Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Too Slow, 'Pokes

It's good to be a Ducks fan today. It's even better being a Ducks fan in San Diego (where we're on vacation right now). Everywhere we go we've seen people in their school colors, and it got old seeing a lot more Oklahoma State fans than Oregon fans. Finally the last couple of days we started seeing more Green and Yellow. Yesterday we bumped in to some fellow Quacker Backers at the beach, and got to talking about the ESPN fan polls, and the fact that over 90% of the people voting nationwide expected the Cowboys to win.

Apparently they didn't count on the added motivation for the Ducks provided by playing a team whose colors are orange and black and whose initials are OSU. Beavers fans could have warned them. Oregon won last nights game 42-31.

I was particularly pleased that the nail in the coffin lid was provided by a touchdown run by LeGarrett Blount. He's dating one of TFR's co-workers, and I had the honor of meeting him and talking a bit at their work holiday party. He's a quiet, humble, likeable young man. He's also a juggernaut whom you do NOT try to arm tackle. It's going to be fun to watch him run over the top of Ducks' opponents for another full season next year.

There was extra sentimental significance to this game for me. The last time Oregon played in the Holiday Bowl was 2000, when they beat Texas in an even closer barn-burner. That was the last time I was in San Diego for Christmas, and my mom bought tickets to the game for the men in the family. It was a wonderful time -- Texas fans are incredibly boisterous and arrogant whn going ino or leading a game, and just as sullen and quiet in defeat. That would also prove to be the last football game father and I attenmy ded together before he passed away.

The rest of the vacation has been enjoyable -- we took The Lad to Dizzy Disneyland, we've been to the beach, and I've had a chance to visit my father's grave at Fort rosecrans National Cemetary. I'll add more when I get home, including pictures. In the meantime, Happy Holidays to everyone.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Eat It Like It's Stollen -- Carnival of the Recipes, Christmas and Desserts Edition

Sorry, I've been waiting for months to use that pun. Christmas is probably my favorite time of the year, and DEFINITELY my favorite time for parties and festivities (ironically, also my favorite time for worship and reflection). I'm leaving on vacation in the morning, so it's going up early, if you submit late, I'll add you when I reach a computer in "Sun" Diego.

After being an off-and-on contributor to the CotR for years, I figured it was high time to host one, and what better time than the holidays? To justify the pun, I thought I'd let this edition focus on Christmas recipes, especially desserts. Unfortunately, I'm getting lots of festive recipes, but few desserts, so before we get to the desserts, let's treat this like a true party.

Starting with appetizers and drinks, I'll kick things off myself by getting everyone Nogged Up. Ben brings Seven Cheap Foods to Serve At Your Holiday Party, and Famous Recipes has a Famous Beef and Broccoli Pita Folds recipe that could easily be miniaturized for a great little Appy.

So now on to dinner. For the main course, Christmas Recipes presents Black-Eyed Peas and Ham Christmas Recipe, and Slow Cooker Recipes and Crockpot Recipes brings their Crockpot Honey Ham and Vegetables, but between Elisson's THREE BIRDS WITH ONE PAN, the Diabetic Recipes blog with their Diabetic Recipe for Lemon Chicken, Steamy Kitchen Modern Asian with their Duck Breast with Sweet and Sour Cranberry Chutney, and Chicken Recipes' Chicken Pasta Primavera, Bird is DEFINITELY the word at this party. If you are looking for a Feast of Seven Fishes recipe, Famous Recipes Food and Cooking Weblog offers their World Famous Halibut with Garlic Sauce. for a break from the thematic, Chris presents Try these 7 incredible Indian dishes for your instant OM! moment.

Of course, you need a holiday side dish to go with your main course, so Richard Taylor presents How to Bake the Perfect Sweet Potato or Yam, and CzechFolks give us an ethnic flavor with Exploring Czech Food – Part VI - Famous Potato Salad (Poznavame Ceska Jidla – Cast VI - Slavny Bramborovy Salat).

Need a salad to lighten the palate after all that protein and starch? Then go nuts with this Famous Avocado Spinach and Walnut Salad recipe from World Famous Recipes.

I hope you saved room, because here come the desserts. Let it snow, or at least let me have some of MCs Oreo Snowball Truffles! EVLiving serves up some yummy Christmas Raspberry Muffins with Streusel Topping. If singing O Tannenbaum or Stille Nacht is your thing, try some German Christmas Cookies - They're Going Fast from makingthishome. Beth at Elizabeth Chandler Designs provides a more traditional holiday "twist" with her Orange Peel Candy. As if that weren't enough, Kris butters us up with Peanut Butter Banana Bread. More4Kids has some Fun and Tasty Christmas and Holiday Desserts, and Chef Tom closes out the evening with some Holiday Sugar Cookies to leave behind for Santa.

If you're not too hungover the next morning, and find yourself with a leftover turkey carcass, you might want to use it in Kris' recipe for a Tasty, rich stew.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Frosty the Meltman

A tip of the Toque to Edward John Craig at NRO, via Glenn Beck:

Boy, Greg Nickels must be proud.

Follow the link to NRO, and watch the video. This, apparently, is what passes for a "Holiday Pageant" in schools these days. Apparently they haven't really removed the religious content, they've merely switched religions.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Nogged Up

One of the interesting (and at time fun) things about marriage is the way in which you blend and synthesize family traditions -- bringing together his and hers, wedding them out, combining them, and adding your own. This is especially true during the holidays.

I grew up in a teetotaling family. My parents, especially my father, had strong aversions to alcohol. TFR, on the other hand, grew up in a family that drank, albeit in moderation. As I became an adult, on my own I developed a taste for (usually) moderate alcohol consumption. This time of year, I particularly developed a taste for spiked egg nog.

As luck would have it, TFR's family, specifically her mom, has a family recipe for home made egg nog. I'm sharing it with you now, although I HAVE modified it myself (remember the synthesis thing?) to reflect my preference for a blend of liquor -- her original called for all whiskey:


8 eggs
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 cup whiskey (Bourbon, to be precise, though Jack Daniels would do as well. Avoid Scotch/Irish/Canadian whiskies)
1/4 cup brandy
1/4 cup spiced rum
1 1/4 cup sugar (divided)
4 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup water

Separate eggs into whites and yolks.

Whip egg yolks with 3/4 cup sugar until light in color. Pour all the liquor over mixture and set aside.

Combine egg whites and salt, beat to a stiff peak.

Whip the cream.

Make a syrup of 1/2 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water. Cook to threading stage, pour hot syrup over the beaten egg whites to which salt has been added, folding carefully.

Fold yolks into the whites and then fold in whipped cream.

Garnish with nutmeg.

As it sits you will need to stir it a little. Keep cold.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Stay Away from Runaround CU

Oh, it gets better. Monday, TFR went in to the nearest branch of The Credit Union That Shall Not Be Named. She was directed to a window where she was able to pay off that burdensome debt of $.26 that had hung over our head for all that time (days, even).

Then, with the car loan paid off, she was directed to a second window where she would be able to close out our savings account. But NOT, of course, until after they'd called me, on the phone number listed on our accound, asked me to verify my secret password, and gotten my permission to close the account. An understandable procedure, but under the circumstances, also a bit tiresome.

Especially since it wasn't even the last straw. Once she'd closed the account, she was given a check for the $10 left in it. A check which she was then directed to cash at... you guessed it... another window. But not just ANY other window, she found herself back at the first window, where she'd made the $.26 payment. They took the check from her (the one with which she'd trekked... feet), and gave her the cash.

And now, finally, we are done with that "bank".

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Cents and Senlessness

Oh, for crying out loud. This is the kind of stupid thing you hear about in e-mail chain letters. I never thought it would happen to me. and although I admit it has not reached any level of severity, it is frustrating. Here's what happened:

About a year ago, due to an auto accident I was involved in, TFR and I found ourselves in the market for as car. We found one that dit our needs perfectly: a 1996 Subaru. We love it. We were able to use the insurance money to make a down payment, and secured a loan from a local credit union, which shall remain anonymous (though my local readers would recognize the name immediately).

In order to get the loan, we had to open a savings account at the C.U., with a minimum balance ($10 -- eh, it was a formality). Because we are attempting to rebuild our credit, we arranged for automatic payments and have studiously made sure that the account from which the payment was made always had sufficient funds on the day of the payment. A year later, and our final payment was in November. The car was paid off and is ours.


Due to some glitch in the credit union's system, a balance of $.26 was left in the account, and yesterday, we received a nasty past due notice, informing us that it will go on our credit report if we don't resolve it immediately. Understandably disturbed by this, I called the credit union and was assured that we have a ten day grace period. As long as we pay the balance off within that time, there will be no problems.

I immediately offered to make the payment on the spot, over the phone, to get it over with. Unfortunately, they do not have the technology in place to take a payment over the phone. Considering the circumstances that led to the phone call, I should not have been surprised.

The phone representative then went on to warn me that once the loan is paid off, it will be a closed account, and that since our savings account there will then be a stand-alone account and will have a balance of less than $100, we will begin incurring a $7 service charge each month.

So Either TFR or I get to take some time out of our already busy life (I'm working opening through closing on Friday), go to a nearby branch of the credit union, pay them TWENY-SIX CENTS, and then either deposit an additional $90 in the savings account, or close it.

Guess which we'll be doing

Saturday, November 29, 2008


While I'm issuing memos:

Dear New York Wal-Mart customers,

Happy? Did you get your bargains? Find the stuff you wanted? Get all your Christmas shopping done early? Save a ton?

Great, fantastic! and only one man had to die to make it happen. How proud you must be, how smug.

As far as I'm concerned, you're beneath contempt. Every damned one of you who ran over the poor man or ignored the attempts of his coworkers and the police to rescue him. I'm all for commerce and capitalism, and I have no problem with a little bit of shopping for the holidays, but damn, what kind of animals are you?

And my heart goes out to the family of this poor man, who was working a temp job. I can only imagine what was going through his head -- trying to get ahead, working, trying to be productive, trying to either pull himself up by his bootstraps or trying to make a little extra to give his family a better Christmas.

And now he's dead.

Because you just HAD to be among the first ones in.

Well, now you have to live with the consequences. I hope it weighs on your consciences a good long time.

Everything's Coming Up... Well, Not Roses

Dear Beavers,


In case you're too lazy (or heartbroken) to count 'em, that's 65 HA's... Sixty-Five.... which, not coincidentally, is the number of points the Ducks racked up against you in a Civil War upset, in Corvallis -- a game the Beavers were supposed to win easily on their way to their first Rose Bowl since the 1960's.


But don't feel too bad, Beavers. You still have a shot at the Rose Bowl. I mean, UCLA COULD beat Southern Cal next weekend. After all, we upset you. But even if that happens, you'll have backed into the Rose Bowl -- you will not have advanced to it on the merits of a victory over the Ducks. Furthermore, you'll be limping into it after having given up to Oregon 65 points -- not just the most ever scored in a Civil War, but the most ANY team has EVER scored on you. EVER.

Chew on that for a year. See you in Autzen.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Chili Reception

I'm feeling pretty good about myself right now. Yesterday, I participated in my first ever cooking competition -- a chili cookoff that was a fundraiser for Shelter Care, a local charity. The rules were pretty lax, there were only 21 entrants, but it was fun. And best of all, I placed 10th in the judging and -- get this -- second in the people's choice voting.

It wasn't my first choice of chili styles -- I used beans, to which, like Texans, I usually object, but I was appealing to the lowest common denominator, and I knew the local populace is not quite as discriminating when it comes to red chili purism.

I used four kinds of chilis -- Canned chipotles, and a fresh serrano, Anaheim, and jalapeno. I sweated my aromatics in rendered bacon fat, and deglazed after I seared the chuck roast with bourbon and porter. There were a few other tricks I pulled out, but I'm not going to reveal all my secrets.

The part that leaves me kicking myself is the fact that I lost by one vote, and found out later that everyone who participated had a vote in the popular vote -- myself included. Had I cast a vote and one on The Lad's behalf, I would have won. Oh, well, I didn't really need $150 cash. *whimper*

My one consolation was that I took second place to a fellow pro, who has owned his own restaurants. His advice to me was more heat and a little more salt.

Believe me, I'll remember that.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Muddling Through

It has come to my attention that my lack of postings has caused concern among my readers. I'm touched, and sorry for the silence. I've been rather busy with work and home life, and frankly, unmotivated to blog about much of anything. Work is fulfilling but not exciting, I'm too burned out to get worked up about politics, I've had nothing to say for some time.

But I did manage something last night that I thought was worth mentioning -- I invented a new cocktail. It's based on the Mojito, but with a culinary twist. Like any good cook, I like playing with ingredients, especially giving something a twist by switching out one similar but non-identical ingredient, then going from there.

In this case, it was switching out the mint and replacing it with basil (which is related to mint botanically). From there I started building on similar switch-outs for other mojito ingredients, with the idea of replacing them with ingredients that were both similar to the ones they replaced; and that went well with basil. This is what I came up with. I'm hoping my readers can help me with ideas for a name for it:

4 or 5 medium-sized basil leaves
1 oz. honey
1 oz. lime juice
1 1/2 oz. citrus-infused vodka
6-8 oz. ginger beer
1 cup ice cubes

Combine the basil and honey in the bottom of a Collins glass and muddle until the basil is crushed. Add the lime juice and vodka, stir until the honey is dissolved. Add ice to the top of the glass, fill with ginger beer, and stir again. garnish with a lime wedge, sprig of basil, and slice of candied ginger.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Quote(s) of the Year

UPDATED 06/04/08

"someone is going to have to give up a piece of their pie so that someone else can have more."

- Michelle Obama, campaigning on her husband's behalf

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

If You Tell a Lie Big Enough, and Keep Repeating It, You're Probably Barack Obama

A tip of the Toque to Drew M. at Ace of Spades HQ.

The Scranton (PA) Times-Tribune first claimed it (no media bias there). Keith Goebbel Olbermann parroted it. Barry brought it up in the debate tonight. But it turns out that according to the Secret Service, The allegation of a "Kill Him!" epithet regarding Obama has no merit.

Will the MSM retract their repetition of it?

Will Obama stop beating this horse?

Don't hold your breath.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Damning Himself With Not-So-Faint Praise

Obama's ACORN Connection, straight from the horse's mouth.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Paying Back a "Pay It Forward"

As some of my longtime readers (all 5 of them) may recall, back in 2005, I went down to Houston to help out in a post-Katrina Red Cross Shelter. While I was there, I stayed with one of my best friends and his wife, who live in Spring, a suburb of Houston. The hospitality they showed me was far more generous than anything I did by going down there. They fed and housed me, they entertained me, heck, his brother gave me my first taste of God's Own Food.

Well, they say that no good deed goes unpunished, and Gustav Ike has them in a bad way. They thought their house had come through undamaged, but they've discovered that the roof is leaking, and the drywall in the master bedroom is... well, not DRYwall anymore, and not WALL for much longer. They don't expect power back for another week (he called me from his cell phone, which they use the car to recharge). They can get some food in the local grocery stores, but the lines are long there's not much left by the time they get in some times, and they're running out of money -- today they had to go to FEMA for MRE's. To top it all off, his wife's temp job is up, so they're down a paycheck as of this week.

My friend is not one to beg, he prides himself on being self-reliant, but things are tough, and he has agreed to let me ask my readers for help. This is a chance to give direct aid -- it isn't tax-deductible, it's not giving to an overarching charitable organization, but it is taking the bull by the horns and doing somehting to help someone. Hell, he helped me do the same for others 3 years ago, I have no problem asking for help for him now.

He says the most useful way of sending aid directly is through gift cards and gas cards. If any of you are interested, contact me in the comments or via email, and we'll talk.

Musical Geography Trivia Question of the Day

Where does the southbound odyssey start, and where does it end?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Quote of the Week

A tip of the Toque to Patrick at Born Again Redneck.

"Lurking just below the surface of the second-guessing about Sarah
Palin's fitness to be president is the serious question of whether we still
believe in the American people's capacity for self-government, what we mean when
we affirm that all American citizens are equal, and whether we tacitly believe
there are distinct classes of citizens and that American government at the
highest levels is an elite occupation. "

-- Steven F. Hayward, commenting at The Weekly Standard

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Just Keep Telling Yourself

There is no liberal media bias. There is no liberal media bias. There is no...

A tip of the toque to Ace of Spades.


My granddad used to like to say, "Figures don't lie, but liars sure figure". It was his gruff way of reminding people that numbers and statistics, no matter how technically accurate, can be presented in such a way as to imply much more than they really say.

The point was also driven home to me in my college statistics class. I did ok -- Math is not my passion, and statistics really pushed my limits. I escaped it with a C -- and that was just introductory statistics. But what DID stick with me, no matter how much the actual mathematics started to swamp me, was the professor's constant reminder to us whenever we were presented with statistics to ask questions -- never accept uncritically the assertions made by those presenting the statistics. Ask about the methods used to gather the information. If, for instance, the statistics are from a survey, and the presenters claim that X% of people favor Y, ask questions -- how many people did you ask? How were they selected? How representative of the population in general was the sampling? What exactly did they ask the people surveyed? How were the questions worded? Was it a yes/no question? If not, how many responses were available? How were THOSE worded? As you can see, statistics involves more than just numbers.

I have been struck by the importance of this recently, given the fact that one of the Obama campaign's main points of attack against John McCain has been "John McCain voted with President Bush 90% of the time".

Ninety Percent.

It's an interesting statistic to me, because it's the exact same number quoted by the Jeff Merkley campaign in attacking Gordon Smith -- "He voted with President Bush 90% of the time".

So let's start asking questions.

The first question that sprang to my mind was "How did you come up with that figure, 90%?" It seemed the obvious question to ask, but I soon realized that the answer to that question was dependent on another more fundamental question -- How do you define "Voted with President Bush"?

Obviously you can't mean "Voted the same way that Bush did", since Bush, not being a member of Congress, doesn't vote. So what DOES it mean? Voted in favor of 90% of the bills that Bush then signed into law, and against 90% of the bills that eventually passed but he vetoed? Voted 90% of the time the way Bush actively urged congress to vote? Voted the way the Republican Party leadership urged you to vote? Voted with the majority of your fellow Republicans? Please clarify.

But ok, for the sake of argument, let's accept the 90% claim for now. My next question is, how many times did Obama vote "with President Bush", using the same standard to determine the percentage? 0%? I doubt that10%? 20%? 50%? And if Obama voted "with President Bush" say, 30% of the time (as an example, I'm not making the claim that he did), would it still be fair to criticize McCain or Smith for all 90% of their pro-Bush votes? This is important to ask because just saying "they voted with Bush 90% of the time" and presenting that as a criticism implies "They voted wrong 90% of the time". That's unfair to both the senators AND President Bush. NO matter HOW bad a president you believe Bush is, it would be unreasonable to argue that he's been wrong about everything.

Here's what I mean: If Obama and the Democracts and the Republicans and Bush could all manage to agree on, again, say 30% of all the laws passed, that means that the Dems and Bush disagreed 70%, and the Dems and McCain disagreed 60% of the time (90-30=60), with McCain and the Dems agreeing with each other and against Bush 10% of the time. So even from the Democratic POV, arguing that Bush was wrong 70% of the time, McCain was only wrong 60% of the time. Given the way that the country is so split down the middle on so many issues, do you really think that's a strong criticism of your oponent?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Is This "Hope", or "Change"?

A Tip of the Toque to NRO via Ace of Spades HQ.

Obama's latest criticism of McCain? He's so out of touch, he doesn't even know how to send an e-mail.

Well, it's a fair cop, to be honest. John McCain doesn't use e-mail. You got him there, Barack. He he... yep, nailed him to the wall.

One small problem. The reason he doesn't use e-mail? His war wounds prevent him from:

"combing his hair, typing on a keyboard, or tying his shoes. Friends marvel at McCain's encyclopedic knowledge of sports. He's an avid fan - Ted Williams is his hero - but he can't raise his arm above his shoulder to throw a baseball. "

Nice, there, Barry. Way to keep it classy. What's next, questioning his patriotism for not saluting the flag?

Monday, September 08, 2008

Blogging Buddies

Yesterday, one of my favorite bloggers was in town, so we got together for a couple of beers. Ken's a great guy, as nice in person as he is on his blog. Thanks again, Ken, for the beer and the company. Next time I'm buying.

Gainfully Employed

A big thanks to all the well-wishers regarding my recent big news. So without further ado, here's the scoop on where I interviewed yesterday, how it went, and what I decided:

My working interview on Friday was at a local university other than U of O. The interview yesterday was at Marche'. The interview went ok, but the chef there has a poker face, so I don't know how well HE thinks it went. He informed me that if they decide to call me back for a second interview, it'll be a "stage" (French, pronounced "Stozh"), which means working one shift without pay (but I'd be fed) to see how I work out.

I've decided to go with the University job, unless Marche' offers me either A) a really good shift and higher pay (in which case I'll leave the university job); or B) a part time position (where I can moonlight after the other job).

I know it sounds crazy, giving up a job at a high end restaurant to work as a prep cook and steward at a college cafeteria, but there are several reasons I went with this decision:

1) The college job is M-F, 6:30-2:30, regular work hours, which allows me to actually have a family life, and also minimizes the amount of time The Lad has to be at daycare.

2) The pay is $10/hour, which is pretty good for a starting wage in this town.

3) Because the job revolves around the school year, I'll be getting Christmas and Spring breaks off with pay. The downside is that I'll be layed off every summer, but as I mentioned before, there are a couple of possibilities there: I can find seasonal work (perhaps at King Estate, I'm told they do hire seasonally), and I can also use that time to start and build my own business.

Today was my first day on the job. I'm sore and exhausted but also elated. It's good to finally be back at a steady, full-time, permanent job. I loved culinary school, but that was the longest stretch of unemployment/underemployment I've been through in my entire adult life, and I'm glad to have it behind me.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Palin the Destroyer

This is the movie quote that comes to mind whenever I think of the aneurisms being suffered by the likes of Keith Olbermann, Chris Matthews, et al, regarding the turn of events in the presidential race.

Negotiating from a Position of Strength

Well, the "Working Interview" turned out to be an emergency fill-in for the person who just quit. I worked 2 hours, through the lunch rush, survived a minor catastrophe (not my fault), and have the job if I want.

I'm still going to the interview on Sunday, just to see how it goes. Actually, I'm looking forward to it a lot more now. There's a lot less pressure on me -- if I don't get it, I'm still employed. If I do, then I have to weigh my decision. But it's nice to have the "do or die" pressure off of me.

So here's the dilemma:

The interview Sunday is at probably the single best, and undoubtedly the best-KNOWN, restaurant in all of Eugene. The menu is exquisite, the owner AND the chef have stellar reputations. Working there for any amount of time would be a feather in my cap.

The other job is working in an educational setting. It's not nearly as prestigious, though it isn't exactly mere cafeteria work. It won't look AS good on a resume. But what it WOULD afford me is saummers off to pursue my OWN business -- I hope to save up and buy a concessions trailer and start doing fairs and festivals, selling my barbecue. I would have winter and spring breaks off, with pay, which would allow for vacations AND for moonlighting.

But the big draw is the annual summer layoff. That's three months free to try my hand at self-employment, as well as the possibility of working seasonally in some of the more tourist-driven businesses around (like King Estate). I've reached the conclusion that the likelihood of me, at this late stage in the game (I'm 40), working my way up through hte ranks from prep to line to chef de parti to sous to Chef are pretty slim. My best shot at self-employment will be to start soon, start small, and grow my business at the same TIME as gaining experience.

In terms of pay, I doubt either place will be offering a wage significantly higher than the other, but we'll see. That's DEFINITELY a consideration, but it would have to be in the neighborhood of $1.00/hour difference at LEAST for that to be enough to decide one way or another on its own.


No, not the Obama kind. Real hope, right now, and a request for prayers and good thoughts.

Most of you know I quit my job two weeks ago. The job hunting has been pretty discouraging since then.

But that's just changed. A couple of days ago, I got a call from one of the best restaurants in Eugene, I have an interview with them on Sunday. And less than an hour ago, I got a call from a former culinary classmate, and now have an interview in less than an hour at another location.

Both jobs have different strengths and weaknesses. At this point I'd be happy with either, but if I get offered both I want to make the right choice. I'll explain more after the interview, wish me luck.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Dems Giggle While Nola Drowns

A tip of the Toque to Dave in Texas from Ace of Spades HQ.

So glad to know that the suffering of of the people of the Gulf States is worth it to the Left if that means winning this election.

Because, you know, they're for the little guy.

"Light" Blogging

A little break from politics...

I took The Lad to the park down the street from our house today. It was gorgeous outside today, but there was a bit of coolness in the breeze, even when the sun was high overhead. It definitely had that late summer/early fall feel to it, when the sun feels like it's farther away than you've been used to all summer, and it feels like twilight even when the sun is high overhead. I wonder if the angle of the suns rays striking the earth affects our perception of its light in the same way it affects the amount of warmth we receive from it.

I've been doing a lot of reflecting on the qualities of sunlight this summer, and how things like time of year and time of day and ones surroundings affect sunlight, and how that sunlight in turn affects how we perceive our surroundings. And like today, most of that reflection has occurred while taking The Lad to the park -- though unlike today, it has mostly been at Skinner Butte Park in Eugene. Usually, I've taken him there near the end of the day while waiting to pick TFR up after work. Even with the late sunset of summer, it's been late enough in the day most times that the sun, while not on the horizon, was low enough to be below the park's treeline.

But Skinner Butte Park, as its name implies, is located at a butte. Not just on top of the butte, but also extending next to it, between Skinner Butte and the Willamette river. The playground to which I take The Lad is located on the lower land between the river and the butte. So while it was in shadows by the time we would leave, the butte itself was high enough that it was still bathed in light. And what strick me was the way the light striking the butte while we were in shadow made the features of the trees on the butte stand out -- it was as if I could see each branch, each leaf and needle in greater detail and clarity. The light often had a warm, golden quality to it that enhanced the effect. It was glorious -- relaxing, warm, and distinctly summerish.

After I'd enjoyed the sensation for a while, I found myself pondering what the cause of this effect was -- was it the fact that my eyes, accustomed to the shadow, was more sensitive to the light coming off the butte? Was it psychological, in that the dimness of the lower altitude enabled the brain to ignore it, and focus on the butte? Or was it the angle of the sun's rays, coming in under the leaves and highlighting them, instead of coming down more directly from above and washing everything into one mass of green? Or was it, as I suspect, some combination of all these causes?

I'll have to ponder this further -- next time I'm at the park.

Obama will Palin Comparison

A Tip of the Toque to Redstate:

A Tale of the Tape, Palin Vs. Obama.

The Noble Left

A Tip of the Toque to NewsBusters.

This is disgusting. The Kos-tic slime over at daily Kos started with a wild speculation, and ran with it. The allegation is that Sarah Palin's son, Trig, isn't really hers, but her teenage daughters, and that she faked her pregnancy to cover up her daughters.

It's bad enough that such a tabloidesque rumor could be given credence without any evidence to support it, and in fact, with some pretty compelling arguments against it (for starters, Downs Syndrome is much more common in children of older mothers). What's really disgusting is the depth of ugliness the posters at Kos have gone to, and the glee with which htey have done it. There's a references to Trig as a "Mongreloid", and much much worse.

You know how the other day I wrote that I believe that most people on the left are not truly evil, merely misguided? The scum over at Daily Kos are an exception to that.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Alaskan Gold

He did it! I had despaired of it happening, I had actually been foolish enough to listen to the MSM pundits discussing Romney and Pawlenty, but McCain did it! He nominated the running mate I've been hoping for some time that he would -- Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin. What a ballsy choice, and I believe the right one. Palin's a staunch conservative, And her pro-life stance reinforces my growing belief that McCain is pro-life too. By tapping a pro-life, pro-Second Amendment, fiscal conservative, McCain has effectively reached out to those in the party to the right of himself, while at the same time, by picking a strong, accomplished woman, he's effectively reached out to those in the center.

And let's be clear about this, Palin's gender is not, by any stretch of the imagination, her only asset. She is an accomplished, successful person we can all respect. She married her high school sweetheart, and together they built their own fishing business. She's the mother of 5 children, the eldest of whom is about to deploy to Iraq. She fought her way up through Alaskan politics, making a name for herself as a public servant, she fought corruption within the ranks of her own party, she faced down the backlash from that, and won the gubernatorial election without help from her party's state apparatus.

She is bright, articulate, passionate, and committed. She is a good person, and she'll make a great VP.

It was a brilliant move on McCain's part. Her choice blunts one of the main talking points of the Obama camp. He who spouts "Change" as his mantra selected a longtime DC insider as his running mate, while his opponent selects an outsider, a normal person who earned her place, and a reformer at that. Are you more likely to reform Washington with someone like Biden at your side, or someone like Palin?

And McCain's choice of when to announce was as politically canny as his choice of running mate. Talk about stealing Obama's thunder.

I had hoped for some time she would be his pick, and I'm absolutely thrilled. I was already resolved to voting for McCain, but now I won't be holding my nose when I do.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Waving the Eye-Holed Bedsheet

Oh, for crying out loud... A Tip of the Toque to Ken at It Comes in Pints.

So apparently, if you notice that Barack Obama is skinny, you're actually making veiled references to his ethnicity.

I don't recall if I actually stated this or not at any point in this blog's past, but one of the things about watching the Democratic primaries that filled me with a sense of dread was the knowledge that regardless of whether Obama or Clinton won, we were in for a general election campaign season in which the left's response to any criticism of their candidate would be to call the critic(s) prejudiced. If Hillary had won, it would have been "SEXISM!", but since Obama won, the cry we hear whenever anyone questions his fitness for command is "RACISM!"

I started writing this post back on August 7, but set it aside to deal with regular life stuff. Since then, a lot more has been said regarding this. But the penultimate example of that of which I speak was pointed out to me by Ace of Spades HQ earlier today (Yesterday by the clock): a writer at Slate has actually stated that "If Obama Loses Racism is the only reason McCain might beat him."

Has it really come to this? Yes, yes it has. I foresaw it coming some time ago. And here's why I believe it has happened:

Set aside the cynical machinations of the political operatives, both sides employ those, and each side's operatives use slightly different tactics to acheive similar strategic goals. So why has the Obama camp been so successful in spreading this particular theme? In part because they're simply perpetuating what a lot of the people on the left actually believe. Not all, but the most adamant and died-in-the-wool leftists and liberals do. They really honestly believe that if you vote against Barack Obama, you must be a racist.

Logically speaking, their reasoning is valid, but not sound, because their premises are not true. Their argument, which I believe for most is almost subconscious, goes something like this: Barack Obama's idealogy is, almost to a T, their own idealogy. Politically AND philosophically, regarding matters of foreign and domestic policy, economics, Obama really does reflect and represent the beliefs and aspirations of the American Left. And these beliefs, this idealogy, is so dearly held, so firmly and completely believed, that they cannot fathom anyone in their right mind believing otherwise. Therefore, if someone is opposed to Obama, why, it CAN'T be because he simply disagrees with the man's politics, because those are impeccable! There must be some more nefarious reason, some personal vendetta! And once that conclusion is reached, it's a fairly short hop to note Obama's pigmentation and decide that the ulterior motive is racism. The person's real fault isn't that they're bigots, it's that they're not doctrinally sound. But since that doesn't compute, the Left falls back on the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy. Which explains why everything John McCain says critical of Obama must be racism, whereas actual racist comments by Obama's running mate are excusable, even "Strengths".

To be fair, the same could be said of many of the beliefs held by those of us on the right -- some of those beliefs more commonly held by the right than others, but still, without much effort I'm sure I or my readers could come up with a quick list of things that most conservatives, both religious and non-religious, as well as quite a few libertarians, would argue are so blazingly apparent that they surely CAN'T be disputed with intelligence (The phrase "We hold these turths to be self-evident" comes to mind).

So why don't we all start claiming that everyone who supports Obama or opposes our candidates or positions is evil (or racist or whatever other variation of evil you want to pick)? Well, some of us do, and they embarrass most of the rest of us. And almost all of us are sure that SOME of our oponents ARE evil, or at the very least, self-interested and not concerned with upholding those truths we support. But we also acknowledge that not everyone who is on the left, particularly those who fall in the category of "Liberal" (in the modern, not classical sense) as opposed to outright socialist, has evil in their hearts or minds when they vote as they do. That's because we tend to filter our views of such people, to varying degrees, through Hanlon's Razor. It's possible that some of those on the left really do hate our system of government and/or way of life and want to replace it with somehting else, but except for the hard-core Marxists out there, it's more likely that people who vote opposite of the way I would truly mean well, they just haven't really thought through the logic of what they conclude they believe and support. It's like one of those cults where the congregations are true believers, and the "clergy" are the ones who know it's really a con game, and the deeper you get the less an innocent victim you become, and the more you join the ranks of the deceivers.

So let me spell it out for everyone out there who really believes that conservatives oppose Barack Obama because we're racist and he's black. No. We oppose him because we oppose his political views, just as we opposed Kerry and before him Gore and Clinton etcetera etcetera.... We don't like his ideas, we don't like the politics he and his party espouse, and we would rather not have someone who THINKS like him in the White House.

That's not to say there aren't racists who will oppose him, simply because of his color. Hell, he lost votes in the DEMOCRATIC primaries because of that, just as his opponents probably lost the votes of people who SUPPORTED him simply because they wanted a black president.

But really, for most of us, it truly is more about creed than color, more about policy than pigment. So when Obama says that we oppose him because he doesn't look like other presidents, my reply is that most of us oppose him because he reminds us TOO much of certain presidents.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Trains Ran On TIme

Apparently, Obama thinks we should emulate China. I wonder if that extends only to the efficiency of their infrastructure. Give his upbringing in radical American Socialism, I kinda doubt it.

(A tip of the Toque to Rob at Say Anything BLog)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

One of these things is not like the others....

SO I've been watching the latest round of political ads here in Oregon, where the only really truly contested race is Gordon Smith (R) vs. Jeff Merkley (D) for US Senate.

I'm not the biggest Gordon Smith fan, and BOTH sides' ads are particularly negative, but here's the part that has struck me as interesting:

Every pro-Smith ad, and all but ONE anti-Merkley ad, that I've seen, has been accompanied by the now cliche, "I'm Gordon Smith, and I approve of this ad". But EVERY ad I've seen promoting Merkley or attacking Smith has been the responsibility of, and sponsored by, one liberal PAC or another -- SEIU, the Oregon Democratic Party. Not ONCE have I heard from my TV, "I'm Jeff Merkley, and I approve of this ad".

Which is interesting, because the ads approve of HIM. Pity the man doesn't have the balls to speak for himself.

UPDATE 8/21:

It's about time. I finally saw one of the pro-Merkley ads today, one that was originally either a DSCC or SEIU-COPE ad, that is now ending with, "I'm Jeff Merkley, and I approve of this ad". I guess I'm not the only one who commented on this.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Qoute of the Week

"And just talking about "the least of these" at Rick Warren's church just makes it worse; you're for the little guy? Well, they don't come any littler. "

-- Reader Noel at Ace of Spades HQ, regarding Obama's stance on the Born Alive Bill.

Long Week

I quit my job last Thursday. I won't go into details except to say that I'd had enough.

I called the winery back last week, they said call me back when I have a car. I've quite afew apps and resumes out, including to the U and the local hospital. Meanwhile, I'll be splitting my time between job hunting and being househusband, a job I tolerate at best.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

HE DID IT!!!!!

Quote of the Day

A Tip of the Toque to George Will via The Maximum Leader:

"Not since the Nazi’s 1934 Nuremberg rally, which Leni Riefenstahl turned into the film “Triumph of the Will,” has tyranny been so brazenly tarted up as art."

Friday, August 08, 2008

Quote or the Day

In Honor of the Olympics:

"Pre turned distance running into a blood sport."

-- Bill Bowerman

Thursday, August 07, 2008


Oregon has lost some of its heroes.

This was on the local news here tonight. The pilot and six of the firefighters were from tiny Merlin, Oregon, outside Grants Pass.

Wildland firefighters are justifiably adored here in the west -- I'm sure they're admired everywhere, but wildland fires are a particularly prevalent threat here, between the brush of Southern California and the timberlands of the Northwest. And when the sh**, or in this case thesparks, hit the fan, everyone who can lends a hand to fight the fires -- from local volunteers crews all the way up to National Guardsmen. But those who make a career out of facing the red devil -- particularly elite units like Hotshots, smokejumpers, and Helitack crews are out heroes. Fighting wildland fire is like fighting a war against an enemy that never surrenders, always fights to the death.

So when we lose one, it's a tragedy. But when we lose NINE? It's devastating -- even if you have never met them. And my heart goes out tonight especially to the family of the men lost and to the town of Merlin -- they knew these men personally, had social and business contact with them daily (and in a small town in the Northwest, business contact IS social contact). They didn't just lose heroes, they lost friends.

According to the local news, there was an incredibly heroic act after the crash -- there were four survivors, and eyewitnesses report that the third survivor went back into the burning helo to retrieve the fourth.

Keep everyone involved in your prayers. This is the first crash of a helicopter owned by this particular company in its entire history. The survivors, their associates who weren't involved, their friends, their families, and the people of the Northwest whom they served have all suffered a great loss.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

People Skills Advice for Front of the House Folks

If you're an opener and have open tabs when you clock out, is understandable that you'd be upset if the closers don't tip you out of those tabs. However, if you also happen to be the bartender least prone to tipping out the back of the house, bitching to the cook about the closers probably isn't going to garner you the sympathetic response you hoped for.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Musical Geography Trivia Question of the Day

Vic gets a Bye on this one, and is ineligible to answer, because I know he knows it. For second place:

If your country told you there's work to be done, so they gave you a tin hat and gave you a gun, to where did they send you?

That Rhytmic Thudding You Hear Is My Head Hitting the Desk

I just got off the phone with the sous chef at the restaurant at King Estate. I responded to a job posting, and found out via the phone call that it was them. This is the second time they've called me, once was back in the srping, that time it was the executive chef. The place is amazing -- the winery, the land, the restaurant. It's elegant, it's high quality, everything about it is wonderful, and it's damned well close to perfect in terms of the kind of work I want to do.

The problem is, it's 23 miles from where I live, and TFR and I share one car -- a car which, by the by, would burn over 2 gallons of gas per day to get me to work and back if I got a job at K.E.

I explained all of this to the sous chef -- the job is a dream job for me, but I just can't consider it until my transportation situation changes. He was disappointed, but understanding, and encouraged me to give him a call if and when my situation changes. I was close to tears when I got off the phone. I want so badly to be working in a real restaurant, cooking good food for people who aren't eating merely to help absorb some of the copious amounts of alcohol they're consuming. The place where I'm working now has provided some... ahem... interesting work experience, but I don't feel challenged, I find it hard to take pride in the product, even doing my best, just because of the "quality" of product being used. The owner's wife is a controlling harridan who is constantly meddling in the kitchen, despite having NO experience as a cook or chef, and on several occasions has scolded (and given her tone, that's the best word I can think of) me for failing to follow procedures that I was never informed of in the first place, or for doing things in a certain way, when that is the way I was trained by the existing staff. And to top it all off, despite repeatedly telling them that I need more hours, they're still only scheduling me 15-20 hours per week. I can't continue that -- I need a full time job. And now, when I have a shot at one I'd love, I can't take it. I'm going to keep on trying for a better position, but it kills me that I have to let this one pass me by.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Kitchen Staff... er... Distaff...

Poor TFR gets pretty frustrated at times -- with my passion for cuisine and territoriality in the kitchen, she seldom gets a chance to express her own culinary creativity. But earlier this week, on her days off (Sunday, Monday and Tuesday), she asserted herself, and the results were damned tasty.

Monday she made shish kebabs with cubed sirloin, peppers, and onions. She took a "Mediterranean" style salad dressing mix, and instead of may, mixed it with lime juice and olive oil, and used it as the marinade. We had pitas and hummus on the side, and paired it with a Chardonnay. Then on Tuesday she made a delicious vegetable beef soup from scratch.

Then I took over again. I love her, and she's a great cook, but the kitchen is, for me, what the woodshop or the den or the underside of an old car being restored in the garage is to some men.

Wednedsay it was sea scallops wrapped in bacon and glazed with Berryaki.

Last night it was homemade carne asada tacos.

Tonight I'm trying a riff on tina fish sandwiches. I'm starting with fresh-caught wild albacore from the Oregon coast. I'm going to give it a quick sear and then slice it thin, carpaccio-style. I'll lay it on sourdough crostini, then drizzle it with a dijon-balsamic vinaigrette, and serve it with home-cooked krinkle potato chips.

My Word!

Your Vocabulary Score: A

Congratulations on your multifarious vocabulary!

You must be quite an erudite person.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Ich Bin Ein Elitist

A Tip of the Toque to Glenn Beck.

Apparently, not long after Michelle Obama was proud of her country for the first time, Barack Obama is embarassed by it.

So his pastor says God Damn America.
His wife was never proud of America until this year.
And now he's embarassed by America.

Way to be a citizen of the world, Barry. Remind us again why that qualifies you to be President of the United States of America? Or why you'd even want to, considering how embarassed we make you?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Northwest Has Been Berry Good to Me

I don't suppose that anyone who has read my blog for very long would be surprised that my most recent culinary experiment (from the ground up, not refining previous efforts) would be a Northwest variation on a theme from elsewhere. But this time, I decided to foray into Northwest-Asian fusion. We do, after all, share the Pacific Rim with Asia, and in fact the U of O is home to the Center for Asian and Pacific studies, and for a city of less than 200,000 Eugene has an amazing number of Asian restaurants -- mostly Chinese, followed by Thai and then Japanese and fusion.

I decided that I'd get into the fusion mood in a big way, and so the name of my dish reflects not only the fusion of Northwest and Asian cuisine, but also a fusion of my love of cuisine and really really atricious puns. With that in mind, I present to you:

Rasperryaki Glaze
1 1/2 cups red raspberry syrup
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. ginger paste
1 tsp. Sriracha chili sauce
1 Tbsp. honey

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Head to simmering, reduce by 1/4. Use as a glaze on meat, etc.

The other day when I did my hazelnut encrusted salmon, I'd purchased the sockeye whole and busted it down into fillets myself. Last night I fired up the grill and tried my glaze on the rest of that salmon, served it with grilled corn again, and paired it with a King Estate '07 Pinot Gris. I was quite pleased with the results. The glaze does have a hint of berry flavor, enough to give it some distinction, but not so overpowering that it loses the terriyaki influence, and the saltiness of the soy prevents the syrup from being cloying (a real danger with a sweet fish like salmon).

The Only Constant is Change

A while back I blogged on a recipe I developed on the fly, and then on my efforts to refine the recipe.

Well, despite my pleasure with those results, I continue to refine it, and here are the latest refinements:

1. 86 the cranberries
2. shallots instead of onions
3. roasted filberts, not raw
4. fewer filberts, more rosemary
5. deglaze with bourbon, not wine, and add apple juice before reducing

I served it with garlic mashed yukon golds and sauteed green beans this time.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Guilty Pleasures

I admit it... I love Lolcats:

more cat pictures

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Do As They Say, Not As They Do, Pt. II

A tip of the Toque to Glenn Beck.

Just read the link, dammit.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Musical Geography Trivia Question of the Day

If King George commands, where specifically do we obey?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Home Fires

It's been a while since I had time to do any serious cooking at home, but tonight I managed to feed TFR well. The Lad needed a couple of items from the grocery store, so on the way home from Daycare we stopped and I got... THE BUG. A mood to cook mean struck me, so I went to town.

Dinner was pretty light fare, my old standby of cedar-planked hazelnut encrusted salmon, but it was special in that I was able to buy whole wild Alaskan sockeye and break it down myself (which means there's more in the freezer now). I topped it with a shallot and blackberry sauce, garnished with lemon zest. I forewent the traditional sides of a veg and a starch, and combined the two in some sweet white corn-on-the-cob, roasted in the husk on my deck grill. Wine Wine pairing was a dry Pinot Noir Rose from Hamacher.

Appetizers consisted of a ciabatta crostini topped with Oregon bay shrimp in cocktail sauce, garnished with wedges of avocado and finished with lemon juice, served with a cuba libre as the cocktail. Dessert was pound cake topped with fresh sliced strawberries and homemade whipped cream.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Musical Geography Trivia Question of the Day

If by a lonely harbor wall, she watched the last star falling, where is the love for whom she'll wait and hope and pray?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Where are you if you're talking to a tourist whose every move's among the purest?

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

In All Fairness to Barack Obama

Jesse Jackson was not being fair to Obama.

He really doesn't single out black people when talking down.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Musical Geography Trivia Question of the Day

If you was lookin' for a place to get yourself out of the cold, to warm the frozen feelin' that was eatin' at your soul, where was it winter?

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Boy, do I Have THEM Snowed....

A tip of the Toque to Maximum Leader at Naked Villainy:

You paid attention during 100% of high school!

85-100% You must be an autodidact, because American high schools don't get scores that high! Good show, old chap!

Do you deserve your high school diploma?
Create a Quiz

In truth, I did rather poorly, from an academic standpoint, in high school. OK, to be fair to myself, it was more of a problem with application than information, but still, I highly doubt I'd have scored so well had I taken this quize back in the day.

Forget Hell, I'm in Limbo's Kitchen

Two weeks plus since graduation, and things have settled into a random pattern. I've discovered I have a knack for working under pressure, and I've concluded that I'd rather spend an entire shift on a slammed line than do an hour's prep.

The problem is I'm not getting the hours I need. This week and next are our busiest weeks of the summer, yet I'll be barely making 30-35 hours. That is more than during school, but it's still not enough. And the hours are spread out, often 3 or 4 hours a day for 5 days, followed by one full shift, and only one full day off. It doesn't help that the food I'm cooking does nothing to fire my passion. The straw that broke the camel's back was this coming weekend -- When I started the job I made clear that due to childcare limitations, I cannot work on Saturdays. But they scheduled ALL of us to work on every day of the 4th weekend, no exceptions, and missing a shift is a firing offense, called in or not.

I have been surprised to discover that my No Saturdays stipulation is not as much of a deal-breaker as I expected it to be. I discovered this because I spent all day yesterday canvassing the downtown Eugene area, as well as several outlying restaurants, dropping off resumes at at least 15 restaurants. I had 3 impromptu interviews, an on-the-spot appointment to come back for an interview, and had another call for an interview by 8:30 this morning. One of the impromptu interviews ended in a promise of a call, and another resulted in a call-back today. Of the two interviews today, one resulted in a promise of a call-back, and the other resulted in me being scheduled to work on a trial basis during the breakfast shift this coming Friday. I'm sure I'm going to get my ass kicked, especially since I'll be working 5:30 AM -- 2 PM, then going to my current job and working 5-11 PM. But I'm going to work that kicked ass off, and I'm going to get a better job -- better pay, better hours, and more importantly, BETTER CUISINE!

I really do love this work. A few days ago I ended up working solo during the lunch AND early dinner rushes because the other cook called in sick 15 minutes before shift. I was slammed, I was pissed, and I was HAVING THE TIME OF MY LIFE!!!!! As I worked, and stewed, and fought my way out of the weeds, I found myself smiling and thinking to myself, "at least I'm not at a desk anymore". I'm seriously better of emotionally doing this than I ever was answering tech support calls from pissy, computer-illiterate customers in a row of cubicles, while a supervisor stood at the end of the office, snapping a whip and shouting "Answer FASTER!" as a bald giant wearing nothing but a leather harness beat the rowing rhythm on a kettle drum.

Monday, June 23, 2008


My son's intelligence is just that -- frightening. At 3 1/2, his vocabulary is already amazing -- and it's not just how many words he knows, it's how complex some of those words are, and that he knows what they mean and how to use them in context... "privacy", and "catastrophe", for instance. On top of that, his grasp of abstract ideas -- we've given up on trying to spell out words or use synonyms and foreign words for things because he has those dialed in -- and today he finally cracked our "oblique references" code -- as I was leaving for work, TFR asked me if, after work, I wanted to go somewhere to pick the things that grow on plants that you eat, and he exclaimed with glee, "BERRIES?!"


I'm proud, but I'm scared. I'm just waiting for him to start eying the car keys.

Musical Geography Trivia Question of the Day

Where did you go if your horse naturally won, where did you go next, how did you get there, and what did you do there?

Saturday, June 21, 2008

When Worlds Collide

So today's foray to the farmer's market got me to thinking. Living in Eugene, and attending the culinary program where I did, can be both a blessing and a curse when it comes to food and certain ethical, philisophical, political, and economic concerns. Eugene, being Eugene, is very intensely enthusiastic about the idea of sustainability -- organic, local, seasonal agriculture -- not just for the qality of food, but for the argued environmental benefits. And that enthusiasm carried over into the culinary classroom at LCC. The spring dinner we did was a 100-mile menu, you'll recall.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm not against local, seasonal food -- I love the concept, especially as a culinarian. The quality of food is so much better when you get the freshest ingredients, and those that were harvested close enough to you that they actually ripened on the vine. Alice Waters has really pioneered AND solidly proven the validity of the concept at Chez Panisse.

But for me, it's more about the quality of food, and the economic benefit to the local economy, which ultimately benefits the restauranteur, since he's essentially paying the people who pay the people who pay him. It's not the moral imperative or grand crusade that it's made into by people who also ascribe to overarching environmentalist movements (such as the Eugene-style neo-hippies with their almost luddite-like abhorrence for anything that smacks of industrialism).

Those gorgeous, yoummy vegetables and berries I showed you? Those set me back $18 and some change. My next stop was at our local Giganto-warehouse, low-overhead discount food outlet (local readers know of whom I speak) to do the rest of the my grocery shopping, including more vegetables. As an exercise in curiosity, I tried to limit myself to the same $18 and change, and while my math was off (lots of stuff for fractions of a dollar per pound, purchased in fractions of a pound), I only went over by $2. And for that, I got:

1.17 lbs romaine lettuce
2 navel oranges
4 bananas
3 tomatos
2 lemons
.47 lb broccoli
1 bunch cilantro
2 Kiwi fruit
1 bunch green onions
2.26 lbs. grapes
.96 lbs asparagus
4 Gala apples
2 necatrines
2 limes
1 bunch (1.47 lbs) celery

Big difference. Granted, that difference is both in quantity and quality, and the two are inversely proportionate, but here's where my dilemma comes in. If I were buying for a high-end restaurant, I'd buy almost all of my produce that way. But I am not a purchaser for a restaurant -- yet. I'm a purchaser for a family -- a family that until recently was living on one income, and is still only on one and a half incomes, until my hours pick up. Those farmer's market veggies will make a wonderful weekend meal splurge, but there's no way I could have afforded to buy all the vegetables my family needs until the next time I shop, if I'd paid farmer;s market prices for all of our vegetables. I understand, the stuff I bought at gigantostore are not all local 9though some was), are not at their peak, are not organic -- but they are AFFORDABLE.

I have heard all the arguments about priorities, and the benefits of the "sustainable" produce outweighing their cost, but when the chice is between buying inferior vegetables or insufficient vegetables, I know where the choice lies for my family.

I also understand the arguments that the greater the demand for local, organic, seasonal produce, the more farmers will offer it, and the more affordable it will become. But unless you live in a very agriculturally vibrant region, the reality is that the odds are, your local agriculture will never be able to produce enough crops in that manner to feed an entire populations (and if there is data that refutes this belief, by all means, please show me) -- Economy of scale has the upper hand, not to mention the fact that the larger the farming operation, the mote indistinguishable from the model it's purporting to replace it would become.

So for the foreseeable future, I don't see this kind of microagriculture as a viable alternative to the industry that agriculture has become, at least not for most consumers -- it is a luxury, albeit one that is accessible to more consumers than most luxuries.

And as you can tell from my prior post, like Ferris Bueller referring to Ferraris, I highly recommend it, if you have the means.

Foodie P%&#

Today being the first Saturday of my post-collegiate life, I decided to take The Lad with me to the Eugene Farmer's Market and do a bit of shopping. Here's what we came home with:


All of this was grown locally, picked fresh, and sold direct to moi. Clockwise from upper left: Strawberries (not those pale pseudo-red styrofoam giant mutants you get in the grocery store, these are compact, seduction-lipstick-blood-red, and co full of flavor they're almost hallucinogenic), spinach, easter egg radishes, carrots, blue potatoes, sugar snap peas, spearmint, and in the center, a cucumber.

The potatoes I'll slice thin and fry into chips, the spearmint will garnish the strawberries, everything else goes in a salad. I'll serve it all with some wild Alaskan sockeye (can't get any closer to local, our runs are closed for the year) and pair it with a local Pinot Gris tonight, or maybe a Pinot Noir Rose.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Welcome to the Majors, Kid

It seems appropriate that on my first day in the kitchen after graduating from the culinary program, I should get my hiney handed to me.

No, seriously, it really is appropriate. And it wasn't anywhere NEARLY as bad as it could have been, but:

I was scheduled a partial shift -- I'm still only part-time, and although I only get one day off this week, I am only scheduled one full shift. Yesterday I was scheduled to work 11-6. The opener was scheduled 10:30-6:30. Another part-timer was scheduled for 6, and the closer arrived at 6:30.

When I got there, the ppener informed me that he had a sore throat and was going to go home after the lunch rush. So from around 1:30 or so until my relief arrived at 6, I was on my own. Only my 6 PM reliever didn't arrive -- I ended up working until 6:30, when the closer arrived.

And the lunch rush picked back up right after the opener left.

And the dinner rush came early.

And we were 86 several popular items.

And several other popular items, all of which the opener told me had been prepped, hadn't.

I actually held my own. The bartender only had to check on the status of an order a couple if times, I only screwed up about 3 garnishes, and nothing got sent back. Overall, I'd say I did ok.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

I Walked The Line

Well, that's that. Yesterday by 5:30 PM PDT, the ceremony was over and I had become a graduate. Before the ceremony, the culinary department held a luncheon in our honor, after it, my family had a dinner in mine.

It's a great feeling. For once in my life I finished what I started, something significant and life-shanging. Two years ago I sat in a classroom with a group of strangers, overwhelmed by the list of competencies required in order to complete the program. Yesterday, I sat in an audtiorium with a group of friends, overwhelmed by everything we have accomplished over the last two years. There was laughter, there were tears, a lot of shouting and smiling, and in the end a sense of triumph.

My mother, my sister, my brother-in-law, my niece and two nephews, my uncle (my father's brother) and aunt, and my wife all were in attendance, and I was even able to surprise my mom with my PTK membership. Yesterday and today we spent as a family, celebrating not only my accomplishment, but the love and support that thy have provided me that has carried me through this all (especially my wife).

It's been a good time, and while both my school and my family made me feel like the center of attention, I also felt like part of something bigger than myself.

I'm ready to move on now. I'm hopeful -- no, I'm confident -- in my ability to make a career of this, and I'm ready to go.

Saturday, June 14, 2008


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Musical Geography Trivia Question of the Day

If you've pawned all your hopes and he even sold your own car, (1) how are you getting there and (2) where are you going?


My last final... make that my FINAL final... was this morning from 8 to 10 PM. I did not ace it, but I am sure I passed. Now all that's left is to walk on Saturday and over the summer complete the paperwork for the co-op work. But in terms of sitting in a classroom, turning in homework, taking tests, and attending labs, I am DONE.

I would have posted earlier today, but I had to catch up on some much-needed sleep.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Two Down, One to Go

Yesterday was the Culinary Leadership final. Today it was American Regional Cuisine. Tomorrow it's First Aid, and I'm done -- with finals, and for all intents and purposes, with school. There was some clarification today regarding our ACF certification. The application and fee we turned in along with our finals this weeks does NOT get us the ACF certification of Ceritifed Culinarian -- it gets us a membership in the ACF as Student Culinarians. Upon completion of our degree, the ACF membership AND our transcripts showing that we've graduated will get us the coveted CC after our name -- which means that I won't have mine until I OFFICIALLY complete the dregree, which will be some time this summer anfter I've put in enough time at a cooking job and hence completed the "Cooperative Education" class.

Which is a pain in the butt, but is a minor detail. When all is said and done, I'll have the following feathers in my resume cap:

Degree: Associate of Applied Science, Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management

Organization Memberships:
American Culinary Federation
Phi Theta Kappa (National Community College Honor Society)

ACF Certified Culinarian
American Red Cross First Aid Certification
ServSafe Certification
Oregon Food Handler's Card

A week before he passed away, my father looked my wife in the eye and made her promise that she'd make sure I graduated from college. I know it's not an advanced degree, or hell, even a Bachelor's, but it's a degree, and it's in a field that I thoroughly enjoy, and that can be the foundation of a career. It took me 40 years to figure out what I wanted to do, but we kept that promise.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Musical Geography Trivia Question of the Day, Head Space Round

If you know what you're needing and you don't want to waste more time, where are you?

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Milestones and Signs of the End

A lot of things going on this week -- it's "dead week" at school, and I'm close to matching that description.

Today I cooked the last dish I'll cook in the student kitchen of my schools culinary arts program. It was a bittersweet moment -- I was relieved to be done, triumphant that I did it well, but a little sad. I'm going to miss the camaraderie and the environment of learning and inquiry. I'm not going to miss the petty bickering and schoolchild self-centeredness of some of my fellow students, and I'm CERTAINLY not going to miss not making a living wage.

On that note, I received good news this week. I've been selected as a recipient of a scholarship frtom a local congressman, earmarked for vets and displaced workers, several of each received it. It's going to finish off my tuitiuon and help with bill.

One small paper to write tomorrow, due on Friday, it's an evaluation of the dinner event. Tomorrow is also my 40th birthday, and I get to work (yay!), and finish the day in wine class, eating a buffet and trying delicious wines.

Tomorrow's also payday, and I'll finally have the money to buy my cap and gown for next Saturday's ceremony. The culinary program is hosting a luncheon for the graduating Second Years that day. It'll be nice to not be the one cooking for once.

I'm finally a Single Digit Midget -- barring any major catastrophes during finals week, in less than ten days, I will be an American Culinary Federation (ACF) Certified Culinarian, as well as an Associate of Applied Sciences in Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management. I'll also have my First Aid training certificate -- all of which will look good on my resume. The one thing I didn't gain as part of the program that would pad it even more is an OLCC liquor handlers license.

Officially I won't receive the AAS until I finish the Co-Operative Education segment, but that's simply a matter of working enough hours at a job, pay the tuition fee, and fill out a form. The ACF CC will be mine if I pass my final exam in my Culinary Leadership class.

It feels weird. It's like my life has been on hold for two years, and now that this period is passing, It feels like it's time to get back to real life. I just wish I felt more... transformed, I guess, if that makes sense?

Maybe after I've had some sleep.

You'd Better Believe it, Pilgrim!

A Tip of the Toque Stetson to Vulture Six:

What Kind of a Western Bad-Ass are You?
created with
You scored as John Wayne

You a classic all American cowboy who does the right thing. When you're sober. Which means occasionally. You like horses, the outdoors, whiskey, hot tempered women, whiskey, and bourbon.

John Wayne


Charles Bronson


Clint Eastwood


Lee Marvin


Lee Van Cleef


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

All Over But the Shouting

Sorry for the light blogging last week, Thursday was our Spring Classic Cuisine Dinner. It's the final big dinner event of the year, and for us Second Years, of our culinary school careers. It was a huge roller coaster for me. We were supposed to prep on Wednesday, and finish on Thursday. I was in on Monday prepping, to make sure my ice cream was done in time, and was there every day through event day -- on top of closing Sunday night at the bar and opening on Tuesday. I was on my feet almost the entire time, and by Thursday night, my entire lower body was in pain, and I was exhausted, both emotionally and physically, and feeling a mixture of elation and frustration.

I was elated because the dish was a success. I had several "Dumb luck" moments where I stumbled upon components of the dish that went over better than I expected. The Bend Distillery Hazelnut Espresso vodka that I used for the flambe' was delicious. In keeping with the 100-mile menu concept, I'd picked Bend mostly on what I knew of their other products. The same with the honey used in the honey caramel sauce -- Glory Bee Honey is HQ'ed in Eugene, but they get honey from all over the place. I asked for a local honey, and they sold me some made from the nectar of the meadow foam flower, gathered near Junction City. It was incredible -- it had this rich, full aroma that reminded me of good cavendish pipe tobacco. I got the toasting of the hazelnuts just right, and the overall presentation was spot on. Everyone loved the show when I flambe'ed it, and I also got good feedback about how it tasted.

I was frustrated because throughout the days leading up to the even, I was constantly unable to please one of my chef instructors. Some of the time it was little mistakes on my part that he had a valid reason to criticize, and those made me mad at myself. But there was also a lot of criticism of things that I felt I was doing right -- questioning my choice of recipes, when the recipes in question had gone over so well in our dry runs -- from the fact that my honey caramel sauce didn't have caramelized sugar added to the honey, to the temperature the recipe called for me to cook the honey to, to my choice f liquors for the flambe'. He even made a snarky comment about my ice cream melting (when it was not). To top in all off, some of my classmates decided to confront him, at our final debriefing, about a separate issue (one in which I was not involved), and what should have been the best night of my school career ended up being miserable and awkward.

But oh, well. Two more weeks of class and then finals, and I'm done.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Musical Geography Trivia Question of the Day

Two Parter, Vic has to give everyone else a one day head start:

Old times where ain't half as rotten as where?

OK, Vic, go for it.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Quote of the Day

A tip of the toque to Ed Morrissey via the Llama Butchers:

"...if Obama considers discussion of foreign policy “divisive”, then he should hie himself right back to Academia. Guess what, Senator? Presidential elections focus on foreign-policy principles, and if you can’t defend yours, then you have no business running for office."

It's been my experience, in observing the political debate for the last 12 years or so, that when a liberal of Leftist calls you "divisive", what they really mean is "Why can't you just see things my way?".

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Quote of the Day

Another Tip of the Toque to Rob at Say Anything Blog:

"We can't afford six more years of President Bush."

- Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT), in support of Barack Obama

Six years.


How many years is a presidential term?




I Didn't Tell You So, But I Could Have

A Tip of the Toque to Rob at Say Anything Blog.

I really wish this suprised me, but it doesn't. While I've been prating for the people in Myanmar, and wishing I could do more to help, like I did after Katrina, I've also been wondering, silently to myself, "just how is the Left going to spin this to pin it on Bush?"

Well, Anne Applebaum of Slate Magazine has the answer:

Unfortunately, the phrase "coalition of the willing" is tainted forever—once again proving that the damage done by the Iraq war goes far beyond the Iraqi borders...
There you have it, folks. Because George W. Bush sent U.S. troops into Iraq, people are dying in Myanmar. Incredible. The logic is just... breathtaking.

Rob makes a good point in his entry over at Say Anything -- The parallels between the ruthlessness, megalomania, and brutality of the ruling Junta in Myanmar and the former regime of Saddam Hussein are so striking that it is tempting to question the intelectual integrity, if not the reasoning powers, of someone who advocates intervention in one situation while opposing intervention in the other. I would further argue that to not only take that position, but in fact to use ones support of the former as further excuse to criticize the latter, requires a level of chutzpah that would make P.T. Barnum kneel in awe.

But this is what BDS reduces people to. I have been hesitant, myself, to use that term, because I think that often on the Right we use it as a form of Argumentum Ad Hominem to dismiss criticism of the President. But every time I resolve not to take that view, along comes a case of true BDS that is so blatant that I find myself facing the old laugh-or-cry conundrum.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Musical Geography Trivia Question of the (Day? Week? Month?)

Strike two... this is the first time I've stumped my readers two songs in a row. Let's see if I can make it three.

No man for debt shall go to jail from where?

Musical Geography Trivia Question of theDay

Posted 4/23:
If my TV's broke, my life's a joke, and the sheriff moved next door, where do I live and what's the outlook?
No one got this one, so here's ne answer:

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A Good Tired

Now that I'm home from my first night there, I can share without jinxing it:

I got a job. Cooking. I only worked an hour and a half tonight, but it was just orienting myself with the place.

It's not my dream job -- it's at a bar and grill, cooking burgers and other bar food. And the hours are going to be killer -- I'll be pulling down three or four closing shifts (6:30 PM to 2:30 AM).

But it's a job. And the people are nice. And it's a job. And the waitresses tip the kitchen. And it's a job. And I get a free meal every shift. And it's a job. And I get one free bar drink at the end of the shift. And.. here's the best part...

It's a job. Cooking.

I'm a cook.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Dry Run

Friday was the first dry run for our spring Classic Cuisine Dinner, and I had a blast. This will be the only dinner where I am in charge of the dish I am cooking, and am not answerable to a chef de parti -- I found and am developing the recipe and sub-recipes, and am working directly with our student Chef de Cuisine on adjustments to them.

The dinner is a 100-mile menu, which means we're highlighting local ingredients. The main purpose in the school's eyes is to focus on sustainability. For me, that's all well and good, what thrills me about it is the chance to highlight the glorious ingredients available in this region. So the dish I came up with was vanilla ice cream, made with local dairy milk and cream, topped with a hazelnut & honey caramel sauce. One of my classmates made a suggestion, and I thought it was a good one, so I've added a slice of pound cake to the recipe.

The dry run went well. I made the ice cream a couple days ahead of time, so ti would have time to set in the freezer, and it came out almost perfectly -- smooth, light, with a rich taste but not cloyingly sweet. On Friday, the sauce came out delicious, but a bit thin. Next time I'm cutting back on the cream. toasting the filberts, and especially the stage of skinning them, was the most tedious part. The last step was to add the nuts and the sauce to a saucepan, flambe them (We'll be using a locally-distilled vodka, Bend Distillery's Hazelnut Coffee Vodka). The dish was supposed to be a half-dessert, since we're doing a buffet and eople will have several desserts to choose from. But we determined that a half-serving of ice cream just can't take the heat from freshly flambeed sauce, so we're increasing the serving to a full 4 ounce scoop, and cutting the amount of sauce and nuts in half.

The final plating needs some tweaking, as you can see, but the flavors and textures are out of this world.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

I Do Solemnly Swear (That if he Solemnly Swears)

A Tip of the Toque to J. Wesley at The Conservative Intelligencer.

I've been convinced for a long time that one of the main reasons so many liberals suffer from BDS has nothing to do with Bush himself, and everything to do with the fact that he was the first Republican president post-Clinton, and the Left wanted its pound of flesh. I've also had a niggling sense that, despite the fact that the Clinton presidency was rife with corruption and a disaster with regards to foreign policy, defense, the Second Amendment, and a myriad of other issues, we on the right made things a bit too personal, took a little too much delight in his downfall.With that in mind, I am joining the guys over at TCI in signing:

The Conservative Non-Derangement Pact

If Obama is elected:
1. We won’t convert the conservative blogosphere into a shrill, psychotic echo chamber consisting primarily of profanity-laced invective.
2. If anyone kills themselves in the White House, we will assume it isn’t murder until proven otherwise.
3. We won’t be so strident in our hatred of Obama that we push moderates into his corner.
4. We won’t start up another raft of conspiracy theories involving the Illuminati.
5. We WILL fight our political battles red of tooth and claw, but smile while doing it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Mo Rocca is a Tool

I just got done watching some footage on Fox of some sort of black tie dinner/event in D.C., where Mo Rocca was "speaking", or as it appeared to me, "Spewing bitter bile disguised as a lame-ass attempt at humor". The event was supposed to be one of those "come together" events, apparently, and Rocca even pointed that fact out, even as he continued to crank out lame joke after lame joke, all aimed at conservatives. The thing was, not even the liberals in the crowd were really laughing. A few "Amen Guffaws" and embarassed tittering along the lines of "He didn't just say that, did he?" People seemed split between being insulted by and genuinely embarassed for him, and I would have felt sorry for him too, if he wasn't making such an ass of himself. I mean, from a comedy standpoint, he really really bombed -- rushed his timing, appeared nervous, and none of it was original or surprising... every single joke was telegraphed a mile out. He was like Margaret Cho on Prozac.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Musical Geography Trivia Question of the Day

Where are there seventy-five women with whom I wish I did dwell, and if I did, what could do what, where?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

¿Como Se Dice, 'Hypocrisy' en Español?

A tip of the Toque toDrew M at Ace of Spades HQ. Mexican President Felipe Calderon's message: Do as I say, not as I do.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Not So Fast....

I lost the job. Before I was even going to start. Must be a new land speed record.

Here's what happened:

Monday, I went in to talk to the chef about my schedule. He had scheduled me to work the hours I'm actually in class, and off when I was available. I explained to him, and he acknowledged that he'd made poor notes regarding my availability. We confirmed my actual availability, and he said he'd get back with me.

He did. This morning. He explained that after several attempts to accommodate my schedule, he was unable to do so without breaking other commitments. He is sorry, and hopes I'll come back when my schedule opens up, but for now, he doesn't have a place for me.

I'm terribly disappointed, and it's a real blow for us financially, but I'm encouraged by the fact he found me hireable to begin with. Now I just need to get back out there. I just worry that my school schedule is going to be a problem anywhere I go.