Thursday, May 26, 2016

Nature update.

What's up, buttercup?

If, like me, you make your living slumped over a computer or stacks of papers, you may not be aware that nature is happening out there. I swear I barely was aware of it before we got our needy dog, who requires my presence outside on many occasions.

I did spend a good amount of time outdoors when I was a kid, though. And re: buttercups: Never understood that thing about holding a buttercup up to your chin to prove that you liked butter. Who doesn't like butter? The honeysuckle test seemed more interesting, if only I could remember it. Something about, if you tasted honey... you like honey? You're fated to marry well? You'll be hit by a crosstown bus one day? Nope; memory banks overloaded.

In any event, buttercups and honeysuckles are blooming! And so is this!

This is the very same azalea I thought had been killed a year ago by the harsh winter. It survived, obviously, and this past mild winter seems to have given it a new lease on life. It's never looked better. I should note that this picture was taken a week ago, and now it's dropped many of the flowers. It will be a lush green plant throughout the summer and fall. That's azaleas for you; they're like the guy who peaked in high school, but at least has a good career in sales afterward.

Oh, and we have an update on the bird's nest!

Yes, as I noted last week, this bird is much braver than the robin that kept flying the coop last year. Not sure what kind of bird it is, having spent too much of my life bent over papers and screens. She's darker and rounder than a female robin and she got her nest together weeks earlier than the robin last year did. I think whatever bird this is, we're going to have some fun-size ones appearing in the nest soon.

So that's the good nature news. The bad news is the lawn; we've got a bumper crop of clover coming up. If anyone can lend me some goats or a flock of sheep, I think that may be the solution. Chew it to the ground and start over.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016


There's a sushi place we get food from occasionally. While I'm not a big fan of sushi, I do like the fact that in lieu of after-dinner mints, they give you these:

I had no idea what these were, what the label said (besides "Classic Series"), or what they were supposed to taste like. I didn't recognize the little fruit on the wrapper.

A bit of searching taught me that the fruit is guava, and this fine Chinese candy can be purchased through Amazon. "Classic Series," rather than being puffery, seems to be the actual name of the candy, and the company appears to be Hong Yuan. Asian Supermarket 365, which also sells the candy, describes it thus: "Even if guava is not your favorite fruit, you may also this candy. It tastes delicious and natural, not too sweet."

Well put! I believe it's true that you might like this even if you don't like guava. I can't say for sure, because I don't think I've ever had guava. It's fun to say: Guava Guava Guava. A baby could say it. I guess guava (guava! guava!) is a hole in my culinary education.

But the reason I support their assertion is that grape candy, as we all know, is almost a completely different flavor from actual grapes. The same goes for other candies. It's no original observation on my part to note that we have contrasting and simultaneous ideas for flavors like blueberry, blackberry, watermelon, and others based on what candy and actual fruit taste like. You would never confuse watermelon's flavor with that of a watermelon Jolly Rancher, for example.

It could be a conundrum for Plato or the Scholastics: Is there a watermelon essence that is above and beyond the actual watermelon? A World of Forms watermelonness that Jolly Rancher captures to some extent, even without physical watermelon? If you replace a watermelon slice by slice with artificial watermelon, at what point does it cease to be watermelon? And that doesn't even to address the kumquat issue. Where do they fall in all this?

It's too much for me. I'll just say that I do like the guava "Classic Series." It is indeed tart but light, refreshing in the way an after-dinner candy should be. Unlike After Eight mints, you can even eat one at seven thirty. I'd like to try Hong Yuan's lychee candy, which I'd bet I'd like too -- since I have no idea what lychee tastes like.

P.S.: Guava Guava Guava! Heh.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Only dog syndrome?

As readers of this blog who don't have their own dogs to dote on know, my dog Tralfaz is the finest dog in the world. He rarely barks, he never bites, and he greets all people and dogs and most cats and almost everything else with a cheery attitude of "Hi! Let's play! Can I sniff your hiney?"

Pretty much the only problems we have with him that don't involve his overabundance of hair are caused by his overabundance of friendliness. He got in Dutch last week when we went to the pet store -- the same place where he went to training classes -- and he was so excited he wouldn't shut up. Not barking or whining, just random excited vocalizing. You could hear him two strip malls away.

He loved classes. He loved the teacher and her treats. He loved being with the other dogs. He tried to get in the training room when we were in the store, and no one was there and the door was locked and the lights were out. It's been over a year since he had classes.

Our thought is that he gets overexcited because he doesn't get enough time with other pups. He acts the same way when we go to the vet, probably for the same reason. When he's actually with the other dog(s) he's very polite. It's the anticipation that sends him wild.

We get him to the dog park when we can, but we both work. Hey, I'm working right now! This takes time! Oh, hours and hours go into a quality blog like this! Anyway, the diagnosis we're pondering is Only Dog Syndrome.

Yes, as with Only Child Syndrome, it's suspected that Only Dogs are apt to become precocious, selfish, aggressive, bossy, self-absorbed. Actually, that doesn't sound much like my dog. But with Only Dog syndrome, the lack of other canines may make the pup insane with glee at the prospect of encountering another doggy. Who doesn't like to be with their own kind?

The thinking is, if we got Dog #2, our dog would be thrilled, but he would also become less nuts about the chance of being with other pups. This seems to have worked with a friend, who got Costello to go with his dog Abbott, which made them both happy.*

Does that make sense? Anyone had any experience with this? Am I just a glutton for punishment? Will this lead to serial dog getting, and ultimately a sad story on the news where the cops have to come take 600 dogs from my house? Please share your thoughts and experience, either in comments or by e-mail (frederick_key AT Thanks!


* Names of dogs have been changed to protect the innocent. My friend's name is Percival Sweetwater.

Monday, May 23, 2016

We should get more can openers.

Or do you think we have enough can openers?

What we have here is the result of two bad traits from the people in a marriage coming together to make a mess. The traits are my wife's lack of desire to shop for tools, and my packrat-itis.

Allow me to introduce the members of the cast, from left to right:

Red knob: This was a cheapo opener I got from the supermarket because my wife complained that the three can openers we had were either dangerous or dull. It was less than five bucks and it worked exactly as you might think. I got it at the supermarket because our Linens 'N Things closed in 2008. I didn't want to make a special trip. It's awkward and hard to turn. My wife, needless to say, still had reason to complain after I brought it home.

Flat Oxo: This smooth-edge Oxo can opener slices the top off the can so that the wheel blade and the can exterior never touch the food. Claims also to not leave dangerous edges. My wife cut herself while using it.

Normal Oxo: A standard but soft-handled can opener, this one served us well until the wheel blade got dull. How do you sharpen that? Like this: Send your husband to the store for a new one.

Expensive Le Creuset: Annoyed by my failure to procure a good, non-dangerous can opener, I made a special trip. The Revolution, with its Commie red handle, is $30, so it's not exactly a tool for the proletariat. I got it at a Le Creuset outlet, which sold it for not one penny less than is charged in stores or online. All that said, it's an excellent tool, and it has a great bottle opener, unlike the crappy bottle openers on the side that traditional can openers have. Too bad I almost never need a bottle opener, but you could hang it on a nail.

Traditional can opener: Despite the crappy bottle opener on the side, the traditional can opener was around for so long that I can't remember when or where we got it. Maybe Linens 'N Things. Good grip, smooth operation. But the wheel got dull, and again, how do you sharpen these things?

After this review, I fought down my packrat-itis and pitched the old Oxo and the old traditional can opener. The cheapo one is being kept to open dog food. The smooth-edge Oxo is good for refried or baked beans or jellied cranberry sauce, where a good cut on the can makes it easier to procure a slab o' beans or tube o' cranberries in the shape of the can. Le Creuset is, of course, the go-to can opener for everything else.

Viva le Revolution!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Hungry? Xtremely hungry?

If you're hungry, and you think a candy bar is what you need rather than, like, kale, allow me to recommend one that might actually get the job done:

I first thought that the Snickers Xtreme was a new product, as it's not mentioned on the Snickers Web site. But then it turned out that it premiered in 2014. Someone's been holding out on me.

One of the interesting things about the bar is that there is no nougat; instead, the extra-thick bar just has more chocolate, peanuts, and caramel. I wondered if this had replaced the Snickers Marathon bar, which tried to be more like a protein supplement for your active lifestyle. (They have apparently since dropped the Snickers from the name.) But Wikipedia claims that Mars discontinued the Snickers Xtreme bar in 2009. Now, I am certain this candy bar was not seven years old, so Wikipedia, get off the stick!

As I say, the bar is extra thick. You see that the label says there are "2 to Go," meaning that it is actually two bars inside the wrapper. They say you can eat one now and twist the wrapper to save the other for later. They obviously don't know me very well.

I ate this after doing a lot of yard work, hours of labor in the sun, and I have to say it kept me going until dinner. I really wasn't hungry for a long time.

Now, we know that eating candy bars as a meal is not a good idea. I agree. However, anyone who has seen Mean Girls knows that protein bars are essentially candy bars. So why not just cut to the candy? Hershey's famously made combat candy for World War II, designed to survive really extreme conditions, in order to give servicemen a fast energy source in the field. It wasn't meant as a treat to make friends with Dondi. It helped keep our guys alive.

So I say Hooray, Mars! You got me through the Battle of the Lawn and kept me going through my shower. May I suggest a Snickers Xtreme Geriatric version for those of us that are no longer kids? Each bar would contain the equivalent of three Advils.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Next nest.

Hope springs eternal in the hearts of birds, I guess. 

Yessir, a birdie has built a nest under the deck, same as last year. This has happened periodically in the time we've owned the house, but last year the results seemed to be disastrous -- for the bird, not us. As I blogged at the time, the constant interruption caused by bringing the dog into the yard caused the bird to fly off the nest in panic many times, which may have caused the egg to be too cold to develop. Eventually nest and egg were abandoned.

A non-eggtity.
This bird seemed braver at first, so brave I thought it might go for my eyes if I got too close. But no, we sidled up to it and it flew off. It didn't return until after we were gone, and as it took Tralfaz his usual DMV-like dawdling to do his business, that egg was eggsposed for some time.

Ah, well. The kingdom of the birds is hardly a peaceable one. Birds attack each other, go after each other's eggs, fly into windows. The raptors kill small mammals. (They're beautiful while they do it, but still -- Oy! such killing.)

So birds have it tough. Some birds are tough enough to take it. If pigeons were as nervous about noise as my bird, they'd never survive Manhattan.

Come to think of it, I've never seen a pigeon nest. Maybe they spontaneously generate.

Regardless, I would like to apologize to any birds, except chickens and ducks and turkeys and other delicious birds, for making their lives tougher than it might normally be. I confess that I eat eggs, and have indirectly encouraged others to eat eggs, but only chicken eggs. Please stay away from my face. Thank you.