Search Lobsterland

Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Soloist

I treated myself to a matinee this afternoon. Haven't in awhile, what with participating in the recession and all. But this movie looked really good, I didn't have anything else I absolutely had to do, and I did have over five dollars in cash on me.

I may get kicked out of the Guy Club for admitting this, but I teared up a couple of times. Partly for the obvious things, the scenes where this broken street dweller has his moments. Partly for the all-too-believable portrayal of LA's skid row.

Before the ACLU won the right of people who can't really make it in the world on their own to live like this, almost everyone depicted in these scenes would have been institutionalized whether they liked it or not. You can say that would be bad and I could agree with you up to a point.

I hate the idea of basically incarcerating people who are no harm to anyone but themselves. Where do you draw the line? Dysfunction is a continuum. I could probably find the place where I'd draw the line, and it would not be where it's presently drawn (imminent danger).

Because while I'm big on freedom in a real way (even when that freedom is squandered), I wouldn't wish that kind of squalor and mayhem on an enemy.


We inquired about what it would cost to rent a boat to go out on the lake at Shawnee Mission Park. It's pretty affordable, the jon boats with outboard motors are $16/hr. For $6 you can take a canoe, but I don't want to do all the rowing and I suspect that's what it would be.

However, the marina was closed due to high winds. And looking at the waves on the lake, I wouldn't have wanted to make that my maiden voyage as skipper of a jon boat. The ones tied up at the dock were taking on water.

Heart Attack Grill

Watch CBS Videos Online

I can't decide if this is America at its best or America at its worst.

Probably both.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Tellin' It Like It Is

I love this website.

I'd extend it past payday loans, which are obvious loan sharks. The PLA should recruit Capital One, GMAC and the rest.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Street Tacos

Observing my Brother's birthday with Mom, we ate at Cancun Fiesta Fresh in Westport. Which boasts being both 'fast' and 'pronto.'

I guess that's Mexican for the Department of Redundancy Department.

Great food, though. And very reasonable. Which means I have to learn to make this stuff at home. Because street tacos are proletariat fare, meaning I can make it at home for half or less than half of 'reasonable.'

I wanted the lengua but since they'd sold out of tongue, I had a couple of carnitas tacos, a couple of cabeza and a shrimp taco. The latter is dressed with cabbage in a tangy sauce, the former were dressed with onion and cilantro. Awesomeness.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Off To See the Wizard

Throwing Fudge from Chixulub on Vimeo.

We were too late getting to Crown Center to do Kaleidoscope, but not so late we couldn't watch them throw fudge around in Chip's Chocolate Factory, check out the Wizard of Oz exhibit, and scope out the cute playhouse contest (a benefit for Habitat for Humanity).

Oh yeah, at the end of our trip to Crown Center, I saw stuff was going on in Penn Valley Park. Which I wasn't sure I wanted to check out, last time I just happened to notice such a thing it was a gay pride rally. Don't take this as anti-gay because it's not, but a 'pride' rally based on a sexual orientation strikes me as roughly equivalent to a Klan rally without the potential for violence. Could you take me seriously if I was inviting you to an affair where I could revel in my heterosexuality?

Anyway, this wasn't a 'pride' rally, but as it happens, a fundraiser for assholes.

Sorry, I couldn't help myself. Crohn's Disease is no laughing matter unless maybe a clown has it...

I Bow To a Greater Power

This is one of many YouTube videos documenting Steve Eves' world record breaking (shattering, really) Saturn V. By far the largest model rocket, let alone a scale model rocket, ever flown by an amateur. And it's museum-quality scale work. The kind of detail normally reserved for static displays that don't risk damage.

It's a 1/10 scale of the biggest thing that's ever flown. As impressive as the Space Shuttle is, the Saturn V was roughly four times the size, an 8 million pound bomb we put our best and brightest on top of for the moon missions.

Here's a photo showing Steve's project at the feet of the real thing in Huntsville, AL.

For a sense of how big this is, the motors I fly my stuff on are generally in the five to forty newton second range. A 40ns motor puts Floyd, the biggest of my fleet, up in a hurry.

This Saturn V model flew on 8 13,000ns motors clustered around a 77,000ns motor. If you want to get the best part of a ton up to 3,000 to 4,000 feet, you need a lot of motor.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Cookin' For Da Band

Melissa, our talented bassist, has been cooking dinner every Thursday prior to the our descent into the basement where we commit various crimes against David Bowie, U2, The Rainmakers and Shinedown, among others. With a bunch more of these Thursday evening sessions, we might one day aspire to the status of mediocre cover band. And from there, it's possible to imagine a decent cover band, and even to working on some original material.

We suck less than we did a few weeks ago, though, and we're having fun.

But I felt like Melissa shouldn't have to cook dinner every week. She shrugs it off, that she'd have to feed her kids anyway, but since I'm on 32 hour weeks I took today as my lay-off day and cooked dinner to take to band practice. I went with the easy choice, the Goan-style Shrimp Curry I learned a few months back. Obvious because I took the tofu variation on this dish to a party at Melissa & Jamie's and it was, I'm told, 'a hit.'

I found raw peeled & deveined shrimp at Wal-Mart for cheap, too (not as cheap as tofu, but damn cheap for shrimp). This dish works with tofu, is better with tempeh but is the bomb with shrimp.

The double recipe:

Goan-Style Shrimp Curry 2x

for the marinade:
4 tablespoons lemon juice (the juice of one medium lemon)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
28 oz raw peeled & deveined shrimp
Combine the marinade ingredients with shrimp and toss to coat; set aside while you cook the rest.

for the sauce
1/2 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons dried fenugreek
50-ish fresh curry leaves (I tired of counting, there may have been 60 or more)
10 dried red chillies
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon salt
2 3" pieces of fresh ginger, peeled & minced
1 large red onion minced
10 cloves garlic, peeled & chopped
4 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 28 oz. cans petite diced tomatoes, partly drained
1 tablespoon Sambar Masala
2 14 oz. cans unsweetened coconut milk
1 bunch chopped fresh cilantro
Heat the oil in wok set to 400ºF, add fenugreek, curry leaves and peppers 1 to 2 minutes; add the black pepper and cook for 1 minute more. Add the ginger, onion and salt, stirring often as it cooks another 8 minutes (until the onion is translucent and turning brown. Add the coriander, garlic, turmeric and cook another minute before adding the tomatoes. Simmer 5 minutes then stir in the Sambar and coconut milk. When this starts to simmer, add the shrimp with residual marinade and simmer 2 minutes longer. Stir in cilantro and serve over steamed brown basmati and/or purple sticky rice with alfalfa sprouts to garnish.

I made both purple sticky and brown basmati rice to go with this. Originally, a big batch of purple sticky, but it wasn't done with the brown basmati was, so I left it to steam a few more minutes then forgot, went and mowed the lawn. Came back in the house wondering what that fucked up smell was: it was scorched purple sticky rice. I thought maybe just the bottom scorched, like I could rescue the top part of the batch, but a quick taste told me the whole batch tasted like coffee grounds. Damn.

So I made the other cup of purple sticky I had on hand while I did the curry itself.

For dessert, I made a lemon meringue pie, my first.

Lemon Meringue Pie

1 can Lemon-Creme pie filling
1 frozen deep-dish pie crust
4 egg whites (1/2 cup)
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon double-strength Mexican vanilla extract
Put the pie filling in the crust and heat in 350ºF oven for 15 minutes while you make the meringue. Beat egg whites and cream of tartar until it's foamy, then add sugar gradually until things are stiff and fluffy. Put on hot pie filling, bake the whole thing another 15 minutes, cool on rack.

The pie pieces didn't stay in shape when we cut the pie: I should have made the pie earlier and refrigerated it a bit to firm things up. I might have gotten the meringue stiffer with more beating but my cheap POS beater from Wal-Mart (I think I paid $8 a couple years ago) broke and I had to fish a few pieces of plastic out of the meringue and roll with it.

Meaning now is the perfect time for me to buy that Kitchen-Aid I've been wanting. Oh, wait, I can't afford that.

Since I don't have that Kitchen-Aid, the idea of trying to make my own naan to go with this on the same afternoon I baked a pie, well... I bought a pack of Naan at my herb dealer (Ambica Foods where I get my curry leaves).

How did it all turn out? Well, I got many compliments, probably more than the number of people eating could account for. And not to brag, but I ate way too much and it wasn't because the food was lame.

Practice went... Well, an audience showed up, some family. One of whom is about to get his ass drafted because he can play the piano part for a Journey song. And somehow, in front of them, we forgot some things we actually had down last week. Go figure.

Melissa couldn't resist, by the way: she cooked a spinach & cheese Indian dish she made last week and a beet/yogurt salad to go with. Both of which were excellent additions. I guess I'm not the only member of the band who enjoys cooking. Too bad 'Joy of Cooking' is taken as a band name already...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Cruel and Unusual

Em was in a mood this evening. I know, she's thirteen, she's hormonal, it's a hard age, etc. But she was being impossible.

After supper, I decided we'd head up to Celebration Park to hang out a bit. Em didn't want to go but her attitude was not making me care if she was interested. You're going, get over it. Keep up with the sourness and I'll come up with a way to make you even more miserable.

I contemplated taking a guitar along. I need to practice, and it was ridiculously nice out. The whole idea freaked Em out. I wasn't sure if I'd really bring the guitar along, not sure how well I could supervise Mo while strolling with the instrument.

I'd pretty much decided against it, and had both girls in the car. I was about to get in and asked Mo, just to see what she'd say, Should Daddy bring his guitar to the park?

Mo answers 99% of all open-ended questions in the negative, so I was impressed when she said, 'Yes.'

Then Em punched her in the face. I know she thought I couldn't see, but I saw. It was a hard punch, too, judging by the way it moved Mo's head.

So I lit into Em and she knew she was busted. Tears welling up in her eyes almost instantly.

I went and got my guitar.

I contemplated making myself even less invisible, maybe by stripping to my boxer shorts before playing the guitar, but I settled for just noodling around on the instrument.

Em has been trying to figure out the depths of how much trouble she's in, and I haven't entirely decided. While I punched my brother many times, he not only deserved it (in my mind at the time anyway), but could and did hit back and/or tell Mom. Mo could hit back if she wanted to, I guess, but that's not her way, and she doesn't really have the verbal skills to tell on her sister. And how could she 'deserve' it for answering an innocuous question?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Happy Birthday, Bro

My brother's birthday is tomorrow. If I'm sometimes surprised a kid who took the chances I took as a teenager could live to be an adult, I'm probably more astounded that my kid brother managed to dodge actual fratricide.

Lord knows, I tried to kill him a few times.

Today? Today we get along great. Probably as much as anything because of him. I had a conversation with someone the other day, someone who knows us both, and as I walked away, he blurted out, apropos of nothing else, 'I think the world of your brother, by the way.'

Who wouldn't?

Anyway, last Sunday we had dinner at my Dad's. Salmon on the grill, a first for both my Dad and brother. I had to reassure them that while the fire was hot, if the lid was on the Weber we would not be dining on ashes. If it was possible to incinerate a salmon fillet on a too-hot fire, I'm sure I'd have accomplished it by now. Maybe with the lid off, but control the oxygen and there ain't such a thing as coals too hot for fish.

It was a little weird, first time in my memory that we ate at this house with no children around. Nobody playing video games, blasting videos, fighting over stuff, riding trikes places they shouldn't, etc. Not unpleasant, mind you, just strange.


Ah, to be brewing again!

I've had time enough to brew of late, but no budget for brewing. I think Irvine Welsh had a character describe the catch 22 of either having a job and no free time or else having all the time in the world and no money.

Somewhere in between those extremes, I lucked into some serious store credit at Bacchus & Barleycorn, so Saturday I brewed another batch of Ugly.

Ugly is the American Stout I made last year out at B&B.

I wasn't setting out to make a 'clone beer' at the time, but it ended up being a ringer for Sierra Nevada Stout. Then, for my next batch, I made an Imperial Stout, and even as I've nursed that batch (my brew buddy who came down to assist Saturday got the last pine of it), I wished I'd made another batch of Ugly.

I thought it was going to rain all day. Not the first time I've brewed in the rain, but actually the rain stopped around the time I got set up and didn't start again until a good five minutes after everything was back inside and put away.

I've never been one to repeat a recipe exactly, but there's a first time for everything. I guess I'm trading creativity for a test to see if I can consistently hit a target. Because when the guys in Chino make that stuff, it's not dumb luck. Actually, reviewing my notes from last time, I timed out the finishing hops slightly differently. I doubt if that's the largest variable between batches: this is homebrewing after all. The variation in temperature in my basement would make a bigger difference.

Here's the recipe (10 gal) for any beer geeks out there:

25 lbs. Maris Otter Pale Ale Malt
2 lbs. Roasted Barley
1 lb. 120º Crystal
4 oz. Special B
4 oz. Biscuit Malt
8 oz. Chocolate Malt
2 oz. Magnum whole hops 14.6 AAU (90 minutes)
1 oz. Simcoe whole hops 14.4 AAU (90 minutes)
1 oz. Northern Brewer whole hops 8.3 AAU (90 minutes)
2 oz. Cascade whole hops 7.4 AAU (20 minutes)
2 oz. Cascade whole hops 7.4 AAU (at knockout)
Wyeast 1056 American Ale Yeast (an Activator for each 5 gallons)

O.G. 1.068

Another variation in the two batches, I spaced off more details than usual. Everything got done, but when I should have been preparing for the next step, more than once, I was caught off guard. So we had a bit of extra time in the mash, an extra-long runoff/sparge, and probably 40 minutes steeping at the end of the boil instead of the usual 20. We'll see what it all ads up to.

I've banked ice bags against the carboys to keep the fermentation at a cool 58ºF to 60ºF these first couple days. This produces a cleaner ferment, still a definite 'ale' but with fewer esters and evil fusel alcohols. Plus, I think you scrub less aroma, both malt and hop, with a slower, cooler ferment. And as with the Sierra Nevada Stout I inadvertently cloned, that hop aroma is important. I'll be dry-hopping in the keg, an ounce to each 5 gallons, too.

With the rest of my store credit and gift certificates I may try to make something less hoppy. The hop shortage has caused prices to escalate: at four bucks an ounce, a batch of beer calling for ten ounces of hops is expensive to brew. I did the math, and we're still under a buck a pint (including propane, grain, hops, yeast, etc.), but barely. Still about half the price of ten gallons of Sierra Nevada Stout, but if I want to squeak three batches out of these certificates, I better step away from my inner hophead.

Of course, if I do that, knowing me I'll make a Tripel or Wee Heavy and make up for the hop savings with extra malt. Or maybe not. I remember years ago making a few batches of ordinary bitter that were truly a delight.

My brew buddy and his wife came down, even brought smokables. I'm not sure, but I think this may have been my first Punch since back when I was married.

Anyway, putting stuff away after dark, just like old times, I gotta say a bad day brewing is better than a...wait: a bad day brewing is impossible.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Anything I Want?

My Dad was purging the stuff he's accumulated in decades upon decades of garage sales, thrift stores, impulse buys, etc. He's where I get my pack rat tendencies, no doubt.

He tries to pare down the accumulated loot, but he doesn't really want to. It's easier if he only sort of gets rid of something by giving it to me. This way it is still in reach in the event that it is an item he should have kept.

Since I'm a bit of a foodie, he asked me if I wanted some cookbooks, and I accepted a box of them. With my Dad's books you just never know what you'll find.

I remember once in late grade school (probably 5th or 6th grade) he caught me reading Candy by Terry Southern. I hadn't gotten very far into it, and I was honestly bored and about to give it up. Until Dad freaked out and demanded to know what I thought I was doing reading that. I showed him that it was marked as all his paperbacks were with his last name in magic marker on the edge of the sheets. so that if you looked at it from any angle but the spine it was obviously his.

He also, in confiscating it, guaranteed I'd read it sooner or later. Funny book, not as good as The Magic Christian, but on the whole better than Flash & Filigree.

Anyway, one person I'm pretty sure never got around to reading any Terry Southern was my Dad. But that's not what I came here to talk to you about...AHEM.

In this box of cookbooks, there was the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company Cookbook, Rodale's Basic Natural Foods, some local cookbooks. Then I found pay dirt: The Alice's Restaurant Cookbook by Alice May Brock, the real-life hippie chick who inspired Arlo Guthrie's most famous song.

It's a pretty pedestrian set of recipes, your basic comfort foods, mingled with a lot of hippie bullshit, pot-influenced folk wisdom and tragic late-sixties typography.

Fun stuff, in other words. Has a tear-out record in the back with a 'recorded intro' by Arlo and Alice.

I got curious and looked on eBay and Amazon to see what this little item fetches. I smell collectible, right?

Right. Depending on condition, I found them ranging from $15 to $90. Here's one with the dust jack (I don't have that) for an opening bid of $40.

So I could sell this one, right? Nope, not gonna happen. I'd regret it before I even got the auction under way.

I even took the extra step to devalue it as a collectible: I listened to the record. It was still attached in the back of the book, but you can't find out what's on it that way. And it ain't on iTunes as far as I can tell.

So here, if you have a mint copy and don't want to tear out the record, you can listen to my crappy little video of the record playing.

Intro to Alice's Restaurant Cookbook from Chixulub on Vimeo.

Anyway, I can get anything I want?  Anything?

Almost Famous

I was laying out the KC Spectrum this week, and we had an awesome cover photo.

But then, last minute, there was uncertainty about whether all the proper permissions were in order. There's an Autism Walk tomorrow, and we had to go to press today, no matter what. While jets were scrambled to make sure the planned cover photo could be used, I was asked if I might have a summer shot of Mo that would work.

Well, really, where would I even begin? On the down side, they're all snap shots taken with a pocket camera, my Canon PowerShot. On the plus side, they all had adequate resolution for print and through a combination of shotgun technique and study, I get some really, really good snap shots.

So I lined up a few choices. At least we'd know we had the photographer's and the parent's blessing, right?

I think my favorite is the one with the girls on the carnival ride.

All of which became academic when clearance came with mere minutes to spare for the original cover photo to be used.

Ah well.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Happy Tax Day!

I admire tax resisters. Not the cheats who try to get out of paying stuff they think they owe. I mean the real deal, guys who tell the IRS, 'Bad touch! You are not my Uncle and this is not your money!'

Regrettably, it ends badly for such people, and I'm way too much a pussy to go there myself. But I throw bombs from the barricades on the inside, where it counts.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Big News About Columbine

USA Today ran a cover story today on the ten year anniversary of the Columbine school shooting.

I read it, in part, because they kept bringing up how much stuff the press got wrong, then how much the cops got wrong, and so on. So my cynicism about law enforcement and, much more, journalism (most especially television and internet journalism) kept me reading along as they summed up the various myths about the Columbine shooters and then debunked them by quoting a few books that have come out recently.

Basically, the thrust of the article was that these kids were not good kids who snapped suddenly, they weren't the victims of bullying, they were deeply disturbed, suicidal boys with grand ambitions to kill pretty much everyone.

So I'm reading this and I'm thinking, the news here is that the Columbine shooters were deeply fucked up? Who knew?

One thing I hadn't known: the whole plot was based on a bunch of bombs that didn't go off. I remember hearing about some improvised propane bombs that didn't detonate, but that wasn't an afterthought. They only had the guns to pick off fleeing survivors from the blasts. Had their cars rigged to blow up on the rescuers and cops too, even parked strategically but, fortunately they were incompetent terrorists. If they'd been worth a shit as bomb builders, there would probably have been twelve survivors instead of twelve dead.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Parade

We went to my Mom's after church to do an Easter egg hunt. Just in time, because it started to rain as we were finishing up. I hid 51 eggs and only had to find one of them myself after my daughters proved themselves blind.

We also went by my Dad's and hung out with him and my step-brother Todd. Todd's on Hospice, long story, but he had an accident a few years back and was sentenced to a fate truly worse than death.

The Easter Bunny came last night, of course. My sleepover party went to bed early, 11:00, before I did. I made the mistake of thinking that'd mean I got to sleep, so naturally Mo got up around 1:00 and didn't go back to sleep until about 5:00 when I practically tied her up in my bed and told her to be still.

We slept until 9:00 or so. Meanwhile, Em and her guest got up and wondered what was up with the Easter Bunny. Smart rabbit, he left everything in my den where Mo couldn't ransack it in the night.