Sunday, January 20, 2008

Oh The Irony!

How ironic is it that this morning's hockey game was canceled due to...

Yep you guessed it. Snow and ice.

Only in the South!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Thin Squiggly Line Between Genius and Idiot

Tonight I performed another successful culinary experiment: Swedish Meatballs over Egg Noodles. Of course, the meatballs I concocted had more in common with Sioux cuisine than Stockholm: I made them with locally raised Bison.

Rave reviews from the family got me to thinking back to previous experiments. I figured it was time to share one which turned out quite well in the end, but in the process I tried one small experiment that probably doesn't cast the best light on me, but it's too damn funny not to share...

Last November, we had a celebration dinner. The Skating Gnu had just returned from the Capital City from a 6-2 trouncing of their hockey team, and I'd just gotten an A on my first Grad School paper. So, we stopped by an awesome Asian Supermarket on our way home and picked up a few things for a Vietnamese feast.

The evening's menu:

Spring Rolls with Chinese sweet sausage, fried shrimp, fresh basil and Yamica root, served with Thai sweet/sour dip.

Tilapia fillets, pan seared in butter with fresh ginger, garlic and lemongrass, and sides of wild brown rice and stir-fried snow peas.

Lime sorbet.

2002 Fieldstone Russian River Valley Gew├╝rztraminer
(Orange-Pineapple juice for the Skating Gnu)

The recipe I had for spring rolls called for ground peanuts. Now, understand, we engineers are a lazy bunch: we devise better ways of doing tasks so we don't have to expend so much effort. That's why we have supermarkets, SUV's and microwaves instead of chasing Buffalo down on foot, skewering them with sticks and roasting them over a fire.

So, ground peanuts, eh? I figure I can either do it the hard way by beating the ever-loving crap out of a Ziploc bag full of Planter's dry roasted, or...

I spy with my good eye,
the coffee grinder in the corner of the countertop. I've used it to grind coffee, of course, also used it to grind up some dry herbs and even peppermint candies for some Christmas Peppermint Hot Chocolate. So, I load the grinder up and push the button...

... and that, dear readers, is how you make Peanut Butter. Good grief, it took me forever to get that crap out of there.

On the plus side, my morning cup o' joy now has a distinctive nutty finish to it.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Ice, Ice, Baby

Walking 'round the room singing Stormy Weather,
At Fifty-Seven Mt. Pleasant Street.
Now it's the same room but everything's different,
You can fight the sleep but not the dream.

Things ain't cookin' in my kitchen,
Strange affliction wash over me.
Julius Caesar and the Roman Empire,
Couldn't conquer the blue sky.

There's a small boat made of china,
Going nowhere on the mantlepiece.
Do I lie like a loungeroom lizard,
Or do I sing like a bird released?

Everywhere you go,
you always take the weather with you,
Everywhere you go,
you always take the weather with you.

Take The Weather With You
Crowded House, from the album Woodface, 1992

So the Tar Heel State has had its first taste of winter weather this week. It's about time, I was afraid for a while that the whole continent had drifted south towards the tropics and the 32 billion species of disease-vectoring mosquitoes that thrive in the fever swamps down there. We ended up with more disappointment than snow, naturally, but school was canceled so the kids are happy nonetheless.

The adults, on the other hand, went completely bat shit.

It's a little known fact, one I mentioned in my last Postcard, that Southerners and ice typically don't mix well. Our normal reaction - and you could be forgiven for assuming that this is required by state law for all residents over 18 to behave this way- is to stampede to the closest grocery store and buy copious amounts of bread, milk and eggs. No idea why, it's just a Dixie tradition. If the power stays on, we're having French Toast. Power goes out, we're throwing rotten eggs at each other.

So Mrs. Gnu stopped by the local Wal-2-Wal-Martians Supercenter to pick up a few things. State law, remember, and we're law-and-order types. The place was packed. Chock full of the entire county population, in a full-contact deathmatch for the last scraps of uncooked toast. Most of her list went unscavenged and she beat a hasty retreat before someone tagged her to go in the cage to take on Marge Trailertrash for the championship.

Then the weather forecasts finally solidified and agreed that, yes, we were actually getting something. Maybe snow, more likely sleet, most likely just that cold, wet rain that gets inside your coat collar and freezes you to the bone. Of course what falls down and melts during the day will freeze at night. I made the call to work from home today and let Darwin run its course on the highways this morning and evening, and thin the commuting herd out a bit.

Sure enough, reports came in from all over of people playing billiards in two-ton sardine cans all over the roads. Every year this happens: a thin sheen of ice and people completely forget about the laws of Physics. You get four basic types out there causing trouble on the roads:

1. The busy executive, driving the pricey small-penis-compensator who's too fucking important to plan ahead, slow the fuck down and allow extra time to get to work. You'll find them smashed up the ass of the last car they tried to pass before the lane closed down.

2. Captain Fucktard, proud new owner of a shiny big honkin' SUV that he bought just for this occassion. God only knows why he seems to think 4x4=TANK. But you can see the end results of four wheels actively engaged to that Hemi drivetrain but still spinning wildly out of control, as you pass by the Century Oak tree he just wrapped himself around. Dumbass.

3. The Citizen Snowplow, sauntering along in the left-hand lane at speeds normally considered too fast for continental drift. While it may be sensible to slow down a little when winter weather hits, these folks take it way too far and usually end up with a busy executive crammed up their ass.

4. Maladjusted Yankees. Every November, you hear them say, "We know how to drive in snow. We're from the Great White North!" Every January, you find them in the ditches, every last one of them. Right where we left 'em.

As for me, I'm waiting out this localized apocalypse, bunkered down in my zombie-proof house.

With French Toast.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Gnus on Ice

The Skating Gnu had an away game in the Twin Cities today. I volunteered to keep score along with three other parents, two from each team. Although the score was lopsided to the point where we stopped posting updates to the scoreboard, everyone seems to have had a great time. I've had the pleasure of witnessing a fine example of sportsmanship and good old Southern hospitality from a young team with great potential.

Our hosts are members of a fine organization. They have their priorities in proper order. Youth sports is about kids having fun. It's a game, not a career, and most folks seem to understand that. Some people have a notion that hockey parents are crazy: yelling at the kids, coaches and refereees, throwing tantrums, fighting or just acting like children themselves. Granted, there are cases where such foolishness happens, but I don't see it around this part of the country.

Instead, I see a cadre of dedicated parents, working hard to help run organizations in far-flung cities whose primary focus is on kids having fun playing a great game. The first rule is to keep it fun for the kids. The second rule is help them learn lessons they'll use for the rest of their lives: Teamwork, Sportsmanship, Communication, Practice and Perseverence. The third rule is to have fun, play hard (but fair and honourable!) and do your best.

The parents in the stands shouted encouragement, not curses. Coaches taught teamwork, communication and strategy, not aggression, showboating or dirty play. Those of us in the scoring booth had a great time swapping stories about how our kids got hooked on hockey, how well all the kids were doing in the game, complimenting each other on great moves, checks, scores and some good-natured joshing over missed shots, awesome goalie saves and slapshots. All-in-all, I'd say the sport is in good hands here with a bright future.

Hockey is not native to the South, but it's becoming one of the fastest growing sports around here. These hardworking volunteers help promote a sport in a region of the country whose normal reaction to a sheet of ice is to collectively stampede to the grocery store in mass panic to purchase the maximum allotment each of bread, milk and eggs.

Kudos to all the volunteers and parents who help keep the game fun for the kids!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year 2008

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And days o' auld lang syne

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stoup!
And surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.


We twa hae run about the braes,
and pou’d the gowans fine;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,
sin’ auld lang syne.


We twa hae paidl’d in the burn,
frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
sin’ auld lang syne.


And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!
And gies a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak a right gude-willie-waught,
for auld lang syne.


-Sir Robert Burns
National Poet of Scotland

Just in case you'd forgot the words, here they are. Sing it loud, sing it proud!