Thursday, November 27, 2008

Everything's Better with Gravy

Love may make the world go 'round, but gravy is what makes it worth the trip.

Today is Thanksgiving, and this year what I'm thankful for is gravy. Thick, savory, steaming gravy. Big ol' honkin' ladles of the stuff, just running over everything and pulling together the fragmented components of the traditional Thanksgiving dinner into a cohesive and tasty whole.

Gravy says relax, take off the tie, and hunker down to the chow. You're among friends.

Gravy comes in many forms. What's a salad without dressing? Naked, that's what. A sundae without fudge sauce is just a bowl of ice cream. Banana splits are loved the wide world over for not one, not two, but three kinds of gravy. Barbecue is just roasted meat until it meets the gravy.

Fries without ketchup? Hot dogs without mustard? Heavens forfend! It's all about the gravy.

* * *

I'm lucky enough to have gravy when I want, how I want, and in the quantity I want. Most people aren't so lucky. If you need a little nudge to spur your holiday/end of tax year donations read this. It's important.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I don't like things I can't pronounce

Nature is a wonderful thing. When something is very bad for us, nature gives us warning. This way we know to avoid that which can destroy us or make us all itchy. Lions roar really loudly and bears have big teeth and claws, so we know to not mess with them. Some women wear way too much eye makeup so you'll know that they can and will hurt you. I once saw a day-glow orange beetle crawling across my parent's backyard in Florida. I figured nothing with coloring that bright could survive unless it was a major bad-ass, and discretion being the better part of valor, I discretely hauled my valorous backside back inside.

Nature gives clues in other ways too. One that I've noticed lately is that if I can't pronounce it, it's probably not good for me. To wit:

Foie Gras - I'm not going to talk about it. Google if you must know.

Wednesday - Wed-nez-day? No way. It should be Winds-day, and it's too far from either weekend to be useful. I vote we either get rid of it, or convert it to a middle of the week holiday.

February - Feb-ru-airy? Nope. It's Feb-yoo-wary. Too short, too cold, and more bad things have happened to me in February than the other eleven months put together. I'm bitter and it shows.

Toyota Prius - Pri-us? Pre-us? Priss? Pre-yus? Who cares! It's liberalism at it's most conspicuous. Sure they come with a stylish Obama bumper sticker, but I'm old school enough to think that bumper stickers should never be stuck over paint, only over chrome. (When was the last time they put chrome on a vehicle anyway?) That many volts passing near the cabin just has to impair driver cognition. How else do you explain that fact that Prius drivers never seem to know where they're going, and take their time getting there?

Maybe it's a Chapel Hill thing, but you can't fire duck liver out of a slingshot around here without hitting a Prius. I used to mark the spot on my morning commute where I saw the first electro-funk mobile of the day. It used to average somewhere between two and five miles from my house. Over the past year it's gone down to less than a mile. Now it's even money that I won't make it four blocks. It's almost enough to make me miss the new VW Beetles. Almost.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Crazy Eights

Today is 8/8/08, one of twelve days each century when the day, month and year are all the same number. Rejoice in a phenomenon too regular to be coincidence, yet too mystical to be mundane.

I forgot to do something eight-ish in observance of the day*, but I've got a year and month and a day to get ready for Sept. 9th, 2009.

*Not entirely true... I ate a lot.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Schrodinger's Chick

A friend of mine tried to explain teenage girls to me once. He started out with, "How well do you know quantum physics?" Umm, well there are these quark thingies and... Fortunately he interrupted me before I could embarrass myself further. I sure as heck didn't understand teenage girls when I was a teenager, and I don't understand them now, even though a great many harvests have come and gone since then.

He continued. "It's like Schrodinger's Cat."

"Oh yeah, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and all that." I relaxed, back on slightly more familiar ground.

"Right" my friend went on, "there's no way to know the state of the item in question without observing it, so you can consider it to be in a mix of all possible states until you actually observe it and it resolves to a single state."

The light went on! Girls, and by extension Women, exist is a great many states all at once, and it's only when you open your big fat mouth and say something do they note that they are being observed and resolve into a single state. To wit:

You're hanging out with your sister, lady friend, paramour, soul-mate, whomever, and things are fairly amiable. This is too good to last.

Out of the blue she hits you with: "Do these jeans make me look fat?", confirming that you don't have to be psychic to know the day, hour, and minute of the apocalypse. "It's a nice world, and I'd rather stay in it for a little while longer" you think to yourself. So you mutter something unintelligible but vaguely upbeat and hope that something distracting will happen. Like maybe Hillary Clinton will burst into the room screaming "Oh my God! I love what you've done with the colors in here! I must have you on my committee!"

No such luck, and she fires the fat jeans question back at you, along with a look that says, "If you break eye-contact without giving me an answer you're going to be able to hit all the high notes in The Star Spangled Banner."

Now realize that up until this point her behind has been both narrow and wide, fat and thin, Humpty and Dumpty. But now it's going to resolve. And as often happens when matter changes state on a quantum level, it's going to release a startling amount of energy. Almost certainly in your direction.

It's the simultaneous need for, and abhorrence of, being observed that drives the teenage soul. The only question more terrifying than "What if somebody sees me?" is "What if nobody notices me?". Maybe that's why cell phones and facebook are so popular with the acne-and-hormones crowd. They get to see and be seen more often, but at a lower, less volatile, intensity.

* * *

They say youth is wasted on the young. Buuuuullshit. You can have it. I say middle-age is where it's at. I'm at the top of the bell-curve, and the view is spectacular.

I don't have to impress anybody - I'm already married. I can cruise grocery store with a terminal case of bed-head, in swimming trunks and mismatched plaid socks, and nobody will say a word about it. Heck, people under thirty can hardly even see me at all. Best of all, it's my generation's music they're playing in the check out line.

"Hey, Honey! Remember those shirts that were so popular twelve years ago? This one still fits!" My wife would say "Cool!" and congratulate me on the money I'm saving. No one who subscribes to Maxim can say that.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Necessity is a Mother

Here's my gift to Humanity, free of any patents, licenses, or other encumbrances on productivity:

1) Take a piece of 4x4 post
2) Drill holes in it slightly larger than your skewers
3) Put your skewers in the holes, pointy side up
4) Stick all sorts of grillable noshes on the skewers
5) Marvel at how much time you saved vs handling all the skewers each time you wanted to poke something tasty on them.

If the MacArthur Foundation calls, I'll be on the deck.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

There's procrastination, and then there's this...

When we moved back from Auburn in the fall of 2006 I found my recipe folder and thought it would be a good idea to get them all into the computer so I wouldn't lose them. Seems I've been paving the road to hell for nigh on a year and a half now. Maybe that should bother me more than it does.

Maybe not.

Yes, I use Outlook. I'm sure there are better email clients out there, but other than being a slow resource hog, it hasn't given me sufficient motivation to switch. Also, Spambayes (which is brilliant!) has an Outlook plug-in, so I don't deal with spam, potted meat, or Vienna sausages. I had a bad experience once involving too many Vienna sausages and a swing set when I was a little boy. Suffice it to say that I don't eat them anymore.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

The best interface is no interface

I found a bunch of those self-contained LED walkway lights on sale at Target. For two bucks I got a solar cell, an LED, a AA Ni-Cd battery, and some circuit-stuff so it can turn itself on at night and off during the day. What a bargain for me.

This isn't really a "Make", it's more of a re-make. A re-tasking, if you will. Except that I never had any intention of using the lights for their intended task. Oh well, let the philosopher kings bandy about the semantics, I just like to solder stuff.

I painted the inside of a mason jar with glass-frosting paint (from my local craft/home improvement store), chopped off the bits from the light housing that I didn't want, unsoldered the solar cell wires, ran them through a hole I poked in the lid, and reconnected them. Then I sealed the whole thing up with copious amounts of hot glue and Robert's my Father's Brother.

Leave the jar out in the sun and the battery charges. When it's dark the light shines. No switches, no ethernet connection, no $25 iPod recharge cable. It just does what it's supposed to do, when it's supposed to do it.

There are links to other things I've made under "Escaped Inventions" to the right.

With Guilt, Shame and Remorse to make it complete

I know they mean well. Free Range Chickens and all that. But for The Love Of Pete they could hold the irony until after I've had my breakfast...

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Indiana Jones and The Zimmer Frame of Doom

I haven't seen the current Indiana Jones flick, so don't take the title as a slam on Harrison Ford or the movie franchise. Ok, you can take it as a slam on Temple of Doom, but I think everyone here would rather pretend it just didn't happen. What I'm trying to talk about, and will get to eventually, is the power of marketing not only to shape our perceptions, but the fabric of the very reality in which we sit. Note to those of you who stand while reading the internet: Siddown!

For the past few days I haven't been able to move the left side of my face. [Don't Panic. They think it's Bell's Palsy, and temporary.] No particular reason, really, I just lost a little function Friday night, and by Saturday it felt like I'd just come home from the Dentist in a tingly-novacaine-about-to-wear-off kinda way. The odd twist came when I realized that my left cheek and surrounding area wasn't numb, it was paralyzed, in an Hey-My-Face-Doesn't-Work-Anymore kinda way. To stifle the immediate reaction of an undisclosed number of You People out there, I am aware that there are some for whom my face has never worked. However, it has always worked for me. (And for Steffi Graf? You'll have to ask her. That's all I've got to say about that.) Now hush.

Faces are, on the (and when) whole, wonderfully handy things. Handsome faces even more so. Being able to blink your eye fully closed keeps it moist and irritant free. Being able to control your lips helps you spit instead of slobber, smile instead of smirk, clearly annunciate your bilabial aspirated fricatives, and keeps other people from fleeing the table when you're eating soup. It also allows you to kiss beyond Junior High School Level. On the other hand, my hopefully temporary partial paralysis has done wonders for my Elvis impersonation*, and my People's Eyebrow has never been more convincing.

Faces also sell things. Babies learn early early on to zero in on Mom's face. It makes everyone smile (another facial skill) and the little tyke gets what he needs. And a baby that can do his own smiling can make even the coldest, meanest, orneriest sumbich melt like a Nazi in an Indiana Jones movie.

So when Harrison Ford's face shows up on a movie poster under the Leather Fedora, we whip out the cash and troop to the theater like good little drones. Because the marketing folks know what we like. Of course they know, they trained us. More to the point, when Harrison Ford's face shows up on a Snicker's Bar, we whip out the bucks and buy them too. But it's not just a candy bar. Not with Harrison Ford's mug on the wrapper. It's an "Adventure Bar". How about that?

So let me see. I can either swing through the mosquito infested rain forest, tracking down some antiquity of inscrutable origin and even more unfathomable evil, pursued all the while by Nazi's, henchmen, savage monkeys, (did I mention mosquitoes?), and I don't know what-all, OR (and here's where I get back to marketing like I promised) I can just eat a candy bar and have: Exactly. The. Same. Experience. Hmmm. Risk dismemberment, consumption, partial facial paralysis, or eat a Candy, no, Adventure Bar? Geez Monty, that's a tough one. Let me get back to ya. I got a guy on the other line about a set of white-walls.

*"Thank ya. Thank ya very much. Hey... uh.. C-can I get some more gravy on this?"

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Food Groups

Snacks can be classified by how well they balance the four basic food groups: sugar, salt, fat, and caffeine. Any decent junk food has two of the four. Doritos: Salt and fat. Coke: Sugar and caffeine. Add a third and the value goes up dramatically. Chocolate: Sugar, fat and caffeine. Yumm-tasty!

Achieving casual nosh-nirvana isn't as easy as just gobbing on the goo. I almost found the courage to try a deep fried snickers bar at the state fair this year, but my gall bladder clenched up and wouldn't let go of my esophagus until I'd cleared the exit. On the other hand, peanut butter chocolate chip rice crispy treats are quite tasty. That 255 mg of sodium in one cup of Rice Krispies sure cranks up the old blood pressure in the morning, and peanut butter hits the trifecta [FAT, SALT, SUGAR] all by its lonesome.

The best I've been able to do is the humble offering below, which would have won a ribbon at the state fair if those old biddies hadn't let them dry out for two days before proclaiming them "good flavor, but dry". Well, Thank you Martha Stewart! They were left out for two freakin' days! Geeeee-zus! I'm sure the Queen was all over the Royal Catering Society to get Princess Di's wedding cake finished and set out in the sun a full 48 hours before the reception so it would have time to properly cure. Lord. Ham. Mercy.

So here's the recipe for Tom's No Bake Ultimate Hell-Raise Peanut Butter Fudge Oatmeal Cookies (AKA Horse Patties). By the way you can either take my advice and eat them when they're barely cool enough, or follow the lead of The North Carolina State Fair Old Bat's Committee to Frustrate Aspiring Bakers Who Really Have Better Things to Do With Their Time But Figure What the Heck I'll Give it a Go Just for Fun and Defenders of Traditional Country Women's Domain (wow, it's hard to type with this much blood deforming my eyeballs from within) We'll Teach Those... Those Men to Stay Out of Our Kitchens and Sit Back Down in Front of the Television Where They Belong and let them dessicate on the sidewalk in front of your flat for a fortnight or so.

Am I bitter? No, I'm angry.

Tom's No Bake Ultimate Hell-Raise Peanut Butter Fudge Oatmeal Cookies (AKA Horse Patties)

2 Cups sugar [SUGAR]
1 1/2 Stick of Butter [FAT, SALT]
1/2 Cup Milk [FAT]

3 TableSpoons Cocoa [CAFFEINE]
1/2 Cup Peanut Butter [FAT, SALT, SUGAR]
1 TableSpoon Vanilla Extract [Smells nice]

3 Cups Quick Oats [Takes up space]
1/2 Cup Sweetened Coconut [FAT, SUGAR]

Heat the Sugar, Butter and Milk slowly in a large saucepan, gently stirring until it starts to boil. Reduce heat slightly and let boil gently for 3 minutes without stirring. (This keeps it from hardening too much later. If it's boiling too violently, just remove it from the heat.)

Quickly stir in Cocoa and Peanut Butter. When combined, remove from heat and stir in the Vanilla Extract, the Coconut, and then add the Quick Oats a cup at a time.

Distribute on wax paper, let cool, then consume.

Makes two cookies. One to eat and one to share.

Road Tunes

One of the reasons I really like my car stereo is that it plays mp3 and wmv files. Which means I can put all of my Paul Thorn albums on one disk, and not have to shuffle them in traffic. I suppose I'm a luddite for even owning CDs, but I'm not inclined to cough up the bucks to Bill's Evil Coupertino Twin until he can promise me he won't take my music away.

I snapped this horridly appropos picture as I was leaving work after a long day.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

I'm a #9 Curly McCoy

Myers-Briggs don't know nuthin'. It doesn't matter if you're Empathic-Aggressive, Extroverted-Logical, Effusive-Misanthropic or any other useless combination of terms slapped together by The Man. What matters is your position on the Stooge-Trek Matrix. Line up your favorite Stooge with your favorite Trek-guy and all will be revealed.

#1 Moe Kirk: You're a bossy, philandering, control freak. You mete out destruction when you don't get your way. Everyone still likes you, despite your hair.

#2 Larry Kirk: You have a Walter Middy-esque fantasy life. Outwardly reserved and loyal, you'd be a leader if you weren't such a great target.

#3 Curly Kirk: Chaos follows in your wake. The center of attention, you'll go over, under, around, or preferably through, all obstacles.

#4 Moe Spock: It's no coincidence they had the same hair cut. MoeSpocks are smart, and hindered only by their smug sense of superiority.

#5 Larry Spock: You're a right-hand man all the way. An indispensable Man-Friday. Many US Vice Presidents were LarrySpocks.

#6 Curly Spock: Full of contradictions, you struggle to control your inner demon-child, and rationalize the occasional odd outburst.

#7 Moe McCoy: A meticulous neat freak. You do things by the book, regardless of which book it happens to be.

#8 Larry McCoy: Sensitive and artistic, you're happiest alone or in small groups. Music is your life.

#9 Curly McCoy: You do it all in the name of misapplied science. You mix chemicals just to see which ones blow up.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Save the Zero!

I've made a personal lifestyle choice. I've decided to see if I can go the rest of my life without using the zero button on the microwave. Now, it would be ironic if I were struck down by a rogue meteor before tomorrow morning's Pop-Tart. Ironic and painful. But wait, isn't irony only for the unexpected? Since I'm sending this out to the world, one can hardly now consider the rogue meteor "unexpected", which would make it cliched, rather than ironic. So I must be safe, as I avoid cliches like the plague. Ooh, you say, a sudden plague would be more than a little ironic, wouldn't it? Dang. I'm not gonna sleep tonight.

Anyhow, back to the microwave. I've recently started to notice that the zero is always the most worn button on any microwave control pad. It gets more use than "Popcorn", and for no good reason. It gives one a useless illusion of precision, nothing more. Who's to say you should nukulate that slice of pizza for 60 seconds, rather than 55 or 66? If you forswear the naught button, you'll be off by no more than 10%, and it's a 50/50 chance that it'll be an improvement. So stop kidding yourself. Try 53 seconds sometime. 11 seconds is almost 10, plus you save the time you would have spent finding zero with your finger. In that split second you just might be struck with the inspiration of what to say to that fetching, raven haired beauty who's presence overwhelms your basic motor skills and who's absence haunts your sleepless nights. Hint: "Hey" has always worked for me.

By "worked" I mean elicited no reaction whatsoever.

I don't expect you to follow my path unless you feel it in the depth of your being. Don't do it for me. Do it for yourself.

Office Pets

My office sea monkeys have produced a second generation. I wonder what sort of mutations we got this time. Code monkeys perhaps? Hmmm... I wonder if they know sea sharp? Probably not; I expect they'd stay away from dot net.

Meanwhile, the hexbot I solared-up continues to revel in the morning sunshine.

This One's Too Easy

Sunday, March 30, 2008

No Nada No More

Too many projects, too little time. Here's a list of the cool things I'd rather be doing than sitting on the couch, plotzed after a long day. Or should I say after the 45 min commute after a long day. Maybe it's the getting up at 6:15 that's doing it. At least it's not age. I know it's not age. Just like I know it's not crappy diet, lack of exercise, lack of gumption, and absolutely, positively, without a doubt Mr. Congressmen I can say unequivocally that the problem lies far outside the realm of sleep deprivation.

Remember all those times when you were a kid, and you'd whine around the house that you were bored? BORED? Hell, I haven't been bored since January 7th, 2001. (Right before my wife told me we were expecting.) If I could go back in time I'd slap my freakin' face off. Nowadays I *dream* of being bored. Sometimes I sneak out of work just to sit in the Dentist's office. They ask me when my appointment is, and I say, "Oh, not for another few months, but don't worry about me, I'm fine just sitting here." They look at me like I'm wearing a fish for a hat, because they don't appreciate the sublime joy of being bone idle. Disengaged. Off line. Non tasked. I'm talking as unoccupied as the Bates Hotel after Norman took his state-sponsored sabbatical.

Part of the problem is that new problems are more attractive than old ones. If the world would just slow the (Sweet Molly O'Grady! I almost dropped the F Bomb) down, maybe I could catch up.

Anyhow, one day I'd like to teach my PC to play a decent game of GEV. Then I'd have something to do when I'm bored.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Workin' for The Man

It's a bit of a tradition for me to not work on ACC Tournament Friday, but this year I've got both a real job and way too much on my plate to justify taking even a half day off to watch basketball on TV. Even if I could take a half day off I'd drive down to my Dad's and wish him Happy Birthday instead. (Happy Birthday Dad! Einstein didn't get all the March 14th Brains.)

As it is, I'll just post this rough composite photo from last December in the Dean Dome. Though the game was a partial sellout, there was a pretty good crowd. We just like to show up early and nosh the sumptuous grindage we call Dean Cuisine.

The long and winding road

My opponent's vicious mudslinging attacks aside, I do have a life even when I'm not writing about it. Here are some of the places I've been in the past few months. By "few" I mean five or six.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Robots and Eggs endorses McCain

People get the government they deserve.

Pick the issues you care about, do some real research, and vote.