Wednesday, June 28, 2006

when the going gets hot, the hot go swimming

And indeed, it's been hot. Over the past week, the high temperature has been at least 97 every day. Now, in the grand scheme of things, this is not, in itself, something to complain about, I realize. For one thing, as they say, it's a dry heat. Once the temperature gets above 95 in the Central Valley, the humidity tends to have dropped to below 20%, which is a little less hot and a little less humid than your average charcoal barbecue grill. It's nothing like 90 degrees in North Carolina in the pit of summer (I know whereof I speak, therefore I take the liberty to call it "the pit of summer"), when the humidity reaches at least 1,638%. It's nothing like 115 degrees in Phoenix and the Valley of the Sun, where the inversion layer and general crud in the air make every step outside an air-conditioned interior a glimpse of eternal damnation.

Still, by all reasonable measures, it's freaking hot. So we've taken advantage of the pool in Speedbumpville (the complex which houses the Apartment of Earthly Delights) several times this past week. I haven't been swimming in four years, and haven't been swimming this much since I was a kid in Ohio, and my parents practically had to drag me out of the pool at 10 at night.

I mention this chiefly because we're moving in a month, to a townhouse complex where there is no pool. I feel like such a doofus for not taking full advantage of the pool here heretofore, but I'm making up for lost time. We're also working on destroying as much skin as we can. We're red as beets, especially Lauren.

What else has been happening? Well, I've been reading the Culture of Food anthology that I'm co-editing with one of my Finnish pals, and working up notes on the intro to the book. I've begun preparations for my Theory of Knowledge class for the fall. I'm still working out a couple songs (tonight I think I may have finally cracked Dylan's "Just Like a Woman," and made some demos of tunes of my own, which may eventually be posted). Lauren and I are reading a heck of a lot together. But mainly, it's been hot.

What're ya gonna do, quit burning carbon? Sheesh!

Sunday, June 25, 2006

the most expensive cookies
or, the sad, sad state of our household appliances

Lauren's mom is taking the train up tomorrow, to pick up a spare car and drive it down to LA. Tonight, Lauren decided to bake a double batch of one of our favorite cookies, an almond/lemon cookie that uses a cup of pulverised almonds. This job requires a good blender. Sadly, there appears to be no such animal in existence.

We haven't had a blender since our last (a $40 Black & Decker, with a glass jar, looking like Serious Kitchen Equipment if anything ever did) was savaged by an attempt to make artichoke soup a few weeks ago. Previously, I had bought us a decent-looking Kitchenaid, that lost its ultimate battle against ice it was meant to crush. But once the B&D bit it, I announced I would never buy another blender, let the Gourmet or Bon Appetit bastards do their worst!

So, we were left to grind almonds into almond flour with a second-hand Braun coffee grinder that has been serving as my works for the past year, since I went whole-bean. The grinder succumbed, the blade unscrewing itself and leaving no threads behind.

This was at 9:30, with barely a half-hour to get to the Target of Death and acquire something with which to grind almonds, and (in my mind more importantly) coffee.

Target sells a narrow range of blenders, and most of them had obvious flaws (for instance, being those previously proven unfit for the task). We settled on one, for 20 bucks, when Lauren spotted another, for 14. "If it's gonna break anyway..." her argument began. Despite myself, I recognized the truth of her words. If you're an American, and if you live in a place like Turlock, and if you want to grind almonds, you're going to have to buy a blender that is going to break in a year or two, because that's all that you have available. And we bought the damn thing, the 14 dollar blender, and it pulverized the almonds.

Oh, and we bought a $20 coffee grinder. Now, just think of that: the coffee grinder was 30% more expensive. All it will do, allegedly, is grind coffee.

Ah, me. My parents owned an Osterizer as old or older than I am, as long as I can remember. They may still own the damn thing. Whatever one may say about the New World Order, its blenders are unspeakable.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

yes, thanks, it is hot enough for me

This post is fortified with a genuine Somewhat Interesting Passing Thought [TM]. Wait for it...

It's only 102. And like they say, it's a dry heat - sorta like grilling.

Yesterday we escaped the 99 degree heat by driving out to Muir Woods, which is 115 miles away, walked around there a couple hours, then took off to Muir Beach, where we spent about 45 minutes freezing our keisters off. But one can't drive 230 miles round-trip every day it's 100 degrees.

(Handy ancillary travel tip: don't drive through San Francisco from the East these days. They've taken all the roads out for some reason.)

Today we made a pilgrimmage to the mall in Modesto (aka Motown, known to us also as Funkytown and No Me Modesto), of all places. We walked around the mall, like retired folks do, just for the exercise. What the heck. Lauren tried on a blouse. I looked at shoes I'll never buy. I contemplated the mall.

And now... a Somewhat Interesting Passing Thought [TM]:

There's canned music all over: doctor's offices, supermarkets, airports, restaurants, and especially malls, which have numerous types of canned music in different stores. Some have different canned music in different regions of the store. Today we were in one that even had deejayed canned music, complete with smarmy introductions to the songs. And it got me to thinking, what if all the canned music were replaced with live musicians? Just a couple people with instruments, tapping into the store's PA system, playing live. They may not get much attention, but there's so many musicians out there no one hears anyway, they'd get more than they do now. They wouldn't have to be very good, because no one would care much. On the other hand stores might compete to get good musicians in, to attract customers they're aiming for. And most of the stores wouldn't have to pay them anything, either. Nobody should expect to get paid playing at Hot Topic or Rave, for instance.

Imagine, all the places of commerce you hear canned music - imagine all that being live. Or hell, just people singing.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

the politics of ice cream?
alternate title: when life gives you apricots...

We live in the Central Valley of California, which grows a terrifying quantity of fruits, vegetables, and nuts. There's also a great deal of fresh produce. HA HA HA HA!

I'm sorry.

We live in the Central Valley of California, home to an incredible array of far-right wackos, many of whom extract profit from the land in the commodity form of fresh produce. We take advantate of this fact as much as we can, by which I mean that Lauren and I eat a nearly absurd amount of fresh food. Our breakfasts typically consist of 2-3 tree fruits and/or 8 ounces of melon, along with some kind of bread product. We frequent farmer's markets and fruit stands, often three times a week.

Last time we visited our regular fruit stand (or "dealer" or "pusher"), Cipponeri's, they had a flat of apricots for sale for $4. The flat was a box approximatey 18 inches by 24 inches by 4 inches deep. We figure it weighed around 15 pounds. Lauren wanted them, indeed insisted on them, since she had decided to put away fresh tree fruits this summer by "the dozenth apple last fall." (Nothing against apples, just that we don't grow autumn apples fresh here. The longer the winter wore on, the more difficult it was to face another morning of Fujis or Braeburns. Plus, the commercial apple business, like all industrial food business, does some weird things to those objects you find at the Safeway, covered in wax, in mid-February.)

So after she canned 8 or 9 quarts, we still had a bunch of apricots. I decided to take independent action of my own, and tonight made apricot ice cream.

It's a political act. It says, in it subtle and tasty way, that I can make my own (@#$%^*%* ice cream, you Dreyer's/Edy's/Häagen-Dazs bastards! And of course, Lauren's canning says, in an equally subtle and tasty way, that she's in charge of her own &$$*())($ breakfast, you Sara Lee/Dole/Del Monte mofos!

Normally, we're not inclined to such outbursts. We might be high on fruit.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

a fairly black thursday

The US Supreme Court has ruled that police can illegally search and seize evidence, and that evidence can still be used against you in court. As Justice Breyer noted, this pretty much effectively cancels out the 4th Amendment.

Meanwhile, the President signed a bill to increase ten-fold the FCC penalty for indecent broadcasts. How is indecency defined? It's not. But whatever it is, it doesn't have to rise to the level of obscenity. Apparently, all it takes is complaints from 0.05% of the US TV audience, even if they don't watch the alleged indecency.

Striking another blow for their view of American values, the Senate is working hard on yet another bill banning flag-burning. This makes perfect sense: now that the only thing left of American values is empty flag-waving, better protect that! That and marriage, of course.

Gotta go: the cops just broke in to seize all my VHS copies of "So You Want To Marry A Same-Sex Flag-Burner While Sexing A Goat." I love that show.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

new recordings of our tunes! with lyrics! that you can hear!

We've resolved some of the earlier recording problems, and have made a couple two-track recordings of two of our most popular songs among the 6 or 8 people who have ever heard them.

Damned German digital sampling recording software!

In any event, here are new versions, of we hope superior sound quality (especially since I took the old ones down) of:

The Only Living Boy In Turlock


Very Much Like Three-Tenths Of Torquemada's Blues.

Both of these are entirely new recordings, to supplant and replace any old recordings anyone is secretly harboring in iPods or other unholy file storage devices. Methinks the lyrics come out clear. Mehopes, at least.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

summer (snork!) fun

I have allergies. I never used to, as a kid. My best friend Bob had them, and I never understood what it was all about. And I still didn't, until I moved to California.

The Central Valley is home to more agriculture than you can shake a stick at. That, and what remains of the native flora, guarantee about 3 dozen species of floating, drifting, blowing stuff in the air from mid-April until early August. The cruel irony of it is that the clearest, brightest days - the days when the smog doesn't turn the whole sky slate, when the Sierra is visible and the Diable range is sharply defined - are the days when the wind is strong enough to keep the crap swirling in the air. So the most beautiful days are the days I suffer most.

And I take anti-histamine. Well, actually, I take generic Claritin, which might have a placebo effect. My doctor, when I saw him a year ago, wanted to put me on a nasal spray decongestant for my allergies, which might have had a negative placebo effect. I wanted Allegra, which is the only anti-histamine that works for me, and which is over-the-counter in Canada and Mexico, but prescription only in the States, because the manufacturers are bastards. But my doctor was reticent to put me on that, and I didn't want the hassle of going through his whole bag of tricks before he'd prescribe the one thing I know does work. Doctors under the HMO model work that way.

That's not the fun part. The fun part is this: our meat was stolen.

We order grassfed beef (sustainably farmed, fed-with-things-cows-are-supposed-to-eat, and about 3 times more expensive per pound) through the Net. Our last order came in March, and we still have a slab of London broil left. So our orders, which are under $200, last about 3 months.

Foul-up #1: The people we get our beef from send it frozen solid, packed in ice, overnight, via DHL. DHL sucks.

Foul-up #2: DHL delievered the package, allegedly, to the wrong apartment, despite the correct address appearing on the package (transposing the numbers in the address).

Foul-up #3: The apartment where it was delivered is vacant.

Foul-up #4: The management of our complex didn't know, or didn't tell us, it was vacant.

Foul-up #5: Either the people vacating that apartment, or a neighbor, or a random passerby, took the package, saw the address on it, and instead of returning it where it belonged, kept or discarded it.

So we're out $200 worth of meat, our meet for the next 3 months.

Turns out that's not the fun part either. We might make popcorn and watch a movie. That'd be fun. And I'll go play my guitar now, and sniffle. That'll be fun.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

a poem!


I promise I won’t
make you an honest woman.
I promise I won’t,
til death, do part us.

Obey, or honor,
these facile vows
and easy sanctions
I won’t abide.

I give my solemn loathe
to all the holy, godly
ways we could absolve our love,
or make our righteous way.

We’ll never be wed.
We’ll grow older and
make music together,
dancing out of step.

And godless praise us,
we will shine
and we will live
like heathens.

And godless knows
we know no scripture
and we live


And every June, unbridled,
and every hot summer
will remind
of our desecrated love.

My love, this world
will not contain us;

it needn’t; we
don’t need it; we
make a world of our own,

where vows and promises
are senseless as the sun,
aimless as the wind,
purposeless as rain,

the summer blossoming
and promising nothing
more and nothing
less than fruit.

to my loveliest
1 June, 2006



Mostly done. I detected 4 or 5 people plagiarizing web pages again, which is as always sickening and boring. Some of my students will be a little surprised at their final grades.

But we're thinking of moving. We thought the lease was up at the end of this month, but nope. We came to the office to give 30 days' notice, and discovered that we'd be out July's rent if we did that. So we're staying at least until the end of July.

Also had the cat's 100,000 mile tune-up Tuesday. The vet ran a "senior profile" blood test, and found that he has slightly raised levels of an enzyme associated with arthritis (though not high enough to act on), and something else associated with allergies (poor bastard's probably allergic to cats. I can only imagine how much fun that would have been when he lived with 5 or so other cats. I always thought he was just emotionally miserable and stressed to the limit, but if he was allergic, too, geez, how rotten for him). Otherwise, his health is perfect, which is wonderful. Lovely beast he is.

Okay; time to carry on sweltering in a post-grading sort of way.