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Saturday, March 31, 2007

This is Epilepsy

We headed out to do the zoo this morning. The family membership I popped for is good through 3/31, and that's today. The koalas are there, Africa is open, it was 55º and windy. Only a 10% chance of rain. It was Ferris Bueller's Day Off nice out.

For the record, I might have known. Mo got up at three-something in the morning. Like, up for the day got up. At first, I thought it was more like six and wondered why I was so freakin' exhausted. Then I noticed the clock and decided that maybe it wasn't time for eggs and toast.

If it'd been a school night, I'd have toughed it out. Because the only weapon I have against this kind of obscenely early morning, is Benadryl. And it's not reliable. And it doesn't wear off quickly, so if it did have the desired effect, it would make it about impossible to get her moving again at seven.

To my immense relief, it worked, and she went back to bed of her own volition about half an hour after taking the stuff.

And she slept in. Sort of. She slept until 8:00, which is like sleeping until noon for most kiddos.

We stopped to take pictures as we went, and looking at the shots with a screen bigger than 1.5 inches (the preview on my camera), it was in her face. Things were not right.

We stopped at the waterfall. To rub a Buddha. To say hello to the red pandas. The Sumatran tigers.

We were headed into the Australia section to look for kangaroos and koalas, and Mo took a sudden seat on a bench. This is something she does sometimes, basically her way of saying, 'Do we have to walk so much?'

So I point the camera at her, which is something I tend to do. She threw out her arms and hammed for a pic. And when I went to snap another shot, not sure I had the aperture set right, she looked off to her right. And kept looking.

This last photo is what a partial seizure looks like right before the idiot with the camera realizes his daughter is seizing.

I didn't capture the images of her losing bladder control, drooling, chewing, and rolling her eyes in improbable ways.

Thing is, it's not as spectacular as a grand mal seizure, but it takes a lot out of her. And it was probably a half mile walk to the car from here. The other bad part about the subtle nature of a partial seizure is nobody notices. Or if they do, they don't try to help.

I should have flagged down a zoo employee and made them give us a lift on a zoo golf cart. I don't know if they would have, or if the fear of a lawsuit would have inspired them to call for an ambulance we didn't need.

Mo basically sleep-walked to the car.

Check Out the Big Brains on Em

My eleven year old daughter just told me she has lethologica.

Now, I know she's bright, but I'm a pretty verbal sort of Lobster, and that was a new one on me. It means she often can't quite reach the word she's wanting to use, or her tendency to call me Mom and the artist formerly known as Frau Lobster Dad.

She really does have it, from what I can tell, though I don't know I'd say she has it to the 'serious, debilitating disorder' level.

So it's your word for the day, mmmkay?

Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole

Okay, remember when I could cook anything as long as it was pizza? I know, I'm on the casserole channel lately.

And once again, my baby-cooker floweth over. I have a monster casserole dish, a 3 quart piece of Pyrex, but for the second consecutive casserole I've ended up with it plus a 9 x 9 square full.

Here's the recipe as I did it this time:

4 cups chicken broth and 1-3/4 cups brown rice cooks for 40 minutes. Prep other ingredients in this time.

1 large-ish onion chopped sautés in olive oil with a tablespoon of minced garlic.
When onions are getting translucent, add about two cups of shredded carrot.
1 pint heavy cream
2 cans Cream of Mushroom soup
14.5 oz can chicken broth
1 cup sour cream
Heat until bubbling, then melt in
4 cups shredded extra sharp cheddar
4 oz bleu cheese crumbles
2 12.5 oz cans of chicken, drained
1 lb defrosted frozen broccoli
Black and red pepper to taste

Transfer to casserole dish(es) and top with 6 oz French onions. Bake 30 minutes.

It's good but soupy. If I was starting over to make it, I'd omit the chicken broth from the soup base, there's plenty of it already soaked into the rice at this point. I'd cut the cream and sour cream in half (or maybe use one or the other). I'd use one can of Cream of Mushroom. I think then I'd be close to a recipe that would fit in just the baby cooker, and it'd be more likely to stand up and say howdy like Miss April's boobs.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Sam the Hippie Recluse Cat

This is my Mom's cat, Sam.

Sam was from a litter Jim had. Jim was a stray Persian who found the offices of Nadler Publishing, my employer way back in the early days of the first President Clinton. Jim was practically starved, yet turned out to be pregnant(and we couldn't, of course, change the name when we found out the beast was female). So you see, there's nothing about being a right wing maniac that prevents you from recognizing that sometimes a mother's name is Jim.*

When Jim had her litter, Sam seemed to take to me. He slept in my shirt pocket while I worked, stretched out on my thigh and dug his claws in absently. Mom adopted him.

He used to chase flashlight beams and crash into walls, but something in him broke one day and he got real weird about people. My Mom can cut the knots out of his tummy hair, but when he hears other people, he generally hides out. To the extent I sometimes forget she has a cat.

He hates my kids. When he wasn't hiding from them when they were babies and toddlers, he'd hiss and swipe at them with his pathetic, hairy, de-clawed paws.

But the other night he didn't run when my car turned in the driveway. He didn't hide when I walked through the door. He just laid in his place on the dining room table. Even let me pet him some.

He's a huge musk ox of a cat.

*Nadler Publishing was founded with the tabloid K.C. Jones, which was conceived as a sort of local National Review, or, if you prefer, a hard right Village Voice. It's editor in chief was an ultra-right wing vegetarian Jew who eventually married a Christian anarchist. His partner idolized Gordon Gekko from the movie Wall Street and was a proud alumni of the Reagan Youth skate punk outfit.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Your Billions At Work

Okay, I got to help check this job today.

I say check, but really, it's impossible. We're talking about 13 sub-documents with sections that are letter sized mixed with sections that are 11x17, with text, charts and schematics all to support a bid for Government Work.

One of the sub-sections was over 1300 pages. Yeah.

Remember the $900 hammer? This is why it's a bargain: to legally sell a hammer to the Pentagon, you have to provide this sort of absurd documentation.

Seriously, all you see here is two copies of one bid for one government contract. God bless them for having it printed where my bread is now buttered, but we'd be better off if the tax dollars that support such bad craziness just stayed in our wallets.

The person showing off her polydactyly is the other half of the art department. This project was her bailiwick. Better her than me, right?


I know, another casserole. I just finished the last leftovers of the last one and here I am at it.

This time, I was gifted with about two pounds of fresh asparagus. I love asparagus, but I’ve been craving casserole so much lately, I started looking for asparagus casserole recipes.

None in the Joy of Cooking.

So I made one up.

I sautéed some onions and garlic in olive oil to translucency. I didn’t have enough white onion, so I made up the difference with red. The reason not to cook with red onion is it’s already sweet, and cooking is what makes white onions turn sweet. Red onions are best saved for raw applications, but I wasn’t going to the store for another white onion.

I boiled a pound of rigatoni and simmered about two pounds of chicken breast in a can of chicken broth while I cut up the asparagus in to two or three inch strips.

After rinsing the noodles in cold water to arrest cooking, I heated a can of Cream of Mushroom and a can of Cream of Mushroom and Chicken with a pint of skim milk and. When it was hot, I added the remainder of the stock from the now diced chicken breast and started stirring in cheese. 15 oz of Ricotta, about a cup of shredded parmesan and a pound and a half or so of shredded mozzarella.

I added quite a bit of freshly ground black pepper and probably a tablespoon or a little more of crushed red pepper. Season to taste, of course, but with a large recipe (this is like a gallon of casserole), a lot goes a little ways.

After stirring in the asparagus, chicken, sautéed onions and rigatoni and getting it all hot enough to steam, I transferred it to my baby-cooker sized casserole dish. And found I needed more space. So I broke out a smaller casserole dish for the remainder, then sprinkled some more shredded mozzarella over the top.

I forgot to get French Onions, too. Or croutons, croutons would rock on the top of this, I’ll bet.

I think next I’ll take a stab at lasagna. Last time I tried that, I used hot Italian sausage in lieu of hamburger, and I don’t think anyone would have dubbed the result lasagna. It was good, but it was no way lasagna-ish.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Veggie & Faux Chicken Casserole

I don't know what it is, but I've been craving casserole lately. Thinking even a tuna casserole would be good, and I normally can't take canned tuna hot. I couldn't decide if I wanted something like turkey tetrazzini or something like lasagna more, but in the end, the former won out. Well sort of.

Here's what I did:

Cooked and drained 12oz egg noodles

Heat two cans of Cream of Mushroom with Roasted Garlic and one can Cream of Mushroom and Chicken soup with 1 pint half and half and one can chicken broth to a simmer.

Sautée 1/2 cup finely chopped white onion and 1 tsp. minced garlic until the onions are translucent.

Stir into sauce:
2 cups shredded carrot
1 cubed green bell pepper
1/2 pound frozen broccoli (defrosted)
8 oz fake chicken strips (Morningstar Farms, real chicken would work too)
4 cups shredded extra sharp cheddar
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1 cup shredded parmesan
1 tbsp crushed red pepper
1 tbsp fresh ground black pepper
the sautéed onions

Transferred to a 3 quart casserole dish (it filled it to the rim, needed either a bigger dish or a smaller recipe) and baked at 350ºF for 45 minutes (supposed to be 30 minutes but I screwed up). Sprinkled 6 oz french onions over top and baked another five minutes.

Makes 3 quarts plus of late Sunday dinner and Gladware lunches.

It's delicious. I worried it would be soupy, that's why the half-n-half instead of skim milk. It occurs to me that all a casserole is, really, is a super stiff stew. Since my soups, chilis and stews tend to end up rather thick and stiff, I might as well be honest with myself and set out to make solid food.

For those of you who balked when you saw the red pepper, feel free to omit it.* Though if you give it a chance, I think you’ll find that’s a modest addition to a recipe of this magnitude, and tends to accent the black pepper more than asserting itself as fire.

Who says bachelor cooking has to suck?

*Okay, my first instinct was to say, 'Don't be such a pussy,' but then I tried to imagine what it'd be like getting my daughters to try this stuff. Impossible, with or without the red pepper. Em's favorite vegetable is a grilled cheese sandwich. Mo will eat anything as long as it's a chicken nugget. And while I might say they're being a pain in the ass, I would never, ever, tell them they were being pussies. I'll save that for the boys who try to date them in a few years.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Swing Test

Okay, I've been building new additions to the fleet, you know this. I went to swing test my newest creations this evening.

It's a safety thing. I recall from the Handbook of Model Rocketry this calculus of the center of gravity and the center of pressure. The CG has to be behind the CP , if recall. I couldn't do the math. I'm sure I should be able to, but I'm not the actuary in the family, I'm the so-called artist.

But this swing test, it was the empirical demonstration of this math. And it seems like when I tried it on Dudley, He Who Must Not Be Named and Mardi Gras, that I was relieved to see they all went nose first.

What you do, and again, I'm going on memory here, is you find the balance point, which is the CG. Put a motor in and see where it balances. Tie twine around it at this point, secure it with a bit of tape, and start running it around your head like a lasso. If it flies nose first, you're in business. If it flies backward or sideways, Houston, We Have A Problem. Because when you launch, you'll have the motor propelling it forward at a huge speed and at the same time the model wanting to fly ass first. This leads to what is referred to as an unstable flight.

Or what NASA might call an anomaly. Not one as spectacular as the pros get, but when I take my kids and rockets to the park, I don't aim to fly anything into some kid's face.

So I did Crayola, and it flew ass first. Okay, I'll have to put nose weight into it, not a huge surprise with its balsa nose cone. But then Plaster, the big pink and black monster, flew sideways. Then Sunflower (the tallest rocket I've built to date, almost as tall as Em is) flew ass first. Ditto the Gardner Snake (which has a bulge in its middle, a double boat tail design like it had eaten a rocket of somewhat larger diameter).

Thing is, when I first learned of swing tests and what they demonstrate, I had already done from scratch designs that flew just fine. It was a relief to see my next-in-line models pass the test. But now, with everything I've built this spring failing, I wonder if I remember the test correctly. Maybe I'm supposed to be slightly ff the CG with my twine or something.

I have the trial version of RockSim downloaded from Apogee, but I've never been able to figure out how to use it. And in any case, my thirty days were up last October or so, and I probably couldn't even fail to evaluateCP versus CG with it today.

Oh, and when I tried to get Em to pose with a rocket, she decided to make as many faces as she could for you.

Meanwhile, the girls had McDonalds for dinner. This is truly rare. I don't eat out with them often, and when I do I avoid the Golden Arches. Nasty stuff, on the whole, and expensive to boot.

But Mo had a couple of gift cards to there from her birthday, and she and Em are too young to get all snobbish on Mickey-D's.

Then Mo wouldn't eat her dinner. For the longest time. Then, after ignoring it for a couple hours, after we'd gone outside to swing test rockets and otherwise play, she made her move.

Em had used the white plastic table to climb into a tree, and Mo went and grabbed the white plastic table. While Em, stuck up the tree, claimed her sister was just
being mean, Mo set the table by the toy plastic chair. She then went in the house and came out with her McDonalds, and proceeded to have a picnic to the consternation of her tree-bound older sister.

The Plan

Okay, this guy turns to the alternate camera too much, but I love this.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Big Kite

The video I took of the big kite finally posted successfully on YouTube. I can't figure it out, but I had a video of these geese we fed the other day, and I tried twice to upload it and it would never quite finish showing up in my profile. It wasn't, as far as I could tell, too long or anything.

And when I posted the still shots of the kites, this one was still in limbo, I guess waiting for someone to decide it wasn't pornography or whatever it is YouTube does between when you upload and when it becomes visible on their deal.

Thing is, I really don't need their hosting. I have a ton of it. I think I use about 3% of the hard disk space I get with my DreamHost account. But I can never quite seem to get the videos to embed right in my blog, especially not in Firefox, which is my browser of choice.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Bomb Switzerland

Okay, full disclosure: I'm an Adobe guy. Before that I was an Aldus guy.

In case the label isn't obvious enough, this is a new category for me, where I'm just ranting about shit related to my work and if you're not working, at least tangentially, in the graphic arts, it will make no sense whatever. Even if you are, no guarantees.

I remember when Adobe showed InDesign at GraphExpo, announcing they would no longer develop PageMaker. As someone who'd made his living his whole adult life in PageMaker, this was like hearing they'd uninvented the wheel. But the program had a lot of neat features, all of which the demo guy assured us would RIP.

For any of you who didn't think I really meant talking shop: he said this dog would hunt.

But it wouldn't, more often than not, and rather than convert our whole department, we were glad we'd only popped for one review copy.

But InDesign 2 addressed a lot of those issues. And Adobe really did quit PageMaker. If there's a difference between PageMaker 6.5 and 7.0, I forget what it is.

Back in the day, PageMaker and Quark were rivals. Kind of like Van Halen and Van Hagar, there was no disciple of one who could tolerate the other. Both liked to point out all the simple tasks their preferred application did effortlessly that were like brain surgery with a dull knife on the other.

Every version of PageMaker was supposed to be a Quark Killer. Every version failed to live up to that. The typical graphic artist had Quark, PhotoShop and Illustrator on his Mac, and generally thought Adobe should be content with two out of three.

But after InDesign 2, Adobe started to play hardball. They packaged InDesign with PhotoShop and Illustrator and called it a Creative Suite. The three programs could be purchased individually, or you get get all three for less than two alone. Meaning if you wanted to stay Quark/Illustrator/PhotoShop, you could, but only if you wanted to pay extra to not have InDesign shipped as well.

This was well before Adobe bought Macromedia, the only software developer writing anything remotely competitive with Illustrator, and the only WYSWIG web editor that totally kicked GoLive's ass. Macromedia had also picked up Cold Fusion along the way, meaning they had the biggest stake in the serious web development market, probably enough to get Adobe's rocks off by itself.

So whither QuarkXpress? It's not dead yet, but I kind of wish it were.

My new job, I have both at my disposal but almost all the legacy files are Quark, meaning I have to learn to speak the graphic arts equivalent of Esperanto.

Here's the killer, though: my boss was always a Quark guy. He loved Quark. He wanted to have babies with it. And as time has gone by, it's failed to develop capabilities to compete with InDesign.

And when the 7.0 upgrade came out, he snatched it up to find out that, among other things, he couldn't print to half the devices in the shop. Not without saving a PDF of his Quark file to either print from Acrobat Reader or to place in InDesign.

Quark sucks so hard, he's been training himself on InDesign ever since.

But there's all these legacy Quark files and the ones he's opened and worked on in 7, well, I couldn't open them. So he popped for the dubious upgrade for the other machines in our shop.

When the package came, he dropped it on my desk and said, 'Here's your software.'

Normally, this is my cue to drop whatever I'm doing and install whatever it is. The new toy, uh, tool.

But in this case, I put the box off to the side. I just knew that necessary as it might be, that box contained nothing that would make my life easier.

Eventually, of course, I had to put it on the G5 so I could open one of these notorious Quark 7 files.

First impressions: could they make it more of a pain in the ass to register? The excuse to not use dongles is that they break easily, but what about my whole workstation when I'm inspired to go postal and shoot it with an AR-15? You have to have a serial number to get a validation code to get a something or other to even register your copy.

Also, they have a lot of damn gall to sell anything that won't turn text to outlines when InDesign was doing that effortlessly six fucking years ago.

The re-link feature in InDesign where you can tell it to link to a different file than the one you placed, still can't do that in Quark.

If there is something Quark 7 can do that 6.5 can't besides open Quark 7 files, I haven't seen it. These Swiss bastards need to be held accountable. How dare they release this program and pretend it's for professionals. Who do they think they are? Microsoft?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Up Up Up Up Up Up Up Up

So Sunday we went to Shawnee Mission Park to feed geese. The geese there, they were so well fed and so few they couldn't be bothered with the moldy bread we had. I even saw where someone else had put what looked to be a sliced French bread out and the birds hadn't eat it yet.

But we got to do the tower. Which is to say climb a lot of step stairs. Mo dug it. Em didn't. Em called it quits after a couple of flights and got pouty. When me and Mo were on the platform, I looked down and Em was frowning and pointing to the car.

Mo was grooving on the view. And I spotted these giant kites, so we had to go check that out.

Em continued to have an enormous pickle up her butt when we got to the kite club. I finally snapped at her, because patient Daddy Talk wasn't cutting it and she was really doing everything in her power to ruin a good time for anyone in hearing. She acted like I'd struck her, but really, there's a finite amount of stomping and scowling and naysayery I can tolerate.

Em did finally warm up to the scene a bit, even played patty-cakes with Mo some.

And if there's a bigger nerd than a Rocket nerd, it's a Kite nerd. Well, except for that one smoking hot redhead chattering in spanish with that other woman. She's no nerd, she only married or is dating one. And what a lucky guy, yubba.