Friday, March 05, 2004

Peasant bread, olive oil and wine

My friend Sara and I are going to another wine tasting tonight--this time it's one called "Peasant Bread, Olive Oil and Wine." These are hosted by a wine shop in town called Barriques. They have three locations, one just for wine and spirits, one for wine and spirits plus coffee, and the third for all those potables plus gourmet foods.

We've gone to a couple of these tastings already--one for Port and Blue Cheese (which was heavenly...and quite literally intoxicating) and one on Valentine's Day with Josh for wine and chocolate prior to seeing Los Lonely Boys in concert at Luther's Blues. We were three of the only singletons there, but oh well. The wine and chocolate still tasted damn good...

Anyway, I like doing these tastings because it feels quite decadent and sensual (in a sensory way, not titillating...though a good Primativo can get my legs quivering), and I always end up learning something. Wine as education. Works for me! Viva la vino!

Here's a tough one: Spell B-a-s-k-e-t-b-a-l-l....

If you need a laugh, check out the final exam that the fallen-from-grace Jim Harrick, Jr., gave his "Coaching Principles and Strategies in Basketball" students at the University of Georgia.

No wonder the class was so popular...

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Two herons

This past Sunday afternoon, Dakota and I were out for a walk. I was feeling like I'd "gotten away with something" because a friend who was coming over for a massage overslept from her afternoon nap and missed her appointment. Though I don't dislike giving massages, I felt like I'd gotten a treat in having this warm Leap Day afternoon free to walk my dog.

So, we were walking, and all of a sudden, I heard throaty calls from the air and I looked up and there were two Great Blue Herons flying northeast, singing their oboe songs to each other. They were gorgeous, lanky and sleek in the sky. I watched them for a moment, then looked down at Dakota and saw that she was watching them, too. I had to smile, because her gaze wasn't one of "wolf seeing prey." It was almost one of some sort of doggie wonder.

I said to her, "Those herons are pretty, huh?" And she looked at me and sneezed. I thought that was very profound.

If you're going to stab yourself, at least use a sharp knife

It's one of those life lessons that you wish you didn't have to learn, but are fascinating nonetheless. Last night, I inflicted two lovely bloody wounds on myself in the course of attempting to eat an avocado. Those have always been dangerous fruit, partly because I could easily just sit there and eat one right after the other, and partly because they have that big marble of a pit that could probably put someone's eye out. But now, I've discovered a new danger, though I'm not sure to blame the avocado, the knife, or my hand-eye coordination.

Since the dawn of time, I have always removed the pits of avocadoes by gently poking the tip of a sharp knife into them, giving a small twist, and pulling the pit out. This way, you don't waste any precious green flesh by scooping, and it's fun to bang the knife against the inner lip of your trash can and hear the pit rattle down into the rubbish with a 'thunk.'

However, last night, somehow the plan backfired. I was mid-poke, when all of a sudden, I discovered that the pit was flying to the floor, the avocado half was face-down in the sink with the knife...and I had a slice in my index finger, and a hole in the web between my index and middle fingers. I had bloody stabbed myself...emphasis on the word bloody.

However, as I rinsed the wounds in cold water, examining them every so often and watching the blood well up from them at a fascinatingly quick pace, I realized that, if you're going to stab yourself, you can't beat a Wusthof knife. Those wounds were clean, man...

The power of a clean coffeepot

You know, it's a tragedy, but I had forgotten what clean coffee tasted like. For the last several months, I'd been thinking I was inches away from needing a new coffeepot. The old soldier had started to sputter and wheeze while brewing my morning (6) cups of get-up-and-go, and that selfsame 6-cup pot took about a half-hour to brew. Drip. Drip. Pause. Drip. Longer pause. Drip-drip. There were days where the last thing I did before leaving the house was to pour my coffee into the thermos, just to give it a few extra precious seconds to squeeze a few more drops out.

So, since I'd heard it was the way you handled those things, I'd been sporadically running vinegar through my coffeepot to clean it out. That would work well for a week or two, and it was truly amazing the gunk that would brew through on that first pass. Cloudy, fuzzy water with sort of a dirty gray tinge. I would think, "Man, how much of that have I been drinking?" I'd often tell myself that the beans I'd picked had a particularly strong bite, but I finally resigned myself to the fact that that was all the calcium buildup from my Middleton city water, and not a virtue of my Arabica du jour.

But, to prove that you can teach a Wild Wendish Pirate Princess new tricks, I've gotten smart. I actually spent more than two seconds in the coffee aisle this time (which is all it usually takes to pick up my jumbo jug of no-brand creamer), and I discovered that they actually make greenish-blue potions specifically for the coffeepot-cleaning purpose! Holy shit! What a revelation!

So, this morning, I again have clean coffee that tastes like something Juan Valdez might get a small chubby over, it's so damn good. And now I feel like I have to apologize to all the beans I've brewed before, for desecrating their memory with the bitter twang-smack of an unclean brew-hose. Mea culpa, little coffee beans. Mea culpa maxima.

"Mitakuye Oyasin"

A new prayer is shining in my life and it looks like a yellow star behind my eyes when I say the words in my head. It is not Christian in origin, but Lakota Sioux. It is Mitakuye Oyasin.

Simply stated, Mitakuye Oyasin means "We are all related." The two words are the prayer. To say this prayer is to petition God on behalf of everyone and everything on Earth. To say this prayer honors the sacredness of each individual's spiritual path and acknowledges the sacredness of all life, be it human, plant or animal.

Though my faith in God is always unshaken, my faith in humankind ebbs and flows. I find myself so disgusted and disillusioned lately with the walls that people throw up in the name of religion, when everyone is really saying such similar things. I cannot understand the intolerance based on differences in words and names, and the idea that God's love is doled out differently to people based on what church they go to. This prayer begins to knock down those walls for me. I love that this prayer is for anyone, regardless of their faith. As I get older and (theoretically) smarter, I find that dogma without room for growth or acceptance resonates with me as much as a lead balloon dropped into a lake of Jell-O. Which is to say, not much.

I feel much more in tune with God when I see and accept the Godness in others. I find myself growing as a result of opening my mind in that way and it just feels good. I know I don't have the right answers, but I don't think I have the wrong ones, either. I think I have the ones that God has meant for me to have, and that's plenty good enough for me.

A return to farming's roots

I found an article on MSNBC this morning about a farmer named Joel Huesby and his family, and how he's "bucked nearly a century of technology, choosing to raise animals as farmers did before agriculture adopted its current industrial mien."

His cattle graze freely until they're 32 months old, double the age of the average American slaughter cow. His meat is farm-raised, slaughtered locally and sold locally or regionally. His methods are those of the farmer prior to refrigeration and the interstate highway system, which changed distribution capabilities and methods.

His challenge is that he has to work much more closely with end customers, marketing the product to them directly. But I'm not surprised he has a loyal customer base. And, even though the article mentions that his family's income for 2002 was below the state's poverty level, I still have to think he's doing something right...

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

1:00 malaise, and Satan in the sound room!

It's 1:06 on a Wednesday, and I have absolutely no motivation to do anything. But I've got tons to do. Such a conundrum. So, in the meantime, I'll blog a little.

I read an article today that made me both want to laugh uproariously and shake my head in disbelief. Evidently, John Debney, the composer behind the soundtrack to Mel Gibson's ego project in a sanctimonious wrapping (a.k.a. The Passion of the Christ) believes wholeheartedly that Satan was in the sound room through much of the recording. Here's an excerpt from the article:

Debney said that the battle he felt with Satan as he wrote the music became "really personal between us."

He went on to say, "I had all these computers and synthesizers in my studio and the hard drives would go down and the digital picture that lives on the computer with the music would just freeze on his [Satan's] face. Then the volume would go to ten and it would happen all the time.

"The first time it happened, it scared me," Debney said. "Once I got over the initial shock of that, I learned to work around it and learned to reboot the computers and so I would start talking to him.

"There was one day when I had been on the movie for about four months when it really became bad that day and a lot of things that were causing doubt in me and I had had enough. The computers froze for about the tenth time that day and it was about nine o'clock at night and so I got really mad, and I told Satan to manifest himself and I said, 'Let's go out into the parking lot and let's go.' It was a sea change in me. I knew that this was war. I am not a physical person, but I was really angry on this occasion.

"I am up on the second floor, and on the bottom floor of my building there are therapists, and they see patients until midnight, and their windows are right at the parking lot, and I was coming down the stairs, and I had had it. I had booted everything down and saved it and I was walking down the stairs and I was verbalizing and saying to Satan, 'Manifest yourself right now.' As I am walking out and saying, 'Come on, let's go now,' I looked over and I could see someone looking at me and I realized how silly I must have looked. He didn't manifest himself, but I wished he would have. It changed for me after that."

Are you scared? I'm scared. But not of Satan...of people like this guy. I just have to wonder what Jesus thinks about this whole fiasco.

Curing cramps

No, not the menstrual kind...the basketball kind. Boy, Paul Davis looked like he was in pain last night. I felt so bad for the guy. But I was practically jumping off the futon, almost spilling my Moose Drool, because all I saw the trainers doing was icing it. What about approximating the muscle? What about reciprocal inhibition? They weren't doing any of those things. Just ice, ice, ice until I could read Davis' lips as he said, "Stop icing it. I can't feel my legs anymore."

What good is Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation if it's not used on the sidelines of the last regular season game? I don't want to be an armchair quarterback massage therapist, but I'm inclined to smack those trainers upside the head...

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

A six-pack of Moose Drool and my own company

Go State! Beat the Badgers! Tonight's the last regular season game for the Spartoons. The Badgers are having some confidence issues lately, so perhaps our boys in green can pull out another dead-sexy game.

At any rate, my game-watching plans for tonight have changed. I had been invited to go watch it at a friend's house, but she had a death in the family and had spent this whole last weekend doing family stuff related to that. So, instead of making vegetarian nachoes for her and her husband, I may just end up making them for myself! All washed down with some nice cool swigs of Moose Drool. Perhaps it's all for the best. Carrie and Mike are both Badger fans, and I would've hated to reward their hospitality by doing a victory dance in my MSU sweatshirt around their family room...

Whale Rider

I saw most of a movie last night that I'd always been meaning to see. The Oxygen network was showing "Whale Rider." The movie is about a pre-teen girl in New Zealand who lives with her grandparents. Her grandfather comes from a long line of chiefs and, sadly, her birth, as a female, has "broken" the line. Her grandmother reminded me of Aunt Doris. The movie touches on topics of tradition and stereotypes, but also shows the ragged edges of family and the ebb and flow of familial dynamics. It also has a strong folkloric message, and is quite magical (there is literally a scene of "whale riding").

The star, Keisha Castle-Hughes, is wonderful. She's only 14 years old, and had never acted at all prior to this movie, but shows pretty incredible depth. There's a scene where she's performing a speech and a song at a school recital that's just strong and beautiful and heartbreaking. She was nominated for an Oscar this year for her performance and, while she lost to Charlize Theron for "Monster," I hope it's not the last we'll see of her.

And, of course, the movie got me thinking about New Zealand again. I would love to go back.

A memory from Josh

Josh sent me this message in an email yesterday. It reminded me how little memories can be so sweet, and also the power that music has to remind us of places and times.

"I'm listening to Beethoven's piano sonatas this morning. For whatever reason, whenever I hear the Pastoral sonata, I'm always reminded of the morning you moved away from East Lansing. We were in the Lexington house, and it was a warm, sunny summer morning. I was having some trouble getting up, and you threw this track on."

I was just talking with someone recently about this very topic, after seeing a rerun of an episode of "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" and being sense-transported back to this summer, with my living room dark save the flicker from the TV, my dog at my side, the windows open and the air sticky-fuzzy with humidity.

Similarly, I can probably never listen to Madonna's "Like a Prayer" album again without thinking of the trip that Mom, Josh and I took to Florida. The three of us in that little Mazda 323, and Mom so brave as to let me shift and steer from the passenger side of the car...

Monday, March 01, 2004

Biker chick

Well, I've taken the plunge and registered for a course to learn how to ride a motorcycle. I figured it was about time. Me and two coworkers will be taking the class together, so I'm sure we'll forever be bonded in secrecy, protecting each other from our peers knowing how dorky we looked those first few times on the bike. I think this is the first course I've taken where I'm anticipating it with a mixture of excitement and nervousness. Should be good for my endorphin levels.

Of course, I know this means I'll want to buy a bike the moment I graduate. Must show restraint...

The Daffy-ness of Spring

So, I was at Woodman's last night, picking up items with which to make myself a glorious Greek salad, and I happened to walk by the flower cooler. And my heart skipped a beat because there...they...were. Daffodils. Still tucked like elongated almonds in their buds, but, at $1.99 for 10 stems, just begging me to take some home. So, three bunches later, sleeping spring sits in a white vase in my living room, waiting to pop forth into yellow joy.

Okay, Mamacita. I'm blogging. Happy??? :)

Yes, I'm back to the blog after a lengthy absence. I knew this would happen. What can I say? I've been busy.

Busy doing what, you ask?

Um. That's a good question. I guess mostly, lately, I've been busy writing recursive functions that don't quite work (yet), and cleaning spring mud out from Dakota's paws, and raising my alcoholic tolerance by virtue of it being basketball season. I've been rediscovering the cleaning power of Bon Ami and lamenting how filthy my car is and going to loud, wonderful Texican rock shows (Los Lonely Boys...some of the best talent to hit the blues rock circuit in quite a while).

So, I've been doing stuff. As interesting of stuff as one can do in the dreary doldrums of a Midwestern February, I guess. Thank goodness it's finally March...