December 2009

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Sitting back and ruminating whistfully for a few moments here on this penultimate evening of the year, the moment doesn’t exactly necessitate declarations.  However, I am prepared to declare 2009 a pretty good year.

It started off with me in a major funk actually.  Last winter.  It was sort of inexplicable, although I think it came down mainly to being in too much of a tedious routine at work.  I was hitting up the junk food restaurants and avoiding the gym after work.  Which was a real shame because I had gotten into pretty decent shape back in ’08.

But I fixed that.  Got promoted to another division at work.  Got back into shape a bit.

I moved.  I live in a very swanky apartment that I’m completely in love with.  The mastery of my own domain has brought me a wealth of inner tranquility.  Already I’m dreading the day that I move out of here.

I went on a few vacations that were a lot of fun.  Had to take a break from that once I moved out on my own (no roommate!), but I’ll be back at it soon enough.  Next time out I need to get further from home.  I’m thinkin’ about Europe (perhaps I should resolve to brush up on my Spanish this year… or perhaps learn some French).

I dated a lot this year.  More than in most years, if not any year.  Did that online dating thing for awhile, and it was like new date, new date, new date every week.  It was alright.  A few of them lasted a little while, and each of them not working out was a shame in its own unique way.

Oh, by the way, I am no longer dating the lovely young lady I was most recently dating.  I think I had mentioned her on here.  I wish I could say that it was something I did, but she went rather suddenly from being really, really into it, to being really, really not into it.  Don’t know what to say.  We talked about it a bit during the breakup conversation, and the gist of it was mainly that she’s got too many things going on right now and can’t get her head into a relationship right now.  God typing that out right here, it just sounds trite.  Like nonsense.  One thing that life has taught me is that no matter how pure one’s intentions are going into a breakup conversation, pretty much all of it ends up coming out like nonsense.  I’ve only been on the receiving end of that conversation a few times, and I’ve learned that what I tend to do is go into super, super sweet and understanding mode.  I become Mr. Copacetic.  There’s probably a psychoanalysis session in there somewhere…. something about my mother and father’s conflicts, for sure.

Oh but speaking of being super sweet, after talking about this whole episode with one of my BFFs, the one who I can pretty much tell ANY relationship stuff to, we came up with a dating resolution for me:  be more crazy, or be more of an asshole.  Girls don’t suddenly get bored with and ditch crazy assholes.  So that’s something I can work on this year.

But enough talk of dating. Except to say that this one was a real shame. I really liked her a lot.  Nothing to do but move on and forget about it right now.

And right now I have a different focus anyway.  Being single really behooves me in these first few months of 2010.  I’ve got to buckle down and finish some things that I started here.  One of them includes working a lot of overtime, so that I can pay down a credit card.  The other involves getting back into the shape I was in not so long ago.  Actually, muscle tone wise I’m already out ahead.  I can bench more than I used to, and I hope to be able to bench my body weight this year.  We’ll see.

Just in general, though, I need more discipline right now.  I’ve been in this sort of, I don’t know what to call it, hedonistic I guess kind of mode.  I’m fine with that version of me, but I don’t want to be that version of me right now.  I need to drag out a different set of habits.

As to the rest of the coming year, it’s hard to predict.  It’s funny, not to bring up that recent breakup again, but one of the things she said was something like “my life is so hectic and transitional right now, and you’re so settled down in your life.”  I don’t really see it that way.  I feel changes in the air.  The last thing I want to do right now is buy a house, settle down, and resign myself to life as an insurance man.  I’m okay with being an insurance man right now, but I sure as shit don’t want to die one.

But, that said, I’ve got a lot to sort out.  Before I do any of it, I need to put my nose to the grind for a few months.  Once these loose ends are tied up I can start focusing on other life changes.

Anyway, adios 2009!  Please don’t feel remiss that 2010 is going to make you seem horribly lame by comparison, but yes 2010 is going to rock.

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Alright, so back to posting on here…. I spent yesterday entertaining a funk.  I usually hit some kind of funk sometime around New Year’s.  This year, though, it came earlier and left quicker.  It was almost as if Funk was one last holiday guest that I had to entertain.  “Oh, come in, Funk.  Let me get you a drink.  Oh, I see you’ve already made yourself at home…”

Anyway.

One of my Christmas gifts this year was a movie theater style hot oil popcorn popper.  So today I put it to the test, and in the process learned a lot about popcorn popping.

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One of the first things that I had to figure out was what kind of oil to use.  The preferred oil is coconut oil, but I couldn’t find any.  Alternatively, one can use any high burn point oil.  Canola oil, peanut oil, grapeseed oil, etc.  A lot of people probably use peanut oil, but I wasn’t in the mood for that.  Decided instead to try out the Orville Redenbacher brand.  It promises to add movie theater quality butteriness.

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It was okay.  There was a hint of butter to it, but not very strong or even noticeable.  It certainly didn’t make the corn come out all splotched in yellow, like the popcorn at the theater.

I did find that the Redenbacher oil was pretty useful as a topping.  I didn’t pour it out straight.  Instead I cut it about half and half with melted butter.  One thing I hate about using real, straight melted butter on popcorn is that it kills the texture of the popcorn.  Popcorn just wilts with butter all over it, and the texture is half the point when it comes to popcorn.  Oil, however, is able to make peace with popcorn.  The end result was a buttery coating that’s not unlike the synthetic (or semi-synthetic) butter oil that they have in those hot dispensers at the theater.  It’s a technique I’ll use again.

The other thing I was missing was the industry grade butter salt.  The good stuff.  I found most popcorn suppliers online selling this stuff:  Flavacol.  I’ve seen it before, at the theater, so this is what I want to try.  I only found one place online that sells it individually.  All other places sell it by the case, and that is enough to salt all of an individual’s popcorn for the rest of their life (at least I hope!).  One quart of this stuff will be enough.

In lieu of the Flavacol, I was forced to use regular salt.  Regular salt just does not cut it.  Popcorn salt has to be super refined, or it will just not stick.

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The end result was still pretty delicious.

I’ve got some other stuff I’ve been meaning to post.  Maybe I’ll do that now, or maybe I’ll sit around and munch popcorn while watching movies all night!  We’ll see…

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Oh man!  So that holiday kind of kicked my ass.  I’m just coming to, digging out and returning to normal life.  I spent the whole day today cleaning and organizing things.  All kinds of things.

That throat infection that I had reared its head again, and this time it came in swinging.  That combined with the normal fuss of the holidays, along with losing the overtime hours that were going to pay for the bulk of my Christmas gifts, made for some hectic stress.

But at last my life is returning to normal.  I dwell in a clean apartment today.  My sheets are freshly laundered.  I whipped up a very delicious pasta sauce tonight.  I lifted weights for the first time in weeks (tomorrow:  the treadmill!!).

I made a giant list this morning, and I crossed off all the things on the list and did a few things more.  Feels good.

I’ve got a few end of the year blog posts coming.  Might do one of those right now.  Might do it tomorrow.  Haven’t really decided if I’m going to work tomorrow or not, actually…

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I’m finishing up all of my Christmas preparations, and I feel like I’ve been a total slouch this year.  This probably isn’t true, but anything short of amazing always feels like too little when it comes to the holidays.  A number of my gifts were last minute, which always makes me feel like a slacker.

The good news is that the Christmas mix CD came out amazing.  It has been receiving love from all who hear it.  This is good.  Love is the objective.  Holiday Christmasy love to be specific.

The one thing about it that’s kinda thrown me is how unheard of some of these songs are.  For example, the Run D.M.C. track that starts it off–this is one of my favorite Christmas songs ever.  I just assumed that people knew it.  But few do.  In fact, songs like these are the quickest way to find out who the music snobs are among your friends.  My music snob friends all pegged it right away.

Anyway, without further ado, here is the tracklist.  It’s a mix of tasteful classics, with a few gems in there for fun.

01. Run-D.M.C. – Christmas In Hollis (3:00)
02. Stevie Wonder – What Christmas Means to Me (2:31)
03. Weezer – O Come All Ye Faithful (2:05)
04. Twisted Sister – Heavy Metal Christmas (The Twelve Days of Christmas) (5:15)
05. Peggy Lee with Jud Conlon’s Rhythmaires – Its Christmas Time Again (3:00)
06. Cast of Sesame Street – I Hate Christmas (1:54)
07. Hall & Oates – No Child Should Ever Cry on Christmas (4:04)
08. U2 – Christmas Baby Please Come Home (2:21)
09. The Rat Pack – The Christmas Song (Sammy Davis, Jr.) (3:23)
10. Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass – Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow (3:45)
11. The Jackson 5 – Up On The Housetop (3:13)
12. Alton Ellis – Christmas Coming (2:23)
13. Louis Armstrong & The Commanders – Zat You Santa Claus (2:40)
14. Frank Sinatra – Mistletoe and Holly (2:20)
15. James Brown – Merry Christmas Baby (3:56)
16. Pink Martini – Do You Hear What I Hear? (3:57)
17. Eartha Kitt – Santa Baby (3:26)
18. Squirrel Nut Zippers – I’m Coming Home For Christmas (3:46)
19. Julia Lee & Her Boy Friends – Christmas Spirit (2:48)
20. Wham – Last Christmas (4:28)
21. Vince Guaraldi Trio – Christmas Time Is Here [Vocal (2:47)
22. Various Artists – Christmas In the Hood (feat. Deacon) (3:54)
23. Cash, Johnny – Christmas As I Knew It [#] (3:02)
24. Aqua Teen Hunger Force – I Sure Hope I Don’t Have to Beat Your Ass
This Christmas (5:08)

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My 2009 mix CD is at long last complete!

As in previous years, it’s  a mix of recent and current favorites, with some old favs thrown in to round it out.  This year I am quite pleased with the results.

I made a new rule regarding the titling of mix CDs.  There’s always the question of whether or not to title a mix.  If it has a theme, it’s simple enough.  But if there isn’t a clear uniting theme among the tracks… well, anything I think of just feels sort of pretentious to me.  Unless the goal is irony, it just doesn’t feel right.

So!  The new rule is that mix CDs without a unifying theme will be titled by choosing three to six semi-random words from the titles of the songs.  The title of this mix CD is French Buddha Tornado.  The track list is as follows:

1) French Navy – Camera Obscura
2) The Next Time Around – Little Joy
3) Tonight – The Robot Ate Me
4) Over and Over Again (Lost and Found) – Clap Your Hands, Say Yeah
5) One Time Too Many – Pheonix
6) Between the Bars – Madeleine Peyroux
7) Gone Away – My Brightest Diamond
8) The Story I Heard – Blind Pilot
9) VCR – The XX
10) Masterfade – Andrew Bird
11) I Heard a Voice – The Deadly Snakes
12) This Tornado Loves You – Neko Case
13) Swimmers – Broken Social Scene
14) Shine a Light – Wolf Parade
15) Carnival – Kevin Devine
16) Tear Down the House – The Avett Brothers
17) I Love You and Buddha Too – Mason Jennings
18) Reben Rebel – Seu Jorge
19) All the Wine – The National
20) Rebellion (Lies) – Arcade Fire
21) Silja Line (On Settling for a Normal Life) – The Rosebuds

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Starting the day off with small victories here.  On Friday, I was in the middle of explaining some of the more complicated rate computation factors to my students.  I don’t think of this part as being complicated, but then again I am a geek.  Not all people are geeks.

So this morning I started explaining the structured percentages we apply to an individual’s average indexed monthly earnings, and… they got it.  It’s pretty abstract, and we were really hitting a wall on this one.  I mean, all I was getting was blank stares, even some real frustration.  Somehow I got through it, and it clicked for everyone in the class.  Yay!  I think the key was using food analogies, but then again I think that’s the key to everything.

Anyway.

Christmas is coming along.  A lot of my gifts are taken care of already.  I ran into a problem with the program I’m using to burn my mix CDs, and I’m kinda pissed.  Either it’s the program, or it’s the hardware.  I am going to be super pissed if it turns out to be the hardware.  Super super pissed.

Long week ahead.  Need to work on the mix CDs tonight, need to hit the gym, do laundry, order some gifts.  All kinds of crap.  Really can’t wait until Christmas comes and goes and then I have some time off to unwind. I plan on spending a few days doing nothing but cooking and vegging out on the couch.

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I’m wearing a new t-shirt today.  Will post a pic later.  It depicts a mac and a hunk o cheese engaged in exuberant bliss.  This is the sort of cheer that I wish to be in the business of spreading these days.  And I must say that I love the newy newness of a new shirt.  Feels like a fresh start, even if it is just another Saturday.

Was a frustrating week, kinda, thus my lack of posts.  My recovery from strep came with at least some mild turbulence.  Still the week offered some successes.  I finished up a Christmas mix CD that I am quite infatuated with.  Following up on the success of roasting a full bird, I made several pots of chicken noodle soup that came out equally amazing.  If life were a game, I would have just gained +100 experience points to my cooking skill.  At some point here I’m probably going to have to take some classes, as I’m moving beyond what I can learn from books and deduce with the intuition of my palate alone.

Anyway, today I need to get serious about some Christmas gifts and Christmas cheer.  I still have to figure out gifts for a few people.  Time is a runnin’ out…

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It challenges a deeply cultivated sense of luxury to consider a roasted chicken as a delicacy.  I suppose there are plenty of top notch chefs out there whose roast chickens are by their very nature the finest of meals, but I’m not talking about that.  I’m talking about a Sunday, make it at home yourself roasted chicken.  Just a regular old Perdue roaster.

I roasted a chicken tonight.

I really, really wish I had taken a picture of it, but I was so blind with hunger that I tore into it immediately.  I prepared it with this Hungarian chicken rub that I found, along with potatoes, carrots, onions, and garlic.  It was simple, never meant to be more than simple.

When I was a child we ate broiled chicken breast most nights of the week.  Never in my life have I learned to loath a dish more than broiled chicken.  This was my mother’s lazy standby for my two sisters, me, and my parents.  It was a daily test of endurance, and I soon learned to stock up on other foods during the day so as to avoid an appetite at dinner.

Roast chicken, to me, tastes more or less like broiled chicken.  I want to note that.  My instinct is instant distaste.  Sometimes when I’m eating out, I’ll get a chicken dish and the chicken will turn out to be roasted (esp, for example, when ordering chicken enchiladas).  I have to pause and remind myself that I’m not at home.  That my mom did not make this.  It is mine.  And it is delicious.

I absolutely do not need to eat a whole roasted seven pound chicken all by myself.  I should have called some friends over (and, truly, I considered it).  But this was the first time I’d roasted a bird, and I just had to have it all to myself.

There’s something wonderful, wonderful in the truest sense, that occurs when one pulls that bounty out of the oven and beholds it, overcome by its savory redolence and weak in the knees from a well earned appetite.  A bounty.  A giant bird, veggies, trimmings, whatever else you made with it (tonight: rice!).

There were two things commingling in my mind:

One, a sense of ability.  The ability to provide a bounty.  To take $7.00 worth of chicken and probably $3.00 worth of veggies, some spices, and to make a feast appear.  It’s a small miracle, and as many times as I’ve witnessed it, I’m not in the habit of performing it.

Two, a sense of…. this one’s more complicated.  It’s a sense of my mother.  It’s a reproach against the resentment the became ingrained in me over those disgusting, execrable chicken dinners.  It struck a chord as a failure to me, on her part, but this is because my sense of providing a home and her sense of providing a home are so very disparate.  To her meals were sacred, but not for the food.  Her food was always slapdash.  It was for the sense of company.  To me, the company is imminently critical, but nowhere near as paramount as providing for that company.  Just this weekend I had the chance to make breakfast for someone, and the level of care exercised on my part was considerable (I have at long last discovered my personal secret ingredient for omelettes!).  We didn’t even finish the breakfast, and that’s not the point.  I don’t care if some of the food was wasted.  The point is that when I play host, whether for a friend, a lover, or my family, it is important to me that I perform.

And somehow that brings me back to… chicken.

I guess this was just one of those places where Mom and I differed, and differed dramatically.  And man, oh man, oh man did I learn to hate that fucking broiled chicken.

Tonight I roasted a chicken, and it was fucking awesome.

I can’t wait to have my mom and her husband up here for dinner, so that I can roast one for the both of them.

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… for spending the whole day on the couch playing Xbox.  At least not when one has come down with strep throat and has been specifically ordered to rest and recuperate.  I’m not sure that running around as an army guy shooting at other army guys should be a rejuvinating process, but it seems to have worked for me today.  I never find time to play these games that I pick up and then when I have a day where I need to be sedentary, I feel guilty for playing one all day.

But oh well.  I didn’t feel like watching movies and was too loopy to concentrate on a book.  I got a few good wins in.  It was fun.

Getting sick right now has been the definition of bad timing.  I was incredibly proactive about going to the doctor right away (almost hypchondirac-ishly so), so I got on an antibiotic as early as I could.  Earlier in the day even, and the swab probably would have read negative.

But the timing sucks.

It’s bad for work.  I have a new lesson starting on Monday and, shh, don’t tell anyone but I’m not ready at all.

It’s bad for dating.  I wonder if there’s a card on someecards for “Sorry I got you sick right after we started dating…”  Wait… hold on… found one here I have to send to her…

Anyway, more on that subject later.  I tend to tiptoe around the subject of dating on here anyway.  I will note that she and I have been in a veritable round of one-ups-manship on the timing front.  I’m working a lot, she went out and broke a limb, now I’m sick (maybe we’re both sick).  I suppose I could outdo her on the limb by going out and severing one of my own.  I wonder if there is a someecard for “Sorry I severed an appendage right after we started dating…. PS: want to catch a movie tomorrow?”

There’s got to be someone out there with that situation.  Anyway…

I should be working on my Christmas mix CD right now, but I haven’t felt like concentrating on anything.  I really am kinda spaced out.  I completed another mix CD a few days ago, and I’ve decided on some final touches for it.  I could be finishing that up too…

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