Thursday, June 10, 2010

Beware Geeks Bearing Grifts

So, we had our Back To School night tonight at the college. All the faculty was on hand to welcome back students from their spring break. It was a lot of fun catching up with my students, most of whom seem to be following me from one class to the next in succession. I guess I was just meant to herd this particular group through to the end and send them on their way at graduation into the cold, cruel world.

Anyways, the college ordered an Imperial Fuck-Ton of pizza for tonight's soiree. By that, I mean four full-length tables piled five to seven pies deep end to end. Yeah, much more than a mere Metric Fuck-Ton. We had enough left over to send whole pies home with late-coming students who were initially worried they'd miss out on the comestibles only to find themselves hitting the mother lode.

As we were divvying up the remains, several of my students were still there talking with us and waiting to see if they were going to be bidden to the take-home feast. At which point, I picked up one of the sausage pies and spoke loudly to the group,

Please Do Not Throw Sausage Pizza Away!

How proud I was that every single one of my students got the reference, much to the consternation of most of the faculty who had no idea what we were giggling about. Some even recited the OSI model right back to me in correct form.

Looks like it's gonna be a good year after all.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Road to... Where?

I'm sitting in my office grading papers and could really use a drink right about now. The Missus is on her stationary bike working out.

Me: "Hey, can you please bring me a drink from the fridge?"

The Missus: "I'm on my bike. It'll be a while yet."

Me: "Just find a safe spot to pull over and pick me up me a soda right quick on your way back, will ya?"

The Missus: "Okay. Wait... what?"

Me: [guffaws]

The Missus: "I hate you, Larriken!"

I'd hate me too if I'd just been pwned like that.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Pollen Pun-ishment

It's no secret that this has started off as the worst pollen season in recent memory. Everyone is sneezing, hacking up their lungs and weeping out of every hole in their heads, even those hardy folks who normally are not affected - and by that I mean me. Yuck!

So yesterday I walked in to the room where several of my co-workers were huddled to avoid both students and light green tumbleweeds...

Co-worker: "AAAAA-CHOO!"

Me: [Resisting the urge to start barking - thanks, Coyote! I'll never be the same now!] "Bless you. What a mess out there. The pollen is really bad today."

Co-worker: "Thanks. Yeah, it makes you want to cut down every Pine tree in the state!"

Me: "Except that right now the biggest culprit are the Oak trees. But the Pine trees will have their day in the sun real soon..."

Co-worker: "Along with everything else in the woods!"

Me: "After all, every Dogwood has its day!"

And that was when they physically threw me out of the room.

Fortunately, pollen piled up and tied into bales makes for a soft landing.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Downhill from here?

Let us celebrate the occasion with wine and sweet words.
- Plautus

Or maybe with a poignant song...

Sigh. Another year gone by. Is this really where life begins or is that just bullshit?

This song really sums things up for me right now: I'm an over-forty victim of fate, down to rock bottom again (with just a few friends) and my occupation is nowhere to be found.

Gonna go get drunk now. Care to join me?

Old age: A great sense of calm and freedom. When the passions have relaxed their hold, you may have escaped, not from one master but from many.
- Plato

Friday, March 5, 2010

A Slow Learner With Fast Reflexes

Conversations of the Damned, Part LXIII:

The Missus: (Folding laundry) "These little jeans here are mine!"

Me: "Really?!?!"

The Missus: [Hard stare]

Me: [blink, blink]

The Missus: [Stony silence, darkening clouds gathering ominously over her head]

Me: "Oh! I mean... Yeah... Yes! They certainly are!"

Really, the couch is quite comfortable. If only it could fit in the doghouse...

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Every Dog Has His Day

Good night, America, how are you?
Don't you know me I'm your native son,
I'm the train they call The City of New Orleans,
I'll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done.

-Steve Goodman
The City of New Orleans
Well folks, it's official: Hell has frozen over. Solid.

The perennial underdogs of the NFL, the New Orleans Saints, have won the Super Bowl. It's a good thing they rebuilt the city stronger after Hurricane Katrina, because this will be the longest and wildest Mardi Gras ever!

We are trav'ling in the footsteps
Of those who've gone before,
And we'll all be reunited,
On a new and sunlit shore,

Oh, when the Saints go marching in,
Oh, when the Saints go marching in,
Lord, how I want to be in that number,
When the Saints go marching in!

-When The Saints Go Marching In
Traditional Southern Gospel Song

(Little-known fact about me: I'm a big fan of Dixieland Jazz!)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Language Barriers

As a parent, you sometimes have to decide which is better: to step in and fix a problem for your children or give them the tools they need to fix it themselves and step back out of the way.

My daughter was messing around with the settings on her phone last night and managed to change the default language. After punching a bunch of buttons to no avail, other than having the phone splutter out a long string of Español, she brought the phone to me with the expectations that I'd fix it for her.

I handed her an English-Español dictionary and left her to fix it herself. As an extra bit of motivation, I told her that if she didn't fix it, all of her text messages would be sent out in Spanish and no one would be able to read them. (Yeah, I know. I'm bad.)

Eventually, after a long struggle with the nuances of conjugating Spanish verbs, she figured it out, and her phone is now speaking the Queen's English right and proper.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Snow Day

Well, the Gnu Herd was originally gonna be broadcasting live from the Ice Rink down at the beach, where The Skating Gnu had a traveling double-header slated for this morning. How ironic that Ice Hockey gets canceled due to snow and ice. Only in the South, folks. Only in the South.

Right now, the Cape Fear region who was hosting us for the games is totally iced over. Couldn't we just skate to the game??

We got dumped on here at the house. So far, there's 3 1/2 to 4 inches on the ground in our neck of the woods. Tobacco Road is shut down, either from the snow itself or all the dumbasses who can't drive in it. It would be entertaining to watch if the stakes weren't so high. I have no problem with idiots eliminating themselves from the gene pool - in fact I highly encourage the practice - but when innocent others are affected, well, that's just not right.

The Gnu Herd stepped outside to enjoy the new fallen snow this morning, then ran back inside when The Missus announced the advent of hot cocoa. Ahh, nothing is finer than sipping hot cocoa next to a roaring fire, with a blanket of snow just outside the window.

Here's some pictures from a snowed-in Tobacco Road. Enjoy!

Snowfall on the homestead...

...and on the trees. This tree, by the way is a Thuja Occidentalis. I just like saying that. Makes me feel... smart.

Whoops. This isn't in my neighborhood! I'll bet a lot of my neighbors wish this was the view right now, though. This is from our trip to the Sunshine State for my Graduation back in December.

I just realized I never posted an update from our trip. Suffice it to say, a good time was had by all. Guess I'd better go dig up some more photos for a belated update...

all photos copyright 2009 - 2010, The Smoking Gnu
All rights reserved.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Southern Traditions

Well, here we are in 2010! I hope everyone survived the holidays without too much trauma. The Gnu Herd stayed home for New Years Eve, watching the NYC festivities from the warm comfort and relative safety of the living room. We toasted the end of 2009 with a little bubbly and then collapsed in bed. Yeah, we're gettin' old.

On New Years Day, we fixed the traditional Southern New Years Feast, commemorating our hopes for health, prosperity and fortune by means of ham hocks, collard greens and black-eyed peas. With cornbread. Gottta have cornbread for sure.

Many people avoid collard greens because of the bitter taste and the smell they make when you cook then. I contend that this is due to a lack of cooking technique. So with that in mind, I'll share with you my method for cooking up a good ol' mess o' greens:

Larriken's Mess O' Greens
Serving size: 1 Mess
Serving location: 1 Mess Hall (Sorry, couldn't resist)
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

1 Lb fresh Collar Green leaves, prepared as directed below
1 small Ham Hock or 6-8 oz Salt Pork, diced
1 Small Onion, diced
1 Tbsp Minced Garlic or 3 fresh Garlic Cloves, minced
1/4 C Olive Oil
2 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tbsp Kosher or Sea Salt
1-2 Tsp Cracked Peppercorns or Coarsely Ground Pepper (I use the McCormick Peppercorn Medley Grinder because it has better flavor than your standard-fare black pepper and I can adjust the grind)

Collards - Don't buy them in a damn can, get the fresh ones they sell at the farmer's market or the produce section. Prepping collards is easy. Separate the leaves and wash them. Lay each leaf "face down" on a cutting board so that the stem is sticking up. Take a sharp, smooth-edged knife and cut the leaf from the base towards the tip following the edge of the stem as if it were a spine. Repeat on the other side so that you have two leafy halves. Throw away the stem (or feed it to your pet rabbit if he likes 'em.) Take a handful of the leaves and roll them into a Cuban cigar. Don't smoke 'em, just cut the roll across so you have slices of leaves in 1/2 inch strips. Pile the leaf strips into a colander and wash the whole mess o' greens once more to remove any residual sediment. Drain and pat dry.

Everything else - If you are watching your salt intake, here's a cool substitution tip for ya: Instead of salt pork, which is, oddly enough, salt cured with pork - no wait... Ahem.. moving on, instead of salt pork you can substitute a thick slice of regular, uncured ham. Marinade the diced ham in a lighter serving of Kosher salt or Sea salt to your preferred level of salinity for 30 minutes prior to cooking. I like to use Kosher or Sea salt instead of regular salt because the flavor is stronger per ounce so you don't need to use as much. Once you've settled on your choice of ham to use, put all the other ingredients except the collards into a small bowl and mix well. Let them marinade for a few minutes while you heat up the skillet.

Heat a large wok or high-walled skillet to medium-high. Mix all ingredients except for the collards and saute for 5 minutes to sear the ham and sweat the onions. Add the collards and toss the leaves to coat them with the olive oil, ham fat and vinegar. They will start to wilt and reduce over the next 5 minutes. Once the collards leaves have started to turn soft and bright green, pour just enough water to cover them, about 2-4 cups. Cover the skillet with a lid and reduce the heat to medium. Simmer for 1 hour until the leaves are soft, sweet and tender.

Once done, strain the collards from the skillet and turn the heat up to high to reduce the liquid remaining in the pan into a special gravy we Southerners call "pot liquor." Give the pan a good 5 minutes at a rapid boil, stirring constantly until the liquid is reduced by almost half. Serve with dinner in a gravy boat. This is good over mashed potatoes, meats and dipping for breads. It also makes a good stock for soups and is full of vitamins and good flavors.

Serve the collards hot with a side of black-eyed peas, ham steaks, and corn bread. Enjoy!

Southern tradition holds that collards represent good fortune or prosperity in the form of money, since they resemble folding greenbacks. Ham is for good health and the black-eyed peas are for good luck. The corn bread is just plain good eats no matter what. This is the traditional first meal served in the New Year. Enjoy and all the best for 2010!