Sunday, December 30, 2007

New Year's Resolutions
It's not too early to start work on that list. And it is so beyond cliché to ask what you are resolving that I am emphatically not going to do so. But I will ask you about your process. When do you start thinking about what to resolve? New Year's Day itself? The week after Christmas? Do you write them down? If so, where do you keep them? Someplace where they stand as a stark reminder or some dark place that rarely sees the light of day?
I'm also not going to bother you with all that I'm resolved to but there are a couple I'll post. First - no more wasting time with web-based games. I had an entire folder of "Games" in my bookmarks and it has been dumped already. I played my last games of the "Asteroid"-style game "Belter" today as well as my last round of online "Bejeweled."
PoW will given more attention in '08 as well. It has lacked focus and posting has been sparse. I'd like to have at least something for you every day though such a thing is not always do-able. Instead, I will steal a page from the estimable Joe Sherlock's book and post on certain days on a weekly schedule. Call that a 'to-be-determined' schedule for the nonce. I also hope (not resolve) that I can make some upgrades to the blog. Adding blogads might make a couple of bucks here and there. That can't be too bad. And the template is in dire need of a new look. Call that TK (in magazine-speak a "to kum" - something to be filled in later).
I resolve to be an early riser. I don't get going these days until mid morning. I'm going to start getting up at 6am so I can have the paper read and breakfast finished by 9am in nought eight.
And no more fast food. I will be cooking more from the basic ingredients. This will allow me to do even more food blogging as well so we all win (he says tongue in cheek).
Happy New Year to ye. I hope it's your Best. Year. Evar.

Friday, December 28, 2007

One last recipe post for '07. I haven't tried any variation on this so I can in no way claim it as my own so I have to pass along the credit to "the folks at Butterball" as the the source (from a Scripps Howard piece in my local paper).
New England Cran-Maple Chutney
1 bag (12 oz) of cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup (2.5 oz) chopped crystallized ginger
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 table spoon honey Dijon-style mustard
1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
Combine all ingredients in a heavy medium saucepan. Bring to boil on medium heat, stirring frequently.
Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered for 1o to 15 minutes or until cranberries begin to pop and mixture thickens. Cover and refrigerate at least two hours to chill and allow flavors to blend.
This may have come from the turkey pimps at Butterball but I think this would work just exceedingly well with big slabs of ham, lamb chops or roast lamb. I don't quite see eating it with roast beef since that takes nothing more than a good Dijon-style mustard to be perfect. But I suppose you could, if you wanted to.
I think the recipe might be improved if you used a Vidalia type (sweeter) onion and chopped it a bit larger. It would give a nice snap to the texture.
A Little Late
But quite enjoyable nonetheless.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

There's Got To Be A Morning After
December 26 and I start with a call-out to a disaster movie. Ignore that. I haven't had any coffee yet. Christmas proper is over even if "the season" lasts through new year's day. And should I capitalize New Year's Day? Just a little window on things that trouble me.
In any event, I hope Christmas for you was great. Of course I hope you got the gifties you sought but more than that I hope you had moments of joy in the midst of all the hubbub and brouhaha. I had a pleasant lunch with a friend and his parents at a retirement community no too far away. The food was not bad. Not exactly overwhelming but good for institutionally produced grub. And then we sat and talked. We ended up talking about cloning and abortion. Not exclusively of course but those topics seemed to lead. The talk will probably lead to a blog post before long.
My wish for you today is for calmness, relaxation and rest. Nothing about an upside-down cruise ship.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

So This Is Christmas
I have neglected, to this point, to wish you all a very merry Christmas but that does not mean the wish has not been in my heart for you. I have worked toward the outward expressions of Christmas this year perhaps hoping to make Pascal's wager to hold on a smaller level. I'm not sure it has fully worked.
I am enjoying this Christmas a bit more than last but not as much as I know I can. I will work in the new year to bring myself to a higher level of health which will allow me to better enjoy the season - decorate more, do something new like bake Christmas cookies. How sad is that? I don't recall the last time I made Christmas cookies. Somewhere I have a recipe for hermits (I have no idea how that name attaches to cookies) which are devastatingly good. Next year, baby, next year!
Today I made a batch of "New England Maple-Cran Chutney" which is rather good. Much more chutney than cranberry sauce despite having more sweet in it than in my cranberry sauce. I'll post the recipe after I've done another couple of batches. It has crystallized ginger in it. And I like it. Are you surprised?

So this is Christmas. May your day be filled with fun, family, gifts and grub. My wish for you is joy and enjoyment, blessings, cheer, full bellies and long, warm naps.

And I hope yule log onto Pugs of War in the new year.

Monday, December 24, 2007

A Brief Meditation On The Use Of Knives
Kitchen knives that is. If you want advice on edged-weapon combat, you'll have to go elsewhere. This is occasioned by my latest batch of dumplings last night when I was chopping kim chi. Previously I had used my santoku knife to do the chopping and it was unsatisfactory. My santoku (from the Cuisinart set I have blogged long ago about buying from Amazon) is a very light knife. A large blade but not a heavy blade. The nappa cabbage kim chi is a pretty fibrous sort of vegetable and it took a lot of pressing to chop it with the santoku.
But I have a really lovely large-bladed stainless steel vegetable cleaver which I have tended not to use. Mistake that. I got it out for last night chopping and it was a wizard at reducing the veg to the size I wanted. The sharp heavy blade took no pressing to cut through a good pile of cabbage. And the width of the blade made taking the chopped product off the cutting board simple.
So once again the wisdom of using the right tool for the job is rammed home. Of course it helps to have the right tool. Not that you're going to find me getting a Tomato Shark any time soon.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

I've been meaning to post my congrats to Joe Sherlock on his acquisition of new automotivity - a Lexus LS460. Just. Gorgeous. Looks like molded raspberry syrup. As we say in the Serenity 'verse: Shiny. I hope it turns out to be everything the good gentleman from the opposite cost (and his lovely missus) expect in a vehicle. I look forward to reading its adventures on the blog in the coming months.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Another Sure Sign Of The Apocalypse
The Hello Kitty AK-47.
Hmm. A title longer than the post.
Until I made that comment. Oh well.
Another perfectly reasonable observation shot to hell.
Latest Netflixing
Watched "Shrek the Third." Not bad. Technologically superior to the first two but the story was lacking. However, the ogre and dragon-donkey babies were just adorable. Overall, very cute. Definitely worth a rental if you haven't seen it. Not worth owning though.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Wherein I Force A Collective Regurgitation
A woman was advertising one size of battery that she was selling after buying an imported lot that was taken by customs. In other words:
She shills C cells by the seizure.
UPDATE: I have been one-upped by a logophile friend who suggests the following (superior) wording:
She shills C cells. Buy the seizure!
Go Visit
IML8 over at the "And Another Thing...." blog has a great story up today. Go, read, clap your hand to your forehead, wish her well.
Listening To Christmas
Once again, I have had trouble getting myself in the Christmas mood. I do believe it's better this year than last what with the smell of the tree in the house and the noble intention to get cards out the door today.
And my ECB has sent me a wonderful gift:
La Répertoire de La Cuisine by Louis Saulnier. I will be digging into this petite treasure in the new year. Thanks Paul!
Of course I have to gripe before I get to the reason for the post. A couple of years ago, (maybe a few, does anyone really care?) I bought a set of battery-powered LED lights which I considered to be for the wreath. This year, I put the batteries in and powered it up and only four of the bulbs burned at a decent level of brightness. I thought LEDs were marked by their ability to last for donkey's years.Wazzup wid dis? So now I have to find a new set which may or may not be easy. On the other hand, the technology of small LED light strings has probably improved so that they're running off AA batteries instead of C cells. Oh well...
So we get to the point of my post, the nub of my gist, the (crunch!) chocolaty center of my Tootsie Pop. If there's any one thing I did to make this season seem more festive, more Christmas-y, it is to have made an iTunes mix of all my Christmas music and set it to shuffle. I have nearly seven hours of music in the mix and I can listen for a couple of hours to songs I love (the new Trans-Siberian Orchestra disc is really good) and let the spirit creep into me even if my tattered soul wants to resist. I hope y'all have something similar. It's a good thing.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Wherein I Watch Television I Normally Don't
I had the misfortune to watch about ten minutes of the ABC home-makeover-cum-queen-for-a -day show that's broadcast on Sunday night. What a wretched excrescence on the face of humanity. First the faux concern for the wounded people who seek the prize of a quickly (and we hope not shoddily) constructed home. Hollywood is never more false than when people whose reason for being is screen time pretend to care for those among us who have suffered tragedy. Awful, awful people.
And then the "design" of rooms. I don't recall seeing any more narcissistic exercise on television since watching Bob Villa on "This Old House."
Horrible, awful people. The only reason I can fathom for this show to stay on the air is that people who have suffered the slings and arrows are getting new homes. And that I don't disparage.
Mixed Emotions
The old joke about the definition of mixed emotions is watching your mother-in-law go over a cliff in your new Mercedes. Here is an update on that. My tears for the loss of such magnificent autofleisch are lost in my you-rich-sonuvabitch laughter.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

In Light Of The Ice Storms
It's an old joke fable but its' worth repeating:
Late one autumn a songbird decided it was tired of migrating and thought it would just hang around over the winter to see what it had been missing. Well, it soon found out that what it had been missing was intense cold and lack of tasty insects. So, as an ice storm began to blow in, the songbird figured better late than never and flew off toward the south. But the storm was just too much and in no time at all, the songbird's wings began to get coated with ice and he fell out of the sky, a itty bitty ball of ice as the storm abated.
But as it turned out, the songbird fell into a cow pasture and a cold, cold cow ambled over and dropped a massive pattie right onto the bird. Greatly relieved at not being frozen anymore, the songbird began trilling a song of relief. At which point, the local cat heard him, stalked over, pulled him out of the cowpat and, wiping carefully, consumed him with undisguised pleasure.
This is, of course, a fable so it has to have a moral. Actually it has two. First, just because somebody poos on you doesn't mean he's your enemy. And secondly, just because somebody pulls you out of the poo doesn't mean he's your friend.
Fuzzy And Muzzy
Expect no blogging here today folks. I had one of those night where I just could nt reach sleep. Out of the whole night I probably got three, perhaps fours in a couple of fits and starts. It was so bad that I watched some of the Affleck's movie "Paycheck" which is one of the few things I can think of that is worse than not sleeping.
I hope you have a good today. I'll be lucky to make it through the day's sudoku with brain cells still sparking. Bugger.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

My attention was just called to, and I so wish I'd realized this myself, that Brangelina's child Shiloh Pitt's name is subject to a really, really bad spoonerism. Don't make me write it out!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

I was thinking about the Democratic front runners and realized that were one to win, it would be an Obama-nation. If the other were to win it would be an abomination.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Since I Mentioned It...

A Christmas Gift From Jake
The superbly talented Jake Armerding has a section of his website called "Bootlegs." Freely downloadable mp3 files of several songs, mostly his own. But he has put up an instrumental version of "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" that is quite lovely. A great addition to your seasonal music collection. And at the right price.
Thanks, man. May you get whatsoever you want for Christmas especially since you serve up a gift to us.
Why Does This Make Me Think Of Michael Vick?
If you have a battle dog, or a dog that's really, really into Ren Faires, I think you need to invest in dog armor. And please no one tell Gradual Dazzle that they're making skwerl armor too! Evil needs no help.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Christmas Dog
I'm working on a new dog breed for Christmas. It's a cross between a setter and a pointer and it'll be called a "pointsetta."
The Christmas Thing Starts Again
Yesterday I acquired my little table-top tree and a wreath. Today, as the snow falls, I will lay the wreath out on the table and add the big red bow and the clever battery-powered LED lights. The table for the tree will be cleared and the leaves and scruff which the tree accumulated out in nature will be picked out. Then, after going out into the snow (snow! in December!), I'll do a couple rounds of cranberry sauce tests and gather the Christmas cards out of their hidey hole.
I have been quite slack in the card sending of late but I have a stack of delightfully retro cards which I'll be chewing through this year even if I do nought but sign my name and say "God bless." Really, more is not required. I hope your proto-Christmas is developing well.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Again With The Finarglin' Cranberry Sauce?
Yep. More experimentation. Having killed my orange-flavored brandy-ish stuff on my last batch, I went to the alky store today to purchase Grand Mariner, Cointreau and Triple Sec. A batch will be made with each to see if there is any appreciable difference. I'm hoping there won't be since Triple Sec costs about an eighth of the 'spensive stuff. I'll not be posting results however as I'm making batches of the stuff to give at Christmas and I want everyone to assume that they got the good stuff. But join me later for a snifter of Cointreau, or Grand Mariner....
"Tin Man" Again
I was planning to get more into the ideas animating the story this time around but I find I'm growing against the show as it goes on. In point of fact, last night as I watched part the second, I was so tired that I fell asleep while watching. I'm definitely going to watch it tonight when part two is broadcast again though. I want to like it. It's just getting more difficult.

Monday, December 03, 2007

A Very Brief List Of Some Things I Love
The last minute of Jethro Tull's "Thick as a Brick"
The jalapeno corn chips at Trader Joe's
Brown-eyed blondes and green-eyed brunettes
The delicious bite of gingerroot
Apple computers
Paul Reed Smith guitars
The curious synergy and differences between Japanese and Chinese aesthetics
Caller ID
There will be more. Please feel free to add things you love in the comments.

Info Bleg
I came upon this indoor/outdoor smoker on the 'Zon today and am highly intrigued. But I'd like to know if anyone has any experience with it or something similar. Smoking things is a very good thing in the Martha Stewart place of my foodie-ness but does this thing actually work? The price and free shipping is not bad.
Drop me a comment, please.
"Tin Man"
I watched the first episode of Sci-Fi channel's new mini series "Tin Man" last night. If you're not a Sci-Fi watcher, it's a re-imagining of "The Wizard of Oz" that's more "Zardoz" than Judy Garland. In brief - I liked it. Sci-Fi does a remarkably good job in original production for a basic cable channel. But I want to go into detail on this show if it doesn't bore anyone. And in that regard, I want to consider the casting.
First, Zooey Deschanel as Dorothy, or in a change that's just a bit too precious her character is called "DG." I suppose they had to make a change of some kind but "DG" just doesn't flow. I've known several people who go by 'DJ" and those initials do feel easy on the tongue. "DG" on the other hand, just doesn't work. But that's minor, really. I loved Ms. Deschanel in "Hitchhiker's Guide..." but I am not enamored of her here. She has no presence. She's supposed to be all spunky and whatnot but her character doesn't act consistently. She's shown wading into fights where she'd be at enormous risk with a stick in her hand yet she doesn't fight back when, for example, the flying monkeys come after her.
And yet I don't want to be too negative about her. As I watched the show, I kept trying to think of actresses I'd prefer to see in her place and no one in particular came to mind. So I may just accept the casting decision of the producers and leave it at that. If any reader can suggest alternate casting, please leave a comment. It doesn't help that Kathleen Robertson who plays the evil Azkedellia (the wicked witch character) is a drop-dead gorgeous brunette. And she plays the evil lead just fantastically like a black snake: glossy, beautiful and pure menace. I hope, speaking strictly in my "guy" mode, that we get to see a lot of her work in the future. And she plays her part better than the female lead.
Neal McDonough plays, strangely, the title character. He is discovered in a very steampunk-y (in fact, the production design is very steampunk which is just fine by me) metal "box" where he has been forced to watch a holographic loop on his "arrest" and the torture of his family by Azkedellia's "Longcoats" (the Winkies of the original movie) for many years. He was a policeman (a badge-carrying "tin man") who was part of the resistance against the evil regime and his punishment was the box from which he is rescued by DG and the scarecrow character (called "Glitch" here). McDonough is perfectly cast. He is angry, with a strong dose of capable menace. He is utterly believable in a fantasy which says something about his acting ability. I don't think it was made explicit but I take his "no heart" as having his family, those he loves, torn away from him.
Glitch is played by Alan Cumming who in real life is just too gay for me. I don't care if someone is gay but don't shove it in my face, please (oh, unfortunate metaphor!). He's like Andy Dick without the full-on insane behavior. His character's "lack of a brain" is due to Azkedellia who physically removed a good portion of it and left a zipper in his head. He had been an adviser to the previous queen (and Azkedellia's mother) and his intelligence must have represented a threat so ... no brain. My complaint about the actor aside, he plays his part very well. As he usually does. He may annoy me but he's a very good actor.
And the "cowardly lion" is called "Raw" (a bit clever that) and played by Raoul Trujillo who was last seen as "Zero Wolf" in "Apocalypto." That's a switch. The makeup is excellent and he does as good a job as can be expected swathed in a man/lion suit. I can't fault this casting at all.
Finally, for today, Richard Dreyfuss plays the "Wizard" character who is here called the Mystic Man. No one can doubt his acting chops after having seen him in what seems like a couple of hundred roles since he broke into the biz. And his greying gravitas makes his character come across extremely well. He's not "the great and powerful OZ" in the least. He's a stage magician and has been addicted to a drug by Azkedellia since he had been the source of opposition to her in the past. Shaking that off to help DG and pals is the main action of his role in the first night. I expect that we'll see more of him upcoming which would be good.

It's not perfect but this is another strong entry in Sci-Fi channel's lineup. When they bring back the Battlestar, I'll be happier still.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

There are things that I want on my next new car (iPod integration, an automatic rear lift gate would be nice) but never in my life have I wanted anything on a new car more than a disappearing door. Gimme.
Gimme gimme gimme!
Oy Gestalt!
At some point in the past I've made mention of getting begging letters that include return address labels in a futile attempt to guilt me into coughing up some dough. Not gonna happen. In this regard I am 100% guilt-proof. The latest effort was by the US Olympic Committee. In adding the latest sheets to my expanding collection, I wondered how many labels I had. And the idea of counting them was daunting. Plus time consuming. I don't mind wasting time but not this way, surely.
So I figured I'd weigh the sheets. Keep in mind that what I was weighing was exclusive of the Christmas themed labels that some send. 7.8 ounces. Just a whisker shy of half a pound of address labels. I will either die or move before I ever get through that many li'l stickers. Betting on those options opens at even money.