Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A seasonal induglence.

How many times do I have to tell everybody?



At least hire a proofreader.

This was a flyer I received in the mail from CVS, the Pride of Woonsocket, Rhode Island, #7 on the Fortune 500 list as of last June, the drugstore giant that pulled in more than $177.5 billion in sales (according to Hoovers). And yet with all that dough, all that moolah, all that Social Security money in their Scrooge McDuck-like vaults, they couldn't cough up fifty bucks to get a professional editor to look at this so they could spell INDULGE correctly.

This is a black eye for you, CVS, and I am doubly disappointed since just a few months back, in January, I mentioned how proud I was that you could spell stationery properly (meaning the paper stuff).

And yet I have had to take you to the woodshed before, CVS. In 2014, when I was posting on my old (now defunct and inaccessible) blog, you stopped selling cigarettes because (you said) you were so concerned about our health. I called you on your hypocrisy, on your attempt to get grace on the cheap. Not that I smoked at that time or since, not for quite a few years now, but I pointed out that you continue to sell candy, all the time, every day; there's a section of the store that's just candy, the seasonal aisle always has candy, and of course the checkout area is candy out the bazooty. (Never mind the snack aisle, which is very cookie-centric.) And I wondered if you were willing to cut off all that revenue, even though diseases of obesity are going to kill far more of us than diseases of smoking, and now our fatness is "astronomical," and even more out of control than it was in 2014. Heart disease, diabetes, stroke, cancer.... Well, CVS? Are you going to chase out the lardbuckets the way you chased out the puffers?


Now, about your complicity in the rampant and deadly opioid drug epidemic that you're only just now addressing...

$177.5 billion and they can't hire a proofreader. Sheesh.

Monday, October 16, 2017


October 16. You think the season is autumn.

But really... Christmasssstiiiiiiime is heeeeeeeerrre.....

In your mailbox!
In Home Depot!
At Walt Disney World!
I suppose there's no point in fighting it, although I would like them to wait until Halloween at least. Thanksgiving is pretty much a lost cause at this point, just a high-caloric speed bump on the road to the big wahoo on December 25.

I understand that people have to plan for the largest celebration of the year. If you're going to take the kids to Disney, for example, you have only a couple of weeks to figure out how to break into a bank vault or successfully counterfeit $100 bills. In addition to the catalogs shown, my wife gets a lot of craft catalogs, like from Michaels and JoAnn Fabric and Hobby Lobby and Yarn Bomb Monthly and Cross Stitch Hell and God knows what else. Of course, those outfits started with Christmas catalogs in June, but it takes a lot of time to knit that festive '69 Firebird cozy for Cousin Earl.

As I write this is, it is 70 days until Christmas. (That's 10 weeks, 1,680 hours, or 19.18% of 2017, according to, for those of you playing Calendar Bingo at home.) For perspective, 70 days ago was August 7, which to my mind was pretty much yesterday. On August 7 I was complaining about bugs, as I was last Saturday, so it doesn't seem like much has changed. Therefore, Christmas will be upon us before you can take your next breath.

I guess what I mean to say is, tempus really fugits, especially when it comes to Christmas. Consider this your first warning.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Apple season.

At this time of year I hear all about my friends and their children all having a wonderful time picking apples, cooking with apples, posing with apples on social media, playing cornhole with apples for all the hell I remember. Well, I did some frigging apple picking too, damn it. In the cereal aisle.

Take THAT! losers
Regular readers of this blog -- your check is going out Monday, promise -- may recall that we've been closely following the Tiny Toast fiasco that began in 2016. General Mills released Tiny Toast in strawberry and blueberry to great fanfare, fanfare that quickly died down. A year later Tiny Toast was quietly shoved down the memory hole and the cereals were reintroduced as part of the Toast Crunch line. And now Apple Cinnamon Toast Crunch, another cereal that looks nothing like Cinnamon Toast Crunch. You can't slip this stuff by me, General Mills. I'm always watching.

My review: The Apple Cinnamon Toast Crunch is pretty good. Very sweet, of course, and with more of a genuine apple taste than I expected. I have to hand it to them; they say it's flavored with real apples and they've managed to do it or fake it convincingly. Point to you, G. Mills.

But you're wondering: What does Mr. Breakfast think? Well, Mr. B, being the world's greatest authority on breakfast, has waded in already, and his review is here. Money quote: "The more you eat - the more that apple tastes like apple flavoring as opposed to the real thing. But it's still pleasing and pretty much exactly what you'd expect."

That sounds kind of like "this appeals to the kind of people who would find this kind of thing appealing," but Mr. B knows what he's talking about. We don't expect that much from our fruit flavored cereals, just the effort. And I think this works better than most.

I'm still watching you, General M. You can only take this toast thing so far. Buttered Toast Cereal isn't going to work. Irish Soda Bread Toast Crunch, Bialy Toast Crunch, Bagel with Lox and Cream Cheese Toast Crunch... just leave well enough alone.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Six recipes, fast as you can.

Weird dream last night -- but they aren't they all? But this was a sign that I watch too many Food Network shows where chefs compete against other chefs. You may think that that would mean I was lolling in the sheets murmuring, "I didn't come here to lose" or "I'm here to prove that I've arrived," but no. I actually dreamed of complete rules for a cooking competition that made sense. It was a little like Chopped or Guy's Grocery Games, but probably too simple for TV. Here's the drill.

Six young contestants (self included) (I was a kid in the dream) in a supermarket were handed a sheaf of papers. They contained six serious chef recipes, including the lists of ingredients, each written out separately with all instructions. Each kid had the same recipes. But no one could look at them in advance. When the judge said "Go!" everyone jumped on a bicycle (because, dream) and we had to peddle off to get what was on the lists and make all the recipes. Whoever finished fastest got the most points, but other points were awarded based entirely on the proper following of directions. There was very little by way of subjective judgment in this contest.

I've had a lot going on this week, which is probably where the idea came from. The junior amateur chefs would have to coordinate six lists of ingredients and time everything they had to do in the most efficient manner possible, on the fly. Which is rather how my week has gone. Anyone who ever made a full Thanksgiving dinner for guests for the first time knows how this felt. "I gotta get the turkey in first, and then get the baking potatoes in, which can cook at the same temperature, but the green bean casserole cooks lower, and there's cranberry casserole, and I should have done the pie last night, and AAAAAUUUGGHHH!"

Feel the burn

What amazes me about the dream was that it presented me with a fully formed idea that was not that bad and made perfect sense. A contestant in such a match could strategize how to handle the situation, but ultimately you have to cook well and you really, really want to finish first.

Some elements of this idea, as I note, are not great television, but are in keeping with real chef competitions by brilliant chefs who never go on TV. I read a new book about Chef Roland Henin, the greatest American chef you never heard of; he made the Culinary Institute of America into a world-class school, he trained some of the most prominent chefs cooking today, and he coached teams of American chefs to excellence in competitions like Bocuse d’Or (which America won this year!). A lot of the Food Network competitions evolved from extant cooking events -- years before Chopped used mystery baskets of unknown ingredients, the American Culinary Federation was forcing chefs to cook with whatever came out of a basket. In fact, I think Food Network realized that viewers like this kind of thing when they used to show coverage of Bocuse d'Or and other international contests. 

I think my dream contest would be fun in real life. Like Bocuse d'Or it would take some time, and you'd have to restrict it to amateurs since professional chefs have a lot of experience in prioritizing in a snap in the kitchen.  

My dream skidded to a halt when I looked at the sheaf of papers and couldn't read anything. As we've discussed here before, you can't read in dreams, and I was only able to make out a word or two. Knowing I was sunk, I just woke up instead. Wakey wakey, eggs and bakey. Or coffee and cold cereal, which is all I can cook in the morning.

Friday, October 13, 2017


People think of spring or maybe summer as the time for insects, but sometimes autumn has them beat solid. In these temperate climes, autumn is a great season for spiders to try to sneak into the house. Deer ticks have a great run in the autumn. The gnats come back to say hi. And then sometimes you spot something really terrifying, just in time for Halloween.

I'm not saying that I scare easy. You can say it for me.

This little chum appears to be a Differential Grasshopper, near as I can find, a critter about as big as some of the chipmunks we have running amok in the area. The females grow up two inches, Wikipedia says, but I think this one was an overachiever. Melanoplus differentialis here was once one of 40 to 200 eggs, a hatchling who reached full maturity in 32 days. I'm surprised that I can pay the mortgage twice in 32 days. Like many of nature's little bastards, this huge grasshopper likes to swarm, and will take out an entire farm in less than a week. On their days off they like to stand on posts and terrify homeowners.

I guess we're luckier than folks in tropical areas, though, where winter never comes to kick the bugs' buts as they grow as big as Buicks. But this is big enough for me. I carefully skirted around the pole lest D.G. decide to jump on my shirt, at which point I'd have to run half-naked down the block.

A few moments later, though, she was gone. Bird probably got her.

Sometimes I like the Circle of Life.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Clip joint.

I used to care a little about where I went to get my hair cut. I wanted a manly barber with old guys who could shave your neck properly, with soap and a straight razor and a hot towel. Now I don't much give a damn, as long as it's short. My hair hates me, so I'm going to hate it right back. 

Last week my hair was getting kind of shaggy. It had grown to a length than in my teens I would considered "Marine." I tried a Great Clips nearby, for one crucial reason -- it was in the same strip mall as the supermarket. Location, location, location. Mind you, they probably get a lot of balding men and the children of harried mothers, but their job is to make money, not art. 

The gal behind the shears did a good job, although with her rubbing that electric device all over my scalp I began to feel sympathy for the alpacas of the world. It was over in no time and didn't cost more than any barber I ever went to. Did not get a proper neck shave, but she did buzz that too, so it was fine. Sideburns came out even. What more do I want out of life?

I was amused by the fact that they had a poster in the window, advertising for a mascot, someone to stand outside and hand out coupons and things. Basically this guy:

I told the lady when I sat down that I would be interested, but I already had a job and I already dressed funny. I may have been overqualified, really.

Not that I have anything against mascots -- as the French say, au gratin! I wrote an entire novel about a man who meets real-life mascots. Looking at that costume, though -- probably hot and clingy. Too much for me. I think of mascots as we would the purple cow, that I would rather see than be one.

It would appear, by the way, that the mascot's name is "Suds." Were I Suds, I would insist that "They call me Mr. Suds." I'm sure some terrified child would kick me right in the ol' curling iron. I would not last a day.

As for going to Great Clips, I think they're fine, even if you're not a wailing child or a middle-aged man in a state of abject despair over your male pattern baldness. And hey, they sponsor NASCAR, so that's kind of manly, don't you think? I wonder if the announcer ever says "The Great Clips car just cut the other driver off!" I would.