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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Maybe This Will Explain...

I've had fun arguing with my friend Becky on Facebook lately. She thinks my contempt for pretty much the whole federal government is incomprehensible and bizarre.

Glenn Miller is a racist asshead running as a write-in for the U.S. Senate. He'll get about nine votes, provided he stays on good speaking terms with all his blood relations, but still he's out there buying radio and TV ads.

The ads use such terms as 'mud-people' and 'coon' to describe black people and claim America is run by a conspiracy of Jews. It's so out there, it's actually kind of cute, like an Onion News Network story come to life.

It wouldn't be cute if Miller had as much political clout as some schizophrenic dressed as the Statue of Liberty in front of a tax preparer's office. But he doesn't and I think he knows it.

Personally, I think Glenn Miller is exactly who the First Amendment was written for. He's a sorry excuse for a human, but if we ban his vile speech, next thing you know they'll censor me. I can't think of anything I agree with Glenn Miller about, but I hold some fairly heterodox and unpopular opinions of my own about central banking, fiat currency, regulation, taxation, etc. The main difference, is my heterodox opinions are actually correct where his are a fantasy out of the Klan scene in O'Brother Where Art Thou.

But the big thing I realized is this whole deal explains my distrust of Uncle Sam pretty well. The same broadcasting company, Entercom, that is compelled by Federal law to run Miller's hateful and idiotic ads, was fined $250,000 by the FCC because the Johnny Dare Morning Show 'titillated' people. They played Naked Twister, even though you can't see nudity on the radio and you have to take them at their word that anyone took anything off. One of their producers did a stunt where he masturbated a porn star to orgasm with a dildo on the air.

In bad taste? It's their stock and trade. If it was in good taste they'd be unemployed, it's a morning show on a rock & roll station. Don't like it? There's NPR to your left and a Country Western station to your right.

And the thing is, from the IRS to the FCC to the Social Security Administration to the Department of Defense, this behavior is not abnormal, not atypical. It's what you expect when dealing with a Federal bureaucracy. Why don't I trust these people with our healthcare?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


I work with a guy who is the guy who rides up the shoulder of the highway at 110 mph while you're stuck in traffic. He's my age, but when it comes to motorcycles, he's 17. Despite, by his own admission, having attended approaching a dozen funerals for friends who do exactly what he does.

So I spot this wrapped RV in front of the Trek Store last night and I thought, I bet Worm knows that guy.

I pulled up some videos online and it only confirmed that Worm couldn't not know the guy at least distantly.

'Yeah, he's one of my buds,' he said. I think he said his pal is ranked near the top or at the top nationally.

Meaning he's the Bull Goose Loony I guess. I only asked, He knows the handlebars aren't where you're supposed to sit, right?

Jumbo Za

I've been making smaller, thinner pizzas lately, stretching the dough to see-through and topping them sparsely for the most part. Though a couple, like the Shrimp Scampi were laden with enough toppings that the thin crust presented a problem: gotta eat it with a fork because when you pick up the slice, it folds downward.

I had in mind a grilled chicken & bacon pie with cream cheese, bleu cheese, maybe some figs, and I thought, you're going to get too heavy for those window-pane thin crusts pretty quick with toppings like that.

Bacon's not so bad, I don't use that much and I cook it in little bits so I can scatter it lightly. But cream cheese and chicken...

I toyed with throwing some capers on, and maybe that would have been good but I think jalapeños would have been even better. I thought the bite of the bleu cheese and the Gruyère (I had a tiny sliver of it left from the smallest piece I found at Price Chopper: that stuff is expensive) would balance out the cream cheese, and it did, but not as well as some heat on top of that. I added some crushed red pepper at the table, which was good but not as good as canned jalapeños that have been baked on. That brine adds a flavor as it cooks out of the pepper slices.

I still stretched the dough pretty thin, was millimeters from being too big for my pizza stone (which is what got me cutting my 1-1/3 cup flour dough batches in half to begin with, then I proceeded to stretch them to the size of the stone).

I find myself apologizing for this pizza, making excuses, and then I realize this pizza is so much better than any I made three years ago. I don't think I'm wrong to pick at it a bit, think of what might be better next time, because that kind of thinking is what got me to making better pizzas.

I count among my friends and acquaintances some of the finest musicians in the world, and none of them think of themselves as 'great.' They got good at what they do by always finding where they had room for improvement and then doing what it took to get there. I'm not putting my pizza making on a par with what they do musically, I'm a dilettante playing at the culinary arts in my free time. I'm just saying the key to making sure bachelor cooking doesn't have to suck is being willing to criticize the results and come up with better methods and recipes.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Active Recovery

I asked Jewya if we were taking The Hill, basically out of habit. I guess the theory with the Trek Recovery ride is we start off the year with shorter rides and then build up.

She said 'Probably not.' Given how sore my sit-bones are after yesterday's 33 mile adventure, and how my thighs feel when I transition between seated and standing states, I figured I'd better not push it.

Then we got to Johnson Drive, and apparently several riders (who were so far ahead of me I didn't witness it) asked, 'Are we taking The Hill?'

So we did. I'm in better shape than I was last June when I took cycling up. Which isn't to say I'm in the condition I got in by November. So as I huffed and puffed up 55th Street from Merriam Lane, I said to myself, 'Self, you asked for it. Explicitly.'

It wasn't that bad. I had enough spare lung to frighten a few kids. I shouted 'Car Back' like I'd just been shot and delighted at the sight of a 14-year old (I'm guessing) falling off the pedals of his BMX and looking back with a startled WTF expression on his face.

Three girls his age who were walking down the sidewalk in the other direction laughed at him and as I rode by I informed them in a loud monotone, 'I am happy!'

One of the three had the quick wits to say, 'You should be happy. It's a happy day!'

And then we had our first full-fledged Margarita Monday at Dos Reales. For that deep down body thirst, a Dos Reales margarita puts back what the bike takes out. With interest, I'm sure.

A great time, and I almost learned enough Spanglish to find a bathroom in Mexico without hopping up and down on crossed legs holding myself until someone feels sorry for me.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Then Again, Maybe Not

I'd been toying with the idea of riding to the River Market from home next Saturday. My brother, who I have to admit is way smarter than me, asked me, 'Why do you want to spend a whole day on the bike this early in the season?'

He was Voice of Experiencing about overdoing it, and I didn't seem to be hearing him.

'Try 25 miles,' he said. That's what I aimed to do today. I did a bit more than that, though not on purpose.

I headed down Merriam Lane to check out these hills the Animals take on the Blue Moose ride that I always skip, cutting across Roland Park to be passed by these freaks coming up Lamar despite my shortcut.

I couldn't remember what hill they went up, but I remembered they went down 14th Street which becomes Roe Lane when it gets back into Johnson County. I climbed 18th to Steele and came down 14th.

14th Street will be a great little downhill run if anyone ever gets a notion to pave it. I hit 38.1 mph going down it (according to the max speed on my puter), while trying to duck the small chuck holes. I didn't have to dodge the big ones, because the bigger holes on this road have been filled by SUVs that fell in, and I was able to ride over their roofs as the people trapped inside screamed for help.

If I had it to do over, I'd climb up 14th and take the much, much smoother, but still insanely steep 18th street back down.

My bike has an Ultimate Granny Gear but the derailleur doesn't like to put my front sprocket to the lowest front gear. The result is my 21 speed hybrid normally functions as a 14 speed, and using 8th as 'low' is normally close enough for jazz. I climbed the 12th Street Bridge in November in 8th, and I've often thought if I ever get that Silvio I'll only put to sprockets up front.

Climbing 18th Street, I kept trying to shift all the way down to UGG, but the chain wasn't getting there. I was cussing at it for awhile and eventually, maybe two thirds of the way to the top, I had to stop and move the chain by hand. This gear is so low, when I started to finish the climb, I popped a wheelie and almost went over backward.

I stopped to take a picture of this banner, which I designed. Looking at it, I think the background camouflages the message in a way it didn't on my computer monitor.

Coming up Lamar, I pondered where to get back across I-35 and couldn't think of a good place. 75th Street, 87th Street, these aren't bicycle friendly roads. 95th Street, forget about it. Then I thought, 127th goes over I-35 and is bereft of traffic on a Sunday. I thought 123rd became 127th so I cut over there, and found that rumors of my genius are greatly exaggerated.

I ended up on 119th, a street I would never normally ride on (four busy lanes and a 45mph speed limit, it's about as inviting as an Interstate). Wound around to College Blvd, which would be as bad on a weekday but isn't heavily trafficked on a Sunday afternoon. To Pflumn which feeds into Santa Fe Trail and all those lovely, deserted frontage roads.

Right at 33 miles, averaged 11.2mph, topped out at 38.1mph, gone just under 3 hours. I feel fine unless I have to stand up or sit down, but would I want to go do it again today? Nope. Not gonna try that River Market run next Saturday, I need to build up to that. My Brother was right.

Saturday, March 27, 2010


Toying with the idea of riding from my house to the river market and back next Saturday. Wonder if I have the stamina for it. Anyone care to join me?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Can Homemade Pitas Be Far Behind?

Julie sent me a link to the Minimalist showing how to make flatbread.

Unleavened, for Passover, in theory though I gather there are differences of opinion about whether olive oil is appropriate. I guess there are some Jews who insist it can only be flour and water, which doesn't sound very appetizing to me. But then, even if I was born Jewish, I couldn't keep kosher: no bacon or shrimp? I couldn't do it, and besides, I'm a lobster myself, so what would be the point of keeping kosher except to avoid cannibalism?

I used equal parts olive oil and water, a half cup of each, whisked into an emulsion and blended with two cups bread flour. Next challenge, how to roll it out super thin?

I don't own a rolling pin. It's not that it would be such an extravagance, but my old one was so old and nasty (cracked, and prone to shed black stuff out of the bearings) I chucked it. I hand-stretch my pizza doughs, so who needs a pin?

This isn't a recipe with well developed gluten to allow for hand stretching and tossing, so I had to figure something out. Jill Santopietro relayed that Mark Iacono of Luconi's used a wine bottle as a rolling pin. I don't drink much wine, so I used a pint sleeve to roll this stuff out.

How thin do you roll it out? Thin. See-through.

You want it super thin. The Minimalist set his oven at 500ºF and used pans, I cooked mine directly on the stone, but his times, two minutes on side one and a minute after the flip didn't yield very crisp results in my oven. I cranked it up to 550ºF and we were there.

By the way, flipping the flatbread with your bare hands after two minutes is a mistake. I scooped it up on the peel and learned that the knife sitting on the counter was a pain-free flipper.

I did also shred some Gruyere on a couple of them, which is divine.

I'm going to have to dig around and find out what the tricks are to pita bread. I've done Naan, and of course the obvious white bread, baguettes, Irish soda bread, etc. But the way pitas separate, it seems like it would require witchcraft.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Look, Moose!

Okay, so Roj told me he could fix my spokes and I have to admit I had some trepidation giving him both wheels off my bike Tuesday night.

But the thing about Roj, people think he's crazy because he's such a bohemian, but he never half-asses anything. If he decides to do something, such as ride Bike MS on a single-speed stock 1979 Mongoose BMX, he freakin' does it.

And yeah, he is crazy, but he doesn't tell you he can do something when he can't do it. He took my back because he saw it wasn't in true and he wanted to true it up. Me, I'm just thinking I'll be lucky to get out of paying the Trek Store people a fortune to fix this stuff.

Good thing he took the rear, he discovered a broken spoke there, too. He has pegs on both ends of his bike, so it's possible our little collision broke that spoke, or it's possible I've been riding it that way for awhile now.

Not only did Roj fix everything, he got a tire I mounted the wrong direction mounted correctly, and he cleaned the rubber up. These tires didn't look this good when I bought them in September. As we mounted the wheels on the bike, and I saw how perfectly the tires spun, I felt ashamed to have harbored any doubts about handing over those wheels Tuesday night. If computer programming ever turns its back on this guy, he can easily get a gig as a bicycle mechanic.

Anyway, we rode 16 miles, most of the Blue Moose ride, though without the KCK leg. Roj took a wrong turn and I wondered if he'd dropped out completely before he finally caught up to me. By then, even Lawn Chair Larry was long gone and we didn't know Larry's shortcut through Roeland Park as well as we thought we did. We eventually got back on track, coming up Lamar and all that, but when Roj's crank came loose and delayed us another half hour or so we just focused on getting our asses through the now darkened streets back to the Moose.

It was 8:30 when we finally got back to our cars, which is pretty late. But I have to say as far as how my bike was riding, if Roj hadn't had some mechanical difficulty, I think I could have made record time (for me).

Me and Roj managed not to ride into each other, though I have to say spring has brought out the cute jogger chicks, so the ride was not without danger to mental focus.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Rock On, Daddy

Mo was wearing a Green Day shirt when I got the girls tonight. And knowing she's addicted to Ozzy and Evanescence, I asked her if she knew who Green Day was and if liked their music.

Failing to get a real answer, I pulled up some Green Day on YouTube and she was hooked. That's my rocker girl.

I'm sure I'll regret this when she's played 'When I Come Around' 30,000 times in a row.

Plethora of Pizza

So anyway, the leftover ingredients for my little pizza party didn't go to waste, I've got a metric ton of leftovers to take for much this week. So much leftover pizza I might freeze some of it.

Then again, some of this stuff turned out pretty awesome.

I'm not going to bother with formal recipes, you can find numerous pizza dough recipes on my blog and everywhere else. I have taken to stretching a very thin crust. Sometimes, I think, too thin because you want to be able to pick up a slice without the point flopping over. I like a thin crust with a nice handle, crunchy on the outside and chewy inside. But especially working with whole shrimp as an ingredient, I could have done with more structural support.

The Shrimp Scampi pizza is super simple: soak some crushed, minced garlic in olive oil with some crushed black pepper, salt and a touch of powdered cayenne. Brush this on the crust, then lay your shrimp down (I used raw, peeled & deveined 'medium' with the tails cut off even though I kinda like crunchy shrimp tails). Sprinkle on a few capers, some shredded parmesan and mozzarella, bake on the stone at 550ºF for four minutes. Six if you make a thicker crust like I will next time I do this one.

Chicken Carbonara, I crisped up four strips of bacon cut into half inch pieces, sauteed a chopped up chicken breast fillet in the bacon fat (the pan was already handy and my skillet was full of caramelizing onions). Drain both meats on paper towels to remove some of the artery clogging stuff. Caramelize a big onion or two medium ones with some fresh rosemary, dried fenugreek, black pepper and a dash of ground cayenne. Spread the caramelized onions on the crust, apply some shredded parmesan and mozzarella, toss the chicken in Alfredo sauce and top over the cheese, drizzling some extra Alfredo around, and then drop on the bacon bits. Four minutes on that 550ºF stone.

I had shrimp leftover and a jar of Alfredo sauce open, so I made a pie where I just brushed Alfredo on the crust, laid down the remaining shrimp, some capers, and shredded parmesan and mozzarella.

And then I made a final pizza with a bit of pesto for sauce, laid the cheese combo down and then topped it with anchovies and the few baby portobello slices I had left from Saturday's pizzas.

A friend of mine emailed me today suggesting a recipe he likes using tofu, cream cheese, spinach, and dried whole anchovies he gets from a Korean market that are spicy like Kimchee. I'll have to try that. Maybe with tempeh subbed in for the tofu.

I think I'll have to take a cue from a friend who responded to my posts about making General Tso's Chicken with the assumption I meant General Tso's Chicken Pizza. That's an idea I can get my mind around. I've toyed with trying to make my semi-famous Goan Style Shrimp Curry into a pizza, too.

All this writing about pizza is making me hungry.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

My ADD Isn't, Hey Look, Bulldogs!

Me and Roj started the Brewery Ride early. Because we're slow. Me because I'm old and fat and Roj because he only has one gear on his childlike BMX.

We figured starting 45 minutes ahead of the official start time we might not be the last ones back to the brewery. Wait until 6:30 and the whole crew is half drunk by the time we'd roll in, cursing the darkness and wondering if we'd followed the route accurately.

So less than four miles into it, we were riding and talking, talking a lot. We both have attention spans Cal Tech scientists have failed to detect, but this was really bad. I thought it was obvious we turn left to cut back over to 71st and catch Lamar. Roj thought it was obvious we turn right. And we were so busy talking we forgot to communicate and we ran right the fuck into each other.

The good news, we remained upright. The bad news, those stupid stunt pegs on Roj's BMX stabbed into my front wheel and broke two spokes.

I thought the ride was over, and I was pissed. But we found a way to bend the broken parts so they didn't catch on anything and finished the ride. We got passed by the Animals before the halfway mark and passed by the slow kids about ten minutes later.

It was dark when we got back to the brewery, cursing the darkness and trying to blame our slow pace on broken spokes.

Roj thinks he can fix the wheel himself and true up both my wheels while he's at it. I know he works on lots of stuff, I just hope he knows what he's doing so I can fail to keep up with the Blue Moose ride on Thursday.

18.4 miles, 10.3 mph average, 31.1 maximum speed (woulda been a little faster but that fast stretch on Lamar, I worried about my front wheel tacoing and applied brakes when I wouldn't otherwise).

Saturday, March 20, 2010

First Day of Spring?

I was supposed to go to a party tonight. It was hosted by some beer judges I met last month, and it was supposed to be a spring beer tasting, with an emphasis on seasonals.

I was so looking forward to it: whenever I get invited to parties, it always seems like the party is being held when I've got the girls (I have them three weekends a month, and since most people host parties on the weekend, the invitations I end up accepting are for kid-friendly parties that never seem to be beer tastings).

I had my own contributions to bring along, too. A bottle of Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale and a bottle of the Saison with Brettanomyces, both marvelous additions to the Boulevard Smokestack Series.

Steven Pauwels, he's as humble a guy as you'll ever meet, but he is a genius. A genius with a crew of very talented brewers and a pilot brewery that until recently made all of Boulevard's beers. Boulevard Wheat may pay the bills, but the Smokestack beers are art.

Even in my delusional days of thinking I'd turn pro and open a brewery, I never imagined a micro that could get away with making three different Saison type beers. They're expensive and not popular, not even popular compared to Pale Ale, Stout and other staples of the craft brewing movement.

Anyway, it's the first day of spring, and I load my precious champagne bottles of beer into the car and start to head that way. 'That way' being near my work, around a 30 mile trip each way. There's ankle-deep snow in my driveway and it's still coming down.

But I asked Facebook if the roads were good and everybody seemed to think they were fine so I sallied forth.

I got on the highway at the southern Gardner Exit. By the time I got to the northern one, I had chickened out. The roads were as bad as they get, and as I exited the interstate to come home I noticed that there were emergency vehicles attending to a car that had turned turtle down on I-35 and another set of rollers up on the bridge above it. I had to take a detour on the way home because the viaduct was blocked by yet another wreck.

My plans earlier in the day had been to host a little party, a pizza party. The guest (who lives in Canada and was here on vacation) had begged off because of the roads, go figure. I guess Canadians backing out of driving is the first clue that, no matter what your Facebook friends think, the roads aren't navigable.

Pizza and beer, not a bad consolation prize. I made a baby portobello & anchovy with mozzarella and one with onions caramelized with fresh rosemary and dried fenugreek, baby portobello, and bacon with Feta and mozzarella.

And I opened Tank 7, a fruity, phenolic, fairly aggressively hopped Biere de Garde. Well, they call it a 'farmhouse ale,' which is a fairly broad category that encompasses Saison and Biere de Garde, but at 8% alcohol and this well hopped, it would score in the high 40s (out of 50) if entered as 16D. Or it might do well as 16C even though it's too big. Sometimes being too big for style gets by judges, especially in a long flight, when palates are jaded.

Anyway, Tank 7 is a great accompaniment to pizza. And both make about as good an accompaniment to a blizzard on the first day of Spring as I guess you could get.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


There was a ruckus on my street St Patrick's Day. Can I describe the ruckus? Not adequately.

Em told me there were firetrucks down the street. Then that there were all the firetrucks int he world down the street, and I grabbed my camera and went down to see what was up (much to Em's humiliation and shame).

I've been through a housefire, a minor one I put out myself with a fire extinguisher. I think we had two trucks and some cop cars show up for that.

From the outside, the house with the fire couldn't be much worse off than mine was. Maybe, smoke gets everywhere, and if it was a kitchen fire (ours was in the living room), it could be more serious without showing on the outside.

But the response... All of the city's DPS firetrucks and cars, some County Sheriff's cars, all the Fire District One trucks and one from Fire District Two. I'd think you'd have to have a full block of houses fully involved to get a response like this.

We even had the Chanel Nine helicopter coming in to see, what? All the fire and police resources of the southern half of the county converged on the scene of one apparently minor house fire?

Do Virgins Taste Better?

I know it's not the original lyric for this, but it's the lyric I learned from a certain bad influence when I was 17. 'Do virgins taste better than those who are not?/Are they salty or sweeter more juicy or what?' and so on.

It's a song about a dragon coming to town asking for a sacrificial virgin, with the punch line that the village has learned to thwart the dragon by making sure to have no virgins at all. It sounds different in my memory as a 40 year old father of two teenage girls than it did when I was 17 and wanted nothing more than to make sure my high school was dragon-proof.

Do Virgins Taste Better? from Chixulub on Vimeo.

Magic Shine

I borrowed my brother's Magic Shine bike light a couple weeks ago for a rained out Trek recovery ride.

I still had it with me and I knew it'd get dusk/dark before I got back from my ride so I strapped it on. Wow.

It's cheap, about a third the price of any competing light. So cheap they don't bother to put a brand name on the box, labeling it simply, 'Bicycle Light.'

It's one of the brightest on the market and it's a bit over $80. You can't touch another one this bright for less than $200 last I checked.

I want two before next fall's fully dark riding season: one for the helmet, one for the handlebars.

The before/after pictures are my regular Wal-Mart light (before) followed by the Magic Shine 900 lumen dirt cheap, made in China light.