Archive for December, 2009

Myopic Fail

December 31, 2009 - 12:52 pm Comments Off

The frame on my glasses snapped this afternoon. I can more or less see to more or less type, but I can’t really read what I’m typing unless I lean in like Mr. Magoo. Unfortunately, after years of nigh-invincible titanium frames, I forgot the “nigh” part and neglected to leave a back-up pair in any easily found location.

Jury-rigged repairs are in progress and hopefully I can get a new pair quickly. Until then if you’re hearing from either of us it probably won’t be me.

ETA: frames epoxied and glasses mostly functional. We’ll see if the smudge on the lens of the repaired side is a real problem or no. Unfortunately, if we could lay hands on tix, we would have gone that route- I’m sure there’s tons of it up here, just all ordered through the lab for such projects. I’ll get my eyes re-examined on Monday and see if I’m eligible for Lasik, and in the meantime use TD’s link to order some backups.

Cooking Noob Addendum

December 30, 2009 - 6:09 pm Comments Off

After Stingray made up some mashed potatoes to have with the leftover stuffed cabbage casserole, apparently the mashed potatoes are mandatory. It is a much different dish when served with them, and the sauerkraut goes from overwhelming to a pleasant tangy part of a much more blended flavor. Should have listened to Breda in the first place.

On Modern Flight

December 30, 2009 - 9:08 am Comments Off

Three brief thoughts.

1. I’m done with TSA. Should some set of circumstances force me to fly again in the future, I will simply perform some ad hoc penetration testing of whatever airport(s) I must use. Following a janitor and/or slipping a delivery boy a $20 is vastly preferable to whatever idiotic, hand-wringing, ineffective bullshit is currently being implemented by the high school dropouts at the metal detector.

2. If I am unfortunate enough to be on an airplane again, and some non-profilable 20-30 year old male of certain persuasions attempts to kill himself and everybody else on the plane, I promise you he will succeed in dying. I have no such plans for myself.

3. Remember when Semtex Underoos was the fucking joke?

Delayed WTF

December 29, 2009 - 2:23 pm Comments Off

For a bit of a trip in the Wayback Machine, I ran across a disturbing news story yesterday. It may have happened back in July, but fortunately this doesn’t hinge on any sort of timetable to find today’s forehead-vein-stimulator. Cast your browsers over yonder and have a quick look.

For our ADD-afflicted audience, the upshot is a teacher apparently clicked on “Naked sexy fuck time” instead of “Class Trip” when putting together a DVD of the year’s activities and sent the disc home with a bunch of 5th graders. How exactly she managed something so profoundly weapons-grade stupid, and whether that sort of stunning intellect should be in charge of bringing the next generation through the indoctrination education system is a very good question, but it still remains that it was a legitimate mistake, despite being dumber than trusting a Chicago politician. People fuck up, it happens, do what you can to make it right, and move on. She wasn’t fucking the kids, so far as the story is presented it was just some consenting adults on film. No big whoop. No, today’s WTF comes from the parents in this little episode of Hot For Teacher.

First up, we have this little excerpt describing what happened after the DVD cut from “The wheels on the bus” to “Bow-chicka:”

“We were up till midnight doing the ‘birds and the bees,'” he added.

Not having any kids of my own, I’m of course better qualified to tell this guy how to do his job as a dad than he is. But I will note that I got the school approved version, in the classroom and with the filmstrips and everything when I was in fifth grade. My parents not being idiots had already explained the mechanics and such quite a while sooner. For all the wailing and gnashing of teeth about younger and younger kids getting sex-ed in the schools, how this one managed to miss the bus is quite a conundrum. It gets better though.

Joe doesn’t care if the teacher keeps her job, he’d just like some help from the school.
“Maybe offer some sort of counseling for my children, ask me how my children are doing,” he said. “I want somebody to ask me the kind of questions my kids are asking me.”

COUNSELING?! Look, jackass, unless the video included an albino midget covered in ranch dressing peeing on a pile of stuffed animals while the teacher and a couple other folks used 3′ dildos as light sabers to determine the fisting order, I’m gonna go out on a limb and call counseling a bit of an over-reaction. Two people fucking may be (hopefully) unfamiliar to a fifth grader, but if that’s all it takes to traumatize the little shit that badly, maybe it’s best if you take the fragile little thing out into the woods, and give it a sandwich and best wishes. If you’re an eco-nut and love the wolves and all, maybe rub some tenderizer on it first. It’s certainly appropriate for the parents to be pissed off, and for the school to apologize, which they did, and to put out a proper dvd, which they did, but hand-holding and nose-wiping is not in the list of chores they need to be concerned with in this manner, ESPECIALLY when that hand and that nose is the PARENT’S. As for “I want somebody to ask me the kind of questions my kids are asking me,” the stunning lack of ability to grasp the obvious is, well, stunning. Excuse me, Mr. Crybaby-Pants? YOUR KIDS ARE ASKING YOU THE KIND OF QUESTIONS YOUR KIDS ARE ASKING YOU. On top of that, if the school administration starts asking Joey Wusswuss here how pee-pees and bajingos fit together like his kids presumably are, we have entered into an entirely new level and area of fucked up. To go a step further in thinking this through, fifth grade is not so far back in my memory that it plays as some glossed-over “Yes, this technically happened, here is an approximation of what it most likely was” reel. Had this happened to me at that age, the school intervention necessary would have been threats of discipline if we all didn’t stop cracking jokes about it, not counseling. Ok, maybe a little counseling on account of my fifth grade teacher was not by any stretch of the imagination an attractive woman, but seriously, nothing an episode of “Baywatch” wouldn’t cure.

I feel sorry for the teacher. Obviously that was a huge and humiliating fuckup. I feel sorry for the reasonable parents, who aren’t hand-wringing nancies. The one I feel most sorry for though, is that kid. With a dad like that in the ring, that boy is gonna have some serious issues in the bedroom later in life.

Dog Bleg

December 28, 2009 - 5:03 pm Comments Off

ETA: Goal reached! Y’all are wonderful, you really are. If there are complications and thus more costs I will update again and put this back on top.

Update 2: Via Peculiar in comments: “Just heard from Libby that the news from the vet is good. She said he was happy with the way the bone fragments fitted back together, and that the prognosis is good. I’m sure that any advice from anyone who’s had a dog in very long convalescence would be welcome.”

I have thank $deity never been in a position yet where we needed to pass the hat for ourselves. Some of the people I consider to be The Good Folk, and friends, have in the past and now are in need again, and when that happens, I will ask you to stop a moment and consider them if you are similarly blessed with good fortune.

Steve and Libby recently suffered a big disaster with one of their dogs, involving a badly broken leg and an equally badly broken reserve of the amount of cash with which to pay the vet to fix it- i.e. near to nonexistent. Needless to say Irbis is in hospital now as they would never hesitate to help him, but the clinic in question is expecting payment in full Tuesday afternoon when he’s picked up after surgery. He may yet lose his leg, which sadly isn’t a problem that can be fixed with money.

We’ve both already kicked in our share. We know how devastated we would be if this was one of our dogs. Steve and Libby are among the last of the unreconstructed New Mexico Eccentrics, and therefore national treasures on some order, and Irbis as well as most of the rest of the pack are among the few remaining coursing hounds that spend their lives doing what such dogs were made to do.

The logic I’ve brought up in the past is that few of us think twice about dropping money for a meal with friends, for transient conversation and the sheer pleasure of their company, but we much more rarely think about doing the same for the long-term and archived pleasures of the same company experienced through a blog. It’s very much needed now, so think over what good company is worth to you if the charitable impulse needs a nudge. Explanation of how to donate to pay down the bill are at the link above, and Odious and Peculiar should have information about alternate ways to donate should you be uncomfortable with that one by the end of the day. Jackson of O&P is also in the comments at the Querencia post with contact information.

I’ve said enough, and in parting I’ll leave you with the patient, who is much better at puppy eyes than I am:

Irbis

Blogroll Addition

December 26, 2009 - 8:21 pm Comments Off

I aten’t dead. Just taking a mini-vacation, as the giant yearly climax that is ChristmasNewYears has left me wanting to take up professional hermiting, which is pretty much normal for me.

Meanwhile, Alan pointed me at a blog that wound up devouring my entire day today on a nonstop archive binge. I may not always agree completely with the guy, but I LOVE the way he thinks: The Last Psychiatrist. He has a particular gift for saying things I want to disagree with, but can’t actually because he’s not wrong. Which makes me think, which makes me like his stuff even more.

Check out this one in particular: The APA Says The Media Is Making Women Really Hot. He makes a point I haven’t ever seen articulated before, but rings completely true to me- the pornification of women in mass culture isn’t so much changing girls into sluts as it is creating an expectation about their behavior in boys that they may react to quite badly when it turns out to be at odds with reality.

Go read. But only if you’ve got a big chunk of spare time.

Cooking Noob: Stuffed Cabbage Casserole

December 23, 2009 - 10:49 pm Comments Off

So, awhile back Breda stopped over with us on her way to Blogorado, and had enough time and generosity to haul down a cooler full of Irish breakfast goodies as well as a loaf of brown Irish soda bread she’d made for us. She cooked us up breakfast and some bread and butter, we raved and devoured everything, and after she got home her mom* was nice enough to send along a few other recipes from the family tree. I happily noted the presence of an interesting cabbagey looking thing; while America does love its casseroles, sometimes to death, it looked different than anything I’d ever eaten. So I flagged the recipe to try next time around a casserole sounded good and I actually remembered to pull it out of my e-mail, since I tend to flag all other recipes I’m thinking about using either literally with a post-it flag in the book they live in, or in a dedicated Scrapbook folder in my browser.

So, it is most definitely hot-casserole season, and we were buying cabbage anyway to use in one of Stingray’s standards (beer, beef, and cheese soup since you didn’t ask), I gave the recipe a once-over and told Stingray to buy the ingredients on his last run to the grocery store. Here we go, Bredamom Stuffed Cabbage Cassserole:

Stuffed Cabbage Casserole

1 med. head of cabbage (shredded & cooked)

1 jar sauerkraut

Meat Layer

2 lbs ground meat

1 onion chopped

2 cloves of garlic minced

½ c minute rice

Salt & pepper to taste

Sauce

1 can tomato soup

1 can (#2) diced tomatoes

2 small cans tomato sauce

3 tbsp sugar

Layer a 13×9 pan with sauce (just enough to cover the bottom), ½ of cabbage, some sauerkraut, the meat layer, remaining cabbage, sauerkraut, sauce.

Bake covered: 275 for 3 ½ hrs

OR

350 for 1 ½hrs

The ingredients are pretty straightforward; I’d say that I made an executive decision to omit the sugar because I felt the tomato-based components had enough natural sugars not to need sweetening, but the truth is that it’s just one of those things I flat forgot while cooking. I also took a long look at two cloves of garlic per two pounds of meat and was thinking along the lines of “…well, I can’t alter an old family recipe right out the gate, that would be disrespectful…” when Breda added unprompted that we could use more garlic if we wanted. So this is what stuffed cabbage casserole would be if the immigrants in whatever time and location originally comprised it had had an Italian grandmother somewhere along the line. And no access to pasta.

1. Read recipe back-to-front a couple of times. Bug your eyes out. THREE FREAKIN HOUR- ONE AND A HALF FREAKING HOURS? We really should have started about two hours ago if we wanted dinner at dinnertime and were generally as smart as we like to fake sometimes.

2. Stop hyperventilating, clear the surface of dishtowels, mail, and any other detritus. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. (Fahrenheit. Of course. We always double-check these days, we do.)

3. Assemble your vegetative ingredients. The rest of the cabbage from the soup- check. (Instead of one medium head, we got one gigantic head and figured it equaled out to about one medium with the chunk gone that Spouse would take.) An onion- check. Two Five cloves of garlic- check. Give your garlic a good smack with the flat of the cleaver and skin them out of their paper.

4. Might as well get the minute rice out of the way. Pull the box out of the cupboard and consult the instructions on the packaging. Apparently two servings of minute rice is one cup of water and one cup rice, and one serving is half a cup, so it’s a direct ratio. Sling half a cup of water into a small saucepan, turn the burner up, and sling half a cup of the rice into it, as with that thin a layer of water it’s going to start to boil almost immediately. Useful tidbit to know: if you’re only cooking one serving’s worth, Minute Rice really does take just about a minute flat to cook completely once the water boils. Cool! The rice is going into the meat mixture, so haul out a mixing bowl to put the rice in.

5. Mince the garlic. Turns out it really is easier to just suck it up and use the big kitchen knife than it is to haul out and use the weird little widget we bought specifically for the purpose. (It looks like Pac-Man on wheels with a gutful of razors. Really.) Scrape the garlic in on top of the rice.

6. Eye the onion. Eye the food processor. We’re going to be using it anyway to process the cabbage, so why not save ourselves a little chopping work? Come on, we can do it, it’s the holy grail at this point: use the food processor to actually save yourself net time spent with the vegetables. The food processor might gleam slightly at this point, but it’s probably your imagination.

7. Lop the top and bottom off the onion, skin it, and quarter it into sizes suitable to be fed to the food processor with its normal blade attachment. At this point it appears to be a completely normal onion suitable for flavor purposes. Carefully feed the onion pieces into the food processor so that they drop more or less evenly distributed around the bowl. Pulse until the onion has been transformed from chunks into something more like a loosely associated onion gestalt.

8. Open up the food processor and AAAGGGGGGGHHHHHHH THAT HURTS OH GOD WHY RUN AWAY

9. Important safety lesson: transforming an onion from quarters into a chunky puree of onion inside a food processor will release every caustic compound that onion has within a confined environment. Do not lean over the food processor as you open it. Optional: it’s too late for Christmas this year, but maybe next year ask Spouse for an eyewash station in the kitchen. Maybe a fume hood too, if we’re feeling flush.

10. Slink back up to the food processor, detach the bowl, and attempt to scrape the onion into the bowl with the rice and garlic while holding it at arm’s length at the same time. Reach whatever compromise your anatomy allows and just get the onion in the mixing bowl. Toss the chopping blade in the sink and thoroughly wash out the bowl of the food processor, since we’re about to use it again for round two.

11. Haul out the grating disc. The recipe calls for “shredded” cabbage, so the grating disc seems like the most logical thing to pick out. Pull out the giraffe-neck doohickey that attaches to the central motor that attaches to the disc. We saw Spouse do this last time, so it should be cake this time, right?

12. It is not cake. Nonetheless, persevere; this time we ARE NOT going to call him in at any point just to deal with a fucking Cuisinart. Not for the third goddamn time. Fiddle with switches and the bizarre design of the giraffe-neck, the disc, and their respective genitalia until you finally find the way to mate the one to the other. Optional: imagine the Legend of Zelda “puzzle solved!” sound effect once you do. I did.

13. Fit the bowl onto the base. Fit the doohickey and its disc onto the motor spindle. Attempt to fit the lid onto the food processor. Try again. Look to see what’s stopping it from locking down. THAT DOESN’T EVEN LOOK LIKE IT WAS DESIGNED TO MOVE EVER OH GOD WHAT. Jam at it in frustration a few times.

14. Oh, the lid locks down in the opposite direction that the bowl locks onto the base, not the same one. Makes sense, really.

15. Start breaking down the cabbage. Abandon your attempts to cut shapes that will easily and in a space-saving way fit in the feed tube; this vegetable is not going to cooperate with your anthropoid ideas of geometry and efficiency. You’re going to be feeding this stuff into the processor awkward fistfuls at a time, jamming it through with the thoughtfully provided jammer like a Japanese subway attendant at rush hour.

16. Repeat some eleventy-jillion times. Notice midway through that the disc you chose isn’t so much producing “shredded’ cabbage the way you imagined as it is “bits” of cabbage and that the slicing disc would probably have been a much better choice, given the way the surface areas of the cabbage would have worked out. Of course halfway is the ideal time to have this revelation; no choice now but to proceed with your cabbage confetti. Pause a few times to unload masses of confetti into the largest mixing bowl you own; that really was a very large head of cabbage, and Spouse turned out not to need much.

17. Address the meat. There’s two pounds of it. You know, somewhere in between that little factoid and the entire head of cabbage mandated, you’d think it might have occurred to you that you are one half of a childless married couple and not, say, a family of eight- and halved the damn recipe at some point. We need to make a mix of what’s already in the bowl and the meat, and putting the meat on top fills the bowl to threatening to overflow.

18. There’s really only one solution to this problem; we need to get in there and give that meat and those vegetables a deep-tissue, really personal massage. By the time you’re through you’re going to be up to your wrists in raw meat and the meat will be more-or-less mixed- you’re probably going to need to massage it more as you apply the meat layer later. Wash your hands. Really, really thoroughly.

19. Remember belatedly you were supposed to mix in the salt and pepper too. Cry. Go back and do it. Wash your hands again.

20. Ransack the cabinet for the tomato soup, diced tomatoes, and tomato sauce, all of which just sort of appear in the average American cupboard regardless of deliberate purchase. Canned tomato products may well be an unstudied migratory species. Nocturnal travel? From where?

21. Mix together the various canned products until they become more or less unitarily saucelike to the eye.

22. OH MY FUCKING BLEEDING GOD IT’S WHAT TIME AND I HAVEN’T EVEN GOT IN THE OVEN YET?

23. Haul out your biggest casserole dish. Look at your giant bowl of cabbage and your not giant enough bowl of meat stuff and your giant pan of sauce. Twitch slightly. Family of six, maybe. Family of eight, no way.

Layer a 13×9 pan with sauce (just enough to cover the bottom), ½ of cabbage, some sauerkraut, the meat layer, remaining cabbage, sauerkraut, sauce.

24. Put down a healthy layer of sauce. Put down a layer of roughly one half of your cabbage. Eye the level already reached in the pan with concern. Extract a jar of sauerkraut from the cupboard and layer down what turns out to be roughly half of that, too. Take out your meat and give it another intimate massage remixing it in the process of layering it. (There will be roughly one hamburger’s worth left.) Wash your hands again.

25. Layer down the next cabbage and sauerkraut as best you can. You’re going to have too much cabbage, but oddly enough that giant jar of sauerkraut will wind up mostly spent. Trepiditiously brush on some of the sauce- we don’t want spillover in the oven. Carefully slide it into the oven. Optional: while you are blogging later, realize you forgot to cover it with tinfoil. Oh well, I’m sure the… tomato sauced cabbage will brown nicely and… fuck.

26. Just before you consider eating your pets, it will be ready and you can pull the bubbling concoction out of the oven to serve. Grab a big serving spoon, because it’s very brothy. Get a generous slice, because you ain’t making too big a dent in this tonight, and nom.

Now, Breda had told me that the thing to serve this with was mashed potatoes, which I got some sort of an Irish-stereotype chuckle out of to myself about how potatoes didn’t have to be served with every meal. Later I realized (after she told Stingray outright mid-bake) that it’s because it really needs a starchy side of SOME kind that’s relatively neutral in flavor to absorb the broth, the way French bread is often used. I arranged some Saltines around the plate as broth-absorbers just to have the contrast.

As it turned out, that was a really good idea, because it tastes surprisingly different with a starchy background than strictly on its own. Just on its own, the tartness of the sauerkraut is rather overwhelming; not a BAD taste, but certainly a strong one. With the starchy “shock absorber” the flavor mellows and blends a lot better. Given that we have so much in the way of leftovers to work with, I think at some point when I have time this week I’m going to do what Breda told me to do in the first place and whip up some mashed potatoes to serve it over. After that, I’ll decide if I want to back significantly off the sauerkraut (I DID use nearly a whole damn jar) or keep it as-is when making in the future. I also want to see what happens when I don’t forget the sugar. Either way hearty portions disappeared.

Oh, and being uncovered didn’t hurt it that I could perceive. Thankfully. Wonder how it’d be with some parmesan sprinkled over the sauce on top, as long as I’m giving in to Italian ancestors I don’t even have…

*Who has a first name like regular people- it’s Ellen- but because we are eight years old, we constantly refer to her solely as “Breda’s mom” or just “the Bredamom” anyway. We also refer to the slow-cooker pulled pork recipe she gave the world as “Bredapork”. We don’t know why her name becomes an adjective so easily, but it does.**

**Yes, yes, my footnotes will actually be hyperlinked next time. I’m just kinda frazzled and not up to absorbing HTML way beyond my usual level right this moment. I’ll probably be lazy and install a plugin before next time.

Content?

December 23, 2009 - 12:27 am Comments Off

You want actual content this week?
Well, fine. Have a Vicious Circle.

We’ll be drinking steadily until this festive pile of forced glee is over with.

Minor Frustrations Of My Life

December 21, 2009 - 3:38 pm Comments Off

Things you expect to be easily searchable information and yet turn out to be impossible to access via search engine: roadrunner body language. We have a friendly neighborhood roadrunner that turns up in our front yard from time to time. Like most predatory birds he’s insouciantly confident, and he likes to come right up to the glass to have a good look in at us before he goes on his way. This time Kodos was hanging out watching the world go by on the other side of it, and the bird gave him a crest-ruffle and a big, exaggerated tail dip. I’m betting it’s an avian middle finger roughly equivalent to the mockingbird tail-waggle, but I don’t actually know for sure.

Because fucking everybody has named their company after roadrunners. Search for “roadrunner (adjective) display” and you get endless pages of results for things that have absolutely nothing to do with roadrunners. Same with just about any variant.

Off to find the birder websites and search through there…

Friday Randomosity Fun

December 18, 2009 - 2:55 pm Comments Off

…For what else could any Vicious Circle be?

Contains moments of topicality, which was “bah, humbug”. But mostly not.