Sunday, August 21, 2011

well hello there

Are you here? Unlikely as it may sound, you've arrived here. But I've changed the locks and moved on! Update your bookmarks or feed readers or whatever else to

See you there.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

the goings on

The goings-on go on and on. I can't stop any of it, even when I sit very, very still and watch Battlestar Galactica. Case in point: fermentation.


I've been keeping the maple vinegar in a secret location where the cats can't get at it. The secret location is the cupboard above the dishwasher.


If you come over, that's where the vinegar does its dark work. Just to be clear, the vinegar's inaccessibility to the cats is dependent on the height of the location, not its secrecy. It's not like the cats could benefit from knowing where it is. They don't have much follow through, if you take my meaning.

If you open the cupboard, you will spy the maturing vinegar.


You'll also note the cheesecloth trailing out from under the lid. Cheesecloth is the mark of adulthood. Adults are the kind of people who know to drape a cheesecloth over a bowl of maple syrup, rum and vinegar. If you didn't see the cheesecloth in this photo, you would be within your rights to phone Vinegar Services and have them come to remove the vinegar from my care. But before you do that, check that you don't suffer from cheesecloth blindness. It's a rare condition, but very real and very tragic. Thousands of Americans are unable to see cheesecloth. Usually it results in very frustrating trips to the grocery store.


Today the Humpty's Family Restaurant marquee read "Come Try The Tangler Burger." This is not appetizing. I picture strands of meat tangling themselves in your intestines. And I don't picture your intestines very often.


I wrote something today that has set the internet on fire been greeted with near-total indifference. But nonetheless I am very proud of my work. On the humour site

Internet Believes Jessica Alba Would Be Even Hotter with a Can Opener for a Foot

In a recent poll of Internet users around the world, a startling 25 per cent believe that Jessica Alba, well known for her stunning looks, would be even hotter with a can opener for a foot.

“Totally,” said Gerald Rhames, 22, who led a campaign to secure over 5,000 votes for the comely actress. “She’s got these beautiful eyes and primo kissable lips, but that doesn’t open my can of ravioli.”

Mr. Rhames then banged his can of ravioli against the kitchen counter in a gesture that professed his love for Ms. Alba. Or maybe for ravioli from a can.

I think that's all for today. More updates as the situation develops.

UPDATE: Nothing new.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Palinode around the web for this week

hairy arms and all

Don't be buggin'. I don't even know what buggin' is, but don't be doing it. I've got bits and pieces for you to read and click on and so forth. And if you stick around to the end of the post, there's a nice photo of bananas in it for you.


Top 5 Greatest Movie Title Sequences Ever:

Most movies these days are pretty terrible. You know it, I know it, and most importantly, the movie studio knows it. They know that you’ve just thrown down precious moneys for 90-150 minutes of familiar people doing generally predictable stuff that will make you vaguely regret your life choices – or at least, the ones that led you to this darkened room full of flickering light and the sounds of popcorn being chewed by a hundred hungry mouths.

In order to cover for the almost certainly not-so-great experience you’re about to have, movies generally save the best for first: a kick-ass opening followed by a truly inspired title sequence. Often title sequences are done by an entirely separate firm, with their own budget and creative direction and everything. Their mission? Create something eye-popping and pulse-stirring that generates enough goodwill and adrenaline to keep the audience in their seats until they forget they have a choice.

For Just 139 Dollars You Can Feed a Hungry George Lucas:

George grew up in California and gained some renown as a filmmaker back in the 1970s. But now he wanders the grounds of Skywalker Ranch, living like an animal, foraging for nuts and berries where he can find them. The caretakers, no longer able to recognize their filth-covered employer, shoo him away from the house when he comes sniffing around the property. Perhaps he is drawn by a long-lost memory of a comfortable bed and a Barcalounger. But more likely he’s just drawn by the smell of food wafting from the kitchen.


10 Billion Dollar NASA Study Shows That Space Is Full of Worthless Junk

CAPE CANAVERAL — After 15 years and over $10 billion in taxpayer’s money, Project Extreme Cosmic Discovery, the most extensive probe of the universe ever conducted, has demonstrated conclusively that space is completely full of junk.

“It’s unbelievable, really,” said senior NASA administrator Charles Bollerheim. “We thought for sure that something wonderful lay beyond the fragile envelope of our atmosphere. Something that would reveal the secrets of the universe and maybe answer the questions that humanity has been asking for thousands of years.

“But yeah, it’s just a bunch of rocks and gas and stuff.”

And lastly, from the print world - prairie dog Magazine:

The Hickory: A tale of love, hate and adequacy (Restaurant review)

If you dare, try reading the aggregate of opinions on the Hickory Smokehouse and Grill, where, according to Urban Spoon, you can enjoy 1.) a delightful meal in a tasteful setting, or 2.) the most horrendous experience of your short little life. Some of the missives are sent off in quick-fried bursts from a smartphone, but a few are the outcome of finely chopped, long-simmering resentment. Most dismaying are the semi-professional takedowns: reviews that appear to have been written by someone in the restaurant industry. With their reliance on jargon and a habit of using 'plate' as both noun and verb, they're easy to spot and difficult to read.

Although none of the negative reviews come out and say it, they all hint at the Hickory Smokehouse's greatest weakness: flanked by The Cottage and The Keg - and occupying the same space as the old Keg restaurant - the Hickory does almost nothing to distinguish itself from its neighbours.

Okay, folks, you did it! Here are your bananas. I used natural light from the window to really bring out their banana-ness. Then I processed the RAW file, deepened the contrast and added in a bit of blue to counteract all that banana-ness a bit. Then Schmutzie ate one. Then I lost interest.


Monday, August 15, 2011

I'm a Maple Vinegar Expert and So Can You

I'm ripping off that title from somewhere. I don't care. You go look somewhere else while I rip things off.

You cannot rightly call yourself a foodie unless you're a pretentious douche an expert on some obscure subdomain of the food kingdom. Someone out there knows how to make a fluffy pancake from pine needles and dried porcini mushrooms. Someone else can whisk a sullen puddle of egg white into a five foot replica of the World Trade Center (hold on, that's going to come back later). But I? I can make maple vinegar.

Because it's really easy if you have the recipe. Actually, if not for the presumed necessity of precision in the mixture, you'd have to be downright touched not to figure out how to do it. A couple of hints and it's off to the races, if you like the idea of racing with vinegar.

maple vinegar bowl

Making your own vinegar requires only a few ingredients: something sweet, something alcoholic, and vinegar. That's it. There's some finesse in the storage, and it helps to buy a glass jar big enough to hold your mixture (who would skip such a basic step and end up turning the kitchen inside out in search of a suitable container? Hmm), but that's pretty much it. Put those ingredients together and the fermentation process will grab hold of the sugars and hustle them into an alcohol and then into an acetic acid.

The only weird thing about making vinegar is that you need vinegar. Do not think about this for too long, or the abyss of infinite regress will open up and you will fall screaming its ever-multiplying void, Vertigo-style. How was the first vinegar created? In the same way that the origin of fire is a mystery,* no one knows how the first vinegar was made.** But I hear there's an Indiana Jones movie in the works about the mystic origins of the substance.***

maple vinegar ingredients with cat

For my maple vinegar, I used the recipe in Kamozawa & Talbot's book Ideas In Food, which is largely devoted to the chemical and physical reactions of ingredients when you mash them together and apply heat. The recipes in their book are more like signposts than destinations, but there's nothing to say you can't rest beneath these signs for a while and enjoy the shade they offer. But don't linger too long - there are bandits on those roads, and while the signposts are metaphorical, the bandits are real. Ever had your metaphorical wallet grabbed by a real bandit? It's confusing.

Here's what I used:

maple vinegar ingredients

Canada no.1 Medium Organic Maple Syrup (3 cups)
Goslings Black Seal Bermuda Rum (1 1/3 cups)
Bragg Organic Apple Cider Vinegar (2 1/2 cups)
Water (7/8 cup)

I used Goslings because I have fond memories of the stuff from a childhood spent partly in Bermuda (not that I drank rum as a child). You'll notice that the vinegar label proclaims 'with the mother,' which is not poorly translated French or anything (it's poorly translated Hippie). The vinegar 'mother' is what makes it 'live' and spurs the fermentation process. Don't bother using a bottle of plain white vinegar, which is often just acetic acid in solution.

Combine those ingredients in a glass bowl or jar, cover with cheesecloth - which you will also see in the photo above - and then cover with a loose-fitting lid. The idea is to let the mixture breathe, because it's alive and it needs oxygen to do its disgusting biological work.

There's a cat in the picture as well, but you don't need a cat in the recipe. In fact, you want to keep the cat the hell away from your mixing site, but these are headstrong cats and there's nothing I can do about them.

This part of the process is, quite frankly, not much fun. It's expensive, inexplicably more laborious than it should be, and it's over in minutes. Plus there's a cat. It's annoying and not long enough to justify the amount of irritation derived  (see: the opening monologue from Annie Hall). I recommend you make some bread at the same time, just to muscle out your anger out on some innocent Globolink of dough.

Once all that is finished, store your proto-vinegar in a cool dark place. Test it out after four weeks. I made my batch today, so that means it should be ready on September 12, 2011, one day after the ten year anniversary of 9/11. Everyone is invited over for some commemorative maple vinegar.


*No it isn't.

**Yes they do.

***Not in the least.


[Sunday afternoon. A bathroom Schmutzie is showering. Palinode is at the sink. Water is splashing. Schmutzie, maybe she's humming a tune to herself, the kind of shower tune that's half memory, half improv. Palinode picks up a six ounce tube of Burts Bees cleanser.]

Palinode: Can I try your cleanser?

Schmutzie: Sure!

Palinode: I want to use half of it.

Schmutzie: What?

Palinode: I'm going to use half the tube.

Schmutzie: Uh, you want to owe me fifteen bucks?

Palinode: No, I want to squeeze half this tube into the palm of my hand and slap it on my face.

Schmutzie: No!

Palinode: Hey, I tried it.

Schmutzie: And?

Palinode: It's nice.

Schmutzie: Isn't it?

Palinode: It's awfully expensive though. You only get, like, two uses out of one tube.


This post has been sponsored by my cat. If you read this post, you agree to send money to my cat. By reading this far into the addendum, you also agree to indemnify and hold harmless my cat against any and all liability. Cat comes "as is," with no expressed or implied warranty. My cat may send certain information to third-party sites for the purposes of targeted advertising. None of the information sent by my cat to third-party sites is personally identifiable, with the exception of your name, foot size, dental records and your opinion of Game of Thrones. My cat wants to know what you think of Game of Thrones.

Oh crap, here comes my cat. He wants to know where the money is.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

It's Only Leaves

Hello. I am mucking about with my new camera, a Lumix GF2 which I bought on the eve - the very eve - of BlogHer '11. There is nothing funny below this text. Just pictures of tea leaves. Unless you find tea leaves inherently hilarious (or as Louis CK would say, hi-laaaarrrr-ious), then you won't laugh at what I'm about to show you. You may smile, but if you do it'll be because you're just thinking of something else while your eyes rest on the whorls and gnarls of damp leaves. That's a coincidence, and I won't be held responsible for your life's coincidental events.

See? I told you. Leaves. High Mountain Oolong leaves from David's Tea, steeped at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for six minutes.

Then I drank what the leaves released. They don't even know, they're leaves.

Leaves are so dumb.


Thursday, July 28, 2011


[Evening. Darkness over the face of the land. Are there clouds? It's too dark to tell. Schmutzie and The Palinode relax on the couch, untroubled by darkness.]

Schmutzie: My family has the strangest saying: 'Nervous as a cat.'

Palinode: It makes sense.

Schmutzie: But I've never heard anyone else say it. Just my family. [Pause] Maybe it's from the German.

Palinode: I doubt it. They don't have cats in Germany.

Schmutzie: [accepting the premise] But they have the word for cat.

Palinode: Yes, but they have no idea what it means.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

An open letter to that shot of J├Ągermeister on Friday night

Like most terrible decisions, the one I made to shoot back an ounce of you after a couple of beers was made in haste. Already I'd hit that state of drunkenness in which one moment is of no more consequence than the next, as interchangeable as grains of salt on a knuckle, and just as quickly swiped up by a tongue.

It wasn't until I caught sight of my reflection that I realized you were the wrong concoction for the evening. My face had that horrible glazed-ham look. My eyes were sort of swimming around in their sockets with a look of watery perplexity, as if I were trying to think my way out of some infinitely complex trap. I was overheated with alcohol, somewhere past the boiling point, and I knew that even the smallest nudge could set off some awful eruption.

That was it for my first proper Friday night in ages. It wasn't even 9 o' clock.

Damn you, shot of J├Ągermeister. I thought you were on my side. And your web site is astoundingly bad. It's all done in Flash. Really? Flash?