Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Mama Misses Me.

Over Spring break, we're going Back East. Or Up North. Or Back Up North East, you might say. There's a conference there near enough to a city we very much want to visit that it's only a rental car away, and thus a good option.

This means, however, that Spring Break will not be spent in the traditional way--that is, going Down South (at least, down South relative to here, Out West, which is to say, going to Los Angeles/Long Beach from Turlock) to spend it with my mother. Who still makes us freaking Easter Baskets stuffed with candy (she even made one for Chris, last time!), and thank goodness for it. I don't know what I'd do without baskets of candy. NEED BASKETS OF CANDY. NEED.

So, since we are going Back Up NorthEast, rather than going Out Down SouthWest for break, there needs to be an occasion to go Down South. Out a-little-bit-West, you understand. In brief, to follow the homing beacon back to the Bay--the South Bay, we call the area, in fact, in Southern California. I'd never heard of no Northern Californian "South Bay." So fuck you, San Jose. We've got dibs.

So. We need to find a time to get Down South, Out West, to the SoCal South Bay area (which is not the "NorCal"--and I cannot stand the phrase NorCal, by the way, folks; SoCal has a ring and a snap, whereas NorCal sounds like a branch of the food and drug administration [and I don't ever want to see/hear "CenCal" again in my life]--South Bay). To see Mama. Because Mama misses me, and I miss her.

So when to go Down South, Out West, to the SoCal-not-Northern-Californian South Bay area, to see Mama, who misses me, and my little brother who is not so little, anymore, and in fact is quite a lot taller than me, and even a little taller than Chris, and just a smidge taller than my father was at his height? (And it would have been my father's birthday, today; he'd have been 61, rest him.)

In a week and a half, that's when. For a weekend trip, the likes of which we've made a lot more frequently this year than last. And we're going to see a goddamn live hockey game, in the Long Beach Arena, between the ECHL hotstuff, the Long Beach Ice Dogs (who are the affiliates of the Hamilton Bulldogs and thus of the Montreal Canadiens Up North and Back East) who were local to me all my life, and the now-local to me--that is to say, local to the Turlock area, which is to say, located 45 miles North of here, but they're closest--Stockton Thunder, from the bottom of the league (who are the affiliates of the Pheonix Coyotes who are Back East from here but Out West from most places). Pure serendipity put a three day weekend for Cesar Chavez day coinciding with a quiet enough time to be able to go Out Down South West to see Mama, who misses me, and my little brother who is not so little any more, and whom I also miss, and with a game between my once local Ice Dogs from Down South at the top of the league and the now local Stockton Thunder from Up North at the bottom, and have them playing in the SoCal-not-NorCal-South-Bay-area.


Friday, March 17, 2006

The Recipe for The Feast

Because, however grandiose and grave I get, it still celebrates as a food holiday, here.

The Byerly recipe--at least, my version of it--for the St. Patrick's Day Almost Traditional Irish Dinner.

Glazed Corned Beef with Buttered Cabbage, Potatoes, and Mushrooms

You want:

Corned Beef Brisket or Round (usu. 2-3 lbs, handily packaged)

For glaze:
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp prepared mustard (with seeds is good)
1 tsp. honey

Several smallish white potatoes
One green cabbage
Several whole mushrooms--white, crimini/baby bella, any button-type.
About a half a stick (4 tbsp) of butter
About 1 tbsp parsley (dried is fine)

Big pot or dutch oven
Roasting pan
Small pan (or cup, if microwaving)
Good strong fork or tongs (for lifting the brisket from hot water)
Optional table knife or rubber scraper/froster

So, you get yourself a corned beef brisket/round. Cut the layer of fat right off, and any pieces of fat you can get to. (If you don't, it'll float, and get tough on the sides that are exposed!) Put the sucker in pot much larger than it is--try to keep the blood/"juices" with it, and the silly spice packs they give you are okay to add but not necessary--and cover it with water to about 2 inches above the beef. Bring it up to a simmer and cover it to cook it for roughly 45 minutes per pound (mine is 2.15 pounds, for instance, so it should go just over an hour and a half). Check on it a couple of times in the first few minutes--there will probably be foam which you should scoop off with your spoon and get rid of. It's unpleasant, you don't want it. If you threw in the spice pack, this is about the time you lose most of it with the foam (you can save it for after, though, if you want).

Wash your potatoes. Halve or quarter them into even pieces, maybe an inch and a half in any direction, but leave the skins on. (This is important because you're going to cook the hell out of them and they're too easy to have fall all apart without the skins--plus, they're good for you!) Wash your cabbage and quarter it. Wash your mushrooms and leave them whole. Mix the brown sugar and honey and mustard thoroughly until you've got a good, thick paste.

When you've got about 15 or 20 minutes left for the brisket to be simmering, toss in your potatoes with it. When the brisket's time is up, pull it out with your fork and/or tongs and let some of the water drip away, before plopping it into your roasting pan. Leave the potatoes cooking! Turn the oven on to Broil after setting the rack near if not at the top (leave enough room so that your brisket isn't touching the element, of course!) Throw the cabbage and mushrooms in with the potatoes--you want that all to cook about another 10 minutes. Glaze the brisket with whatever implement you see fit, with as much as you can get on it. Save any extra glaze.

Toss the brisket into the oven. You want the glaze to caramelize and the top to just toast a little--you only want to give it a couple of minutes. It'll depend on your oven, your brisket, and your tastes--keep an eye on it! Once it looks beautiful, haul it back out.

Let the brisket sit for a few minutes while melting your butter. Once it has melted, clarify it (skim off the white bubbly goop at the top with your Spoon). Carve the brisket into good, thick slices while waiting for the cabbage, potatoes, and mushrooms' time to be up. Once it is, you can either separate the cabbage and mushrooms out into one bowl and put the potatoes in another or just bung them all into the same, before slathering them over with your melted butter. Sprinkle the parsley over the potatoes (or the big mess, if they're all together). The leftover glaze is good for individual pieces of the brisket at the table or for a spread for sandwiches for leftovers!

If I'd remembered correctly, I'd also have got a loaf of Russian or Jewish Rye bread, pref. w/ Carroway seeds in it, warmed the bread, and let another few tablespoons of butter sit out to soften. But I did not do that, this time. So it's dark rye or sourdough for us, tonight.

I'm going to go start cooking, now. If I realize I've mistaken anything here too badly (like needing more butter!), I'll fix it. :) There's a certain amount of leeway with EVERYTHING here.

And Tada! Dinner!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

An hour and a half from 17 March 2006, California.

"Wearin' o the Green"
anonymous Irish street ballad circa 1798

Oh, Paddy, dear, an' did you hear the news that's goin' round?
The shamrock is by law forbid to grow on Irish ground!
No more St. Patrick's day we'll keep, his colour can't be seen,
For there's a cruel law agin the wearin' o' the Green!
I met wid Napper Tandy, and he took me by the hand,
And he said, "How's poor ould Ireland, and how does she stand?"
She's the most distressful country that iver yet was seen,
For they're hangin' men and women there for wearin' o' the Green.

And if the colour we must wear is England's cruel Red,
Let it remind us of the blood that Ireland has shed;
Then pull the shamrock from your hat and throw it on the sod,
And never fear, 'twill take root there, tho' under foot 'tis trod!
When law can stop the blades of grass from growin' as they grow,
And when the leaves in summer-time their colour dare not show,
Then I will change the color, too, I wear in my caubeen
And till that day, plase God, I'll stick to wearin' o' the Green.

(when published by the expatriate Dion Boucicault, it got this new verse added:)
But if at last our colour should be torn from Ireland's heart,
Her sons with shame and sorrow from the dear old isle will part;
I've heard a whisper of a country that lies beyond the sea,
Where rich and poor stand equal in the light of freedom's day.
O Erin, must we leave you, driven by a tyrant's hand?
Must we ask a mother's blessing from a strange and distant land?
Where the cruel cross of England shall nevermore be seen
And where, please God, we'll live and die still wearin' o' the Green.

I'm not Catholic. I'm not religious. I don't have any praise for an Italian coming into Ireland and driving out Druids. But the fact that I can sing Irish songs and dance and feast and drink and wear that color head to toe, if I please, on this day, without being killed for it, is only some decades old. It is too small and too precious a thing to forget, even a few generations and a few thousand miles away. Whatever this fucked up kleptocracy has threatened, broken, taken, squashed, and undermined so far, I'm at least not being hung, yet, for proclaiming a heritage and a bearing on a charged day. But maybe it's not so far away, again, if you'll take it for a more general sense. And play it out to other cultures and to political groups, across time and over many borders. . . Too many have died, already, in defense of small freedoms and small nations from the wicked, bloated ones bent on their razing. And I am not about to fucking forget it. I am terrified and angry for days ahead, and I will thrill in this day, now, keep it to praise and mourn what has been protected and what has been lost.

Tuesday, March 7, 2006


I'm in a state of child-like wonder.

We've had a lot of gloom and rain, on and off, lately, spaced with brilliant blue skies and hybrids of the two, but this morning, I heard a great rushing, outside, and saw born an enormous downpouring.

Real rain. SoCal-style torrential downpour. Maybe I'll get to that. . . It's been too long since I've run out and gotten soaked in the rain. Let alone since going out a second time directly after, when the rain had gotten harder and the street had started to flood.

I opened up all the windows, and turned off any lights/fans that were on. The sound of the rain has filled the apartment, and the brightness of the grey-white sky is illuminating all.

I went out and danced, skipped, dashed, hopped, splashed, stood, looked, breathed, got soaked to the skin, and spun circles. I wandered through the middle of the streetway, up several apartments, and heard how different the rain sounded on the different tin roofs over the cars, higher pitched, lower pitched, shhshier or rrrrrshier, listened to the good street sound of the rain hitting the asphalt and sidewalk, watched with glee as the rain came down still harder on me and made fields of tiny explosions with every fat drop crashing into the wet ground, so fast you couldn't trace the rain to the splash. I managed to look up into the clouds, for a moment, without getting hit in the eyes, and breathed the wet air. When I got back in after that second time, I dutifully hung up my soaked clothes, rubbed at my head (heavily dripping) with a towel, and put on soft, fuzzy, warm pajamas.

I forgot to smell for the rain, but a little of the sidewalk-water smell is coming up to the window. I love that.

It's best after hot, dry spells. Sudden rain on a hotter day has the sweetest, dustiest sidewalk-water smell, and it almost steams up from the ground.

The best rain-on-metal sound was actually at the dorms, when I lived there--painted aluminum rain gutters. It's not quite like anything else. Solid metal rings out, other heavily painted things more thwep, but together, here, there's a muffled rough, sweet sound. A flute blown poorly, maybe. It was wonderful to sleep to. The tin rooves here are too big, and grooved, so the sound becomes a steady whir, you can't hear the distinct drops on them the way you can pipes, or even streets. They sing like wind, rather than water.

Hm. I was going to predict flooding, but it looks like the drains caught up as the rain has slowed down. It's persisting, though, if far, far gentler. The grey is thinning into greater fields of white, above, so the light is getting stronger.

SoCal rain:

In Turlock, traditionally, there is slow, light, steady rain. It's an agricultural heaven--you get enough to thoroughly wet, without flooding overmuch and without drought. Once in a while, you get some heavier rain or just sprinkling. However (and we have, I know, global warming to thank for this), SoCal rain patterns have started migrating up here, to add to its repertoire. Hence the flash flooding. We also got a tornado, a little ways south of here, last week. And one each in Long Beach and San Francisco last spring. 3 is not a lot for a state, in that time period, maybe, and not for a state so big, but I reiterate that this is California. We get dust devils, we don't get funnel clouds.

SoCal--specifically, the just-inland-of-Long Beach area--is coastal desert running up against marshland/swampland and chapparale, and the rain there has three basic modes. Mist, drizzle, and torrential downpour. It is almost never anywhere in between. "Mizzle" is occasional.

Drizzle is like that; like when a shower head is almost off, but has taken to running like a clogged faucet, straight down in unbroken stream, no drops to speak of. Thick, not particularly cold and not particularly hard. Misting and mizzling (mist-drizzle) are just a step above ocean fog, and feel more like you've been spritzed with an ultra-fine sprayer than rained on. Torrential downpour is the rest of the time. It means floods, mudslides, trees losing their roots, streets running over and gutters running so fast you're like to be knocked over if you step into them, because the rain is coming so fast, so hard, so driving, and in such big drops that it digs its way into everything, overwhelms every drain (most of which are inadequate for it), washes everything away.

My mother had to get a pump. Because whenever it would rain at all to speak of, the backyard would flood up into the house, despite the fact that it was raised a few inches. So in the middle of the night, she'd have to get up, slip across the tile, and start the thing. (Her dogs, of course, are too scared to go out in it, because that's the way they are, so she also had to try to deal with them not being willing to go out to answer nature's call.) Anyway.

I remember once, a long while back. . . At least 9 or 10 years, but probably more like 12 or 13, getting back up late in the evening, when it had started up that way. My parents and Zach and I, with Wolfy and Venus (the dogs before the chihuahuas, who were not quite as afraid), stood at the back of the house with the big sliding glass door open and just watched the rain. It was the heaviest I remembered seeing it, up to that point, but the amazing thing was that, as it was so late and so dark, rather than the glowing stormy sky, everything was black, and the light at the back of the house was small, just enough to shine through the pounding, driving sheets of rain and the several inches of splash coming up from the ground, from them. And make prisms and rainbows of every drop.

It was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen.

No, this is not up to par with hurricanes, and the like, and I know that--that's something, at least, that we still don't get here--but it puts the lie to the nonsense about California only having one season and no weather. It is proper rain. It is violent rain. And this week, schizophrenic--already, the sky is glowing blue, again, and the heat from the new sun is turning the water on the rooftops into great clouds of steam that are wafting away and fading. The streets are already drying out.

I suspect that by tonight, like last night and the night before, the clouds'll be back and we'll wake up to another wet morning.

In other news: the meat has arrived. It is practically black, the color's so deep. Absolutely gorgeous.

Correction: It's only noon (an hourish later) when the rain's returned. With big grey clouds, "cov'rin up the clear blue sky"

Thursday, March 2, 2006

On Why I Am A Wonder-Widget

It has come to my attention that there is a little confusion as to why I am a Wonder Widget.

To tell the truth, I don't know, either. But there is a history. Albeit one that lasted about 6 minutes, and thus made it sound like a really good idea at the time. So here goes:

I wanted to use "A Little Wide Eyed," which is my email and longest-loved, best-loved internet thing, but for a name of myself, in a blog, it needed to be a noun instead of an adjective. So it needed to be a Wide Eyed something. Then "Wide Eyed Wonder" sounded very pretty, but it still wasn't a name. So, from there, "Wonder-_____" came along, and not being tall enough to be Wonder Woman, and having heard a lot about Chris' mighty Dashboard Widgets on his Mac OS 10.4 (Tiger, I think), I thought, "Well! Wide-eyed Wonder Widget! Genius!"

The End.

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Sketches: Making Something Different of a Conference

I'm putting these up here, now, but they're in the Scraps section of my DevArt page with more comment, and with the snap of the page I used as a whole. Eventually I may take these down in favor of simple links (are these working, btw?).

In between penciling parts of a letter to Jala, taking notes on the talks, and generally paying attention to things which weren't quite the talks themselves, I sketched. Until Melánie's mother caught me. :)

So, without further ado. . .

Sketches of Philosophers!

The sketches of Matti and Stephen
This is supposed to be Matti (top) and Stephen (bottom).

The sketches of Kay and Chris
This is supposed to be Kay (left) and Chris (right).

The sketches of Ya-Huei, Julia, and Ayten
This is supposed to be the lovely ladies whose names I'm EDIT: no longer screwing up!--Ya-Huei (left foreground), Julia (left background), and Ayten (right).

Now aren't they all beautiful? I wish I could find proper pictures of them. I'm not thrilled with the accuracy or flattery aspects of the sketches (and usually those are pretty important in portraits--at least one or the other of them), but I can tell who I meant, and remember what they looked like. So not a total wash. I wanted to do more, and some of my favorite people from the conference I didn't get to drawing, but I don't think I could've done them well, as it is.

More about the conference:

We met this lovely lady, Stacey, who's doing research into blogging. Go visit her, damnit! She wants to know what bloggers get out of blogging, what it's like for them (the experience), why they blog, etc. Also just a very cool person, all around. We went to dinner with her and several others, that I'm getting to.

Now, the conference was a hybrid--the Society for Phenomenology and Media (SPaM) and Outis (roughly: deception). One of the others that came out with us was Randall, and Randall was good people, but in the strange position of being a government guy hoping to get info on deception, how it works, and how to get around it (in the sense of when other peoples' governments are lying to us, as opposed to our own) in a conference full of lefties more interested in deception by (you guessed it) our own goverment. Or in the case of the delightful Finns talking about it, not so much their own government, but the US gov, as well.

One of those delightful Finnish gentlemen (who came out to dinner/drinks, despite being 10 hours ahead of us, via time difference, bless him) was the lovely Aki-Mauri (whom I did not sketch, but of whom there are actual photos on the web, so it's okay). I don't know what to say about him other than that I absolutely adored him. It surprised me and also didn't, to find out he's a Major in the Finnish military. Does that make any sense? Ah, well. His paper was thoughtful and kind've heartbreaking, and he was just plain good people to hang out with. Plus, he's into hockey, so Chris and I felt less out of place caring about who was doing what in the hockey part of the Olympics.

I'm turning into an Academic-and-Union Groupie. Oi.

Anyway, the lovely, wry Kay (another paper I followed!), my lovely Chris, and I rounded out the dinner group.

The night before, however, we dined with Paul (the man who organized the conference), his wife (I think?), the lovely Melånie from Bordeaux (who like Randall and I was in something of an outsider position to doctors-of-philosophy--I followed her paper, too, though!), the lovely Stephen, and the very cool (and also lovely) Wendy and Erica, who are in the interesting position of being a couple of romantically attached hippie feminists in rural Pennsylvania. We traded war stories, as it were. They've got great senses of humor, and Wendy's paper was another that I mostly followed and also got stabbed with thinking about.

Stephen and Matti (who did not come out with us, for shame!) were absolutely wonderful to listen to. Matti brought in poetry, peppering the "trailer" of his paper (the ultra-condensed version) with it. Stephen wrote and spoke in a beautiful way, and, what's more, I think I understood most of it, which was sometimes an issue in the more technically oriented talks. They were wonderful.

Goodness, it was a blast. There was some tension, and I sometimes felt a little strange hanging on watching, but it was wonderful. It felt so good to meet so many wonderful people. And while I don't know if it's likely, I hope I'll get to come back into contact with them. I may have developed something of an idle crush, and that's too much fun to put away!