate your friends! Be the bane of social gatherings!

The first version I wrote of this was much longer, suffice to say it was boring, even for me. Now there is no time, let me sum up:

Samurai swords are not forged in their traditional curved shape, rather they are forged as a precise, straight piece of steel. The combination of steel types causes the blade to curve when it is tempered at 1500 degrees and immediately plunged into cool water. Low carbon steel is soft and forgiving, so it is used to form the blunt edge of the sword to make it durable. High carbon steel is hard and will hold a dangerously sharp edge through many uses, but it is brittle and would shatter on its own. Because the HCS has more carbon (obviously) there is less space between the steel molecules to contract when cooled, hence the curve.

Don't you feel uselessly smarter for knowing that?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Never underestimate the power of a good repressed memory

I hate when something seemingly trivial triggers a childhood trauma that I've repressed for years. Apparently I'm not consuming enough beer, because stuff like this is supposed to go away, this is what makes us grow up, become responsible adults, and create all sorts of new memories to repress.

When I was young, I was a 'husky' child. I dreaded gym class, couldn't run, throw or catch. (Come to think of it, nothing much has changed, though my parents don't buy me corduroys anymore, so bonus there.) I did walk home from school in 6th grade, it was about a mile and a half, but it was downhill, and there was a Baskin Robbins at the half-way point.

I've oft told the tale of having my watch stolen from me on an MCTS bus, my reward for being a stupid kid.

What dawned on me this week was that about the same time, perhaps earlier in the same school year, I was grabbed by a larger kid in front of the school, in view of everyone getting on their school busses and milling about after class, and had a demand made for my worldly posessions. It could have been for my really cool Velcro wallet, or the watch that was subsequently stolen on the North Avenue bus, or for my really cool new backpack. What I do recall is thinking that somehow I, a fat little grub of a 6th grader, could outrun this 8th grade thug.

I made it five feet.

I remember the scorn in his voice as he scolded me for running, at which point I broke out the secret weapon.

I don't condone crying. Crying is unfair weaponry in any fight. Crying is blackmail. And, if called to task, I will deny ever crying in my life, including during this episode. However, much like the skunk and armadillo, fat kids have their own means of self-defense. I started sobbing uncontrollably, and it worked. He took his hand from my shirt, and spoke to me with such disdain. "Shit, I ain't gonna rob no crybaby, man. You ain't worth it." And he shoved me off on my way.

Ah, memories.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Don't look back, I can never look back

It is, indeed, summer, and a hot one at that. However, in many respects (my emotional maturity notwithstanding), I ceased being a boy many years ago, and the closest I can come in a vehicular nature is the ICP sticker on my Buick.
What? Who doesn't want a psycho with a cleaver on their car? Besides, it went with the axe I carried in the trunk for years...for...camping trips...yeah, that's the ticket.

Anyway, I left work last night in the pouring rain and got in the car to find my rear-view mirror dangling from the mass of wires that power the map lights and the defunct auto-dim feature of said mirror. Now, this happens from time to time with rear-view mirrors, I snapped the mirror off in my last car trying to adjust it for my much-shorter sister and had to reattach it in the SuperTarget parking lot in Fort Dodge, IA.

This is a nuisance, not a major crisis. There are far more pressing problems in the world than my car doing its inanimate best to return to the earth one molecule at a time. Still, it amazes me how often I use that mirror, as I spent the drive home and this morning's drive in looking at the glue patch where my mirror used to live. Given that the driver's side mirror, also auto-dim and also defunct, is useless for reflection, this leaves me with the ever-reliable passenger side mirror, what with its funhouse quality of making objects appear further away than in reality.

This leaves me with the option of driving faster than everyone else so I never have to worry about what's coming up behind me. Except maybe that state trooper I blew past on the Crosstown this morning.

*** In a completely unrelated request for assistance, I will be in Germantown, MD next week and need to know where I should eat. I love local places that serve things I'll never get anywhere else, but it's disheartening to find that most of the restaurants on the 'Best restaurants of...' lists are empty, soulless chains. Any input would be greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Raindrops keep falling on my head...

Yes, I know I'm mixing movies. Could be worse, though. Could be raining.

(everybody sing!)...and if the roof keeps leaking I'll have ceiling tiles on my HEAD! (loud and off-key, now!) But, I'm never gonna stop the rain by complaining.

So I haven't actually been hit yet, but the ceiling tile three feet from my desk came crashing down in a soggy heap while I was on the phone with a client yesterday. It hasn't even rained today, but we're still dripping from the gaping hole due to yesterday's downpour. I'm tracing the water stains across the remaining tiles, and the water seems to be moving toward the giant fluorescent fixture above my desk. If it goes beyond that before they finally get someone to fix this round of leaks (because yes, there have been and still are others), I will, in all likelihood, be taking a tile to the head sometime in the first half of August.

In case I haven't mentioned it before, it rains a lot here. Almost daily during the summer months, meaning I don't bring the bike to work, the lawn needs mowing twice a week, and frogs lay copius amounts of eggs in my pool at night.

Generally speaking though, this week has been the nicest so far this summer. Not too hot, not overly humid, suprisingly, so I can bear being outside for more than 15 seconds at a crack.

However, it will get worse again soon, I'm sure of it. And that's what's worrying me.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Dinnertime - Fish Tacos

Sometimes inspiration comes from the simplest of places. Hopefully imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, since I read The Peach Tart's blog last week and said 'I must have that!' Yes, you can read the recipe there, but I made a few tweaks so I'm typing it here, too. (So there.) I even resisted ordering fish tacos for dinner last night after our trip to the gallery, settling instead on the blackened grouper sliders (also nice, they may turn up here in the future).

I have never been successful in my frying endeavors in the past, either reducing my food to charcoal or losing the breading to the non-non-stick surface of my cookware. I had higher hopes with PT's advice and a new, more complex batter recipe.

1 cup flour
2 Tbsp corn starch
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 egg
3 bottles of your favorite beer (I chose Guinness)

Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Pour one cup of beer into a measuring cup and add one egg. Scramble and combine with the wet ingredients. DON'T overmix, you want batter, not dough. Finish the rest of the first bottle of beer.

In a large pot, heat three inches of oil. I don't fry much, but I know enough not to fill the pot to the top with oil, since once you add moisture to it, you may get unexpected results. Unexpected is not good.

I bought three nice, fat catfish fillets (at a healthy 8 ounces each), and finished my second bottle of beer while cutting the fillets into quarters. Pat the fillets dry and season with sea salt and cracked pepper. Old bay might be nice here, as would a kick of cayenne if you're feeling adventurous.

When your oil gets up to temperature (I set mine to '6', not very technical but it's the number next to 'High' on my stove), fry corn torillas one at a time and form them into shells. I draped them over the outside of my Twinkie pan, and it was the perfect shape. Next, add your fish to the batter and coat fully and evenly. Gently ease fillets into the oil one at a time, I fried three at a time to give them room to cook evenly and to flip them around in the oil. Depending on the thickness of your fish, cook five to seven minutes until the batter is golden, then drain on a rack resting on paper towels or even better, kraft paper.

While your fish is cooking, and between sips of beer, make your slaw.

4 cups shredded red cabbage
1 cup diced red onion
1 diced jalapeno
juice of one lime
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise

Mix all ingredients and chill until fish is cooked.

To serve, halve a fillet and arrange in a taco shell. Top with slaw and garnish with fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice. Makes 12 tacos. Enjoy!

Friday, July 17, 2009

You are what you eat and I'm a real fun guy.

It's important to me to learn something new every day, to keep the sparks firing in the synapses of my gray matter. Generally speaking, these sparks wind up being useless tidbits of knowledge that result in me not being invited to many parties.

Because I'm annoyingly inquisitive by nature, and because I still view veganism as, well, WRONG, as I ate my free bagel this morning, I decided to do a little research. The Vegan Society defines veganism as such:

"[T]he word "veganism" denotes a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude — as far as is possible and practical — all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals."

I really was thinking about what constitutes the simple breakdown of Animal/Vegetable/Mineral, and was curious about where yeast fell into that simplest of categorization. Yeast is related to mold and mushrooms, and apparently a biological gray area. They fall somewhere between plants and animals, but to me, anything that can turn my white cheese blue, or raise my baguette, or produce alcohol in my beer and wine, is not a stoic little plant. These individual little organisms give their lives to the production of good eating and drinking, and isn't that animalian? I think so.

I declare, therefore, in my little corner of the world, that henceforth, vegans don't get pennicillin or beer.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Other people are often wiser than me, why not take advantage of their wisdom?

Just a few things to share for the day, insightful and creative things that I couldn't put better myself...

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects." Robert Anson Heinlein (via ckck)

If only I'd known these things sooner...

And in case you haven't figured it out, I enjoy bacon. (best commercial quote from the radio this morning: "How can I get my wife to be more like [this preferred brand of] bacon?") Being into the savory things in life, I am rarely attracted to chocolate in purest, Hersheyest form. I prefer the daring flavors. Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The DL on the CL

I've always viewed Craigslist with a bit of a skeptical eye. Though I'm a hardline moderate, things like Craigslist and Birkinstocks make me feel like a radical right-wing conservative. (For that matter, I'm not even going to look up how to spell Birkinstock, for fear it shows up in my browsing history.)

However, we did manage to part with a few overbearing, out-of-style, unused pieces of furniture, and replace them with more stylish pieces for a good deal less than retail. Oh, and Lori got her half-manniquin there. And we've met some nice people as they collect our cast-offs, or we collect theirs.

The winning argument for the greatness of Craigslist came a few weeks ago, when I found my dream desk - an old-school Steelcase. $50 seemed a bargain, since once refurbished, these desks sell for closer to $1500, and I'll keep sitting at the kitchen table for that much money. Sadly, even at $50, I have better things to spend my money on, like that urgent-care visit and the industrial-grade antibiotics for my week-long fever that seemed to kick in about the same time as the desk turned up, so I just figured that the time wasn't right and moved on.

Sunday, I got email from the seller telling me that if I wanted the desk, it was mine. Nobody had claimed it, and she needed the 500-pound monstrosity out of her garage. It's mine! All mine!

Now, it's not pretty, but I was looking for potential, not perfection. There are roller marks in the paint, some of the handles were painted while others were not, and as you can see from behind the chair, not all of the desk was painted.

The red does NOT work with the genuine imitation walnut-grain Formica gracing the top, either.

This does not faze me, since I've been told by my lovely wife that I need a hobby. Desperately. Soon. As in NOW. For my own good and the safety of others.

The goal is far loftier than the above picture suggests to anyone but those with the most discerning eye for diamonds in the rough. The 'after' picture, herein provided by a stunt desk, hints at what I hope to accomplish with my less-than-stellar handyman skills and sketchy follow-through:

Oooh, shiny! I love, too, that my double-sided desk (unlike the single-sided model above) has the deep file drawer on one side, disguised as two single drawers for a remarkable sense of symmetry (like cutting off your other thumb).

The CL truly can rock from time to time. Oh yes, it can.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


When life hands you lemons, make lemonade. When life hands you shrimp instead of the cod you really wanted, roll with it.

I love shrimp, when cooked properly it has a fantastic texture and taste. Add some spice to that, and I usually have a winner.

Spicy Shrimp with Black Bean and Lemon

1 T oil
2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 shallots, thin-sliced
1 T grated ginger
5-6 green onions, halved and sliced lengthwise
2 T black bean paste
2 T white or rice vinegar
1 T chile pepper relish or two red chiles, minced
2 eggs
2 T lemon juice
1 T lemon zest
cooked long-grain rice to accompany

I used my biggest, heaviest frying pan so I could have an even surface for the shrimp. On medium-high heat, add the shallot and ginger, saute until soft. Add shrimp and cook until it begins to turn pink. At this point, add the green onions, black bean paste, chile and vinegar, cover and let shrimp cook through, about four more minutes for the 31-40's I buy. You could also make this with larger shrimp, they'll need to cook a little longer. At the end, scramble in the eggs, add the lemon zest and juice and serve over rice.

This would be nice with some spicy Thai basil as a garnish, I just didn't have any.

4 servings

Friday, July 10, 2009

Similarities between this and a blog are purely coincidental

Not much going on today, so it seems the perfect opportunity to shill for my friend Sarah. Her first book, Dream in Color, is coming out next April, but you can read the first few chapters of her other book here before it gets published. I've known both of these novels since they were random pages in our writers' group, and watched her nurture both through many inceptions.

In addition to 'Dream in Color', Sarah sees so much humor in her everyday life, and is funny and insightful. Go check out her blog.

On a completely unrelated note, I'm thinking of making posole this weekend. Despite the 90+degree weather and 100% humidity, I've really been in a comfort food mood, I'm sure its the stress of it all. Soup, stew, lasagna, potatoes, I'm craving these sorts of things. If it works, I'll post the recipe.

****UPDATE**** I made a variation on the posole with chicken, and it was everything I thought it could be. You should make a batch to enjoy while reading Sarah's blog. After you've read mine, of course.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Manifesto Obvioso

Author's note - Yes, I have a manifesto. No, I don't have a shack in Montana, so nothing to worry about yet. This is not a complete document, but instead something I've been batting around inside my skull for years. There are more rights we have as humans, and certainly more responsibilities. If I've missed something, please add it to the comments! -E-

Many people are confused about the difference between their rights and their responsibilities. You have no right to be handed everything on a silver platter. You DO have the responsibility to work hard and the right to be rewarded for that hard work.

Closed-minded ignorance is destroying world society. You have the responsibility to be informed about the world in which you live, and the responsibility to keep your mind open. If you refuse to listen to opposing viewpoints, your opinions become weak and ineffective. Derogatory, hate-filled opinions give others the right to ignore you (if they weren’t going to, already). By the same token, you have the right to ignore anyone or anything that causes you offense or pain, whether physical or emotional. This does not negate the responsibility you have to be aware of those offenses when forming an opinion.

Get over yourself.

You need not walk a mile in someone’s shoes, but you do need to acknowledge their right to walk that mile themselves without your uninformed and un-requested input. Even if they decide not to wear shoes, and the road is really gravelly and there might be broken glass.

While perhaps you were born yesterday, the modern world society was not. Different countries, different peoples, different cultures and traditions have survived and evolved over centuries to create the world in which we live today. Failure to realize this is nobody’s fault but your own.

History isn’t always beautiful, it isn’t always fair or just or humane. Ignoring the past is wrong as it denies the long and difficult journey behind today’s and tomorrow’s world. However, acknowledging the cruelties of the past does not require us to continue or celebrate those cruelties.

You can complain about anything you want, as long as you realize that nobody wants to hear it. Life is not fair, so if you bring unfairness upon yourself nobody wants to hear it. If you buy a car that gets 3 MPG, you relinquish your right to complain about gas prices. Nobody is force-feeding you saturated fats, injecting lard into your veins while you sleep. Coffee is hot. Knives are sharp. Animals bite and plants contain allergens, and unless they’re an invasive species, they were there before you. If they’re invasive species, another human being screwed up and introduced them, so again, not the plant’s or animal’s fault. Unless the worst of an event actually happens to you, you have no right to say ‘Why did this happen to me?’ ‘Bystander’s Remorse’ is an asinine assumption.

The effectiveness of standing on the street corner with a ‘Homeless, Jobless, Please Help’ sign is often reduced when you’re standing next to someone who took the responsibility to get a thankless, low-paying job holding a sign for a clearance sale or new apartments.

Honesty is not always rewarded, nor is honesty its own reward. Honesty is yet another responsibility, as is tact. Being honest solely for the sake of hurting another person is not right, or fair. And yes, just because life is unfair, you don’t have to go adding to that uphill battle.

You have the responsibility to think of who else you might affect if you’re being selfish. You have the right to be selfish all the same, but the responsibility to know that people might not like you.

Oddly enough, you have the right to be wrong. Nobody can force you to be correct in everything you do. However, you do have the responsibility to accept someone else pointing out your wrongness, and the responsibility to correct anything that can be corrected.

You have the right to fight at a party. The host, at his or her discretion, has the responsibility and right to set you straight.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

So true...

In light of the little Patrick Cudahy fire, I have actually been thinking about bacon more than normal - and that's quite a lot. I think I need the tee shown above. If you need one too, you can click on the blog title itself. I'm not being sponsored by the site, I just really wanted to share the shirt. You can also buy a wide assortment of gourmet bacon. (Is there any other kind?)

I have Ruhlman's Charcuterie at home, and fully intended to make my own bacon before we moved to the basementless sunshine state and I lost my root cellar. I can buy a sausage cabinet that would replicate that environment, so let's just add that to the long list of large, electric-sucking appliances I have at home. I also found several posts for bacon cinnamon rolls. Cinnabon could make a killing with that! Several acquaintances have made bacon vodka, still on my list of goals - a bacon Bloody Mary would be the perfect hair of the dog or brunch accoutrement! Others emailed me pictures of chocolate-covered candied bacon they made one night. My favorite bacon cooking method is just heaven: Thick-cut bacon on a fine-mesh cooking rack over a baking sheet, sprinkle with brown sugar and fresh-cracked black pepper, bake at 400 until crisp and heavenly. Best BLT fixins ever!

Google (or 'Bing' or 'Yahoo' or 'Ask', if you prefer) 'Bacon Fashion' and the possibilities are endless! Bacon-scented bacon tuxedo, bacon shoes, bacon wallet, bacon scarves, bacon bandages, bacon toupees, bacon bikinis and bacon cell-phone covers. I will not, however, be held responsible for any errant Kevin Bacon pictures that may result. That's why they created 'safe-search'.

And the written arts of bacon (as opposed to the written works of Bacon - whether or not you believe the hype that he wrote most of Shakspeare's plays)! There are sites devoted to bacon limericks and bacon haiku, like my own example here:

bacon brings me joy
hot and crispy all fried up
I could eat a pound

Please feel free to share your own fond bacon stories, anecdotes and poetry here. Naughty bacon limericks, anyone?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

I will be stocking up on bacon until the situation improves

I was nearly in applewood-smoke-induced tears last evening, when I saw that Patrick Cudahy, bacon and ham purveyor extraordinaire in Cudahy, WI was engulfed in flames for several days. It is a sad, sad day when children may have to go hungry for lack of pre-cooked bacon in their parents' grocery stores.

I like bacon. Truly, truly, enjoy it. My favorite recipes involve bacon,
like this one from my other blog. I have travelled to Rome for the simple joy of spaghetti carbonara. I buy impulse items at the grocery store and unhealthy restaurants based solely upon the word 'bacon' in the name. I'm jealous of my friend Lisa who received this for a birthday gift one year.

Strangely, though, what concerns me more, being as I am an uncompassionate fat guy, is that the loss of pre-cooked bacon doesn't concern me nearly as much as the jobs of those employees, and the fate of one of my childhood icons, with their holiday jingle running through my head even as you read this. And at the same time, to think that a fire that burned for days, consumed millions of gallons of water just to mock the efforts of 27 fire departments, that nobody was injured in all of that.

Kind of makes me want some bacon.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Life with Mikey

Life is not simple. It is not a choice between cherry red and midnight blue. And with all the decisions of life weighing on me and threatening to set off the old ticker like a time bomb, the last thing I need to decide is which of the 83.7 pre-programmed options on the microwave to use.

I don't typically cook in the microwave. I have pans and pots and a nice stove and the wherewithal to use them all in conjunction with one another to produce edible, if not downright delicious, creations. No, the microwave in my life has three simple uses, for which I need two buttons, total.

First, the 'Minute Plus' button. When I make the steam-in-the-bag veggies, reheat leftovers, or melt cheese on tortilla chips, or for the occasional Ceremonial Boiling of the Water (the 'CBW') for flavored gelatin desserts, TheraFlu or (gasp) Cup-o-Ramen, I can press this as many times as I need to make the nuclear magic happen.

Second, the 'Popcorn' button. Sure, I could over-simplify and use the 'Minute Plus' again, but that would actually require me to remember time to time how long popcorn takes, and I'm just not that into it.

Finally, if the safety gestapo at U.L. inist, a 'Cancel/Clear' button. But really, who uses that? I will always - ALWAYS - cancel the operation by opening the door. If there's time left on the timer, I'll probably just use it up next time I call on Chef Mike, IF I haven't lost power between the last time and the next time. The Florida power grid is reliable only in that I can expect it to go out once a day.

As for the buttons I don't need:

The numbers - the only time these get used is when I'm foolishly resetting the clock after the most recent power outage. Otherwise, am I using my microwave to call Taiwan for a replacement carousel? No. Don't need the numbers. If I need more time than I get by pressing the 'Minute Plus' button, I'm just going to press it again.

'Reheat' - Really? Is this for the last three people on the planet who've never SEEN a microwave before? That's what it does.

'Potato' - How many times do I have to say this? If I want to blow up produce, I will use the 'Minute Plus' button!

'Beverage' - Did you see the CBW discussion above? Two minutes on high and that baby's rolling.

'Rolls/Muffins' - What kind of muffins? English muffins? Chocolate chip muffins? Bran muffins? And rolls? Sure, I fought the toaster oven's appearance on my kitchen counter, but at least when I want bread warmed up (or even 'toasted', if you will) it doesn't turn to shoe leather five seconds after I pull it from the tray.

'Vegetable' - Yes, I get a different button for potatoes than I get for the rest of my vegetables. Agri-segregation IS WRONG.

'Defrost' - This requires a brief stop at 'Master's degree in Physics' territory, because you cannot effectively defrost ANYTHING in a microwave. Sadly, food is generally not frozen in an ideal defrostable state for the microwave, i.e. a big ball, so I always wind up with a frozen block of ground beef surrounded by slimy gray ground beef. Turns out you CAN spell 'microwave' without 'even heating'.

Call me old-school, but my favorite microwaves are the ones with the simple dial. One dial, with numbers, no frills, I could even do without the carousel. Anything to reduce the stress. How cherry red is that?

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Jim Stafford said it best

So I'm no mighty outdoorsman. Anyone who knows me knows that already, and loves me just the same. No, really. I can camp with the best of them, fend off invading raccoons while Dammit Dog sleeps peacefully, cook over the fire in the pouring rain (Coleman fuel rocks), and trudge through swamps and ravines without ever getting poison ivy. I can let the woodsmoke build on my skin until the skeeters can't break through, and I can climb out of the tent while putting shoes on while not tracking any sand back inside.

However, there are limits to my manliness. Limits to how much nature I want in my nature. And as far as I'm concerned, nature should stay where nature knows best and not in my air-conditioned, sterile non-natural cocoon of a house.

Anyhow, Friday night, we were enjoying the Deadliest Catch marathon from the sterile, non-natural cocoon of our house when Dammit Dog (officially known as Quincy to everyone else), who normally only barks at inopportune times and NOT at impending doom, wigged out behind the couch. We got up in time to see the tail end of a snake creeping behind his food bin.

I should take a moment to mention that the vet recommended some sort of VegiDent chews for Dammit Dog to take the hassle out of his annual cleaning, and the dog has subsequently become addicted to them. Addicted, as in "I'm going to stare at my food bin until you give me a bone, even if that's six hours from now" addicted. So I'm sure the issue was not that a two-foot snake had somehow found its way into our home, but that it was potentially going after his treats.

I should also mention that I'm allergic to snakes, and I break out in screaming and swearing fits. Not pretty at all.

The snake found his way around the food bin and under the curio cabinet, which is laden with all things glass and fragile. While Lori hunted for the number for Animal Control, I took the collection of vases off the top of the cabinet and pulled one side away from the wall enough to get a clear view of a potentially striped, maybe ringed, possibly spotted snake. All the identification guides online somehow expect me to perform an intense, up-close inspection of the snake, take down its vitals, see how hard it bites, etc.

So after determining that it was NOT a coral snake (which, per the AC guy, would actually need to chew on me to inject poison - BIG comfort), he decided from my non-herpetological descripton, that it must be a scarlet king snake.

This left me with two options from the AC guy, my way of snake removal or his way of snake removal. I opted initially for his way, until he informed me that his way cost $250. Suddenly, my way seemed okay. Armored with oven mitts, and armed with the longest barbecue tongs we could find, I pulled the cabinet further from the wall and went in. And panicked, dropping him again once he thrashed about the first time. Two for the show, I got a firm grip, Lori threw the patio door aside and I dropped him as animally friendly as I could muster. He seemed slightly offended, beyond him hissing at me the whole time I was shining the flashlight in his eyes. Not that snakes have shoulders but I think he shrugged at me before slithering off in a huff.

Yesterday's perusal of the Florida Snake Guide tells me it was NOT a scarlet king snake, after all. Don't know what it was for sure, possibly some sort of water snake, or anaconda, or pit viper, or who knows what. Time to get the 'Great Stuff' out again.

Yesterday, while cleaning house, we had another visit, this time from one of the happy, bouncing, non-threatening hand-sized wolf spiders that somehow get in from time to time. Unlike my normal reaction of screaming like a little girl while swearing like the lummox that I am and unloading half a can of insect killer on it, I took matters more directly and put the smackdown on him with one of Lori's sneakers. Once I was sure he was dead, I smacked him eight or nine more times, to make sure.

I really don't like spiders and snakes. Period.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A Rumble of Dissention

So, from time to time, I get around to dropping a little something creative into the ether. Eventually I'll have a whole series of my unfinished novels and short stories to share, but for now, poemize I must - mainly because it's late, I'm stuck at work, and I'm trying to avoid eating the yogurt I was saving for lunch tomorrow.


I’ve got the borborygmi
And I rock it like a pygmy
Hangin’ loose with rumbling in my belly

I could use a snack or
Some cheese upon a cracker
Or even just a spoon and sweet grape jelly

These noises and vibrations
Could frighten third-world nations
With their anger and disdain for all around me

It’s not that I’ve not eaten
I have that disorder beaten
But the persistence of the noises quite astound me

Some call it borborygmus
But a singular ain’t quite just
Since rumblin’s come in threes or fours or dozens

They start out quite discreetly
Then drown out noise completely
As the rumblings soon are joined by all their cousins

So I’ll try to quell the voices
Raised by iffy dietary choices
And get upon a schedule neat and tidy

I’ll dine five times each day so
The gurgling goes away, though
I’m sure such rigid tasks will fail to guide me.

If the Buick ain't happy, ain't nobody happy...

Now I understand more fully why I have flood insurance. It rains in Florida, I'm no stranger to that. However, before today, I've never feared for my car just leaving the subdivision. The creek/gulley that runs behind the houses was full as I crept down the center of my road, and I'm sure by now the pool is overflowing as well.

Even now, I can hear cars outside the office driving through a foot or more, rain that falls faster than the storm drains can suck it down. And I passed more than a few of these:

Of course, I could rejoice slightly that I had the Buick, and didn't have to ride the bike in, like the rainsuited Hayabusa rider I passed on the crosstown. As some of you already know, I have a hard time keeping the bike upright on dry pavement.

For the most part, I was able to remain a sane, safe driver. For the last few blocks of my drive, though, I had the choice of turning around or driving through a foot or more of flowing water. Hint: if the puddle has cresting waves, DON'T drive through it. I did, with a dumptruck coming towards me, pedal down, not looking to see if the water was flowing in around the doors, and all the while my engine going 'Rrrr-rrr-rrr-rrr'. I did manage to make it to the office, since I know that stopping in the puddle is the worst thing to do.

When I got out of the car, the wheel wells were all smoking. I can hope I didn't crack the block in the process, that would probably be bad.

Be nice and share!

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