Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A.B.L.G.O.I.

Another bulleted list. Get over it.
  • After a month with us, Griz the cat has turned out to be an absolute joy to have around.

  • I've been cooking much more lately and trying more recipes as a result. I've even been keeping recipes, tried and untried, on a Web site for easy reference (complete with notes and photos). If I know you, and you'd like a link to my recipe site, let me know. I promise there's something on there you'd enjoy.

  • We've been watching more movies at home lately. Here are three worth checking out:
    Inglorious Bastards
    Let The Right One In
    In The Loop

  • I'm ALMOST done Christmas shopping. Almost.

  • I really need to stay away from the Gap for a while. Unless I come across a suitcase full of money.
That is all. For now.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Ketchup.

I go through phases when it comes to blogging. Lately, I've been in the downward phase of not posting much of anything, but as you know, life continues to move ahead, whether I write about it or not. So, in the interest of brevity and my own sanity, I will attempt to recount the events of the last several months in one of my world-famous bullet lists.

  • We took a trip to Washington D.C. at the end of September. Highlights included the Kennedy Center, a tour of the Capitol, lots of walking, lots of subway-riding, the Magna Carta, tasty pho on a rainy night and pandas. Good people of D.C., you have free pandas to visit whenever it strikes your fancy - take advantage of this more than you currently do! There are some of us who do not have ready access to free pandas and are worse off for it.

  • The night before Halloween, in Madison, WI, Mr. Awesome and I had the most incredible squash curry at a Laotian restaurant called Lao Laan-Xang, located off a side-street in a tiny house. Good people of Madison, you have incredible curry available to you - go eat it soon and often! There are some of us who do not have ready access to incredible squash curry and are therefore sad pandas.

  • The skywalks in Minneapolis are so great when it's cold - and it's cold there much of the time.

  • Australian singer Kate Miller-Heidke is a spectacular live performer and will no doubt be a huge star one day. If you ever have the chance to hear her sing, take hold of that chance with both hands and don't let go.

  • Beatles Rock Band is fun, but is more fun with four people.

  • I'm trying to cook at least one new recipe per week or so. We've had some hits and some not-quite-hits. I'll try to write more about both in the future.

  • John Hodgman was at a Rainy Day Books event at Unity on the Plaza. The picture I have of me and him together would probably be my Christmas card if a.) Mr. Awesome would approve and b.) if I sent such things as Christmas cards.

  • I'm trying not to hate Time Warner cable, but they make it so difficult. If they "don't currently offer contracts" then how am I in one until June? Keyword: "currently." I've now got a calendar appointment set to remind me the day my contract is up. That day cannot come soon enough.
And finally, I'll break out of the bullet format to introduce Griz, the newest member of our family:

On Saturday, we were doing some Christmas-looking at Oak Park Mall (we aren't really shopping yet, although I know we should be) and came across a store set up by Animal Haven Animal Shelter to help adopt some animals. Mr. Awesome and I are suckers for animals, so we had to go in and look around. There, among the puppies and kittens and dogs was this sweet-looking cat sitting at the back of his cage. He reminded us both so much of Rags that we walked around the mall and went back to look at him three times. This cat was beautiful, declawed, neutered and about 4 years old. He was perfect. It's been a over a year since Rags died, and we're ready for another cat. So we paid the adoption fee and took home Griz (Grizwald, Grizzly Bear) Saturday afternoon.

The ride home was great. Griz was calm and quiet and seemed to love getting petted. We got home and shut him in a bathroom with his litter box and food and water. After about 30 minutes we returned to check on him and he was a bit angrier than he was on the ride home. He was emitting this low, guttural growl and seemed to not want anything to do with us. So we got a toy and played with him, and what do you know, he turned back into the sweet cat from the ride home. This pattern continued throughout the night and much of the day on Sunday (during which time he graduated to having full-run of the house): Sweet, lovable Griz one minute, evil, growling Griz the next. Last night, he slept on our bed and both Mr. Awesome and I were a tiny bit frightened that Evil Griz would emerge in the middle of the night and try to eat us. That didn't happen - in fact, Griz was really great and sweet and snuggly all night long - but neither of us got much sleep anyway.

Today, Griz is home alone all day. I have visions of returning home to find it partially destroyed, although I have nothing to base that on at all. We're hoping Evil Griz goes away permanently, but I remind Griz every once in a while that we have 30 days to return his furry tail to the shelter if he doesn't straighten up. I don't think it will come to that - I think he's going to work out really well. He's even sort of getting along with Finnie.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Last Words of My English Grandmother by William Carlos Williams

There were some dirty plates
and a glass of milk
beside her on a small table
near the rank, disheveled bed—

Wrinkled and nearly blind
she lay and snored
rousing with anger in her tones
to cry for food,

Gimme something to eat—
They're starving me—
I'm all right I won't go
to the hospital. No, no, no

Give me something to eat
Let me take you
to the hospital, I said
and after you are well

you can do as you please.
She smiled, Yes
you do what you please first
then I can do what I please—

Oh, oh, oh! she cried
as the ambulance men lifted
her to the stretcher—
Is this what you call

making me comfortable?
By now her mind was clear—
Oh you think you're smart
you young people,

she said, but I'll tell you
you don't know anything.
Then we started.
On the way

we passed a long row
of elms. She looked at them
awhile out of
the ambulance window and said,

What are all those
fuzzy-looking things out there?
Trees? Well, I'm tired
of them and rolled her head away.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Soup is good food.

Who doesn't love soup? If it's you who doesn't love soup, then quit reading right now, because this post is all about best soup ever, aka last night's dinner and today's lunch.

This recipe is so easy you'll amaze yourself that it came from your kitchen. The recipe is from Rachel Ray's magazine. While most of the stuff you'll find in there isn't especially Weight Watchers friendly, there are hidden gems to be found, like this soup.


This picture isn't mine - it's from the magazine. Mine looked just like this, only in a blue bowl and there were more electronics on the table.

Curried Chicken and Cider Soup
Servings: 4
Weight Watchers Points: 6 per serving

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 Tbsp grated ginger root
2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 cup apple cider
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
4 cups fat-free chicken broth or water
1/2 head of cauliflower, coarsely chopped (about 4 cups)
1/2 store-bought rotisserie chicken, bones and skin removed, and shredded

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, ginger and a pinch of salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Add the curry powder and cumin and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the cider, scraping all the good stuff from the bottom of the pan. Add the chicken broth or water and the sweet potato, and bring to a boil. Add the cauliflower, lower the heat, and simmer until veggies are tender, about 15 minutes.

Using a hand blender, puree the soup and add the shredded chicken. Heat through and season with salt and pepper. Top with a dollop of plain yogurt, if desired.

TIP: I used two cans of chicken broth, and had to add about a half a cup of water to equal 4 cups of liquid. Be careful of adding too much salt because the rotisserie chicken will be pretty salty.

Since the recipe called for only half the chicken, I diced up the other half and mixed it up with about 1 1/2 Tbsp of light mayo, some dijon, some honey and some dried tarragon for a quick chicken salad. We served the salad on toast alongside the soup. The soup is hearty and thick, and will stick nicely to the sandwiches if you dip them. The chicken salad made three servings, with about 3 WW points per serving. I cut a piece of toast in half for my sandwich, so I only had to account for one piece of whole-wheat bread (1 WW point). So, the whole meal with a big bowl of soup and half a delicious chicken salad sandwich was 9 WW points. Not too shabby, considering how delicious and filling the meal was. Plus, there's lots of good veggies in the soup.

Today, I had the leftovers and I dare say the soup is even better today. This recipe is definitely a keeper - what a great fall find!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Where the wild things are.

Terrible Yellow Eyes is a visual love letter to the great work that is Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are. Soon to be released as a movie, the original book inspires fear, courage, curiosity and most of all imagination in all who read it. The art works displayed on Terrible Yellow Eyes range from the whimsical to fear-inducing, but so do the emotional reactions to the story.

Each image is viewable in a large, high-resolution version so you can see all the lucious details. Here are a smattering of favorites, but everything on the site is worth a look:








"The point is, [Sendak's] children do survive. They always survive. They look horror in the face and walk by with a sniff." - Jonathon Jones (The Guardian)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Something for a Saturday at work.

Today I share with you one of the best music videos I've ever seen. The song is okay, but the video is just stunning and clever and incredible. If you can't see the embedded video, click here to view.

[youtube]BYtk1Z0UUuE[/youtube]

The video is directed by a group who call themselves Shynola. According to Wikipedia, Shynola is also responsible for the title sequences of the brilliant British comedy, The IT Crowd. If you haven't seen The IT Crowd, and have ever used a computer, you should check it out. It's available online all over the place, if you look hard enough.

Once you've finished with The IT Crowd, check out my new British love of a show, featuring some of the same players as those in The IT Crowd - The Mighty Boosh.



The show's three seasons were just released on DVD, and you can catch single episodes on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim on Sunday nights.

As for why I'm at work on a Saturday... it's the start of a new semester and thankfully, many of the youth of America still don't know how to use thier computers. Bless 'em for keeping me employed.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

For all of those who are moving into dorms this week.

Home Again by Billy Collins

The black porcelain lamp
painted with boughs of cherry blossoms
still stands on its end table,
unlit, the little chain untouched,
just the way I left it,

just the way it remained while I was off
leaning into the prow of a boat,
doused with spray, heading for a limestone island,
or sitting at the base of a high Celtic cross
eating a green apple.

While I balanced a pan of hot water on a stone wall
and shaved outside a cottage
overlooking the Irish Sea,
this stack of books, this chair, and paperweight
were utterly still, as they are now.

And you, red box of matches on the floor,
you waited here too, faithful as Penelope,
while I saw the tiny fields
disappear under the wings of my plane,
or swarm up and down the flowing Corrib River.

As I lay in a meadow near Ballyvaughan,
ankles crossed, arms behind my head,
watching clouds as they rolled in—
billowing, massive, Atlantic-fresh—
you all held your places in these rooms,
stuck to your knitting,
waited for me to stand here again,
bags at my feet, house key still in hand,
admiring your constancy,
your silent fealty, your steadfast repose.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Gobble gobble.

Last month, after surveying the status of the economy, but more importantly, my waistline, I decided I needed to focus a bit more on menu planning and healthy meals. As a result, we've been cooking some really great meals at home. While I've taken some photos, I've been lazy when it comes to actually getting the photos off the camera. But just because I don't have a picture doesn't mean I can't share a recipe or two with you.

On Tuesday, we made what has become a favorite in recent weeks: grilled turkey burgers. These burgers are moist and flavorful, and low in fat so they're better for you than beef. We grill a couple of red onion slices along with the burgers, and serve the burgers on lightly-grilled whole-wheat buns with the onions on the side. One recipe makes four burgers, and if you serve a good side dish, one burger is plenty for a meal, leaving another one for lunch the next day.

Oh, and since I'm following Weight Watchers, I'll include the points value for those of you who might be interested.

Grilled Turkey Burgers
4 Servings
Weight Watchers Points: 7 per serving, including the bun

1.3 lbs ground turkey
1/4 c. dried bread crumbs
1/4  c. chopped onion
1/4 c. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. Sriracha chili sauce
4 whole-grain buns

Combine turkey, bread crumbs, chopped onion, parsley, Worcestershire sauce and Sriracha in a large bowl. Mix well. Divide turkey mixture into 4 equal portions and form into patties. Grill on a hot, pre-heated grill for about 7 minutes per side. Serve on whole-wheat buns.

TIP: When forming the patties, indent the center slightly so that the edges stick up more than the middle and they almost look like donuts, but the hole isn't quite there. This will prevent the burgers from turning into puffy meatballs and they will stay nice and burger-shaped.

Tonight we're making another favorite, turkey taco lettuce wraps with a side of basil-lime corn. I'll let you know later how that turns out. In the mean time, I highly recommend you make these turkey burgers tonight!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

My next favorite Tim Burton film.

"If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn't. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn't be. And what it wouldn't be, it would. You see?"

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Turkey talk.

Planet Sub has turkey subs for $2 the day after the Kansas City Royals win a game. To save you the hassle of having to track down a score, some friends set up this site a couple of years ago:

Is it a Royal Turkey Day?

There is a rumor that some nefarious types have recently set up their own version of this classic site, but ACCEPT NO IMITATIONS. Plus, the graphics on the original site are far superior.

/end endorsement

Now if the Royals could just win a game, I could save some money on lunch...
We were out in the back yard the other evening, and Finnie decided to fly:



Apparently our human concept of gravity is of no consequence to her.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Up close.

We've been taking more pictures lately. What's more inspirational than springtime flowers? Here are some of my favorites. All but the first one were taken by Mr. Awesome.







Thursday, May 14, 2009

Pho to the oh.

As promised when I (sort of) posted the recipe, I got a picture of our Pho Ga from the other night. It was superdelicious.

Pho Ga is made from angel tears and puppy smiles.

While we're on the subject of photos, I finally unloaded the pictures I took of the towel I made for my mom for Mother's Day. She has a cart in her kitchen that's covered contact paper with a colorful fruit pattern. Think Carmen Miranda. I thought this towel would go nicely with that theme:

Sometimes I make things with needles and thread. Sometimes they turn out purdy.

Here's a detail of the dancing chica:

Mr. Awesome likes her red undies.

My mom loved it. I don't know what I'm going to make next. I have a few ideas, though. Of course, there will be pictures.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

This post is making me hungry.

One of my favorite meals of all time is Pho Ga, or Vietnamese chicken noodle soup. I've been meaning to post a recipe for a long time, but ever time I go to do it, I realize the "recipe" doesn't really translate well to the standard recipe format. So instead of sweating over the format, I'm just going to tell you how we make it, since we're having it for dinner tonight.

I was going to post a picture of our Pho, but I can't find one. I can't believe I don't have one. Anyway, I did find a picture of the condiments required for exceptional Pho Ga. We will use all of these tonight except the mint, which we've decided isn't really necessary:

Preparing for Dinner by you.

I'll take a picture of our finished product tonight so you can see how incredible it looks. Too bad we don't have smell-o-vision yet.

Making Pho Ga is a multi-step process, but is really, really easy.

Step one - put a couple beef knuckle soup bones (the really cheap ones from Price Chopper are great) in a crock pot with a chunked-up onion, a packet of onion soup mix and a couple cups of water. We also threw in the carcass of an astronaut chicken (rotisserie chicken, for those not versed in Palahniuk) that was in the freezer. Set it to Low and let it go about 8 hours.

When you get home, your house will smell heavenly Heaven.

Step two - strain the whole crock-pot mess through a mesh strainer into a big soup pot. Add about 6-7 more cups of water, one bunch of green onions broken in to a few pieces, a couple of cinnamon sticks, a star anise pod, a chunk of ginger (peeled - use a teaspoon to peel it), two teaspoons of sugar, one or two chicken boullion cubes and two boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Sometimes, we throw them in frozen, but it turns out better if the breasts are thawed. We also sometimes throw in some dried shiitake mushrooms, but we're out right now. Also, sometimes we don't put any chicken in and instead get an austronaut chicken from Sam's Club on the way home from work. We make the broth the exact same way, but put torn-up astrochicken in our soup instead. We then use the rest of the chicken in pasta or something, and freeze the carcass for use in Pho Ga - (it's a delicious cycle of chickeny goodness, people). By the way, only use one boullion cube if you go the astrochicken route or it will be too salty.

Anywho, bring the whole thing to a boil, then turn it down to a simmer for about 40 minutes or so. If you want really tender chicken, keep the water temp at about 160 degrees or so. It's fine if you don't though - it's all still good.

Step three - Remove the chicken breasts and set them aside. Strain the whole soup pot mess through a mesh strainer into another pot (we usually use the crock pot again so we don't have to wash another pan) so you're left with delicious, clear, aromatic broth. Then pour the broth back into the empty soup pot and bring that to a boil.

While the broth is boiling put your noodles on to boil. The best best best ones are the ones in the fridge section of the Chinatown market here in KC. They are in a pink package. We've tried other ones and these are by far the best. They are also sold at the 888 market on 87th street in Overland Park. Boil the water, then throw the noodles in for about 45 seconds or so.

Slice the chicken breasts into strips or chunks or whatever you like.

Divide the cooked noodles into bowls. Use big, deep bowls. Asian markets have good ones. Add the chicken, then ladle broth over the noodles and chicken.

Then, you have to add garnishes. These are not optional:
Juice from half a lime
some fresh cilantro, torn in bits
a drizzle of sriracha (hot) sauce
a few dashes of Vietnamese fish sauce
A couple globs of hoisin sauce
a little bit of soy sauce


Restaurants also serve fresh bean sprouts and sometimes basil or mint with their Pho. I like the mint and will use it occasionally, but keep the sprouts out of mine, please. I don't like them in this soup at all.

Eat with a big spoon and chopsticks. Seriously. Something about eating noodle soup with chopsticks is very calming and enjoyable and zen. You'll thank me if you save your chopsticks the next time you eat Chinese take-out.

This sounds like a lot of work and a lot of ingredients, but trust me - you will make this once and find it is so easy and satisfying and amazingly good that you will make it again and again and use all the ingredients eventually.

We make this once a week or so, and consider it an easy throw-together meal. God, I can't wait to have it tonight with some wine and a (hopefully) clear evening on the deck.

Monday, May 11, 2009

For My Lover, Returning To His Wife by Anne Sexton

Acquarello su carta, anno 2000 by Paolo Stenta

She is all there.
She was melted carefully down for you
and cast up from your childhood,
cast up from your one hundred favorite aggies.

She has always been there, my darling.
She is, in fact, exquisite.
Fireworks in the dull middle of February
and as real as a cast-iron pot.

Let's face it, I have been momentary.
A luxury. A bright red sloop in the harbor.
My hair rising like smoke from the car window.
Littleneck clams out of season.

She is more than that. She is your have to have,
has grown you your practical your tropical growth.
This is not an experiment. She is all harmony.
She sees to oars and oarlocks for the dinghy,

has placed wild flowers at the window at breakfast,
sat by the potter's wheel at midday,
set forth three children under the moon,
three cherubs drawn by Michelangelo,

done this with her legs spread out
in the terrible months in the chapel.
If you glance up, the children are there
like delicate balloons resting on the ceiling.

She has also carried each one down the hall
after supper, their heads privately bent,
two legs protesting, person to person
her face flushed with a song and their little sleep.

I give you back your heart.
I give you permission—

for the fuse inside her, throbbing
angrily in the dirt, for the bitch in her
and the burying of her wound—
for the burying of her small red wound alive—

for the pale flickering flare under her ribs,
for the drunken sailor who waits in her left pulse,
for the mother's knee, for the stockings,
for the garter belt, for the call—

the curious call
when you will burrow in arms and breasts
and tug at the orange ribbon in her hair
and answer the call, the curious call.

She is so naked and singular.
She is the sum of yourself and your dream.
Climb her like a monument, step after step.
She is solid.

As for me, I am a watercolor.
I wash off.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Too much of a good thing, or not enough?

This morning, I sat in a meeting where the various flavors of Windows and Office were being discussed. Some users like Vista, some hate it, some like Office 2007, others hate it and want to stick with Office 2003. In about a year, we'll get to add Office 14 and Windows 7 to that mix, which will present even more options to the world. Maybe too many.

*side note* I installed Windows 7 on my home laptop and work PC this week and absolutely love it. Where my laptop used to take two minutes to boot, it now comes up in 20 seconds. Windows 7 is much faster, is visually more pleasing and has some really great bells and whistles.

Last night, we watched two TED talks. The first was given by Barry Schwartz on the paradox of choice. Schwartz made the point that sometimes, too many choices can hurt us, rather than help. He gives some examples. First, if you go into a supermarket to buy salad dressing, you are presented with over one hundred varieties of salad dressings. You pick one that looks appealing, but when you go home and use it on your salad, you continue to think of the other varieties. No matter how good the one you chose tastes, you are plagued by the notion that maybe, among the other 99 or so bottles you didn't choose, there is a better variety. Therefore, your overall enjoyment of your salad has not gone up, it has gone down.

The second example he gave involved the purchase of blue jeans. Many years ago, Schwartz went to buy jeans and had one option. Today, he is presented with dozens and dozens of options - loose fit, easy fit, slim fit, acid-washed, distressed - the combinations and permutations are seemingly endless. Eventually he found a pair that he liked. In fact, they were the best-fitting jeans he had ever purchased. But - they weren't perfect. A vast sea of choice holds the possibility of perfection, and when perfection is not achieved - no matter how much better the results are than they were previously - disappointment ensues.

The conclusion I gathered from this talk was that too much choice can be a bad thing.

Interestingly enough, the next random talk we decided to watch last night was on the exact opposite of this idea. Malcolm Gladwell used spaghetti sauce to illustrate that more choice is better than less - at least, when it comes to food products. Gladwell tells of Howard Moskowitz, a pioneer in the market research field. Once upon a time, market researchers brought a group of 100 people together, presented them with Spaghetti Sauce A, Spaghetti Sauce B and Spaghetti Sauce C, and asked the group which Item they liked best. If 40% of the group liked Spaghetti Sauce A, 35% liked B and 25% liked C, Spaghetti Sauce A was the winner. While that did represent the most popular vote, 60% of the group wasn't satisfied. Tough luck for them. Moskowitz pioneered the idea that they didn't need to develop a better spaghetti sauce to appeal to more than 40% of the population - they needed to develop better spaghetti sauces. More choices, not less, was the key to satisfying the wants of American consumers. Instead of presenting them with one thin version of sauce (think Ragu), present them with a thin version, a chunky version and a spicy version. This is why there are 36 varieties of Ragu on the shelves today instead of the one that my parents grew up with.

The conclusion I gathered from this talk was that more choices is a good thing.

Are these two talks necessarily contradictory? Not really. I don't think Schwartz's point is that we shouldn't have choices at all, but there is something to be said for having too many. Especially if, in the vast array of choices, you are still limited. Before I got my iPhone, I wanted a cell phone that did nothing but send and receive calls. No camera, no texting, no calendar. Guess what? 1.8 billion cell phones on the market and not one of them is just a fucking phone. Or how about when I go to Mama's on 39th Street. They have 80 omelettes on their menu. Do they have the one I want (ham, onions, mushrooms and cheese)? No. Peanut butter and jelly omelette, yes. To this I say, WTF? Where was I going with this?

Ah yes - We are a society (and workplace) inundated with choice. Some of that choice is great - count me as one who likes chunky spaghetti sauce. But some of that choice is overwhelming, frustrating and/or confusing Have you shopped for women's clothes at a department store? I rest my case. Mr. Awesome feels the same way about MicroCenter (it's still one of his favorite places on the planet, nonetheless). He's gone there to purchase something - a hard drive, for example - and there are so many types and sizes and brands that he literally throws up his hands and walks away empty-handed. And he's a tech-savvy guy.

I think the key to happiness through choice is finding that sweet spot between not enough choice and too much. When it comes to my workplace computing environment, I think fear of change leads people to reject new technologies without giving them a chance. At some point we need to be able to eliminate the choice of holding on to the old in order to expose them to the new.

Maybe Howard Moskowitz can tackle that problem next.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Rediscovering TED.

A couple of years ago, I spent a few days completely absorbed with TED Talks. I watched several of them and really enjoyed them, but for whatever reason (probably one involving my short attention span) I stopped watching and forgot they existed.

Last weekend, we bought an Apple TV unit. Besides letting us watch television and movies via iTunes, it lets us watch video podcasts. And that's how I rediscovered TED Talks. We've been watching one or two before bed. They run about 18 minutes a piece, although some are slightly longer and others are significantly shorter. No matter the topic, be it the nature of humanity in the cosmos (David Deutsch, TEDGlobal 2005), a study of the trickster in culture (Emily Levine, TED 2002), or nerdcore comedy (Ze Frank, TED 2005), the talks are engaging, interesting and inspiring.

Last night we watched two talks. The first, from David Deutsch discussed how we as humans are both typical and not typical. How the primary function of our existance is the search for knowledge, and that all that is needed to create knowledge is, basically, matter, energy and evidence. Even in deepest space, he says, where it seems as nothing exists, is matter, energy and evidence. The only thing that keeps us as humans from being about to turn empty space into, say, a particle excelerator, is that we don't know how to do it.

The second was a talk from Richard Dawkins about how the human size and experience limits our understanding of the universe. He discussed that we humans live in what he described as the "middle world" where we can't comprehend things of very large or very small size. For example, even a dense rock is mostly empty space, but our perception of the particles is a solid mass. To something very small - say, the size of an atom, the rock would appear as mostly empty space. Our perception makes up our reality. He describes us has having "software" that builds the model of the world we live in - a monkey needs software that builds a model to help it climb and swing, while a bird needs software to model a world in which it can fly. He asks the question, is it possible for us to retrain our brains to see the empty spaces? Is it possible for us to intruduce children to the concept of the very small at a young age through the use of computer programs so that they can learn to see the world differently?

Fascinating stuff, really.

Over the weekend we watched a talk on SETI, which inspired me to install it on my computer and help in the search of extraterrestrial communication. On Monday, we watched the creator of Wikipedia describe how the online encyclopedia thrives because of, not in spite of, its "anyone can edit anything" existence.

There are dozens and dozens more talks to see, and more are given every year. The range and scope of TED is incredible, and is (and I know I am in peril of sounding too schmaltzy) a true gift to humanity.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Meme Friday.

Who wants to be creative on Friday? Not me. That's what memes are for - templates for "creativity."

Four Food Questions:

  1. How far would you be willing to travel to satisfy a food craving?

  2. Have you ever eaten rabbit? If so, what did you think? If not, why not?

  3. Have you ever made your own bread? If so, how?

  4. Where do you usually spend Easter and what do you usually eat?


Answers:

  1. I'd probably drive about 30-45 minutes for a good meal. for snack cravings, probably 20 minute drive, tops.

  2. I've never eaten rabbit. The one time it was offered to me was on Easter when I was about 10. My uncle had made a rabbit stew and told us he caught the Easter Bunny breaking into his house. There was no way I was eating the Easter Bunny.

  3. I've made bread in my bread machine. It turned out good. I haven't made any in a while - maybe it's time to break it out again.

  4. Easter dinner is with my mom. We always have a leg of lamb with mint jelly, Mr. Awesome's favorite curry rice casserole, my favorite 7-layer salad, some sort of veggie and rolls. This year, we didn't do Easter dinner on Easter. Instead, we're doing it next Sunday.


 

From Friday5.org:

  1. When did you last sleep in a tent?

  2. What comes to mind when you think about relieving yourself in the great outdoors?

  3. Where’s the best place you ever went camping?

  4. What’s your favorite camp food?

  5. What’s your sleeping bag like?



    Answers:



    1. I think the last time I slept in a tent was when I was about 10 years old, at my grandparents' lake house at lake Pomme de Terre. We set it up in the front yard. About halfway through the night, it started to pour down rain. We had to run inside and spent the rest of the night on the living room floor.

    2. I had to pee outside exactly twice, and each time I hated it. 

    3. I haven't gone camping since I was a kid, and it wasn't camping - it was summer camp. A couple of years ago we met some friends for breakfast at their campsite just east of Kansas City, and that was really, really fun. At the end of May, those same friends have convinced us to go camping when them on some private land. With working bathrooms.

    4. I love burnt hot dogs and s'mores. I also love camp breakfast with cheesy eggs and meat.

    5. I don't have a sleeping bag (yet). The last sleeping bag I owned had My Little Ponies on it. Yeah, I roll like that.



     

    I'm on a roll - one more set from Friday5.org:

    1. What’s something you know how to draw?

    2. Who’s someone you could get away with impersonating?

    3. Where’s the stapler?

    4. Why will this be a great weekend?

    5. When are you going to make that phone call you’ve been putting off?



      Answers:



      1. I can't draw. I can doodle during meetings. Usually trees and flowers. Or snowmen.

      2. I can do a pretty decent Tracy Jordan impression.

      3. Behind me on my desk, next to the tape dispenser, on a Hard Rock Cafe London mouse pad that my sister brought back for me from her trip to Europe several years ago.

      4. Let's see... if it doesn't rain later we're taking Finnie to play with Taigan. I don't know what we're doing tomorrow - maybe the Pet Expo, definitely the bookstore at some point. Sunday it's me and my mom going to see Phantom of the Opera preceeded by brunch someplace spiffy. And sleeping in Saturday and Sunday morning. All the makings of a great weekend.

      5. Probably in about 30 minutes.


      Tuesday, April 14, 2009

      I don't want to make this post.

      Maltoodle. Royeo Pooster. Punky Pooster. Rooster Pooster. Stinkbug. Poodleface. Poodle Noodle.



      Roy.

      Sunday afternoon he started yelping whenever we touched his abdomen. We called the vet and he said as long as he wasn't throwing up (he wasn't) that we could bring him in for a check-up Monday morning. Roy was lethargic Sunday night, but I sat him in a chair next to me and petted him, and gave him water, and he started to look like he was feeling better. Monday morning he seemed much better than the night before. He was wagging his tail and running around (albeit a little slower than normal). We dropped him off at the vet and figured he just had a stomach ache and a little rest would help.

      Instead, he had cancerous tumors in his abdomen, and one of them had burst and he was bleeding internally and there was nothing they could do for him. We had to have him put to sleep yesterday afternoon.



      I guess it's better that it was so sudden and not long and drawn out. Even so, he was wonderful and I miss him and can't believe he's gone. He was only nine, and never showed any other symptoms.



      It's been a really tough year for pets. In June, Schroeder, my 14-year old golden retriever, passed away.



      He was a big, slobbery goofball who loved nothing more than lying next to someone he loved with his head on their lap.

      In October we lost Rags to complications from diabetes. I got him from Wayside Waifs in 1998. He was, without a doubt, the greatest cat I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.



      Rags would come when called, fetch, meow on cue and sing with me. We had to give him insulin shots for a year and he never, ever complained. In fact, he would remind us to give him his shot by standing in front of the refridgerator (where we kept the insulin) and meowing.



      He was big and furry and awesome. Check out his guide on how to shave a cat to see just how awesome he was.

      Schroeder, Rags and now Roy. It's been really, really hard.



      I hope death is through with us for a while.



      We still have Ralphie...

      And Finnie...



      But I still miss the others. I miss my poodle face.

      Monday, March 23, 2009

      Time flies.

      My posting here has been sporadic as of late. It's not that I haven't had anything to say. I've been doing so much lately that I really haven't had time to process it all and post about it. Rather than spend long hours trying to recap the happenings of the last several weeks, I'll just fill you in on some highlights.

      First off, our trip to the southern states of Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia was as much fun as I knew it would be. We saw five incredible Ben Folds concerts, got introduced to an amazing opening act (the Miniature Tigers - go download them now) and won meet and greet passes for two of those shows. Here's Ben Folds in all his meet and greet splendor:



      We drove ahead of a cold front, so the weather was generally colder and rainier than normal. That's okay, though - we had perfect weather in Charleston. 

      In Asheville, we had some delicious burritos at a place called Mamacitas, just down the road from the concert venue, The Orange Peel. If you're ever in Asheville and want really, really good Mexican food, Mamacitas is the place to go.

      I had shrimp and grits at a terrific little place in Durham called Blu Seafood and Bar. It was Fat Tuesday so we had Hurricanes, too. We also spent some time exploring the campus of Duke University. What a beautiful place. Sort of makes UMKC look like one of those University of Phoenix office buildings.

      It was a beautiful day when we walked around Charleston. Such a wonderful place - so much history everywhere, and so well-preserved.



      I wish we had had more time to explore Charleston. I'd like to go back someday.

      We didn't spend enough time in Atlanta to really get a feel for it. We went into the CNN building, and that was alright, but other than that, it was pretty much a drive-by trip. 

      A huge snowstorm tailed us out of Georgia and dumped a bunch of snow in the mountains a few hours after we passed through. YAY timing!

      For the most part, though, the driving weather was good, and we saw lots of scenes like this one:



      Once home again, Mr. Awesome and I were happy to spend some time with our pets, especially Finnie.



      Our little girl is growing up so fast. She'll be one year old in a couple of weeks. It's only been in the last couple of weeks that she's settled down from puppy madness and is showing us how amazing she'll be as an adult. Finnie is sweet, smart, loving, lovable and makes me smile every time I think of her.



      For the record, we feed her plenty. She apparently ate some dirt for fun.

      Last Tuesday, we headed to Omaha after work and took in Folds show #21. We also got to see the opener Jukebox the Ghost for the first time. They were fantastic - great performers and great songs. We had another meet and greet for this one - my mom asks me when Ben's coming to dinner. I told her most likely a week from never. He's got shit to do, ya know?

      The following night, Mr. Awesome and I went to the Beaumont Club in Westport to see Missy Higgins. Much of the youngish crowd was there to see her opening act, Justin Nozuka, a singer-songwriter from NYC. He was alright, but Missy was fantastic. 

      So after all that travelling and whatnot, I've been tired. Too tired to write anything here. Until now. So there.

      Friday, February 20, 2009

      It's Friday - here's a meme!

      What would your own album look like if you were in a band? Follow the directions below and find out... 

      Here are the rules:

      1 - Go to Wikipedia. Hit “random”
      or click http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Random
      The first random Wikipedia article you get is the name of your band.

      2 - Go to Quotations Page and select "random quotations"
      or click http://www.quotationspage.com/random.php3
      The last four or five words of the very last quote on the page is the title of your first album.

      3 - Go to Flickr and click on “explore the last seven days”
      or click http://www.flickr.com/explore/interesting/7days
      Third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.

      4 - Use Photoshop or similar to put it all together.

      5 - Post it and tell your friends!

      Here's mine - I'm very pleased and am sure our first album will be a rousing success :)





      I didn't cheat - this just turned out really, really well. I'm thinking Interlacken West's music is sort of a cross between Zero 7, The Streets and Serge Gainsbourg.

      Thursday, February 5, 2009

      Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley




      Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley

      I met a traveller from an antique land

      Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

      Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,

      Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown

      And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command

      Tell that its sculptor well those passions read

      Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things,

      The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed.

      And on the pedestal these words appear:

      "My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:

      Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"

      Nothing beside remains: round the decay

      Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,

      The lone and level sands stretch far away.

      Wednesday, January 28, 2009

      Is this rational?



      From an IM conversation earlier today:

      me: I'm listening to a coworker tell another coworker that the reason there is poverty and famine in the world is because of an OVERABUNDANCE of food... his theory is that American farmers produce too much food, and other countries/peoples want to compete with us, so they have more children in an attempt to have more workers to compete in food production.

      I don't have the stamina (?) right now to ask where religion and lack of birth control come into his theory

      So instead of jumping into his conversation, I'm laying it on you.

      You're welcome



      theotherguy: wow ... not sure I've ever experienced a 2nd hand aneurism via IM before ... quite an odd sensation


      Wednesday, January 21, 2009

      Easy as pie.

      Now I will a rhyme construct,
      By chosen words the young instruct.
      Cunningly devised endeavour,
      Con it and remember ever.
      Widths in circle here you see,
      Sketched out in strange obscurity.

      Count the letters in each word.

      Tuesday, January 20, 2009

      Inagural Poem by Elizabeth Alexander

      On the occasion of the Presidential inauguration of Barack Obama on January 20, 2009:

      Praise song for the day.

      Each day we go about our business, walking past each other, catching each others' eyes or not, about to speak or speaking. All about us is noise. All about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din, each one of our ancestors on our tongues. Someone is stitching up a hem, darning a hole in a uniform, patching a tire, repairing the things in need of repair.

      Someone is trying to make music somewhere with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

      A woman and her son wait for the bus.

      A farmer considers the changing sky; A teacher says, "Take out your pencils. Begin."

      We encounter each other in words, words spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed; words to consider, reconsider.

      We cross dirt roads and highways that mark the will of someone and then others who said, "I need to see what's on the other side; I know there's something better down the road."

      We need to find a place where we are safe; We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

      Say it plain, that many have died for this day. Sing the names of the dead who brought us here, who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges, picked the cotton and the lettuce, built brick by brick the glittering edifices they would then keep clean and work inside of.

      Praise song for struggle; praise song for the day. Praise song for every hand-lettered sign; The figuring it out at kitchen tables.

      Some live by "Love thy neighbor as thy self."

      Others by first do no harm, or take no more than you need.

      What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national. Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt grievance.

      In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.

      On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp -- praise song for walking forward in that light.

      It's a new dawn, it's a new day...

      And I'm feelin' good.

      Today is the end of one era and the beginning of a new one full of hope and the promise of good things to come.

      Last year brought many changes to our lives. We discovered a new love of live music. We travelled more than we ever thought we would. We made some wonderful new friends, had some more great times with current ones and reconnected with ones from the past. We saw some of our friends get married. We ate dinner on the beach. We mourned and are still mourning the passing of Schroeder and Rags. We welcomed the whirlwind of Finn into our house. We saw history with the election of Barack Obama.

      Today, Barack Obama becomes our president, and I couldn't be happier. This day ushers in a new era in America, and I'm honored to be alive at this moment in history. With the swearing-in of Obama comes changes in our lives as well.

      A couple of weeks ago, we found a new home for our eclectus parrot, Homer. While we miss him, we realized, after five years, that we aren't really what you would call "bird people." Homer was happy and cared for, but he could and will be much happier with someone who he can climb on and snuggle with and do all those other things that actually involve holding a parrot. Homer is an awesome, funny, smart parrot and, as I said, we will miss him, but we're happy for him, too.

      Another change for us is that yesterday we purchased our first real set of bedroom furniture. Currently, our bed sits on a metal frame and our furniture is the same stuff I had in my room when I was twelve years old. Our new stuff, to be delivered on Friday, looks like this:



      It will most definitely look huge in our room, but I love it and can't wait until it's set up.

      We're currently planning a road trip for February that will take us into the land of magnolia blossoms and sweet tea. Pending approval to take time off from work, serious planning for that week-long trip will begin.