Saturday, February 26, 2005

More later

I made chocolate mini-souffle cakes for Numbah One Son's school's booth at the Farmer's Market. I made 48. Within 20 minutes someone bought them all out.

I rule.

Posted by Joke at 10:37 AM 2 comments

Friday, February 25, 2005

Misty look back at the Golden Age

...when my slow season meant I put in, say, 15 hours a week of labor and mostly puttered like a proper househusband.

I must also confess my shame that I have pilfered--in whole or in part, but usually the former--much of my bloggage from the lovely and gracious Poppy. At any rate, I will try to shed the straightjacket of Blog Slackage by raving about dinnah.

Since Friday is a No Meat Zone, I decided to go all out and roast a bit of pork loin. I had a lot of lovely sage and thyme and pork just suggested itself. The butcher had just the thing and I was off and running. One trick I figured out was to remove the griddle/grill from my cooktop, thereby exposing the lo-o-o-o-o-ong element. I then rested the roasting pan directly on the element. Normally, cookbooks that want you to do this sort of thing suggest you use cooktop burners, but those invariably leave a cold spot in the middle, owing to the gap between said burners. But with one long element, no gap, no cold spot.

A couple of tablespoons of EVOO went in the pan and once I saw the oil shimmer, the pork, having been rubbed with sea salt, pepper and grated lemon peel went in for a sear. Most people treat these sorts of cuts (loins, tenderloins etc.) as 2 sided, when in reality they are 4-sided. So I gave it a good sear on all 4 sides. I scattered the cut-up stalks of spring onions, 7-8 cloves of whole (& intact) garlic cloves, two juiced lemons (whence the peel came), put the pork on the rack and rested the rack (with the pork) in the pan where its juices would land on the alliums involved. I added about a cup of water to the pan to give the lemon juice a "cushion" while the pork juices materialized. Then I scattered fresh thyme and sage and put it in a 275F oven w. the temperature probe (the cheaper, non-remote version of this) set for 165F.

Two hours later I took out the pan, covered the pork in aluminum foil and let it rest while I sauteed some spinach with garlic, red pepper flakes and teeny touch of anchovy...WOW. The meat was JUST done (TFBIM doesn't care for any pork under well-done, no matter that any wee ferlie beasties would have died 15F degrees earlier), juicy, tender. The garlic and oniony bits had caramelized and the meyer lemon juice had cooked down to a (not TOO) tangy glaze.

I had also a pot of fresh cranberry beans simmering with a sprig of rosemary and EVOO and garlic. Molto yummy!

-J.

Posted by Joke at 7:59 AM 0 comments

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Much Like A Broadway Producer...

I am seemingly incapable of coming up with an original thought. So, I swiped this, again from the estimable Poppy (a great gal, snappy dresser and all-around stellar pal):

TV shows I've never seen:

Ally McBeal
American Idol
Angel
The Bachelor
Baywatch
Beauty and the Beast
Beverly Hills 90210
Boy Meets World
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Chicago Hope
Dawson's Creek
Desperate Housewives
Ellen
ER
Family Guy
Gilmore Girls
Hawaii Five-0
Highlander
Home Improvement
The Iron Chef
I'll Fly Away
Judging Amy
King of the Hill
King of Queens
LA Law
Law And Order
Melrose Place
My So-Called Life
Northern Exposure
NYPD Blue
That 70s Show
The Apprentice
The O.C.
The Osbornes
Picket Fences
Quantum Leap
Queer As Folk
Queer Eye for the Straight Guy
Real World
Red Dwarf
Road Rules
Roseanne
Sabrina
Saved by the Bell
St. Elsewhere
Seventh Heaven
Six Feet Under
Smallville
Sopranos
Square Pegs
Stargate
Star Trek (inc. its myriad progeny)
The Practice
The Swan
The Tick
The View
The West Wing
This Old House
Touched by an Angel
Twin Peaks
Will and Grace
Wings
The Wonder Years
Xena

I'll inform the world what they SHOULD watch at a later date.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 11:56 AM 0 comments

Not Necessarily How To Get The Girl Of Your Dreams

A few months back, a pretty neat book on business came out entitled (something like) It's Not The Big That Eat The Little, It's The Fast That Eat The Slow. This is a concept which, while I never had encapsulated for me like that, I often applied to my social pursuits when I was a carefree bachelor. Back then, while I may have been handsome-enough, there were others whose handsomeness exceeded my own, and whose allowances afforded them more of an opportunity to readily dazzle.

But I had to use my animal cunning and also to apply some of the principles I had absorbed in the course being a business major, in order for me to meet with success in the face of serious competition.

1- Select a target market in which you have a reasonable expectation of success
2- Understand your target market's needs
3- Understand your target market's wants
4- Understand your target market's behavior patterns
5- Understand your target market's history, insofar as you can
6- Learn how to determine an individual's belonging to the target market (This is key)
7- Understand your strengths and weaknesses (This is likewise key)

In my case, I quickly figured out the most welcoming territory (in military parlance, " a target-rich environment") was the English Dept. and the female students who populated its rolls. Why?
1- Most of the girls there were a sensitive* sort (which complemented the fact I am a genuinely nice, and caring person)
2- Most of the girls there had a fondness for verbal ability (which worked well, seeing as how I was bringing a particularly nice Jesuit school vocabulary, writing skill and conversational ability to bear on the matter)
3- Most of the girls there appreciated someone with a keen knowledge of literature (of which I was the proud possessor) especially if this was wholly unexpected of that someone on account of his being, say, a finance major. The element of pleasant surprise cannot be overstated. If a guy majoring in English could rattle off Yeats that's no great shakes, that's expected; but a "business guy" declaiming Othello or knowledgeably discussing e.e. cummings immediately showed depths of which the target market was inordinately fond.
4- Most of the girls there were not overly swayed by flaunted wealth. Sure, they liked to have some of the niceties of college life and appreciated a guy who didn't have to forage through the sofa cushions for the change required by the dorm's coin operated laundry machine, but a Corvette and gold chains were lost on them.

From there, one has to whittle one's prospects. Those who were married or engaged or "back in school now that the kids left home" were not considered. Those whose physiognomy was not coincident with my preferences were likewise allowed to remain undisturbed. Those who had an argumentative or pushy streak were, frankly, shunned. Smokers were pretty much shunned also, unless they had some impressively compensatory traits. Those who read REALLY depressing poetry were treated with great concern, since it was not unreasonable to imagine them glamorizing suicide and to be perfectly honest, I have an aversion to having to dial 9-1-1 or zooming to the ER or, in a worst-case-scenario having a pickaxe going through my door because she "just wanted to say good night." (The latter actually did happen to a friend of mine.)

Then, having determined those who were not to be in the running, the logical thing would be to focus on those candidates whose life circumstances and/or personality traits would make them more receptive to one's approach. I must be perfectly clear that, quite often, I didn't (and still don't) know why belonging to a certain category made someone more amenable to my entreaties--and ascertaining why would take a different sort of person--but I was sufficiently pleased to have determined the correlation. Among these were:

a) Women who took public transportation

b) Women whose parents divorced (This, now that I see it written--by me no less!--strikes me as calculating, heartless and mercenary. I freely admit I was not, in my Wilderness Years, an even remotely competent arbiter of goodness and decency and morality. In fact, I had a calculating streak that is only now sort of under some semblance of control.)

c) Women who seemingly went out of their way to make me laugh and thought me funny

d) Women who knew dialogue from movies, in particular, movies which were not "chick flicks."

e) Women who worked as waitresses. NEVER anyone who was waiting on me, because that would be crass and vile and base. But those who were doing a stint as a waitress always proved to be--for some reason--particularly responsive.

f) Women who had a long record of going out with idiots. Not only did they appreciate the refreshing change of anyone who was kind, funny and smart, but they inevitably grew tired of anyone who was not an idiot and eventually did the leaving, the better to return to their calling: dating idiots.

Another interesting subtype is the Breakout Rebel. She's the person who reminds you of the girl in the song "The Greeks Don't Want No Freaks" by The Eagles. Having grown up in a (thinks she) constricting and suffocating environment, she goes on a tear while at college. Usually she was an athletic sort, from a rather strict sort of Evangelical/Fundamentalist (I've also heard--but cannot attest--Mormon) home. While in HS, she didn't want to go completely ape while her parents were watching, but once she was outside their supervision, she took the opportunity to "step out high, broad and handsome." The impulse to make up for lost time combined with a searing curiosity has a great appeal...but can also prove dangerous.

The one last thing I learned (and it has to be learned on one's own) is that at every decent-sized party one attends there will be one (VERRRRY rarely, two) woman who is going with the express purpose of leaving the party, for the comfort of her own apartment, as quickly as possible with a suitable escort for company that evening. Quite often, this woman, regardless of her own manifold qualities, will settle for whomever materializes first and seems compatible with her plans. This, clearly, mitigates any charm that one could bring to bear. So it is crucial, therefore, to spot this individual quickly and establish communications with her.

Lastly, I want to draw a sharp distinction between being calculating and being manipulative. The latter is someone who gets someone else to do things that someone else might not have wanted to do. Which is loathsome. Calculating is establishing a coldly effective system for seeking out and locating someone who is amenable to your plans.

-J.

* The ones who masked their sensitivity with sarcasm, whimsy, etc. were a subspecies especially amenable to my personality.

Posted by Joke at 8:15 AM 1 comments

A Semi-Examined Life

I swiped this from Poppy. Like her, I left out the stuff I did*, so you'll have to travel up the blogging food chain to see what I, in fact, have done. I also took the liberty of throwing in comments and explanations.

I’ve Never Crashed A Friend’s Car
I’ve Never Been To Japan.
I’ve Never Done Cocaine (that's so...Studio 54...ew)
I’ve Never Been Fired (one of the perks of self-employment)
I’ve Never Been Arrested (I've been bawled out by a cop several times)
I’ve Never Celebrated New Years In Time Square (OMG, why?)
I’ve Never Had A Crush On A Teacher or Professor (not out of any sense of moral rectitude or academic integrity, both of which I have by the bushel, incidentally, but...if you saw their picture, you'd understand)
I’ve Never Slept With A Co-Worker (see above)
I’ve Never Cut Myself On Purpose
I’ve Never Posed Nude
I’ve Never Been Divorced
I’ve Never Gotten Someone Drunk Just To Have Sex With Her (Not sportsmanlike)
I’ve Never Killed Anyone (the temptation HAS been great, though)
I’ve Never Received Scars From My Sex Partner (or anyone else's either)
I’ve Never Thrown Up In A Bar (I've barely thrown up at all!)
I’ve Never Taken a Hallucinogenic Drug (in fact, I've never done ANY recreational drug, unless you count the 2nd hand smoke one finds at concerts)
I’ve Never Purposely Set A Part Of Myself On Fire (not literally, anyway)
I’ve Never Flashed Anyone (not purposefully, anyway)

When you look at it this way--damn, boy!--I seem like SUCH a Boy Scout. Which, coincidentally, I was; earning a merit badge in cookery, knotwork and 1st Aid.

-J.

* From the When You Put It That Way Dept.: A lot of the stuff I did (most of which, for the record, goes back well over two decades) seems kind of icky now that I see it in writing.

Posted by Joke at 6:57 AM 4 comments

Monday, February 21, 2005

Blog envy

Over the last few days, feverish with a searing boredom, I have been bloghopping like a muhfuh. I have also realized how absolutely inadequate my own blog's content is.

Partly it's my own feckless nature. I have received explicit directions for adding counters, pictures, etc. to my blog...and, while I firmly intend to effect those changes, I haven't yet. But deeper still, I seem to be unable to post anything to do with real vexation, marital discord/strife, substance abuse, mental health problems, serious financial worries, serious health concerns, loathsome relatives or relatives-in-law (actual or potential) or sharply rebuking the mores with which I was reared.

In fact, all of these can be summed up by a blog which Poppy related to me (so the following may be apocryphal or at least wildly inaccurate) about a guy whose wife is CLEARLY suffering from post-partum depression and, since women suffering from post-partum depression are likely not to feel randily amorous, he spends a considerable time releasing his pent up stress via the, er, visual aid afforded him by the Internet. To take this tale to whole new depths, he seemingly contains (not, mind you, conceals) the evidence in his baby's burp cloth; and then leaves the aforementioned cloth for his PPDing wife to find. The punchline: He feels victimized.

I cannot compete with that. Hell, I can't even get in a starting block in the same stadium as that. The train-wreck appeal of the unfolding dysfunction of something like that, is, quite frankly, damned impressive. All I can do is ramble about clothes and audiovisual gear and Italian sports cars, and maybe New Wave music, PG Wodehouse and Harry Potter. I choose not to rant about religion (mine or others') or politics. In the street lingo of the 80s--clearly my milieu--I am "takin' it light."

Some, clearly more enlightened and less judgmental souls than I, will ponder how people like the Burp Cloth Bandit can post such things for, as it were, public consumption. Of course, beneath the veneer of fair and openminded tolerance, I am a complete prick and as such I wonder how this guy could be shipped off to live with some aboriginal tribe, where a wife suffering from PPD is more likely to spear him and braise him for the next Amazon Basin Potluck if he were to be caught releasing his frustrations on the baby's burp banana leaf, using some lurid cave paintings as fodder for his self-abuse.

But, in the interest of bettering my blog for you, dear reader, I will relate a relatively sordid story of my very immediate past. Last night I awoke, my naughty bits afire. No, sadly, not THAT way and, quite fortunately, not literally afire. They sure FELT as if they were in mid-combustion or possibly as if a pack of rats were gnawing upon them. I immediately--tears streaming down my cheeks--repaired to our bathroom to investigate the crisis. It seems that for as yet unexplored reasons, SEVERAL big-ass globs of detergent powder had lodged and caked themselves in the most inconvenient spots of my underclothing possible. As the evening wore on, body heat released the magical cleansing goodness upon my delicate parts. Said magical cleansing goodness (clearly new and improved) immediately took it upon itself to do its work upon my, um, person causing great discomfort.

But this all pales with the speechlessness which immediately follows being busted--at 3am by one's wife--in a bathtub with one's afflicted portions covered by a soothing blanket of ice cubes.

Posted by Joke at 11:14 AM 5 comments

Sunday, February 20, 2005

I'm an idiot and I deserve whatever befalls me

I mentioned this in an IM to Poppy, and I'll just out myself on this: I'm an idiot.

The whole Presidents Day three day weekend thing so didn't blip on my radar. TFBIM and I have these two tickets-to-anywhere* we bought at a silent auction back last August, if memory serves. With someone with
1- An extraordinarily high proportion of friends well beyond a one day drive,
2- Work (even when I'm in PT SAHD mode) that gets appallingly stressful,
3- Offspring who practically demand you temporarily exile yourself from your parental duties and
3-A wife whose Tax Season duties make you feel as if her flopping into bed with you is some sort of illicit, tawdry one-night-stand

...you'd think I would have used my supercomputer brain to piece all these factoids into something along the lines of "Hey, honey, let's get away for the long weekend!"

One of our favorite defaults when my brain is acting properly (as opposed to acting like a greyish sponge with only a volt or two going through it) is Chicago. Mostly because Poppy and her crowd are there and there are so very, very few things better in life than loitering with Poppy** and/or her crowd. (I've said this in other fora*** and I'll say it again: If you don't have your own Poppy, get one, now.) Poppy is usually kind enough to let us crash at her place, and when her social calendar is so full, to the extent said place is unavailable, there are many excellent, cool, quaint hotel choices (which will accept FF miles in lieu of money) within a 2 block radius of Poppy's base of operation. Furthermore, Poppy invariably has something fun--even if it's only a three-hour lunch--going on.

Above and beyond the manifest excellence which is Poppy et cie., I have two of my favorite clients in Chicago and that renders the whole thing a business expense and thus my family's CFO is even more delighted than usual.

On top of that, Chicago has excellent shopping and I appreciate that certain stores will have different selections there than here (quite possibly a function of the differences in local tastes in combination with the seasonality with which Chicagoans are afflicted). Also, as befits a city that was mature well before the advent of automobiles, these places are, essentially, concentrated in one spot, whereas here Sprawl Is The Order Of The Day. Even if something precluded going to Chicago to loiter with Poppy and crew, we still have Scottsdale with my pal Mike or LA with my pal Jen, etc., etc.

You get the picture.

So you can imagine how crestfallen I was to realize I had completely blown this. While I handle adversity far better than most people, I handle mistakes far, far worse. In sum, this has wrecked my weekend, even though it's only half over.

Aiding and abetting the wrecking of the weekend is the fact my sister (& BiL) and TFBIM's brother and his wife all went away. My sister went to Mt. Dora, FL, a place that, on three-day weekends, holds a giganticmous antiques/flea market thing. She usually returns with a Paul Revere tea service that cost her $45 or a solid rosewood dining room table for $180 or something like that. Naturally, we volunteered to take in my niece (Codename: Madeline) and she'd sleep over. I was informed on Friday we had volunteered. I was also informed we had volunteered to take--SIMULTANEOUSLY, mind you--TFBIM's niece and nephew (Codename: Hansel & Gretel...and think of the Loony Tunes rendition.) while my other BiL and his wife went to Las Vegas.

No offense to Las Vegas, but, with very few, very specific exceptions...I just don't see the point in my going. I don't gamble and I could think of few things more appalling than catching a show there. (I'm sure there are plenty of Las Vegans**** who think complementary thoughts about Miami, which is fine by me.) It is a mild annoyance my BiL keeps saying to us "You guys should go." when informing us of one of their upcoming trips with several of their/our (but mostly, "their") friends. Then again, they dragged us aboard one of those gambling cruises that departs from the port of Miami, goes out the 3 miles to "international waters" and turns on the gaming machinery's wallet-suctioning devices--to celebrate his birthday.

But that's not as bad as the parents of a certain friend of TFBIM's who left Miami to retire in Las Vegas. Yes, visions of Social Security checks being swallowed by slot machines one nickel at a time spring to mind. (They also left their only grandchild here in Miami and guilt their daughter, TFBIM's pal, into schlepping out to Las Vegas with a 7 year old in tow because "they miss her.")

But whatevah. BiL & Mrs. BiL are in Las Vegas and they are having immense, if bucolic, fun. My sister and Mr. Sister are doing likewise. We are stuck here doing a low-rent touring company production of Cheaper By The Dozen.

Bugger.

* In the 48 contiguous states, Saturday stay required, other restrictions apply.
** Considering how Poppy and crowd live, uh, like, 23 states away, we manage to see each other a lot. Far more than friends we have who live 45 minutes up the interstate.
*** Don't be uncultured, please.
**** Yes, I know that looks funny.

Posted by Joke at 5:50 AM 0 comments

Friday, February 18, 2005

Your orders are like commands to me

Poppy asks and I, partly out of deference but mostly out of boredom, comply, with my answers to the following:

1. Song that sounds like happy feels I would pick "What I Like About You" by The Romantics.

2. Earliest memory of pop music Nat "King" Cole En Español, in which N"K"C sang Spanish-language standards (Perfidia, etc.) and is still an amazing album because of N"K"C's talent and yet hilarious because of N"K"C's severe accent.

3. Last CD you bought Lilo & Stitch Soundtrack. Although technically, the last album I bought was Donald Fagen's The Nightfly, easily THE BEST RECORDED album. Ever. (Holly Cole's Don't Smoke In Bed is close as is Pink Floyd's SACD of Dark Side Of The Moon, but still, even after 23 years nothing--but nothing--beats the audiophile goodness of Fagen at the peak of his powers.) But I bought it as a DVD-A, not a CD and, given I am a strict constructionist, I answer questions accordingly.

4. Reminds you of school K.C. & The Sunshine Band's K.C. & The Sunshine Band reminds me of junior high (what middle school used to be called before bedwetters inflitrated the system) in a bad way. Fleetwood Mac's Rumours reminds me of high school in a bad way, Talking Heads' Life During Wartime reminds me of high school in a good way. Agent Orange's Living In Darkness reminds of college, in a great way. Depeche Mode's Violator reminds me of B-school, in a pretty OK way.

5. Total music files on your PC Damned near 70G. I have about 35G in my Nomad (like an iPod, but better: it is cheaper, can double as a HD backup and, most importantly of all, is not made by Apple) . I also have burned not a few to CD, but most of these are audiobooks I have ripped to MP3.

6. Song for listening to repeatedly when depressed If you want a counterpoint to your depression, "License To Dance" by Josie Cotton is a good bet. If you want to complement the depression, "Stormy Monday" by T-Bone Walker is key, if you want to exaggerate your depression "Hazy Shade of Winter" by The Bangles is ideal.

7. Song That Sounds British But Isn't "Birdhouse In Your Soul" by They Might Be Giants.

8. Song you love, band you hate "Chains of Love" by Erasure.

9. A favorite song from the past that took ages to track down "Pleasure & Pain" by the Divinyls. Poppy said "Thank heavens for Limewire" and she's righter than she knows.

10. Bought the album for one good song "Promise" by When In Rome (from their self-titled album).

11. Worst song to get stuck in your head Anything by the ABBA, which is what the sound system in Hell plays 24/7. "Fernando" is particularly execrable.

12. Best song to dump a beer on someone's head to, then storm out of the bar "One Minute" by (really!) Weird Al Yankovic. Whenever he is not making parodies, he is a actually a very gifted composer and lyricist. A close runner-up would be Martin Briley's "You Ain't Worth The Salt In My Tears."

13. Who should do this next This girl.

Posted by Joke at 2:40 PM 1 comments

Foodie ramblings

Given that it's Lent and that I am a practicing Catholic and that it is Friday, it is clearly inevitable that I'd be having impure thoughts about a bone-in ribeye (oh, shut up). I am an omnivore and always have been, although the actual amount I consume of beef, poultry, etc. is pretty slim.

So it stands to reason today I should crave something the size of a hubcap.

Instead I must make do and try to get my umami blast elsehow. I am thinking of making ceviche. I was thinking also of making some hard-seared tuna, but that makes Trilby wince (or gag, I forget). Tuna is good when one is craving something in the meat family, but for one reason or another, that isn't about to happen. I'd make tuna tartare, which I think makes Trilby happy, but which TFBIM cannot stand.

So this gets me thinking of grilled mahi-mahi with peanut sauce or maybe a honey/chipotle/lime glaze, which might do instead of ceviche (I'd go with scallops--if I can get fresh ones--and/or shrimp, which are always available fresh) if the evening proves cooler than warmer. Naturally, either would pair well with scallion/coconut-infused jasmine rice and some seared leeks or spring onions spiked with a chile/ginger dressing.

Then, if the evening is warm, I'm figuring on some sort of melon sorbet with mint and ginger...and if it's cool (I mean, really, we hit 83F today), grilled pineapple slices with a rum and molasses glaze. Not sure about the wine, but I have a couple of bottles of 2003 Edna Valley Vineyards Paragon Sauvignon Blanc which suggest themselves.

A lot of people--even those who might say "yum"--cannot understand thinking this way every day (and twice on weekends). Me? It's just the way I think and it has the added felicity of keeping TFBIM from getting angry with me, or minimizing her wrath when she has had quite enough of my drivel.

Tonight I could have done no wrong. I made a spinach salad with pancetta & gorgonzola dressing (kinda rich, but a little goes a long way and the buttermilk in the dressing alleviates any remnant of guilt) and then Rigatoni alla Romagnola (a medium simmered tomato based sauce with a little bit of ground beef [¼lb. for 4 people] and acres of very finely diced onion, and shavings of parmigiano-reggiano...muy yummy) and damned if TFBIM didn't go for seconds. (Even Numbah One Son ate his serving without complaint...very high praise indeed)

Between the food and the wine (2001 Bosco Montepulciano d'Abruzzo) TFBIM only wanted a cappuccino for dessert and as such my evening's foodiness was complete. It only stands to reason I should be curling up in my fave chair with a cookbook: Schlesinger & Willoughby's Let The Flames Begin.

Posted by Joke at 6:01 AM 0 comments

To sleep, perchance to blog

Well, dammit.

It's 4am and I am up.

I have many friends who sleep blissfully and they all look at me--and have looked at me, those of you who've been saddled with my friendship for too damn long...you know who you are--as if insomnia is to be pitied or censured.

The real problem with sleeping so little is the boredom. I can't play anything on the home theatre setup, I can't talk to anyone (at least not anyone worth talking to) and I can't flick on a light and read. So I am here, blogging away something I will almost certainly regret and/or puzzle over.

It is interesting to note that almost all of the things which have landed me axle-deep in trouble have been borne of boredom. In fact, I once entagled myself in the worst girlfriend-ish situation because she called one night and caught me in a vulnerable moment: I was bored. It took me seven months of wriggling to extricate myself from that train wreck. Hint: The situations spawned by the phrase "Sure! Why not?" are likely to come back to haunt you. Hint #2: Dating a girl whose BEST FRIENDS call her "PsychoBitch" is probably unwise.

AMHIK.

One of the more-or-less harmless ways to kill time when you're awake but nobody else is awake is to go blog hopping. You read your pals' blogs (I PROMISE to update my links...sorry) and then read THEIR pals' (or, at least I assume they are my pals' pals) blogs, and next thing you know, the feeling--much like the feeling you get as you make out the wreckage of a singularly impressive car crash--of being drawn into a vortex of puzzlement/horror overcomes you.

Frankly, the semi-voyeuristic thrill (Is this woman ACTUALLY proclaiming her ::cough, cough:: availability? Why did this guy name all his bow ties? Is all this obsession with nasal secretions healthy? Are all those nasal secretions healthy?) leaves you empty after a while, like a mild hangover. Particularly dangerous are blogs by people who have Seriously Bad Things going on in their life and/or some sort of bipolar/depression thing going on. I am am horrified, but I can't look away, at least not at 4am. But it's all I have at this ungodly hour.

To be perfectly honest, one of my very favorite things to do while on a blogcrawl is count how many people would seemingly be driven insane by me IRL. It's fun to annoy these people, even if just conceptually. ("Hey, that libertarian idiot is rambling about his Italian car. AGAIN.)

That's the fuel that powers the engine of the manly bounty that is me, and it makes me like my pals even more.

Posted by Joke at 4:10 AM 0 comments

Thursday, February 17, 2005

The Easy Way

As I partook of my sorta daily ramble along the Blog-O-Sphere, I was struck by the fact that many, many blogs have the "no comment" thing selected. Said bloggers, although well within their rights, are really doing things the hard way. I mean, sure, if you are still griping about Sacco & Vanzetti or railing against the Civilian Conservation Corps, you may wish to turn a deaf, uh, screen to those among us who might wish to tether you ever closer to reality.

But there is a very easy way to avoid comments on your blog. Talk about your car.

This is because cars are SUCH a personal thing that nobody will look at the matter in the same way as you do, and certainly nobody in your everyday life. Write about your Ford 350 4x4 and they'll just yawn at the country club. Mention your 1926 Marmon Meteor and the guys at the firm will roll their eyes. And so on.

Me, I like vintage Italian sports cars. At best, I get bemused glances when expressing my preferences. Sometimes the reaction is incredulousness, sometimes outright hostility. But when I put digit to keyboard, the reaction is a blissful silence. Nobody gives a #$%&.

Still, I love my car. Richard, the Italo-Jamaican wizard, set the beast running in fine fettle again and all is right with the world. Frankly, there is nothing more glorious than being in a beautiful, screaming-atomic-tomato-red sports car tooling down the highways on a mild, sunny day; while the rest of the world has to make do with slothful minivans or lumbering SUVs in the slush and drizzle of late-winter America.

So what if it doesn't have power anything?

Posted by Joke at 4:45 PM 4 comments

Out of the mouths of babes...

Numbah One Son likes to complain--and if you have a seven year old at some nearby point in your life's arc, this phrase will be familiar--that something or other "just isn't fair." As a grownup you are reminded on an hourly basis exactly how unfair everything is. This tale of woe and unfairness meanders a while, so you best go and get a soothing beverage for yourself and return quickly; I'll wait.





Ah. Good.

Our tale begins around 1970. It was a year in which I expressed much hope for the future, having waved goodbye and good riddance to the 1960s. I was, of course, a fool. While the 1960s were like A Bad Neighborhood, the 1970s would prove to be the equivalent of a gang-infested housing project. But I didn't know that at the time, I was only six years old. Part of the reason for my optimism was that I started making choices for myself. One of those choices was in breakfast cereal. The breakfast cereal of choice was the eminently superior "Quake." Quake's archrival was Quisp and, while Quisp made a yummy bowl, Quake provided earthquake power to help me bore right through the grueling demands of a first-grade day.

But in 1972, it was decided the children of America should vote on whether Quisp or Quake should remain on the shelves. In the first disillusionment with the political process of my life (I was too young to remember 1964) Quisp won and Quake lost. Sure, there were all sorts of irregularities...Quisp supporters arrested with thousands of Quake boxtops in the trunk of their cars, Walter Cronkite announcing on the eve of the voting that Quisp would handily win, and so, why bother?

The 1970s proceeded slowly, turning into a ghetto of a decade with abominable music and equally loathsome fashions, and a young man's thoughts turned to young (to a greater or lesser degree) women. Quake was forgotten, and so was Quisp; and several young women were equally forgotten (even more were forgettable) and to make things very fair, many young women forgot me. The lamentations today fall on deaf ears, Suzy Reynolds and Debbie Tash. But I digress.

Anyway, tempus fugit, and it is now approaching the time to turn 40. Or, at a bare minimum, for me to turn 40. I organize JoeFest, whereby I celebrate my birthweek. Family, friends, loved ones and people who are friends of my wife stream in from various sections of these here United States. Among those whose schedules will not permit them to make it, is my friend, the lovely and gracious Jen.

Jen, beyond being lovely and gracious, is a connoisseuse par excellence of pop culture. Still, she has the good grace to forward along a little gift nonetheless. This gift was a slim volume from Hallmark Books entitled "Do You Remember...?" and it is GUARANTEED to give memory whiplash to anybody born after 1946. In its pages resides a photograph about Quisp. I show this to TFBIM, whose parents forbade such cereals in their home on account of...well, I'm not sure why. Suffice it to say my beloved was reared among stiff-necked, strict, toast-and-caffé latte* folk and cereals had no appeal for her, save for learning to pick off the berries from Cap'n Crunch Crunchberries in her early college years.

Having regarded Quisp (and Quake, its far superior--albeit more obscure--rival) as wildly apocryphal, she now shrugged her shoulders. Not in the disbelief of yore, no. Now she shrugged them in disinterest. But wait, our narrative gathers steam.

It being Tax Season, TFBIM is up to here with work, and has left me alone with the lads many a night. One night, when I was feeling particularly slack AND generous, I announced to those whom I have offsprung that I would be making pizza from scratch and that we would eat in front of the TV.** Being the raving idiot I am, I put on [the] Food Network to watch one of the best TV shows around: Good Eats. Following Good Eats is another called Unwrapped, and it takes you behind the scenes of how they make Twinkies, or how the Banana Split came to be, etc.

This particular episode had to do with breakfast cereals and lo and behold, featured prominently is Quisp. Quake gets a passing mention, but Quisp gets the lion's share of the focus. It turns out that Quisp is STILL in production and available "in selected markets" and also via the Internet. One of these selected markets is a place called "Cub" in Chicago.

It is bewilderingly unfair because my pal Poppy--she whose blog is linked, and she who is on the short list of people to whom I'd donate bone marrow...by far the most exclusive club to which she belongs--lives in Chicago and she has some history with Quisp. In fact, she may have taken advantage of Boston's notoriously corrupt ward system to stuff ballots on Quisp's behalf. The point is: should she desire to avail herself of the manifold Quispy goodness that is the cereal in question, all she need do is go to and pick up a box. Furthermore, she's FROM Boston and returns there with some frequency...coincidentally home of the "Star Market" where Quisp may also be found available for immediate purchase. All of these things point to nefarious work.

And still no news of Quake.

-J.

P.S. Later on I will find out whatever happened to the other members of the Count Chocula family.

* In Spanish, café con leche. It's an Iberic thing.
** Something we never, ever do. (What? Never? Hardly ever.) This is a special treat.

Posted by Joke at 10:18 AM 4 comments

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

The joy of being me.

Well, the fuel pump (or so it seems) in my car just "up and died." This is not a very big deal, once you move past the fact your car is immobile...or at least incapable of graceful motion. The procedure is brief, the cost of parts not terribly material (even for a weirdo exotic car) and the labor costs pretty inconsequential.

The problem is that you can't just drop the beast off at Lube Boys or JiffyPep or AutoHut. Partly because those guys would probably lobotomize the car, and partly for the sake of vanity. Much like you wouldn't go to just ANY doctor to have your naughty bits looked at, opting, instead, for the best doctor you could get, I take my car to a guy named Richard Sirgany. He is an ItaloJamaican* (!) wizard and Italian Sports Car eminenza grigia. He raced with really big names back in the 60s and 70s (including the late Peter Revson, heir to the Revlon empire, and Steve McQueen) whom you'd know if you knew anything about racing.

The problem with this whole thing--much like the scenario of a really wonderful doctor--is that you have to make an appointment. To many people, for whom their car is merely a transportation appliance, this is an amazingly unusual thing. They just drop off their Oldsmobuick or Wagon Queen Family Truckster at the dealership, have a doughnut and some watery coffee and take their car home. At worst they get a loaner vehicle.

With this sort of car and mechanic, you make an appointment, and slots are tight. Richard's insurance policy requires him to garage all the cars when he locks up and so space is limited. Show up late for your appointment and a Maserati or Ferrari has usurped your place. It says something that people are willing to bring him gigabuck cars from HUNDREDS of miles around just to get his blessing and oil changes. The funny thing about him is that he is RETIRED. He works from 7am-7pm, 6-7 days a week, but to him this is "part-time." He used to be the official Alfa guy in Jamaica (maybe also in Miami, I think...I'll have to ask) and he designed several special editions for Alfa, now he is taking it easy.

Anyway, because he REALLY likes me, he bumped a bunch of cars that cost more than 3 McMansions put together so that he could fit me in Thursday at 7am, sharp.

-J.

* He looks like a regular 70 y.o. guy you'd see in a village somewhere outside Naples, until he opens his mouth and then it sounds like a Bob Marley concert.

Posted by Joke at 1:01 PM 0 comments

Opportunity missed

I have decided, at the age of almost-41, what I should have been when I grew up. If I had to do it all over again, I'd be a trophy husband.

For those among you walking late into the movie, let me mention the accountancy my wife commits professionally and, this being tax season (in combination with it being MY slow season), this combines to make me a part-time househusband. So I did groceries, hit the gym, picked up the kids, laundered and folded, made dinner AND a chocolate cake. Why wasn't there anything my guidance counselor said about Trophy Husbandry as a viable career choice??

One of my pals from HS accidentally backed into the whole Trophy Husband thing. He married a wonderful woman about 5 years his senior, and she works in mortgage brokerage. He stays at home with the kids, is on the board of a few things and otherwise just goes to the gym and clothes shopping, as well as the odd round of golf. He drives beautiful cars.

If he had any sense of integrity, this whole thing would gnaw on him. If I had any sense of integrity, it would gnaw on me, were I him.

Posted by Joke at 9:15 AM 0 comments

Monday, February 14, 2005

St. Valentine's Day Ramblings

Well, today is St. Valentine's Day. It's always bugged me the "St." part has been dropped from modern American (I cannot speak to the remainder of the Anglosphere) usage. Of course, it doesn't upset me as much as it probably upsets St. Valentine, who--and I'm just guessing here--probably was martyred in a way that only a Roman could have devised, i.e. yucky, painful and kinda gross.

Anyway, today is the day when many husbands sweat out whether the stuff they bought online for their wives actually arrives on time. It is my experience that a so-so trinket which arrives by dinner on the 14th means a great deal more than a Tiffany-vault's worth that gets to your doorstep early on the morning of the 15th. AMHIK.

I bought TFBIM a set (earrings/necklace/bracelet) of ruby hearts--figure 1.125ct each ruby bit--set in 18K yellow gold. We shall see if:

1- The heart shape is TOO Cheez-O-Rama for her (I think it's whimsical, myself)
2- She likes rubies (she hasn't any yet)
3- She likes yellow gold (she hasn't much yellow gold)
4- The damned things arrive in a timely fashion

We shall see how dinner goes; stay tuned.

Posted by Joke at 7:51 AM 4 comments

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Phase One: Denial.

OK. So today I am giving my silly Italian car its weekly detailing. For the first time, something terrified me. I found the very first speck of rust on it. Why it's appalling is because the car spent a VERY long stretch of time in Arizona. But sure enough...there was rust. The spot is as wide as a dime and about as tall as a pencil eraser.

The good news:

1- It's not very big
2- It's nowhere "structural"
3- It's pretty difficult to spot

The bad news:

1- It wrecked my chances to attend (my first invitation!) the concours at the St. Petersburg Festival of Speed. Even a fairly attuned car guy (or gal) would miss this, but the sort of human who volunteers to wander around with a clipboard, a magnet and other esoteric apparati wouldn't. Showing up with a car, regardless of rarity, desirability and (otherwise excellent) condition would be akin to being married wearing a leisure suit.

2- If it's difficult to spot, that means it's an utter PITA to repair.

Mind you, the paint IS original and after 20 years (the last 8 of which were spent ripping through the Sonoran desert of Arizona), a stripdown to bare metal and respray were in the cards. It also needed the original Euro bumpers put back on to replace the Nader/Claybrook/Safety Nazi mandated monstrosities. None of this would be cheap (I was budgeting $3K for the paint job, plus $600 for the new bumpers.)

Now we have to add $X for the rust repair.

Dammit.

Unrelated to this, other than it's exactly as old as my car, I spent the weekend watching an old VHS tape of the BBC miniseries of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. In hindsight, it pretty much sucked. The production values were APPALLING, even for 198X and the casting was atrocious and the acting ALMOST uniformly execrable. Douglas Adams must be spinning like a lathe in his grave.

However, the writing was a sharp and incisive and the animated sequences were still the highlight of the piece.

Oh, and to complete my joy, we bought some leather couches to go in our home theatre and, within 6 hours my kids had managed to poke holes and stain the leather. Yes, I was displeased, and I meted out Iberic justice, my ears deaf to entreaties from wife and offspring. Now I need to figure out how to repair the damned thing.

Oh, and we had a St. Valentine's Day dinner thing on Friday, which was OK, because it was a wine tasting dinner at our club and someone (the "guest sommelier") from Italy was there to--ostensibly--walk us through it. But the cocktails (Italian cocktails being light-years away from the Grand Metropolitan cocktails of the USA or the rummy/slushy stuff of the tropics) were great, especially the "Milano" (3 oz. blood orange juice, 1½ oz. limoncello, 1½ oz. campari, shaken over cracked ice, served in a collins glass). Somehow my notes got blurrier as the evening progressed.

Posted by Joke at 11:45 PM 0 comments

Saturday, February 12, 2005

The Oil Crisis

As I was straightening up in the kitchen this morning, I realized I was running low on one of my favorite oils: "O" Tahitian Lime infused EVOO.

This, as you might surmise, is a complete bite. Not because I have to schlep around and get a replacement bottle, but because I cannot find such a replacement bottle. If you cook Cuban* or "Floribbean" food at all, EVOO and lime are flavor cornerstones.

So now I am faced with the daunting task of making my own. I could, I s'pose, cook with EVOO and squirt lime juice...but cooked lime juice has its flavor profiled to really emphasize the sourness of the lime, and that's no good. Stay tuned to see if I ruin a harvest's worth of limes and a drum of gigabuck EVOO.

But that leads me to discussing essential oils. This is what you should, at a bare minimum, have oil-wise if you have any foodie aspirations, in order of importance.

1- EVOO. You can get Italian, which is a wallet-eviscerating thing most of the time.
(there are 2-3 great exceptions to this, though)
2- Peanut oil, cold-pressed
3- Citrus-infused EVOO
4- Basil-infused EVOO
5- Chile-infused peanut oil

OPTIONAL:

- Sesame oil
- Madras curry-infused peanut oil
- Smoked paprika-infused oil

OK, off to gather and peel a gazillion limes.






* Cuban food is to Spanish food what New Orleans' Creole food is to French food- a lineal descendant. In fact, in Cuba (back when it HAD food) Cuban cuisine was called "Criolla" which is Spanish for "Creole." This is in contrast to, say, Mexican food which is essentially the indigenous cooking of the Native Mexicans (Aztecs, Toltecs, Mayas and those conquered by them) with some input from the Spanish colonists. Cuba had a steady influx of Spaniards pretty much until 1959, with an extra spurt during the Spanish Civil War, when many families fled to avoid the atrocities inflicted by either the Communists or the Fascists or both. At any rate, the arriving Spaniards made some modifications to their cookery (replacing the temperate lemon with the tropical lime is the most prominent such change), and just kept going. There, more than you needed to know.

Posted by Joke at 8:35 AM 4 comments

I forgot what I was going to say...

...but it shall come to me.

Oh, yeah.

I have another minor rant. This one is about bitterness. Not bitterness in, say chocolate or beer or coffee or in all those weird liqueurs the Italians have invented. I mean bitterness as a personality trait. It's sort of like the evil twin of depression. It doth mightily pith me off.

There are people who cannot get over disappointments. I can cope with that. The election for dogcatcher, something at work, something to do with some professional sports teams (it used to be New Englanders who excelled at this, but in the last 5-10 years it's been Philadelphians who've wrested the mantle if, indeed, it is wresting that one does with mantling)...but something has these people in acrimony-spewage mode, like some sort of bilious RainBirdTM sprinkler.

So, if you--like me--want to strike a few shrewd blows for civilization, you can start by no longer emotionally subsidizing these imbeciles.

Message ends.

Posted by Joke at 7:28 AM 0 comments

Friday, February 11, 2005

A minor, irrelevant rant.

I hate air fresheners. Sprays, gels, oils, misters...I hate them all. If any of the bloodthirsty dictators thoughout the history had devoting their attention to eradicating air fresheners in lieu of wholesale slaughter and genocide, today they'd be hailed as saviors of civilization.

I find it ironic that there are a zillion environmental eneuretics, who fret about what will happen to the purple-crested vulture or whether the caribou have enough beer in the fridge, none of whom can be bothered to see what untold damage air fresheners cause.

My wife, as the more astute among you may have noticed, adores them.

Posted by Joke at 10:27 AM 2 comments

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

It's the little things.

After a brief wait of only 25 years, the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy will finally be released as a feature film. I am both excited and anxious. What if it sucks dead wombats? The books (and BBC Radio shows and even the BBC miniseries) were so cool that I wonder if the film can live up to my expectations.

I originally read this book (by Douglas Adams, in case you have been living under a boulder in Tibet) as a freshman. I read it because it seemed (as it seems still) that it was making fun of Science Fiction, a genre which richly deserves all the mockery it can get. The book was clever, witty and uproriously funny much like A Confederacy of Dunces is proclaimed to be, but isn't. In fact, this book (and its progeny) has been tangentially instrumental to many of the great developments in my life.

I met one of my very bestest pals, the guy who turned out to be my best man (and I his) trying to muddle through the PC-Game version of this book. We had to buy two versions because he played it on an AppleII and I on a PC. This was 1984.

When I first joined the cyberworld, via the "old" Prodigy service, I met some of my very favorite people on the Hitchhiker's BB there, some of whom I still keep in touch with fifteen years later. (Alas, Jenny Scott up and disappeared one day from my life's radar screen, and I miss her horribly. She got me into They Might Be Giants.)

But life moves on. And now I have reached a certain point in my life when I can afford, not only to buy the Hitchhiker Trilogy (comprised of six books and a short story), but also the snazzy Easton Press edition, bound in leather and gilt-edged. Fairly recently I discovered that Easton Press carried not only those Great Classic books, but also a lot of other pretty cool stuff and I have begun to stock up for the day when we can get an addition put in on this house, to include a library. "Library" is a sort of semi-pretentious way to put it, but it's really a room for my books and for me to be left the Hell alone to read them. Maybe I'll put my magazines in there also.

Another drawback to having reached a certain point in life is that people ask you to do things which:

1- You'd really rather not be doing
2- Will take a lot more time than any estimate you've been given
3- Will prove thankless at best, and wildly alienating at worst

So far, my defenses remain up and effective.

Much of the blame is mine, of course. I have been cursed with one of those minds that fairly hums with thought. Not necessarily brilliant or creative thought, but if one is spinning off ideas fast enough, one will eventually make contact with a good one and then people start coming to you for more and that morphs into pleas to take charge.

To make a short story pointless, I was at a gala when I was introduced to Person A. People no longer have the decency to introduce someone and say "This is Xxx Y. Zzzz, Vice-President of The Porphyry League of America." Instead they just say this is "X" and assume you will hit it off with "X" and you'll gather all the data on your own in due course. So foolishly, I dropped a little (I thought whimsical, humorous) pearl about "The Pink and Green Ball" which seems like a catchy thing, now that preppy is making a comeback.

Next thing I know, I am being peppered with questions and request for advice and it just degenerates from there.

Feh.

That's not to say I am unwilling to take on responsibilities and tasks. I just tend to not want things to devolve out of control. It's OK if a photographer and a reporter from the society column show up to an event at which I am present...as long as I am not the guy in charge. This of course, explains why my All-Gentile Seder has never achieved breakout status. That and deadpanning (to a Jewish friend's mom) that "it's restricted."

Part of the problem with events which require someone to chair them (as opposed to events which require someone to bring chairs) is people who are blissfully unaware they are dead and embalmed show up. Sometimes they look like they built the Pyramids, and sometimes they are "decreppies" (i.e., ancient and spavined preppies who have managed to get a chokehold on life and have somehow been left on the shelf well past their "sell by" date) and sometimes they are both.

For some reason these sorts of attendees tend to carry a outrageously heavy jewelry loads. You know the type...diamond rings that would make Elizabeth Taylor mutter about wretched excess and the like. You half expect some women to have Billy Barty walking in front of them with a cushion on his head so they could get around with their eleventy gazillion carat diamond ring. When you see these people, you realize there's half a mountain missing somewhere in South Africa.

But the biggest gripe is that most of the time, there aren't any attendees who might remotely be considered fun. I have several friends who'd be ideal partners-in-crime for these things, but they tend to live 1000+ miles away. Not sure what that says about me.

Feel free to throw this blog entry in my face if I should relent to the pressure to chair something.

Posted by Joke at 11:32 PM 2 comments

Oy to the world.

You might have noticed, Gentle Reader, a noticeable gap in the publishing schedule for this august blog. Part of it has to do with TFBIM's work schedule, which oscillates during this time of the year (Tax Season) between nightmarish and hellish, leaving me in the capacity of Stay At Home Dad/househusband. The other reason is that my own work stuff has had a few inexpressively inconvenient wrenches thrown into the works.

I figure to resume publication on Monday, since all I had scheduled was one brief, early morning meeting with a client. That was, as the Cuban axiom goes--duly translated, even at the cost of the je ne sais quoi of the thing, to English--"when the monkey's mother took a shit." A huge payment related to a huge real estate project was due on the 8th and I had sent it USPS Priority with tracking. In fact, I mailed it off on the 4th, just to be safe. Well, as of Monday the Post Office had no record of it ever having been mailed. (Seems you have to go to the window to effect the outgoing portion of the tracking process...which is conveniently omitted when you perform the automated mailing thing. Bastids.) So that caused a minor panic.

Then another client emailed--somewhat snippily, I thought--about some documentation he had yet to receive and needed them, for reasons which have yet to be adequately explored, immediately.

Then, I broke my favorite pair of glasses (the preceding week I had lost my 2nd favorite pair of glasses). It was 9:45am. You can guess how the rest of the day was going to go.

So that's my excuse.

People are also trying to rope me into a time-consuming charitable chairmanship thing. And St. Valentine's Day is at our throats.

Al Capone, it seems, was the only one who had a clear notion how to celebrate St. Valentine's Day.

Ovah and out.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 11:33 AM 3 comments