Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Ho'days

Sorry for the minimal bloggifying lately, folks. It's been cold and dark and I've been in a funk, and nobody wants to read about that.

I'm once again hauling my sorry carcass down to North Carolina tomorrow for Xmax with the Fam. I hope you all have a wonderful holiday, and I'll see you next weekend.

The Infinite Kyosaku Project, Part 11

Friday, December 12, 2008

In Memoriam: Bettie Page

The world just got a little less sexy. Alas.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Confessions of a Hazmat Smuggler

So the other day I drove to work, which I don't normally do. My fuel gauge was sitting on empty when I left my house. But I was in a hurry and I figured I could deal with it that afternoon.

When I got ready to go home, of course my car wouldn't start.

I sat there for a minute, thinking of what to do. Where am I? I thought. I am on the third floor of the underground parking deck of the Cosmodemonic Institute for Science Policy's Bhaskara Center, which is in Penn Quarter. I have no idea where the nearest gas station is. It's bound to be far away. And I've got a flute student coming in an hour and a half besides; I can't be walking the streets looking for gasoline. So what am I going to do?

Hm, I continued thinking. What Metro stations do I know of that are near gas stations? Cleveland Park springs to mind. There's an Exxon station right there. It's about 15 minutes away. Ok, this is doable.

Of course, it only occurred to me after I was comfortably seated in the train on my way back to Cosmodemonic that I maybe shouldn't have been so cavalier about bringing two gallons of gasoline in a bright red container on board. Don't they have regulations about these things? I remembered walking right past a Metro police officer too. I remembered smiling at her as I got off the escalator. Damn. I'm good.

Well, I'd made it, anyway. I got to my stop, carefully exited the station at the turnstile furthest from the stationmaster's booth, and walked into the Cosmodemonic Building's lobby, carrying the gas can on the opposite side of my body from the security guard. I debated whether or not to whistle. Would it make me seem less like an enraged cubicle rat coming in to set fire to my files? Or more like one?

I'd almost made it to the inner door when the guard called me. "Sir? Excuse me? Sir!"

I turned. I was SO busted.

"Do you have your ID?" the guard said.

"Oh, right," I said, fishing my laminated badge out of my shirt pocket.

The guard took a look, and said, "Ok, thanks." I went on through to the elevators, rode down to my car, and gassed up and went home.

So how safe does this make you feel? Because the only reason the nation isn't up in arms about another horrific terrorist attack right now is that I'm not a murderous psychopath: I had means and opportunity, but no motive. I'm laughing about this incident, but it does make me go hm.

Heh. You said equus asinus.

Snow falling on the weird little outdoor minimall that Ellsworth Drive has become, falling in those hard little pinpoint flakes that only happen when the air is very, very cold and dry. I'm standing in a small crowd listening to a women's choir in identical shaggy red knit caps and scarves singing Christmas carols. Two resigned-looking donkeys, bedecked with holly and ribbons, are pulling a red-and-gold wagon loaded with hay bales and children up and down the street. As they pass the stage, a guy in front of me says to his friend, "I bet you don't have Clydesdales in New Hampshire!"

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Simplicity Itself

On the Metro home from work tonight, I was reading Bill Buford's book Heat, which is all about his adventures working in the kitchen of Mario Batali's restaurant Babbo, and his description of a mushroom sauce for ravioli rang my bells. So I rode the train a stop further and went to Whole Foods, caught the bus home, and had myself a wonderful little feast for dinner.

Meez: a handful of fresh wild mushrooms, sliced/diced/chunked as necessary (Whole Foods had a special on some huge bright orange chanterelles); a minced shallot; leaves from three or four branches of thyme; olive oil; butter; ravioli (tonight it was actually ricotta tortelloni, but this recipe will shine with some really good pumpkin ravioli).

Start your pasta water in a big pot with plenty of salt. It should taste like the Atlantic.

While your water is coming to boil, heat the pan for your sauce over high heat, then add your olive oil, which should instantly go all runny and maybe start smoking. Add your shrooms. Toss them a little, then leave them alone until you smell the woodsmoky, distinctly autumnal odor that tells you they're starting to caramelize. Add your shallots and the thyme leaves. The leaves will swell and pop in the hot oil, giving up their rich aromatics; Buford tells of the kitchen staff at Babbo staring at him as he puts his face into the pan, eyes closed, and inhales the thyme fumes.

Throw a couple of spoonfuls of water from the pasta pot into the pan to stop the cooking and set it aside. Your pasta water will boil, you'll add your ravioli. Remember you have a lot of flexibility with fresh pasta; al dente isn't an issue. As the ravioli are beginning to rise to the surface of the water, put your sauce pan over low heat and swirl two or three tablespoons of butter in until it's a sauce. Toss this with your cooked pasta, pour yourself a glass of wine, and dig in.

On this cold, dark Tuesday night, it was just about the best thing I could have eaten.

Monday, December 1, 2008

My Problem with Irish Music

If a precious jewel, which all desired, lay out on a frozen lake, where the ice was perilously thin, where death threatened one who went out too far while the ice near the shore was safe, in a passionate age the crowds would cheer the courage of the man who went out on the ice; they would fear for him and with him in his resolute action; they would sorrow over him if he went under; they would consider him divine if he returned with the jewel. In this passionless, reflective age, things would be different. People would think themselves very intelligent in figuring out the foolishness and worthlessness of going out on the ice, indeed, that it would be incomprehensible and laughable; and thereby they would transform passionate daring into a display of skill ... The people would go and watch from safety and the connoisseurs with their discerning tastes would carefully judge the skilled skater, who would go almost to the edge (that is, as far as the ice was safe, and would not go beyond this point) and then swing back. The most skilled skaters would go out the furthest and venture most dangerously, in order to make the crowds gasp and say: "Gods! He is insane, he will kill himself!" But you will see that his skill is so perfected that he will at the right moment swing around while the ice is still safe and his life is not endangered ...

-- Søren Kierkegaard, The Present Age (1846)