Monday, August 29, 2005

Can you make a pie? Neither can I.

The domestic tranquility in our household is ensured by a reasonable number of rules. Very high on the list is: one chef in the kitchen at a time. Not zero. Two is right out. The number of the chefs shall be one.

This lesson was learned the hard way, but is not actually a hard lesson. We both like to cook; we can each follow the other's lead. Each of us has certain specialties, which helps. Herself is better at desserts and ethnic cuisines; I have the edge on Southern style and breakfast cooking.

Or so I thought.

Pastry has never been a strong suit for either of us. I'm reasonably OK with this. A man's got to know his limitations. Unfortunately for Herself, the Platonic Ideal Crust looms out there like a golden brown and delicious Mount Everest, taunting her, tempting her, mocking her. She makes great pie, which I think actually makes it more painful to use a store-bought crust.

Last weekend, we found ourselves with a fantastic mock apple pie filling and the detritus of another attempted expedition up Mount Pie Crust. Just as things looked their darkest, a beam of light shined the way... we had fruit. We had flour and shortening and milk.

We had cobbler.

Into the cast iron dutch oven went the filling. While it heated, Herself mixed together some biscuit dough. Spooned it over the top, baked for half an hour, and mmmm-MMMM what a green tomato cobbler we had!

Sunday night dinner was chicken and pan gravy. And everybody knows what goes with chicken and gravy... biscuits. Those biscuits from the cobbler were very promising indeed. So she made up another batch of biscuit dough, rolled them out and cut them, and mmm-boy were they good.

Waitaminnit. Biscuits are Southern. And breakfast food.

But I've never made a rolled biscuit in my life. I make drop biscuits. They're easy, they're reliable, and I like the crumbly texture. You don't worry about over-working them, it's OK if they're not the same size, the tops turn out all cool and craggy-like.

Dammit, she made some good biscuits. Both times. The second batch were almost picture-perfect.

If y'all will excuse me, I have to go hide my secret Maryland fried chicken recipe. This aggression will not stand, man.


PS: I don't care what Alton says. (This time.) If it's got hot fruit on the bottom and biscuit dough on the top, that's cobbler.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Prop me up beside the jukebox

Now, I've never read two sentences of Hunter S. Thompson's work. And I have a strong feeling he could be a real pain in the ass. And there's nothing gonzo about suicide.

But damn, that's cool.

I was counting on the whole Gram Parsons "steal the body and illegally cremate it at Joshua Tree" thing. But, damn, fireworks... yeah, I want fireworks.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

The things you think are precious I can't understand

My "Joe Redskin" jersey is not the oldest garment I own, but it does date back to the "going to college" shopping trips. It's held up better than anything else from that era, though, partly because of it's better fabric, and partly because I only grew into it a year or two after I graduated. (What can I say, I was a stick. Now, I'm more of... well, a branch, anyway.)

My shirt from the 2001 American League Division Series is full of fond memories. It's a souvenir of the only post-season baseball game I've ever seen in person. The Indians gave the Mariners a trouncing unlike any I can recall seeing the team I was rooting for hand out when it really mattered. Of course, they blew games 4 and 5 and lost the series, but the important thing is, I got to see Game 3 with friends.

They're in a box now.

And it makes me a little sad. The whole point of a souvenir is that it's something you trip over occasionally and get a happy memory from. I'm going to see those shirts less if they're in a box, which means I'll have fewer of the happy thoughts associated with them.

But I can't very well say that the NCAA should ban offensive names and mascots while I wear the words Redskin and a Chief Wahoo logo. So into the box they go. It is possible to get less offensive team garb for Washington and Cleveland, I checked. My economic vote may not say much, but it says something I can live with.


And a different "thing I think is precious": welcome to the world, niece Bridget. I'll do what I can to make this a good place for you and your sister.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

This is where the party ends

Full Disclosure: I root for the NFL team which has the single most offensive team name in sports. And then I spend baseball season looking for garb without a shocking racist caricature on it. I wish they would change, but I don't do much about it.

So let me say that I think the NCAA is getting there with its decision to prohibit colleges with racist mascots from hosting championships.

(It's also worth pointing out that the only thing I know about any college sport is "fear the turtle.")

I don't think the NCAA went far enough, but it's forward progress. I don't believe that these names honor and commemorate, at least not more than they oversimplify and diminish. Banning these names and images from the most profitable and popular moments of the season ought to make an impression on the people who know that big college sports is more about money than education.

Now, I have long been uncomfortable with the mascot at the University of Notre Dame. (I'm not crazy about the Iona College Gaels either.) I don't like the stereotype of the "fighting Irish." It oversimplifies the contributions of my ancestors, and it commemorates a part of our history which isn't always something to be proud of. I've seen plenty of hot Irish heads boil over, including my own, and I'll tell you, it's not pretty. Nor is it something likely to help you win football games.

So here's my question, NCAA chancellors and presidents. Are they part of your policy too? The press release casts a wide net when it says "racial/ethnic/national origin". How do I go about making my case?

Monday, August 08, 2005

You know you signed on that dotted line

I've got myself a bit of an ethical quandary, and since I know this blog is read by people with interests in the scholarly publishing domain, I thought I'd air it out here.

Months ago, I submitted an abstract for a conference this November. (It's about the history of network security at Small Liberal Arts College. The paper, not the whole conference. I mean, I'm in a navel-gazing profession, but let's not get silly here.)

I'm not surprised they accepted it. I'm very surprised that they told me my first draft for peer review was due (ahem) some weeks ago. I finished and submitted the paper Friday. Oops. Anyway, done now, reasonably to my standards, and reviewed by a good number of my colleagues at SLAC.

Here's the problem. The Association which will be publishing my paper wants me to transfer my copyright to them. They say this is far easier, because they might have other legitimate ways to publish it, and it's going to be a lot easier if they're the contact point than if I am. They are, of course, correct about that. Further, I wrote this to be public, and if they want to publish it online, print, CD-ROM, skywriting, or as text for a Philip Glass concerto, I have little problem with that.

(Private note to Philip Glass: Let's do lunch. Can you invite David Bowie?)

But first of all, I wrote this damn thing on my time and the College's. This took a good number of late nights, and as near as I can see, either I own it or the College does, and I don't like giving up control.

Second, it's true that the association in question has pretty reasonable copyright policies in place for non-profit use. I can put it on a web page; so can the College. Teachers can use it in class and on reserve and on electronic reserve. These are good things... but I don't see any promise that they won't change their policy in a few years.

Third, well, my paper was almost a month late and I really don't want to mess anything up by making a stink.

I'm the guy arguing that faculty members don't know what they're giving away. That they don't think about their contracts. That they don't fight for the things which will really make scholarship work again. And here I am, saying "I guess I can hold my nose for this one time."

When I figure out how to get karmically right, I'll let you know.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

You're never alone. Not here.

(I can use the spoken word part of a song as a lyric. It's my darn blog.)

The great thing about the Internet is how it proves, over and over, that you're not all that weird. Or more to the point, that there are other people out there about the same level of weird as you.

This is also the scary thing about the Internet.

Whatever your interests, habits, quirks, tendencies, beliefs... there's somebody out there on the Internet who shares them. And writes about them. And has new, different, sometimes better, sometimes inspirational ideas about them.

Like I said... scary.

It's important to belong to a group. It's important to know that we're not alone out here, that, after a fashion, we're not all that unique. Humans are, and need to be, social animals. We need to see ourselves reflected in each other. I love the feeling of discovering that someone else is a passionate but uninformed baseball fan, or a beer geek, or a Top 10 List junkie, especially when these things are outside my frame of reference for a person. I love being surprised by this.

And so, my latest surprise. Wil Wheaton and I think similar thoughts in our kitchens...

Wheaton, you brilliant bastard.

Hands up if you've done this.


Hands up if you're going to.

Thought so.

I, myself, am going home by way of the store.