Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Worth the dough.

Regular readers will know that we are obsessed with Dunkin' Donuts coffee, and as such my travels take me into the stores where I occasionally succumb to temptation and procure a doughnut. These are generally just dandy, but sometimes they are off, or even too sweet for me -- and almost nothing is too sweet for me. When your doughnut is sweeter than chewing a quarter cup of sugar, you know you've passed into the Glucose Zone.

But I must give them their due: The Blueberry Cobbler Croissant Donut is top notch.

They're goin' fast!
DD's croissant doughnut is, of course, their answer to the Cronut, Dominique Ansel's copyrighted pastry that was a citywide sensation in New York a couple of years ago. Dunkin' charges more for these raised doughnuts, when they have them, than their average rank-and-file G.I. doughnut, and while I haven't had a Cronut I can only say that if Dunkin's is a fair approximation, then I don't know what the big deal is.

Except for the Blueberry Cobbler Croissant Donut. That's righteous.

The key is that the blueberry filling is not too sweet. You can actually taste the blueberries. They actually have some blueberry texture. The doughnut/croissant hybrid is soft on the inside, crispy on the outside, with only a touch of icing.

Good job, Dunkin' Donuts! Perhaps it still is a far fry from the Ansel official Cronut, but I probably won't be able to get down to Spring Street soon to find out. Meanwhile, you've given us something very tasty that won't make me sweat corn syrup. Gimme one and a large coffee to go!

Monday, May 30, 2016

Why we fight?

Dear Friends:

If you're an American, of a bent to pray, please pray that our nation will awake from its bedazzlement with foolishness, celebrity, oversensitivity, ignorance, base desires, and selfishness, and become more worthy and more respectful of the ultimate sacrifice made by countless Americans over the centuries in the cause of freedom and our most noble idea, the last best hope of man on Earth. Thank you.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

And it can lead to Corn Pops.

We all remember the kid in Maryland who got in trouble for chewing a Pop-Tart in the shape of a gun and making the threatening statement, "Look, I made a gun." 

Courtesy of WBALTV. Artist's rendering. The actual gun may have been a different caliber. 
Well, that seven-year-old boy is ten now, and the Greater Baltimore area had better be aware -- he's not just a kid anymore.

In fact, my sources tell me his nibbling skills have gotten far more sophisticated. Far more dangerous.

Here is a typical cherry Pop-Tart:

And here is what this young man, with virtually no training, is now able to accomplish:

And that's just with his own teeth! What if he acquires access to other, perhaps weapons-grade teeth? Who knows what villainous pastry he might produce? What sort of tactical assault breakfast might follow? This is all George Bush's fault.


P.S.: Mr. Philbin accuses me of making fun of school shootings. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is difficult to imagine a more depraved, wicked, evil act.

I do make fun of overreaction, of lack of proportion, of school officials unable to use the common sense that God gave earthworms, and of our generalized hysteria. And of Pop-Tarts.

Friday, May 27, 2016

The sweet spell of success.

Last night’s Scripps National Spelling Bee was sure a barnburner. For those of you who missed the action-packed finale, here’s a transcript of the live coverage. The hosts are Brian “Silent E” Grunch, former national champion, and Psalmusynpostan “Psal” Muenchtivoqsovicz, the man with the hardest name to spell in America.

Brian: Going into the final round now, and a hush descends upon the crowd.

Psal: I’d almost call it a quiescence, wouldn’t you?

Brian: Quiescence. Q-U-I-E…

Psal: And here come the two remaining contestants. Jimmy Bo is looking a little tired from the last round, but this boy’s got no quit in him.

Brian: That’s right, Psal. I thought that he’d pulled something when he finished the fifth O in otorhinolaryngological, but darned if he didn’t straighten out and finish the word. The question is, did he suffer an injury, and if so, how will it affect him in this final round?

Psal: That’s affect, not effect, folks.

Brian: Right you are, Psal, and here comes Sweyama Muglatawny, the other finalist.

Psal: Sweyama has been a real protégé in these contests, Brian, but the last few rounds have not come easily to her. Why, she almost misspelled beagle in the early going.

Brian: That word is surprisingly difficult for some people, Psal.

Psal: She’s been holding it together as all those around her fall, but can she get through one more challenge?

Brian: It’s a long season, Psal, and it takes its toll. That’s T-O-L-L.

Psal: But it all comes down to this. And here comes the first word for Jimmy Bo.

Brian: Oooh, cariogenesis, that’s the development of dental cavities.

Jimmy: Cariogenesis. C-A-R-I-O-G-E-N-E-S-I-S. Cariogenesis.

Psal: He’s done it! And the crowd roars its approval. But this isn’t over by a long shot.

Brian: Long shot is two words there, Psal.

Psal: I know. That’s why I had a little pause.

Brian: Good job. And here comes Sweyama’s word. If she fails, Jimmy can clinch the win if he can spell it.

Psal: I-T.

Brian: Ha! Classic joke, Psal.

Psal: And here we go… Yes, yes, she has salmagundi. That’s the salad plate with meats and things. Normally that wouldn’t stop a player of Sweyama’s caliber, but the way she’s going today, I just don’t know.

Sweyama: Salmagundi. S-A-L-M-A-G-U-N-D-I. Salmagundi.

Psal: And she nails it! Oh, this is shaping up to be a good match, Brian.

Brian: The audience goes wild, but you can feel how tense they are. I’d call them positively aflutter, antsy, anxious, atwitter, dithery…

Psal: And here comes Jimmy’s next word. And… holy cats! They’ve given him Psittacosaurus!

Brian: These judges are pulling no punches, Psal… Psittacosaurus, a dinosaur genus of the Early Cretaceous. If he can get through the first few letters he may pull this one out, but it won’t be easy!

Jimmy: Psittacosaurus. P-S-I-T…

Brian: He’s stalled.

Psal: Is it the O-related injury from the previous round?

Jimmy: …T-A-C-O…

Brian: Now just the follow-through…

Jimmy: …S-A-U-R-U-S. Psittacosaurus.

Psal: Fantastic! Look at that form! Whatever happened earlier, he’s gotten past it!

Jimmy: Yes, Psal, that’s the mark of a champion right there. But Sweyama is still a powerhouse in the clutch – don’t count her out!

Psal: And here comes her word; it’s… hmm. Orfevrerie. Not sure how she’ll react.

Brian: Orfevrerie, of course, meaning gold or silver jewelry.

Psal: She’s pondering hard… Oh, Brian, I think she’s having trouble.

Brian: You hate to see a seasoned veteran run into the wall like this, Psal. So many champion spellers are washed up by the time they’re 16.

Psal: They have to be under 16 to compete, Brian.

Brian: Oh, yeah; math’s not my thing.

Psal: Here she goes!

Sweyama: Orfevrerie. O-R-F-E-V-E-R-I-E. Orfevrerie.

Brian and Psal: OOOHHHH!

Brian: Bad break for Sweyama!

Psal: She knew it the moment it left her lips, Brian. It’s the French formation that makes it tricky.

Brian: Ah, those tricky French. The audience almost fainted just then.

Psal: But she’s not out unless Jimmy can spell it.

Brian: I-T.

Psal: Yes, still funny. Here he goes.

Jimmy: Orfevrerie. O-R-F-E-V-R-E-R-I-E. Orfevrerie.

Psal: Unbelievable! Jimmy Bo has spelled the word! He is the new national spelling bee champion!

Brian: Incredible second effort at the end, there, Psal. Sweyama just had to leave the door open a bit and in he came. This boy is a speller of steel, you just know it.

Psal: What an amazing end to this competition. Now we’re going to send it down to Lee Li, to see whether she can speak with the winner.

Brian: Whether! W-E-A-T-H-E-R!

Psal: Why, Brian, that's the worst spell of whether we've had in a long time!

[Both dissolve in laughter.]

[End of transcript.]

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 yahoo.com). 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.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Wash me.

When you do most of your work at home as a freelancer, you can set your own hours. This was very well summed up by this helpful chart from The Onion:

What it also means is that, deadlines permitting, you can do your housework on a Tuesday instead of waiting for Saturday. Joy!

Being that the dust in the bedroom was thick enough to plant potatoes, I decided I had better do something about it yesterday. So I hung this sign:

But it turned out that wasn't enough.

We'd done a pretty good spring cleaning weeks ago, but frankly, we only worked on those areas of the house that we knew our dinner guests might stumble into. Which was everything but the master bed and bath. Well, now it's almost the unofficial start of summer, and I had the time, so I had to muscle down and get to it.

One of the interesting things about dusting is that you feel like every bit of dust that came off every surface now has adhered to your person. When I went outside with the dog at one point during the day I was certain I would be mistaken for Pigpen.

Some people would rather clean a dozen bedrooms than one bathroom, people such as the lovely Mrs. Key. Better dust should cling to you than whatever you pick up from the can. I understand that, but when you do a good physical job and you know you're dirty, you're going to want a shower anyway -- so if you don't try to lick yourself clean, it doesn't much matter. And there are some satisfactions from bathroom cleaning that other rooms can't match. Like pulling a YUGE hairball out of the sink drain.

Good times.

Some people derive great satisfaction from cleaning, what an old boss of mine called fighting entropy, but I am not one of those people. I only derive mild satisfaction. However, it's cheaper than a gym and still a good workout, as my Advil-craving muscles could attest when I got up this morning. And you have something to show for it afterward beyond sweaty clothes.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Cap and ouch.

I drink a lot of Coke Zero, probably way too much. (Yes, I eat candy and drink diet soda. I would rather spend my calories on something that actually could be filling.) (Don't be so judgy, Judgy McJudgeface.)

Anyway, I drink so much Coke Zero that I get Coke stuff, like these fabu sunglasses:

Oh, yeah, I'm one of the cool kids now.

The fact is, I broke my Foster Grants, and I've been using my polarized safety glasses all winter for sunglasses while driving. Every time I would think "I need to get some new sunglasses" I was in the car; every time I was in a store that sold sunglasses I was not thinking of buying sunglasses. So when I saw Coke had this big red pair, red being Coke's signature color, I cashed in some reward points. I didn't care how ugly they might be, as long as they were good for driving.

The problem is, it's baseball season now, and so they're uglier than I thought:

That's right: While wearing my orange-billed Mets cap and my red Coke sunglasses, I clash with myself.

How bad do I clash with myself?

Low-riders with 15-inch subwoofers pull up beside me and ask me to keep it down.

That's how bad.

Coke is probably laughing. After all, Coca-Cola operates out of Atlanta, where Ted Turner's Wicked Braves loaf around in their Wicked Red, Blue, and White uniforms. All the guys on the team probably get free Coke sunglasses, which match their outfits.

But the last laugh may be on Coke. After many years of Pepsi's MLB dominance, Coke is trying desperately to take over the game. The old Shea Stadium was a Pepsi stronghold for years -- the picnic area beyond the outfield fence was the Pepsi Picnic Area, perfect for group events. But as of 2016, Coke is the official soft drink at Citi Field.

Now, I'm not saying Coke should consider changing its colors from red and white to orange and blue. I just think that they need to be more broadminded in their color dedication. And wouldn't those little green bottles look great with an orange or blue label?

I'll be waiting for my blue sunglasses, Coke. You have my address.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Butter believe it.

Today we have another amazing recipe pamphlet from the collection I inherited, mostly from manufacturers or their organizations promoting their wares (such as eggsbeer, booze, blenders, pasta, woks, cola, chicken, more booze). Today it's butter, baby, and you'd better believe it!

This almost doesn't count as a pamphlet. It's a 3x5 fold up, which may very well have come in a box of butter. But in that little pamphlet are no fewer than four different recipes for cakes (chocolate, spice, pound, and birthday) and five different recipes for frosting (vanilla, chocolate cream, chocolate fluff, butter marshmallow, and browned butter), none of them weird -- no Rum Cake Flambe here -- and all made from scratch.

I know it's hard to believe, in an era when cakes are bought or come out of a box mix, but there was a time when people had to make cakes from scratch. Why, if these were any more scratch, you'd be churning the butter yourself.

But what exact time was this? The front tells us it comes from the American Dairy Association, which copyright I find is owned by the Dairy Management Inc. and goes back to 1941. But this must be newer than that. For one thing, the name "American Dairy Association" is in all lowercased letters, which associations and companies did not do in the 1940's. This comes from a less serious time. The boys are wearing cowboy party hats, but those kinds of things were popular from the thirties to the seventies. And I don't know from girls' haircuts, but that looks early 1960's to me. My wife says it looks like the hairstyle that Patty Duke wore in The Patty Duke Show (1963-1966), so I think I am right. You actually could buy boxed cake mixes as far back as the Great Depression (says Wikipedia), but there was a lot more resistance to that kind of shortcut back then than we would ever see today.

Does it promote butter? You bet! Here, along with two recipes, is "The Butter Bonus":

You may wonder why anyone would have to push the butter; didn't Americans always drink butter and bacon grease with their coffee in those unenlightened days? Actually production of margarine, which was much cheaper, overtook butter in 1958 in the U.S., according to The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink. So what we have here is Big Butter fighting back.

Returning to the question of the date on this un-copyrighted publication, I draw your attention again to that cover art, specifically the platter upon which the birthday cake sits. It turns out that it turns, and plays "Happy Birthday," and you could buy it:

Tops off the gayety of a birthday party!

So I did a search, and found a photo of the platter in this ad from the Detroit Free Press, February 16, 1964:

So we can see that the plate also had a fairly cute clown on it. And the offer expires February 28, 1965.

There's been a lot of birthday cakes over the clown since then, as they say. A baby who celebrated his first birthday with that brand-new revolving clown platter would be at least 51 today. I did a search to see if any of those platters wound up on eBay, but couldn't find any.

Anyway, there's no expiration date on delicious cake recipes, which I've given you. If you want the frosting recipes, drop me a line at the usual place (frederick_key AT yahoo.com) and soon you'll be making cake and frosting from scratch too! I have no information on churning butter, though.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Name that thing!

What could this be?

Is it...

1) Helipad for wealthy hamsters?

2) Uninspired graffiti?

3) Indication of poorly divinated well site?

4) Hieroglyphics for "I got nothin'"?

5) The "You Are Here" spot indicated on wall maps?

6) Alien spaceship signs?

7) A parking spot for the Birdseye Pea Car?

8) Hobo notification of "only kale here"?

9) Hula hoop practice spot?

10) Ring remaining from wet grass vomited by my lawn mower when it came to a stop?


˙0Ɩ ɹǝqɯnu s,ʇᴉ 'ɥɐǝʎ

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Hair yesterday, back tomorrow.

I saw an ad on TV for this product, which caught my eye:

So you're wondering:

1) Why did I see an ad for this product? Don't I only allow manly, masculine programming on my TV, the kind of shows that would never have advertising for girlie products?

2) Why would I care about Root Cover Up by L'Oreal? Isn't that only of interest to people who have, y'know, hair?

Well, to answer your snotty questions in the order in which I made them up:

1) Yes, of course I only put on manly, masculine programming, but my wife had the remote control because I was, uh, cooking. Manly food!

2) While it's true that I would enjoy more hair on my scalp than nature has seen fit to bless me with, my hair or lack of it has nothing to do with my interest in the product, which is all about the design of the package.

Because the fact is, this is a revival of a classic. In the post-war era, and proceeding into the late 1970s, hair salons (which have always been expensive to equip and thus redecorate) favored pink and, even better, turquoise:

Your chair's ready.
Furthermore, the slim serif font used on the can harks back to the era typified by this 1960 ad for Toni's home perm kit:

I'm very favorably impressed. We see revivals in products all the time, but I can't remember one that harked back further than the hippie era. This harks back to the era known to the Great Lileks as the Twilight of the Grown-ups.

Maybe it was not developed as retro so much as a Mad Men inspired product design. Either way, good on you, L'Oreal. Have a Lucky Strike and a Rheingold on me.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Geek mall.

I get e-mails and occasional catalogs from ThinkGeek.com, an excellent site to buy things for people who are geeks and refuse to grow up.

If they'd had this when I was a kid, I'd have never had any money ever. Come to think of it, I never did have any money ever, but I would have been saving any money I did get to blow it on Think Geek. 

For example, you never knew that you needed silver Batman cuff links, but you will now:

So do I, although dapper as I am, I do not even own a shirt that can take cuff links. However, were I to be a member of a geek wedding party -- a generous one, as these are $50 -- and received these as a groomsman's gift, I would buy such a shirt for just that purpose. 

Most of their products are appropriate for family use, but I did find some things, like the Harry Potter Corset, to be in questionable taste. 

I suppose that might be more appealing to young folks who grew up with the Potter franchise, but I was an adult when the first book came out, so it's hard for me to see a kids' series turned toward naughtiness. It would be like the darker, grittier Hundred Acre Wood.

I also think the design is kind of lousy, with the stupid little tie. 

If your dad is a geek or a dork or a nerd, you must browse their panoply of dad gifts before Father's Day creeps up on us. Where else can you find a Tie Fighter Tie

Nowhere, that's where; it's an exclusive to Think Geek. So it's either that for Dad or a new pocket protector, I guess; your choice! (Oddly enough, Think Geek has no pocket protectors for sale at this time. They do have a Sonic Screwdriver, so there's that.) 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

A slight case... of DEATH!

This program contains graphic images and mature subject matter. Viewer discretion is advised.

(EXT: Driveway. beat cops have roped off the area. CSI folk in lab coats and gloves kneel, looking at things. Detective Bacon, bearing a frown behind his whiskers, approaches the lead investigator, Peter "PB" Barilotto.)

Detective Bacon: What have you got for us here, PB?

PB: Well, we got a grim one for you today, Bacon. Have a look.

Bacon: (rearing back) Ew!

PB: We're curious about the cause of death.

Bacon: Cause of death? How about he got smashed to death?

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Mother's Day and stuff.

Yesterday the sun tried to make an appearance after a solid week of rain.

Well, guess what's happening now (Sunday morning)?

Too bad for our local mothers, who might have wanted an al fresco brunch or something -- not a great day for it. What it is a great day for are the weeds and mushrooms, which are enjoying this weather far more than my sad little blades of grass. When did we decide that a lawnful of grass was what looked great around the house? Floral evolution suggests we may have picked a losing battle on that one.

Still, whether the weather is cloudy or bright wherever you are, we offer our Salute to Moms this Mother's Day. Moms, we salute you!

Deedle dee deet dee deeeeee!!

Google had a pretty cute illustration for Mother's Day, but I liked last year's animation better:

My mom has passed on now some time ago, and when I think of her, which I do every day, I often wish life had been kinder to her. And when I say "life" I also mean "her children." Too soon old, too late smart, they say, and possibly in no area more than in appreciation of your parents.

To quote the late Lewis Grizzard, don't forget to call your mama... I wish I could call mine.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Stop being nice!

Is this my week to complain about First World problems? Yeah, but the week's almost over.

Today my kvetch concerns this strong suggestion: Stop Being Nice on the Roads!

You gasp (thanks for playing along at home) and say, "But Fred! Everyone, especially in New York, where your hovel is, is too mean on the roads! Who are these nice people of whom you speak?"

Well, we do have some, and when it comes to intersections, they have to knock off all that niceness.

I'm thinking of this common situation:

You're at the front of the line at the red light, planning to make a left turn. That's you below in the blue car. (Slick wheels, BTW.) The woman (it's often a woman) in the yellow car wants to go straight, and you know that by the rules of the road, she has the right of way. There are cars lined up behind you; they'll have to wait. There are cars lined up behind her; they're happy because they'll be on their way soon.

You're resigned, and so is the guy behind you; the guy behind him, not knowing you were turning left (couldn't see your directional) is peeved, mainly because he is afraid he'll miss the light. But scoring the emotis as Happy = 1, Meh = 2, and Mad = 3, this scenario is a 10, which for a traffic situation with 6 drivers is not too bad.

Now let the nice person in the yellow car start waving at you to let you go first, and what happens?

First off,  no one's moving. Why? You in the blue car were not expecting this stupid act of niceness, so you were prepared to wait. Maybe the sun is facing you, and you can't see the ding-dong waving at you very well. (It's always hard to estimate visibility for a driver in a car facing another direction.) The two cars behind her are pissed, because they expected to be off with the green. The two behind you are furious because you're supposed to turn and no one is moving. And you are at least Meh, because you don't know why the yellow car is sitting there when it should be going straight. By confounding your expectations, the yellow car has automatically added several seconds to this process. Only the driver of the yellow car is happy, because she thinks she's doing a good deed. Give her a moment and she'll be mad that you're not doing what she wants. And if you're me, you'll get mad because she's not doing what the law says she should.

Score: 15 and rising quickly. That's bad for a 6-driver scenario.

So, friends, stop being nice out there on the roads. Just know the rules and follow them, especially at intersections, where so many deadly accidents happen.

When we all know what we're supposed to do and do it -- which we all agree to when we apply for a driver's license -- we prevent a lot of problems. Fulfilling expectations IS nice.

Friday, May 6, 2016

A salted.

Sort of continuing the salt theme from earlier in the week...

I was cooking from a new recipe yesterday and came across something that makes me crazy. Somehow I forgot to note this last year in my instructions for cookbook authors, although it is a longstanding pet peeve of mine. In fact, it's not just a pet peeve; it's almost a zoo.


Don't tell me that! Tell me how much to put in! YOU'RE the chef! You're the one who knows how it's supposed to taste! It's your stupid recipe! Take ownership! How much do YOU put in?? TELL ME! 


I promise you, chef, that if I like the recipe and think it needs more or less seasoning than you recommend, I will adjust it the next time. And some recipes, like a salad, I suppose anyone can drop in a little salt and pepper and add more at the table if need be. But that's harder with something like mashed potatoes, where you have to keep mixing the heavy, mostly-solid mass, especially if you're making anything like a large quantity. And what if you're baking something like a bread pudding? You can't really taste that until it's cooked. How am I supposed to adjust the salt and pepper then, smart guy?

Please! Think of the novice cook. I'm not a novice, but weren't we all once? Someone who's never made mashed potatoes cannot even give you a ballpark figure on how much seasoning to use. A tablespoon? An eighth? A tablespoon? A cup? Aiiieee!

I understand that ingredients of prepared foods, from cheeses to broth to bread, may vary in their salt content, and that's why you don't want to commit to a measurement. Well, tough. You're talking about a slight variation to the added salt, but a newbie may make a huge variation out of ignorance. Help a brother out!

Honestly, chefs, and this goes for food magazines as well, unless you're describing your recipes as "advanced," please just spell out how much of everything to use, okay?

Addendum 1: This also goes for restaurants. Piping hot food arrives, too hot to touch, and then the piano leg comes out:

How the hell should I know? I haven't touched it yet! It's burning hot! Go away! Tell the chef to put his own damn pepper in next time! Why am I doing his work for him?

Addendum 2: Not really related, but: I mentioned over dinner to the lovely Mrs. Key that some people trying to cut carbs are making mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes. She said "When hell freezes!" I love her.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Rainy days and Thursdays.

A rainy spring day is not too depressing. Day 5 of rain begins to bring me down.

We had very little snow over the winter, so I know we need it... But of course, if I'd wanted to live in Portland, Oregon, I would have moved there.* Remind me never to move anyplace that has "Monsoon Season" written on the calendar.

That said, I would probably be in a lousy mood anyway. While trying to give my career a kickstart, I seem to have instead gotten a kick in the pants, which is very disappointing. In fact, due to the circumstances, it was painfully discouraging. That's a story for another time. Or maybe never. Maybe I'll look back on it and chuckle in a few years. Maybe I'll look back on it and shake my fists and say WHY WHY WHY as bitter tears roll down my ashen face. Well, could go either way.

Now the dog is acting up again too. He got hold of something terrible. I mean, of course, wet food. Yep, some fool fed him the canned stuff. How ya gonna keep 'em down on the farm after they've seen Paree, huh? So we're trying to get him back on the bagged stuff, and he's gone on hunger strike. If he thinks he's winning this one, he does not know my wife very well.

What's that? The election? Hey, if America is so addicted to celebrity ("I know him from TV! He must be awesome!") and stunt casting ("Oooh, a woman! We haven't tried one of them yet!") that it has lost its ability to make sober judgment, then it deserves what it gets.**

But really, I think a little sunshine would make all these problems more bearable. Then I look on the weather app and see no sun icon until Monday. And guess what is shown for Tuesday and Wednesday?


* Dear Oregonians: I know that Portland is not actually the rainiest city in the nation, and neither is Seattle; while the Pacific Northwest has some of the wettest places in the country, the wettest cities are actually in the Southeast -- New Orleans, Miami, Atlanta, and so on. Even Northeastern cities like New York and Hartford get more rain than Portland or Seattle. But you guys got the rep.

** And yes, the Old Man Yelling at Cloud is still in the running, I know. Come to think of it, I may have more in common with him than I thought. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Dog decor.

It happens to parents, and it happens to dog owners: That moment when you realize you're never going to have a clean house again. 

"We should vacuum in here today," I muttered yesterday morning, looking at the carpet in the family room, which is covered in a thick coating of dog hair, combined with some grass clipping and bits from dog biscuits. That statement, "We should vacuum in here today," sounded very familiar, and it struck me that my wife had said those exact words two days ago, and we had vacuumed, and here we were again. 

In fact, "We should vacuum in here today" may have become the most common statement of more than two words in our house. In fact, I suggested my wife consider making a sampler with that theme for the empty back wall. 

We probably could sell the pattern.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Nuts about cooking.

When I was a young gadabout, a devil-may-care chap about town, chasing the ladies and stroking my rich and compelling mustache...  I woke up and was my same ol' potato-looking self who couldn't grow a mustache with fertilizer, and had about as much luck chasing girls as a dog has chasing cars, with very similar results. But like the idealized young scamp, I enjoyed a good liqueur, and one such was Amaretto di Saronno.

I got sick of it eventually, and not because I got sick on it. Flavored coffees became a thing all of the sudden, as the kids say, because they're dumbbells, and amaretto flavored coffee (sans booze) was everywhere for a brief time. I got sick of that, and of hazelnut, in short order.

Somehow, though, and through none of my own doing, this 1978 gem found its way into the collection of weird cookbooks I inherited:

That's the front and back cover, of course, so you can see the panoply of edible delights as well as the product. Not sure what that bird is on the right. Maybe duck. Maybe pheasant. Maybe dodo; 1978 feels that long ago.

On the inside cover is one of the most 1978 looking ads I've ever seen:

Ah, Saronno, Italy, the village of love! And look, a recipe for a drink called Love-On-The-Rocks! Which is amaretto on ice. Hey, is that Mark Ruffalo at the bottom?

Amaretto is popular in several cocktails, like the Alabama Slammer and the Italian Sunset (more here), but is not too commonly thought of as a cooking liquor, like brandy or Grand Marnier. But this booklet has dozens of recipes.

What do they taste like? Hint: Amaretto. The almond-flavored liqueur has a potent taste that generally overwhelms anything it's paired with. I think it unlikely I would want to try any of these recipes even I could tolerate the stuff. Most of them look like ordinary versions of well-known recipes given a healthy dose of Saronno love.

I always look for anything gross or otherwise awful in these booklets, and while I found nothing grim, this did catch my eye:

You don't hear dishes with the tag "Barbarossa" much anymore, and I don't know if it comes from Barbary pirate known as Redbeard ("Red Beard" is what Barbarossa means) or that other Fred, Frederick I (a.k.a. Fred Barbarossa) or the Barbarossa grapes, or something else. You used to see it more often. Maybe it just meant that you were going to set fire to something. And here it is! Chicken with brandy and amaretto, set on fire.

Now, it's only 4 tablespoons of brandy and 2 of amaretto being burned, and Amaretto di Saronno is only 56 proof, so it's probably not going to blow the doors off the house. It did catch my eye because of a friend who is working on a cookbook, who got nervous about instructions for a flambe dish. She was afraid someone would burn down the kitchen and sue her. I said to relax; are people that stupid? Yes, we agreed. Finally she decided on a mere warning, something to effect that fire is dangerous. Because since 1978 the lawyers have taken over.

On that note, I should caution that setting fire to your entree can be dangerous, and the author of this blog assumes no liability if you should set fire to your tablecloth, the guests, the cat, or anything else through this recipe or the use of candles or any fire from food prep or anything else; that he is in no way responsible for you getting hammered on Amaretto di Saronno and driving your car into a tree, a school bus, the cat, or anyone else; or becoming an alcoholic, dipsomaniac, inebriate, or miscellaneous sot; or having anaphylactic shock from almonds in your booze; or suffering any other ill effects as the result of reading this entry.

There, are we all set? Phew.