August 31, 2010

I'm Still A Bit Unclear On Why It's Called "The Lobster Phone"

Newspapers, please don't you ever die.

Things That Would Make Excellent Urban Legends If Not Inconveniently True

Today's weird trivia:  Creed from The Office was in The Grass Roots.  No, really.   The actual, "Let's Live For Today"-era Grass Roots.

One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other

I don't follow baseball, and I'm displaying mental capacity consistent with the hour of my awakening this morning, so I was momentarily confused by the following headline:

Frank McCourt To Testify In Divorce Case

I had one of those bizarre moments of panic that comes from being absolutely sure someone has died but then finding you're wrong.  (What's truly disquieting is when you're convinced someone has died and then you find you're wrong because they've just died.  I was absolutely stone sure that Zelda Rubinstein had died years ago until her obituary ran earlier this year.)

So, in summary: Rich baseball guy--alive, if evidently unlucky in love.  Professionally charming Irishman: Still dead.

August 29, 2010

Free And Legal!

Really, this is so exactly up my alley that it's just flat-out weird that it wasn't on my radar until this afternoon.  This couldn't be more aimed at me unless it involved crullers.

Both The Felice Brothers and Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings appeared at the 2010 Newport Folk Festival... and you can download their sets at

We live in marvelous times!

August 28, 2010

I Know This Great Dive...

High on the list of things worth geeking out about this summer: Expedition Titanic.  The official website has goodies like a live feed (though not right now because of that pesky hurricane), an interactive map of the debris field, and background on the equipment being used to map the wreck.  The site is extra super duper Flash heavy, but gosh darn if it isn't worth it.

The National Geographic has an informative overview of the mission here

And a weekend grab bag of Titanic-related links:

  • British reserve may well have been a fatal condition for many Titanic passengers. 
  • And, finally...  proof that the godawful Titanic movie could actually have been more mind-numbingly cheesy.  There was an alternate ending--a real one!  Filmed with Muppet Baby Kate and Leo!--and you can watch it here.

I Saw The Light


Mark left a few moments ago, and I'm very pleased to say he finished painting the kitchen!  It's really, really lovely.

Remember, we were starting from a grape-bordered, hospital green nightmare...

And now, we have a bright, cheery space!  With lots of tools.  But still, a bright, cheery space in which to leave tools.

The patch of wall that had been arbitrarily painted brown is now the same color as the rest of the room.  So long, Poo Corner!

Next week: A floor!

The Weak In Revue

The Week In Picayune Matters
(OR: "Woohoo!  I found an excuse to use "picayune" in a sentence!")
*Castle Secondmost is still under construction.  The early mornings are wearing on me; the lack of a second-floor bathroom isn't so hot either.  Hopefully George will not be under further attack from nail guns or pathogens for a while.

On the upside, Mark came over to paint the kitchen today even though he could have had a rare Saturday off.  Mark rocketh mightily. 

*Please know that God's most loving gift to comedy, Dan Quayle, has a son.  And that son is running for Congress.  Whether or not he is ever known as Representative Quayle, he has already attained the best title of all time: Hilarious Sex Dingbat.  Pass it on.

*So, I have lots of money in my FSA.  This is of course the year that my teeth are perfectly fine and my eyes aren't any worse.  (I actually bought the exact same glasses as last year, only in brown instead of black.  I am a boring Old.)  I'm buying a whole, whole lot of aspirin and Band-Aids between now and December.

*Dear London Fog: Why would you hire Christina Hendricks and then commit the world's most gratuitous Photoshop job on the woman who singlehandedly made the fashion world safe for hips again?  So...  bite me, London Fog.  Yr. Obt. Svt., etc.

*Speaking of hips, if you've had a new one installed lately, don't get too attached to it.  Oh...  well, that's... unfortunate.

*I somehow missed the fact that they'd started to tear down the old Children's Hospital until I left my eye doctor's office.  What with all the Big Life Events this summer, I've gotten into the habit of carrying my camera, so I grabbed some pictures:

*And in other demolitions, they're a-itchin' to finish tearing down our building and put up that new dorm.  (This has nothing to do with the Larger Situation, about which I have no real news.)

Here's our parking lot this week:

And here's the view from my office in this, the Summer Of Dumpsters: 

August 27, 2010

Kind Of The Reverse Of Patrick Stewart's Career

In September, The Washington Shakespeare Company* will present an evening of The Bard's works...  to be performed entirely in Klingon.  (Well, almost entirely.  George Takei will be doing a monologue in English.)

The chairman of the WSC board invented the Klingon language, so it's not quite as random an idea as it sounds.  But it most certainly is awesomely geeky. 

*That's Washington D.C., not the home of minor league baseball's Wild Things.


In my family, we have a running joke about Timmy The Intern.  Timmy is responsible for all the little glitches that happen on TV, like when a news anchor is reading copy about a VFW Auxillary craft fair over B-roll of downer cows.  Sometimes, Timmy moonlights at the newspaper, and leaves the first "l" out of "public library."

The thing about Timmy is, he means well.  He's learning.  He's not trying to wind anyone up; he's just not all that good.  (Yet!  I believe in this kid!  I would absolutely give Timmy an internship.  Mind you, I'd be double-checking all his work...)  (...and I just realized that I'm completely rooting for a non-existent person.)

Anyway, I thought of Timmy when I saw this story about a Hitler quote making it into a high school yearbook.  (You can see a picture of the page here.)  Even Timmy on a bad day--Timmy with a sinus headache and a Stats final in the morning--would catch that.  I really don't buy the bizarre excuse that the kids were so busy shoving quotes into the yearbook with a hey nonny nonny and a hot cha cha that they just failed to notice "Adolph Hitler" in 15-point type.

I'm a big fan of Occam's razor.  Also, I have met teenagers.  Someone slipped this in at the last minute because he thought he was being funny.       

The Kludge Family Strikes Again

Latest update from the front: George is fixing the handle on the outer vestibule entrance.  They're actually really nice custom doors.  Shockingly, the Kludges paid someone to do something properly.

But I can tell you with certainty that The Kludge Family installed the doors in the vestibule.

For the doors were hung upside down.

George is taking a walk to clear his head.

August 26, 2010


In which I display the eloquence one can expect of a Poli Sci/ Rhetoric double major who missed graduating summa cum laude by thismuch:

3) SQUEEE!!!!


The 19th Amendment took effect 90 years ago today.

Pittsburgh is celebrating by opening up "single-gender academies" at Westinghouse, which sounds much nicer than "gender-segregated schools."

Well, that should hand cooties a resounding defeat.

August 25, 2010

Fun With Surveillance

There's a webcam at the famous zebra crossing outside Abbey Road Studios.  The neighborhood looks a whole, whole lot like Squirrel Hill, at least from that angle.

During business hours (keep in mind the pesky time difference), you generally don't have to wait long before you see someone imitating the iconic cover shot.  Although usually everybody's wearing shoes. 

REVELATION OF THE DAY: I bet it totally sucks driving past Abbey Road Studios.

How My Tabby Cat Sees Herself

(Greaaaat.  Now she'll be begging for chain maille.  Thanks, Internet!)

It's Among The More Wonderful Times Of The Year

Is it four months early or one month late?  Never mind, it's Christmas (In July) (In August) again!

Here are some of the holiday delights you can order from QVC:

Can You Imagine Animated Convertible Light Up Fan
I can certainly imagine the amount of controlled substances that were ingested prior to the design process.

6.5' Color Changing Bubble Tree with 200 Lights
Your last chance to own a full-sized Christmas tree built around a red bubble-light tower.  It's Christmastime in Hell!

Can You Imagine Double Light Wand w/ LED Lights
Okay, no fooling, this can only be practical for use at a rave.

 8" Kneeling Santa with Christ Child by Roman

A keepsake box depicting Santa kneeling by the manger.  This is so screwed up that I almost want to buy it.  If he had brought the elves along, I would be on this like white on rice.

Haskell Holiday Poinsetta Circle Necklace
This looks exactly like the tacky, cheap enamel necklaces that every dollar store in the country buys by the gross.  However, it has the advantage of costing $29.51 on clearance.

Can You Imagine 61 Piece Animatronic Marine Life Building
I'll just curl up in the corner and hug myself until this horrible feeling passes.

The comedy runs through midnight.  Enjoy!

Hey, A Movie!

Our old apartment was just down the street from the place that played Grady Tripp's House in the film version of Wonder Boys.  (You can even see our old porch, sort of, in a couple of shots.)  One snowy night, Michael Douglas took refuge on our porch!  We didn't bother him, figuring that the little guy was more frightened of us than we were of him.

It was kind of cool, but it was mostly a massive pain in the ass.  There were giant lights on our front steps for days, the street was closed a lot, and since the Pittsburgh winter had been uncooperatively clear, the crews had coated the trees and the ground with a bizarre fake snow that was basically like shaving foam that wouldn't deflate.  So it would not be atypical to, say, go to the corner store for milk, fight my way back through the shaving cream, and then have to persuade a crew member who had clearly been assigned to keep plebes away from The Talent that I lived there.

Anyway, yeah, I still shudder a bit when I see a Haddad's truck.

You can imagine my relief this morning when I found a big color picture in the Post-Gazette of the block where they're filming Some Horrific Chick Flick With That Actress Everybody Hates For Some Irrational Reason.  Not only is it about a block over from our old apartment, it's basically across the street from a house we nearly bought.

Somehow our home repairs all seem a small price to pay now... 

August 24, 2010

Mmmm... Meta!

Today's Cake Wrecks post is...  um, wow.  I think this is the rare time when a spoiler will actually heighten your appreciation of the event.


Okay, the first cake is coated with sprinkles.  (Nothing wrong there, I say.)  The second cake is covered with... an edible paper photo of sprinkles.  For real.  Go look at it.

A Postscript: Happy Days...

Have you heard? Prohibition's over! And recession or no, some people apparently have beaucoup bucks to spend on rum. (Me, I feel like I'm living it up springing for the Myers.)

I Still Don't Get The Whole Radio Ventriloquist Thing, Though

Since there hasn't been much peace and quiet in Castle Secondmost these days, I haven't had nearly as much reading time as I would like.  I always, always read the newspaper (what else do you do when you're up and dressed, waiting for the contractor, at 6:15 AM?).  I've more or less kept pace with my magazines, although I'm starting to wonder why on Earth I signed up for the free subscription to Better Homes and Gardens at the home show. 

I have on occasion taken a machete to the thick undergrowth of my commitments, cleared a space, and have actually made time to read some real honest to heavens books in the past few months.

For some reason, I've been on a 1930s kick.  I'm sure part of it is inspired by the very fashionable parallels between the Great Depression and the Great Recession.  (Oh God, will my generation develop weird, random habits of thrift like meticulously slicing wrapping paper from gifts for reuse?  Yeesh.) 

What really fascinates me about the 1930s is that the decade saw both the last gasp of truly distinctive regional cultures and also the birth of shared mass culture.  Before the upheaval of World War II and the ubiquity of the automobile, many Americans literally never left their hometowns.  Regional accents and foods and traditions thrived partially because there wasn't a whole lot of exposure to anything else. 

And yet, mass media, especially radio, had reached the point where a vast number of people shared the same cultural experiences.  It's hard to imagine a contemporary parallel to a Fireside Chat or (as mightily cringe-inducing as the prospect is today) Amos & Andy.  We're all dispersed to our own little corners of the media world.  Our subcultures are now generally matters of choice rather than geography or circumstance.  I don't think that's a wholly good or bad thing, but it bears noticing.   

Anyway, should you care to go on your own little themed adventure, here's what I've been reading lately:

All The Things We Were, Louise Tanner
(Out of print, but cheap used copies are abundant.)
Very wide-ranging but still fluid and focused overview of the "People, Politics, and Popular Culture in the Tragicomic Years Between the Crash and Pearl Harbor."  Published in 1968, it's also an interesting window on how a (remarkably open-minded) member of that generation regarded Boomer culture.  I truly mean this as a compliment--reading this book is very much like having a really good conversation with your grandma/mom (adjust as needed, generationally).    

I stumbled into this book because Louise Tanner's husband was Edward Everett Tanner, better known to posterity as Patrick Dennis.  Louise was a witty writer in her own right, with a real gift for incorporating history and pop culture into an eminently readable and coherent whole.  I bet the Tanners were magnificently interesting dinner guests.   

She Always Knew How, Charlotte Chandler
A curvy, notoriously notorious lover of wordplay, men and dessert; friend to many a Friend Of Dorothy; foe of prigs, prudes,and snobs...  but enough about me.  This fast-moving biography is full of Mae West's wisecracking goodness.  (All together, kids: Goodness had nothing to do with it, dearie...)  Proof that gratuitous censorship just makes the clever kids more inventive.    

Franklin and Lucy, Joseph E. Persico
While the title implies a unified focus on FDR's decades-long love of
Lucy Mercer (later Rutherfurd), and plenty of attention is paid to that pivotal connection, the book covers much more ground.  A sympathetic and well-documented look at the assorted relationships of FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt, Franklin and Lucy makes good use of the documentary evidence that has cropped up in recent decades, and walks the line between honesty and prurience with skill. 

It's probably impossible to read this book today and not wonder what the Roosevelts would have been like had they lived in a more permissive time.  If you don't feel some wistfulness on behalf of these two remarkable people who had to conduct their private lives under extremely limiting circumstances, I believe Mr. Strummer would say you are a pretentious Martian from Venus.  And yet, had the Roosevelts' marriage dissolved rather than evolving into an unparalled political partnership, I shudder to think about the ways in which history might have been different.   

The Food Of A Younger Land, Mark Kurlansky
Gleaned from the files of a short-lived WPA project meant to document disappearing American foodways, this anthology details foods and rituals from the still-familiar (maple sugaring) to the now-mundane (Italian food) to the colorful-but-now-unappetizing (a steaming communal kettle of entrail soup, anyone?).  Not-yet-famous contributors to the project included Eudora Welty and Zora Neale Hurston.  Great social history, even if you aren't into cooking as entertainment.

A Traitor To His Class, H.W. Brands
I just started on this over the weekend.  At least so far (I'm into the 1924 election cycle now), it performs the many-knives-in-the-air juggling act necessary to put FDR's complicated life into context.  It's a spirited look into the smoke-filled-room era of American politics; a perceptive examination of the limits of science and society at the time when dealing with crippling disease; a portrait of the exceptional, eccentric Roosevelt clan and the social waters in which it maneuvered.  Fascinating stuff, at least to a raging nerd such as myself. 


I Guess "Space Oddity" Is Too Obvious...

You can vote for the wakeup songs played for the astronauts on the very last Shuttle mission.  Sadly, you have to pick from the NASA list (I guess they learned their lesson from the Colbert/Serenity geekoff).  But still, pretty neat!

August 23, 2010

Tooth Or Consequences

Over the decades, I have been very, very good for the dental industry.  On the cost of maintaining my sad little molars, countless vacations have been taken, children have been educated, nations' currencies have been propped up.  If my mouth was on "Antiques Roadshow", the appraisers would be tut-tutting over the lack of original parts.

All told, I have had about three completely clean dental checkups in my entire life.  Needless to say, now that I have a whole lot of money in my FSA, one of those times came today.

I am celebrating with a few Now and Laters.  The world's economy might depend upon it. 

August 22, 2010

Four Score And Seven Years Ago, Our Fathers Opened Up A Can Of Whoopass

Here is a t-shirt depicting Abraham Lincoln beating the ever-lovin' crap out of three bears.  (Once you get to the website, click the thumbnail to see a larger version.  You'll be glad you did.)

Your Devotional Reading For Today

Like so many in these troubled days, I have been waiting for a high-carb, pirate-intensive faith which contains gratuitious Randy Newman references in its holy texts. We live in miraculous times!  You can read and/or download The Loose Canon (ha!) at your convenience.  Or burn in Hell.  Whatevs.

May you be touched by His Noodly Appendage.

Two Painful Things That Are Extra Painful Together

I have never in my entire life dabbled in illegal drugs, precisely because I want to avoid ever seeing anything like this:

Damn you: Snuggie, 1996, Los Del Rio! 

(HOW TO BLACKMAIL ME, PART 1:  There is footage swimming around somewhere deep within several TV stations' archives of me dancing The Macarena behind former Mayor of Pittsburgh Tom Murphy at the big victory party in '96.  Not even the "Al Gore Macarena", nononono, the full-on Genuine Stoopid Macarena.  Looks like none of it's on YouTube, thanks be to the Flying Spaghetti Monster!)

August 21, 2010

August 20, 2010

Free Blarney With Purchase

Actual Foods You Can Buy At The Upcoming Pittsburgh Irish Festival:
Kevin's Pot O'Gold Keilbassa(sic)
Sloppy Seamus Sandwich
Irish Nachos

Twitter Is For The Pithy

Not everyone has the gift of cramming meaning into 140 characters...  but I'm sending an official SMLTS golf clap to two masters of the form: the great FakeCraigFinn and the extremely mission-focused aDalek.

August 19, 2010

Food: It's What's For Dinner

  • I probably shouldn't risk giving anyone else the same idea, but oh well...  I've been searching for the Kaufmann's cookbook ever since the Post-Gazette ran a recipe for their ludicrously delicious Viennese Apricot Pie.  I am once again defeated, as a two-volume spiral-bound paperback version just went on eBay for $61 plus shipping.  I'm not that crazy.  (But I would be if it wasn't for all the home repairs.)

  • On a more economical note, here is my top-secret iced tea recipe: 
1). Make strong tea
2). Pour over ice
(And if you use an electric tea kettle, the kitchen won't even heat up.  Magical!  Also caffeinated.  Same thing.)

Lost In The Supermarket

Is this guy serious?  Is this an impressively deadpan (but still unfunny) work of satire?  Either way, check your faith in human decency at the door as you read this article about a man who derives joy from being a total jerk in the checkout lane.

Definitely real, however, is this news item about a woman who intentionally took too many items through the express lane and the man who was so incredibly rude that you actually feel somewhat sorry for the dirtbag who took too many items through the express lane.

Golden rule, people.  GOLDEN RULE.

The Gentle Whirring Sound Emanating From George Orwell's Grave

Here is the latest stupid thing that Facebook does.

Here is how to make it stop, if you continue to use Facebook. 

You're welcome.  No, I will not water your damned crops.

Tuesday Normalement

The going theory is that the house will be wrapped up no later than Tuesday.  We didn't encounter Hell or high water, but Eldin's--GEORGE'S, I meant George's--finger did have a high-velocity encounter with a nail gun.  But it was a clean nail, so it's nothing to worry about.  Or so goes the theory. 

After all of the target dates we've passed (which I swear we're not ticked off about given the sheer volume of crazy things that have popped up), we've thought often of the workmen in A Year In Provence who are always expected on Tuesday, normalement.  I have come to believe that Contractor Standard Time is the true universal language--move over music, love, Esperanto, food, and all other pretenders to the throne.

(By the way, here's a really interesting blog post from The Economist about the fine points of the meaning of normalement and other handy wiggle words the French are fortunate enough to have in their linguistic arsenal.)

Anyway... we're getting there.  Slowly.  It's wearing on me, I readily admit.

It's getting harder to be up at the crack of dawn to greet the crew.  Lately, the streetlights are still on when I get the newspaper off the stoop.  I'm ridiculously sensitive to seasonal changes in the light--just wait a month or two, and I'll be struggling to act on my alarm, fighting valiantly against the urge to burrow back down under the blankets like a large, mostly hairless groundhog.  If groundhogs burrowed in blankets as a general rule.  Work with me on this one.

August 18, 2010

Today In Science


1) Bad contractors.

2) The previous owners of my house, as lousy people and even worse amateur contractors.

3) Word to the wise: If George ever tells you to use a rasp rather than a drywall knife, use the rasp.


1) Shooting himself clean through the finger with a nail gun.

Brett Favre Is A Jagoff

That is all.

August 17, 2010

Can't Argue With The Truth...

This is a very tacky (completely work-safe) link which you really shouldn't click unless you are a terribly insensitive person who feels like bathing your nasal passages with the beverage you are currently consuming.

Don't Get Too Giddy; Small's Paradise Is Now An IHOP

Via Boing Boing, which in turn got it from BigThink, here's a really cool cartoon map of Harlem 'round 1932. 

Needless to say, be sure to get a good zoom in--the detail's well worth it, both from a hey-cool-gimme-a-time-machine standpoint and for the sheer style of the illustrations. 

Just In Time For Move-In Day

The annual Beloit College Mindset List is out. 

Because my first thought on hitting #53 was "Nuh-UH!  As we all know from the 1996 TV movie Dallas: J.R. Returns, he shot the mirror!  The mirror I tell you!"...  I am a certified Old.

Get off my lawn.  Also.

Also, The 17-Year Locusts Will Be Arriving Any Moment

Should your kitchen be all torn up at some point in the future, I highly recommend getting someone to hand you an entire catering pan of fried chicken breasts to ease your dinner woes.  The lucky denizens of Castle Secondmost have been happily munching through the leftovers we inherited from Towheaded Nephew's second birthday party.  (Before the fact, I had affectionately dubbed it "Irish People In The Sun II: Sunburn Harder."  But then the weather had to be all pleasantly overcast, purely to undermine my joke.  Stupid nature.)  

Other than the Mass Amounts Of Precooked Food thing, here are other survival tips you should definitely keep in mind if your house is being worked on:

  • Forget cleaning anything.  Your entire home will be covered with a thin layer of plaster dust.  Trying to clear it away only angers it and causes it to redeposit more heavily.

  • Triage, triage, triage!  You have a scant twenty minutes of kitchen time before the crew arrives--make it count!  Make coffee, feed the cats, and accept that you may not be able to unload the dishwasher before the evening.  You may have to eat cereal with a silicone spatula.  Don't worry, nobody can tell what's going on under all that plaster dust.

  • Bribe your pets heavily.  They've been flinging themselves against the bedroom door most of the day, chanting "ATTICA!  ATTICA!" in Cat ("RWOOOWL! RWOOOWL!"), so they are understandably tired.  Also ready to exact revenge.  Don't be the slow member of the herd, if you get my drift.

  • Evaluate the current location of holes in the wall/ceiling before using the bathroom.  Also notice if there's a ladder outside the window.

  • Evaluate the current location of holes in the wall/ceiling before releasing cats from protective custody.  Can a cat use the hole to get stuck behind the drywall?  Before answering, remember that they both managed to stuff themselves under the bathroom vanity on move-in day.  Yeah.  Better just move the Shop-Vac over a bit.  

  • Remind yourself that someday, the floors and walls will be back to normal--better, even.  Further remind yourself that "curled up in in a fetal position" is not generally seen as a dignified way to carry oneself, so wait until you're alone.  Or covered in plaster dust.  Same difference, really.

August 16, 2010

The Hill Beyond Yon Hill

George swears, in every sense of the word, that hell or high water he'll be done this week.  I cautiously venture that we really have stemmed the worst of the Kludge Family's evil deeds.  The lovely new pipes are safely tucked behind drywall now.  The wall's even insulated.  It's starting to look like a house again, and not just a pile of bricks with some old sodden boards bolted to it in a desultory manner. 

The whole thing has left me completely exhausted.  Which, when you think about it, is not surprising.  This year has been one long patch job.  I closed on this house on December 29, we moved on the 30th, all hell broke loose about a week and a half into January, and then the water damage started about three weeks after that.  Then I had to find a good contractor (something went right).  And now, two solid months of getting up very early seven days a week is taking its toll.  I'm not wired for this at all.  And I really miss dumb little things like sprawling in my pajamas with the Sunday paper.  

I've been thinking on and off about Maslow's hierarchy of needs, which is such a perfect expression of why this has been such a gut punch of a year that it seems pointless even to dissect it.  Everything that's truly important to me has been in some form of danger this year.  People I love dearly have had a rougher year than I have.  But we're soldiering on.  We'll get there.  It's the hill beyond yon hill. 

And Their Internet Is BLAZING Fast!

Wired has the most interesting article I've ever read about waste management.  The garbage on Roosevelt Island is collected through a series of pneumatic tubes--who knew?

Don't Let The Rest Of The Summer Pass You By!

Governor Rendell has exercised the grand power of his office to declare August "Agritourism Month".

So get out there--I hear that Pennsylvania's beet country is lovely this time of year!

August 15, 2010

Today In Online Commerce: Move Over, Velvet Michael Jackson!

  • FUN SUNDAY WORD GAME!  See if you can figure out why this pendant is probably not so much a big seller with English majors.  (If you said "Because they favor Walt Whitman's more frankly erotic works," you're only half right.)

  • Not to nitpick, but this looks more like Gerry Spence than Abe Lincoln...  neither of whom is really begging to anchor one's pashmina to one's blouse...

August 14, 2010

Toilet Humor

Until the floors are ready, we have a lovely new addition to the second floor hallway:

The emergency plumbing is pretty close to done... hopefully no more casualties are in the offing.  (One of the guys was working in the closet and got hit in the hand with falling solder from the bathroom.  Ow.)

If nothing else goes wrong--and boy howdy I'm not counting on that--we're likely to be done with everything on the inside of the house by about Thursday.  The remaining roof stuff will get wrapped up as soon as the weather's cooperative.  As long as we're done with the outside before the snow flies, I'm happy.

I picked out the flooring and the kitchen closet door today.  Some fine day, they will be installed, and there will not be power tools and spools of insulation in my dining room.  Theoretically.

The Plot Thickens

The ongoing tale of the iffy Ansel Adams negatives continues.  I'm very happy to see that a gallery is planning to show some of the "Uncle Earl" pictures, since they're apparently pretty nifty in their own right even if not taken by a famous person.  (NYT)

August 12, 2010

Pics Or It Didn't Happen

As promised, SMLTS brings you The Kludge Family's Extreme Makeover: Plumbing Edition!

All of this roofing tar and membrane might have been helpful on... oh, I don't know, THE ROOF.  But that's so yesterday.  Soooo Roof 1.0.  No, the real cool customers roll like THIS:

Yes, that's part of a stack pipe, under all that crap.  And yes, those are the famous grocery bags, tarred to the leaky bits.  If it wasn't such a venal and stupid thing to do, it would actually be kind of ingenious.

Now, wait!  It gets better!  Just try to figure out what this thing is:

No, really.  Try to figure out what this is, and please tell me if you have an answer.  It certainly wasn't built to drain a toilet, but that's what it was doing.  Sort of.


The Man Of The House is convinced that if I ever had an iPad with Plants vs. Zombies on it, I would never be seen again.  And he may be right.  (Let's find out!)

Ready to attest to PVZ's mesmerizing gameplay are the five inmates who escaped from prison because the guard on duty was too absorbed in the zombie-offing goodness.  It's easy to jump all over the guard for recklessness, but for all we know , it could have been a roof level with pogo zombies.  YOU CANNOT WALK AWAY FROM A ROOF LEVEL WITH POGO ZOMBIES, YOU SIMPLY CANNOT!!!!


Anyway...  there's actually quite a lot of PvZ news.  There's a "Game of the Year" edition available from PopCap which has some fun features, including achievements and the ability to make your own zombie with the "Zombatar". 

So far, it's working basically OK with my existing game, saving benchmarks like my trophies, Zen garden and Tree of Wisdom.  I'm more annoyed than I want to admit that the achievements don't seem to be updating based on previous progress. 

I made a pirate zombie.  I'm working on how "ARRRR" and "BRAAAIIINS" go together.

Best of all, PopCap is planning a full-fledged sequel!  I'm very encouraged by the fact that they're not rushing to push out product--if they're taking the time to do it right, I hope we'll get a game that has those moments of discovery and flashes of humor that made the original so special.  I don't often find a video game "witty", but that's the aptest description I have for PvZ.

On a not-so-happy note, the updated version has replaced the fantastically hilarious and inconveniently prescient Michael Jackson zombie.  The new character is a disco zombie, hustlin' through the existential limbo in gold medallions and goldfish-filled shoes.  And he's funny.  But I'll never forget playing through PvZ the first time and being completely surprised and delighted by the sudden Thriller outbreak.  I really don't blame PopCap for making the change--I'm all for suffering for one's principles and all, but it's not the frickin' Pentagon Papers.  And despite this falling fairly obviously within the legal definintion of parody, the Jackson estate is maybe not so much noted for its quiet rationality and good humor.  Avoiding angry lawyers is a good thing, not having to pay your own is an even better thing.

I'm really glad I still have the original game on my hard drive.  Dance on, Zombie M.J. ... This Wall-Nut won't hurt a bit.

Another Success For The Beard Review Board

Annoyingly, our DVR didn't pick up The Daily Show last night, but I have it on good authority that Jon Stewart is no longer rockin' the Evil Parallel Universe Cartman look.  Let's just all agree that it was a collective hallucination.


Today's Ted Stevens Memorial Technology Lesson: Leaving a comment on a website is exactly the same as blogging (PG).

August 11, 2010

In The Future, We'll Have The Past

Some part of me never feels like it's properly summer anymore, because summer means staying over at Grandma's and watching Johnny Carson and David Letterman after the grownups go to bed.  These days,  I can barely stay up through The Daily Show*.  For old times' sake, I sometimes get out my turban and hold the junk mail to my forehead while the cats peer at me oddly**.  But it looks like I can get my nostalgia fix in a more dignified manner soon!  The surviving Tonight Show*** archives have been digitized, and content will be made available online.  Hooray Internet!

*Yay DVR!  Also, that damned goatee better be gone soon.
**Joke.  I don't even tell people to go to the Slauson Cutoff and cut off their Slauson.
***I won't bother to say "Carson-era Tonight Show", because as far as I'm concerned that's redundant.  No offense to Conan.  Much offense to He Who Must Not Be Named.


Thanks to the experience of having lived in an apartment owned by someone going through bankruptcy, I am experienced in the art of urban camping.  Sometimes our landlady would stop paying the gas bill or the water bill (or, one especially memorable time, both), and we would have to make do with bottled water and/or a whole lot of blankets.  And it was kind of OK; it was certainly character-building and all.  But I was definitely grateful to leave that skill set firmly in the past...  or so I hoped.

And yet, last night, I found myself carting pitchers and large bowls of water into the shower so that I could sharpen up my mad sponge bathing skillz.  Although it's MUCH more pleasant doing so when it's eighty-odd degrees than in an unheated bathroom in February. 

Why the tsuris, you ask?  Well, George and crew were hard at work ripping out the old framing in the Castle Secondmost kitchen closet yesterday.  Something started to drip.  Upon investigating, they found a whole lot of new and exciting innovations in plumbing perpetrated by the Kludge Family. 

There were a number of flat-out stupid things, like the toilet that was more or less casually acquainted with the drain.  But Oh!  The heights of Kludginess!  I have pictures of the more amusing bits (will upload later) (assuming I remember).  The Kludges patched up one pipe with roofing tar and a plastic grocery bag, which is actually a pretty clever way of diffusing the water from a leak just long enough so you can shift the house onto some unsuspecting piker.   There's another piece of...  we'll call it plumbing for lack of a better descriptor...  anyway, part of the plumbing was done with something that George swears had to have come from a car or something.  Seriously.  The man has worked in old houses for a long, long time and has never seen anything quite like this.   It's not some standard-but-obsolete plumbing, it's literally part of a car

Anyway, the crew shut off the water to the upstairs bathroom.  No big loss there; the half bath is a very nice luxury but a luxury all the same.  But the related plumbing was in a delicate enough state that it was risky to run water in either bathroom.  The kitchen's OK, so at least we had water SOMEWHERE; the drains are fine, so at least we could flush with a bucket and take sponge baths in the shower.  I can find a silver lining in any damn thing.

So we have another detour.  The plumbing won't be cheap, but at least it ought to be a reasonably quick job.  Knock wood.  Actually, don't do that, I shudder to think what else might break.

August 10, 2010

Hell's Kitchen Season 7, Week 10: Liveblogging The Finale

Geez, kids, summer's almost over.  Hard to believe that ten short weeks ago, we had yet to form an opinion about any of these aspiring reality show chefs...  well, we figured out that Ben would be creepy pretty fast.  Now, we're down to two, each annoying in a unique way: Holli "I'm Convinced I Can Flirt My Way Through Anything, See How Well It Worked Here", and "Because My Name Is Jay, My Blue Hair Is A Hilarious Pun, Ha! Get It?" Jay.

Anyway, the good thing is I genuinely dislike them both, so I can snark freely for the next hour.  Woohoo!  Let the carnage begin!

  • They certainly have truncated the final phase...  no dramatic splitting of the restaurant floor (so far, anyway), just right into menu development.  How... sane.  Huh.
  • Uh-oh, "dress nice"... here come more schlubby jeans from Jay, right?  RIGHT.  Remember, he's kewl.  They're doing the usual judged showdown, this time at The London (not to be confused with London, which is not within convenient driving distance of the studio).  Of course, this score is going to end up being split down the middle until the end.  Surprise.  ...and it's Jay.  
  • And we have the return of the losers.   Jay picks Benjamin, Jason, Sandwich Fran; Holli picks Autumn (because she sucks, right?  Holli, you miserable backstabbing nasty piece of crap), Nilka, and Siobhan gets picked last.  They go over the menus.  I am reminded of how little I miss Siobhan.
  • Ah, there's the split dining room.  No individual "restaurants" this time; the two halves are exactly alike.  I actually kind of miss the restaurant design portion--it was always entertaining, even if it was because of the contestants' horrible taste.  Kind of like looking at paint jobs the previous owners of my house did.
  • The finalists are called to Gordon's office.  He's sending them both on vacation to Australia's famous Product Placement Wine Estate.  Also, they get new chef coats.  
  • Jay has clearly figured out that Holli isn't actually going to sleep with him, and has vowed to "wipe the floor with Holli...  and her face."  I'm waiting for an eloquent rubber/glue riposte.
  • And we're off!  Holli gets tongue-tied, and doesn't seem to be able to get Siobhan in gear.  Jay gets screwed, after all: Fran burns the scallops badly.  Back at Holliville, Siobhan completely forgets to cook the veg on the first order.  Man.  Fran, perhaps motivated by happy memories of her sandwich, gets her crap together.  Things improve for Holli after a rough start.  Jay has to deal with Jason's underdone lamb.  So far, my money's on Holli.  
  • Jason finally sends decent lamb.  Nilka, who has never cooked venison before, is cooking venison.  Trying to, anyway.  Jay attempts to get Jason's work under control without yelling after some tough meat is sent back.  Autumn gets weeded on garnish.  Jay's kitchen finishes first, Holli not long after.  Holli's ex(?) and kid show up.  Hugs all 'round in both kitchens. 
  • They're lined up in front of the frosted-glass doors as per usual.  I still want them both to lose.  Probably will be Holli, though.
  • And there it is, the last saw-it-coming-a-mile-away pre-commercial cliffhanger of the season.  Aww, I'm getting all misty-eyed. 
  • And it's...Holli.  CALLED IT! 
  • Meh.  Well, until next season...  (*@&^ off, donkeys and Muppets! 
FRAN AT SOME NON-VIDEOED CORNER AT THE VICTORY PARTY:  "If only they'd really have appreciated the sheer innovation of my sandwich..."

                Paula Deen, Research Scientist?

                In case you've ever wondered, rancid butter makes perfectly dandy biodiesel.  (Where on Earth did they find enough rancid butter to test this theory, you ask?  Well, those ginormous butter sculptures from the Pennsylvania Farm Show have to go somewhere!)

                Butter Holds the Secret to the Latest Biodiesel Fuel (NYT)

                The Silly Season

                • You give me fever...  and intestinal distress, possibly also a rash.  Which is to say that I think that of all the actresses who could play Peggy Lee, Reese Witherspoon ranks well down my personal list.  But she owns the rights...  and I'm too lazy to work out a related "Legally Blonde" joke.

                • I am also too lazy to make the "Hell's Kitchen" bingo cards that I've being toying around with.  The game would have been called "GORDO", the center square would be a BEEP, and you would have been able to mark off squares like "Donkey!", "Muppet!", "Shut It Down!", "Dog's Bollocks!" etc.  Just as well, seeing as all cards would have been winners within the first fifteen minutes of the broadcast.

                • Monty Python almost became an ex-program--er, programme--after only one season.  Turns out they were saved by a Spanish syndication deal.  Nobody expects the Spanish Acquisition!  (Sorry, couldn't be helped.  Loyal readers are now completely entitled to poke me with a cushion at will.)

                • Which reminds me, what happened to that guy who was mistaken for the messiah by an eccentric religious group?  (His parents bought t-shirts emblazoned with "He's Not The Messiah, He's A Very Naughty Boy", which means I love them completely without ever having met them.)  I'm relieved to say that the leader of the whacked called them off.  So apparently the Messiah position is open.  The hours kind of suck, but my understanding is that the benefits include unlimited wine, loaves, and fishes.   Plus dental!

                Today's Thing The Kludge Family Installed Badly

                The second-floor toilet was plumbed using the wrong kind of tubing and roofing tar (!), with some sort of plastic under the whole rig to catch the water. 

                I hate you, Kludges.  I hate you so hard.

                Luddites Beware

                Incredibly, it's disturbingly easy to reconstruct the documents produced by a dotmatrix printer by analyzing the sound it emits.

                August 9, 2010

                Reading The Tea Leaves (From The Royal Albert, Of Course)

                OK, so far, the upcoming Upstairs, Downstairs sequel sounds like it has a solid chance of being good.  It really is happening--they're filming in Cardiff (or at least very recently were). The framework sounds promising...  it'll be set in a diplomat's household during the Abdication.  Yes, there should be fodder for a few episodes there...

                The dowager lady-of-the-house (Eileen Atkins) will have a manservant named Mr. Amanjit, who will be portrayed by Art Malik.  Yes, that's right, Hari Kumar is in the Upstairs, Downstairs sequel.  I am SO geeking out right now.

                (Things I did not know--Jean Marsh was briefly married to Doctor Who!  Then he turned into Tom Baker.)

                Well, That Was Odd

                This morning's Weather Channel music: Ben Folds' :"The Ascent of Stan"...   yeah, that was a freaky way to start the week.  (They could have gone with Ben Folds' "Weather Channel Music" for that meta touch...  but no.)

                August 7, 2010

                Although On The Whole I'd Rather Have An iPad

                As an unrepentant fangirl of Apple and, uh, cake...  I am clearly the target demo for this salute to the 10 Geekiest Apple-Flavored Cakes
                (via CakeSpy)

                Kitchen By Christo

                Bless 'em, the plaster dust still gets everywhere, but they do try to keep things clean...

                You'll note the dearth of giant Rubbermaid tubs and circular saws and levels and whatnot...  yes, the kitchen is CLEAN!  (In the sense of being covered in plaster dust, plaster spatters, and also there is that scaffold...)  (Let's just say standards have shifted a tad.)

                Tomorrow, we should have actual paint!  Incidentally, see that pink streak on the wall?  The Kludge Family had painted around a curio shelf the last time they did they kitchen.  Klassy, no?  (No.)

                Getting Plastered This Weekend

                Bright and extremely early, George and Co. returned today.  The other big job is done ("They didn't wanna let us leave!"), and we are now in a full-court press to get the house all finished. 

                The guys are working to get the applicable surfaces prepared for plaster today.  Better yet, the remaining roof work (chimney caps and such) will be done this week.  Most of the roofing tools are going to be moved out this evening, so darn, I will have to find an alternative decorating scheme for the kitchen.

                We definitely have the A-team of George's crew in today.  These guys have worked with him for a long time, and have picked up his verbal tics, so about 30% of the dialogue during their working hours is:
                • "fuck" (or its variants) 
                • profanity (miscellaneous) 
                • "y'know what I mean?" 

                It's a very good thing that the FCC doesn't regulate anything George does.  Although, come to think of it, he would make This Old House much more entertaining.  ("PBS: Be More... Profane"?  Ladies and gentlemen, the perils of an open-ended slogan.  But I digress.)

                So our new routines are not long for this world, hopefully.  I already went to the market, which is one of the few actual pleasures of getting up so blasted early.  The shelves are fully stocked, the aisles are devoid of customers, and everyone is so nice--there's a sort of fraternity among those who rise early.  (I'll be very happy to renounce my membership, though.)  The drawback today was that only the express lane was open...  so I had to be one of those people.   At least they opened up another lane not long after so the poor guy who showed up halfway through my order didn't get stuck too long.  And I apologized.  But still.

                Anyway, there actually is light at the end of the tunnel, even though we hit a slowdown at the entrance in the traditional Pittsburgh fashion.  It's a bit like falling in love... you don't choose how or when your home needs repair, and it's a mess, but it's best to dive in headfirst and enjoy the adventure.

                August 6, 2010

                You Kids Think You Invented The Diminishing Returns Of Endless Sequels?

                James Lileks is bravely blogging his way through one of those ginormous public domain movie box sets, which is very amusing reading for those of us who do not have to watch said films.   It's tempting to think of the films of the '30s and '40s as an endless stream of sharp dialogue delivered by top-notch actors...  but it wasn't Citizen Kane or Bringing Up Baby that made the studios profitable.  It was (at least in part) this stuff.  Low budget, monotonous, hamfisted afterthoughts committed to celluloid.  Hey, the great American public had to do something to stay entertained until they invented Nick at Nite!

                This was the stuff that made the studio system tick along.  Mr. Lileks is clearly a braver, or at least more persistent, person than I.  A grateful nation salutes you, sir.

                Shhhh, Don't Tell John Irving

                Can you tell the difference between the works of Charles Dickens and Edward Bulwer-Lytton?  Don't be so sure. 

                Surprisingly difficult quiz here.

                August 5, 2010

                Bunnies, Eggs, And Justice: A Short Fable

                My grandfather was a difficult man.  He was stubborn, overly fond of his own lame jokes, politically somewhere to the right of Barry Goldwater, a terrible driver.  He carried his change in a Baggie, he crunched his celery and carrots INCREDIBLY LOUDLY, he lost most of his hearing in a bomber in World War II and never really admitted how deaf he was.

                He was not what you might call "a listener", even when he could hear you.  He often embarrassed me.  He did not reward success with lavish praise, and God knows I was an annoyingly golden child. 

                He also did one of the kindest things anyone has ever done for me.

                A long time ago, when greed was good and ketchup was a vegetable, I spent the Easter weekend with my grandparents at The Greenbrier.  If you ever have a chance, through a combination of reincarnation and a time machine, to have the experience of being a spoiled child spending Easter at The Greenbrier in the early '80s, please do so.  My memories are a brightly-cellophaned haze of chocolate eggs and little bunnies, jellybeans and treats of all description, consumed in between strolls through well-manicured tulip beds and fairy-tale carriage rides.  It was absolutely perfect; hospitality at its apex.  (Except the cookies.  For some reason, cookies at the Greenbrier always sucked, although you never know, maybe things have changed in the last 25 years.) 

                But I digress.  For the most part, I stuck with the grownup activities--shopping with Grandma, visiting the famously odiferous sulphur spring, swimming in the Olympic-sized pool.  I had Play-Doh at home, and children's activities were notoriously full of children.  But I was completely invested in anything that involved competition or candy, and Easter brought both.  I remember going to an egg hunt that probably involved $100 worth of high-end chocolate per kid, including some gloriously oversized gold-wrapped egg-shaped boxes filled with treats.  But what I will always remember is the egg roll.

                Again, my grandfather was... exacting.  Make no mistake, I was expected to win this sucker.  We actually went to an empty sitting room and practiced before the game.  A lot.  I propelled the living heck out of the little plastic egg with my little hands.  I was ready.  Names would be taken, well-clad tushie would be kicked, and I would have that 3-foot tall chocolate bunny.

                Seriously now, the prize was a yard-tall chocolate bunny.  This was kid Nirvana.  This was my Red Ryder BB gun.

                I was lined up with another five or six kids.  Lanes were marked out with masking tape along some doubtlessly priceless rug that Dorothy Draper had unsuspectingly acquired in the heady postwar years.  And then, the rules were laid out.  You had to roll the egg to the end of your lane--without hands.  Each child had a sort of line judge.  If you touched the egg with your hands, you were to return to the start.

                I was taken aback by the unsuspected change in the ground rules...  but I was motivated.  So I set to the task at hand.  The whistle blew, and I poked the egg with my nose, and poked the egg with my nose, and then--NO!  Completely without meaning to, I touched the egg.  So I returned to the start.  My monitor was kind of shocked--"I didn't say you had to go back!."  "But I touched the egg!"  I said, as I got back down on my knees.

                Down in the far lane, a little girl was quite shamelessly pushing her egg with her hands, without intervention of her monitor.  She won easily. 

                As we were milling around a few minutes later, one of my grandparents (I truly can't remember which one at this point) presented me with MY VERY OWN THREE-FOOT TALL CHOCOLATE BUNNY!!!!!  "The Easter Bunny saw what happened, and he sent this for you."

                It was possibly the most wonderful moment of my life.  Justice was served.  And it was delicious.

                A while later--it might even have been a day or two later--I was relating this tale to the very sweet little old lady who was attending to the ladies' dressing room at the pool...  "and the Easter Bunny saw the whole thing, and he sent me my own chocolate bunny!"

                You can perhaps see this coming...  one of the louvered changing-room doors opened, and there was my tiny little nemesis, every bit as cool and mean as ever.  "I didn't cheat," she snapped.  (Oh yes you did, you nasty little fraud; you probably grew up to help sink Bear Stearns.)  "And it wasn't the Easter Bunny, it was your grandfather."

                In that moment, I started to have the seeds of doubt about the Easter Bunny (but hey, it didn't necessarily rule out his existence, in much the same way that the falseness of the Shroud of Turin doesn't necessarily say anything at all about the divinity of Christ).  And in that moment, I saw my grandfather at his very best.  He saw injustice done, and he made amends.  I'm pretty sure he even let Grandma give me the bunny.

                Mind you, my grandfather did plenty of thoughtless things over the remainder of his years.  He had a special talent for hurting deeply and not always intentionally, but effortlessly.  But he was capable of better, and every now and again it shone through.

                EPILOGUE WHICH KIND OF KILLS THE WARM FUZZIES:  I ate entirely too much chocolate the morning before we left, and got horribly sick on the ride home through the twisty mountain roads.

                Attack Of The Zombie Brands

                Brewing has been temporarily suspended at the Latrobe plant where Iron City beer is produced because of "a foul odor".

                In totally unrelated news, they've resumed production of Duquesne Pilsener at the same plant.

                August 4, 2010

                Wave Goodbye

                Google Wave, we hardly knew ye.  Also, we didn't quite figure out what the hell you were supposed to be good for.

                It Ain't No Sin To Be Glad You're Alive

                Confirmation came from Shore Fire Media today that the loooong-promised Darkness On The Edge Of Town box is coming soon.  Included in the package will be a documentary by Thom Zinny, which will be premiered at the Toronto Film Festival next month

                (Yes, I was nuts enough to take a bus to Cleveland to see Bruce in concert; no, I am not nuts enough to go to another country to get firsties on a movie.)

                Most of all, I'm excited about having a version of my favorite album which does not sound like the most rockin' thing ever to be recorded in an abandoned men's room.

                Have I Mentioned I Have A Library? Because I Have A Library.

                Pop City has a very interesting article this week about the recent comings and goings in the Pittsburgh bookstore scene.

                I did have a rueful little laugh at this quote: "A new place like Awesome Books may be filling in a niche--what Caliban is to the university-based writers, Awesome may become for the 'street poets' of Pittsburgh."

                By "what Caliban is to the university-based writers", does he mean "closed whenever you happen to be in the neighborhood"?  Sigh.

                Say A Little Prayer

                Aretha Franklin broke a couple of ribs in a nasty fall over the weekend.  The good news is that she's expected to be back in action by the end of the month...  but under the best of circumstances, broken ribs are deeply unpleasant.  The SMLTS Nation sends its love and positive thoughts to The Queen.  

                News From The Home Front

                "I'm sure you're sick of us, and we're tired of seein' that house," George laughed the other day, as he laid out a game plan for finishing the repairs.  I certainly never imagined--and I'm sure George didn't--that what seemed like a simple drywall-and-tile job was going to turn into a months-long adventure of rebuilding much of my house.

                Truth be told, it's going to feel a bit weird having the run of my own home again.  Not to mention having walls, floors, etc. in all rooms.  It kind of blows my mind to think that we had all of, what, six weeks here before the place started falling apart?  Here we are, in August for cripes sake, and we're just now heading toward having everything functional again.

                I still feel much better than I did this time last year, when I was panicking with a vengeance.  We had spent the better part of a year looking for a place, and nothing even remotely serviceable was available, or worse, stayed available.  The first-time homebuyer credit definitely heated up the market in the East End--more than once, we were scheduled to look at a new offering which went under agreement before we could look at it.  But mostly, we found houses that were in poor repair, or lovely but far too small. 

                It's almost a year since we found the first house I put in an offer on, which would later come to be known as The House Of The Narrow Escape.  Ironically, I didn't want to take on the sheer amount of work the place needed, especially a roof replacement.  Oh, sweet, unsuspecting Me Of Last Year!

                After the second time we walked away from that house--an okay but unexceptional frame construction in Bloomfield--I told The (Future) Man Of The House that it was probably for the best, since if we were going to go to the trouble of fixing a place up, it should be for a house that's worth the trouble.  Even after all the endless tsuris we've gone through with this house, I still think we made the right decision.  This is a wonderful building, beneath all the dubious home improvements inflicted upon it in the last half of the twentieth century.  It should be here long after I'm gone.  I'm OK with a little temporary inconvenience. 

                We ended up with a home and a whole lot of stories.  A bargain, really.

                (By the way, The House of The Narrow Escape finally sold a few months ago, for about 2/3 of what I had offered, and about $20,000 less than an offer I had made that "insulted" the seller.  I shudder to think about the water damage that place had to have taken on over the winter.  And I'm awfully glad that it's not my problem.)

                August 3, 2010

                Hell's Kitchen Season 7, Week 9

                SMLTS brings you the beeped-iest of the beeping beeps!  Yes, it's that time of the week again--settle in for some shouty-chef goodness!

                • Tonight. Somewhere in America.  Fran:  "Did I ever tell you about my sandwich?  It was the awesomest sandwich that ever there was.  It was a sandwich for the ages, my friend..."
                • Jay "dresses up" in schlubby jeans, for he is just that kewl.  Man do I hate that type of guy.
                • Ha!  They seem to have been caught by surprise with having to recreate another dish.  Jay, unsure of the meat, cooks three meats to cover his bases.  Holli dumps on Autumn's choice of bacon garnish over pancetta ("Can't she tell by the thickness?"  Because there is only one way to cut bacon.).  Jay is the only one who correctly used pear rather than apple for the puree, and also the only one who cooked beef instead of venison.  The top two contenders are Benjamin and Holli, both of whom got everything right ingredientwise.  Autumn gets weepy.  Benjamin gets pissy.  Shocking, I know. 
                • The losers have to clean out the dorm, while Holli goes yachting with her son and ex(?).  Still don't know what's up with that.  Autumn commits the cardinal sin of being chatty.  Ben continues to detail how he should have won the challenge.  Holli wakes up next to a horse's head--NO!  But I'm totes sure Benjamin considered it.  Luckily for Holli and the equine population, Benjamin throws out his back.  He becomes the new punching bag, which I'm OK with because he's a whiny bastich.  He calls for a chiropractor, but he sure seems to be moving quickly for someone in pain.  
                • "If I lost both of my hands?  In some horrible accident?  I think I would still try to cook with my feet?"  Oh, Holli, you are endlessly entertaining.
                • Benjamin QUITS!  Woohoo!  Except the camera in the bathroom clearly shows him bending over easily and all sorts of stuff that he supposedly can't do.  He walks back into the kitchen...  for keeps?  We'll find out after the commercial.  
                • Aw man, he's back.  The others are not full of love.  Not least because he missed prep.
                • Benjamin was magically healed by Gordon's inspiration.  Riiiight.
                • Jay takes his turn running the pass.  Will he catch the inevitable intentionally-spoiled dish that sous chef Scott will send?  Whoa, he did, twice in a row!  Now Holli gets a shot.  She takes a moment to get warmed up.  JP gives her a check for a six-top with five entrees; she doesn't catch it.  Jay spills food on Gordon.  Oopsie!  At least it's not roooaw.  Holli catches the half-raw scallops.  Benjamin is up, as is the jig, because the others have figured out his "back problems" are in heavy quotes.  Benjamin can't tell meats apart.  Or filet from New York strip.  Autumn's up.  She catches a screwed-up check but misses a parsnip masquerading as salsify.  OK, now that's a touch obscure.  Predictably, the others whine about how she runs the pass.  Order is restored to the universe as Gordon returns to the pass. 
                • Gordon breaks the news that two people will be eliminated.  Benjamin's COUGHCOUGH back pain is not doing him any favors in the deliberations.  Everybody goes back to the restaurant for the eliminations; everybody defends themselves.  Autumn is the first to be sent home, and takes it gracefully.  There is officially nobody left who I like even a little bit. 
                • The finalists are...  Jay.  Crap.  And...  commercial! 
                • Ewww, "Swift Justice With Nancy Grace" is coming to Fox in the fall.  Ick.
                • aaaand we're back.  I'm marginally less fond of Benjamin.  WOOHOO, Ben the Goldbricker is out!  HAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!
                • So it's Holli and Jay.  I will be very happy to watch one of them lose.  Can they both?  That would be epic
                So that's it until next week's finale.  Until then, (*#&@) off!

                August 2, 2010

                Caulk Your Wagon!

                Much like flying cars and wrinkle-free shirts, I wish this really existed.

                Oregon Trail Trailer via Boing Boing.

                Mitch Miller Finally The Hell Dies

                As of this writing, this is how the Washington Post article wraps up:

                A full obit will follow within minutes, but we encourage you to leave your thoughts and memories of the man and his music.

                Wait, you guys didn't have an obit ready to go?  The standard evergreen Mad Libs version with space left for date and manner of death?  The man was 99 years old.  Were you waiting for the bouncing ball, or...?

                Anyway.  A shocked world reacts.  Mitch Miller, dead at 99.
                “The same rules apply. You know, taste, musicianship, balance, get the best out of the artist,” he told Audio magazine in an interview published in 1985.
                --The man who inflicted "Come On-A My House" on an unsuspecting world and a correctly unenthused Rosemary Clooney

                At Least We Ate Well

                Here are happy, cheery, oddly food-centric things that happened this weekend:

                • The Man Of The House and I went out to dinner Friday.  Star of India.  They do impossibly wonderful things with chickpeas.

                • On the way to the restaurant, I saw a huge Dunkin' Donuts going in where C.J. Barney's was.  Then I felt extremely old, because I was incredibly happy to see doughnuts replacing the former notorious underage bar.  Then I felt really very old indeed, because I started to do the mental inventory of what's left in Oakland from my college days.

                • I spent a happy Saturday afternoon watching my own DVR-enabled marathon of The Galloping Gourmet and The French Chef.   

                • We got to sleep in Sunday.  Someday, the house will be repaired and we can sleep as long as we want nearly every weekend.  At least this is what I keep telling myself.  Tell me about the rabbits, George.

                • I finally got my flea market haul from two weeks ago out of my friend Rob's trunk.  (One Craig Claiborne cookbook, one three-pack of Tide pens.)  (I know, I know, I've got to slow down--can't keep up the 24-hour-party-people lifestyle forever.)

                • We went to a teahouse in Irwin.  I discovered the glory of the Bakewell Tart.  Almost immediately, I started plotting my own, superior version.   

                • The Man Of The House got all adventurous FOR SCIENCE and ordered a Double Down (minus the cheese, for lactose is Man Of The House intolerant).  You would think it was some sort of monstrous thing from all the whinging on the part of the food police; it's two small fried chicken filets with some bacon.  Meanwhile, nobody will blink if you have a two-piece fried chicken dinner with sides and a biscuit (with "The Colonel's Buttery Spread", ugh.).