Monday, January 26, 2015

About the you-know-what. (Dog.)

Following yesterday's entry, I was informed via PM that I was very mean to my dog on Saturday. Tralfaz (for those just joining us) chased after a neighborhood kid, just to play with her, and would not respond to any calls. So I went berserk in front of the neighbors and dragged him in the house.

It was pointed out to me that 1) my dog is very young, and 2) my dog is just being friendly, not aggressive, and 3) I'm a big fat baldy-headed jerk.

I'm perfectly willing to agree with #3, as that is exactly how I felt after I stopped being furious. I'm not good at furious. Some people like anger; it is painful to me, and I hate it. TV shows and movies to the contrary, I do not do things better when I am angry. And I can't even remember when I allowed something other than the dog to make me that crazy.

But the dog does make me crazy, and he did on Saturday because:

1) he weighs more than ONE HUNDRED POUNDS, and scares the life out of some people who can't tell a gigantic friendly dog from a gigantic unfriendly dog (and considering that you could get knocked down into the street by either type, it is a fine distinction); in the past he has frightened a toddler to crying with his friendliness (that kid will never own a dog); 2) he was in the road, which could have killed him and whatever ran into him; and 3) we've worked on this stuff for months and he makes no progress at all and is frustrating the hell out of me. Oh, he'll come when you call inside the house, but not when he has anything better to do. He's always had the selective hearing of a surly teenager.

Someone else suggested that Tralfaz may be understimulated; he may need a job. He's a draft dog by breeding, but I haven't got a shay to hitch him to. With a blizzard coming our way it might not be a bad idea. Get a sleigh, charge for rides.

I actually was chatting with a fellow I know who told me he has a broken dog sled that he used to use with a couple of medium-size pups. But his dogs were not particularly controllable and went running wherever they wanted, chasing deer, cats, air molecules, whatever. And if they banked around a tree, the sled---10 feet back---would not bank, but would rather brake, suddenly---which is how it broke.

Tralfaz is actually too large to be a sled dog. With his weight he tires quickly. But he is as strong as a brace of oxen, which gave me another idea. Maybe it was time to get a plow, break the soil in the backyard, and supplement my income (Good Neighbors style) with a suburban farm.

Of course, you can get oxen to plow good, sturdy lines:


But a dog plow... eh, based on my experience and that of my pal with the dog sled:


I'm not going to set my four-legged friend up for failure. He's had a tough enough couple of days.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

I got nothing.

Sorry -- I got nothing today. I am so miserable with this winter, and we have two more frigging months to go. 

The new book is going very, very poorly; my early reader gave the first chapter a thumbs-up, but I've had no time and no patience to work on it. You ever hit a one-damn-thing-after-another phase? So have I. And there's so many more things that need tending to, things that don't resolve any major issues or put a dollar in the checking account. So I'm going like a hamster on a wheel, furiously pumping, staying put. 

And I'm already tired of being cold every day, a weariness that doesn't usually set in until mid-February.


Bite me, winter.
Yesterday the dog was romping in the white crap (sorry, "snow") and unexpectedly one of the neighbors' kids came down the street. Tralfaz took after her like she was a squirrel, except he never bothers to chase squirrels. He refused to acknowledge being called. It escalated. He was even going into the street, which he knows is 100000000% bad. By the time I corralled him, I had managed to look like a maniac in front of the entire block. Because I am. I suppose they might as well know it.

So the dog is nervous (although still misbehaving), the wife is sorry (maybe that she married me instead of that nice bowling-ball polish salesman), the neighbors wary, and me, depressed and ashamed to show my face outside. I'm falling behind on a freelance project despite working on it every freaking day. And more snow is coming Monday.

You know the difference between me and a hamster on a wheel? The hamster can get off.

I am tempted to go back to bed now. It's just gone six thirty a.m., but if today is like yesterday, it's not going to get any better from here.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Man bulldozes home with stuff in it.

Just up the road a piece from me, in Middletown, a 48-year-old man bulldozed his home. Rented an excavator and took the entire house to the ground. While his wife was out running errands. And all their stuff was inside it.

She was entirely unaware of this development. 

So were the local authorities and utilities companies that would have required notifications.

In news reports, one neighbor said, "He bulldozed all her clothes in there. Washer, dryer, furnace, hot water heater, everything was still in there. In fact, her medication was still in there."

The bulldozerer, James Rhein, supposedly said the house was in such bad shape it could only be demolished. Even if this were the case, it still strikes me as something one wouldn't really do spontaneously. Even if the couple had been having an argument about how he never got around to the old job jar. 

The Rhein home in its happier, pre-annihilated state.
I think Mr. Rhein is in a heap of trouble, and as a friendly gesture from me, a fellow Hudson Valleyian, I thought I could offer some more plausible excuses for why he tore down the house without warning anyone. No one likes to sound completely batpoop crazy. So maybe he could say...


  • "Moving is such a pain, you know?"
  • "I left the keys in the excavator while I went for a sandwich -- it must have started up itself!"
  • "I had this pirate map that showed buried treasure under the foundation."
  • "I thought we could recycle the old place."
  • "She kept telling me to pick up the room, so..."
  • "I was gonna have the whole new house built as a surprise, but she came home too soon!"
  • "I was aiming for my dadblasted neighbor's place but I missed."
  • "Practicing to try out for a new job in Detroit."
  • "My mother-in-law was supposed to move in and I was desperate."
  • "I thought Ty Pennington would build me a new house."
  • "That excavator was a Decepticon!"
  • "Termites."
  • "Just as I was about to dig the new well, a micro hurricane struck."
  • "Too many Twinkies."
  • "I call it Suburban Renewal."
  • "I was gonna just take off one room, but it's like potato chips. Once you start it's hard to stop."
  • "It's not destroyed. It's underinflated."
  • "Ghosts?"
  • "You mean my wife wasn't inside?"

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Chef Fred.

You all know Fred loves to cook. I can microwave a burrito like nobody's business, pilgrim.

So it's no surprise that I enjoy watching Food Network's show Chopped, the show in which chefs have to cook their way through three elimination rounds, using hamper baskets full of horrible mismatched ingredients. Host Ted Allen will introduce each round like:

Ted: This is the appetizer round, chefs, and you will have to combine the following ingredients in your baskets: Calf's liver... Hostess Fruit Pies... fiddleheads... and absinthe. You have twenty minutes... time starts now!

Like everyone who's watched the show, I have idly wondered how I would do as one of the chefs. I love to cook; I have moments of intense creativity in combining weird ingredients (frozen burrito and Sriracha!), and like all writers, I secretly want to crush my competitors.

Have at thee!


One problem: I suck under pressure.

No, really. My interviews are a mess. When I've done public speaking, my 30-minute talks would be 10 minutes long if you excised the uhhhs, y'knows, and ummmms. And the times I chuckle at my own jokes that no one else laughs at. So I expect I would have some problems.

Here's me in front of the judges, Alex Guarnaschelli, Marcus Samuelsson, and Aarón Sánchez (minus my uuhs and umms):

Ted: Chef Fred! What have you prepared for us?

Me: I have... a meatloaf-marmalade ice cream with a flaming pickled mangosteen sauce and a shredded swizzle stick garnish.

Alex: I like how you've repurposed the swizzle stick.

Me: Thanks.

Alex: But it wasn't a basket ingredient.

Me: No.

Alex: It isn't even food.

Me: No.

Marcus: I'm curious as to your decision to use the ice cream machine.

Me: I thought meatloaf ice cream would make a memorable and unique dessert.

Marcus: You can say that again.

Me: Thanks.

Marcus: But this is the appetizer round.

Me: I panicked.

Ted: And you broke the ice cream maker.

Me: Sorry.

Marcus: It's about the least edible thing I have ever seen in my life.

Me: It was a tough basket.

Ted: The basket contained lobster, spanakopita, Macoun apples, and lime gelatin.

Me: Oopsie.

Aarón: Chef Fred, didn't you pick on one of my products on your blog?

Me: No, I didn't.

Aarón: Yes you did!

Me: Hey. don't link on my blog.

Aarón: You break machines, use terrible ingredients that weren't even in the basket, you don't use a single ingredient that was in the basket, you serve us something that looks and smells like elephant vomit, and you picked on my pork! This is the worst thing I've ever seen on this show!

Me: Uh... I cut myself and bled into the ice cream, too.

Marcus: WHAT?

Me: I'll try to do better in the next round

Ted: ...Thank you, Chef Fred.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

President calls on Americans for "sacrifice."

WASHINGTON -- In his State of the Union Address last night, President Barack Obama called on Americans for "sacrifice" in the ongoing struggle against the organization known as the Islamic State.

"People who like to kill people are very difficult to deal with," said the president, "but fortunately most of the people they are killing are far away from us. Our job is to make it so none of you have to worry about them.

"I know in your hearts you would rather be thinking about the love life of Jennifer Aniston or how Beyonce will keep her figure if she has another baby. But we know the peace of mind that allows for such meaningless considerations only comes from not having to worry about some creep in a black mask trying to hack your head off. The reality is, to make that happen, sacrifice must be made.

"I have consulted with the best minds in Washington and Hollywood over this problem. My task force, including Vice President Biden and Academy Award winner Matt Damon, have noted that the group called ISIS seems to be pretty happy if they can just cut the heads off one or two Westerners every other month, especially if they are Christians. Jews, of course, are the best. Michael Moore, my lead technical adviser, argues powerfully that direct armed conflict with ISIS would require cowardly actions, not courage, unlike the dozen or so brave American lives lost to human sacrifice. We agree that a handful of Americans sacrifices to the blades of our noggin-chopping foes beats the hell out of thousands lost in the hell of war, or in man-made disaster on our own shores.

"Therefore, beginning next month, my Lamb Initiative intends to bring regular, targeted deliveries of Americans to our enemies, which will satisfy their bloodlust and prevent them from pursuing Americans outside the miserable pile of sand they call home. I know you will agree, and Congress will agree, this is a small price to pay for a peaceful and prosperous 2015 and 2016."

The president went on to point out Mr. Moore, seated near the First Lady and former president James E. Carter, who helped Mr. Moore to his feet for a bow.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

More sugar.

The continuing taste test of things I should not be eating:


The Boyer Candy classic: Mallo Cups! (Sorry the corner got ripped off before the picture was taken; the eagerness of our reviewer was so strong he could barely be restrained. Plus I forgot.)

The Mallo Cup is one of those candies that you're almost surprised to see when it pops up: That's still around? Like the Charleston Chew or the Mary Jane. Candies from your grandmother's day. There's nothing wrong with them. I mean, yes, they're bad for you, but I mean they're not worse than the popular candies from Mars or Nestle or Hershey or Cadbury or any of that crowd. But they have nowhere near the distribution. Before Hershey bought Jolly Rancher, that brand was stagnating; when I was a kid they were considered grandma candies too, like Werther's Original (which is wise to play off that in its advertising).

It's true that some tastes have changed in candy over the last century, though. Licorice is not nearly as popular as it once was. Butterscotch is a shadow of its former self. Molasses candy is too bitter for most kids. But the Mallo Cup has good milk chocolate, a perfectly acceptable---and very, very sweet---marshmallow center, and the addition of coconut, which does little for me but is certainly a fave with your Mounds/Almond Joy/Zagnut/Bounty fans. I liked it.

Boyer (all kosher!) also makes other products that include a dark chocolate Mallo Cup, a peanut butter cup, and a butterscotch covered peanut butter cup called a Smoothie, which I figure will be either the most horrible food in the world or cure cancer. Probably somewhere in between. If I should spot one, you know I'll risk my health to bring you my review. I'm eager that way.