Archive for July, 2009

Pardon the Silence

July 31, 2009 - 8:23 pm Comments Off on Pardon the Silence

Yesterday was a “no room to breathe” day. Today had some, but while I was wracking my brains for content that would fit into said space, Kang was working on her latest project. While I was hitting the science news feeds looking for something to say that someone else hadn’t already said better, she took about three years off my life by turning up at the front door, wagging cheerily. Fortunately for all involved, she was less interested in taking the neighborhood tour than she was in investigating all the places rabbits had ever gotten away from her from the mysterious other side of the fence, and she responded reasonably well to a recall. (Followed by a hefty reward of cheese.)

Further investigation revealed both gates securely closed, all possible starts on a digging tunnel filled with gravel and rock as previously secured… and a place where she had simply ripped one of the cedar planks off the fence, as well as one more where she’d made a good start of it. Apparently, dogs don’t need to go to ingenious lengths of tunneling or gymnastic feats of climbing if they are strong enough to just tear the thing apart. This is a new fence, mind you- we put it in ourselves when we moved in a few years ago.

All planks are nailed back in place, as well as a fresh one nailed crossways for good measure over the weakest point, but really this is only a temporary solution. My first thought is invisible fencing inside the fence line- Kang would bull straight through a conventional invisible fence without flicking an ear, I have no doubt, but perhaps if it’s actually painful for her to be at the fence line, she won’t have time for demolition work.

I’d like to not have to go to that length, but at the moment I’m not coming up with better long-term options other than “never leave them out unsupervised ever”, which would nearly defeat the entire point of having built the damn thing in the first place.



July 29, 2009 - 8:30 pm Comments Off on Who-ray?

I’m not going to beat around the bush. I hated high school. Sure, it had its moments, as does just about anything, but the introduction to the wonderful world of pointless bureaucracy, arbitrary regulations, and whim-driven policies, combined with five gallons of hormones per person didn’t exactly make it the shining pinnacle of my existence that it apparently was for some. And on a side note, I believed then and still do that if high school represents the best years of your life, you should probably do everyone else a favor and remove yourself from the gene pool as quickly as possible, and for preference in some hilarious manner suitable for a Darwin award. I didn’t struggle with my classes or any of that, but there were very few people around that I actually liked and found interesting. Combine that with the fact that I was already branded as slightly weird from grades K-8, had plenty of marksmanship medals on my ROTC uniform, and the most frequent phrase used in my English classes was “Go back to sleep, Stingray” after turning the correct answer to whatever was posed to me into a smart-ass remark*, none of my classmates were exactly gung-ho about boarding the ol’ Stingray’s Friend Train.

Needless to say, I did not miss my classmates after graduation. Of course there were one or two people I genuinely did like, blah blah blah, friends 4-eva, etc. I stayed in touch with them on my own. I didn’t get an invitation to the last reunion, and I’m rather pleased with that state of events.

So a week or two ago I was getting breakfast at the local hot-spot. While waiting on the crew to finish assembling my breakfast burrito, someone I went to school with walked through the door. There was really no question who she was, even though the last time I’d seen her was *coughgrumble* years ago. I also remembered just as quickly what a blithering idiot she was, and that she was more than a little vain at the time too. She looked at me for a few seconds while the gerbil tried to engage the wheel in her head.

“Say, aren’t you Stingray?”
I looked around to make sure she wasn’t talking to someone else. “Me? No, sorry miss. My name is Alan.”
“Are you sure? You look exactly like someone I went to school with!”
“Sorry, I went to school in Texas. I guess I can at least thank you for telling me I’ve got a long lost twin running around somewhere.”
“That’s weird, you really look like him.”
“Sorry to disappoint. Have a good one.” Fortunately, my burrito was ready at this point, and I was able to escape.

I should probably work up a better cover story in case they find me for the next reunion. Maybe I’ll call myself Michael Westen.

*That I could do so so reliably and answer so correctly at the same time unnerved one teacher so much that by the end of the year she had resumed smoking after being clear of the habit for five years. I found this out shortly after graduation from the teacher in the room next door.

More Monster Reviews: Behind The Mask

July 28, 2009 - 7:42 pm Comments Off on More Monster Reviews: Behind The Mask

I’ve posted reviews of B-grade horror movies before here in a pale imitation of Correia’s viewing habits, but I can’t actually figure out if the latest one we watched was a B movie or not. Its initial releases were all on the “arty” film circuit, which would seem to place it as an art/indie film, which doesn’t really seem to fit, and after that it was straight to DVD and apparently a huge hit with the likes of Bloody Disgusting and, well, people like me, which would point more toward “B movie”. It feels way too smart to be a proper B movie, but not pretentious and generally serious-business enough to be an art film. Call it a slasher flick- that’s really what it is.

As a rule I’m fairly bored by slasher flicks. When they’re at their most effective they rely mostly on shock and sheer brutality, which is definitely not my preferred cup of tea when it comes to horror; I prefer psychological thrillers where there’s more tension involved in who the killer/threat is and what the motivation is than there is on exactly which unlikeable screecher dies next and which orifice is going to be violated with a chainsaw/cleaver/cactus next. At best, they’re fun when there’s real pleasure in watching the idiots die, things aren’t dragged out with a lot of pointless “trying to make you care about the characters”, and things are done with a reasonable degree of intelligence and self-awareness. That’s why I liked Hallowed Ground, and also why I liked Scream– the first one, not the interminable stretch of sequels in which they did everything the first movie was mocking the genre for, ad nauseam.

At first glance, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon comes across as a straight up mockumentary and deconstruction of slasher movies. The basic premise of the movie is that a student journalist is making a documentary about the men who make a specialty of supernatural terror sprees of small communities (such luminaries as Freddy, Jason, and Michael Meyers are treated as in-universe real), and she is on the trail of the man declaring himself to be the next up and comer in the field, Leslie Vernon. He introduces himself and his backstory- lynched by townsfolk for being evil as a child, plans to make his big debut as a killer on the anniversary of his death- in a purely matter of fact manner, and the first two-thirds of the movie or so consist of him introducing his philosophy, methods, and training to the film crew, from conditioning (“Do you have ANY IDEA how much cardio I have to do?”) to victim group selection, to mentoring, to how to give the impression of keeping up with your victim at an implacable walk when the victim is at a dead sprint. His “enjoy your work, and you’ll never work a day in your life” attitude is appealing and infectious, and very early manages to get the viewer firmly on his side; his enthusiasm and competence make him fun to watch and easy to cheer for despite what he’s technically talking about doing. The references are thick on the ground if you’re a fan of the genre, and there are some notable faces in bit parts, including one unadvertised one that had us both howling in delight.

If it had remained a plain and simple mockumentary, it would merely have been a fun deconstruction of a genre that’s easy to deconstruct and wouldn’t really be worth writing home about. It’s easy to make fun of the tropes and cliches of slasher movies, because nobody was ever really trying that hard to begin with- even the scariest and most effective ones aren’t exactly trying very hard to keep us deeply wrapped up in a complex story. What makes Behind the Mask a movie good enough for us to add to the DVD collection is that it manages to accomplish something Scream never managed- being an intelligent deconstruction of slasher movies and being an actual, effective slasher movie at the same time. A great deal of the movie’s strength lies in the acting, unusually enough for such movies, especially by the slasher-star, Nathan Baesel. I really hope to see more of him- he managed to switch from comical to genuinely unnerving and back again in an eyeblink when the scene called for it, and had a serious athleticism that made him physically scary as well as just well-armed. Angela Goethals as the lead documentarian did a good job as well of pulling off some fairly subtle conflicted states, and was by any measure but cleavage more interesting and likeable than the standard scream queen.

We’re buying this one. Highly recommended if this is your genre, and maybe worth a look even if it’s not.

Review: Monster Hunter International

July 27, 2009 - 5:22 pm Comments Off on Review: Monster Hunter International

So, by now most of you who are regular readers of any stripe are probably also regular readers of two or three other bloggers who have already reviewed (and raved) MHI, if not actually a regular reader of the author himself. This is not necessarily for you, although if yet another such review will induce someone who is only about 50% convinced he should give it a shot to do so, then hey jollies. This is for people who stumble by on search terms, or who for some reason has absolutely no overlap with the rest of the incestuous little blogging circle.

First off, a confession: I didn’t think I was going to like this book. Not because the genre isn’t my cup of tea, but because it really, really IS, and I was just about certain that a first novel from an author I’d never heard of who had to self-publish was going to be mediocre at best and a reason to question the taste of dozens of people I consider friends at worst. I love the concept and the overall universe tropes of “urban fantasy”, but the execution is often lacking at best and nauseating at worst. There wasn’t a single author writing one of these series, which are about as common as milkweed pollen by now, that hadn’t either severely disappointed me (Laurell K. Hamilton) or managed to have me for more than about a week’s worth of light entertainment (Jim Butcher and Patricia Briggs). I didn’t order it when Larry self-published- Stingray did. And I let him read it first before I’d deign to rest my eyeballs on it. Yeah, at that point I was being more than a bit of a snotty contrarian bitch about it.

As it turned out, I was wrong and everyone else was right. I wound up devouring it- not a stay up all night to read it, but that was because I was trying to stretch it out a bit so I had more time with the book, not because I was unengaged in the story. I’m going to mention first what everyone else has already talked about, which is that the action is fast-paced and extremely well done, that neither people familiar with personal combat nor people familiar with firearms will have a single thing to complain about, and the whole books is above and beyond just an incredibly *fun* read. It is a first novel and occasionally you can detect a few rough edges or stitches where the author maybe wasn’t so practiced at the pacing or at transitions, but compared to Guilty Pleasures (Hamilton’s first) or especially Storm Front (Butcher’s first), it’s fucking Shakespeare. It’s only an issue if you’re actively hunting for flaws- there’ll be a fabulously entertaining action sequence in a minute or two to take your mind completely off it. It’s what a book inspired by guns, B movies, and asskicking should be- fun above all. The only problem with it as a source of entertainment is that eating buttered popcorn while reading it would get the pages all greasy.

But that’s not really what won me over to the degree it did; otherwise MHI would be in my same stack as all my other throwaway road-trip fiction that I bought to give my brain a few hours of the literary equivalent of chewing gum. Lots of authors play with tropes or twist them to whatever angle they please, but for the most part they’re not nearly as original at it as they like to think they’re being. Lookie here folks! In my universe one token vampire is a nerd instead of being terribly sexy and dangerous at once like all the rest of them are! In my universe the werewolves have a complicated political structure as well as being tragic and Native American! Oh look, MY werewolves have a conflict between the cool mystical Native American werewolves and the brutish psychotic European ones!

I’m not going to sit here and claim that MHI is the most fabulously original thing to happen to urban fantasy ever, but its sets of twists were a lot more enjoyable for me than most, especially the ones that weren’t so much tired non-twists as they were stuff played so traditional it’s simply rarely done anymore. His vampires are fucking dead and they’re fucking evil and they’re coming to fucking get you, they’re not going to take you to your high school prom before granting you an eternal existence as a self-absorbed teenager. The monsters are monsters, the good guys are good (though not always who you expect them to be), and the bad guys are really, really bad. The heroes are heroic, but they come off as people; the problem with about half of these protagonists is that they’re either legendarily perfect with some sort of token non-flaw, like being too proud to turn down a challenge no matter how insane (which they then win anyway), or being so endlesssly awesome that every single evil being in the universe is competing over their attentions. The problem with the other half is that the author overcompensated in the other direction, and the hero is capable of being shut down in a worthless ball of angst based on their Tragic Past. (Cue the fridge!)

Owen is by no means meant to be anything other than a straight-up heroic male lead- certainly no antihero, and he enters the world he does specifically by choice rather than just being some calf-eyed everydude dropped into the situation to find his Destiny. He’s mostly what you’d expect real-life people who excel at dangerous occupations to be- tough and stubborn with a skill set that’s much better for blowing shit up and walking away than it is for negotiating business deals. He doesn’t get to charge in and rescue the damsel because there aren’t really any damsels in this book; some attractive women for sure, but that’s not their most relevant characteristic- that would be being dangerous. His female cast is neither a stable of objects to be rescued nor a team of sexy martial arts waifs with +20 leather clothes of monster slaying; like everyone else, they get by on training, gear, and sheer mad determination. In this universe, if you get landed on by a metric fuckton of evil, you’re in the hospital having your bones repaired- you don’t shake it off and lift your chin and confront the evil with your sheer spunkiness.

Oh. And I really like what he did with the elves. Read it if only because you have a thing against elves.

Amazon: Monster Hunter International


July 25, 2009 - 3:35 pm Comments Off on Grrrrr…

I love Firefox, but it seems like with the last several updates they break more shit than they fix. First “save and quit” stopped working reliably, and now it doesn’t seem to be an option at all. Better yet, I seem to have partially lost “button” functionality; I’ve been unable to submit comments at three blogs and all search functions I’ve tried so far are now useless.



July 24, 2009 - 4:54 pm Comments Off on Unshod

So, exactly a month ago I announced my latest experiment, which has been going around either barefoot or the next closest thing- the Vibram Five Fingers that I’d just bought. I also said I’d post a review in a month’s time stating how they were working out. This is that review.

Adjustment period: I had already been padding around the house barefoot whenever possible for two months prior to getting the shoes, so this wasn’t exactly a from-nothing proposition. The only time I percieved any “overuse” pain was after the first of the prescribed workouts that happened to include running, which was a little over a kilometer total; neither my feet nor any of my joints hurt, but I was sure as hell feeling it in my calves and my achilles’ tendons. This is fine; I prefer muscle and connective tissue pain over bone and joint- those tissues adapt faster than bone. This issue did not recur as running-involved WODS recurred- the adaptation was pretty fast. Do bear in mind, though, that I wasn’t running for real distance- I’m still transitioning off “only run when chased or chasing”, and the only “distance” one that came around did so on a day when I was feeling seriously beat up and like I needed more recovery time in general. Pain in all joints has been entirely absent- not that it was really a problem before.

Ironically, the only problematic adjustment for me was just to wearing skin-tight shoes that involved straps and did not involve socks. I got a blister on the back of my heel on the first day of real wear, and had to work around that with moleskin and band-aids while the skin on my heels and ankle toughened up. (Which it now has.) The other problematic part was just getting the things on- this turned out to be a more technically complex skill than it first appeared. I’m at the point where I no longer need to set aside ten minutes to put my “shoes” on, but it still takes me a little longer than lacing up a boot or sneaker would. I expect the gap to narrow over time.

Shoe quality: The soles are *great*- nice and grippy. When I went back over the website and read that the original product conception was for water sports like kayaking, to give people more stability when walking over things like rocky riverbeds, this made sense. They give me a nice launch out of a standing start, too. Don’t drop anything on your feet while wearing these, though- the idea is to give the overall foot more sensitivity and flexibility, and this goal is achieved. If your planned task is often done while wearing steel-toes, wear those instead. The things are designed to be very breatheable, so however the ambient temperature is, that’s how your foot will feel- if it’s hot out, your feet will be warm, and if it’s cold, so will your foot be. Vibram does sell an insulated version if that’s what you want, though.

Claimed benefits: The basic claims that Vibram makes about the benefits of near-barefoot- as the barefoot runners make about completely barefoot- boil down to better balance, more agility/coordination, better proprioception (your sense of where your body is in space), and a better running stride informed by those improvements.

Proprioception- oh god, YES. It’s a minor revelation to have the full sensory feedback from my feet back when I’m out and about and not on carpet. It immediately changed the way I moved, and over the month having my toes regain their individual flexibility and strength instead of functioning more or less as a single stiff unit was new and for the better, too.

Balance: also yes. I’m no gymnast- in fact I’ve always been a fantastic and epic klutz- but there’s been a significant uptick, at least going by the “stand on one leg and hold” test, as well as just whether I need to brace myself to accomplish some chore requiring minor contortions.

Agility/coordination: …Maybe. It’s kind of hard to tell, because of the aforementioned “epic klutz” condition; if much has changed, it’s kind of hard to tell just because the distinction between “horrible” and “awful” isn’t an easy one to perceive, if an improvement from one to the other exists. I will say that I can account for each and every bruise I currently have, which hasn’t always been true in the past, and that I have not tripped over my own feet since wearing them.

Running: I think so. This is again a case of theoretically going from “horrible” to “awful”, but by times I’m faster than I used to be, and I’m also not experiencing any of the pain in my shins, knees, and hips after running days that I used to expect as a matter of course when I was more intensively trying to get good at it. (Before the light dawned on me that I would *always* hate running, and getting better at it would just mean doing something I hated for longer periods over longer distances.) Someone who was *actually* a runner, as opposed to someone who just whined their way out the door to do it when ordered, would be able to give much better data here.

Overall: I love these things, and I wear them everywhere I can socially get away with. Aside from any physical improvement, they’re just plain fun to wear, and that alone would make them keepers for me. I’ll probably buy another pair when these wear out, and may get some of the insulated version if winter proves too chilly for my KSOs. Recommended.

Yet More on the Racist-In-Chief

July 24, 2009 - 4:20 pm Comments Off on Yet More on the Racist-In-Chief

So after a hearty round of Presidential race-baiting, Team Barry still isn’t winning hearts and minds, making friends or influencing people (at least not the way he wants). The AP by way of Yahoo is even pointing out that the current ‘racial uproar’ is his fault.

All that, and the only thing I could think of when looking at the article was this:

Against the Flow

July 22, 2009 - 11:25 am Comments Off on Against the Flow

I’m not particularly fussy about my writing implements, but I do have a few simple requirements. My handwriting is so god-awful that I really do need a super-fine line to have anything legible appear on paper. Thicker lines tend to blur things together into a giant mess that looks more like it was scrawled by a retarded dolphin trying to use the tip of a flipper wrapped in typewriter ribbon.

That said, I was moderately intrigued to see some noteworthy praise for the Pilot Varsity line of disposable fountain pens. My mother has written with a fountain pen for as long as I can remember, and thanks to the nanoscopic nature of her handwriting (I once enlisted her aid in crafting the crib sheet I was allowed on some test or other, and wound up with three chapters of material on one standard notecard), fountain pens have been pretty well affixed a “this will make a fine line” status in my head.

After keeping my eyes open in the beyond anemic office supply sections of our local economy, I finally caved and just ordered a few online. While Ms. X, The Dog, and Marko are spot on about a great number of topics, their taste in these pens is in my opinion highly misplaced, and calls much of their character into question as they are clearly sympathizers of the retarded-dolphin-with-typewriter-ribbon steno pool.

The first batch of three arrived, and I promptly took pen to paper in a test drive. I was immediately aghast to find a line thickness best measured in meters. Hoping for a fluke, I tried the next of three to similar results. The line flowed out smoothly, if a tad wetter than I’m used to from the pico-point ballpoints I normally stick with (for reference, I prefer uni-ball signo micro-points), but again with a thickness normally seen in paving operations. I tried the third, which I have since concluded is the defective pen, and found a line thickness of a svelte nature appropriate to my tastes, but sadly marred by the fact that it otherwise behaves like a ten year old bic disposable in its capability to produce a continuous line.

Digging a bit further, I managed to convince myself I’d simply wound up with a set of “medium” points, and went in search of “extra fine.” The latter arrived today.

All I can say now is that if you hear some clicking and squeaking and see a bucket of fish sitting around, that’s my secretary, and the reason that memo looks the way it does.

Cooking Noob: Mashed Sweet Potatoes

July 21, 2009 - 7:25 pm Comments Off on Cooking Noob: Mashed Sweet Potatoes

So, some odd… uh, weeks later… we get to our next promised project. This was intended as a side to an elk roast that got put off from week to week (and two sets of sweet potatoes lost to sprouting or molding as a result), which we finally got around to tonight. If it’s not apparent, I LOVE sweet potatoes, far more than normal white potatoes. Unfortunately for me, Stingray does not share my enthusiasm; as a result, finding recipes involving them that he actually likes after a childhood of palate abuse at the hands of his grandmother’s yam aberrations is a priority for me. He likes some sweet potato fries, but deep-frying still gives me visions of the burn ward, so I set my sights on something a little easier.

So here’s the original, from Heidi Swanson’s site, which is apparently itself a recipe from Terrence Brennan’s “Artisanal Cooking”: Vanilla Mashed Sweet Potatoes

1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, cleaned and left a bit damp
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons heavy cream
1/3 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped
1 teaspoon grated orange zest (optional)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
kosher salt
white pepper in a mill

Now that we’ve got our ingredients, let’s start throwing stuff out and adding it back in. For starters, the most delicious mashed sweet potatoes I ever ate left a tantalizing tangy note somewhere in the aftertaste; after googling up about three million mashed sweet potato recipes, I decided the flavor was probably yogurt. So I decided to swap out the extra three tablespoons of heavy cream for three tablespoons of plain yogurt. I elected to throw out the orange zest as an obfuscating flavor when trying to figure out what effect the yogurt would have. I threw out the vanilla when Stingray informed me that if I used one of the $$$ vanilla beans he’s saving for pies, he would invent ways to make me regret it. No skin off my nose- I’m not that wild about vanilla in what I meant to be a savory dish anyway.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Put the potatoes on a baking sheet and bake in the oven until tender to a fork tip, about 1 hour.

1. Preheat oven. Locate baking dish. Locate sweet potatoes. Put potatoes on baking dish. Chuck in oven. Walk away for an hour. Gee, that was easy.

2. Ehhh, that’s not *quite* tender to fork tip. Requires a little force. Another ten should do it. Wait ten minutes. Achieve satisfying results with a fork, which you are rapidly learning should really be sitting by the stove for any given recipe, the Unmentioned Tool.

Remove from oven and let cook until warm enough to handle, 10 to 15 minutes. Peel and discard the skin. Put the potatoes in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade.

3. Let the sweet potatoes sit while you proceed to…

Meanwhile, pour the cream into a 2-quart pot, add the vanilla bean and orange zest, if using, and set it over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes.

4. Locate “2-quart” pot after some consultation with spouse. Extract the heavy cream and the yogurt from the fridge. Open the heavy cream.

5. Using your fork, take another run at opening the heavy cream.

6. Employ a steak knife to get the GOATFUCKING cream carton open, what the hell, was the dairy afraid it would fall into terrorist hands?

7. Pour half a cup of cream into pot. Glop three tablespoons of yogurt into pot. Turn to medium heat and look questioningly at pot.

8. Conclude it’s not going to do anything interesting in the next few minutes and apply yourself to the sweet potatoes. As the flesh has shrunk away from the skin some, peeling them does not actually require tools of any sort. Resist the urge to lick your fingers. (Note to self: baked sweet potatoes with butter and salt would be even easier.) Optional: find out if your dogs like baked sweet potato skin. Mine do.

9. Shove skinned sweet potatoes in the bowl of the whizzy new food processor your spouse bought after exposure to effective marketing and re-attend to the cream and yogurt, which is showing no signs of “simmering”, which you assume to be some slight sign of liquid agitation. Since it’s been more than five minutes, bring the heat up to medium high until SOMEthing moves, what the hell.

Remove from heat. Use tongs to fish out and discard the vanilla bean. Pour the mixture over the potatoes in the processor and add the butter.

10. Since you didn’t use the vanilla bean, go ahead and pour. Slice off a two-tablespoon hunk of the butter you remembered to set on the counter somewhere around getting the cream, and chuck that in too.

Puree the potato mixture until smooth.

11. As it turns out, the whizzy new food processor only has two settings, “off/pulse” and “on”. No puree, no high, no chop, no nothing. Shrug your shoulders, make sure the lid is battened down, and give “on” a go. In a welcome development, this food processor has a very powerful motor that it doesn’t try to burn itself out on after a few frantic seconds of action, so leaving it on doesn’t cause that burning-machinery smell. Leave it on with a few rounds of pulsing until chunks are no longer discernable in the orange goo.

12. Locate an appropriate vessel for your puree and an appropriate scraping tool. Begin the somewhat laborious process of scraping orange goo off the food processor blade, then the food processor bowl, saving as much as possible even though it seems like the goo has bonded to the plastic. Wonder if mashing by hand in the bowl really would have been all that much worse.

13. Sprinkle in a big pinch of salt. Throw in another just for good measure. Stir. Since you have white peppercorns but no grinder for them (curses), throw half the recommended number of grinds of black. Taste. Yep, that’s about right. Slop onto plates next to your roast. Nom.

This turned out to be easily the best taste result for the lowest effort and fewest complications since I started writing these. I was right about the yogurt being the mystery flavor, and I think it really added a nice dimension to the result, one I’m almost positive I’d prefer over the vanilla version. Even better, Stingray liked them well enough to accept as a “regular side dish, just not one in heavy rotation”. That’s probably as close as I’m going to get- I’ll definitely take it. If you like sweet potatoes at all, give this a shot. If you think you don’t, let someone else try to sell you on them with this recipe- very, very far away from the over-sugared, over-nutmegged “yams” we all suffered through at Thanksgiving. If you go to the original recipe I linked, there’s also a number of good suggestions for using the puree in other applications, such as thinned out as a base for winter soup or as the filling in a ravioli.

What's In A Name? Turns Out, I Don't Care.

July 20, 2009 - 8:25 pm Comments Off on What's In A Name? Turns Out, I Don't Care.

Via Isis the Scientist, an interesting post at Behind the Stick on memory, faces, and how we remember them. Hint out the gate: it’s generally not by name.

Names? That’s a different story. If I don’t write the names at the top of the tabs of the people who don’t come in often, Ben will invariably become Barney, Joan will be addressed as Janet, and Luke will morph into Lenny or freaking Aloysius! Which brings me (maybe) to a theory on how this all works.

See, a drink somehow carries a built-in identity, it pigeonholes the person who is ordering, and when the person orders that drink an association is made. She’s a Sapphire and tonic, he’s a Johnny Black rocks… painting an image more vivid than Janet or Lenny. For you don’t actually “make” something based on a person’s name, it’s just a handle in the ether, but you do make something based on the name of a drink. You perform a thirty second task matching face with that task. And it sticks. At least that’s how I figure it, else how can a guy who can’t find his keys two or three times a day, do the stuff I just stated with any regularity?

He may be a bartender rather than a clinical psychologist or a neurologist, but I think he’s on the money. Unless you’re in a business where names carry a great deal of weight all on their own, such as show business or sales, when you meet somebody, their name is usually not anywhere near the top ten relevant things about who they are. If you’re a scientist, as Isis points out, what someone’s name is is forgettable unless they’re associated with some important or controversial development or theory- it’s what they’ve been doing recently in the field that stands out. Being known chiefly by name might not even necessarily a good thing- because it could be that you’re being remembered not for the work you’ve done, (in which case you’d be something like the “flagellar motor protein guy”), but for the drama you’ve caused within that social and professional circle. Likewise, when I’ve worked with animals or just done that animal-person thing where you congregate in dog parts or pet stores, I almost never remember anyone’s name- but I sure as hell remember their cat or dog’s name, breed, personality, and history, because that’s the part that’s actually going to be relevant to me in that setting. It’s not really going to matter except as a point of etiquette whether someone’s name is Mary or Marianne and if they’re Democrat or Republican or have a fear of bees or what, but what name the animal will respond to and whether or not it’s fearful or aggressive or somnolent is going to be vital to the next series of interactions I’m going to have.

It gets even more interesting in the blogging world, in which names really ARE a currency- but not necessarily your *real name* unless you choose for it to be. While I blog more or less pseudonomysly, at this point a hell of a lot of the blogging community that I actually interact with does know my real name- but the only people know it and who actually CALL me by it in e-mail or in chat or even to my face are either the people who are in a business that requires a lot of interaction in which remembering people’s names IS important, or the people going out of their way to be polite. (With one or two exceptions. Get out of my way, I’m generalizing here.) Just about everyone who does have reason to know my real name address me as Lab or LR or Rat- because that’s the relevant part of my identity in the blogosphere. Even if I started signing my real name to all comments starting tomorrow forevermore, it’d take ages for people to notice and properly associate that name with me, even with full intellectual knowledge of who I “really” am in the “real” world. Likewise, of those blog friends I have who write under a pseudonym but whose real (and totally nonrelated names) I know, I still think of them by their blogname rather than their legal ones.

In bars, I’m the whiskey sour lady. At the vet’s office, I’m the woman attached to Kang and Kodos, the good-natured red Akitas. Around here, I’m an anthropomorphic rat in a lab coat. Who are you?