For you, the dress code is casual.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Now THAT's how you end a week, Cosmos!

(While yer at this appeasing-me thing, Cosmos, I could use a beer...)

Every now and then we get to feel at one with the universe. On Tuesday, I thought "Y'know, I betcha I get my medical claim back and my carbon tax rebate cheque in the mail by Friday. After all, that'd be nice... I could go buy some new shorts or a t-shirt or something."

So I check the mail yesterday, there's the carbon tax cheque. This morning, there's my medical. Shorted, mind you, but the majority of it is there. So, yes, looks like I'll finally start being able to get some of the new clothes I desperately need.

First, I'll swing by Value Village to see if anything thrifty's to be had, because who's kidding who, I still need to be cheap, there's still too much I need to purchase in the coming months to just go dropping wads in fancy shops.

But it's a start. :) And just in time for my long weekend.

Speaking of which, how's the heatwave lookin'? Ahahaha. Heatwave, heatwave, yay! And for the next two weeks the always-inaccurate weather dudes claim heatwave, sunshine, and good times. And despite their shitty work yesterday, I believe them.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Sunny Day Bike Ride... Or Not?

So, I got up, all motivated to cycle to work, and noticed something. My feet felt cold. Like, icy cold. The weather had turned during the night and the sky was mottled grey, filled with the dreary clouds that aren't implying a parting for the sun later.

I look at the forecast. "18 and sunny" it says, for later. "10% chance of precipitation."

Hmm. The tree's blowing around across the alley, my bamboo wind chimes are rattling up a fury. My feet were getting colder. The wind was blowing more.

"Well, I can cycle, I guess... I'll just dress warmer. But do I bring shorts for later? And how warm do I dress in the office, anyhow?"

I mean, it's one of those "Someone crossed the wires somewhere" kinda weather forecasts.

Finally, I decided I'd nix the bike ride and just scooter, so I've been doing a little stretching here. I turn my head for a neck stretch and there it is:

Rain. Lots of it. Not just a light shower, not a heavy one really, but definitely not just a passing moment thing.

So, good call weather guys. Thank god for the Doppler radar.

Fucking amateurs. C'mon! 10% chance of rain? Slick, guys, slick.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Foodie, Foodie, Foodie Glory! Ahhhh, FOOD!

Hurrah! A foodie night for my broke ass!

I've splurged for the first time since I got paid a couple weeks back, at the tail-end of my payperiod, and I feel I've earned it, since I've behaved so well.

Weirdly, splurging involves my having bought salmon, which has never been a splurge item for me since I always hated seafood. I really wanted a burger tonight but I felt I had to be healthy. Again. Sigh. :) Fish three of the last four nights? What is UP with me? Wow!

But I bought a Coho salmon steak at the Farmer's Market that is advertised by the catchers as meeting-or-beating "the freshest, highest quality you've ever had" or they offer a money-back guarantee. So, I figure it's got to be considerably better than what I've been eating from Costco.

Also, I picked up farm-fresh nugget potatoes, which I'll roast, and some amazing heirloom tomatoes I'll be marinating with peppers, plus a should-be-terrific baguette, and the bottle of wine I decided needed to join the rest of my meal. :)

I was reading lately about the "Qi" of food, and how it's apparently best for your energy if you eat food grown locally, because then it supposedly gives you energy from the land you live upon, so that you'll have the right energy for living upon that land, if that makes sense. Like, it's all about channelling the energy from Earth for your place upon Earth. Makes sense? Great.

So, I'm trying to pan-fry the salmon with a lemon-thyme compound butter (and olive oil so it doesn't burn, obviously) I made last week, which will be the first time I've tried it sauteed, since I usually bake it, but since frying makes everything yummy, why not? Excitement, excitement. Sort of. Still somewhat ambivalent, since it's salmon and I'm still in the taste-acquisition phase.

But I'm very happy that this redefining of what "decadence" means to me is finally moving in this direction. It's taken me so long to get here -- losing weight through exercising has always been somewhat easy for me if I keep my calories in check, but I'm so bad at eating balanced meals and eating healthy. Or I always have been. I've never, ever lost weight through changing only how I eat. Never. Well, not until this year. I've had my moments.

I'm starting to feel like I'm turning the corner on my culinary ignorance, though. This is GOOD!

Even if I did have a donut today. ;)

Speaking of bad-ass for my ass, I think I'll let that wine start breathing. Heh, heh, heh. Yes, "breathing" is what we'll call that. Maybe if I pour it into a wee glass it'll breathe even better... Sure... I can help it along, even... Sure... yeah, that's the ticket. Just a wee nip...

AN HOUR OR SO LATER: Oh, my fucking GOD was that good! These are the nights I LOVE being single. It's all for me! :)

Okay, I get the fresh salmon thing now. That was delicious. I'm hooked, baby, and I intend the pun. Actually, my whole meal was delish. I'm a good cook, but cooking for myself all the time, I'm spoiled. This is one of the first times I think I've ever just absolutely cleaned my whole plate after a pretty healthy meal of something I'm usually opposed to, like salmon.

Dude, I highly recommend stocking your fridge with an assortment of compound butters like I did last week in about a whole hour of labour. For $15-20 and an hour, and with making three wildly different butters from 2 pounds of butter, including one sweet nutty one [and they'll keep for months in a cold fridge], I feel like I'm as richly stocked as a goddamn Williams-Sonoma outlet.

Shit, you throw a tablespoon of that in with your salmon (I baked some with the lemon-thyme butter the other night, a slice or two of lemon; similarly delicious) and you feel like you're a gourmet. Stuff some baguette with sundried tomato butter and you feel like you kick culinary ass (because you SO do).

Do it, man, do it! All it takes is a couple of teaspoons or so (and there's lots of olive oil and other ingredients [maybe 40% volume] takin' up space there), so it's not as unhealthy as you think. See my recipes here.)

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

On Carlin and Growing Up / Figuring Shit Out

George Carlin's death has hit me more today.

When it comes to celebrity deaths, I tend to be pretty unflappable. Not a lot of them hit me all that much, because, you know, everyone contributes a little bit to this fabric of life, but most of their contributions are not entirely unique or irreplaceable, if you don't mind my being a little crass about it.

George Carlin, though. There's a handful of people like him in any given century, I imagine. That rare kind of person who says whatever they want, whenever they want, and has little regard for the consequence.

I have a tendency to fly through life somewhat oblivious to consequences, but only because I know people like Carlin spend a lifetime getting away with it, and when my life cashes out, I hope I get to say I've got few regrets, like I know Carlin had.

Speaking truth to power, stirring up shit, that's what I admire in people. People who really do stand up for their principles, don't feel compelled to apologize, and just do whatever they feel is the way to go.

But as few as those people are, the ones with the genius insight, the stunning comedic timing, the effusive physical performance, and the brilliant grasp of how to be charming... god, that's once a lifetime that someone pulls all of that into one whopper of a package. And that was George Carlin.

I have to admit, although I'm a big fan of Carlin, I've seen only a fraction of his work. I live in Canada, sans HBO, and until this week, my computers have always been too slow to watch streaming video on the web. My video shop doesn't carry his concerts, and I've never bought the DVDs nor read his books.

And it pisses me off, too, right, because I've been telling myself ever since the movie Dogma, and seeing him doing all the press back then, that I needed to study his work more.

As a writer, it's people like Carlin who really, really hit home the most because they can combine humanity, insight, angst, rebellion, humour, and hope all into one package, and I think, at the end of my time here, if I can say that's how I've written in my life, I'll be a very proud person. It's what I strive for, but I seldom reach it.

Well, thank God Carlin's body of work is out there. I think I'll try digging up some of his writing soon and see where that takes me.

It really pisses me off that we lose two such amazing truth-to-power speakers in nine days: Tim Russert and George Carlin. Two guys from the opposite sides of society, both calling it like they see it, and not apologizing for using their position to do so.



This may get heady but I want to write about it right this second, so here goes.

I'm going to be 35 this fall and I've been kind of going through a lot of "Am I getting old?" kind of moments of late. I've felt a little anger at how much my life's felt consumed with Ordeal in the last decade. A very unhealthy relationship that left me on the floor, followed by my mother's sudden illness and death, followed by a couple years of quasi-alcoholism and the depression that came with it all, then three years dealing with recuperating from accidents and injuries and chronic pain, followed by two years of employment hell that, in retrospect, is kind of all my fault because I lacked a little thing called faith.

And it's begun to dawn on me that I'm at pretty much exactly the right age to be realizing there's a different slice of pie I'm craving, that I want more. Not from my job, I'm cool with what I'm doing for the short-term, and can't see myself working anywhere else in the corporate world, but I ultimately want to write what I want to write, and do it for a living.

I want to be paid to write, but I'm at a loss as to which avenue's the wisest for me to go down right now. I can't decide. Do I write a book, pursue the blogosphere, try to do both? Freelance?

Truth is, I know it's the first two I need to pursue and the third is a write-off, pun intended, but I'm sort of feeling a little lost right now. I realize, too, though, that I have so much else I'm sorting out (money, weight, health, home, etc) that my mind's pulled in a million directions right now, but that it'll all start sorting out over the coming months.

I guess I'm coming upon the "what next?" phase of things, since I feel like I'm making enough progress that it's time to be getting things prepared for the next stage of development.

I can't help but think that this Carlin-dying thing is life giving me a nudge to go looking through his immense body of work as a direction for where I want to go.

I know I raise "freelance" as an option, but the reality is that I couldn't make it as a freelancer, I don't think, unless I already had some cachet. I'm too much of a loose cannon and too riled up. Editors would need to rein me in. Editors don't want to waste time on unknown variables that need to be reined in, and I don't want to waste time being something I'm not. I've spent too many years excelling at that already, and I'm fucking fed up.

Blogging is too fickle. My worry on blogging is similar to my worry for my brother when he's working casual labour without any job-provided health insurance or paid sick time: What happens when things go south?

Blogging, I've already found out the hard way what happens to a semi-successful blog when its owner falls victim to situational and chemical depression that takes the better part of 18 months to climb out of: Oblivion.

It freaks me out a little.

But at least I feel like I'm not past my prime. I'm on target. The average age of a first-time novellist is 34. Then there's the idiocy of the publishing world, since book one of the Thursday Next series was apparently reject 76 times before it was published, so what do they know, eh?

I can't mentally sort out what it is I want to write, in terms of books, though, just yet. I have an idea, but I'm not entirely clear how I should begin it, so I'm doing my mental-swimming thing where I let an idea float around in my head for a while before I tackle it, but it's time to start doing the tackling. And that's the problem.

Blogging I like because of the control it provides. As to my would-be success at it, I know where I'm going wrong, but I also know why I'm ambivalent. I just need to get over a few mental hurdles, but then I'm gonna get on it.

The thing about blogging is, summer's always slower -- people aren't at their computers as much, evenings and weekends plummet for traffic -- so I just need to figure things out and have a plan of attack underway by September, when traffic begins to soar as kids return to campus and weather begins to turn on us all. (The plan of attack is ready, but it's more complicated than that, which I guess I'll write about as the months progress.)

Blah. Every now and then the idea of being 12, living on an allowance, having a great bedroom, and being fed and clothed by the parental units seems like such a wonderful life. This being a grown-up and finding-one's-place-in-the-world thing is overrated.

Speaking of places, mine's about 12 kilometres away from here for the next eight hours, so I gotta fuck off to work!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Obama: That Smarty-pants

Ahaha! The most astute article on Barack Obama I have seen yet.

I knew all this long ago. I'm no naif.

For months I've been saying this guy's gonna rewrite politicking as we know it, certainly campaigning as we know it. He's no oaf. He's as shrewd as the day is long.

I disagree a little on the campaign reform issue, though.

There are times when you have to realize "Hey, wait, I think I've gone about this all wrong", and I suspect this is one of those times for Obama. He's bungled it a bit, but I applaud what's happening as being the most revolutionary "public funding" of a campaign in history.

No pundit, NO PUNDIT, predicted the possibility of the American public anteing up to the tune of $88-on-average per contributor, with the end result being a staggering $275 million... for primaries? I mean, holy fucking staggering shattering of all previous records, Batman!

$55 million in a single month? Like, who knew that many Americans really cared? Who knew people would find that much spare change around during a recession? Who knew?

That said, Republicans keep finding their ways around the funds provided by the public funding system. 527s and Swiftboating Veterans aside, in a way, public funding levels the playing field, and that's pretty important. But when you throw in the Swiftboats and the Willie Hortons and the other "concerned citizens" out there, it seems like there's some pretty big pits and bumps on that playing field after all.

But if you have a cap on the amount a single person can contribute, and you eliminate all corporate contributions, and you more tightly regulate "concerned citizen" groups, then you've essentially leveled the playing field before the game even got started.

I mean, if you're a political party -- more importantly, one of TWO political parties-- and you can't get your constituents to support you financially as a way of applauding your policies and leanings, then you've got bigger problems than just running elections.

Of course what Obama's doing seems brilliant here and now, since they're leading in all polls and contributions, and should that tide turn and the contributions fail to come in, voices of discontent will ring out on this side again.

But shit happens and that's how we roll. Right now, Americans are speaking by putting their money where their mouths are, and with $275 million raised for Obama's campaign versus $101 million for McCain's, it's pretty clear what they're saying. Even the dreaded 527 groups on the right are having trouble raising funds this year.

This is an important year. If it means Obama sails into the election with a bigger pot to pick from and all he needs to do is throw his argument out -- while probably trying to come up with a new way to resolve that same issue -- and have crazy money to spend while the Republicans are crying their eyes out and struggling to catch up... well, yeah, I can see why he'd play that way. After all, the environment's in dire straights, the economy's on the curb, corruption seems rife in this administration, a possibly unjust war continues well into its fifth year now, and there has never been a bigger contrast in America's choice.

As a result, this "controversy" doesn't change my point of view on Obama one bit. I don't think being politically shrewd is a sin. I don't think playing his cards tight and judiciously has been a bad move. I don't think this means he can't still lobby for campaign reform. In fact, I think he's proven "public funding" works better than anyone could have dreamed.

I still think he's the right political mind in the right place at the right time, and I believe his shrewdness and political brilliance could be no better placed than in the White House.

But I love what Brooks said, "All I know for sure is that this guy is no liberal goo-goo. Republicans keep calling him naïve. But naïve is the last word I’d use to describe Barack Obama. He’s the most effectively political creature we’ve seen in decades. Even Bill Clinton wasn’t smart enough to succeed in politics by pretending to renounce politics."

No shit, Brooks. You said it, bro. It's one of the things I love to watch Obama for, actually. The brilliant little bits of strategizing that are going to have political science experts redefining how politics are played.

Methinks that, in Obama, there's finally someone who can outRove Rove. Oh, and not in a "Why the hell hasn't someone indicted that guy yet?" kind of way... just in a finger-on-the-pulse and way-to-spin-it savvy seldom seen in public minds.

That's what's going to kill the Republicans this year, too. They don't respect their opponent enough. He's just an uppity junior senator from Illinois -- what the fuck is he playing the big boy's game for, right? They just don't get it. They still think you need 20 years of back-room elbow-nudging deals to know how to play the game in Washington.

But this election's not about Washington anymore, never really was. It's about how the web was won.

(And, despite my fully-aware perceptions on Obama, I still think, deep down inside, that he's a guy who'll make the right decisions most of the time, and for the right reasons. After all, that's really all you can hope for in a leader. And anyone who can play politics as well as Obama but still claims to hate 'em might just be the perfect person to recreate 'em, right? Time will tell.)

Labels: , , , , ,

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Of Muffins and Mechanics.

I have 4.5 minutes before I need to fly the fuck out of here for what will be a long, insufferable, but ultimately very rewarding afternoon. I must jet 15 clicks one way on my bogged-fucking-slow scooter to get a chiropractic adjustment, then I must come home, pick up one dozen super-fattening peanut butter-chocolate chip cookies with which I'm paying off my mechanic for way under-priced repairs on my bike.

The kid's putting in a new cylinder head since he suspects that could be why my piston rings didn't hold their compression and my bike sucks ass going up hills now and taking off from a full stop. He's putting in new piston rings, new transmission rollers, and he'll do the standard tuning-up stuff...

...All for the low, low price of $60 -- including parts and labour. Insane, right? Maybe it's because I'm cute. I don't know. All I know is, I'm very grateful. I'm just exhausted today and a steady diet of peanut-butter muffins for brekkie is probably not helping.

I totally lost my compression within two weeks of the kid's work in February. It still has a crazy top speed of almost 75 clicks, the best since I've owned the bike, but it just lost all power until it hits 45 clicks (the threshold was 27kms, then power would surge, then it became 29clicks, then 32... etc... until now I need to hit that speed for the airflow to create enough compression for the engine to fire properly, is my understanding of how that works).

I suspect I didn't break it in gently. He suspects the cylinder head. Either way, I'm confident this will make my bike all-powerful and muchos fun.

I can't wait to feel like it's not a burden to go scooting around the city for kicks. I want to feel like taking the long way home and enjoying the ocean view after work. I want to feel like hopping on my scoot just to see the sunrise somewhere new.

Right now, I'm eager to get the fuck off of it ASAP as I'm always feeling like a victim on the verge, you know? Car drivers are impatient, and if you're taking off slow, it's just one more thing to be very, very concerned about.

Anyhow, that's 6.5 minutes, so I'm out of here. Since we're working outside on my bike, I'd like to extend a little prayer to the powers that be to hold off on the forecasted lightning. That'd be swell, thanks. Just don't cancel the lightning. 8:30 would be good. :) We loves the lightning! Just not keen on electrocution. Old-fashioned, I am.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Compound Butters 101!

I was bad and bought butter before my holiday, figuring I wanted to have eggs during the week, and knowing I can't afford to go out for them. And eggs, as even the most amateur of foodies knows, love butter. Not oil, not margarine; butter.

So now I have too much butter.

But I've gotten inspired, and I've made three different compound butters out of a pound. Nice!

Compound butters, of which the most famous is "garlic butter", are butters made of a variety of ingredients and used as flavour enhancers.

I made two savoury and one sweet. The sundried tomato-basil butter I've had before and love, but the toasted pecan-cinnamon butter is new and to die for, and the lemon-thyme-parsley butter will be a verdict rendered upon trying on fish or something, but it looks good and passes the licked-finger taste-test.

Steff's Toasted Pecan-Cinnamon-Honey Butter

(I'm sure there's millions of variations of this, but this was what I fucked around with and chucked in a blender, and I'm thrilled I did.)

2.5 tablespoons ground cinnamon
3/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 cup butter

Toast the pecans and cinnamon over medium heat until aromatic and the cinnamon just barely begins to darken in colour.

Allow to cool for a minute or two while you get the honey, sugar, and butter ready in your food processor. Puree all ingredients until smooth.

Me, I'll mix this with pecans and candied ginger and add to wild rice, or spread on breakfast toast with a banana in the mornings, spread on pancakes, or use for frying crepes in.

Sundried Tomato-Basil Butter

1/2 cup sundried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and oil reserved
1 huge bunch of fresh basil (about 2 cups, not chopped, with some stems is okay)
3 cloves of garlic, smashed
3/4 cup butter
1/4 cup sundried tomato oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

Puree all ingredients until really smooth. This, as will any butter, will keep for 2-3 months, if not much longer, in a cold fridge.

Try stuffing slits of a baguette with this butter, wrapping in foil, and baking till it melts-- it's is incredible with creamy soups-- or using it to make scrambled eggs with (I throw leftover asparagus, some shallot, and red pepper into a saute pan with some of the butter, then a couple eggs, and scramble... amazing!!) or using it to saute potatoes in, whatever... it's all awesome.

This butter is what my brother asks for every birthday now -- he uses it in everything.

Lemon-Parsley-Thyme Butter

1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup thyme leaves (plus tender young stalks is okay)
1/4 cup flat-leaf/Italian parsley
zest of 2 lemons
3 tablespoons olive oil

Puree in a food processor until, well, pureed!

It'll keep for oodles too. I plan to use mine on fish with a couple slices of lemon, baked in the oven, and served with a salad and fresh parsley sprinkled over. Things like that.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Another Political Rant: Avert Your Eyes from the McCain Calamity

You gotta wonder if McCain secretly just wants to get a Democrat in the office, 'cos fucko's doing everything he can to lose this election, from this uninformed observer's perspective.

Reinstate offshore oil-drilling? Such a bad idea it took less than 24 hours for Bush to get on the bandwagon!

Never mind that Big Oil has land all over hell's half-acre they're not even drilling yet, nor that science is discovering underwater activity is having vast and as-yet-immeasurable impact on already fragile ecosystems, or that none of this would yield any results to soften the economic impact on a voting public (and could even harm the public should exploration and digging tie up B.O.'s moolah) for many, many years... and for potentially negligible, certainly unquantifiable gains...

It's just fucking missing the point entirely! The point is, GET OFF THE OIL. Use solar! Harness wind! Improve the hydrogen cell! Use wave energy! Use any of the other options out there, and make it part of our NEW way of life. Fuck oil! Fuck oil and the corporate fuckwits it rode in with, man.

I love it, though. I knew McCain would just shoot himself in the foot time and time again against Obama. It's like he's frightened of Obama or something, like he knows he doesn't have enough change to sell, and he knows he doesn't have any real lead to run with.

I don't know what's up there, but what a fucking bungled run for the White House. This thing's gonna go south in a hurry, much more than it already has, if this is the kind of campaign those dinosaurs think is going to win. If they keep this up, they won't even have to put a bow on the presidency for Obama, the gift'll be that generous.

God. Moron. I used to like McCain, too, before he started being the New Kerry and his fuckin' flip-floppin' like a fish out of water. Holy crap! Someone get that man some tap-dance shoes.

And, like he needed Bush sidling up and saying, "Eh, great idea, Johnny! Let's start drillin'!" I mean, Bush needs a job after Christmas, right? Fitting, first he launches a war to drive up the oil prices, and then he waits on someone, anyone, to finally suggest that offshore drilling needs to recur, and then he pounces -- perfect legacy for Bush's presidency, a final straw on the-best-presidency-ever for Big Oil.

There are weaknesses in Obama's campaign, but if McCain keeps running such an inconsistent, desperate campaign, there's no way they'll be able to capitalize.

I mean, McCain's new "Obama's a September 10th mentality man" argument is yet another dumb-ass move. Who had control of the country on September 10th, 2001? Right, Republicans. Hello? Asleep on the watch much, anybody?

After awhile, Obama will be able to do like Mohammad Ali did in the Rumble in the Jungle. When Foreman started to fall, instead of throwing another punch to ensure his success, he just got out of the way and let gravity finish it off.

Let McCain flail, throw some counter-punches, but mostly get outta the way. The guy's a fuckin' danger to himself at this point. Wow. I dunno, man. I don't see them figuring shit out very quickly. I suspect they'll tank another 5 to 7 points or so nationally in the coming weeks, a few more swing states truly will swing, and the campaign hatchet will fall, yielding a desperate retooling of their messagein the hopes of creating some interest and momentum before the RNC...

But good luck with that since the Dems will have theirs right before kids return to university, and the campuses will keep the momentum pulsing for a while, and their fuckin' nattering will spur middle-aged folks to vote just to shut their kids up. Awesome fun.

Fun summer. I tell ya, I almost have to look away from McCain these days... it's like driving past a car accident. Some things are just too ugly to take in.

Heh heh, but you know you look anyways. ;)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Cinnamon-Pecan Wild Rice Blend and Pineapple-Pork Kebabs

I got playful for dinner, trying a spicy marinade out with some pork rib steaks I had kicking around, which I cubed up for nice kebabs.

I marinated the pork for four hours, and it was awesome. The whole thing, start to finish, was an awesome meal. Thumbs up for healthy with flavour!

Spicy Pork Kebab Marinade:

1/2 cup chopped flatleaf parsley
1/2 cup sunflower oil
1 tablespoon each of paprika, cumin, and coriander
1 tablespoon spicy pecan vinegar (or whatever acidity you have onhand)
6 cloves of garlic minced

Mix well, add the meat, and let it mingle and get happy.

A half hour or an hour before you're ready to eat, thread the pork cubes onto your skewers and intersperse them with slices of red onion and big chunks of pineapple. Cook for 10-15 minutes, turning 3-4 times during the cooking process.

Steff's Cinnamon-Honey-Pecan Wild Rice Blend:

Should serve 4 people. Prepare 1.5 cups wild rice blend per package instructions, but add 1 broken-in-two cinnamon stick before you get going.

Dressing for rice:

1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon walnut oil
1 tablespoon spicy pecan vinegar (or bourbon or something, I figger)
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 cup diced candied ginger

Toast the pecans for 3-5 minutes over medium heat until fragrant. Reduce heat to medium-low, add the butter and saute for another couple minutes. Add the walnut oil, honey, and vinegar, and mix well. Add a little salt and pepper, and the candied ginger, mix again, and then drizzle over rice that should be just finishing cooking (remove and discard the cinnamon sticks though!). Toss well, let sit for a minute, and serve up.

The cinnamon is way more subtle than you think, and the ginger's really understated too. It's a much more sophisticated side dish than I thought it'd be, and I'll be making it again for sure.

I got my Spiny Pecan Vinegar from The Gourmet Warehouse for $8.99. This is a great use for it!

Labels: ,

Morning Weirdness and a Picture

Here's another picture I've not posted, I don't think. It's the north end of Vancouver's Wreck Beach.

It's day, what, four of nine days off? The plans? More of nothing. Some cycling. Some cleaning. A big breakfast.

I've needed this. Slack and nothing. Good for me.

I'm going to wipe my camera of more pictures today or tomorrow. Some good stuff's on there, but not much.

They're playing the original Fame movie on tv. It's predictably average, but very entertaining. Perfect for a do-nothing week. I'm too lazy to even read, geez. I did cycle yesterday.

I also bought a pork rib steak yesterday. Surprisingly, I quite liked it! It was great. See, my mother was the pork-nuker. Every pork chop I'd ever had was dried out, tough, and seemed to be penance for my day. Oh, did she SUCK at pork!

But I'm apparently bang-on at barbecuing a good pork rib steak. :) And three nice-sized steaks for $5? Yeah. There's a budget treat.

Hey, what can I say, another scar of childhood has been overcome. Pork is all right. Who knew? Sorry, Mom, but you did suck at pork. If I had to choose between eating one of her pork steaks and getting 10 minutes to talk to her if I did, I'd probably order beef. It was that bad.

Ahh, childhood. It's better in the past. Once is enough for anyone. "No! Not the pork!"

Monday, June 16, 2008

An Extremely In-The-Now Blog Post

To the person somewhere on the other side of the nice, warm breeze wafting through my apartment laced with the aroma of the golden yellow cake they're baking: I hate you.

I hate you and your cakey vanilla-y bliss. I have fruit. I have no cake. I wish I had cake. Because then I could have my cake and eat it too.

But, no. I can have a wedge of pineapple. But it's the wrong kind of golden yellow. Instead of Dole, I want Betty Crocker.

And it's your fault, scent-wafter. So I hate you.

And I'm going to have a beer and pineapple.

(But really rather cake. Damn you. Mmf.)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Overlooked Images from the Recent and Distant Past

Here's a series of photos I don't think I've ever published from around town, that I've come across while deleting a few hundred crap pictures bogging down my smalllll drive.

As always, clicking on 'em will take to you a 600x800 pixel image.

This is the Kitsilano swimming pool about 180 degrees off what it looks like in the summer. This is Vancouver's rainy season. But I think it's beautiful, particularly that crop of trees on the jetty.

This is the underside of the pier in Brighton Park.

I'm not sure if the Woodward's sign still stands, but if it does, it'll never be in the sparse bit of town again now that highrises are dominating the landscape there. I used to love seeing the big neon W in the sky as a kid. I think it was last lit in the early '90s.

I'm shocked at how quickly the landscape around my area is changing. Bits of obscure history are literally falling into the river, and slowly but surely the river, too, will be completely developed... and I estimate that, in the next 5-10 years, you'll never see derelict, abandoned bridges in the Vancouver stretch of the Fraser River again. It's the only place left for the yuppies to condo-ize. I can't believe I never photographed Celtic Shipyards and now it's gone forever. This city is changing so fast, the little history we have is falling away. I'm going to make an effort of photographing more of the old parts... before they're all gone.

The same bridge. Somewhere along the Fraser in South Vancouver, from a bike ride way long ago.

One of my favourite bike routes, in early spring: The Heather. Mountains surround the city, and as long as you're north of 39th avenue, this is your view for 200 degrees. Mountains, mountains, variations thereof, and a smattering of ocean, and look, river, and mountains. Lovely.

Oh, look, mountains. And, hey, ocean. And, shazam, a fancy bridge. See, I'll never get why people love perfect sunny days for picture taking. Only the uninformed, I guess. Clouds, that's what you want. Big fucking angry clouds -- and sunshine behind you. Perfect. It's a great, sleek bridge. Love it.

Canada's best nude beach, Wreck Beach. You must try the cookies. (A woman sells pot cookies in the summer. She's been charged and taken to court. The judge was dumbfounded. "The cookie girl?")

Labels: , , , , , ,

Smugness and Ughness

Yesterday was a be-a-loser do-nothing day that I quite loved. I was exhausted and kept to myself. I was too lazy to even choose a movie to watch. I feel like I wasted a bunch of my holiday, but I think I needed to.

Today was an indulgent meal at Memphis Blues BBQ House, but I've apparently gotten too healthy for such indulgence. My belly is mounting a rebellion, but I'll spare you the details save to say I'm not wandering too far from my Porcelain Friend for the next few hours.

I'll be eating fresh, healthy food for the rest of the day. Good to know I'm getting healthier, sad to know I can't go pig out from time to time judiciously, but there you go. Life's tough when you can't have your cake and eat it too.

We 40-pound weight-losers do have down-sides, it would seem. But, boy, am I looking cuter.

I just about cried with glee yesterday when I tried on a shirt I bought in January as my "WOW, have you accomplished a lot!" two/three-size smaller "goal shirt" -- and it FIT. FUCKING A! And it's going to be adorable. I'm about 10 pounds from it fitting perfectly, but it's already a wearable fit, for sure.

Excellent. Good for me. I'll be doing some laundry this week, and throwing out even more clothing... so. Wow. Fantastic.

Mental note to avoid pulled pork for a while though, geez. :P

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Picking on Michelle Obama?

I'm too wiped out to cook but need a bite to eat shortly, and will.

I just wanted to take a moment to write about the "Is Michelle Obama fair game?" query being posed by some in the media.

Methinks: Yeah, sure she is. What, as first lady she's going to just hang out in the den for four years? No, she's getting elected as much as her husband is, so I think she can get some judgement sent her way, too.


What a fucking STUPID battle for the Republicans to pick. If there's any chick who can throw down and win an argument, methinks she's the one. What's that saying, behind every strong man there's an ass-kicking woman? Something like that?

Yeah, that woman has a boot collection, I'm betting. She's as smart and as articulate as her husband, but she's also more willing to speak her mind, too. I love her style. She's awesome. She's not going to be anyone's demure little woman who'll smile and politely try to talk her way out of the situation, she'll throw down, man.

She's to Obama what Bill is to Hillary, I'd say. A bit unpredictable, a great talker, likable, smooth, but also a loose cannon. And where Bill's loose cannon gets him in trouble, I secretly suspect that Michelle's loose cannon will have women clapping and nodding their head, and men chuckling. Sure, some people will disagree, but most will probably approve of her retorts.

But, hey, I want the Democrats to lose, so I actually hope the Republicans DO attack her, because it's totally going to backfire. Michelle Obama's the new generation of smart, thinking wife, and she's going to play very, very well as people get to know her better and see her scrappy side.

However... I haven't seen as much of her in action, so I might be blowing smoke out of my ass. This is my haphazard assessment of things. On an empty tummy. :)

Also... it's pretty damned clear how much Barack Obama still digs his wife after all these years. I would think that the only way he'll really get angered and combative on the trail is if they're taking on his wife. And I think an angry, decisive, firm Obama will actually win voters over, too. He's so quintessentially calm that it might appeal to voters to know that his emotions span as far as theirs.

Ah, we'll see. :)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Cheap-Ass Lunches: Chickpeas with Lemon and Parmesan

I'm chilling my first bowl of this, but, you know, it's not bad for $2 and enough food for five lunches at work... Oh, right, then you have to add whatever amount of parmesan you choose to indulge in so there goes another $6. Ha.

Instead of using canning chickpeas like the recipe I saw somewhere, I decided to do a toned-down version of Jamie Oliver's funky/rustic borlotti beans recipe, and then finishing it off the in a mix between his and her's.

I've used chickpeas as per the chickpea cold salad I saw, but here's the part of Jamie's recipe I kicked it off with:

2 cups dried chickpeas (soaked overnight)
1 big roma tomato, halved
1 nugget potato, skin on and halved
3-6 cloves garlic, depending on your bravado
lil' handful of kosher salt

Cover with plenty of water, bring to a boil, then take to a good rolling simmer for 60-90 minutes, whatever it takes to get the beans to the happy soft place you like.

Skim the crap off the top, often.

Strain most of the water out. You can leave a little if you like, especially if you're wanting a lower-fat version of this and opt to omit most of the oil, like I have.

Put the garlic, potato, and tomato in a small bowl and allow to cool. Let the beans chill out a bit. Seriously, let them get cool or room temp, because this is better at that temperature, which I remember the original recipe saying. (Lost the bookmark!)

(You now need lemon and parmesan and olive oil, should you go the oil route.)

After the veggies have cooled, slip the spud, garlic, and tomato out of their skins, and mash 'em all up into a puree. Mix this puree with the beans, and if you choose to use really high-quality olive oil (cheap shit will taste like cheap shit, so maybe stick to the bean water as your liquid base), here's where you glug it over the beans till you're satisfied.

Take a couple of good lemons, three even, and pour the juice all over the beans. If you're into it, a little zest doesn't hurt, but chop the zest into a fine mince first. Now you add some kosher or sea salt, cracked black pepper, and a whole bunch of good quality grated parmesan (or padano or asiago or reggiano...). Mix it up, and serve.

The original recipe loved it as a cheap work lunch, which is exactly what I'm doing.

Now that it's cooled down a bit, I'm really digging the simplicity of it. I think I'd make it again at this point. Gonna think on how I might improve it. Flat-leaf parsley might be nice, in thin threads. I guess one could actually build up on it from this point. Chop up some shallots, thin slices of red and yellow pepper, and it's a whole 'nother vehicle. Maybe even diced hot red pepper.

I think I'm going to continue trying to be a cheaper chef. It's working out well. Stuff like butter chicken, like I had at GayBoy's last night, strike me as frivolous now, as it just doesn't go far enough or have enough food value. Besides, it's all fat. :)

This, though... This'll be good chowing-during-captioning work-type food. Totally! Now... will it freeze? Only one way to find out. Good cycling food.

Labels: , , ,

Bitching and Cooking, The Order of Things

Oh, my GOD it is cold in my apartment this morning. It's like motherfucking February! AGAIN with the cold spells!

The rest of the continent is roasting, we're shivering and going to bed fully clad in polar fleece. WHAT?

I called building management to demand the heat turned back on, which has been shut off since May long weekend. Apparently they'll do it today. Oh, please, please, please. My tender chilly fingies and toes want warmth.

It's demoralizing enough that the weather's this bad, take the heat problem into the scenario and things get miserable fast!

And I have next week off, but in between my requesting it yesterday morning and today, the weather forecast has been completely changed and the warm/hot weather that was to come next week has been postponed. Duped by the weather gods! Or are they wrong? We'll find out in mere days.

I don't mind if it's cooler for part of my time off -- I'd get more done in my life, and I can go hiking and stuff, too. But I want some heat, I want ONE fucking sunburn. That's not really too much to ask?

And I don't want one of those stupid "I'm trying to get burned" no-sunscreen-for-six-hours-exposure sunburns, I want one of those "But I was wearing sunscreen!" sunburns of a merciless good day out.

I'll probably be waiting till August. Right now, it's so cold my nose is running.

Again, goddamn it, Mother Nature, you're just pissing us off now! Giving us token fuckin' flowers but we can't plant any fuckin' basil? 'Sup widdat?

Bah! Tonight I'm highjacking Jamie Oliver's rustic Italian beans recipe to use chickpeas instead. You boil 'em with some herbs, some celery, potato, garlic, and tomato. Then you throw everything else out but the spud, tomato, and garlic, each of which you squoosh out of their skins, mash up together, throw in with the beans to mix with olive oil, and you get this creamy oily dressing on the beans. Then I'm following a recipe I saw on the web, with just lemon juice, olive oil, and parmesan on the beans, which then becomes the cheapest, easiest lunch ever. I'll be freezing a bunch for the coming weeks, too.

Should be about $4.00 for about eight lunches. Wahahahahahaha! Awesome. Throw an apple and banana in that, and it's a healthy good day.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Mongolian Kickers of Asses

I have this strange deep and abiding fascination with Mongolia. Always have. I've never really studied it, I'd prefer to be somewhat oblivious to it beyond what I read in Paul Theroux's travels and have picked up through osmosis. I've always wanted to do a bicycle tour of Mongolia, but I also secretly hope I never have the means because I'm sure it would be a desolate and haunting trip, but also because I'd rather not eat yak's testicles or anything like that when I come upon rural kindness, if you know what I mean. It's not like there's a Mickey D's down the block and I'd eat the testicles if I had to, but in my idyllic life, I'd rather not have the Yak's Testicles dilemma at all.

So, it'll be with great excitement that I finally get to see Mongol when it hits the big screen. It's apparently the Mongolian version of Braveheart (like all great battle epics are interchangeable; "great leader gets everything taken from him / or / great leader born with everything decides he has something to prove ... great leader fights unwinnable war, wins, dies a great leader).

And, get this: I think it has Tuvan throat-singing on the score.

I mean, does it get better? Mongolian horse riders, sword-fighting, lance-fighting, Mongolian justice, hot Mongolian yurt-love, and funny hats? AND throat-singing? Holy fucking bonanza, Batman! Gimme more!

You think I'm jesting, but, seriously. I actually loved the movie Ghengis Blues and I own the soundtrack. Yak's testicles aside, I'd love a week of cycling in Mongolia's mountains. I think Tuvan throat-singing is weird and haunting and bizarre and might be awesome to something primal and gutteral like the Mongolian conquest of the known worlds. I think Genghis Khan's one of the most brilliant military strategists ever. And I think the history of the Mongolian empire's a little underrated just because the people got decimated by China and drought and it's hard to look at them now and think "Most powerful empire in the world eight centuries ago" but them's the facts, they was.

And don't even get me start on yurts, because a part of me wants to buy a $20,000 plot of land in the mountains, get solar power and a water well, and buy me a fuckin' yurt from BC's Yurtco, an 805 squarefoot one for $17,000, with hardwood floors and all. Fuckin' Mongolian mansion on a mountainside? Fabulous. Heaven for under $40,000. 'Course, there'd be another $10k in appliances and amenities and stuff, but geez.

(That's my "lemme outta here" last ditch plan for kicking this urban living diet one day. It'd be fun to live in a yurt for a year. Something different. Why not? Get bored, pull a nomadic Mongol thingie and zip to some coastal burg and pitch up for a whole new life. Sure. It's a possibility. :)

So, fucking A, bring on the Mongol epic, man! Awesome. Good stuff. It'll probably make my top 5 movies of the year. Awesome!

Dissecting the Campaigns before the Real Test Starts

I'm slacking in all my crampy glory. It's a lousy day to be female.

I'm ignoring the mess that surrounds me, trying to think of when I feel like making the tacos I shouldn't be making, or whether the spaghetti and meat sauce sounds wiser. Oh, difficult thoughts.

So I'm diverting my attention with the Times. Great passage here on the upcoming new tactics unveiled by the Obama campaign:
Mr. Obama’s aides said some states where they intend to campaign — like Georgia, Missouri, Montana and North Carolina — might ultimately be too red to turn blue. But the result of making an effort there could force Mr. McCain to spend money or send him to campaign in what should be safe ground, rather than using those resources in states like Ohio.
See, this is where I think Obama's different from all the recent Democratic campaigns. He's a fuckin' scrappy little dude and he's going to fight on different terms than the bend-over-and-take-it Democrats of old. He's taking new ideas in a new era and using new medias to create an image with the youth that no one's been able to do since the Kennedys, but he's also fighting a simpler, more grassroots battle of old like more traditional campaigns of underdogs have done, but he has a record-breaking budget for advertising that dwarfs the Republican warchest.

It's a fucking awesome convergence of situations that's going to make for a campaign that will reinvent political science classes, man. I totally see all the rules getting rewritten here.

This is where the campaign will get entertaining. Fight 'em where they think they're safe, beat 'em where you know you can take 'em, and take what you can where you're not expected to take much in an election year where a fraction of a percent could make all the difference, after two national elections decided by exactly that.

In that election year where one percent will make a world of difference, these are the tactics that need employing. The whole thing will keep the comfortable politics-of-old dinosaurs-r-us Republican machine on its toes, and I think may ultimately cost the Republicans the election. I do not think they're imaginative nor honest enough to survive a modern new media election with someone savvy enough to use it all to their advantage, whether it's the Black-eyed Peas doing "Yes we can" on YouTube or Obama cleaning up in a throw-down basketball match on the trail, McCain's still going to look 80 and beaten everywhere he goes.

I'm believing this could be a double-digit victory for the Democrats if they play tough Chicago politics the whole way through and Obama can maintain the smooth, calm exterior he's been exuding of late. He lost his cool around the last Clinton-Obama debate, and he's been measured and pretty unflappable ever since. She caught him, and he seems to have learned from it.

This is one campaign where he needs to maintain the "never let'em seeya sweat" mentality of cool and comfortable, because there's no way in hell a 25-years-senior McCain can match the pacing of the fit, healthy, young Obama. No way. It's far worse a juxtaposition of the doughy, sweaty Al Gore versus the fit, athletic rugged cowboy of Bush from 2000.

If the Republicans become reactionary and defensive while looking old and sounding dated, and the economy continues to fail, this one may just be in the bag after all.

Maybe I'm oversimpifying it, because I'm sure it will be a difficult and challenging path ahead of them, but I have a feeling that McCain's going to feel out of his league, because we've seen in the past that Obama really gets under his skin, and it pisses him off that this upstart seems to have it so easy, and this causes McCain to lose his cool.

I think he'll totally blow his cool at some point on this campaign, and he's going to come off with that simmering, seething anger you see bubbling under his skin sometimes, and those icky yellow teeth in forced "fuck you but I'll play nice" forced smile. I think he'll continue to be satirized in the press, and he won't have a sense of humour about it. He will slowly develop a strange and somewhat bastardized persona in the press. He's halfway there, with the leering desperation that oozes behind his failed quips like, "America has known me for years, unlike how they're just getting to know Senator Obama" with the breathy, creepy toothy grin he flashes at the end.

Slowly we'll see Obama emerge as the easy, afflable, fit and charming young guy he appears to be, and McCain will increasingly show his frustrated interior, and the stats will play out in Obama's favour. Obama needs to embrace more of the everyman image, sipping ice tea after basketball, cycling with his kids, holding up walking sticks from 95-year-old men and promising to "whup" congress if they fail to pass his health bill. That's the Obama that'll have this in the bag, so it's all on that shining through.

The McCain camp, of course, plans to focus their strategies on states lost to Obama in the primary season, which is going to serve like a roadmap for them. But this could be the fatal flaw in their tactics, because, while Obama may have lost to Clinton, and big, in some states, it doesn't mean the disenchanted will be casting a vote the Republican way. They're still Republicans. And Bush is barely alive with 30% approval these days, and no matter how much McCain wants to pretend he's a bold new era, that pesky record of voting just like Bush is going to bite him in the ass sooner or later, and if Wall Street has any more 3% loss days and oil continues skyrocketing over $140 a barrel, there's no fucking way Business-as-Usual will continue to be swallowed by the less savvy political minds out there.

So, ultimately, Obama has the campaign advantage, 'cos they have a clear showing of where their message requires work, and where they stand the most opposition.

And Hillary Clinton has a lot to prove to the Democrats right now. They fought too hard, created too divisive a water for Obama to get across on his own, and now she needs to help heal that riff. Bill Clinton has hurt the party, and his wife, even more with his derisive, redneck attacks on Obama.

Unlike the rest of the media, who are saying, Oh, this is the nail in the Clintons' coffin, I completely disagree! It's like that moment in Apollo 13 when Ed Harris speaks back to the NASA bigwig who says this mission could be NASA's worst moment, and Harris says, "With all due respect, sir, I think it will be our finest hour."

And that's the situation before the Clintons right now. They both fucked up in the campaign when they a) let everything slip from their grasp, and b) got petty and unscrupulous on the primary trail. They're not stupid, they realize all the mistakes they've made, but they got caught up in the swirlie of when things go to shit and start to circle the drain, sometimes you just can't break the tide you're caught in. I think that's what happened to the Clintons.

But they'll regroup and they'll channel into the brilliant political minds they are, and while they let everything come apart in the span of three months, they have five months to reverse the damage they'd done, and I think they will. They know the nation will never forgive them if this election is lost, and they won't let that happen.

They're charming and spectacular people who understand the American mindset almost as well as masterminds like Rove. They fucked up, but if they can regroup, they can be a huge part of a massive victory party come November, and I don't think it's too late for that to happen. In fact, I'm cheering like you wouldn't believe that they find it within themselves to put all their political bullshit aside, be themselves, and be magnets that help guide Obama to victory in a time when there's practically a greenlight to the White House, if only they're smart enough to capitalize.

Bill Clinton will be outraged that he fucked up a chance to redeem his legacy in a post-blue dress/Lewinsky world. He'll get a chance to step back and get a constructive look at his asinine behaviour, and he'll start to see more of himself in Obama, who's the same age now as Clinton was when he took the office, and I think he'll become more helpful than he's been. He can become a mentor to this guy, a guy who feeds off of mentor-pupil relationships more than any politician in recent history, and he can be the father of the "kid's" campaign, if he can put his ego aside long enough to start being a guide rather than a star.

Or at least that's how I see it.

Labels: , , , , ,

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Hillary Gives it Up

THAT is the Hillary Clinton I originally wanted to see run for President of the USA. She was classy, real, articulate, and everything she should have been throughout her campaign.

I don't know where she became the person that I started to loathe, but I found her so disingenuous, and it pissed me off, too, because I used to like her.

I've always had issues with her, like her voting for the Iraq war, but I've always liked her potential.

Part of me would still love to see an Obama-Clinton thing going on, but I don't know if that would be a good thing. I don't think Obama would go for it. I think he will make her a big player in his administration, but I doubt he would have her as VP, just because Bill is too loose a cannon these days.

However, if Bill became a fan of Obama, became loyal and a fighting fan of his, he could be invaluable too have close to him throughout is campaign, particularly if foreign policy is a passion of his and he wants one of the nation's best ambassadors at his beck and call.

I still think the VP ticket's more unlikely than it is possible. Besides, the latter scenario, Bill the lapdog and policy advisor, is manageable regardless of Hillary's positioning in Obama's future.

But I think her concession speech was fantastic. I think her holding off for a few days is all right, but the press needs to make a big deal about it because if it's not a big deal why do they have jobs, right? But she held off, speculation got batted about, an effort to pressure Obama into sticking her on the ticket was quashed right away by HC. And a lovely, mysterious "Have some water?" meeting went down at Feinstein's. All in all, not a bad week. Great press, and like they say, all press is good press, 'cos it means they remember your name.

I was wondering if Hillary would employ some of Obama's catch-phrases in her campaign concession/endorsement or not. That she did made me grin. Good for her. Way to show some loyalty. Way to take one for the party, kiddo.

Either way, Hillary's going to have a huge role with Obama. I think that goes without question. I think people who believe she can only achieve real impact in his administration by way of the VP show an obscene lack of imagination.

I'm not concerned, and I'm glad to know she's very much the teamplayer after all. There was a report with an unnamed source, a couple weeks ago, declaring that, in Bill and Hill's eyes, it was "Hillary first, DNC second." I began to worry she would not exhibit grace at a loss, and feared the outcome of the election as a result.

I think I overspoke my comments re: Hillary inadvertently referencing RFK's assassination in regards to Obama's campaign. I never thought she deliberately mentioned assassination in reference to Obama. I just thought it was incredibly stupid, politically, to mention assassination when there's a very underspoken fear that, all it takes is just ONE person with a gun in a nation of hundreds of millions,
to end his ambitious black-guy run.

It was stupid and asinine and very amateur, politically, for her to have spoken it the way she did. But that happens. I really don't think she'd ever have intentionally put it as such. It was one of those slips, and on one of the worst topics. The political convergence of a perfect storm.

And I think, in retrospect, she probably feels a little ashamed for her conduct in the primaries, when she kept being petty about the "Bittergate" comments of Obama's, her banging of the Weatherman drum, that kind of shit, when he so gracefully said, in a live debate, that she probably "misspoke" about Bosnia's sniper-fire incident.

At the end of this campaign, Hillary's got to be beating herself up for becoming a little too malicious and catty on the campaign trail. She's going to wonder how she and her husband became so venomous and desperate, and she's going to have regrets, because she's a better person than the duplicitous politician she became along the way.

But I suspect she'll feel that, if she had to lose to someone, this Obama kid's not a bad guy to lose to. Good, teamwork is good! I'm looking forward to her role in his campaign. This'll be fun to watch!

The Wrath of Gardeners

City people tend to take up gardening in their yards or at their summer houses with a generous attitude toward summer’s bounty, ready to live and let live. The woodchucks want a few zucchini? No problem, there are enough to go around. The rabbits are decimating the lettuce? Get a humane trap and move them elsewhere.

Soon enough, though, they realize it’s not that simple. The animals do not take one or two tomatoes as if they’re in a greenmarket in the Hamptons; they go down the row sampling, so that everything is ruined. Or they uproot and destroy a crop, without eating a thing, in their search for insects and grubs. There is, in fact, a sameness to the stories the gardeners tell: “If they just had taken one head of lettuce, or a few strawberries — but they decimated the whole thing!” After a season of grueling labor and multiple attempts at benign deterrence, the sight of a trashed garden is often the last straw: the moment when a gentle gardener will suddenly go Rambo.
So, you've met my squirrels? Read the rest of this great wrath-of-gardening Times article.

I couldn't bring myself to fire an airgun at the fuckin' squirrels and after they'd notched up $1000 in damage on my patio: Years of Christmas lights eaten through (hey, I'm the eternal optimist... sooner or later they gotta get electrocuted, no?), a hammock devoured, chair cushions destroyed, my ornamental crow (that was my mother's) completely attached and chewed and mangled and ultimately discarded, garden after garden after garden has been just crushed. They've eaten all my labours.

Murder was always on my mind. I would have killed them. I just think it's against the law and I'm all pussy about that shit. Fuckin' squirrels!


Friday, June 06, 2008

Political Musings

Is it just me or is John McCain looking more and more uncomfortable on the trail? His jokes fall flat, his timing blows, his smile looks fake (and very yellow). I'm pretty happy to see his skin visibly looking to crawl.

The polls say it's 47-45% for Obama nation-wide, but I'm holding out hope this will be a sizable lead
for Obama before long. He'll get his momentum back that he had in February. Clinton may have fought hard, but she trained our young Jedi well and now the fight in him is strong.

I think Clinton will surprise people, and she'll check her head, get her emotions straightened out, and I think she'll be a powerhouse of support for Obama as the election comes. I suspect he'll get someone else as a running mate, but that she'll be given a big post under Obama. He'd be a fool not use her.

But this is like Nixon versus Kennedy in the first year that television really had a campaign impact. Kennedy was photogenic, Nixon was stiff and awkward. Now, who does that couple remind you of? Yeah, McCain's gonna look like obselete robot man with icky yellow teeth and an uncomfortable smile, with bad timing for jokes and no ability to get a good speaking cadence going. Obama's Mr. Charismatic, with natural charm and ease, and he's as comfortable as the day is long in front of the television, has a sexy-as-hell smile and laugh, and knows how to joke around.

I mean, he said he'd "whup" congress, and the joke flew. Try that one, McCain.

What, five more months of campaigning? God help me. This'll be worse than the five weeks counting down till summer vacation begins as a schoolkid. Wow. I had this moment of clarity last night, imagining how November 5th would feel if Obama won. Wow. What a day that would be. I had this little vision of going to my doctor and saying "Hey, it's okay for me to go off my anti-depressants! Bush admin is dead, long live Obama!

As opposed to the hellish hangover-like feeling that begin the morning after Gore lost by a hair, and continued for most of the next decade. Having a systematic lack of hope is no way for any people to be living, is it?

Speaking of hope, it's Friday! Yay! We loves the weekend! And this one's for catching up on sleep, and getting my body fixed by the chiropractor. And then I'm going back into kamikaze fitness mode, but with a little more restraint and pragmatism re: injuries and such. Whew. :)

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The Obama Afterglow

The whole "Clinton/Obama" dream ticket's never gonna happen, even if I was one of the people going "Wow, that'd be swell!" back in January.

Never. Gonna. Happen.

Obama's talking about the Bold New Future, and there's no room for controversy-laden baggage-carrying VPs when he can choose from a whole broad spectrum of promising politicians that could bring a totally different element to the White House, plus, a whole lot less of the limelight-seeking husband with a flashpoint temper and a penchant for speaking his mind a little too freely with nil regard for the consequences.

Billy-boy's always been a bit of a smack-talker, but he's really let run with some of his comments of late, like the alleged race-baiting of his and all that. He isn't cut out to be in the Mr. VP role. Mr. President, sure, but as Mr. VP? His ego's far too big to be shunted off to the side.

I have no idea who Obama will pick. My knowledge of Yankee politicking ain't that strong. I know the big issues and big players but the rest of it sort of slips past me. Someone like Joe Biden would work for me, though. Heh, perfect world? Ralph Nader.

Still, what a terrific night. Obama versus McCain. I mean, you couldn't get more black or white, could you, with those two guys? Mr. Skin-Cancer-Prone pasty-white man and a guy named Obama. Awesome. What a great election year. Like bedtime stories nightly for the politically addicted.

THIS feeling is about 180 from the day George Bush Jr. got reelected. Wow. I remember my coworker saying the reelection (the morning after) was akin to "the downfall of civilization".

Not tonight, man. Wow. America came this far this fast? Nicely done. Really nicely done.

And the further we get into this campaign, the more I get nervous when I hear McCain speaking of the Iraq war. He's a little too intent on policing and I suspect for too long, and he's too non-committal to the idea of getting out sooner than later. Plus, he keeps confusing factions and stuff, which is disconcerting on a few levels when one considers the complex "quagmire" Iraq has become.

Used to like McCain. Don't trust him as much right now, is all.

The thought of Obama getting in, though... that's a nice bedtime story for a politically disillusioned Steff, indeed. Now all's we need's a victory.

(PS: I got $20 says Obama will use H. Clinton in a posting that involves getting universal healthcare into play. That'd be a no-brainer.)

Procrastination Post Before the Rainy Scooter Ride

I need to get crack-a-lackin' to work, but I'm BAGGED! My friend and I climbed the stairs; she did 19 floors, I did 25. Blah!

And it's RAINING. And I don't want to scoot in it. Not scooting in it costs $5. Not good.

But it's apparently not raining at the airport, so if I wait a half-hour... maybe no rain? Maybe? Heh. Living the life of possibility, that's me.

We got to talking about people, the friend and me. I spoke of someone I perceive to be the kind of person who insults everyone and then laughs, like it's a big joke, so you never really know if they're actually being mean. YOU know the type. We all know those people.

I think I used to kind of do that, but I never meant to insult anyone. I think I just always made backhanded comments without realizing their full impact. This person I'm speaking of knows exactly what they're doing, they're just that type. Whether they realize how hurtful the comments actually can be, I don't know.

I'd prefer to believe they're ignorant of the hurts they dole out. I suspect they're the kind of person who somehow thinks their life's tougher than anyone else realizes, ergo they have more steam to blow, that kind of thing. It still really sucks and I despise that behaviour, but I'd still prefer to think they're not being vindictive on purpose.

I know that the older I get, the more I realize what a dick I can be sometimes. I suspect we all see our faults larger than maybe we should, but I'm deliberately looking for my faults these days, because I'm tired of being who I've been and it's been staring studiously at myself that's allowed me to grow as much as I have been.

That job, last year, I'll always be grateful I had that experience. I never, ever want to be a toxic, poisonous, selfish person, and I found myself becoming one last year because I was working within such an environment. Truth be told, I was headed down that path anyhow as a result of life's challenges the past few years, but the person I was working with really tuned me into being a negative person since she was the best ever at negativity and self-victimizing

It's taken me three years, nearly four, to work through all my post-head-injury bullshit and the depressions that came on its heels. Last week I caught a documentary about head injuries that has made me a little more conscious of all the things I've been quietly percolating on lately, like how much I've changed since my accident -- mentally, emotionally. I had NO business going back to work when I did. I should have taken months off of work. Months and months and months. I wasn't myself for several months, arguably the last few years, really, and now I'm learning much of who I'd become with the moods, impulsiveness, and lack of focus were probably a result of my head injury.

Sigh. I'm only really feeling like myself again now... and it's been a long, hard haul to this point. Wandering back alleys before a concert a couple weeks ago with a good friend, I quietly brought up that I knew I've been not nearly as good of a friend as I wish I had been these last few years, that it's been a hard, long road, and I'm grateful my friends have been patient through it all. My friend quietly responded that it has been a "long, long wait" that wasn't always rewarding, but he always figured I'd make the trip back.

That's another thing my other friend and I were chatting about just now, how hard it is to stay yourself and stay positive when life's feeling like a grind every single day because of life-inflicted challenges or injuries. People keep saying "Oh, it's a hard journey, you have to suck it up and keep the faith" but that's just such bullshit when every single day is a challenge you need to steel yourself against.

Like, there's 24 hours ahead of you, and 18 of them will be spent consciously aware that your body a) feels wrong, b) hurts, and c) nothing is changing; yesterday was the same and tomorrow looks like more of. Then the next day is the same, and the day after that, until one day you realize it's been 500 days, or 1,000 days, or more since you've felt good and ready for anything life had to throw at you.

I spent 3-4 years in that cycle, daily facing unknown variables of pain. Daily having to wonder if my choices for the day ahead -- a walk, a bike ride, a concert -- would result in migraines or blown knees or what. It's no wonder I'm, even now, still learning to reconnect with who I used to be before I became this poisonous, negative, chronically injured and down person that was brought on by endless injuries and pain.

Even still, I have my bad days. Even that's starting to change. This month is the first time EVER that I've been able to go to concerts and head-bang or mosh or whatever the fuck you want to call it and NOT have migraines the next day. First time ever. :) Very, very, very happy. Can you imagine just knowing, for instance, that concerts are one of your favourite things but the only way you can see them is if you consciously accept the next day will be spent in a migraine? That's par for the course for my life for the last 15 years... until now.

And even if life can be hard still, and I still have battles worth waging, I'm a better person, and better in every single possible way. There is NO way in which I am worse than I used to be. None. No way in which I have failed to embrace change or growth.

In every single way, every single area of my life, every single aspect of who I am, I am better. Without question. Every week, every month, I am still improving. I threw the brakes on last September and stopped becoming a person I disliked, and every month since, I have grown and improved.

THAT is a powerful thing to know about yourself. So while I still have hard days, while the road and struggle I'm on seems long and unending, I am always able to stop, think about things, and comparatively assert that I'm making progress everywhere. Nothing is done, nothing is complete, no end is in sight... but progress is all encompassing in my life.

Sigh, yet still it rains. Allwright then. Time to shower and then go ride through a shower. What fun! But I'll be doing it as a better person, right? So there's that. :) SNICKER. Yeah, whatever, sunshine, eh?

No matter how good a person I become, I'll always have time and space for self-deprecation. Life's too short to take yourself too serious. ;)

And YAY for the projected end in sight for the Obama/Clinton mudslinging. FINALLY.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Of Food, Beans, Pilates, and Idiocy

Yesterday was a gruelling foodie day of cleaning, shopping, and cooking. For about $25, I've got food for a week and a bit.

I made falafel from scratch with chickpeas and red lentils. It was kinda a futzy culinary effort because the recipe was way off-base moisture-wise, and it's hard to get it nailed down to the right texture, especially if you're cooking it low-fat like I do.

I think a lot of amateur chefs don't realize how much their natural environment affects baking. They look at baking recipes and think they're universal, but the qualifier no one talks about it is, there are regions where the moisture in the air will affect dryness in flour, etc. As a result, your recipe could need more moisture, it could need less. Don't just blindly follow what's there, right?

So, I know the texture falafel's got to be at a minimum, so I wound up having to use all the rest of my homemade bread breadcrumbs. Sigh. (Now I gotta start making bread again!) Finally I got it right, and fried 'em all up on my Griddler with about a teaspoon of oil for every 12. Made, like, 50 of 'em and a sandwich takes 3. Cool. Muuuuch lower in fat than about 90% of the falafels in the world, I imagine.

I made one of my favourite cheap, rustic, invent-a-recipes I came up with over the years. It's always a variation of this:

A pound of sausage meat or sliced sausages (this time was garlic sausage, but I also love doing mini 1/2-inch meatballs of Italian sausage meat) sauteed. When it's almost ready, one well-chopped huge sweet onion gets chucked in and sauteed 3 or 4 more minutes. Then I add one each of chopped yellow, red, and green pepper, so lotsa peppers. Saute until the peppers soften. Add a drained, rinsed can of butter beans or cannelini beans. Give it a good mix to get the beans coated with all those flavours. Add a small (340 mls or so) can of tomato sauce. If you're being cheap, add dried basil or oregano to your satisfaction at this point. Cook about 15-20 minutes at a simmer, then get ready to serve with greens and crusty bread. If you're splurging, wait till the end and add a 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil. Shit, it doesn't even need cheese it's so tasty and nice. I will throw in 1/2 cup of chopped flat-leaf parsley with the cheaper oregano/basil effort, too, sometimes.

I'll even serve that on the side of hash browns and eggs, and everyone always likes 'em. They're lunch this week, all week. Falafel will be dinner nightly. Ooh, boring times ahead, but a good mix of foods, and on the very, very cheap. Well done!

But now I'm all bagged and really don't want to go to work, much less START a workweek. Ha.

At least I did 20 minutes of Pilates (on I started another routine, actually, a 35-minute "beginner's" routine that was a waste of fucking time. The woman was the stupidest instructor ever, and it's the only video she does the instruction for, so that's fabulous. I flipped out and shouted at my laptop, "You are a STUPID, STUPID instructor!" and ended that routine after about 8 minutes of wanting to pop a vein. :P I chose a Level II routine instead, since I've done some Pilates in the distant past, but holy shit was that effective. I expect a world of abdominal hurt by about 9pm tonight, never mind the morning. Great workout. Man, it's been a while since I've done Pilates. That could be a useful 3-4 time a week routine, actually, at 20 minutes in length. Holy abdominal hell, I'm sure. Good stuff. (Wow, I feel like an alien has taken over my brain. I'm liking this suffering shit? What's wrong with me, anyhow?)

Oh, by the way: I've been avoiding discussing politics because I'm so very disgusted by the Clinton campaign these days, with Bill spouting off about cover-up conspiracies and Hillary being a fucking IDIOT enough to even broadly speak of candidates getting assassinated, and every other fucking thing they've been doing, that it seems pointless for me to speak of it. I'm just biting my tongue and hoping this week resolves who's running and the fuckin' mouthpiece unit of the Clintons can shut the hell up and take an exit at stage left. God. Hoping!

Ahh, fuck it. Back to my coffee.