Creative Cooking or What have I got and what do I do with it?

I knew I’d be cooking Brussels Sprouts for supper. I needed a meat and inspiration. After some digging around, I found a ham slice. These are slightly larger than a laptop computer, albeit much thinner, and serve three people pretty well. So I had my meat. But what to do about the sprouts?

As I got the sprouts out so I could trim off the ends and soak them in cold water to freshen up, I noticed two bags of fruit. Hmm. Sweet, salty, and bitter, this might work, if I add . . . . dig, dig, rummage, shift, ah ha! A bottle of red wine and one of a sweet-n-peppery marinade appeared. Now we’re cooking with gas!

N.B. All measures are approximate. I tend to cook by eye and nose when I’m doing meats and such.

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When the Great Dental Odyssey started in the fall of ’14, one of the first things removed from my approved food list was popcorn. Nuts, chips, crackers, and anything that was hard or shattered into little pieces that might get trapped under my glued-in retainer were also on the list. Bagels, pizza crust, and things that required gnawing or tearing, and large sandwiches that put stress on my jaw joints also disappeared from the menu. I had not been a big popcorn eater, except for Moose Munch (TM) when it appeared for a few weeks in December. But of course, me being me, as soon as the dentist said “no,” I wanted it. Continue reading

Guilt, Shame, and Assimilation

The Texas Panhandle has an amazingly high number of immigrants and refugees, given the comparatively sparse population. It began in the 1940s through the 1960s when Koreans, Vietnamese, Laotians, Germans, and others came and settled, and became really good citizens and members of the community. Some also arrived from Argentina, the USSR, Communist China, and eastern Europe and found places. In the past years, hundreds of refugees came from Thailand and Burma, Ethiopia, and other locations where Christians faced persecution. They too did pretty well after initial rough spots (like dealing with woman in positions of authority). The more recent influx of people brought by the federal government have come from Iraq, Syria, Somalia, North and Central Africa, Pakistan, and other locations. The cultural collision has been a challenge. Trying to fit tribal, shame-culture newcomers into a high-trust, guilt-culture world is not easy to put it mildly. Continue reading

Three Times the Tiger’s Eye

One of my rules of thumb is that when something happens three times in relatively close succession, it may be a Hint. It’s not quite on a par with the sinking, stomach-twisting sense of looming disaster that means “whatever you are about to do, don’t do it!” The last time I ignored that sensation, twenty minutes later I was the third-from-last in an interstate pile-up in Really Flat State. Since on previous occasions, ignoring my educated gut led to not-quite-as-bad but still not fun events and outcomes, I finally learned to stop ignoring the sense of doom.

A week ago or so I had a follow-up appointment after my massive dental work. The background music in the dentist’s office is eclectic to put it mildly. Some days it is ocean noises, some days Celtic Lite and Celt-Age, or Christian Contemporary, Classical, or New Country (1980s-mid 1990s), Soft Top 40 Classics (“Kissed by a Rose” and similar), classical, New Age instrumental . . . You never know. And it may vary from room to room (the washrooms, however, are without music.) Continue reading


No, they have nothing to do with zombies, nor is it a new version of the weeble-wobble. It is the term for “mammals shaped like wombats.”

Shaped like this, mostly.

Shaped like this, mostly.

I’m lazy. Why should I come up with all the biology and ecosystem and other stuff for a new planet if I can steal borrow and then change? I knew I didn’t want to do reptiles, because I’ve been doing reptiles. And no cats. The Kzinti are already taken and the saber-toothed not-really-cats of North America are too well-known. What to do, what to do . . . And then I remembered reading a chapter in a collection of academic papers about the extinction of the Pleistocene megafauna in Australia, and how odd the critters were. Three weeks and $9 in interlibrary loan fees later, I have a viable ecosystem to play with and mess up (or not).

Whazzup, bro? Reconstruction of "giant" wombat.

Whazzup, dude? Reconstruction of “giant” wombat.

OK, so it was pretty large. Really large. Exceedingly large.

OK, so it was pretty large. Really large. Exceedingly large.

And if you think that’s odd . . .

Everything's bigger in the pre-Pleistocene.

Everything’s bigger in the pre-Pleistocene.

You want some predators (besides the meat-eating kangaroo? Yes, really.)

Nice kitty, um, boy, um, tiger, er, stay!

Nice kitty, um, boy, um, tiger, er, stay!

If you just want to spend wayyyy too much time looking at long-gone critters,

The Marsupials of Unusual Size served a similar function to mastodons in North America, as large, herd-dwelling browsers. Ditto the giant kangaroos (there were a couple of versions). If you want things with trunks, there seem to have been one or two, but the trunks are not as long as elephants, more like tapirs. The smaller carnivorous kangaroos ate birds, lizards, small mammals. The Thylacaleo and friends were the size of a jaguar or a touch smaller, and some may have hauled their prey up into the trees, like modern leopards. There’s a version that had a grasping thumb with a long claw that allowed it to take a very firm grip in its prey.

The kangaroo is over 6' (2m) tall.

The kangaroo is over 6′ (2m) tall.

Unlike New Zealand and South America, the so-called “terror birds” seem to have been vegetarians in Australia, at least those found so far. But I can borrow from South America, and it still fits an effective niche. And there’s a few monotremes tossed in just for fun. It was wild, strange, different, is unfamiliar, and easy to riff off of.

The original image is from a great book about the Riversleigh fossile site in northern Queensland, back of Burke, beyond the black stump, waaaay over yonder.

The original image is from a great book about the Riversleigh fossil site in northern Queensland, back of Burke, beyond the black stump, waaaay over yonder.

OK, so I have a large bank of critters, I have an ecosystem, and I have M.M. Kaye’s autobiography about growing up in India during the Raj. I’ve also been reading about colonial societies, and space-travel, and caldera eruptions and climate disruption around 535-540 or so, and ancient plagues . . . This is going to be an interesting book or three.

Kipling’s Beauty

I wish I could paint word-pictures half as beautiful as Rudyard Kipling. One of my favorites has been set to music, the other remains “only” written. First, “Jobson’s Amen”

BLESSÉD be the English and all their ways and works.

Cursed be the Infidels, the Hereticks, and Turks!

“Amen” quo Jobson, “But where I used to lie

Was neither Candle, Bell, nor Book to curse my brethren by.

“But a palm-tree in full bearing, bowing down, bowing down,
To a surf that drove unsparing at the brown, walled town
Conches in a temple, oil-lamps in a dome
And a low moon out of Africa said: ‘This way home!'” Continue reading

It’s That Time of Year . . .

Good Morning class!

Good Morning class!

Yes, school has begun.

In-service has been survived . . .

Scene after the two-hour session on "New Developments in Educational Psycology and Trends in Pedogogical Techniques for the Adolescent Learner in School."

Scene after the two-hour session on “New Developments in Educational Psychology and Trends in Pedagogical Techniques for the Adolescent Learner in School.”

Schedule difficulties have been sorted out . . . mostly.

Hmm, yes, you cannot be in 4th period math and 4th period theater both during 4th period. We'll put you in geography instead.

Hmm, yes, you cannot be in 4th period math and 4th period theater both during 4th period. We’ll put you in 6th period geography instead.

And the Usual Suspects went through the lab computers and put flowers and happy faces as the desktop images . . .

But, but Sr. Mary Sebastian, why do you think I'm the one who replaced the school motto with Felis Et Fortis?

But, but Sr. Mary Torquemada, why do you think I’m the one who replaced the school motto with Felis Et Fortis?

And grading starts tonight . . .

Essay test . . first week . . . bad idea . . .

Essay test . . first week . . . bad idea . . .

Standing Athwart Technology Yelling “Stop!”

I am not on the bleeding edge of adopting technology. Nor am I on the leading edge, or the trailing edge. I am generally dragged along five years or so after the entire rest of the world is using the device/system/service in question. Yes, I am out of the loop. Yes, when I do have to learn to use $THING$ my learning curve is so steep as to be vertical. On the other hand . . . On the other hand . . . Continue reading

Under Orion’s Eyes

I’d like to blame the cat, but nerves get the credit, I suspect. That and mis-reading the clock so I thought it was 0615 and not 0515. The cat did not complain about being fed an hour early, and I was reaching for my keys when I thought, “Hang about, it’s still rather dark,” and peered more closely at the clock. Oh well, I was up and dressed and had keys, so out I went. Continue reading

High Pressure Low Pressure

You’ve been researching an area’s weather and climate too long . . . when you can reconstruct the weather systems (highs, lows, frontal passage) by reading the complaints about wind and lack there of in ranch records from the late 1800s early 1900s.

High pressure, low presure, or fixin' to blow up a storm. Photo by Michael Lapoint.

High pressure, low pressure, or fixin’ to blow up a storm. Photo by Michael Lapoint.

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