Tuesday, January 31, 2006


I am looking forward to Sunday.

I am what is known in this country as a Steelers fan.

No, I don't have a Pittsburgh Steelers license plate

Or a Pittsburgh Steelers table lamp.

Or a Pittsburgh Steelers Multifunctional Timer.

Or a Pittsburgh Steelers Scary-hat-on-backwards-mask.

Or a Pittsburgh Steelers popcorn popper.

Or a Pittsuburgh Steelers Musical Christmas Tree.

I don't have any of that stuff, nor do I have Steelers credit cards, helmet phones, jerseys, jackets, rugs, throws, keychains, or anything else of that ilk.

Although my brother does.

And one of my sons.*

And I used to have a Terrible Towel, but it got lost in a move.**

Nonetheless, I call myself a fan.

And not just a recent bandwagon fan either. For me, a 'recent bandwagon fan' includes anyone who wasn't a Steeler fan before 1974, regardless of their age, unless they can prove that they're from Pittsburgh.***

I was a Steeler fan in 1969. At age 8.

Chuck Noll's first year as a head coach.

They were 1-13 that season.

Their quarterback was Dick Shiner. No kidding. Dick Shiner.

More than a name: A hobby.

But Dick got knocked out of the first game of the season, and their backup quarterback came in and won the game.**** Unfortunately, he didn't get knocked out of any of the remaining games that season. All losses.

And I've been a Steelers fan ever since.

I can tell you not only every starting quarterback the Steelers have employed since the regrettably named Mr. Shiner, but I can name most of the backups as well. Plus, the names of the guys whose butts they put their hands under, all the inside linebackers, place kickers, punters, offensive co-ordinators and probably some of the practice squad goons as well.

But I don't.

I try to keep things on an even keel, for the most part, regarding all my favorite sports teams. Even the Steelers.

Because I've lived through years--years--where no professional sporting team I followed put together a winning streak longer than two games.

And as the coach of my favorite college team once said: "You can't make every game a life-and-death matter. For one thing, you'll be dead a lot."

So I try to keep things in perspective. I try to not get too carried away by the performances of people who don't even know I exist.

But you need to know that I almost pulled my arm out of my own socket pumping my fist in the air when Jerome Bettis scored against Indianapolis.

So, my Steelers-fan son, and possibly STBEW will be over on Sunday. They heard I'm making chili. And one of them told two of my nephews, who now also want to come over.

It depends on who they root for.

And now STBEW wants me to make guacamole. I make great guac.

Maybe I will make some.

But that's it. No more food, and no more people. Daddy needs some TV time.

I've got to find a new Terrible Towel.

I'm looking forward to Sunday


*The other one's a Bills fan. That's why I sent him to Iraq.

**I don't miss it. I was holding it when the Steelers suffered their only Super Bowl loss, so I figure it had bad mojo.

***Except my son.

****Terry Hanratty.

Monday, January 30, 2006


I've spent a large portion of the past week flat on my back with various pain inhibitors and muscle relaxants coursing through my system. The only 'up time' I've had was going to a couple of freelance gigs, and a visit to a chiropractor.

I felt kind of bad going to the jobs when I was not going to work, but I rationalized thusly: The freelance jobs lasted on average three hours compared to roughly ten hours (including travel time) for my regular job. I have something like two month's worth of sick leave accrued, since just about the only time I've taken off in the past five years was about two weeks in 2003 when I had appendicitis.

Plus, I desperately need the money.

So I was all set to go back to work today. The back feels somewhat better, thanks to the combination of immobility, drugs and "Doctor Greg," who pushed and prodded and cracked and mumbled over me on Friday.

I've always been a bit of a fence-sitter regarding the healing powers of Chiropractors, Acupuncturists, Homeopaths, and the like. But, I have seen people seem to improve ther health by going to them.

And today, I feel well enough to go back to work.

And the kids are sick.


STBEW is moving this week, so they can't stay with her. This means I've got to keep them home.

And since I've been out for an extended period, I'm going to have to prove that I was sick. Doesn't matter that I don't regularly take sick time. Corporate policy, and all.

I'm quite tired of Corporate Policy. A big factor in my bac back was my slipping on the ice in the parking lot of work--an incident that I didn't report because the procedure for an injury is to immediately notify your manager, who will come to the scene, asses the damage, and escort you to the nearest clinic where they will watch me pee in a cup.

Because maybe I'm on drugs.

This is for slipping on black ice in an unlit parking lot at 6:15 on a Wednesday.

I'm so tired of working for companies who, rather than try to support their workers in order to make sure they can do their best for them, instead treat their employees as criminals who have yet to be caught.

Performance reviews are a great example.

In my company, The review scale is set on a one to five scale--five being the best, and one being you're fired. Thing is, unless I've discovered a way to make the company an additional billion dollars a year, PLUS rescue the CEO's daughter from kidnapping PLUS find a way to reverse the aging process, I can't get a five. To get a four is nearly as difficult. The best I can get--no matter how well I do my job, is a three. Three-point-five tops.

Two-fifths of the performance scale--a full 40% of my possible performance review--is effectively impossible to attain.

I need a new job.


Saturday, January 28, 2006

Friday, January 28, 1977

The morning was beautiful. Deep blue skies, not a cloud to be seen. Almost felt like spring. My dad had taken the day off, and he and my mother were going to fetch my brother from college. He was in his second semester at an institute about a two hour drive away. His birthday was four days ago--his first birthday away from home. He only had one lab class on Friday, and it was over at 11:30. So they would meet him at his dorm room, they would have lunch, and drive home in the afternoon.

My brother was studying to become an engineer. A mechanical engineer. Just like Dad. He certainly had an engineering mind.

It's been said that there are two kinds of intelligence: abstract, and concrete. Abstract intelligence involves 'what if' questions, while concrete centers around 'how to' thoughts.

Bruce was almost pure concrete intelligence. If it was something he could pick up in his hands, he could deal with it. I was almost pure abstract. My family called it daydreaming.

Put another way--at age six, my brother could read a schematic diagram. At age sixteen, I had to explain to him how to read an editorial cartoon.

On Friday, January 28th, 1977, I was a senior in high school. I had been accepted into the drama department of the school of my choice, I had won a few scholarships, I was in two bands, two choruses, in the drama club, had co-written, produced and directed a readers' theater presentation, was an editor on the school paper, a contributor to the year book, ran track and played baseball.

But I didn't know anything about fluid dynamics.

I was loved in spite of this.

Even though if I just stopped daydreaming...

Actually, the past few months were kind of cool. Without my older brother around, I was able to do more stuff with my dad. When Bruce was around, he and Dad would always work together, and I would move the heavy stuff. Without Bruce there, I had some time with him alone. For instance, one week, my dad was going to be the only baritone in the church choir, so he brought me along to sing with him. That turned into a semi-regular thing. The Sunday singing was ok, the Wednesday practices were ok too. For me, the best part was riding in the car alone, just me and my dad, to and from practice. We'd talk about stuff, and I would almost always get him to laugh. Getting my dad to laugh was the best.

On Friday, January 28, 1977, it was going to be Mom and Dad in the car together, going to get my brother for a birthday celebration.

The ride to the college was beautiful. On the way, my mother turned to my father and said "My life is perfect. I have everything I have ever wanted."

It was during fourth period band practice when it started snowing.

It was amazing. When we started Rimsky-Korsekov's Procession of Nobles, it had just started to get cloudy. Halfway through, the snow was hitting the windows so hard it could be heard over some of the mezzo-piano intervals. By the time the period was over, we were told to get our stuff and get on the buses home. They had let school out before lunch.

My high-schooler brain said: cool!

We lived halfway up a hill that overlooked the southwestern part of a valley. It was a beautiful view all year long. But it was a bitch to drive it when it was snowing.

By the time the bus made it to the bottom of the hill, Mabel, the bus driver, announced that there was no way in hell she was going to even try to get up there, because even if she did make it up, she'd end up in a ditch on the way down. I grumbled a bit, but at least it wasn't school. I grabbed my books and my trumpet, and started up the hill, along with four or five other kids.

The snow was thick and hard. Even with my parka zipped up and the hood pulled up in full nerd mode, I could feel the flakes hitting with the sound and feel of spitwads. A few neighbors cars had slid off the road, and some of us got behind one car and pushed it for a while, until it got enough traction to get moving.

By the time I made it from the bottom of the hill to my house, probably an inch of snow had fallen. I went inside, dried off, and ate my lunch. Outside, I heard the high-pitched vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv of a late 1970's rear-wheel drive GM car fishtailing up the hill on its way home. The road right in front of our house was a particularly steep grade. We were used to helping our neighbors get their car out of our front yard. If they got stuck, my dad, or my brother would get behind the wheel, and I would get behind and push. Again the heavy work.

After lunch, I put on my parka and gloves and went out to shovel. I didn't like shoveling, but I knew that I would get yelled at when my folks got home if the driveway was un-navigable.

While I was cleaning off the driveway, I would hear that familiar vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv, and I would run down to the car, and get behind them and push a while until they got past the tricky spot. And I was doing it by myself. No Dad. No Bruce. No help. It was hard. It was a little dangerous.

It was...fun.

For the first time in my life, I was in charge. And I was doing ok. I was keeping the snow off enough of the driveway that Dad could get the Impala into the garage. I even shoveled the walk off to the front door. And I was helping the neighbors. Me.

It was close to six when they got home. They weren't talking much when they got out of the car. But that was ok. I did enough talking for all of us. As they walked into the house, I babbled about what had been going on, and how I had helped all these people, and the radio said that they might cancel school for a week and I shoveld the driveway and the sidewalk and the snow was so cool--

And my Dad yelled at me.

"Shut up!" He snarled. "Has it occurred to you that we've had to drive through this storm for the past six hours? It's normally a two hour drive! We've been driving for six hours! Don't you ever think?"



I guess not. It hadn't occurred to me. Honestly, it didn't. I was not aware that they had been driving through snow that was coming down so thick that my dad could not see the front end of his own car, let alone the road ahead.

Because our life was perfect.

Bad stuff happened to other people on Friday, January 28th, 1977.


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Things To Do in Florida...

I'm still quite uncomfortable, so this post will be just about as lame as my back. By the way, I've been diagnosed with sacroiliitis. So there.

On our way to Florida. Those are the progeny. Fred wants to play baseball when he grows up, and be an improv comedian in the offseason. Zoe wants to play soccer and drive a motorcycle.

Visiting the cockpit. Thanx to Notsocranky for suggesting we do this. The pilot on the left couldn't be bothered to talk to us. He just sat there eating his discounted Christmas candy (the orange sticker on the bag said '3 for $.99!'), but the dude on the right was cool.

There's still a lot of damage left unrepaired from the past hurricane season. This was two doors down from my mothers' house.

This was three doors down. Lots of lots.

That's Zoe feeding a stingray. Fred is now an expert in the ways of the ray. He knows that their closest relative in the fishy world is the shark. He knows how to walk in ray-filled waters in order to prevent getting 'stung' (shuffle your feet). He thinks they feel like jello covered in sandpaper.

F & Z at the beach.

My little actor. He loves to ham it up. Such a clown.

That's it. Time for flexeril and ibuprofen.

If I wasn't having so much fun, I'd say it sucks to get old.


Bad Back

That's all I got for ya today.

Bad back.

Started Tuesday last, a little twinge in the posterior. Maybe I slept on it wrong.

Heading out to my car afer work, I slipped and landed hard on my hip because the parking lot wasn't salted.

Bang. Zoom.

This was Tuesday evening. AFTER spending the day with a bad back.

Hip crack
Bad Back
Give your dog a bone.

This old man needed about three minutes to get his ass off the ground at that point.

Then I spent several hours on Friday in uncomfortable airplane seats.

Then Florida;

Nice weather. But ever try walking in sand with a bad back? I don't reccommend it.
The kids wanted to go into the surf. So I went too.

I did pretty good for the most part,

I turned sideways with all the big waves.

Except for one.

My daughter had fallen in the surf, and I turned my back to the ocean to help her up.

The Atlantic Ocean is a bastard.

BAM! Big assed wave, right in the middle of my back.

I felt the bones of my spine grinding into my hip.

So, we spend our time at the pool instead,

Semi-weightlessness is great for the back.

Getting back onto the plane for the trip home--not so much.

And now I'm back at work.

Bad back and all.

Going to the doctors at three. We'll see what he can do.

I'll post pictures later.


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Up In the Air, Junior Birdmen...

Friday morning, 8:15 am, the kids and I board a 737, and by Friday afternoon, we'll be in Florida for the weekend. Yay!

My mother has a bunch of air miles, and she was trying to figure out if she could use them to get us down there for winter break. Turns out, she couldn't. Flights weren't available at that time, and both kids would have birthdays during the break, and I didn't think it would be fair to STBEW to take them away at that time. Plus, I had a bunch of freelance work already scheduled that week.

While I was looking at my calendar, something occurred to me.

"What about this weekend?" I asked. This was an unusual thing for me to ask. Historically, vacation planning in my family involves about the same amount of research and preparation that the Allies put into invading Normandy. We are not spur-of-the-moment vacationers.

"I don't have any freelance work," I continued. "If we left on Friday and came back Sunday, we could have a nice visit."

My Mother, God love her, really tried for a few minutes to come up with a reason why this wouldn't work. But then she got into the idea.

The air miles idea ended up getting scrapped. She didn't have enough miles to get all three of us down there, and the amount she would have to pay for the third ticket was actually steeper than what I found for three tickets on Priceline. And, we changed the departure date to Monday. So the kids miss two days of school. Big deal. My son's already getting letters of interest from colleges. He's in fourth grade. I think they'll be fine.

There is a small tinge of worry around the trip, though. My stepfather has prostate cancer. He's had it for years. The doctors haven't been treating it, since it was a very slow cancer, and his quality of life was unaffected by the illness. He's in his mid 80's, and the feeling was, he would most likely die from natural causes before this disease caused him any trouble.

But the last few weeks, he's been having intestinal problems. Next week he's going to be in the hospital, undergoing a series of tests.

Not mentioned, but certainly on everyone's mind, is the possibility that he may not ever come back from the hospital after this. How much of a possibility, we don't know.

He may be fine. But regardless, he'll be able to have a fun weekend with the grandkids.

I can't wait.


Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Did You Know...

That the soldiers who guard the Tomb of the Unknowns have to live in a barracks below the tomb, aren't allowed to speak to anyone for their first six months, and can never drink alcohol again?

That Lee Marvin's ass was saved on Iwo Jima by Captain Kangaroo?

That Mister Rogers was a Navy SEAL who fought in Viet Nam, and knew dozens of ways to kill, and who wore those long-sleeved sweaters so you couldn't see all the tattoos on his forearms?

What? You didn't know these things?

That's because they aren't true. Yet every day I get crap like this in my email from friends. Most of the stuff is easy to figure out and debunk. A few minutes of research online get the truth out. Especially if you go to the Urban Legends Reference Page.

Snopes has become one of my favorite pages in the last few months. It's a one-stop shop, especially their inboxer rebellion pages, where you can quickly find out that Lee Marvin was wounded (in the ass, yes) at Saipan, not Iwo Jima; that Captain Kangaroo, while a Marine, never saw any action, and had enlisted two weeks after Iwo Jima; and that Fred Rogers was never part of any military branch, and in fact had been producing Mister Rogers' Neighborhood since 1963, thereby making it impossible to serve in 'Nam.

I usually refer the emailer to the Snopes.com website whenever I get another howler forwarded to me. I had hoped that it would reduce the number of these types of emails. It hasn't. I still get them, but now people add 'is this true?' to them.


Friday, January 13, 2006

...and Hot Tamale

Well, maybe not, but chili today. After all, I promised. I apologize for a relative lack of measurement here, but I don't really measure all that much when I cook chili. I usually use my hands as a rule of thumb. So I've included my own personal measuring unit in this post.

The following will produce 4-6 bowls of chili, depending on how generous you are. It's easy to double and triple, because all of the ingredients are self-contained; i.e., one can of pinto beans, one can of tomato paste, et c.


Dutch Oven
10" skillet
chef's knife
paring or small utility knife
chopping block
cooking spray or a small amount of olive oil
latex gloves

I can make my chili with the dutch oven alone, but it's faster and easier to use the skillet.


1 lb top round or sirloin beef, trimmed*
16 oz pinto beans, drained (one can)
1 onion (fist sized)
2-to-4 jalapeño peppers (thumb-sized)
1 red bell pepper (you can use green if you want, but I like the red for its color)
1 clove garlic
6 oz tomato paste (one of those tiny cans)
1 oz (or so)Masarepa (pre-cooked corn meal)--spread out over a dinner plate
2 bottles of beer**


hot sauce (my choice: Jump up and Kiss Me Smoky Chipotle)


Extra-sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded
Sour cream
corn bread or muffins****

Get Started

First things first. If you're wearing contact lenses TAKE THEM OUT NOW. You'll be handling some foods high in capsascin, and the last thing you'll want to do is try to take your lenses out afterwards. Trust me on this. It's OK. I'll wait.


You're back. Good.

Put on the gloves and start chopping. Do the jalapeños first. How spicy do you want it? Obviously, the more jalapeños you use, the hotter it gets. Removing the seeds and inner membranes will also cut down on the ol' scovilles. I've found that four peppers, (seeds removed) is about as hot as anyone really wants it.

To remove the seeds, I roll the pod on the chopping block with the palm of my hand, back and forth a couple of times. Then I slice off the top of the pod (at the stem), and shake most of the seeds out into the trash. Sometimes I'll roll the pod a few more times between my palms inverted this way, getting as many seeds out as possible. Then, I slice the pods lengthwise, and remove any remaining membranes and seeds with the paring knife. You could use the chef's knife for this, but I've found the small blade works best. Once seeded and de-membraned, chop them small and put them in the dutch oven.

Chop the onion and bell pepper next. Chop these guys a little coarser--I go for pieces about the size of the tip of my pinky--and slide them into the dutch oven with the jalapeños. If you have a garlic press, use it to add the clove, or just chop it really fine, add it, and pour about half a bottle of the beer over them, add a couple of pinches of salt, and start simmering.*****

While simmering, get to the beef. I use top round (london broil) or sirloin because the fat's easy to trim from it. Trim the fat (if not already done by the butcher), and then cut the beef into small chunks--again, the tip of my pinky is my reference. Now, it's time to braise the meat.
(Don't try to do all of the meat at one time. It's possible, but this works best if you give the meat some room. Do 6-8 ounces at a time, depending on the size of your skillet)

Pre-heat your skillet to medium-high (using the cooking spray or oil at the appropriate time), dredge the meat in the masarepa, and sear it in the skillet, about 2-3 minutes, until the juice starts coming out of the meat. Add about 1 tbsp. of the tomato paste, and turn the beef into it, until the paste caramelizes on the beef, and dump it into the dutch oven. Then, deglaze the pan with 2-3 ounces of beer (pour the beer into the hot pan and stir it around to get all the caramelized tomato paste off the pan.) Let it simmer and reduce in size for about a minute, and dump it in with the rest of the stuff. Repeat as necessary. (If you're only using the dutch oven, slide the cooked meat out to the edges, cook the next batch in the middle, and don't bother deglazing)

Then add the beans and the rest of the beer, cover, and cook for at least 10 minutes (15 if you're only using the dutch oven, and have added the veggies second) on medium-low heat. I often do this in the oven (set at 300), but it can be done just as easily on the stovetop.

Fine Tuning

After that, uncover, stir, and add another pinch or two of salt, a couple pinches (probably 1/8th teaspoon) of cumin, a dash of cinnamon, a splork or two of hot sauce, and stir it in. I'm not going to tell you how much or little to add, really. It's all personal preference. I just advise adding a little at a time. It's always easy to add more. Next to impossible to remove too much. Let it cook uncovered for a while--maybe 5-10 minutes, to let the liquid reduce, stirring occasionally. If it's still too soupy for your tastes, add some masarepa. If you want more spice, add a little at a time, and let it sit for 5-10 minutes before you taste. Repeat until it's the way you want it.

I like to let my chili simmer on low heat for an hour at this point, but it's ready to be served at anytime after the first half hour of cooking.


I put the pot in the middle of the table, along with a big bowl of shredded cheddar, a bowl of sour cream, and a basket of muffins. My reccomended serving procedure is: line the bottom of the bowl with the cheese, add the chili, add a dollop of sour cream on top, and serve with the muffin and a beer. My beer of choice is Alexander Keith's India Pale Ale, but since that's not available in the United States, I usually go with a Labatts.

Well, that's it. Hope it was worth the wait. I'd love to hear from you if you try this. It goes great with football.


*If you can get a butcher to trim it for you, order a pound, trimmed. If you buy it pre-wrapped, figure about 1-2 ounces of the package will be fat, and buy accordingly

**Or more, if you're planning on having some while you cook. I usually use Labatts, but any ale will do.

***I recommend Himalayan Mountain Red Sea salt, which is mined from deep underground mines that are high up in the Himalayan mountain range. If, for some reason, you find yourself short of this kitchen staple, I suggest Fleur de Sel, which is harvested by hand off the village of Guerande in Brittany in July and August, when the sea is calm and the weather conditions are just right.

Or, just grab a handful of Morton's. It's salt for chrissakes.

****I used to have one of those 'corn shaped' cast iron muffin bakers Colleen mentioned in the comment section of a previous post. STBEW washed it with soap & water & put it away still wet. I don't have it anymore. Rust and corn muffins don't mix.

*****If you're only using the dutch oven, do the meat first, and add the veggies afterwards. It just takes a little bit longer to cook.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Zillions and Zillions

The lovely and thoughtful Jessica has pointed out on her blog that Creationists* haven't given up in their fight to replace teaching kids to think with training them to NOT think. See my post "ID and Ego" over at Burned Out Paranoid Democrat for my take on the whole thing. And Molly Ivins has a few choice words for the bozos doing the same thing in Texas. Favorite line: One hears evolution dismissed as "just a theory," as though all of science weren't based on theory and eternally subject to new evidence to the contrary. In science, gravity is "just a theory" -- and if you ever drop something and it falls up, they'll reconsider the whole theory for you. That's just how "theoretical" evolution is -- constantly subject to evidence and proof.

This made me think about Carl Sagan.

Sagan, for those who might not know, was an astronomer whose greatest skill was in presenting the wonders of the universe in ways that were appealing to the masses. He was witty, erudite, and quite charming. So charming, in fact, that Johnny Carson had him on the Tonight Show many, many times. During one of those stints on the couch, he and Johnny began talking about Creationism, science, the bible, and Carl's take on all of it.

I cannot find any transcripts or records of the conversation, but this, I believe, is a pretty accurate paraphrasing of what he said: "Over the centuries, astronomers have charted the movements of stars and planets and have come to the conclusion that the earth is but one planet among billions of planets circling billions of stars, and that the universe is billions of years old. Creationists would like you to believe that the universe is only thousands of years old. If we assume that the Creationists are correct, then none of the observations made in astronomy make sense. This would mean that God has deliberately mislead us by making it seem like the universe is billions of years old. Any God that would be that mean, I want no part of."

That, to me, is the heart of the problem. Why would God give us all these tools to discover, and to set up things so that the universe looks one way, but actually create the world in an entirely different way? This is what Creationists would want us to accept.

And I don't accept it. It's way too mean-spirited.

Chili recipe tomorrow. I promise.


*And that's what they are--despite their claims that they are merely 'proponents of an alternative theory.' Don't take my word for it...it's in the decision Judge Jones handed down in Dover PA.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

In Dutch

Seems there's a bit of interest in the ol' Dutch Oven, so I'll post a bit of what I know, and a little bit of conjecture.

There are many variations on the theme, but basically Dutch Oven is a three-to-six quart covered pot that can be used in many different ways: on the stovetop, in the oven, or even in a fireplace or campfire. Dutch ovens are made of diffent materials: kiln-baked ceramic, stoneware, Pyrex and stainless steel are all used, but by far the most common material for the Dutch oven is cast iron. It can have one long or two short handles, or even a bucket-style carrying handle, and the handles and lid are both oven-safe. Some dutch ovens even have three short legs, for use in campfires.

It's basically the all-purpose pot that European immigrants brought over with them when America was new, but was modified here in the United States for use in the western expansion.

There's a lot of speculation over the name. The 'oven' part is fairly obvious--an oven is a chamber or enclosed compartment for heating, baking, or roasting food. The mobile nature of early American settlers required that their ovens be mobile as well. The 'Dutch' part is a bit of a mystery. The most likely scenario involves the German artisans who settled in Pennsylvania, known as the Pennsylvania Dutch. Dutch, in this case is an Americanization of Deutsche, which is German for...well...German. Most of the westward expansion went through Pennsylvania (where they bought their Conestoga Wagons--the 'prairie schooner'), so it makes sense that they bought their cookware there as well.

As more and more Americans went westward, the basic cook pot was modified to suit the needs of the pioneers. It was streamlined, made shorter and wider, in order to have more surface area to heat the food. The lid was made sturdier, tighter fitting, so that hot coals could be placed on top as well, further quickening cooking time. The big, bulky, old-fashioned kettle was phased out, replaced by this new pot made by the Pennsylvania Dutch blacksmiths. The 'Dutch Oven' was just as neccessary as a good rifle. One of the best manufacturers of Dutch Ovens today is Lodge Manufacturing, and its founder, Joseph Lodge, was one of those Pennsylvania Dutch craftsmen. Their website boasts that some of their skillets and Dutch Ovens made a century ago are still in use.

The Dutch Oven is still one of the staples of many campground. There's even an International Society of Dutch Oven Enthusiasts, which I didn't know about until I went searching for a picture for my last post; whose members, if I may editorialize, need to get a life.*

If you're looking to buy a Dutch Oven, I would reccomend getting a cast iron one. The trick to cast iron is seasoning. If you're really interested, the Lodge website has easy instructions for seasoning and care of cast iron.

However, I confess: I do not have a cast iron Dutch Oven. Mine's Calphalon. Yeah, it's really cool, and I love the whole set. Which was, as I have mentioned, a gift. But if I were to buy one for myself, I'd go cast iron.

As far as recipes...there's lots of good ones on line. Do a Google search on "Dutch Oven recipes, and you'll find a plethora of tasty meals. I use mine primarly for chili. I make damn good chili.

Maybe my recipe will be the next post.

*I'm kidding! I'm kidding! Sheesh--the last thing I need is a bunch of Dutch Oveners on my ass.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Get Out in That Kitchen & Rattle them Pots & Pans

One of my regular stops on the internet is over at Indygirl's blog. She left us with a bit of a cliffhanger as to what she was going to give 'The Farmer'* for his birthday. She promised it was the least romantic gift on the planet.

No, it wasn't fifty pounds of cat litter and a dust-vac.**

It was pots and pans. I was just as surprised as you are. I think it's a terrific gift.

In fact, one of the best presents STBEW ever gave me was exactly the same thing. A full set--including a double boiler, a saute pan, and a dutch oven. Which is one of the handiest damn vessels a cook can have.

I was so happy about those damn pots and pans, I told everyone about them. Especially the dutch oven. Sometimes in strange situations.

One situation was while I was working a ball game. I do a bunch of freelance television work--mostly sports-related stuff. One regular gig is directing closed-circuit coverage for our local professional baseball club.

I love baseball. But there can be quite a bit of 'down time' between pitches. Especially in the early innings of a game when there's not a lot of hits.

So the camera operators and I chatted. We do that every game. And since I had just recieved this gift, I spent a lot of time talking about how happy I was to get a dutch oven.

What I did not know was that there was more than one usage of the phrase 'dutch oven.'

Did you?

Wikipedia quite tactfully describes it thusly: The dutch oven is also a slang name for a practical joke played on bedmates by restraining them under the covers of a bed after one has passed gas.

As I said, I was unaware of that usage. And one of my camera operators was familiar with that phrase, but unaware of the cookware. Hey, he was 21 at the time, and fresh out of college. Cooking to him involved a box of macaroni and a microwave. He was a good operator, but for some reason, when I was raving about how happy I was to get a dutch oven for my birthday from my wife, he was unable to hold a steady shot.

Because he was convulsing in laughter.

It took a bit of time--at least a half an inning, but we got that straightened out, and we each left that day with increased word power.

But it took a while before I could use that one particular pan.


*Indy's nickname for her Significant Other.***
**That was my guess, too!

***Because he plows her field.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

An Open Letter III

Dear Restaurant Salad Makers:

Cut your fucking onions.

I like onions. Especially in my salad. They add a spicy, tangy element to the mixture of greens and other non-salady things that make up the modern salad. And I understand that presentation is important. No one wants to eat ugly food, and those purplish rings of red onion are very attractive.

But they're a pain in the ass to eat. Especially if you're a restaurant that specializes in "hand foods" like hamburgers, wraps and chicken wings, and my entire complement of cutlery consists of a black plastic fork in a bag. Understand that, in places like these, attractiveness of food takes a back seat to ease of eating. We're not there for a culinary experience. We're there to cram tasty food in our pie holes while watching a sporting event on one of your TVs. If half of my order is a salad, and the other half is six chicken wings in hot sauce*, chances are I'm not going to care that there's an attractive spray of pungent vegetable rings on top.

Chop, chop.

While I'm on the subject, tell your wait staff that if they are to ask "Is everything OK?" then they should stick around more than three-tenths of a second to hear a response. Especially if my mouth is full of salad with rings of onion slapping against my chin.

*quite possibly, the ugliest food ever created

Thursday, January 05, 2006

I'm So Out of It

...regardless of what 'it' happens to be.

Case in point: the following headline link I saw on a sidebar:

'Mimi,' from Carey, tops sales for '05

I had absolutely no idea what that meant. I did not realize that Mariah Carey released a CD called "The Emancipation of Mimi" this year. I swear to God, the only thing that came into my mind when reading that was Kathy Kinney, who played "Mimi' on the Drew Carey Show, had somehow landed a job in advertising.

Read it again with that assumption. It makes as much sense. "Mimi (Kathy Kinney) from Carey (The Drew Carey Show) tops sales for '05 (She hasn't gotten much air time since the show ended--ya gotta make a living somehow)."

Not being a big fan of Ms. Carey has its drawbacks in the world of pop culture.

However, I do know enough about her to hazard the following:

I'm guessing the 'Mimi' in the title is probably Mariah herself, and this is a 'theme' album about her own 'emancipation' from something. I'm guessing that the 'emancipation' has something to do with her career--a record deal, management, or something.

While the definition of 'emancipate' merely means 'to set free or liberate,' and can be applied to just about any situation where someone is relieved from constraint, the common usage of 'emancipation,' at least here in the United States, implies a release from slavery, as in Lincoln's 'Emancipation Proclamation.'

A woman from Long Island, who got her start in the business because she married* a record executive named Tommy Mottola who was decades older than she, who made millions of dollars from those albums her husband produced, and does not need to work a day in her life again if she doesn't want to, has no business talking about 'emancipation' just because her previous album tanked.

Of course, I may be wrong.

I'd like to hear what Kathy Kinney has to say about it.


*'married' was not the first verb I put here, but I'm trying to be less epithetical these days.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

How does he do it?

Look at this guy:

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Is this the face of a guy who could end up--even temporarily, with a woman like this?

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Okay, yeah, I could see that. My chances with Ms Romijn are markedly less than his would ever be, talent notwithstanding.

But what bugs me...what truly steams my bean, is the power the dude has over this girl here:

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That's my daughter. And she has revealed to me that she thinks John Stamos is cute. We are recording every episode of Full House because she has a crush on John Stamos.

Damn you, John Stamos!

Damn you, Nick at Nite!


Monday, January 02, 2006

Happy New Years!

How did you ring in 2006? We spent it relatively quietly. I had to work in the early evening, but I got the kids around seven.

I've never been a big fan of the whole celebration. It goes back to my teen years.

My parents always had a big Methodist shindig, and my brother and I would be relegated to the basement. We would sit down there and listen to the Methodist merryment from upstairs. Especially if they broke out the sherry.

It wasn't all that bad--we had a TV, pool table, ping-pong, snacks.

But there was one problem. My parents would invite friends from out-of-town, who would bring their son Alan.

The Spastic Kid.

Alan was the poster child for untreated ADD. Everything he touched was defective. That's why it broke. He was better than us at everything, too. It was just because the moon was out of phase or his thumb had a splinter or the dog ate his tuxedo that he didn't win on New Years' eve.

Over the years, my distaste for the holiday remained. During my drinking days, it was amateur night. The only time I ever got pulled for drinking and driving was on New Years' Eve. Fortunately for me, this was just before the big crackdown on DWI, and I got off with just a warning. But the lesson was learned.

When I started dating STBEW, we exchanged gifts on New Years' Eve as well, since we were with our respective families on Christmas. So I got that against it too.

So my desire for New Years' Eve is simple: Quiet and out of the way. The kids and I went out to see a movie at the dollar theater. But the projector was busted for the film we wanted to see. I converted the refund to quarters, and the kids blew them at the arcade.

We came home, played cards, and watched Spiderman 2 until 11:58, and then turned to ABC.

Oh my God Dick Clark.

I only saw him for a moment, and it was a scary one. High diffusion filter, Lots of backlight, unusually wide shot. It reminded me of Balok from Star Trek. He could have been a muppet for as long as he was on screen. And he muffed the countdown. I heard Regis did the same thing on another channel. I understand that he wants to prove to the world that he can still do it after having his stroke, but it's wrong.

So three two one Happy New Year yay! and off to bed. The kids slept late, as did I. We did manage to go to the movies on Sunday night, and we had a nice day sledding today. They're upstairs now, with their clothes picked out for school tomorrow, and supposedly brushing their teeth. Don't see how they're doing that whilst shouting happily at each other, so I guess I'd better get up there.

No real resolutions to ring in the New Year. Except to chew my food more slowly.

I know this isn't much of a post, but it wasn't much of a New Year.

Just the way I like it.