Dec 29, 2004

Chocolate blogging: holiday field report

Time to get off my lazy butt and hit the keyboard; I hope you all had a happy holiday.

In addition to the holiday gifts, I brought a batch of Alton Brown's "white trash" to the family Christmas. Some observations:

1. Lacking the huge steel bowl, I made it in a double boiler and split it into two batches.

2. I ended up using about half the dry goods in Alton's recipe. I probably would have used more if I had the steel bowl.

Anyway, it was a smashing success. The only problem was that mixing the goodies in the melted chocolate was tough in the cramped double boiler. For the second batch, I poured the melted chocolate in the dry goods to mix, which was a mistake. The chocolate in this batch dried too quickly so I ended up with white chocolate-covered snack mix. Fortunately, if you pour it in a handy decorative tin and tell everyone you planned it, no one will know you screwed up, and it still tastes great.

Verdict: Ridiculously easy to make, and delicious (it was scarfed down in hours). But make sure you have the appropriate hardware, which is an Alton Brown axiom.

Dec 21, 2004

It's Dissecting Unintentionally Hilarious Movie Time! Today's subject: Fever Pitch

Gambling. A relatively harmless vice for some, for others, a soul-draining addiction that can rob you of your money, dignity, and life...until you get on a hot streak and win it all back, then it's OK!

Incredibly, this ridiculous statement appears to be the lesson of the 1985 cinematic colostomy bag, Fever Pitch.

This "movie" stars a grimacing Ryan O'Neal as a journalist who, in the course of research of his gambling article, blows everything he has and then some in the course of what appears to be minutes. In fact, he goes downhill so rapidly one has to wonder if his journalism was just an excuse to go on a binge.

He soon becomes indebted into the world's most incompetent bookie, who refuses to kill him because he should "live...and suffer", but then doesn't do anything else to encourage him to pay off his debts. No kneecapping, smacks with a hammer, or beating with a bag of oranges. No, he's counting on Ryan's existential anguish to be enough incentive.

This film also stars a pre-7th Heaven Catherine Hicks as a showgirl who talks in solioquies from mid-thirties serials, and Thomas Dolby does the soundtrack. Don't know how he got roped into that. They must've blinded him with...sorry.

Ryan's journey, such that it is, takes him to Gamblers Anonymous where there's a movie-stealing performance from the world's bitterest eight-year-old kid. "My dad said he would stop gambling...LIES! ALL LIES!!! I HATE my father...and one day I'M GOING TO KILL HIM!"


Other atrocities include pre-school level special effects (the *ahem* "knife" going through Ryan's hand) and the absolute contempt for its target audience (degenerate gamblers who love lousy movies, I guess) by explaining gambling rules during the movie as if a gambler wouldn't know them already. Yes, I know what a parlay is. Schmucks.

The first paragraph gives away the ridiculous ending, but suffice it to say that no one learns anything and these execrable people go away happy, which is too bad.

Still, I'd like to know how that kid turned out.

Dec 19, 2004

Are you there, God? It's me, sixthdoctor.

Maybe you didn't get my last message (and I reiterate, you gave us DeNiro, bowling, and cheese, so for the most part I'm happy), but COME ON.

Time names President Bush Person of the Year

Don't read the article. I could feel my bone marrow turning into oily pus as I did.

Dec 18, 2004

It's two, two, TWO assholes in one!

Hi, God. I'm a big fan of your work, especially pets and chocolate.

But it's been a tough year for us leftists. Could you go a little easy on the cosmic jokes?

Zell Miller to honor Swift Boat Veterans

Thank you.

Now, if the androids invade, print out this article, present it to them, and ask them who they would like to punch in the testicles first. They'll explode in a Harry Mudd-esque burst of paradox-induced gridlock.

Then climb into bed, and pull the covers over your head.

Origami by candlelight*.

It's been a hectic week for your humble narrator, what with this holiday thing and all. Thursday was the worst, and I was stressing when I got home from work. I had to pick up my things, help my carless neighbor pick up his TV, then get my packages out. Most importantly, I had promised to make some origami earrings for a friend at my old job, and I needed to get them out by tomorrow so she could give them out as gifts.

So, after feeding the cat, I ran out w/my neighbor to do my errands, managed to scrunch his set into my car, helped him get it to his apartment, and finally, frazzled and tired from my unaccustomed physical activity, I sat down to do the earrings.

I was almost done with the third pair of six when the lights flashed suddenly and flickered for five minutes straight. Then, out.

Of course.

I sat there in the darkness for a few minutes.

Then, lighting a candle in and placing it in an Oriental-themed lamp I had received for my birthday but rarely used since the cat liked to knock it around, I finished the final fold on my third pair.

And just like that, the urgency of the tasks ahead of me melted away.

I rummaged and found my flashlight and continued to fold (hence the asterisk on the title of this entry), and finished a fourth pair. By then, police and fire trucks had gathered outside my complex, and I went out to take a look.

I ran into my carless neighbor; the transformer had blown, and power wouldn't be back until one in the morning. I chuckled. What else could you do? Another neighbor lamented that she was going to do Christmas cookies tonight. I hoped she hadn't started, and had raw dough congealing in the useless oven.

My neighbor needed a flashlight, and I needed a break, so we went out to our mall and while he picked up his things I finished my Christmas shopping. Hey, productivity!

I returned home and continued to fold. The darkness and stillness outside reminded me of other quiet nights in my life; camping with my family in Minnesota and Canada, watching the sky by the embers of the campfire.

And I folded slowly and carefully, finishing the earrings. I packed them away and then started working on my other packages. Halfway through, I realized I was getting tired and making mistakes, so they could wait until Saturday. And it wasn't the catastrophe I thought it would be.

I crawled into bed, where my stubby-tailed cat joined me for warmth, and I called it a night.

Don't get me wrong, I'm no Luddite. I was relieved when the appliances burst into life around six in the morning, if for no other reason that I have electric heat and it was getting pretty freakin' cold.

But all in all, I was able to get out the one package I wanted on Friday, and work on the others (just mailed out a batch, the others will go out on Monday), and when you get right down to it, origami by candlelight* is a beautiful thing.

I'll do it again sometime. Without the blackout.

Dec 13, 2004

It's the Halliburton holiday party! (conclusion)

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

As I was walking back to the bar with my weasel coffee, I saw the minion sitting alone. He was smoking a laudanum cigarette and looking morose. I sidled up next to him. "Why so glum? Don't like the music?"

It snorted. "I can hear individual quark-antiquark annhilations. They scream. Next to that, even 'Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer' is palatable. Cigarette?"

"Um, human. Anything that's not immediately lethal?"

He offered a Dunhill mild, and I jumped on that. Those were my favorite smokes in college. Until my left tonsil fell out.

"Forgot to introduce myself. Designation's Vleggnurff."

"I'm Sean," I said. "Sean Randolph." I took the alias from a story I wrote ten years ago about a rock band: Sean Randolph's Sect of Insanity. That band name was the best thing about it.

"From Texas, right?"

"Yep. Actually, I moved there after college. I was born and raised in New Jersey."

"Oh, that explains your accent. And your smell."

"Sorry. Sure it's not Limbaugh?"

"Nah, he smells like spoiled prosciutto. Listen, Sean..." Vleggnurff twisted his head around and motioned me to come closer. I did, despite the fact I could feel skin cells rotting. He lit my smoke with his thumb.

"You're young for this crowd, so some advice. Don't get cocky." He leaned back and exhaled a plume of toxic smoke out of the side of his mouth. Ann Coulter passed through it and dropped like a stone.

"What do you mean?"

"I've seen this before. These things come in cycles. I remember Carter. We had to put a solar panel on Limbo."

"Hey, look, we won! Might as well enjoy it."

"These people don't know how fleeting it'll be. Last time I saw this? BOOM! Next thing you know, it's the Age of Enlightenment. That was a mess. We had to invent the plague just to get competitive."

He swallowed his cigarette stub and stared at me with his black-rimmed eyes.

"Mark my words. This won't last."

I drained my coffee and thanked him for the smoke.

Then I got the hell out of there.

When I warped back, the pain hit me like a sledgehammer and I barely made it out to the parking lot before I projectile vomited my mythical meat. Fortunately, it was at a Chuck E. Cheese, so nobody noticed. Every nerve in my body was on fire. Spiritual hangovers are the worst. Even worse than Jagermeister.

I staggered back into my car, looking forward to a weekend of bed rest, green tea and the book of Deuteronomy.

Remembering and taking comfort in the party's last words.

This won't last.

Happy holidays, everyone.

Dec 12, 2004

It's the Halliburton holiday party! (part 3)

Part 1 | Part 2

I had polished off my second generous Grey Goose and cranberry, which was a good thing, since my mouth began to throb as the siguls worked overtime. That could only mean one thing: the keynote speech.

The guest of honor received a standing ovation, with loud applause from the people and mushy claps from the tentacled guests. His bald head gleamed in the spotlight, exceeded only by his brilliant grin.

"Well," he said with a smile, "I haven't received a reception like that since the last stockholder meeting." Obligatory laughter followed.

"It's been a good year for us all, and I want to thank everyone for coming, especially those of you with actual purple hearts."

"I won't be long, since dinner's being served, I just want to thank you all for your support this year. It was rough, but in the end, we managed to show everyone exactly what it means to be in charge. You all deserve a round of applause."

This brought on a round, with hearty whoops and a jet of flame from the dragon in the rear.

"Now, I want everyone to dig in, and don't worry, we're not serving waffles! Thank you."

The crowd roared its approval.

"He has to keep it short," the bartender muttered. "The vortices interfere with his pacemaker."

Well, that was a relief, because another five minutes and I would have to skip dinner. I asked for a glass of ice and sucked on the cubes for a bit as the ache faded.

Everyone else was tearing into dinner, and for some people that was literal. The main dish looked to rich for me (veal stuffed with foie gras and caviar, garnished with euro notes), so I stuck to a couple of the unicorn croquettes. They weren't bad, thanks to the apple-pomegranite sauce. Side dish was green beans almondine. I guess they wanted to keep something traditional.

The main dessert was disappointing, too. Baked Alaska. No, really, a chunk of Alsakan wilderness baked. I went to the ice cream bar instead. It would've been better if Rush Limbaugh wasn't hogging the line, trying to work his golden mortar and pestle while loading up on Rocky Road.

"Oh, why couldn't we get Ben and Jerry," he groaned. "Their Oatmeal Cookie Crunch made me want to vote for Lieberman..."

Kind of a letdown, really. I stuck with a last cup of coffee instead.

To be concluded...

Dec 11, 2004

It's the Halliburton holiday party! (part 2)

Continued from part 1...

Inside the great hall, I was immediately offered a complimentary cohiba, and was invited to light it over the pyre, fueled with oil-covered baby seals rolled in euro notes. I declined. I'm not much of a cigar smoker.

The party was rolling, with the dance floor lit by crystal chandeliers and the occasional vortex of evil. Toby Keith was doing a rockabilly version of Jingle Bells that had my toes a-tappin despite myself. Ann Coulter, drink in hand, was swiveling in paroxysms that recalled the great Elaine Benes. Rumsfeld was in the bag as well, grabbing onto Ron Silver and yelling that tanks blow up, dammit, they do. Cthulhu was holding mistletoe in one of its tentacles, but couldn't find any takers. And I was disappointed to find Mandy Moore there, but I think she was just networking. At any rate, she was uncomfortably fielding off Zell Miller, who was trying to get her to join him in absinthe shooters.

I got myself a Grey Goose and cranberry at the bar and went to the appetizers; I'm a sucker for party food. The blue whale sushi was a little too fresh for my taste, but I couldn't resist the mini-sized passenger pigeon quesadillas. They taste like chicken, for what it's worth.

I sat down to enjoy the show and was joined by a minion who was drinking bone marrow-flavored egg nog. Or it could've been plain egg nog. It had something in it, though, his eyes were half-lidded. Both lobes.

"Man, it was a bitch to get here," he muttered. "The line was halfway down the circle. And everyone was pushing, shoving, and Hitler was babycrying that he wasn't invited, what am I, party planner central?"

"I hear you, my...thing."

"So, how did you get in?"

Fortunately, I had a cover story.

"Oh, I'm a member of a local board of education."

"That got you in?"

"From Texas."

"Oh. How's it going?"

"Great. We're going to get bloodletting into the 2006 editions."

"Excellent! How about geocentrism?"

"Well, we know that's already true, right?"

He liked that one, unfortunately, he choked on his drink and when he spat it out he burned the tablecloth, so I politely took my leave and tried the dance floor. Well, since I dance exactly like Eddie Murphy's imitation of white people except with more self-awareness, this didn't last long.

So, I sat on the sidelines and relaxed. It was an hour until dinner, anyway.

To be continued...

It's the Halliburton holiday party!

Through my stream of underground contacts, I procured an invite to the holiday party of the year. Got the invitation delivered by a whey-faced courier with sunglasses and a cloak over his head; for some reason he didn't like being in the daylight. Anyway, the invitation, ivory-inlaid and flowing with ichor (it's always ichor with these guys) directed me to a location where I would receive further instructions. So, it was on with my rented tux, and off to the party!

The location was a Chuck E. Cheese, of course. They're a primary conduit for the evil ley-lines. Don't believe me? Fifty cents for Galaga and Ms. Pac Man? Their idea. And by the way, those aren't costumes.

I went to the service elevator and pressed the basement button twice, then once more, holding the invite to the camera concealed in the mouse face in the control board, and that took me down to the underground level. After that, it's a quick wormhole to the party. Of course, they require a biometric scan at this point, but fortunately, thanks to eBay, I had a vial of former Secretary of the Interior James Watt's vitreous, and that was plenty.

The succubus at the onyx doorway took my invitation and did the usual security check and soul smear. I got past that thanks to a special operation from a part-time surgeon/druid I knew from college days. He also fixed me up with alabaster siguls within my impacted wisdom teeth which provide sufficient protection from evil on this plane. The operation is surprisingly cheap, but it costs another fifty grand to avoid them going through the urethra. I'd rather not talk about that.

Since I didn't have a diamond-studded cumberbund, they gave me a loaner, somewhat dingy, but sparkling with cut diamonds (only conflict diamonds, of course).

So, glistening with ethereal energy and with my soul check in hand, I was off to mingle!

To be continued...

Dec 10, 2004

Chocolate blogging via a celebrity cook...

Although I haven't actually made any of his recipes out of laziness, Alton Brown is my favorite chef on the Food Network who doesn't decaptitate live octopi. Anyway, he has a blog as well (even though it's updated so infrequently he makes my output look like David Foster Wallace's), and his latest has a charming holiday concoction.

He calls this collection of white chocolate, cereal, M&Ms and nuts "white trash".


Dec 7, 2004

Happy Hanukkah!

Just wanted to wish everyone a happy first day of Hanukkah, which is the one holiday that Charlie Brown never got around to mucking up with his angst.

Although it has suffered its own indignities.

An apology.

Those who know me know that I'm the first to admit when I've made a mistake. It occurred to me that in yesterday's entry about my medical bill (BTW, which was resolved in 10 minutes, eight of which were on hold), I made some comments which could have been misconstrued.

In that respect, I wish to apologize to the makers of Yoo-Hoo.

My comments yesterday were in no way meant to disparage the fine family of Yoo-Hoo products. Whether it's classic chocolate, zingy mocha, scrumptious strawberry, or outrageous double fudge, Yoo-Hoo drinks are a taste sensation that just can't be beat, whether cooling off on a hot summer day, or scarfing them down in front of your computer as you babble on your blog.

Again, my apologies to the makers of Yoo-Hoo.

Thank you.

PS. OK, the strawberry's a bit weird. Everything else, I meant.

Dec 6, 2004

Yep, just what I expected.

I posted a whiny entry about a month ago about how I was being billed for an emergency room procedure that my insurance company had paid and my frustration over the fact that I sent the billing office the insurance statement and they still hadn't cleared it. It ended with me sending the statement again and then waiting for the bill again.

And guess what I got in the mail today? No, not a flyer for the new Rush Limbaugh book, "If You Grind Up OxyContin And Put It In Chocolate Milk, It Tastes Like Yoo-Hoo."

Yep. Another bill.

I've heard from friends who worked in the industry or are familiar with the workings of insurance companies that when billing errors occur like this usually they'll just send the bill in the hopes that the customer will pay up anyway, and I'll admit, when this was first going on (say, back in June), the thought did cross my mind.

But, I'll call again, send the bill again, and I'll have a blog entry for January when the same crap goes on.

And if it keeps up, hey, maybe I'll get a novel out of it.

Dec 5, 2004

Well, I guess it's a good idea in theory...

If I find an origami article, I'm going to post it and make wise-ass remarks. And when you think about origami, the first publication that comes to mind is Wired News. The December 4 article states:

Thailand, long struggling with violence in the southern, mainly Muslim portion of the country, is preparing for a "peace bombing" Sunday. Thai schoolchildren are loading 100 million origami birds onto Air Force planes, which will drop the birds in the south as a gesture of goodwill from the mostly Buddhist north.

Oh, that's sweet. Except...

Some in the south say the birds have no meaning in their tradition and the government is just dumping planeloads of trash.

But, they're turning a negative into a positive.

One southern province plans to recycle the birds into posters and is offering prizes to encourage residents to collect the birds, from a motorcycle for every 50,000 birds to a kilogram of sugar for 200.

Let's see, when I'm motivated I can probably fold a crane every two minutes, so let's say I can do 25 an hour (which is my limit), so that's 200 hours for the bike, eight for the sugar...nah, not worth it.

It does point out, though, that origami cranes, although adorable and with a moving story of peace behind them, don't actually do much to convince people to stop hating each other's guts. I think it's time for origami enthusiasts to start seeking other models to spread peace.

Like if we can get the Origami TIE Fighter to work...

Dec 3, 2004

Silly chocolate blogging.

When I'm in north Jersey, I occasionally take a trip to the Mitsuwa Marketplace in Edgewater, because it's interesting and they have a great selection of origami paper and books that I can't find in art stores; the only other place I can find with a similar selection is Kim's Crane online.

In the huge (or as Trump would say, yooge) supermarket, there's a big Japanese candy aisle where I found the following.


Needless to say, based on the name alone, it became a Christmas present a couple of years ago.

The taste? OK. The name? Endless entertainment.

Only to be topped by this.