Tuesday, August 23, 2016

What's the next bacon?

For years now we've had kale and bacon as the two riders on our diet seesaw. When we want to be virtuous and good, we eat kale; when we want to be naughty and daring, we eat bacon. The main reason for this is that we're idiots.

I'm not going to address kale today, because the subject is too painful for normal discourse. Our obsession with bacon, though, has become somewhat embarrassing. The fact that you can even pretend to be bacon is a little alarming.

"Helllooo, ladies!"
But I think the bacon thing may be fading. We've put it in everything, we've wrapped everything in it. We've lumped it in piles to make things that bacon was never meant to be. Where else is there to go? It's time to find a new naughty food. Not something that is itself a composed food, like Twinkies; it has to be something that is more of an ingredient, but may be eaten alone.

Here are some naughty food suggestions, since I am always full of naughty suggestions:

Confectioners' sugar: Like bacon, you find it in all kinds of things. Like bacon, it is daring, because it's bad for you. It can be sprinkled, like bacon, or used to cover things decadently. All it needs is some cool variations, like chipotle confectioners' sugar.

Spam: Pushes the bacon meme one step further. Still not kosher. And it has the approval of Hawaiians, who are hip. Many Asian cultures dig the Spam, too. It can be used in almost any dish that has diced, sliced, or ground meat. And hard-core hipsters can argue about the virtues of classic Spam vs. Treet, Snack, Prem, Mor, or more exotic canned meat like Vienna sausage or potted meat or chicken bologna.
Pretty out there.
Carolina reapers: Bacon promises a slow death; the Carolina reaper, the world's hottest pepper at 1,569,300 Scovil heat units (until something more psychotic comes along), will send you to the hospital much sooner. So it has that going for it.

Anchovies: As once was the case with bacon, anchovies have lingered in an almost forgotten old-folks food realm; anchovies, in fact, are in the neighborhood of clam juice and canned chicken a la king. Any smart chef could start whipping out gourmet canned anchovies, and we're on our way.

Pickles: Like bacon, very very salty, but unlike bacon, not fatty. Still, lots of gourmet potential. Pickles are a couple of university studies---showing their dangerous qualities---from being very big. And I'm sure they have dangerous qualities. Every food, when studied hard enough, proves to have dangerous qualities.

Lard: Just cut to the chase. We could fool around with shortening, but c'mon---break out the lard. Twenty years ago strong young people would faint at the sight of a bucket of Armour Lard. Now it's starting to weasel its way back, because it imparts flavor to food like nothing else, except maybe bacon grease. Lard itself is not great for eating, true, although after ear gauges I'm not sure what people won't sink to. Hipster lard may be on the horizon.

All these would make excellent substitutes for the coming collapse of bacon. But I wouldn't count bacon out just yet. There's a lot of life still in those pork bellies.

"Fry me to the moon, big boy."

Monday, August 22, 2016

Why won't they LISTEN?

Long night.

I'm not sure when it started, but my wife woke me around one to tell me she'd been up with the big dog for an hour, and he was crazy.

Tralfaz is a lot of weird things, but not generally crazy.

I mean, yes, sometimes I call him Dinky Dau Doggie, but that's in an affectionate, playful, culturally appropriational way.

Last night he was just freaking nuts.

When I joined the story, already in progress, Mrs. Key had had him upstairs, downstairs, outside, inside, all around the town, and yet he was making his nerve-racking near-human vocalizations, the kind he makes when we got to the vet (or, to be fair, the PetSmart), the kind that say, "This is terrifying! Help!"

But there was nothing there.

His panic was centered on the central part of the house, around the staircase, mainly upstairs. That's where the little dog, Nipper, sleeps in his crate, when he's not alerting us that 3:30 a.m. would be a very good time to pee. Tralfaz has displayed protective instincts toward the little squirt, so that may be why his focus was there. Still, I led him from room to room, all over the house, even rooms he's not normally allowed in, so he could point out what the HELL was freaking him out. Bugs? Mouse? Bird? Bat?

This is the part in the movie where we tell Fido, "Yo, dog, shut up, man, there's nothing there." Then we shove him in the closet and laugh, while the dog goes berserk, yelping in dog lingo, "You fools! The monster is IN THE HOUSE! Why won't you LISTEN?"

And then heads start to roll.

Of course, all this ran through my mind, thanks to my stupid imagination, which should have made me rich by now for all the terror and trouble it has caused me since I was a child. And of course, having checked every normal room in the house, that left....


I could almost hear the phantom audience yelling at me, "Don't go up there!"

So I did not go up there.

I'd whipped up a spicy recipe for Sunday dinner. Maybe the dog knew we were being haunted... by ghost peppers!


It all seems pretty stupid in the light of morning, but it was getting freaky in the dark of night. My wife finally got the dog to cut the crap and settle down, and we all went to sleep, but it took a very long time. Now we're facing Monday morning, exhausted. Hooray. Why did we get dogs, again?

Anyway, I have not yet had the time to check the attic, to see if there are any bats, birds, bees, severed heads, ax murderers, demons, or ghosts around. There are screens on the attic vents, which usually keeps out the bats, but I can't vouch for the other things. If you don't hear from me Tuesday, you know that I was foolish in disobeying the advice of the phantom audience.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Sporting shots.

1) Closing Ceremony tonight. We all know about the tradition of all the nations' athletes marching into the stadium together as a gesture of brotherhood, and that it goes back to 1956, when John Ian Wang of Australia, then 17, wrote an anonymous letter suggesting it to the Melbourne Olympic committee. It was adopted for those Olympics and has been used ever since. This is the only time since Grace Bedell wrote a letter to Abraham Lincoln suggesting that he grow a beard that anyone in a position of authority has given a damn about a suggestion from a nobody. Anyway, now that I hear about so many athletes going home long before the last day of the Olympics, I have to wonder if the IOC really adopted the "goodwill gesture" so it wouldn't be so obvious how many athletes had already fled the host country.

2) American men have won 16 gold medals as of Sunday morning; American women have won 26.* Why? Because after decades of the culture telling us boys are violent and evil and girls are kickass and good, men have turned into sissies. Thanks, culture.

3) On the whole I did like what I saw of NBC's coverage this time. Not so many sob stories this time; more of the sports. And the main thing I attribute to this improvement of NBC's coverage? Time zone. Rio is just an hour ahead of New York. The producers did not feel they had to package the events for the American audience. For the most part, they couldn't. They didn't have time.

4) In swimming and running, I really like the short sprints. Especially the 50 m swimming. Just chuck 'em in the water and watch 'em swim like merry hell. Short attention span sports!

5) I was thinking about one of my great Olympic heroes: Spyridon Louis, who won the marathon in the first modern Olympics, in Athens, 1896. Greece had not been doing too well in the track events, which was very disappointing as most of them were ancient Greek sports. But Spyridon, a simple water carrier, became a national hero by winning the race, finishing in 2:58:50, seven minutes ahead of the second place runner. Louis would have been faster if he hadn't stopped to get a drink of wine and an Easter egg from his stepfather in Pikermi.

The man himself.
The king of Greece was so happy he promised Louis whatever he wanted. Louis asked for and got a donkey cart for his water delivery business. He never ran again.

6) At the end, I have to give Jerry Seinfeld the last word, in his classic bit on the Olympics:

* I drew up this count from medal totals because no one I could find has a breakdown by sex posted. (Why is that?) Note that I didn't count our gold medal in mixed doubles tennis, which I think is the only mixed-gender sport in the Olympics. At least until the Big Dodgeball Tournament becomes mandatory. 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Final Olympic news update.

***The nation mourns the fact that Kerri Walsh Jennings was unable to win a gold medal again this year, after three consecutive Women's Beach Volleyball golds in 2004, 2008, and 2012. Her partner on those previous Olympic was the retired Misty May-Treanor; this year it was the extremely talented April Ross. Some talk has been floated that Kerri's error was in going from May to April, with suggestions that for Tokyo 2020 she should consider a partner named June.

***We need to take a moment to Congratulate the medalists in Men's Trampoline medalists, Uladzislau Hancharou, Dong Dong, and Gao Lei. We also need to congratulate the announcers for the event for getting through the names without suffering injury or laughing out loud.

***We're pleased to announce that the U.S. curling team, having arrived at the wrong Olympics and then getting trapped in Rhodesia, which does not exist anymore, has finally returned home. They had lost their passports while stowing away aboard a tramp steamer out of Manila, however, and were forced to land in Mexico and sneak over the border. "It was easier than clearing customs," said team captain Herschel Stump.

***The Finnish diving coach, Sqvrd Sqvrdson, apologized to his team and nation for the poor performance of the diving squad, citing his "revolutionary cannonball technique" as being the cause of the team's downfall.

***In other apologetic news, swimmer Ryan Lochte apologized for claiming that Michael Phelps had been kidnapped by Brazilian mobsters. Lochte said that when the mobsters called to demand ransom, he told them, "If you are looking for ransom I can tell you I don't have money, but what I do have are a very particular set of skills. Skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let our swimmer go now that'll be the end of it." He said now that the conversation never happened, that Phelps had not been kidnapped but was just out getting a sandwich.

***Also in apologies, Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt apologized for trying to sneak into the doubles table tennis tournament, wearing blond wigs and posing as the women's team from Iceland. They admitted that they were jonesing for a medal and, with the Games coming to a close, got desperate.

***Ki So of the People's Republic of China was disqualified from the Equestrian Individual Jumping event when it was discovered that he was not, in fact, riding a horse, but rather an unusually large border collie.

***Brazilian authorities were pleased to announce that the Olympic Cauldron Snuffer had been located and would be in position for the Closing Ceremony. They feared it had been stolen, but they had just left it in the other car.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Pup of coffee.

A few weeks into the new puppy and I am about ready to die. Think of me fondly.

"The dogs will be pals! They can keep each other company so they won't bother you while you're working!"

Maybe that will happen one day, but that day will not come soon. Nor does it appear to be anywhere on the horizon.

Nipper is always getting up in Tralfaz's face, and vice versa. When one has something, the other must have it now. When you're keeping on eye on one, the other one declares Misbehavior Time! Raising two dogs, to this point, is not twice as challenging as raising one; it is ten times as challenging.

It's like having a baby and a toddler, if the baby chews everyone and runs like the wind, and the toddler is more than a hundred pounds of muscle.

Nipper is not on suicide watch anymore for going after sharp objects and electrical wiring. I, however, am probably on some kind of watch because of delusions caused by lack of sleep. If you out there in Internet land are dealing with a new baby who is still feeding in the dead of night, you have my sympathy. Unlike baby's night feedings, Nipper's nocturnal P-missions won't last too long. On the other hand, babies have one advantage over dogs when it comes to the coffee you have to drink to keep going because they kept you awake:

Yeah, not really.
As I noted the other day, Nipper is a sweetheart and will be a really great dog. Tralfaz was a pain in the ass (sometimes still is) but came along just fine. We just have to keep working with him and remember: Patience always.

Of course, it's hard to be patient when you're all jacked up on caffeine, but that's another story.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Coffee for mosquito bites!

The K-Cup machine is a godsend. No, really. Like most of America, we run on coffee around here. As Lorelai Gilmore famously put it, "I can't stop drinking the coffee. Stop drinking the coffee and I stop doing the standing and the walking and the words-putting-into-sentence-doing."

No question that K-Cup coffee runs more than a standard drip coffeemaker. Not even close. The Atlantic did a comparison last year and estimated that K-Cups wind up costing about $40 per pound. We also buy quality beans for the coffeemaker, and that runs less than $10 a pound. So yeah, it's a huge expense.

On the other hand, there's no waste with K-Cup coffee, since you make what you want when you want it. Coffeemaker coffee sometimes gets stale or cold. Not saying that that evens the score, but it makes it a little closer. Still cheaper than going to Starbucks, too.

And there is one handy trick I learned (another life hack from Fred!), using K-Cups for mosquito bites.

I had heard that a hot spoon on a mosquito bite will break down the protein that causes the itch. Apparently this is horse hockey, but there is at least the advantage that the heat will prevent the nerves from registering the itch by flooding the zone with heat pain. So here's what you do.

You take a hot K-Cup that has just dispensed its magic fluid. You wait a little bit---the water comes out of my machine at 180 degrees F, which will burn you immediately, so you have to wait until it's cool enough to hold, maybe about 120 F. At 120 it takes 3 minutes to get scalded, but as it drops to 116 it takes 35 minutes, according to the chart in this report. As long as you can hold it to the bite for one minute without burning the skin, it should work. (Be careful: Neither I nor Keurig bear any responsibility if you use one that's too hot or apply it for too long. Use some common sense.)

I find it keeps the itch away for hours, much longer than the application of an ice cube, and sometimes the thing goes away on its own during that period.

So that's my One Weird Trick to using K-Cups to stop mosquito bite itching. Not exactly a life hack, but the way the skeeters have been after us this damp summer, I'll try anything. And if it means I have to drink more coffee, so be it.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Better than the Closing Ceremony!

This one has been making the rounds:

I'm not sure where it came from; a friend posted it from Mexican Word of the Day. It is pretty silly.

And let me just say right now: I completely support this plan.

Dodgeball is a long-time favorite, a sport hated by people who hate sports but loved by the kind of single-minded competitive lunatics who can achieve a spot in the Olympic Games---and win gold medals during it. At the end of the Games, which include 306 gold-medal events, there'd be hundreds of athletes* ready to go. Drop a bunch of balls in there and we're off!

It's so simple: People throws balls at other people, and if they hit someone that person is out. You can also have moving walls; as people are eliminated, the field shrinks. That would keep it from getting dull at the end, with two people chucking balls at each other across a big field.

At first it seems unfair---you'd have big strong he-men throwing balls at little gymnasts---but those big strong guys make for slow targets. You don't have to hit them hard. Of course, the little fleet people can't throw the ball with speed, either, so there's a nice balance. A guy like Michael Phelps can probably whip a dodgeball like crazy, but he's also a big galoot who may not be real fast outside of water.

I'll bet the winner would be, like, the coxswain on one of the rowing teams.

And that's part of the charm; everyone who had a gold medal would have a shot at being Ultimate Champion of the World.

After all, as those of us who watched movies in the 1980s know: If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best.


* I don't know how many people walk away with a gold medal after the Olympics. Phelps is not the only guy who comes away with multiple golds. On the other hand, on team events, everybody gets one. All of them would be eligible. In fact, participation is mandatory; skip the tournament and lose your medal. So there'll be no party poopers going home early.