Posted on Monday, January 7th, 2019
I can pinpoint when my love affair with bread began... Elementary School. The cafeteria had these amazing rolls that defy description. But I'll try for you. They were dense without being heavy. They were drenched in butter for fantastic flavor. They were everything I love about bread. You used to be able to buy extras for a quarter. I bought a ridiculous amount of them. I even took them home for my mom because they were just that good.
Then I graduated to Middle School and that was the end of it. I never had them again, though I would often think back to those heady days of breaded bliss.
I'd eat a lot more bread over the years, of course, but none of it quite compared.
Then one day at a family holiday dinner, my sister-friend's mother-in-law brought homemade garlic bread. And there is was... the bread I had been missing for decades was on my plate.
Naturally I was immediately obsessed. Turns out it's a sourdough hybrid that uses both sourdough starter and yeast to rise. This means you can get good flour density without being heavy like a brick. And it wasn't sour despite having sourdough in it. I ended up taking a jar of sourdough starter home with me so I could make my own. For years I rarely bought bread, I made my own.
Then tragedy struck.
When I moved to my new place, I accidentally left my starter out in my car for a week. I thought it would be fine since it was winter, but when I finally remembered it, the poor thing was in pretty bad shape. I could never get it to rebound, and eventually it developed a reddish-pinkish hue and had to be thrown out.
My life was in turmoil back then, so it was easier to just buy bread, and I forgot about making it.
But then it was served at Christmas dinner last month and I fell in love all over again. I was given another jar of starter and have been making my own bread again ever since...
Lately I've been experimenting with the amount of flour I add. More flour results in denser bread that's not too dry, if you don't overdo it. Less flour results in a higher rise, when you want flakier bread or use it to make cinnamon rolls.
And this time I promise to take good care of my starter so he won't ever go pink again.
Posted on Wednesday, January 30th, 2019
Lay's potato chips were on sale at the grocery store so I bought a couple bags. And while I love them plain right out of the bag, I was craving the chip dip that my mom used to make. It was the same dip that my grandmother used to make. I think she got the recipe from the mother of one of my mom's friends. Since both my mom and grandma are gone now, I guess I'll never know for sure where it came from. One of a million things I should have asked about but never did.
Here's the base recipe...
It's good just like that, but there are optional add-ins if you're wanting something more exciting...
Tonight I just made the base recipe with a little cayenne. It was exactly what I needed.
And everything I didn't.
It's been seven months since my mom died and there's always something there to remind me that she's gone. If it's not the pictures of her on the wall or cream cheese dip, it's something else.
There doesn't have to be a ghost for you to be haunted. All it took for me was a bag of chips.
Posted on Sunday, March 10th, 2019
Stop worrying your pretty little head over whether Spring is here or not here... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Free! As I've mentioned more than a few times on this blog, I'm a huge fan of Alex Honnold. He's a world-famous free solo rock climber who recently rocketed into the limelight because of the Oscar-winning documentary film Free Solo (sadly, I didn't get to see it in IMAX like I wanted to, and ended up renting it). I first heard of the guy in 2007 or 2008 after he free soloed Yosemite. At first I thought he was a lunatic with a death-wish, but after reading numerous interviews over the years, I found him to be one of the most philosophical, funny, genuine people on the face of the planet. And the most talented athlete on earth...
If you haven't seen free Solo yet, it's absolutely worth your time. It's an amazing film that changed my perception of Honnold yet again. But if you want to see Alex being the Alex that I became obsessed over the past decade, here he is (watch to the end, because it gets better as it goes on)...
It used to be that every year on Christmas as a part of my "End-of-Year Checklist" I would Google Alex to see if he was still alive. Now that he's so incredibly famous, I don't have to. If something were to happen to him I'm sure the entire world would know.
• Zero Stars! When I had to start eliminating carbs, the transition from "regular" to "sugar-free" sodas was a tough leap to make. What made it easier was Coke Zero, which is far and away my favorite carb-free pop (followed by Diet Dr. Pepper, Diet A&W Root Beer, and Sunkist Orange). One of my favorite sodas, Stewart's Orange Cream, has no diet equivalent... which is why I was thrilled to see "Coke Zero Orange Vanilla" at my local Safeway...
Holy shit what a horrendous load of toxic sludge! It tastes nothing like an orange cream soda, but instead tastes like an extremely artificial vanilla cola with a weird orange aftertaste. Really gross, which is why I am mad I bought an entire 12-pack. Looks like I need to investigate adding a hint of vanilla to Sunkist Diet Orange Soda to see if I can get what I'm looking for.
• Life! Ricky Gervais is one of the most brilliant minds in entertainment, and I'm always looking forward to what he's doing next. Turns out it's the Netflix series After Life, and it's one of my favorite things he's done thus far...
The show has a rocky start because his character is pretty awful. But the 6-episode series is a journey that ends in a very different place, and it's a worthwhile trip to take. With all the horrors I've been facing these past couple years, it's nice to run across something that is saying exactly what I need to hear. Highly recommended.
• Stick! One of my favorite kitchen brands is OXO Good Grips. I ended up replacing almost all my bakeware with their stuff and was happy with that... at first. Then I found out that my "non-stick pizza pan" can't even cook biscuits without them sticking like cement...
Even worse? The bread pans and jelly roll pan are rusting under the folded edges. And so... I guess OXO Good Grips is no longer my favorite kitchen brand. Really sad that I wasted my money on this garbage.
• Billions and Billions! Wealth inequality is something that I don't really think about because there's nothing I can do about it. Obscenely wealthy people own this country and get to decide how things are going to be. The fact that what they decide inevitably benefits only them (and their pocketbook) regardless of how it screws the rest of us... or the environment... or whatever else is in their way, is just our sad reality. Which is why shit like this is so unsurprising...
Thinking that these horrible people will ever have to pay for the lives they've destroyed is laughable.
And, on that note, I guess we're out of bullets...
Posted on Wednesday, April 17th, 2019
Last night I headed to South Coast Plaza to bask in all the things I will never be able to afford to buy. It always amazes me how some of these high-end stores have like... a mere fifty items for sale... yet manage to pay the obscene money that the rent must cost. Until I realize that selling just two $8000 purses a week means that a store would clear $64,000 a month. Then it all suddenly makes sense.
Easter is a big to-do at the mall. They decorated up an entire wing to be Springtime fantasy town in America...
Where you can get your kid's photo taken with a creepy robotic Easter bunny...
For the adults? Pieces by the late, great Alexander McQueen were on display...
So... fun for all ages then!
The first thing I did was buy two-and-one-quarter glorious pounds of something I could afford... California Crunch at See's...
"Would you like them wrapped?
"Please! Lord, yes! If you don't wrap them, they'll never make it home."
The second thing I did was head to The Apple Store.
I desperately need a new laptop. It's literally the only tool I need in order to work while I travel. I went to the Apple Store to once again take a look at their MacBook Pro, thinking maybe I was being too critical in my previous assessments. So I start typing on one. Again. Which I find almost impossible... it's so uncomfortable, and I'm making more spelling errors than I'm spelling words correctly. So I ask the Apple sales guy "Do you ever get used to the keyboard? Does it ever start feeling normal?" His response? "I don't know that you ever really get used to it... it's more like you adapt to it..."
And so I walked out buying nothing.
There was a time that I was such an Apple whore that I bought shit just because it had the Apple logo on it. Now I have grown to loathe the company and their shitty products so much that I don't even know what to do with my rage. The Apple Developers Conference is coming up. If they are going to announce a new MacBook Pro, that will be the time. Will it have a keyboard you can actually type on? Who knows? If not, I guess I see if I can repair my SEVEN YEAR OLD MACBOOK, which is far superior to anything Apple currently has for sale.
The third thing I did was meet up with Jordan Ninja, Atomic Bombshell, and family, for dinner at Din Tai Fung. This is an amazing dumpling restaurant that has all kinds of amazing dishes on the menu. It also has a statue of Bao in the lobby!
If you don't know Bao, it's an amazing Pixar Short cartoon...
Needless to say, I ate entirely too much.
And because I never learn my lesson, I decided to eat entirely too much at lunch today as well.
At the recommendation of Jordan Ninja and Atomic Bombshell, I decided I wanted to visit France while in Orange County because I am a fanatic over French pastries. 15 minutes walk from my hotel is a French cafe called Moulin, which has a beautiful display of pastries to drool over...
This place is pretty amazing. I am a sucker for a good cream puff, so I ordered a "St. Honoré." Apparently my pronunciation was accurate enough that the woman behind the counter assumed I spoke French. Everything tastes eerily authentic. Down to the taste of the flour and the way the cream reacts when you cut through it. And, because I am a glutton for punishment, I got a croissant as well...
And now... I'm close to exploding.
Good thing I'm on my way home before I can do any further culinary damage.
Posted on Friday, April 19th, 2019
I am beyond exhausted. Taking care of Jake as he recovers from his fall is a full-time job. A big chunk of my day is spent trying to make sure he doesn't have to exert himself. Whenever I see him hobble up to something and look like he's going to jump up, I go running to lift him up instead.
Day and night.
When what I really need to be doing is working.
Though today I did end up taking time to make some greasy pub fries, which are my favorite thing to eat right now. Last week I documented my efforts so I could blog about it, but then travel happened and Jake happened, so I never got around to it.
I Love fries.
Problem is that here in the USA they usually suck. Either they're undercooked and not crispy... or they've been sitting for too long... or they have no flavor... or they're entirely too salty. Way too many things go wrong, and they usually do.
My favorite fries are from the Netherlands. They really know how to cook a potato! Most places in Europe do. And they're usually cooked-to-order, so they always taste their best.
But here? Not so much. And so... last Summer I started making my own fries. Here's what I've found makes the best fries after dozens of batches and months of trial and error...
As for oil... I just use the cheapest vegetable oil I can find. I cook with it 3 or 4 times until the refuse accumulation is too high. They recommend that you dispose of the oil in a milk carton. I don't drink milk, so I let it cool completely, pour into a bowl, freeze, then scoop into the trash before I take it out.
And there you have it! Perfect fries you can make at home!
And now it's back to taking care of my poor cat.
Posted on Sunday, April 28th, 2019
I don't mind my allergies splitting my head apart thanks to everything in the valley blooming at the same time... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Thrones! I may be in the minority here, but I felt that the majority of the latest episode, The Battle of Winterfell, was embarrassingly bad. Everything was filmed so dark that it was almost impossible to see what was happening. Even worse, much of the action was shot way too close, so even if you could see what was happening, you couldn't tell what was going on anyway. They literally could have just skipped most of the episode, had somebody summarize what happened in two minutes, and the result would have been practically the same for me. Disappointing. Though I'll be the first to say that the ending was exactly what I wanted to see. w00t!
• Trek V2. The CGI effect upgrades they gave to old Star Trek episodes back in 2006 are pretty great. Definitely helps then to hold up for modern audiences. Recently I was watching Tomorrow is Yesterday for the hundredth time and found myself forgetting what the old effects looked like. So I looked it up on YouTube and found this...
Right off the bat I found something surprising...
ZOMG! PLEASE NOTE THAT THEY REVISED THEIR VIEW OF THE PLANET BECAUSE IN THE FUTURE THEY KNOW THAT THE EARTH IS FLAT!!!
• Vegetarianism Fail. When I first became a vegetarian back in 1986, eating out was a challenge. Pretty much all you could do was ask for a grilled cheese or try to find a salad without meat on it. Now-a-days it's so much easier. Except at my local "V.I.P." theater. Their big "thing" is wraps. They've got quit an assortment of them. Every last one of them with meat on it. Even the "Veggie Extreme" is SO EXTREME that it has chicken on it! Baller!
Since they didn't have a vegetarian option, I asked if they can substitute avocado for the chicken. Nope! But they can leave the chicken off and charge me $1.25 for avocado though! Fuckers. If you're not going to have a vegetarian-friendly option, at least allow a reasonable substitution!
And so... French fries it is. Except... it literally took them THREE TRIES to deliver my fries. They'd walk in the theater. Wander up and down the aisle. Then leave. Then come back. And then... it was only because I FLAGGED THEM DOWN that they managed to find me, even though I had to give them my row number when I ordered! Needless to say, my fries were cold... not "unwarm" BUT FUCKING COLD... by the time I got them. Pathetic. Some "V.I.P." experience.
• You Spin Me! Most of the time I scan the episodes of Fallon, Myers, Corden, and Kimmel on my DVR for the guest, then delete as many as I can. The only reason I watch is if there's a guest I want to see. Like Paul Rudd. And his appearance on Fallon did not disappoint. Paul and Jimmy remade Dead or Alive's You Spin Me Round...
For comparison's sake, here's the shot-for-shot next to the original...
• Let Them Implode. Long ago, back before I started weaving Buddhist precepts into my Path of Life and gave up weapons of violence, I was proud to be a member of the National Rifle Association. This was back when they were dedicated to promoting gun safety and advocated for reasonable restrictions when it came to allowing people access to firearms ALONG WITH defending Second Amendment rights. Now that they are a corrupt organization in the pocket of gun manufacturers who prey on people with nothing but fear and lies, I fucking detest the NRA and everything they stand for. Nothing would make me happier than to have the entire organization be flushed down the toilet like the fucking pieces of shit that they are. And take NRA cheerleader Dana Loesch with you. She's fucking garbage too. Bring back the NRA whose principles were rooted in responsible, safe gun ownership. If we can't have that, then please let the whole fucking thing implode.
• Wall Chowder. Every time I have to listen to bullshit about President Trump's MASSIVELY EXPENSIVE WALL... all I can think of is how drones powerful enough and large enough TO CARRY A PERSON OVER THE WALL ARE CURRENTLY USED FOR CONSTRUCTION! And, like everything tech-related, they are just going to get cheaper and cheaper and cheaper. Somebody in Mexico could buy a couple and earn a fortune FLYING PEOPLE OVER THE WALL. Make no mistake... Trump's wall is a stupid, STUPID, STUPID, FUCKING STUPID waste of money. Within 5 years it could be rendered obsolete. Or be obsolete within 10 minutes, considering tunneling under the fucking thing IS AS EASY AS DIGGING A FUCKING TUNNEL. And now I'm filled with rage. Again. Forget the horrendous damage to the environment and migrating species that will be severely impacted... WE CAN'T FUCKING AFFORD IT NOW THAT ALL OUR TAX REVENUE IS GOING TOWARDS TAX CUTS FOR THE WEALTHY! Exactly how big of a fucking deficit do we need?
See you on the flip-side, bullet fans.
Posted on Tuesday, April 30th, 2019
Last night I took care of work, then met up with friends on their last night in Vegas so we could go out to a late dinner. We ended up walking to Fatburger, which was fine by me because they not only have a great Veggie Burger (Boca Burger patty) they are now selling Impossible Burgers too! Can you imagine? Not one, but two vegetarian choices? At a burger chain? It's like they think vegetarians are real people or something!
Today was all work all the time, but I did manage to get away for a late lunch at my beloved Nacho Daddy (complete with a Long Island because I just can't help myself)...
I prefer the location in Old Town at the end of Fremont, but The Strip location is also pretty great.
After that it was back to work. I thought I'd grab a quick cup of fray from Pinkberry at Crystal Shops but was shocked to find that it was CLOSED! When I asked about it, I was told that all three of the Pinkberry locations in Vegas are now gone, including the one at The Tropicana...
Well that blows. I wonder if Pinkberry is in serious financial trouble or they just couldn't make a go of it in Vegas?
It was probably for the best, because I had dinner lined up with long-time blogging friend KC at Il Fornaio. Lucky me, they had the butternut squash ravioli at this location just like they do at the downtown Seattle restaurant...
The walnuts inside were chunkier than what I'm used to, but it was still a pretty fantastic dinner.
After saying goodbye to KC, I decided to walk next door to the Park MGM so I could see the $550 million worth of renovations that got sunk into the hotel and casino from when they took over The Monte Carlo. It's nice, but not overly-extravagant. The lobby has a very cool wood structure in the ceiling that is supposed to look like tree roots or something. I'm not quite sure how they managed to cut-and-paste things together so seamlessly, but it's pretty nifty to look at...
The Monte Carlo was always kinda an enigma to me. They advertised as a luxury brand, but the hotel and casino never much lived up to it. Sure there was marble on the floors, high-end fixtures, and such, but it always felt dated to me. When I stayed there a couple years ago I didn't think the rooms were very luxurious, that's for sure. Now that the Park MGM has taken over, it seems as though things are back on track. It's a nice-looking property in the public spaces anyway.
I had read somewhere that Britney Spears was setting up residence in the Park MGM, but she was nowhere to be found. Instead, Bruno Mars was playing a show in their theater. No idea what that's about. Now that I think about it, I haven't heard much of anything about Britney for a while now.
And there's my last night in Vegas. Tomorrow morning I'm back at work until 10:30am, then off to the airport so I can fly out and drive back home to my cats in the afternoon. It's always tough to watch them wandering from room to room looking for me and coming up empty. Especially since Jake still has a bit of a limp yet.
Crossing my fingers for an easy day of travel...
Posted on Wednesday, May 1st, 2019
I had to wake up fairly early this morning to check into work. Once I had some things handled, I had time for a leisurely shower and... surprise surprise... breakfast!
Beside myself with joy at the prospect of being able to actually have breakfast for once, I tried to think of what I wanted to eat. All that came into my head was the Fatburger I had when I arrived on Monday night. It was everything I could want in a meal. I thought I would look up Fatburger's hours to see if there was time to stop on my way to the airport.
Imagine my surprise when I found out that not only is Fatburger open 24/7... they are serving burgers all hours of the day and night!
Fatburger Veggie Burger for breakfast it was...
It was everything I dreamed it would be.
The weather has been really nice these past couple days. Warm and breezy, but not hot enough to be uncomfortable. It's almost enough to make me want to stay a couple more days. Almost.
This time around I'm staying at New York New York because it's where my friends were staying. It's also close enough to my work that I could walk instead of taking pricey taxis. It's a pretty nice hotel, even if the rooms are fairly basic. It certainly has my favorite skyline of all the Vegas Strip hotels...
My room was in that light orange tower, fourth from the right. I was actually on the North side facing The Park... something I didn't know until I finally looked out the window this morning...
1) I kept hearing "wooshing" sounds and assumed it was the wind. Turns out it's the roller coaster. The occasional sounds of people screaming were not people whooping it up on The Strip... but people riding said coaster.
2) The Park MGM hotel used to be The Monte Carlo. At the very top there is a "hotel within a hotel" with luxury suites that used to be called "Hotel32." I note that now the "hotel within a hotel" has been renamed "NoMad." I've actually been up there when it was Hotel32 and it was pretty spectacular (seriously, Google for photos of it). I can't imagine what it must look like after the remodel.
And now I'm at the airport waiting to fly home. As if that wasn't good enough news, I was upgraded to First Class for the flight home (which is pretty cool considering I was upgraded to First on the way down too...
And now it's time to head home so I can drive home!
Posted on Thursday, May 2nd, 2019
It's not like I can say my life is boring... I have been lucky enough to travel the world, meet interesting people, and do really cool stuff... but when I'm not doing that my life is as mundane as it gets. Oftentimes I question why people read this blog* when most of the time all I've got going on in my life is cats.
Take today for example.
I woke up at 5:30am, which is about average. I then check my personal email, see what's happening with my East Coast Facebook peeps, then check my work email. At 7:00am Alexa alerts the cats that it's breakfast time, so we all go downstairs where I feed them. I then do household cleaning and chores until around 8:00am when I hop in the shower and get ready for work. I am usually out the door around 8:30-ish for my 7-minute walk to the office.
I try to be out of the office at 4:00 (today I left at 4:10) and walk back home.
Today there was some excitement when I spotted an old cat with patches of fur missing walking through several yards until it decided to rest on somebody's porch (no idea if that's where home is)...
Once I got home at 4:20, I worked until Alexa chimed for the cat's dinner at 6:00pm. Since I received a notice from Home Depot that my carpet squares had arrived, I decided to run to The Big City (20 minutes away) and pick them up. Afterwards I wanted to have fries for dinner, but was too tired to make them by hand. I was going to drive to McDonalds, but Sonic was closer so I went there.
I rarely go to Sonic because they don't have vegetarian options. I only go there when they are having an ice cream promo or some kind of drink special. I've never had their fries before. AND I WILL NEVER HAVE THEM AGAIN! Holy crap! They were not very fresh, barely warm... AND THEY WERE GUMMY! As in, you had to chew through their saggy, bleak texture in a way that is usually reserved for gummy bears. And then there's my OREO Sonic Blast (AKA a McFlurry). The first third of the cup was as expected. A good distribution of OREO pieces that were large enough that they tasted like OREO. The second third was just OREO crumbs. Just a dust, really. And the final third? NOTHING! NO OREO AT ALL!
How the fuck did Sonic get to be "America's Drive-In?" Their half-assed food is a blight on the entire country!
Anyway... I head home and immediately get to work carpeting my Cat Bannister Tray when I arrive around 7:10pm. The squares were way thin, but surprisingly nice considering how cheap they were. The good news is that I have lots of spares if my cats decide to destroy the ones I installed...
And that was that.
At some point I'll build the cat-stairs up to it so it's safer for Jake and Jenny to get up there... add a shelf under the upper window so I won't go out of my mind with worry when Jenny leaps up there (nearly two full stories above the stairs below!)... and then my project will be completed. At least until I think of something else to add to it.
Around 7:40pm I threw a load of clothes in the wash then finished up a work project a little after 9:00pm.
Then it was clothes in the dryer, catching up on television, clothes out of the dryer, and I was in bed at 11:30pm so I can blog this then start it all over again tomorrow.
Thrilling, I know.
But hey, not every day can be an expedition to Antarctica.
*Yes, people actually do visit this blog. A lot. The interactivity I had from the heyday of blogging is long gone, but my wide variety of topics and daily updates means that Google sends scores of people here every day. Though it's not all search results... most days the number of people coming here directly is fairly substantial. No, I don't know why. You tell me!
Posted on Sunday, May 5th, 2019
It's Cinco de Mayo! It's also great day to be alive... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Chewy! Peter Mayhew, most famous for playing Chewbacca in the Star Wars movies passed away this week. He sounded like a wonderful, generous man...
Rest in peace, sir. You crafted a character that captured my imagination and made me love a walking carpet.
• Mattress Wars! This is some shady shit right here...
I never trust online review sites. I rarely trust reviews on any site. Unless it's coming from somebody I know and/or trust, it's just bullshit noise. And yet... I still read them in an attempt to be informed as to my purchases. =shrugs=.
• Boca? Last year Kraft abandoned their Original Boca Burgers and Vegan Boca Burgers. They instead came out with a new "Boca Burger" which is nothing like the original despite still saying "original" on the box. It tastes like shit. The Vegan burger was discontinued entirely. Recently on their Facebook page, they unleashed this steaming pile of bullshit...
Our consumers told us that their experiences with our vegan burger were better represented by a turkey burger. With this new insight, we renovated our vegan burger to better deliver on taste, texture, and flavor under the new “Turk’y Burger” banner.
Vegans no longer want a vegan burger, they want a turkey-tasting burger? Yeah that sounds like it totally happened. Now that Kraft has completely abandoned all the things people loved about the Original and Vegan Boca Burgers, hopefully some other company will step in and make an ACTUAL Original Boca-inspired burger that people actually want to eat. Personally, I think Kraft is run by lying pieces of shit who just wanted to make a cheaper burger, didn't give a crap if it tasted nothing like a Boca Burger, then decided to sell it with outrageous levels of lying. Whatever. Not buying it. Go fuck yourself, Kraft. Why buy Boca Burger if you weren't interested in making Boca Burgers?
• Chalk! I ran across this video on chalk, of all things, and found it more interesting than I thought I could...
I haven't used a chalkboard for decades. But after watching this? I have an overwhelming desire to get me some Hagoromo Fulltouch chalk and write on one! Probably cost me $5 to buy a stick, but apparently it's an experience that needs to be had.
• Deep Sky! I've professed my love of all things GigaPan more than a couple times. But now they've got something really interesting going on. They've combined thousands of photos from a tiny area of sky about the size of the moon in the sky. The result? A Hubble Telescope GigaPan Image!
This is so cool...
Yeah, you'll want to head over to the GigaPan site to play with this yourself. It is positively astounding the number of galaxies that can be found in such a small section of our sky. Google says that the average number of stars in a galaxy is 250 billion ± 150 billion.
• Follow the Money! Veronica Mars is one of my favorite television shows of all time, which is why it's so great that it's getting revisited. First with a movie... now with a new series from Hulu...
Here's hoping that it's the first of many new seasons!
• Boo Pricing! Recently Hulu lowered their prices. Apparently they understand that with so much new streaming competition that they need to be competitive. Netflix, on the other hand, is taking the opposite tact. Recently when I visited their site I was forced to accept their new pricing before they would even let me access the content that I pay for...
Well... let's see... Netflix has canceled all the Marvel shows (the reason I signed up in the first place), so I suppose this is where I tell them to take their price increase and go fuck themselves with it. Except... they do add a comedy special I enjoy from time to time. So I guess my solution will be to drop the service, then pick it up for a month a couple times a year. Maybe if everybody does this, they'll get the fucking message. Because, sure, I love having original content (when it's good) but there's a limit as to how much I can afford to spend on it.
• Thrones! The first part of this episode was exactly what it needed to be... the calm before the storm. And then the storm began. And while the result of the initial encounter was tragic and earlier than expected, it WAS expected. There are a list of things that really must happen before the story ends. And we're almost there. So now it's all about the unknowns. There's things you'd like to happen. Things you'd hate to happen. Things that, hopefully, unexpectedly happen. And two episodes left for it all to happen in. Hopefully in way that makes sense, which the back-end of this episode really did not. Does nobody ride ahead and make sure that your way is safe any more? Insanity.
• It's Not Me It's You! Last Sunday HBO unleashed an episode of Game of Thrones that took 55 nights to film. It was a massive battle that had been building for years, and was an epic sight to behold. At least it would have been had they not filmed it so fucking dark that you couldn't see a damn thing. It was a horrific mess. Even when there was light enough to see something, they filmed it so close that you still couldn't tell what was going on. Needless to say, a lot of fans were extremely pissed off. Now the cinematographer for the episode said that It's not Me, It's Your TV Settings. Which is a load of shit, of course. I have a high-end 4K television and a fiber internet connection. I black out my entire living room when watching. This is NOT my fucking fault... or that of my internet... or that of my television... or that of my viewing environment.
The cinematographer's job was to create media which could be displayed and understood in the way that people would be consuming it. Namely, streaming over the internet with compression, limited gamut, and a normal television. Not in an idealized fantasy theater with Blu-Ray 4K Ultra HD signal and a $15,000 OLED TV. Which means he completely, utterly, and totally failed to do his job. And fuck him for saying otherwise. My hope is that HBO will listen to their customers and spend the money to re-key the lighting, then rebroadcast it so people can actually see the shit. If not? Fuck them too.
And that's all he wrote for bullets this week. Tune in next week when I'll try to find more to complain about!
Posted on Thursday, May 16th, 2019
My favorite cuisine by a wide margin is Italian. So many vegetarian dishes, and almost all of them are amazing. From pasta to pizza, I could eat Italian day after day and never grow tired of it.
Until I actually eat Italian day after day and grow tired of it.
Several months ago I became obsessed with developing the perfect Cacio e Pepe recipe. Italian for "Cheese and Pepper," this is the Official Pasta Dish of The City of Rome and I've been hooked on it since I first had it there back in 2000. It's a deceptively simple dish because it has only three ingredients... pasta, Pecorino Romano cheese, and freshly ground pepper. But, in reality, it's tough to get it right.
The first mistake I made was following recipes from popular cooking sites that added all kinds of extra ingredients like butter, cream, or cheeses other than Pecorino Romano. I'd try recipe after recipe and get frustrated because it tasted nothing like what I had experienced in Rome. Eventually I found out why... just like with "Americanized" Fettuccine Alfredo, we fuck it up by adding extra shit that ruins the intended taste.
The second mistake I made was using spaghetti noodles. This is actually not terrible... I've eaten it in Rome made with spaghetti noodles. But, unlike an Italian chef, I cannot get consistent results. What you want are tonnarelli noodles, which are essentially "spaghetti alla chimaera" or "square spaghetti." Since tonnarelli doesn't have the edges rounded off, the noodle has more heft and doesn't cool quite as quickly. This pasta can be difficult to find in smaller markets, which is why I almost always end up using linguine (No. 7) noodles, and they work perfectly.
The third mistake I made was not using fine enough grate on my cheese. You must use the finest grate you have... the cheese should be almost a powder, not shreds.
The fourth mistake I made was not so much a mistake as it was a lesson. I was using plain old peppercorns right from the jar. Ideally you want the larger sized peppercorns (called tellichery) that you toast fresh before grinding. The larger peppercorns are less spicy, but more aromatic, and giving them a toasting before use helps bring out the flavor.
Once all that is handled correctly, you've pretty much won the battle.
After dropping my pasta into water which has come to a full-boil (a little salt is fine, but no oil) I blend the finely grated Pecorino Romano with a little bit of ice water to form a paste.
When the pasta is almost done being cooked to al dente (7 minutes for me), you take some of the hot, hot, boiling-hot pasta water and mix it with the above paste until you get a creamy sauce. The starch from the pasta water along with the heat has weird emulsive properties and you absolutely DO NOT need to add cream.
From there I wait for the pasta to finish cooking properly (an additional 2 minutes or 9 minutes total for me), then quickly drain, toss with the cheese sauce, add freshly-ground pepper (a bit coarse is better), then top with shredded cheese (shredded on top is fine... inside you want it almost powdered).
I like a lot of cheese on my pasta. Like, a lot of cheese. Pecorino Romano has more of a punch to it than Parmigiano-Reggiano, so using a lot of it can be a bit overwhelming. In recent years I've taken to making the same recipe as above, but substituting the Parmigiano-Reggiano so I can use extra and maintain the flavor profile I'm looking for. I also like my Cacio e Pepe to be a bit on the dry-side (too wet and it doesn't stick as easily to the noodles) so I use less pasta water than what is authentic.
After finally getting the perfect recipe, I found that I had been eating so much of it that I was sick of the stuff. Then last night I was suddenly craving it again, and this was the result...
Delicious. Except... there's at least 150 fat calories and 50g of carbs right there.
This is not a healthy dish.But it is tasty. My all-time favorite pasta, as a matter of fact (a close second is Fettuccine Alfredo, which can be constructed similarly to the above, except you use thinly-shaved egg noodles instead of tonnarelli and butter instead of pasta water).
Boy... it's going to take a lot of will-power to not have this for dinner again tonight.
Posted on Sunday, June 2nd, 2019
The summer heat has arrived, but it's cool here... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Mufasa! I'm mostly indifferent to all these Disney live-action remakes, having taken a pass on Dumbo, Aladdin, Alice in Wonderland, and the rest. The exception being The Jungle Book, which was exceptional. And now there's another I will absolutely be tuning into... The Lion King. I mean, just look at this screen grab...
The teaser trailer sure looks great...
And, the icing on the cake? Disney wisely got James Earl Jones to reprise the role of Mufasa...
While nothing could ever replace really good animation for me, really good CGI can also be fun.
• Fake! I don't know what's more impressive. Bill Heder's incredible impersonations... or the "Deep Fake" technology that puts their faces over his...
I'm going to go with "both" on this.
• Codex! One of the highlights of my visit to Milan, Italy was a visit to Biblioteca Ambrosiana (Library of Ambrose) so I could view pages from the Codex Atlanticus, a collection of works and writings by Leonardo DaVinci. Much to my surprise, they've now put this master work online, which you can look at here. It's pretty spectacular stuff...
All too easy to lose a lot of time exploring.
• Cracker! Remember the good old days when you wanted to eat crackers in bed... AND THE FUCKING PACKAGE WOULD ACTUALLY OPEN AT THE SEAMS INSTEAD OF YOU HAVING TO RIP INTO IT LIKE AN ANIMAL?!?
So stupid. How difficult is it to go back to packaging that actually opens, PREMIUM BRAND SALTINE CRACKERS?
• Burnt! I guess the money for all those golf trips has to come from somewhere. But cutting wildland firefighting jobs ahead of fire seasons that just continue to get worse and worse is insanity. Guess this country is literally going to go down in flames.
• Once More For the People in the Back! I've posted this before. It can't be shared enough...
I keep seeing misinformation as to how tax brackets work over and over and over and over again. I can't believe that there are people who don't get it.
And that's a wrap. if you're in the Northern Hemisphere, don't overheat!
Posted on Wednesday, July 17th, 2019
I've taken to blogging in the early mornings before I go to work instead of late evenings when I'm done with work. It's not been working out for me. How am I to comment on my day's events when I have barely started the day? And so... I will probably go back to late-night blogging, even though I'm usually so tired that all I want to blog about is how tired I am.
In the meanwhile though? Here was my yesterday!
Last year when I learned I needed to keep my blood sugars intact, I started walking to work so I can still eat bread and pasta. It's a short walk... 7 to 9 minutes... and I've come to really enjoy it. It's a chance to plug and clear my head, which is something that's kinda rare these days. The good news is that switching to Coke Zero and walking has been working for me. I had a great checkup with my doctor, and everything is going well. And so... more bread and pasta.
On yesterday's walk I was assaulted by a rose that was reaching outside its garden fence...
You don't get nice surprises like that driving a car.
But the bigger surprise was later that evening when I made guacamole for the first time. It was Taco Tuesday and a nice chunky guac as a topper was exactly what I needed...
It was phenomenal. And perfectly chunky enough for tacos (and chips!). And easy.
But not as pain-free as I was expecting.
In order to eliminate waste, I've been making a lot of changes in my house. Instead of buying single-use products like plastic wrap, I've been using something more sustainable or learning to live without it. I have one roll of Saran Wrap left and, at the slower rate I'm using the stuff, it should last me the rest of my life. And I've not stopped there. I've bought my last box of plastic straws. I've switched to reusable grocery bags. I'm transitioning from poly to paper wherever I can.
And I've eliminated single-use latex gloves from everywhere except my emergency kits.
The latex gloves I used to wear while chopping jalapeño peppers.
I (foolishly) thought that if I just washed my hands after cutting the peppers for my guac that everything would be fine.
As I found out later that night while falling asleep watching television, things did not turn out fine.
I reached up to rub my eyes and... ZOMG! THE BURNING!!! From the level of pain I was experiencing, you'd have thought that I squeezed a full jalapeño in my face. I can safely say that now I know what it feels like to be doused in pepper spray. It hurt a little bit when my eyes were closed... it was excruciating when my eyes were open. I have no idea why washing my hands didn't prevent this, but now I know better. I had tried some reusable kitchen gloves but they were too thick to work easily, so I guess next time I'll use a towel or a piece of wax paper or something.
One other thing that happened yesterday? The 2019 Emmys nominations were announced. For some inexplicable reason Game of Thrones, on its worst season ever, managed to rack up 32. As you can probably tell from the wrap-up I wrote, I totally don't get it. Seven seasons of brilliant set-up that was rushed to a shitty, mind-bogglingly bad conclusion deserves 32 nominations? INCLUDING BEST WRITING?!? Um. No. About the only category I think they should win is Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, because Peter Dinklage was still exceptional. He was making all the stupid be entertaining right up until the very end. He won last year, so I'm not sure he'll get it, but I sure hope so.
There was a pleasant surprise, however. Schitt's Creek, long one of the best shows on television, was nominated for Best Comedy Series. And the awesome Catherine O'Hara and Eugene Levy were nominated for respective Best Actress and Best Actor in a Comedy Series. Of course I think they should win, even though this season was not as good as the previous two seasons (when they really should have been winning all the awards). Alas, Emmy voters will probably give it to Fleabag (which probably deserves it) or Veep (because it's the final season) or The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (which I don't like at all). If Schitt's Creek can't win it, I'd hope for Barry or Russian Doll, but those seem like longshots too.
I was happy to see My Dinner with Herve got nominated for Best Television Movie, even if Peter Dinklage wasn't nominated for Lead Actor in it (which he deserves).
If anybody is interested, I've put my picks for the major awards in an extended entry. If you're not interested, I'll see you tomorrow. Probably tomorrow evening.→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
Posted on Thursday, July 25th, 2019
The people of Maine are truly a gem. They are a lovely combination of Canadian courtesy, Southern hospitality, and Midwest sensibility... all rolled into some of the nicest people you will ever meet.
Until you put them behind the wheel of a car, that is.
Every time I come here (and I've been doing it for a while now) I am in utter shock at just what aggressive assholes Maine drivers are. They are brutal, unforgiving, ruthless, and just overall mean.
Take today, for example.
I was driving back to my worksite after lunch at one of those weird Taco Bell/Kentucky Fried Chicken hybrids*. The speed limit is 30. I am driving about 42 because that's the pace that the cars ahead of me are setting. They are about ten car-lengths ahead, but I'm going the same speed that they are.
Then, out of nowhere, some woman comes blazing up behind me. She's revving her engine. She's swerving from one side of the lane to the other as if she's trying to see what could possibly be slowing me down to a mere 12 miles per hour over the speed limit. She is driving so aggressively that I become genuinely worried that she's going to crash into me. And that's the point... she is trying to intimidate me into going faster even though I'm already well above the speed limit.
And then it occurs to me.
I am driving a rental car with full LDW (Loss Damage Waiver) coverage.
So when I see a man limping across the street, having just cleared my lane, I use it as an excuse to stop. Then I'm all Let's see what happens, shall we? as I brace for impact.
She didn't hit me, but she did have to slam on her brakes and swerve off the road where it looked like she was having a heck of a time regaining control so she could keep her car on the shoulder and not slam it into the guardrail.
I can only guess that she was not happy.
But I sure was. Next time don't be such an asshole, you fucker!
Except she didn't learn anything, because she caught right back up to me, then illegally used an exit lane to burn past me at 50+ miles per hour. In a 30 mile per hour zone. I didn't look at her as she passed. I assumed there would be hand gestures I was not wanting to see. Because I'm the asshole in this scenario, apparently.
What's so stupid is that after she made all that effort to pass me, she was immediately stuck behind a whole string of cars going 40-42 miles per hour, so she was being a total asshole and almost wrecked her car for nothing. Eventually she pulled into the center lane for a left turn. I did look at her as I passed that time. Everything normal. She was focused on finding an opening so she could turn... no ugly glaring at me at all.
Look, if there's an emergency and she was trying to get her kid to the hospital emergency room because it's dying (or whatever), then fine. You should be driving like somebody's life depends on it. But then you'd be honking your horn and having your emergency flashers on so people would know to move, right? You wouldn't zoom up on somebody's bumper and act like a psychotic fucking piece of shit.
I miss my cats.
I look in on them several times during the day (and night) to make sure nothing is amiss, and it's all good. But it's still tough. This morning Jenny had an itchy ear. She keeps stopping to scratch it. She doesn't have fleas or mites or anything, this just happens sometimes with her. When I notice it, I usually step in to scratch it for her real good. There have been a couple times when I review security camera footage of her while at work that I've dashed home for a couple minutes to scratch her ears. But when I'm 2,400 miles away? All I can do is watch in frustration...
Generally speaking, my cats are very good about not jumping up on my dining room table... which I appreciate, because it saves on disinfectant cleaner from having to wipe it down all the time. But when I'm gone? Jenny seems to live on top of my table. I don't know if it's because she is always looking for me and thinks it makes a great spot to see everything... or whether she does it because she knows she's not supposed to be up there, and it's some kind of revenge for me having abandoned her. Eventually I gave up on trying to think of ways to keep her off, and just slapped a pair of my jeans down so at least she's not sitting directly on the table (because... ewwww... cat butt table). For whatever reason, Jenny absolutely loves sitting and laying on my jeans, so I never throw them out anymore. Any time they get damaged or torn beyond repair I just wash them and set them out as cat beds. Problem solved...
All day and all night...
At least she's content this way. Or as content as she can be when I'm not home, poor thing!
Jake seems to handle my absence better.
Until I get home. Then he wants me to know exactly how he feels about it.
*I like Taco Bell. They have great vegetarian options (7-Layer Burrito, Swap Black Beans for Refried beans... and their Cheesy Potato Griller is sublime) even though they may not be the healthiest options. But, when you're on the road and need vegetarian in a hurry... well... thank heavens I can "Make a Run for The Border." Though it's weird at the Taco Bell's with KFC inside, because then you are staring at weird stuff like this...
Methinks The Colonel may be reconsidering where his "chicken" comes from.
RUN, MICKEY! RUNNNNNN!!!
Posted on Friday, August 2nd, 2019
This morning after I fed my cats Jenny started making "yummy noises" while she ate breakfast. It caught me off guard because I've never heard her do that before. It was so subtle I would have missed it if I hadn't leaned over to fill the water fountain... and so adorable that I very nearly fell over laughing.
Not sure what brought this on, but it made my day.
For a little while, anyway.
Because then I decided to have tacos for breakfast and was all "SUCK IT, HATERS... only God can judge me! Wooooooo!!"
About twenty minutes later I spent an hour in "intestinal distress." Apparently God's judgement hath cometh and it cometh for me.
Guess that's what I get for ignoring Fish Friday! Though if the point of Fish Friday is to abstain from eating meat, these were vegetarian-safe tacos, so no harm no foul (no beef no fowl?). Maybe this Wrath of God stuff would make more sense if I had paid more attention in Catholic Sunday school? I dunno. I never found anything about "Fish Friday" in the Bible, so I'm guessing this came from the Catholic Church, much like "purgatory.".
In other news... my measles antibody test came back as 203. Anything higher than 29 is positive for immunization. Which left me looking at the results like... HOLY SHIT, MOM! My antibodies are at 203?!? TWO-OH-THREE?!? EXACTLY HOW MANY TIMES DID YOU HAVE ME IMMUNIZED?!?
It's nice that I'm protected as well as I can be protected from the measles plague while traveling. One less thing to worry about. Now I can focus all my worry on the plane crashing where it belongs!
Just kidding. That's probably the last thing I worry about while traveling. The way the world is going right now, sometimes I think a plane crash is the best thing that could happen to me.
And the second-best thing? Freshly-baked bread for dessert...
I'll take bread and butter over cake and ice cream any day of the week!
My turn to make yummy noises.
Posted on Thursday, August 15th, 2019
With work and Janet Jackson complete, it was time to fly back home. Yeah, it might have been nice to add a couple days vacation and relax by the pool or something, but Vegas is very different when you're alone as opposed to when you're hanging out with friends, and I'd rather just go back home to my cats (no offense, Vegas).
When I landed on Tuesday, my work hadn't gotten a hotel arranged for me yet. This is not entirely unusual for Vegas where pricing changes based on occupancy. Charities try to save money wherever possible, so waiting to see if there's a deal on a mid-week stay is just being responsible. Since I couldn't leave the airport until I knew where I was going, I decided I might as well have lunch. Burger King was right there, so I decided to see if they had the "Impossible Whopper" available. This plant-based burger is apparently the closest thing to a real burger. I dunno about that (I haven't eaten meat in 33 years, 3 months, and 24 days) all I know is that I do enjoy a good veggie burger.
Funnily enough, the wrapper says "100% BEEF" on it, so they kindly put a sticker on it to let you know that they didn't accidentally give you a meat patty...
Sure enough, it looks exactly like a Whopper...
The taste is fantastic. Not sure it's worth $7.89, but I liked it a lot and would gladly order it again.
When I ordered, the lady at the register asked if I was "vegan" because apparently they cook the Impossible Burgers on the same flame grill that they cook their meat burgers. I guess if this bothers you they can microwave it or something? All I care about is that a cow wasn't slaughtered on my behalf, so I had no objections.
After loving the burger, I researched how it was made.
The original was wheat-based. The new "2.0" version is soy-based (making them gluten-free, if that's your thing). This is nothing special, as there are plenty of burgers that are soy-based. What makes Impossible Burger so good is that they use "heme" as an ingredient. From what I understand, "heme" is the red-red component of blood that captures oxygen and is responsible for giving meat its meaty flavor. Obviously they can't use blood in a veggie burger, so they are manufacturing their own Franken-Heme in a laboratory by genetically engineering yeast to have a soy hemoglobin. They then extract the plant-based "heme" from the yeast and that's why their burgers are impossibly good.
So... if you're hardcore non-GMO, then this is not the burger for you.
It totally IS the burger for me, however, which is why I had another one before I flew home, this time with cheese...
And that's that. My plane leaves in and hour and then it's good bye Las Vegas.
But before I go, a look at what makes Vegas so totally Vegas...
My hotel room? $30. The stupid-ass "resort fee?" $35. Why the fuck they don't just be honest and charge you $75 for a room is assholery at its finest. Especially since the "resort fee" is just a scam. It includes access to the fitness center (who the fuck cares?), phone calls (doesn't everybody have a mobile phone now?), and internet access (which I could get for free by tethering to my phone). So, basically, we're paying $35 for nothing. But that's Vegas for you.
Until next time, Sin City.
Posted on Friday, August 16th, 2019
Yesterday on my way back across the mountains I stopped at the grocery store. Braving the crowds while food shopping was pretty much the last thing I wanted to do after five hours of travel, but I didn't have much choice. My cupboards, refrigerator, and freezer were all bare.
Before I went to Maine back in July, I made sure to eat all the food that could spoil so none of it would be wasted. Then I got called to Las Vegas, still didn't want to buy any new food that would go bad, so I just kept eating absolutely everything I already had. The night before my flight, I shit you not, I had pickles and saltine crackers for dinner. Not something I was interested in repeating any time soon. And so... a stop at the grocery store it was.
My shopping strategy is simple. Never buy anything unless it's on sale.
I am not terribly picky about what I eat, so this makes it easy to buy ingredients or prepared meals only when they are cheap. Except... groceries are never cheap any more, so I guess I should say "cheaper than normal." Fortunately my local grocery store has an iPhone app with all their coupons, specials, and discounts, so I also save money by making my list ahead of time and only buying what's on the list. I never "browse" at a store because then I'll just end up buying stuff I want instead of what I need.
And so... I made my list on the plane and was ready to go when I got back home. This time I scored big because a lot of key ingredients I needed were on sale. Flour so I can make bread. Tomato sauce and tortillas so I can make enchiladas. Veggie dogs so I can make veggie dogs. That kind of thing.
Another reason I like a list? It keeps me from buying things I should not be eating.
There I was at the store looking for "Sargento Balanced Breaks" healthy snack packs (on sale plus I had a 75¢ off coupon for club members!) when I saw a package of "break and bake" raw cookie dough. Something I absolutely, positively, should NOT be eating. Usually it's easy to resist cookies... I just avoid that aisle in the grocery store, and am not terribly fond of cookies any more anyway... BUT FRESH-OUT-OF-THE-OVEN COOKIES?!? How could I NOT buy that? They weren't on sale, but the generic brand was so much cheaper than the name-brand version that they were practically on sale! Close enough! And since they are crappy generic, they probably taste awful and I'll just end up throwing them in the garbage anyway, right? Sold!
Tonight I gave them a try. Not so appetizing out of the bag...
But then? OH HELL NO! THESE THINGS ARE FRICKIN' MAGIC!!!
I'm not joking. These things are phenomenal. Probably because I haven't had a fresh out-of-the-oven cookie in a decade or more.
This is terrible.
I'm thinking I can restrain myself by baking no more than three at a time... and only baking them when I already have the oven heated from cooking something else. The loophole being that I can cook up a second batch of cookies because the oven will still be warm from cooking the first batch of three cookies.
At least I think that's how that works.
And now it's time for the new Invader Zim movie on Netflix! I am so psyched I can't even stand it.
Posted on Sunday, August 18th, 2019
Prepare to be launched into a Galaxy far, far away... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Falcon Maps! It's interesting how the advent of Google Maps' "Aerial View" has forced Disney to change the way they build their theme parks. Originally, construction was treated like a movie set, where everything is just a big facade. The only thing that was themed is what people see. The best way to explain this is Main Street, where the dozens of little buildings you see on the ground are revealed to essentially be two giant buildings...
They didn't build fake roofs over each building because they didn't have to. Unless somebody chartered a helicopter, nobody was ever going to see it in 1955. But now there's Google Maps that anybody can call up on their phone, so they are more careful that the illusion is complete...
Had this been built in 1955, the fine detailing would likely have been ignored. The only thing they would bother theming would be what you could see from the ground. Personally, I think this is fantastically cool. You can literally see the Millennium Falcon parked at Disneyland, and that's no small thing.
An interesting aside here... apparently Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge has been a bit of a flop. People are complaining that there's only one ride and the rest of the place is just a giant shopping mall where you can buy overpriced souvenirs and food. That's it. Eventually a second ride will open but, again, that seems pretty lame. Perhaps Disney will add more stuff to make it more worth visiting, but right now it just seems like a cash grab. Another problem? Disney didn't recreate an authentic place from the movies. You're not walking around Tatooine or even shitty Jakku, you're at "Black Spire Outpost" which, let's face it, who cares? This seems like a major misstep, and I just don't get it. When Disney made an Avatar-themed land, they built Pandora from the movies so when you go there it's like stepping into the film. That's what people want to see, and anything less is inviting a tepid reaction. And that's exactly what Disney got.
• ZIM!!! One of the most impossibly brilliant animated series to ever grace our television sets was Invader Zim. In addition to being so brilliantly written, the look of the show was was blew my mind. It's just so beautiful. As if that weren't enough, it has GIR, Zim's robot companion, and one of my favorite characters of all-time...
Despite unprecedented critical acclaim, the series was uncerimoniously canceled by Nickelodeon because network executives are stupid. But now Netflix has revived the show for a new feature called Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus...
The movie has everything that Zim fans could want and, while it kinda-sorta wraps up the series, it also leaves things wide open for more. And I want quite badly for there to be more. Because can you ever truly have enough Zim in your life?
• Passport! I am not even going to spoil this. Just trust me when I tell you to click this link. Genius. Every last one of them is genius.
• Shazam? Ninety-one percent? Shazam got NINETY-ONE PERCENT on Rotten Tomatoes? Really? One minute it's childish and stupid as shit... the next minute there's a demon is biting somebody's head off. So exactly who was this movie made for? Psychotic children?
Even if you ignore the stupid glowing lightning-bolt-that-looks-more-like-a-triangle on his uniform, Shazam was awful. WHAT HAPPENED TO HAVING THE WISDOM OF SOLOMON? THIS SHAZAM IS A FUCKING IDIOT! About the only thing I enjoyed was Mark Strong as Sivana, despite the fact that he was a complete departure from the comic book's Dr. Sivana (and not in a good way, of course). I cannot fathom how this managed to rate 91%. I just don't get it. The only thing that kept it from total disaster for me is that they didn’t have any burp or fart jokes. At least I think the movie didn’t... I fast forwarded through the foster home stuff because all the kids were just so annoying.
• Days of Meat! On my blog entry for "The Impossible Whopper" I mentioned that it has been 33 years, 3 months, and 24 days since I last ate meat. A friend messaged me and asked how I could possibly remember the last day I ate meat. It's actually pretty easy. It was Earth Day, 1986. I remember it because my girlfriend at the time was a vegan and didn't want to kiss me because I "smelled like meat." I had a hamburger for lunch and she got mad because I "couldn't even go meat-free on Earth Day." And so I gave up eating meat right then and there. We broke up a month-and-a-half later, so I was going to go back to eating meat... except I was feeling better than I had ever felt. The allergies which had plagued me since adolescence were gone, so I stuck with a vegetarian diet. I've since learned that many people are allergic to the antibiotics they inject into animals, which probably explains why I was in such poor health my first 20 years.
• Cook Cook Cooking! Yesterday I spent a big chunk of my day in the kitchen making up meals to refrigerate and freeze. I made burritos. I made rolls. I made Mac & Cheese, I made quiche... and I made my grandmother's enchiladas recipe. While not rocket science, enchiladas make a lot of dirty dishes and a big mess (especially when you make the sauce from scratch). It's also time consuming to put them all together. And even though I started three hours before dinner-time, my cats were all excited because they thought they were getting fed. So it went something like this...
THE ENCHILADA WALTZ
Remove tortilla from the frying oil.
Put fresh tortilla in the frying oil.
"No, kitties, it's not dinner time yet."
Put the filling in the tortilla.
Put the cheese in the tortilla.
Flip the tortilla that's in the frying oil.
Fold up the enchilada and add it to the pan.
"No, kitties, it's not dinner time yet."
After a full day and two loads in the dishwasher, I flopped down on the couch exhausted. But then it really was dinner time for the cats and I had to get up again. I really wish that ten million dollars would fall into my lap so I could hire somebody to come in and cook for me.
• Visitations! For the first time ever, the number of people visiting my blog on a mobile phone has eclipsed desktop users. Guess I'd better work on a new "responsive" template sooner rather than later. Blogography looks okay on a mobile phone, but it could be friendlier on smaller screens...
The problem is finding time to actually code a new template. The tags and expected behaviors have changed so much since I made the current template that I would have to re-learn Wordpress in order to even begin! That seems like a lot of work.
And I guess that's all the bullets I have for this week.
Posted on Tuesday, August 27th, 2019
I worked so hard for so long to make relationships work, but eventually came to realize that being in a relationship isn't for me. That was a tough realization to come to after spending my entire life convinced I couldn't be complete without somebody else in my life. But I've made my peace with it. Relationships make me happy in the short run, but being single has made me happier in the long run.
Except when grocery shopping.
After my dentist appointment today I went to Petco for kitty litter... to Burger King for an Impossible Whopper... and to Safeway for food.
The problem with shopping for food while single is that it's more expensive than shopping for food with a family (per person). As an example? I need hamburger buns to go with my veggie burgers. Unless I eat veggie burgers every day, I can eat maybe four buns before they go stale. They come in packages of eight. Which means I have to freeze four and they never taste as good after being frozen. Cost for eight buns? $3.49. Or on sale at two for $5. Some stores will let you buy one for $2.50, but most won't. So do I spend an extra $1.50 for a bunch of buns I'll just have to freeze? That's the question I face every time I go shopping. At least buns can be frozen if I decide to go that route... some things cannot.
Like buns for veggie burgers, cream cheese for bagels is another thing that drives me nuts. They are never on sale at the same time. Fortunately cream cheese usually has an expiry date for 6 months, so I can stock up and wait for bagel prices to drop.
But it's not all bad news.
Because of the way my blood sugar spikes, I need to limit carbs. That's tough for a vegetarian, but I do my best and try to plan around it. It's just making choices. Do I want to spread my carbs throughout the day so I can have bread and fruit? Or do I want to splurge on carbs at one meal and go low-carb the rest of the day? If I have pasta for an early dinner (must be eaten before 6 so I have time to burn it off before bed), that means I am having eggs for breakfast and cheese sticks with hummus and veggies for lunch. It's not science, but it works. My doctor is please with my A1C levels, and that's all I need to know.
And while I have gotten rid of a lot of sugar in my diet, I can still enjoy sweets a couple times a week. My favorite is cake, but if I were to make or buy a cake, it would perish long before I got around to eating even a fraction of it.
Fortunately, there are several companies making microwavable "desserts for one" and they're pretty great (also great are break-and-bake cookies, but I wrote about them last week).
And even more fortunately, Safeway had a bunch of them on sale and on closeout...
That's enough to last me for the rest of the year (there's 4 per box), and most of them were under $3.00! I prefer the Duncan Hines treats (in the red boxes) because they don't have icing. The Betty Crocker "Mug Treats" do have icing, but I always have to toss it out to save carbs.
No, they're not as fantastic as a real oven-baked cake or muffin, but not having to worry about food waste goes a long way for me.
And another thing that's pretty sweet? The upcoming Disney+ streaming service I've been writing about for weeks!
I don't know if this will help anybody out there, but... if you are planning on signing up for Disney+ and don't care about a bundle with ESPN and Hulu, there's a deal to be had by pre-ordering a membership NOW for when it begins in November.
Disney's official fan club is D23.com and basic membership is free. There are higher tiers with more benefits, but they are not necessary to get this offer. So if you are NOT a member, go sign up for a free membership. If you ARE a member, login and go to the My Account drop-down and choose "View My Account." There you will have the option to buy a 3-year Disney+ membership for $140. That's 33% off the "regular" price...
I know three years is a big commitment but, for me, it was a no-brainer. Considering there's exclusive Marvel Studios, Star Wars, Disney, Pixar, and National Geographic content... all of which I love... I was all over it. Sure I don't have $140 to be spending just now, but the offer expires after the weekend and I wasn't going to miss it (that's less than $4 a month!). Hello credit card debt, it's been a long time!
Despite having a bill to pay off, it's nice knowing that I don't have to worry about paying for Disney+ until November of 2022!
Posted on Sunday, September 1st, 2019
Labor Day may be tomorrow but the party starts now, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Hurrican Dorian. The images coming out of the Bahamas have been terrifying. And now parts of the Georgia coast are under mandatory evacuation...
Map from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Dorian is tied with a hurricane from 1935 for the highest wind speed at landfall... a staggering 185mph. I hope that's the only horrible record that ends up being broken.
• Lover! A lovely video for the very pretty title track off of Taylor Swift's latest album...
And I'm not the only fan of the song. Keith Urban did a beautiful cover while performing at the Washington State Fair...
I think 1989 is still my favorite T-Swifty album, but Lover is a close second. Tracks like this make it so. I know I'm late to the party here (1989 was the first time I had even heard of her), but I never cease to be impressed with her talent, wit, charm, and intelligence...
Such a remarkable person. Continued success to you, Miss Swift.
• Parade! A true leader celebrates all the people they represent. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau takes that to heart, as you can see from his taking part in this Pride parade...
Meanwhile, our leadership is doing everything they can to strip rights from our citizens. A depressing state of affairs for the so-called "Land of the Free."
• Rowl! Exceptional production values, gorgeous cinematography, beautiful costuming, and mind-blowing sets don't mean shit when your story is bloated and boring. It's like they took a 90 minute movie and stretched it out to 8 mind-numbing episodes. That's Carnival Row for you...
Guillermo del Toro, who was originally going to be working on Carnival Row, dropped out because of his movie obligations. Don't know if it would have made any difference, but his impeccable pacing and storytelling were much needed here. It's like they had the sets and all the costumes and such and wanted to get as much use of them as possible even though there wasn't enough story for that. Pity.
• Frexit! NOT AT ALL REDUNDANT! Unless France pulled a Frexit and is no longer a part of Europe?
I have yet to try any of that Asian style French bread, but I'm sure it's delicious.
• All The Gs! The advent of 5G wireless is going to be a huge game changer once the mesh that's required to have it work seamlessly has been built. That's a long ways away, but it's still an intriguing technology in its infancy. If you don't know what that even is, here's a fantastic video from Marques Brownlee just for you...
Pretty amazing stuff. Imagine having blazing internet available everywhere for all things... and what will come from that.
• Another Day, Another Mass Shooting. My first thought used to be "How many people?" But now my response has evolved to "Where did it happen this time?" Once I realized that this was how my brain was wired to react, I was disappointed in myself. It feels dismissive and disrespectful to those who just lost their lives. I could excuse it by saying "There's already been so many people killed, does it really matter how many more are added to the list?" But the answer is "yes." Every fucking one of them matters. It's when we start viewing the deaths as statistics instead of people that we lose ourselves. Unfortunately for all of us, those who can actually do something are long lost already.
I remember when the NRA was for responsible gun ownership and wanted to make sure that guns didn't get into the hands of people who shouldn't have them. I also remember when President Reagan was an advocate for that ideal. This was before the NRA was overtaken by gun manufacturers with lobbyists who buy politicians and give them an agenda to encourage as many gun sales as possible... regardless of consequences.
I support the 2nd Amendment. I also support the right of people to go through life without getting randomly shot by some toxic asshole with a gun. Going back to the original mission of the NRA... gun safety and responsible gun ownership... would go a long way to help these two things coexist. Alas that ship has sailed. We don't even pretend that human lives are more important than gun manufacturer profits anymore. What's worse is that people don't even seem to care.
Only 23 days of summer left... make 'em count!
Posted on Sunday, September 8th, 2019
Summer may be in its last gasp but the weather couldn't be better, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Thunder Rolls. Well, the weather couldn't be better now. Last night was an entirely different story. The thunder was shaking the entire house. The lightning was so bright that it was illuminating everything like it was daytime...
The cats were not happy. Jenny came in crying when all the ruckus started. Jake arrived ten minutes later, and I heard him whining all the way up the stairs. I pet them for a while before finally jumping to the window to take photos.
Then today... no clouds and flawless blue skies...
Enjoy it while it lasts, pretty girl. Winter is coming.
• Baked. September is my most favorite month of the year to bake stuff, and I do so often. Something about the combination of temperature and humidity creates the perfect storm for high-rising, wonderfully-textured bread. Today I made some beautiful bread and amazing hamburger buns...
And, let me tell you... homemade hamburger buns are the best! Tonight's selection was a veggie burger with lemon garlic mayo, dijon mustard, thinly-sliced tomato, and pickle on homemade bun...
Pretty fantastic, if I do say so myself.
• Very Berry. On Thursday when I dropped by the market to pick up some flour, I saw that strawberry cartons were on sale 2 for $5. I bought them on a whim and have been stressing ever since. Fruit usually goes on sale when it doesn't have much life left, so I've been eating them non-stop so I don't waste my $5. I was eating strawberries morning, noon, and night for two days, but I finally managed to power through. I may be sick of strawberries now, but they were some beautiful berries...
Boy does being single suck when it comes to grocery shopping. I always end up having to buy more than I can eat. The good news is that I'm done with strawberries for the year... just in time for the final summer crop to leave us!
• Scary Tech. The trailer for JEXI has been released. It's a comedy exploring what happens when the artificial intelligence on a guy's phone gets a little too smart. It's supposed to be a comedy. But when I watch this trailer I can't help but look at it as a near-future horror story...
I mean, seriously... isn't this the nightmare scenario that's entirely too plausible? Yeah, that's what I thought.
• Hellmark. Usually I don't give a crap about somebody's politics. I am easily able to separate an actor from their work, and do so all the time. Democrat? Republican? I'm neither, so I honestly don't care. But there's no way I'm supporting the career of somebody who is in bed with the toxic waste assholes at the Family Research Council like Dean Cain. Guess I'll have to be happy with watching all the Hallmark movies except the handful he appears in.
And speaking of Hallmark, Flip That Romance was finally repeated today...
This movie is genius. IT'S GENIUS! I've been anxiously waiting seeing Flip That Romance since the moment I found out it exists. The film combines two of my favorite things... home renovation shows and Hallmark movies. And it's good! Funny! Hallmark heaven, as it were.
• Nonstarter. You know... the more I use my Apple Card, the more I absolutely love it. It's just so absurdly easy and the features are crazy-good. So good. The only problem is that the benefits are total shit. 2% back? 3% on Apple products? So lame. I hope that other credit card companies take note of what Apple is doing and step up their game. Or Apple gets with the program and starts offering 5% back like a real card... even if it's just on Apple products (As it is, it's cheaper to buy Apple products on Amazon with my Amazon Card because I get 5% back on Amazon purchases... what sense does that make?). It will be interesting to see if Apple drives change in the industry like it has for so many other things. I would certainly hope so.
Hope your new week is a good one!
Posted on Thursday, September 19th, 2019
I get it. Most of my readers don't even bother to look at other sites. Blogography gives you everything you need to survive, so it's pointless to go anywhere else. Which is why I feel it's important for me to review stuff that may be an essential piece to your well-being. Like the latest food monstrosity from Pizza Hut... CHEEZ-IT Pizza!
And I have to admit... I was looking forward to this experience. I love pizza. I love CHEEZ-ITs. And Pizza Hut is okay in my book.
So I dropped by to pick up an order of the cheese-stuffed version (they also have pepperoni) just to see if combining some of my favorite stuff was magic... or tragedy.
My first impression was good. The box is a beautiful flaming red. I spent a minute holding it up to the light just so you can get an idea how pretty it is...
Inside you get four massive squares that look somewhat like inflated CHEEZ-ITs. You also get a tub of Pizza Hut marinara sauce...
Now... here's where things start going terribly wrong. I was anticipating that these would be crunchy like a CHEEZ-IT cracker. They most definitely are not. They are more like a pastry than a cracker. Kinda flakey... but not necessarily in a good way because the texture becomes a bit gummy when you chew it. Like flour paste...
A few thoughts...
Overall I found Pizza Hut CHEEZ-IT Pizza to be a bit gross. I'd certainly never buy them again.
If I'm being honest, this was a bit shocking to me. After the amazing Cinnabon product launch they had, I was expecting something at least passably good. But this was a complete misfire on all fronts, and it has me questioning why Pizza Hut would risk serving up something like this. I was expecting another Doritos Locos Taco mashup that Taco Bell gave us... instead I got something that shouldn't have ever been sold in the first place.
Dave2 rating for CHEEZ-IT Pizza — (7 bombs out of 5 stars)
If you want my advice, just go buy a brick of decent-quality sharp cheddar and a box of giant CHEEZ-IT crackers. It'll cost you less while giving you a much better eating experience.
Posted on Wednesday, October 2nd, 2019
This afternoon I had to leave the office early so I could run home and wait for the people to come clean out the dryer vent so my home doesn't burn down in a lint-related disaster. It is a lot of noise as a metal wire with a brush on the end reams out the pipe leading to the vent (which is all the way across my home). Jake and Jenny were not happy about this intrusion on their nap time. At all.
After that was over, I boiled eggs and cooked Simply Potatoes so I could make potato salad. I then proceeded to eat potato salad for the rest of the evening because, let's face it, I make pretty dope potato salad.
But let's back this up for a second.
If you are not aware of Simply Potatoes, they are pre-peeled, pre-diced potatoes that cost ten times what regular whole potatoes cost. I refer to them as "luxury potatoes." Usually I don't have the money to be throwing away on such conveniences, but they were on sale for only five times what regular whole potatoes cost, so how could I say no to not having to peel and dice them?
I could not.
Hence the unnecessary expenditure and the loads of potato salad I've been eating...
Cook one bag of Simply Potatoes Dices in a 2-1/2 quart covered dish for 10 minutes, 20 seconds with 1/2 cup of water in the microwave on high. Microwaves vary so you will need to adjust the cook time accordingly, as you do not want tough, gummy potatoes.
Peel 4 hard-boiled eggs, then slice into small cubes in a large-ish bowl... then blend together the dressing ingredients in a separate small bowl...
Add cooled potatoes to the bowl with the eggs, then gently fold in the dressing until everything is evenly coated. Garnish with paprika and diced scallions (green onions) or chives.
NOTE: Some people who have tried my recipe like less onion or... God help us... prefer something totally gross like celery instead. Or they want no crunch and leave the onions out entirely so they can use onion salt and garlic powder for flavor. Some people prefer dill weed instead of celery seed. Some people prefer sweet pickles instead of dill pickles. You do you, of course, but this it the recipe I've developed after trying countless others and I loves it just like it is!
Hmmm... now that I think of it, I really should have bought Luxury Eggs instead of fresh eggs. Pre-hard-boiled and pre-peeled, and only double the cost of boiling them yourself!
Or I suppose you could just skip making potato salad entirely and buy pre-made at the grocery store. Except... I don't know about where you live... but pre-made potato salad where I live is a grotesquely bland excuse for food which I avoid at all costs. I mean, sometimes they put celery in there! Yes, abhorrent celery... IN POTATO SALAD!
If your potato salad has celery in it? Then YOU, dear reader, are what's wrong with this country!
Posted on Thursday, October 3rd, 2019
It is easier to set my Alexa alarm to 7:04am than to reset the clock on the cat auto-feeder which has been gaining time and drifting a little bit later and later every day. So that's what I did last night. There's no sense messing around with the feeder until stupid Daylight Saving Time ends on November 3rd.
This morning Jenny was NOT having it.
At 7am ON THE DOT she was on my bed meowing her head off wanting breakfast and was very cross indeed that Alexa hadn't chimed in on that. Can you imagine what my life will be like in November when I have to set the clocks back and she has to wait ONE HOUR?!? No extra hour in bed for me... I can guarantee that. Actually it will be two weeks of no sleeping in, because I change their clock in 15 minute increments over time until they are off DST. Apparently it helps them adjust easier...
In other news... I was very nervous testing my blood sugar this morning. After all the potato salad I ate last night... and the huge bowl I had just before bed at 1am... I was sure it would hit 300. But nope! My spleen totally had my back and was a chipper 117 this morning. IT'S A POTATO SALAD MIRACLE!
Not a bad way to start my Thursday.
I am celebrating by having a bowl of potato salad for breakfast.
Posted on Tuesday, October 15th, 2019
I'm an adult and I get to do adult stuff whenever I want... like having a hamburger for breakfast!
Back when I was very young, my family lived within a short distance to the local A&W hamburger drive-in. We didn't eat out a lot... eating out is expensive... but this just made the burgers all the more special. And boy were this burgers special. Sometimes, especially after we moved to a neighboring town and had to drive there, we'd eat in the car. I vividly remember sitting in the backseat with my brother... waiting for the car-hop to attach that big metal tray with the webbed orange liner to the driver-side window... then waiting for my parents to pass back that magical foil bag which had my burger in it... and a big frosty mug of A&W root beer, of course.
A&W had PapaBurger, MamaBurger, TeenBurger, and BabyBurger... and the foil bags used to have a cartoon printed on the front to tell you what was inside. You can still find them floating around eBay for sale...
Photo taken from WorthPoint whom I'm guessing took it from eBay?
I started with the BabyBurger, which had a smaller burger patty on it. Then one day I felt I was grown up enough to graduate to the TeenBurger, so I ordered that. It came with cheese and bacon on it and it was the best thing I had ever eaten. And even though I use a veggie burger patty with soy "bacon" now, I still love cheese and bacon on my burger and I owe it all to the A&W.
Sometimes we wouldn't eat in the car... especially when we lived close-by and could walk there. We'd sit inside the restaurant on a big orange booth seat at one of those wooden-looking laminate tables with the metal edges on it. On those occasions when I was still very young, I wouldn't be handed over a magical foil bag... mom would instead take the BabyBurger out of the bag, cut it in half for me, set it on the bag, then slide it across the table.
I don't know why.
If I could handle a whole burger when eating in the backseat of the car, then why couldn't I handle it when dining in the restaurant? Why cut it in half for me then? Just one of many, many things which will remain forever a mystery.
Isn't it terrible how many things you think of to ask somebody after they're gone and you're no longer able to ask?
This morning when I was an adult and having a hamburger for breakfast, I looked at it sitting there on the plate... took out a knife... and cut it in half, almost without thinking about it. Something I don't think I've ever done before in my entire life...
And suddenly I'm not an adult any more.
I'm just a little kid sitting in the A&W restaurant with my burger wanting his mom.
I don't know why some memories are so vivid in my mind where others have faded. I don't know how it is that I am able to remember something that happened when I was so young. I don't know what it is about eating at the A&W that makes it so unforgettable. I guess how our minds choose what to archive is just another mystery.
As is what happened to my old battered A&W mug that was bought for a quarter and sat in my cupboard for... like... forever. Did it break? Did I lose it? Did I throw it out? Did mom throw it out? I dunno. But I do know that A&W has an online merchandise shop where I can probably buy another one.
And, holy crap, did you know that it's their 100th anniversary this year?!?
Boy, I could sure go for a frosty mug of A&W root beer right about now.
UPDATE: While I was trying to fall asleep, I Googled for an image of the old A&W that I used to eat at when I was a kid. One photo came up, but it was from an expired Panoramio account and Panoramio has shut down... so I have no idea if this is actually the restaurant, who to credit the photo to, or whom to ask about it. This would be the view looking away from the restaurant towards the drive-in stalls and the parking lot. It certainly looks like it could be my old A&W...
The awning over the stalls... the menu-boards... it all looks much like I remember. What gives me pause is the price on the billboard of $849 (assumably $8.49) for an all you can eat shrimp dinner. That seems high for the era that my A&W existed. The cars also look too modern. I think the local drive-in A&W was torn down before this was taken? Maybe not. Another thing I question is the entrance here... from this direction, I think the entrance would have been on the right side of the photo. And I want to say that our stalls were straight instead of at an angle like this? In any event, this is definitely the kind of experience I so vividly remember, even if it's not the actual restaurant.
Posted on Friday, October 18th, 2019
Tuesday was payday, so last night I fired up my grocery store app and went to work. I don't buy stuff that's not on sale (if I can help it) so carefully shopping the "member savings" and the "in-store specials" and the "weekly ad" sections are how I buy food. If what I want isn't on sale, then I adjust my meal planning around stuff that is. Because if I'm not saving at least 25% (and ideally 40%) on my groceries, then I'm doing it wrong.
One thing I wanted quite badly was some whole, peeled, Italian tomatoes packed in purée. I use them to make my own pizza and pasta sauces. Naturally, what you want are authentic San Marzano tomatoes for their superior flavor compared to "regular" plum tomatoes... and, yes, you can tastes a difference. The flavor is more robust, the acidity is lower, and they've got a sweeter "vibe" to them. But finding them is always a crap-shoot. Most of the time you'll see "San Marzano STYLE" tomatoes, which aren't the same thing. And even when you find authentic DOP-certified San Marzanos, there's no guarantee that they're packed in San Marzano purée. In fact, you can almost count on them to not be. That, and rampant fraud in the industry where the can will say San Marzano but the tomatoes inside are not, is what makes them so tough to shop for... unless you are willing to pay big to get them from a reputable source and importer.
Take, for example, these fuckers...
Two things. First of all, they're crushed. Authentic DOP San Marzanos can only be sold "peeled whole." Second of all, despite bearing the name "San Marzano," a look at the fine print shows that they are grown domestically in the USA. The Italian language on the can is just for decoration. The way the assholes who sell these get away with it is because they claim to be using authentic seeds from San Marzano tomatoes. Except that doesn't mean shit, because it's not just the plant which produces superior tomatoes, it's the volcanic soil of Mount Vesuvius and the climate of the Naples region which makes them taste the way they do. Alas, that region is rather small, so true and authentic tomatoes from there are expensive and rare.
I don't have the money to be picky, so I just look at the three or four brands that I rely on to taste good and grab the one that's on sale. A couple of them come from the USA and are just fine. Indeed, I often end up with RedPack tomatoes which are terrific... and a product of Indiana. When I taste-tested them against a can of expensive imported authentic DOP San Marzanos, they hold up just fine.
Canned tomatoes are kinda a weird thing to be buying in the first place though.
To begin with, most stores won't have them stocked with the vegetables or the fruits (yeah, I know there's some confusion there but, technically, they're both). Canned tomatoes are in a section entirely unto themselves. That's how important a staple that tomatoes are to American consumers, I guess. When I was on my own, I just bought ready-made sauces or frozen meals. When I was taking care of my mom and wanted to try eating healthier, it took me forever looking at the canned foods aisle to realize they weren't with everything else. Most likely they were the next aisle over.
And what tomatoes did I end up with this time? Turns out that Tutta Bella Pomodoro di Napoli cans were on sale 2 for $7 (regular $3.99 each)...
Image from Tutta Bella
Tutta Bella is a famous Certified Neapolitan pizzeria out of Seattle. They don't use authentic San Marzano's but instead a choice tomato from a nearby region of Southern Italy with the same properties. I like them a lot for cooking, but their price is pretty high... almost double the price for a can of RedPack... but I know they'll taste great in my pizza sauce, so I splurge when I find them on sale.
So now I can finally make some pizza!
But not really.
My rolling pin broke and so I have to wait for my new one to arrive. This time I am taking no prisoners and buying a metal pipe type rolling pin. No handles to break off!
Until I can afford a $2,500 pizza dough sheeter that will roll it out for me, it will have to do.
Posted on Wednesday, October 23rd, 2019
I was craving French fries when I left the house, so I called in an order at the local drive-thru when they opened.
Best lunch ever.
And yet I saw something disturbing me when I picked up my order.
When I was a kid I LOVED burgers from Rusty's (in my town) and Dusty's (in the neighboring big city). To give you a clue of just how much I loved my local joint, you should know that the last meat I ever ate when I stopped eating it back in 1986 was a Rusty Burger. Yep. When I made the decision to go vegetarian, that's the meat I wanted to go out on.
And it's tough dropping meat from your diet, let me tell you.
For years after I axed meat I would still crave it. I remember driving by Burger King where they blow the smell of flame-broiled beef out into the street and get triggered. Holy crap did I want a Whopper right then. Giving up bacon was also incredibly difficult. Any time I saw a piece, something deep inside me was suddenly willing to kill for it. Pepperoni was the worst though. Going from having an intimate relationship with pepperoni pizza... then downgrading to a cheese pizza... is what nearly broke me. It still might break me one day. Because while there are some pretty great burger and bacon substitutes, I've yet to find a truly great pepperoni substitute.
But I endure.
Partly because the allergies which plagued me as a kid vanished practically overnight when I stopped eating meat. Partly because the meat industry is literally killing our planet. But mostly because I am horrified by the inhumane, cruel, and disgusting conditions under which mass-produced meat is raised. In all honesty, I simply cannot understand how anybody could become aware of the abhorrent treatment of cows, pigs, lambs, chickens, and other animals before they're slaughtered and still eat the stuff. Which is why most people close their eyes to it, I'm sure.
Meanwhile, back at the drive-ins that are in my neck of the woods, Dusty's eventually added a GardenBurger. I was ecstatic at the time, but came to realize that I prefer a Grilled Cheese with Goop (burger sauce and fixin's), so it goes mostly ignored.
Rusty's, on the other hand, always held out. No vegetarian option for you. Fortunately, they have really good fries.
Then today, miracle of miracles, I saw that they are finally adding a GardenBurger to their menu. I was instantly elated because I'm sure it will be fantastic. Until I saw the price... NINE DOLLARS AND TWENTY CENTS?!?? Holy crap! AND THAT'S WITHOUT CHEESE!!! Keep in mind that this is not an "Impossible Burger" which is an expensive meat substitute (but worth it)... it's a frickin' GARDENBURGER! For contrast, a QUADRUPLE MEAT, QUADRUPLE CHEESE meat burger WITH BACON is just $8.75!
WHAT THE HELL?!?
Either Rusty's is jacking up the price to an insane degree because they don't want to sell many of them and only have it available because people ask for it all the time...
...government subsidies to the "Big Meat" industry are so massive that FOUR piece of meat are considerably cheaper than ONE GardenBurger. If that's the case, this is bordering on criminal. Let's check Google here... and... yep. THIRTY-EIGHT BILLION A YEAR props up the meat and dairy industry. This is despite the fact that the meat industry is literally destroying the planet. It's also widely regarded as unhealthy and should only be eaten in moderation. And yet, here we are. I guess Big Pharma is working with Big Beef to push cheap meat so they can sell more pills (eating beef daily makes you TRIPLE more likely to get heart disease). And we (and, more directly, the children) are paying the massive cost with our health and our world.
But that's our government for you. Killing us for the profit they make from being bought off by industries that don't give a shit about us.
I suppose I should be used to it, but the fact that US citizens continue to sign off on this kind of crap never ceases to amaze me. "YES! KILL US SO YOU CAN GET RICH! DESTROY THE ENVIRONMENT TO LINE YOUR POCKETS! BETRAY THE PUBLIC TRUST AT EVERY TURN FOR MONEY! WE SUPPORT YOU!"
Eventually, I'm guessing that I'll cough up the NINE DOLLARS AND TWENTY CENTS that this thing costs just to satisfy my curiosity. I hope it's horrible. I don't have that kind of money to be throwing at a burger. And apparently the government is doing it for me already anyway.
Posted on Sunday, October 27th, 2019
A busy, busy week for me has ended but I'm just getting started, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Monster. I have been toning down the politics on Blogography because it's just so pointless. Unless you are living under a rock, you already know the horrific shit our president is doing, so there's really no need to repeat it here. But lately it's gotten so bad that my disbelief has escalated to a level I didn't even know I had in me. Fortunately John Oliver was back tonight to put one of the most tragically awful events into perspective...
There really is no bottom. President Trump lives in a fantasy world where everything he does is perfect and everybody loves him for it. Somebody this detached from reality has no business running the country, and I hope that people are really, really scared about what damage could come next.
• Idiocity. And speaking of damage, I saw this headline on The Verge yesterday: Donald Trump wants the iPhone home button back. OH FUCK NO! With all due respect Mr. President, go back to using a flip-phone and leave technology advancements to those of us who know how to form complete sentences which people can actually make sense of.
• Good. When I was at Uluru (which the colonizers dubbed "Ayer's Rock") in Australia, there was a sign saying that it was a sacred place to the people who own it and they ask you not to climb it... despite there being a chain path to climb it. So I didn't climb it. There were also signs posted at a few points around Uluru asking you not to photograph it at that point because something sacred to people happened there. So I didn't photograph it there. I don't understand why it's so difficult to follow the wishes of the people whose land you are visiting. You're their guests, and should be grateful that they allow you to visit their home at all. I know I sure was...
By banning people from climbing on it after the month is over, Australia is righting a great wrong. I hope people respect the new ban on climbing Uluru and adhere to the Anangu People's request. It literally is the least people can do.
• Kangaroo Cats. I ran across an interesting Facebook post this week which was talking about the "primordial pouch" which appears on some cats. I think it’s genetic. Jake and Jenny both have big pouches. When they run, the skin flops back and forth... it’s kinda hilarious, but doesn't seem to bother them at all. For the longest time I just assumed they were mutants. But apparently that's not the case...
Interesting stuff, that evolution!
• Rhinos! Will of Burrard-Lucas Photography is the reason I selected the Antarctica tour that I did. His wildlife photography is the most inspiring and beautiful I've ever seen, and getting a behind the scenes look at how he does what he does is about the coolest thing you'll see on YouTube this week...
Thanks to his BeetleCam invention, nobody does wildlife photos like Will Burrard-Lucas. He amazes me with each new book he publishes.
• Pepper. You really do learn something new all the time. My homemade pizza sauce recipe calls for green peppers. I don't normally eat them because I prefer the sweeter red peppers, but the recipe tastes so good that I do what is called for. On Tuesday I came home from work and was already too tired to cook... but then realized that I actually needed to clean my kitchen before I could cook. Double the horror. It's while cleaning that I notice something strange... WHAT HAPPENED TO MY GREEN PEPPER?!?
It's then that my Facebook friends had to inform me that green peppers aren't ripe and, like tomatoes, they will turn from green to orange to red as they ripen. I honestly had no idea. Until Tuesday, I truly thought that they were all different species of peppers.
• Hallmark Moment. As you can imagine, I am in full-on Hallmark Movie Mode now that their 10th Annual Countdown to Christmas is in effect. I almost never watch live, choosing instead to DVR the movies so I can jet past commercials. But the new movies for 2019 I have been watching live, and this commercial came up...
Well done. Somebody at World Market really knows their Hallmark audience. I don't understand why any company spending the huge amount of money required for a national ad doesn't put this kind of care into creating them. Most ads are just terrible and something you want to skip. Why would you waste money like that?
And now... time to wash underwear so I have something clean to wear to work tomorrow. You're welcome, my co-workers.
Posted on Monday, October 28th, 2019
When I was a kid my favorite restaurant in the world was Gino's Pizza because they had a Pong game hooked up to a TV you could play. I don't remember the pizza at all, but I'm pretty sure I liked it. Eventually Gino's closed. Since I had video games at home thanks to the Atari 2600, I barely noticed.
That being said, my favorite pizza on earth came from Pizza Inn, which is where we ate after Gino's was gone.
The stuff was phenomenal. The crust was crisp like a cracker and had a unique flavor and texture that made it different than every other pizza I had ever had. The sauce was likewise delicious because it had a subtle sweetness and minimized the acid component so the tomato base really hit you. Also? The pepperoni was divine. It curled up like a cup and had these amazing crispy edges that you just didn't find anywhere else.
Whenever my family ate out, Pizza Inn was #1 on my list.
Sadly, they closed up shop. Then a decade ago they came back. Then closed up shop again. Then they came back yet again. Then closed up shop... and have stayed closed ever since. For a while they could only be found in Texas, but now I think they're currently all across The South.
Ever since the last closing in my neck of the woods, I've become obsessed with making Pizza Inn pizza myself. Thanks to the efforts by DKM at PizzaMaking.com, I've been able to play around with his recipe and finally come up with something that works for me.
This past weekend I decided to finally share it with some guests I had staying with me. They seemed to really like it too, so I'm pretty happy about that. Well, mostly.
My pizza stone is fairly small and I was cooking for six people, so I made the mistake of thinking that I'd just make us six individual small pizzas. I could cook two at a time and, since they only take minutes to bake, that would be the easiest way to make sure that everybody got the toppings they wanted. So on Sunday I left work at noon to go home and roll out the crusts. My arms were rubber after two. The remaining four felt like I had bench-pressed 500 pounds a thousand times. The cracker crust is tough. It's mostly flour with very little moisture, which makes it crumbly and hard to roll out. Even worse, I didn't have a little cutter pizza pan to cut the crust to size, so I ended molding around a small plate. It didn't look particularly pretty, but it sure tasted great...
I cannot overstate how tough it is to roll out the crust. It's like taking a rolling pin to a rock. But it bakes up so beautifully that it's all worth the effort. Thin and crispy with no sag. Amazing air bubbles that give you perfect cracker crunch...
The right tomatoes for the sauce are essential. There are few brands I've found that have that hearty tomato flavor without the acidic bite (which I talk about ad-nauseam here).
As I was seeing my guests off, Jake hopped up on the table and decided to lick my last piece, so I guess it was a success for my entire household...
Except I never yell at my cats no matter what they do (I refuse to punish my cats for being cats), so all I could do was wait until his tongue got tired so I could take it away.
I don't think I could do pizzas for a group again unless I buy a $5000 pizza dough sheeter that has the power to roll out very tough doughs (most I've seen under $2000 are not rated for anything less than 1 part liquid to 2 parts flour... this crust is far less than that).
Homemade pizza sauce has no preservatives and will spoil fairly soon (even when refrigerated), so I don't usually make a full 28oz. Can of tomatoes worth. I take 1/4 of it so I can experiment with making homemade ketchup. Because boy do I love homemade ketchup. "Regular" store-bought big-brand ketchup tastes like tomato water by comparison. There are a few "boutique" brands I like... Portland Ketchup Co. is great... but even they seem lacking when stacked up against homemade. Problem is that I still haven't formulated the perfect ketchup after nearly two years of experimenting.
Right now I am leaning towards a recipe with onion, garlic, cayenne, red pepper, brown sugar, white wine vinegar, ginger, allspice, celery seed, black pepper, salt, and nutmeg (in addition to tomato paste, canned tomatoes, and oil). I'm unsure about turmeric, Tabasco, bay leaf, and oregano. I've abandoned mustard seed powder, cinnamon, apple cider vinegar, cloves, maple syrup, and seasoning salt.
Maybe one day. In the meanwhile? I'm not going to complain about needing to experiment making ketchup. Even the worst ketchup I've made still tastes great!
Posted on Thursday, November 7th, 2019
Last night after experiencing Avengers: Damage Control, Kyle and I went to an amazing Cuban restaurant in southern Minneapolis. It was a tiny place, but had a big heart which contained by lovely graffiti-strewn walls...
My iPhone's "Night Mode" came in real handy when trying to read them...
My dinner was a vegetarian plate. Seasoned black beans with rice... a Cuban slaw... sweet plantains... and, of course, yuca frita!
Kyle had a shrimp dish that was worthy of an umbrella!
I had to be up and getting ready at 4:30am, so it was an early night for me.
Once my hotel shuttle had deposited me at MSP, I started looking for a breakfast snack. Surprisingly, not much was open at 5:00am. But eventually I ran across Dunkin Donuts which, much to my surprise, had BOTH a veggie option AND Coke Zero! They were using Beyond Sausage on a muffin with egg and cheese. It was fantastic! I wish more restaurants would offer this kind of thing...
Burger King is having one of its best quarters ever thanks to their vegetarian Impossible Whopper causing a surge of 10% in sales. And it's easy to see why. It tastes fantastic. Probably due in part to the fact that it's cooked with real meat products, which I'm fine with because Burger King didn't have to kill any animals for what I'm eating. Apparently McDonald's is working on their own vegetarian burger. Which is kind of silly when the McVeggie Deluxe they once offered at their Times Square location was amazing and they could just do that.
I am genuinely excited to see vegetarian options being adopted like this. They don't always work for my tastes (Qdoba has the Impossible Fajita Burrito which tastes "off" to me) but the fact that I can go to so many restaurants and at least have something I can eat is fantastic. I wish it wasn't made more expensive than the meat options (thanks government subsidies!), but I'll gladly pay a premium if it's something I like. Most places the Impossible Whopper is just $1 more than a regular Whopper... worth every penny, and Burger King gets my business.
Anyway... before I knew it I was back at SeaTac which wouldn't be SeaTac if at least one thing I needed to use wasn't busted to shit...
The drive home was uneventful (thankfully) and here I am hanging with my cats for an hour before going into work at noon. They are, needless to say, happy to have me home.
If, for no other reason, that the heat will no longer be on "Away Mode."