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Friday, November 30, 2012

Hot Air

I was on my way to Critical Mass and I would have been there at the start to mass up, but I got kind of distracted.

They were having the Mayor's Christmas Tree lighting for KCK, and best of all there was a balloon.

Am I the only one who sees a thinly veiled drug reference on that balloon? I wonder how much money laundering that institution has done...

Thursday, November 29, 2012


They were selling cookbooks as a fundraiser at Em's choral event, and I spotted this one. It has all this schoolhouse imagery on it, but I pictured Jeff Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High doing a cooking show. Dude, today we're gonna make nachos...

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Drag Out the Dickens

As the Tom Lehrer song goes, brother here we go again.

The choral program at Em's school put this on, a Dickens Caroling Festival. Basically a catered dinner and then Christmas carols performed by the Madrigals, the top choir.

Those holiday standards sure do sound different when sung by a group who knows how to sing harmony and has rehearsed, compared to a small hoard of freezing children and three adults who might have snuck too much brandy into their eggnog.

My only disappointment was they didn't work O Holy Night into the set, easily my favorite Christmas song. Em says it's not really Dickens-ish and not really a carol, more of a concert piece. Whatever.

The only really tricky part was trying to get Em to stand still for an actual picture in her getup. I have much better pictures of her friends, they stop, pose and even smile when I just threaten to take a picture.

The desserts were quite cooperative and photogenic as well. Good to eat, too.

After, we gave my former mother in law a ride home and I got to catch up on some family gossip and whatnot, which was nice. The marriage didn't work out, but I don't have anything against those folks, and I was related to them for thirteen years.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thanksgiving Part II

Like a lot of families, we never manage to get everyone together at once, and this year my Dad's house was Thanksgiving on Saturday—a pizza party to keep people from getting turkey fatigue.

It's fairly hectic since I have about a hundred nieces & nephews. Okay, I only have eight, but they're at least 13 times louder than mortal children.

After we ate, I got a Scrabble game going. Last year, Corinna just owned us all at Scrabble. But a year of heavy Words with Friends play had made me and my sister in law considerably better. It's a subtly different game, but the principles are the same, avoid setting up someone else for a triple-word and try to get your heavy tiles on multiplier spots. Make words that can't be built on easily when you don't want someone to come in and make four times the points off the little word you just spelled.

The one bummer was the dictionary. We used an American Heritage, what was on hand. I thought it was a fine dictionary when my wife's words were getting challenged and struck because they weren't in that dictionary. Then I got nailed by it like three times in a row, words I know Words with Friends takes, for instance, but the American Heritage doesn't have them.

It was fun playing, and I managed to win three of the four games even with a defective dictionary. And another fine puzzle got into the works, Wii got played, and lots of great food got eaten and some beer and wine might have Bermuda Triangulated into some of us as well.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


I ride by this place on the way to work in the morning and I love the way the word 'JOBS' is hand-painted in the window. I suspect the signs make it look easier than it is, you know, jobs on demand.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

City Fathers

A friend who grew up in Philadelphia was telling me how when he moved to Kansas City, he was amazed at people who were impressed at 100-year-old houses. Back in Philly, the threshold for 'old' was set a little further out.

As is born out by this statue on Broadway, it's not our fault, the Midwest/West is practically brand new. Alexander Majors (the left of the trio on the statue) died in 1900 after a long life that included the Pony Express and and a career as a shipping magnate running covered wagons from here to Denver and Salt Lake City. We didn't even have board sidewalks and dirt streets in Westport when Philly got old.

Judo Mo

We're going to try teaching Mo some Judo, so we took her to a practice to watch. She wore a gi and we had her bring a camera so she could take pictures, mainly to prep her for Sunday when she'll be on the mat herself.

I wasn't sure she was getting into it, but when they were taking turns throwing each other (one person would stand by a big poofy mat and everyone would take a turn being thrown, then they'd rotate so everyone got the experience from both sides with relatively low impact).

I asked Mo if that looked like fun and then next thing I know she was trying to walk out on the mat to get thrown herself.

We didn't do that, but after it was over, she and Corinna did some falling down together and Corinna had her try grabbing Corinna's gi and whatnot.

I really enjoyed trying to photograph the sport. It's really hard to do because things move so fast and most gyms are lit like caves. This one was better than average on the light levels, but I still had to crank the ISO to 800 to get anything that wasn't totally blurry.

And I got my best shots with my prime 35mm lens. I didn't think I was at one point, and went to the 18-105 and a little tighter aperture, but all of the shots that were worth taking turned out to come from that prime lens. It's the cheapest part of the whole kit I carry, so even if you're using a more entry level SLR than the D7000, get yourself a prime lens and prepare to be amazed. They're clear, simple, offer a tight depth of field, and best of all they're inexpensive as glass goes. I'm sure if you shoot Canon or whatever, they offer something similar.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

So this was a first for me, smoking a turkey for Thanksgiving. I did a brisket, too, since I was loading up the smoker with fuel anyway, but I'm experienced at brisket.

I asked some barbecue gurus for advice about doing a turkey, and their answers all came down to 'don't dry it out.' A couple told me to brine the bird if possible.

This is kind of a hard one for me to figure: buy a fresh bird so it's not all injected with salt water and then, before cooking it, you get as much salt water into it as possible.

I was working with a frozen, run of the mill bird anyway, so I really couldn't see adding brine to brine. I did worry about drying out the meat and decided injections of garlic butter would be the best bet to battle it.

The other debate was do I get up at the drop of the rooster to start cooking in the morning, or do I start the night before and have the meat cooked hours before our guests arrived?

I figured it was easier to keep cooked meat edible, so I fired up the Weber Smokey Mountain about eleven Wednesday night and put the brisket on for about an hour before the bird. This was partly just to make sure I had the temperature stabilized where I wanted it, a 15 lb brisket is pretty forgiving of adjustments up front, I feared the 13 lb turkey wouldn't be.

I pinned the wings to the body with toothpicks, tied the drumsticks with twine, and that was about it. I gave it a slight bit of rub, not a thorough coating like I do with braising cuts, and when I was satisfied the smoker was settled in at about 230ºF, I set an alarm for 4:15 and went to sleep.

At 4:15, the internal temperature was about 130ºF in most of the deep places, and I melted a stick of butter with some garlic and a dash of balsamic vinegar and injected that as diffusely as I could figure to through the bird. At this point I added some mesquite chunks (the smoker had been loaded with about 20 pounds of lump charcoal up front). This got the smoke going in earnest. I know, people say you should use fruit woods like apple for turkey, but I had mesquite and hickory on hand and mesquite has never failed to please me.

Second alarm was set for 7:00, though I snoozed it until 7:30, then worried that I'd dry out the bird and ruin it. I did a stick and a half of butter with more garlic and went to check & inject. The meat thermometer was showing 165ºF at the coolest parts I could find, and more like 175ºF everywhere else. I went ahead and injected the butter, basting the skin with the last of it and gave it a few more minutes while I figured out getting it into the house.

The brisket was showing about 165ºF, too, so I figured it could come in as well.

After dinner, everyone interested in the Plaza Lighting ceremony piled into my black box and we headed that way. Beautiful weather, the only knock was we got separated in the crowd and once you get separated in a crowd like that, there's no recovery.

For one thing, having 100,000 cell phones in a neighborhood all at once overloads the cell towers, as far as I can tell, so communication by mobile becomes impossible.

People were generally polite and in a good mood, but in my efforts to find Corinna and Dennis, I ran into a guy who was a complete jerk about it. He told me there was no point trying to get through, no room. I told him I was trying to find the rest of my party and he insisted nobody could have come that way. His tone of voice told me he was probably right, he wouldn't have let anyone else by either.

Other angles of movement were basically blocked off at that point because someone fainted and on top of the normal bussle, paramedics and cops were trying to get to that. When that cleared, I spotted dennis and a millimeter of movement I could make that way, and as I shifted that way, a man with his young daughter came in my direction trying to find a bathroom for her. They ran into the same jerk I had, who told him to find a sign for her to pee under.

I need better filters on myself, I know, but I reflexively looked him in the eye and said, "Don't be a dick." It's one thing for him to refuse to make way for me, but a guy trying to find a bathroom for a little kid, come off it. But saying 'dick' instead of 'jerk' I think offended the guy with the little girl, so they turned around and tried a different way anyway, and the dick's family started defending him, saying he was 'just trying to be helpful.'

Helpful my ass. He was trying to stake a claim. If being in a throng like that gets you that cranky, you should watch the lighting on TV or something.

The Elders were great, we should have just stayed and listened to their whole set, but Corinna had brought Max and Sheba and with us getting separated it ended up being a mission to find each other and get back to the car. I don't think I'd go to the lighting by car again, especially not having the girls, I could have ridden in, goten a good spot and ridden back out pretty easily, and I saw a few guys doing just that.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


So the skate park I ride by on the way home got lights. I didn't know it until I was riding across 31st to bomb Southwest Trafficway-cum-Summit when I saw them out of the corner of my eye.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Some new tags have come in on this building at the bottom of Central in the West Bottoms.

I spent enough time shooting them to get a guy in a Garda truck to stop and ask me if I knew where I was. He thought they should have painted over the building all the way to the roof before doing the tag art, thought that the gap between the tag and the roof line being basically bare cinder block was tacky.