Friday 5: Aroma

I’ll get into details later.  Still cleaning up the mess on other WordPress sites I take care of, but I now have this one cleaned up and ready to repopulate.  Gonna spend a couple of days next week refamiliarizing myself with MySQL to see if I can find a quick(ish) way to import my old content or to scan for wherever the nasty stuff is.  Yay.

  1. What’s something you enjoy that contains garlic?
    I used to make this thing called 29 clove garlic soup.  It was thickened with bread, which was kind of neat, and it tasted garlicky not but super garlicky.  It was an Emeril Lagasse recipe.  I should dig that up and make it again.
  2. What’s something you enjoy that contains ginger?
    I’m half Japanese, so I care very deeply and passionately about ginger.  Of the (too many) unitaskers I keep in my kitchen, one of my favorites is the ceramic ginger grater (which actually works nicely with garlic too, so maybe it’s a duotasker).  Still, the ginger-containing thing I like best is something I’ve never made in my kitchen: gingerbread.  Holy cow.  Is there a better smell in the world than fresh-baked gingerbread?
  3. What’s something you enjoy that contains cloves?
    When I used to teach Romeo and Juliet to ninth-graders, we would end the unit with Renaissance Day, a day with recitations, dancing, games, and food.  I would sometimes bring a mulled cider that I rather liked.  Lots of cloves and cardamom.
  4. What’s something you enjoy that contains cinnamon?
    Cinnamon is good in everything, right?  I found a pretty good recipe online for slow-cooker Cincinnati chili, and it’s delicious.  One of my favorite things to make, really.  I’ve tweaked it enough over the years that it might not pass for the real deal anymore, but I love it.  Lots of cocoa and cinnamon.
  5. What’s something you enjoy that contains celery?
    So, I’ve hated celery for most of my life and still don’t like it much, but there are a few things I’ve learned to actually kind of like it in, if it’s chopped in pieces small enough.  Something about the mayo in tuna salad makes chopped celery kind of okay now, so I’m going to say that, although I do use it in (and remove it from) most of the soups and stews I make, too.  Celery flavor without the celery grossness.

Cute Animals

In ascending order, the cutest animals (not counting baby animals, almost all of which are cute):

  • Bunnies. Quiet thoughtfulness. I wonder if this impression I have of them is influenced by Watership Down.
  • Platypi. I think I relate to their unique, difficult-to-categorize place in the animal kingdom.
  • Aardvarks. Did you know that aardvarks are anteaters, but not all anteaters are aardvarks?
  • Polar bears. I could spend hours just watching polar bears. They were my favorite thing at the San Diego Zoo when I went in 1984.
  • Cats. I’m a recent convert, but one thing I love about them is the way they are often the only animate thing in cityscapes. Meowing is pretty cute, too.
  • Sheep. I don’t know what it is, but I am drawn to them. Their mild-manneredness and gentle demeanors? Not sure, but I want to own sheep someday.
  • Penguins. In that summer of 1984, I also went to Sea World, and if I’d been there alone, I’d have spent hours in the Penguin Encounter.
  • Dogs. Oh, my goodness. Man’s best friend, indeed.
  • Sea otters. I really want to plan my next trip around seeing some otters in California sometime in the next year. They’re so cute!

I Thig I Hab a Code

I felt it the moment the cold hit me. It was about 12:30 Friday night. At 12:25, I was fine. At 12:30, I was sniffling and my nose was running. I did the podcast anyway and then Saturday I did Cathy’s good-bye picnic at Kailua Beach. Spent all day Sunday in bed and then more of the same Monday.

Actually, Sunday night I got a little crazy (too much sleep and bad dreams to boot), so I walked down the hill, picked up some groceries, and had dinner at McD’s. Monday night I did the same thing. It’s not a lot, but it’s fresh air, it’s getting my body moving, it’s getting out of the house. Made a big difference both nights, too, but then I got home sorta amped and I’m worried about getting my body clock back in sync with the rest of the world in time for the start of school.

The best thing this week is the phone call I got from the director of the M.Ed. program I’m trying to get enrolled in for the fall. She worked the phones as if it were her own son’s education at stake, and finally convinced the business office at UH-Hilo to release my transcripts, meaning I’m pretty much good to go, once I secure the tuition money. Whew.

I ordered a couple of books last week and one of them, the new Boondocks anthology, has kept me pretty busy between naps. The first collection, Because I Know You Don’t Read the Newspaper, was the funniest thing I’d read in ages. Subversive, creative, unpredictable, and just hilarious. Aaron McGruder has moved almost completely away from the cultural stuff and totally into the political stuff, which he explains in the intro to A Right to Be Hostile, which I didn’t purchase because it was made up of the first two collections, plus some new strips. I appreciate his convictions and his willingness to walk where other artists don’t go, but he sacrifices humor in order to go there. A lot of humor. I’ve chuckled a few times, but mostly my response is just a quick nod. The first collection had me howling. It’s kinda sad, but as I’ve said, I totally understand why McGruder feels he has to go there.

R has come home from her trip and has been strangely friendly. It’s still not what it was — I mean, if I don’t call her first, we don’t talk at all — but she’s actually picked the phone up when I’ve called a couple of times, and when I called last night because of my bad dreams, she at least called me back the next afternoon. I don’t know if that’s progress or what. She and Mr. HBA have come back from their trip apparently still close. I was kinda hoping they’d come back hating each other. I’m terrible, I know.

My latest cooking project has been whole-wheat biscuits. I started with the most basic of recipes (whole-wheat flour, water, oil, baking powder, and salt) with the intention of working with one or two more ingredients at a time. The trouble is the whole-wheat flour. Most of the recipes I’ve seen call for half whole-wheat, half all-purpose. It’s not the easiest of ingredients to work with, this whole-wheat flour. You can see why flour became what it did — I mean, who doesn’t prefer light and fluffy to dense and hard? Then, it seems that all the things that make biscuits good are on the bad list: eggs, shortening, milk, and butter. What’s the point of making something with whole-wheat flour if you’re going to mix it with an equal amount of all-purpose flour and then add all that other stuff? There’d better be some point, or I’ve got four and a half pounds of whole-wheat flour that’ll just go to waist.

The best thing about the picnic at Kailua (a beach I have never liked) was Harry Potter talk with Anto. I’m playing with the idea of planning a talk-about-Harry get-together for grownups. Some decently priced restaurant with a party room, like the Wisteria (r.i.p.) used to have would be cool.

Sonya Thomas Needs a New Nickname

By now you already know who Sonya Thomas is — she’s that amazingly petite and slender Korean-American woman (I’m assuming the American part, actually) who finished second at this year’s Nathans Famous hot-dog eating championship at Coney Island on the fourth of July. I first saw her on Jimmy Kimmel and was really impressed. She’s pleasantly nice and silly, like a lot of my friends, and seemed like someone I could hang out with.

It doesn’t hurt that she’s kinda cute, too. Well, maybe it hurts a little, but that’s not what I’m here to talk about. Sonya’s really good at what she does, obviously, and routinely beats up on men twice or three times her size in the competitive eating arena. I really like her attitude — she seems to understand that in order to be seriously competitive, you’ve got to take the competition aspect seriously, but she also seems to understand that this is competitive eating we’re talking about, not Olympic swimming.

I root for Sonya whenever I get the chance to see her in action, despite my moral objection to competitive eating itself. I’m only mildly opposed to competitive eating anyway, and even less opposed to competitive eating when its participants are cute, slender, Korean-American women.

However, what I really hate is this nickname she’s got. “The Black Widow.” It’s in her URL, even. Every freakin’ time she’s spoken about or spoken to, it’s Black Widow this, and Black Widow that, and the name just doesn’t fit! Plus, it’s a name she chose for herself. A good nickname needs to be something someone else hangs on you, unless you’re a professional wrestler, and while competitive eating as a sport is only a step ahead of pro wrestling, the outcome at least is not predetermined, so it is more contest than show, and in this arena, you’ve got to let the nicknames come however they come.

So that’s my first problem. She chose the name for herself. Another thing that bugs me is she doesn’t look like someone you’d call “The Black Widow,” does she? Heck no. She’s too cute. Too girly. Her appearance doesn’t strike any kind of fear into anyone. She’s more like a little kitty than a black widow.

This is a smaller objection, but the Black Widow name is also undoubtedly racial. I don’t mean racist-racial; I just mean race-related racial. I don’t mind that by itself, but because she doesn’t look anything like what a Black Widow should look like, everyone’s ready acceptance of this nickname seems to be related to the fact that she’s an Asian woman. She’s got that exotic, mysterious look that Asian women have when surrounded by Caucasians and Africans. Of course, she’s only got it in its minimal amount, because as I say, there’s nothing spooky about this look. She doesn’t look like she could trap you in her web, or deceive you until it’s too late, or lure you into submitting to her will, or any of these mysterious, exotic ideas men get when they see lovely Asian women. Again, I don’t have a problem with wanting to call an Asian woman “The Black Widow,” but if the only reason you’re calling her that is that she’s Asian, when the name doesn’t match her for a second, well, that’s wrong. A little.

My biggest problem with Sonya Thomas taking this name for herself, though, is that the name was already in use by someone else for ten years before Sonya burst upon the scene in 2003. Yes. There’s already a Black Widow, and she didn’t name herself — in fact, she was reluctant to allow people to call her that, but someone pinned the name on her, someone asked her about it, someone published it, and that was that. She was the Black Widow.

Jeanette Lee, one of the best professional billiards players in the world and certainly the most celebrated, is the only Black Widow I will acknowledge. Look at her! She’s got that look. She looks like someone who, even if someone else had the name before her, would easily wrest that title away because here’s your prototypical Black Widow. When she first tried to make a living shooting stick, she’d appear in pool halls and when the guys tried to hustle her for her money, she’d kick their butts, outhustling them (“I only took money from guys who were out to take my money,” she has said). That’s why a guy who ran a pool hall began to call her that! So not only is it a name someone else gave her, there was a good reason for it. The name fit.

Plus, it’s billiards, which I’ll admit is only a few ladder rungs above competitive eating in the sports world (I love pool, but it’s no sport!), but it is much more suited to having a star named The Black Widow. Look at the nicknames in competitive eating: “Cookie” Jarvis, “Hungry” Hardy, “Yellowcake” Subich. Sonya needs a name like that. How about Blackberry? Sonya “Blackberry” Thomas. See? She looks more like a blackberry than a black widow, that’s for sure.

And it’s not like nobody knew about Jeanette Lee. She had a pinball machine named after her, which was in all the arcades in the country back in the mid-nineties, called Black Widow. And lots of people from all over play pool and would therefore have seen Jeanette’s posters on the walls of billiards halls. Jeanette has endorsed Cuetec cues (one of which I am the proud owner!) for a decade, and Cuetec has done its best to make sure everyone sees and knows Jeanette.

So. Sonya “Blackberry” Thomas, if you’re out there vanity-surfing someday and stumble upon this humble online journal, take it from an admirer. You’re no Black Widow. Do yourself a favor and get a different name. I’ll even pay for the domain name. And set up your website. Whoever’s doing your site now is doing you no favors!

And Jeanette, if you’re vanity-surfing someday and stumble upon this humble online journal, give me a call sometime if things don’t work out with you and your husband. I’ll let you play with my cue stick.

Going . . . Going . . .

It’s a good thing Jesus got me first, else baseball would be my religion, and these broadcasters would be my pastors.

In ascending order, the best baseball broadcasters I’ve heard:

  • Vin Scully
    He’s the old master, the consensus Lord of Baseball Broadcasting, and he deserves it. Ask anyone–and I don’t mean just baseball fans–to close his or her eyes and imagine the sound of a baseball broadcaster, and everyone imagines the voice of Vin Scully, whether he or she knows it or not. Everything Vin says is poetry, school-lesson, sentimental journey, and sermon, all at the same time. The only reason he’s not higher up on my list is that I haven’t seen very many Dodgers games.
  • Jon Miller
    The dean of ESPN baseball, Miller could make his living on the talk-show circuit if he wanted to. He’s absolutely hilarious on talk shows. He does this impression of Japanese baseball broadcasters doing their best Vin Scully that has me holding my stomach from laughing so hard. I heard him on a national radio talk-show once, and he had the crew laughing so hard you could hear it. He’s great with Joe Morgan, his ESPN broadcasting partner, and he’s even better solo.
  • Joe Buck
    His father is a broadcasting immortal (in the Hall of Fame), but I honestly remember only a handful of games called by Jack Buck–all of them playoff games or World Series games. Joe is the absolute best of the new-wave, second- and third-generation broadcasters. He’s obviously smarter than anyone else in the stadium, and he manages to be cooler and funnier without alienating his audience. He holds the game at armslength, understanding (and making you understand, too) that it’s just a game, but at the same time believing (and making you believe, too) that baseball’s also something sacred and profound. I love what I do, but if I could trade lives with anyone in the world, I’d choose Joe Buck. Or Julia Stiles, ’cause then I could see myself in my underwear. (stole that joke from yesterday’s Frazz!)
  • Skip Carey
    The oft-parodied stalwart of the Atlanta Braves’ broadcasts for longer than I can remember, Skip is the son of broadcasting legend Harry Carey and the father of Chip Carey. The entire Braves’ broadcasting team is terrific, but Skip has been the cornerstone and heart of these broadcasts, and he’s terrific. I love it when, in games that are pretty boring because one team is ahead by clearly insurmountable numbers, Carey doesn’t pretend the game’s at all interesting anymore. “Well, it’s better than mowing the lawn,” he’ll say, “so don’t go anywhere!”
  • Hank Greenwald
    One of the reasons baseball is adrenaline-rush, brain-massage, and lullaby all in one is guys like Hank Greenwald. One of my favorite things to do with a baseball game is just turn it on (on the radio or tv) and take a nap. I did this a lot in college at UH-Hilo, where a local radio station carried the Giants’ games, when Greenwald was the play-by-play guy. The guy could call a game like nobody’s business, could relate a story like your grandpa, and could wax poetic about all the seemingly meaningless things baseball fanatics love to wax poetic about. I wish I had some of those games on tape, just for days when I have time to get in a good forty-minute afternoon snooze.
  • Bob Uecker
    Baseball fans know better than to fooled by his idiot persona or by those hilarious Lite Beer commercials. It’s true that Uecker batted an even .200 for his career, but he was a catcher, and he caught some of the greatest pitchers the game’s ever seen. There’s a reason you keep a guy out there for all those years even though he’s a lousy hitter; the catcher is the quarterback of the team and usually the smartest guy out there. One of my huge regrets in life is that I don’t live somewhere that broadcasts Brewers games. I’d listen to Uecker broadcast paint drying. Oh, if you don’t know who this guy is, yes you do. He was the guy in Major League who took swigs of whiskey between pitches while broadcasting the games: “Juuuuuuust a bit outside!” In the Lite Beer commercials, he was the “I must be in the FRONT ROW!” guy. He was also on Mr. Belvedere, but you probably don’t remember that.
  • Bob Costas
    He does a million things, including an HBO show, NBC’s Olympics coverage, and, once upon a time, the original Later show, but everyone knows that what he will eventually do, when he decides to slow down a little, is chuck everything and find a team who’ll take him, and just broadcast Major League Baseball, his first love. Better than anyone else I can think of, Costas understands why I love baseball. His reasons are my reasons. If these guys are the pastors of this religion, Bob Costas is the Pope. Costas and Joe Buck are both from St. Louis and both Cardinals fans (‘though Buck won’t admit it publicly), so it would be just lovely if they’d both settle down there and do games together. I know they’re both play-by-play guys, but that’s okay. The guys in Atlanta take turns doing play-by-play and color commentary, and it works for them.

Computers Suck

George’s project site is driving me insane. I’m trying to have the right sidebar of a three-column WordPress journal display some RSS feeds, which seems to be working okay, but I can’t get it to look cosmetically the way I want. The headers are much too large for the the descriptions, and the documentation for the RSS plugin is a bit vague on how the variables and toggles work. I went into the style template and played around with the size of the text in the sidebar, but that only changed the overall size of the fonts; the relative sizes stayed the same, meaning that once I got the enormous headers to the size I wanted, the font for the descriptions was so small I couldn’t read them.

I think I’ve got a stylesheet or template problem and not a feed-reader problem, at least with the cosmetic stuff, but the feed-reader is still another issue. It’s not displaying as much of the feed as I need, and I’m almost sure I’ve got that part of the protocol figured out. Grrrrr.

This is why the world needs more English majors. People might be geniuses at writing code, building bridges, or opening brains, but if they can’t communicate to anyone else what it is they’ve done, what good are they doing anyone?

I’m typing this from Hamiton library, where I have been working on George’s problem for about ninety minutes. I came out here to deal with a transcript problem, but it turns out that there’s yet another transcript problem that basically comes from the same place as my UH-Hilo transcript problem. I’ve emailed the graduate admissions specialist at HPU to try to get some help — the director of my M.Ed. program encouraged me to solicit his assistance — but haven’t heard back from him yet.

Geez. I might have to just borrow enough money from my folks to pay off the rest of the blasted student loan. I’ve been trying to avoid that. I like solving my own dang problems. But school starts in just a few weeks for me, and just two weeks for George, so if I don’t make some headway soon, well, heck.

Food (TV) Nation

In ascending order, the best shows on the TV Food Network, ever:

  • Iron Chef America. I always liked the concept of the original Japanese show, but never cared much for the show itself. I know the new, American version loses a lot of the stuff people like about the original, but I guess that’s the stuff I didn’t like, because I just love this show. So far, the best matchup was Bobby Flay and Ming Tsai, and I fervently hope that the new season will feature more matchups between current and former TV Food Network personalities. You know what’s odd? My favorite of the current Iron Chefs is Masaharu Morimoto. They’re all cool, though.
  • Molto Mario with Mario Batali. It wasn’t nearly as good when the live audience was added. Still, the organic approach Batali takes to Italian cooking–the exact opposite of Ming Tsai’s approach–reminds us that yes, cooking is an art, but it’s also just food. It’s folk-culture, and folks are simple. I don’t think I can make anything Ming makes without going to the store first, but I think I can make everything Mario makes just by opening the cupboard.
  • Cooking Live with Sara Moulton. Most of what I want to say about Sara applies to Emeril, the next one up on the list, except that while Emeril gets tiresome after a while. Sara never does, because how can you get tired of nice? Her current show is not as good as her former show, but it’s still very, very watchable.
  • Emeril Live with Emeril Lagasse. He becomes more a parody of himself with every show, but forget that for a moment and watch the guy teach. I know good teaching when I see it, and Emeril does what he does and everyone watching thinks, “Hey, I can do that.” He might be something of a clown, but if he cooked you dinner you wouldn’t turn your nose up, would you? No. And every night, he convinces a nation of cultists that they can make the same stuff. I’ve figured out why he gets a little old, too, and it’s not (entirely) his persona. It’s that he’s a very thorough instructor, so if you’ve been watching his show for some time, you’re going, “Yeah, I know that already; just move on.” But you weren’t saying that the first year or so of watching him. That’s what he does. He makes you good enough so that you’re ready to move on, and if that’s not good teaching, I don’t know what is. And I already said I do.
  • Taste with David Rosengarten. It was a lot like Good Eats without as much science. Some friends have told me they thought he was kinda snobby, but he did some great shows on hamburgers, pancakes, and normal, everyday food, and he showed you how to make that stuff well. The spare set was kinda annoying, but Rosengarten’s obvious glee every time he sampled something well-made more than made up for it.
  • Two Fat Ladies with Jennifer Patterson and Clarisssa Dickson Wright. Man, I don’t think these two hilarious, brilliant ladies (and I mean that in every respect of the word) ever prepared anything I’d ever want to eat, but they had so much fun doing it and were so funny I had to watch. I really loved them. Jennifer Patterson once used cocoa in a recipe and said, “Say what you want about the Belgians, but they do make the finest cocoa!” I couldn’t believe it! People on television should be smarter than us, I think; why doesn’t the rest of the country?
  • East Meets West with Ming Tsai. Despite his overuse of the word “actually,” Ming Tsai is great. Yeah, I know he’s great to look at (even I’ve got to admit that), but he was so good on this show because while he demonstrated these really tricky dishes, making them all look quite easy, he knew that his personality was as important as his instruction, and he balanced the two very nicely. I have one of his books and dream of being good enough to prepare the recipes!
  • Good Eats with Alton Brown. First of all, what a geek. Secondly, the approach this show takes just rules. Here’s an ingredient. Here are some things you think you know about the ingredient. Here are some things you should know about the ingredient. And here are some things only I know about the ingredient! Alton is my idol. Truly. This is not only the best show on the TV Food Network, but it’s one of the best shows on TV ever.

Honorable mention for all the wrong various reasons: Ready Set Cook! when Jacqui Malouf was the host; just the Jacqui Malouf parts of Hot Off the Grill; $40 a Day with Rachael Ray; 30-Minute Meals with Rachael Ray; Chef du Jour when Lauren Groveman was on; Everyday Italian with Giada diLaurentiis.

Wow. It becomes quite obvious that I prefer the demo shows to the feature shows, doesn’t it? Yep. The increase in feature shows in the past two years has meant that I watch less and less of the Food Network. Date Plate is a good idea, but they need to get rid of the real chefs and let people just cook what they can cook. And that’s really more of a demo show than a feature. Other than that, though, I’m just not a big fan of the features.

Under Cover of the Night

I’m about to go public with two of my secret Web projects. The first one, which I’ve already mentioned here, is a podcast called The Literate Loser. That’s me, if you couldn’t figure that out. Strangely, as soon as I seriously entertained the thought of doing a podcast, I also knew what I wanted to put out there and tLL is pretty much it. I don’t think it’s going to be very entertaining, but certain types of people will find it interesting and that’s my audience. I hope. I haven’t had any real technical problems; the only problems I’ve had have been with the talent. I can be a royal pain to work with sometimes!

The second major project, which I’m going to announce in a very low-key manner (I think) should be ready to go by the end of this week. I’m really strapped for fun-having cash, so Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday are devoted to cleaning up the living room, getting the podcast out there, putting the finishing touches on secret project 2, and tweaking George’s online journal (it’s a project for his students and no, I’m not giving out links). George’s project is actually pretty much good to go, but I’m having a TON of problems getting the sidebar RSS feeds to look right. Grr.

As for the Village Idiots’ podcast, as soon as I know I can do a podcast, I’m going to assemble a couple of extra pieces of hardware and we’re going to do it. Penny and Reid have already said let’s give it a shot; Grace checks her email about once a month so I doubt I’ll hear from her for a while. If all goes as planned, this one will be very entertaining. I have such fun friends. Sometimes.

Played Puerto Rico with Alan, George, and Ross tonight. Alan beat me by one point in his first game ever; Ross beat me by two points in the second game. It was a blast. At one point someone said, “You know who would really like this game? Cameron Taketa.” Someone else said, “Yeah. He really would.” I might have to have him over one night to introduce him to the beauty that is Puerto Rico. What a great game.

R is on a trip with Mr. HBA. I don’t know if I’m lonelier when she’s here or when she’s away. It’s tough. In some ways, I’m more miserable now than when R was engaged to G and living in California. At least G is someone I love and know; I didn’t think G was right for her, but he was certainly not bad for her. I think Mr. HBA is potentially bad for her, but what am I supposed to say beyond that? I can’t come up with any solid reasons, and she says he makes her happy.

He makes her happy. I have heard her say that she didn’t think anyone was ever going to make her happy. Is that — should that be — enough for me, if all I want is what’s best for her? I can’t answer that. If OxyContin was making her happy, I wouldn’t think for a moment that it must be good for her.

Losing her as a possible lover is bad enough, but it’s something I have been prepared to deal with for years. I did have my chance, after all, and I blew that. What is so very difficult for me is that I seem to have lost her as a friend. Oh, we’re still cool. When we do speak on the phone or when she gives me rides to church on Sundays, it’s all normal and good, like it always was, but where she was my best friend just a few months ago, someone who would call me pretty much every day to see what was up, now she seldom even returns my calls, and she certainly never initiates one.

I don’t understand how I have lifted so easily out of her life. It’s as if she doesn’t care about me, not even as a friend; it’s as if she doesn’t think of me, not even in passing. This is not just some ex-girlfriend I’m talking about; it’s someone who’s been my friend for over twenty years, someone I have worked side-by-side with in jobs we both cared a great deal about, someone who acknowledges that she works really, really well with me when we’ve got a job that needs to get done. Now I’m not even an afterthought.

So what do I do about it? I just don’t know. I have told her that I disapprove of this relationship, so I guess all I do is be prepared to be there if something happens. I suppose I just find other friends.

Perhaps I’ll continue to do everything I do, but where there was once in my life a best friend and is now just this hole, I’ll cram in graduate school, the school yearbook, inconsequential web projects, and a second job to pay for it all.

I have good days and bad days in this, the Mr. HBA phase. Today is not a good day.