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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Happy Friday!

First Critical Mass since Halloween for me.

Sometimes anarchy isn't too organized, and this mass split up earlier than most. Some of the riders, after the Nelson, decided to go to Buzzard Beach to pay bar prices for drinks. Some of us declined and rode one.

Which is how I found myself out front for the first time. Corinna said, 'Take them on your hill.' This was on 31st coming off Pennsylvania. So I did, called out, 'Watch for grates and follow me.'

Southwest Trafficway down from 31st is an awesome hill to bomb. Lots of gravity assistance, and that left lane is almost unused by cars, most of whom are heading to I-35 instead of Summit.

I worried about those sewer grates as I rode down the hill and ended up stopping at 27th not to block traffic but to warn riders. Going 30+ down this hill, you hit a grate like mine (and they're abundant along here), you don't get a wife or a soulmate, you get a choice between cremation and burial.

My warnings went unheard, after the fact everyone told me they couldn't hear what I said, but at least none of them ate high speed dirt on Summit.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

In the Event of a Sudden Loss of Cabin Pressure...

So the Agribond floating row cover that's supposed to protect all my precious seedlings and planted seeds from the weather got eight inches of snow dumped on it Saturday night. Fine, that's what it's for. The Guru, he has spinach he planted in October that survived twice that and untold freezes beneath the white tent.

But when I got home this evening, the melted snow revealed that the material had torn in a couple of places in the middle. No problem, really, Worley says he'll leave some more of the stuff out for me at no extra charge (there's a mate), and in any case it's not supposed to get down below freezing the next few nights so what's still there probably doesn't even need duct-taped.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Birthday Blizzard Soup

One reason to have Corinna's birthday party a week late was to avoid fighting St. Patrick's Day. Between parades and parties and binge drinking in bars, so many people make plans on St. Pat's that don't coincide with stopping by our house for a food orgy.

Little did we know we were planning the party for the aftermath of a freak spring blizzard.

But we'd bought food for entertaining, we'd cleared our calendar, so we went ahead and hoped people would brave the roads. The roads didn't look to be as bad as they were last snow storm, anyway.

Turnout was low single digits, of course, meaning I'd made roughly a gallon of soup for each guest in attendance. And meaning after party prep, there was time for napping with puppies.

I'm not complaining, this is the kind of thing where I cook for leftovers anyway. Fill up the Gladwares and stick 'em in the freezer. Especially good for lunches to take to work.

I made a vat of chili, nothing out of the ordinary for me except maybe a restrained hand with the cayenne. Last time I made chili for Corinna's party, I casually put two tablespoons of 'cayenne' in a batch about half size. Military grade pepper spray might have packed more of a kick than that batch of chili, but it'd be a close call. This cayenne wasn't ordinary, it was something Corinna had gotten over at City Market, maybe from the spice vendor, but I think it was from the African market. It's more than likely powdered Bhut Jolokia, possibly something milder like habanero. A teaspoon in roughly four gallons made for a fairly intense heat level.

For anyone who wanted truly intense heat, we did have some Osceola Ghost Pepper cheese on the cheese platter. Corinna made flags of Thai peppers I grew in the garden on toothpicks to serve as a sort of warning label. Our neighbor from up the street came by and she's the only person I've seen just casually eat the cheese in stride. In times past, when I've hit the hot stuff hard and frequently, I might have developed about half the tolerance she seemed to have for capsicum. I think she would have liked my chili from two years ago just fine.

For the other soup I made a huge batch of mushroom soup. Not 'cream of' mushroom soup, mind you just mushroom soup. The mushrooms they'd had at city market were top notch, so I had grabbed three pounds of them. Since there seems to be a shortage of non-cream mushroom soup recipes online, here's mine:

Mushroom Soup 

3 lbs mushrooms (I had button, baby bella's would work as well)
3 tbsp. olive oil
4 stalks celery, minced
1/4 cup minced garlic
2 bell peppers, diced (I had yellow, but whatever color suits you)
3 quarts chicken broth
1 quart Rhine wine (or whatever cheap white wine you have or like, my measurement was approximate, just holding a box of Franzia open over the pot)
rosemary to taste
thyme to taste
2 bay leaves
Salt & pepper to taste
cornstarch to thicken to desired consistency (note, I used too much—about four ounces—and had to dilute until I spread into two pans). The idea is to give the soup some body, my target being about the viscosity of egg drop soup.

SauteƩ celery, peppers and onions in the oil until translucent, add garlic, broth Thicken with corn starch whisked into solution in the water and add remaining water. Add mushrooms, simmer for at least an hour.

The mushrooms will reduce in volume considerably, so don't freak if they basically fill the pot like a stiff stew at first. At first taste, the broth was kind of insipid, but after about an hour, the mushroom flavor had really permeated the broth along with the acidity of the wine and really made a nice flavor. Garnishing with fresh parsley would be a nice touch, and it goes great with Rose Mati rice (or any other flavorful whole grain rice I'm sure).

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Snowing Blue Cats

So it's March 23, spring officially, and we're going to get some produce from City Market to serve at Corinna's birthday shindig.

And it's snowing buckets. I'm not too worried about the produce I broke my back putting in last week, they're early crops anyway, ones that prefer cool weather, plus there's the floating row cover, Agribond, over them.

We discussed whether to wait until tomorrow morning to do the shopping, but looking at the weather, I figured we'd be lucky if they hadn't all packed it in early (all but one vendor had). If we get four to eight inches of snow, I don't see these guys busting their butts to get there and open up for the practically nobody who will come shopping.

Saturday, March 23, 2013


Em was the understudy for Susan in Chronicles of Narnia, a wood nymph the rest of the time, but fortunately they had an understudy show.

It's a really good move for community theater, both because you have your bases covered if the person who got a main roll gets sick or whatever, but because everyone gets to do more in the show. I think they had four people in main roles who weren't played by their understudy at the matinee.

And really, these folks (not just Em) must have worked their fool butts off learning multiple roles because it didn't come off as if everyone where subbing, it played like these were all the primary cast.

Em's family took up the whole front row and then some (her Mom and one Grandma were in another area of the theater).

I read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe back in maybe junior high, of course. Might have been for a class, might have been for the hell of it, I really don't recall. I enjoyed it, but I didn't get drawn in like some of my peers, reading the whole series (indeed, that may be the indication that it was assigned reading, I may have read just what was required without getting hooked on the larger series).

I didn't realize that there was actually a campaign to get kiddos out of London and into the country to protect them from the Nazi bombings. I had the impression that these four kids must have been wealthy if they had someone in the country to go to.

I do remember something about Churchill knowing one of the big bombings was coming from the Nazi code having been broken, and then not wanting to tip his hand that he knew what they were going to do. Talk about the kind of decision that ages you right there in your shoes.

Anyway, the mythology of Narnia is potent stuff, you don't need the bombing of London to give it a canvas.

I guess part of the appeal is similar to the Hobbit/LOTR series: here is a world where good an evil are clear and pretty obvious, and good has a shot at winning in the end. That's something people feel a need to hear, especially when so much evidence of the senses is to the contrary.

They closed the curtain call with a hilarious dance piece, basically just playing a piece of hip-hop/pop music and letting everyone just get up and boogie.

Friday, March 22, 2013

NCAA Bracket (Fight Fiercely Harvard!)

Last time I filled out an NCAA bracket, I was still married to the artist formerly known as Frau Lobster. I didn't do well in it, being that I don't know much about college basketball.

Well, and even if you do know a bit about college basketball, no matter how talented the athletes and how great the coaches, you're talking about contests between a bunch of kids. A few may have professional basketball in their future, but they're all still kids—panicky, unpredictable, immature. On any given day, anything can happen.

The thing I fixed on, right off, was KU and K-State were both in the big dance, but they were coming out of opposite corners. They could, theoretically (and while I don't know much about college hoops, I know how unlikely this is) play for the championship.

At which point I thought, wouldn't it be hilarious if K-State beat KU for the title? There aren't enough tall buildings in Lawrence to accomodate all the people who would want to jump to their deaths.

In that spirit, I picked Harvard to beat New Mexico in the first round. I didn't even know they fielded a team. When I was bragging about having called it, someone told me I shouldn't brag about picking Harvard even if I did get it right. This, first of all, is from a Kansas-hating Mizzou fan who was choking on sour grapes that his team was one-and-done. Also a person who said he didn't put much effort into his brackets but he did one that was exactly Obama's and one that was an expert's mixed with Obama, but where they disagreed, taking Obama's outcome or something like that. I haven't even done the work of understanding what that translates to, because it sounds like it might be two identical brackets.

Anyway, he was trying to shame me for picking Harvard, but it's only shameful if you assume there is actual value in knowing a lot about college basketball teams, their seasons, play, and which one of these screwy kids is going to have a bad day or his best day with nothing to account for it.

I'd say, 'And do fight fiercely' but my bracket has Harvard losing to Arizona in the next round. But my bracket kinda got screwed up generally when K-State lost today.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

True Story

When I made mine, I made hers, too. I just didn't get it installed until tonight. Our friend Meetzorp made the original, but she decided she had more important projects to sew. In fact, judging from her blog, I'd say she would prefer to sew almost anything over another helmet mohawk. I guess it's kind of like when I got into heirloom tomatoes, Todd & Julie gave me some amazing tomatoes a few years ago, but declined my offer to make them tomato-growing slaves. I had to learn to grow my own.

That day when I met Corinna, I'd been wanting a helmet mohawk for my bicycle helmet forever, and it never occurred to me to make one out of what amounts to half a tutu—which elevates it to a whole new level of fun.

I saw Corinna coming up Main with that thing on her head and I said, "I want one of those. And I'll take one of those pink helmet mohawks, too."

People say God works in mysterious ways, but do they even know the half of it?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Night Shots

I have lots to learn about the art of night photography, but one thing I've caught onto is that dusk is often better than full darkness. When there's too little light for the autofocus to work, manual focus isn't much of a fall-back because if the camera can't see to focus, generally I can't either.

I'm not, so far, a fan of manual focus. I like using manual settings for pretty near everything else, or shooting in aperture priority as a sort of semi-auto so I don't have to guess about light as much, but the D7000's autofocus is pretty rockin' when it can see to do the job. If it can't, it doesn't even try, the shutter button ignores me.

I'm not 100% happy with either of these pictures. I cropped the top of a wrought iron fence out of the bridge shot, it was distracting and not very horizontally aligned. I Photoshopped out a few birds that made little noisy, blurry splotches on the sky, too.

I took these shots cycling home from work the other night on the first really warm, spring-ish day we've had this year as far as I can tell. The caboose is undoctored, but I guess I needed to get closer in if I didn't want that lens flare in the upper right coming from an overhead street lamp. Hard to see these things chimping on the camera's LCD screen, but they're glaring when you open them up on 20 inch iMac. I guess I'm spoiled compared to the days of film when I'd have had to spend money to even get a contact sheet (what used to pass for the preview).

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Spring Garden

This turned out to be a lot more project than I had in mind for this weekend. I have a freelance deadline, and I sort of have my kids though I try to avoid doing so when I have this project to do. That's only half true, one of my kids is in Boston living it up, eating a hamburger at the country's oldest restaurant, the Union Oyster House (a hamburger in an oyster house! I'll disown her, I swear).

Anyway, the whole deal kind of became a gardening deadline. The floating row cover method Worley set me up with is all about getting the early crops in. And it's not really even 'season extension' in the truest sense when I'm a day past the start of the planting time for crops like carrots, lettuce, etc.

Well, it's season extension for me, the guy who's never out before May 1 when he's transplanting tomatoes. The rest of the garden is sort of an afterthought for me, I'd just grow tomatoes and peppers if I had to pick two things.

Turning the beds is a piece of cake with raised beds, nothing got compacted to begin with. Pulling the crabgrass is another story, but I got that done, too. Then it was time to transplant seedlings and map things out, and that turned out to be a lot more knee time and bending time and stooping time and whatnot than I had in mind. I think I spent roughly five hours out there, and I was whipped by the time I was done.

Any notion that I save labor thinning radishes by transplanting sprouts, well, you're really just moving the labor around. I can plant a row of radishes in about the time it takes to curse loudly at a cat that's running through a newly planted row of chard. Then I have to go back and thin it when we find out what's really going to try growing up and going to college. With this method, depending on how interlocked the roots of the seedlings in the cup, I spent roughly the same amount of time kneeling as I would on thinning day but I'm doing it all up front when I plant. Probably for the best since I'm terrible about not getting out there to thin things.

I planted some carrot, radish and lettuce seeds in the space that was left in these two beds after the transplants were done. I'm really not that thrilled doing the work end of the garden, but having a productive garden practically year round, I'm all about that. And I have interesting plants I won't find at every stall at City Market or every aisle at Price Chopper (as evidenced by this map which contains Chinese cabbage, golden beets, and so on).