Put that in your Hokie and smoke it

At Shel’s wedding, I asked several of her friends, who were also Virginia Tech alums, if anyone had seen the score of the annual Virginia-Virginia Tech football game. The consensus was, “No, but I bet Tech won.”

What a pleasant surprise, then, to see on CNN in the hotel lobby this morning: Virginia 35, former #21 Virginia Tech 21. After a really difficult season, this must have been like winning the lottery. And finally some vindication for Matt Schaub, who tied the only remaining quarterback record that he didn’t own outright by tying Shawn Moore’s career record, 55 touchdown passes.

And the team is going back to the Continental Tire Bowl, against Pittsburgh, in Charlotte on December 27. Too bad I’ll already have flown back to the west coast by then.

Happy endings…or beginnings

Nothing says “happy ending” to a vacation quite like a wedding—or at least a celebration of one. We got back an hour or so ago from the celebration of Shel’s wedding to Eric “Vik” Gamble (which happened with a small group of family the day before Thanksgiving). Shel was radiant even four days after the wedding and the reception was great fun. Here’s hoping that the happy occasion is a beginning to many more happy years.

New on the Net

Deliberately old fashioned lead in. Did it ever strike anyone else as odd that it takes a corps of bloggers that is growing at a rate of at least 8,000 to 9,000 blogs a day to keep track of everything that’s interesting on the Internet as it comes on line? What does that say about the overall rate of growth of the Internet? If we’re the surface of the sphere, what does the inside look like?

Day after Thanksgiving tryptophan comas

It has been a lazy holiday day—well, lazy if you don’t count housecleaning and some desultory day-after-Thanksgiving shopping (at Lowes, so I’m not sure it really counts).

Tonight I repeated the sautéed duck breast recipe from last night (when I bought the breasts from Larry’s, I didn’t realize the package had four breasts, not two. It made me feel slightly better about paying more that $25 for duck breasts). I made one change: instead of doing the apricot sauce, I did a pan sauce with drippings from the cooked duck, onion, fresh herbs (sage, rosemary, and thyme) from our garden, salt, pepper, veal stock, white wine, and a little butter. It was much better.

We had the duck with some steamed green beans dressed with olive oil, lemon, and sea salt, and the rest of the bottle of the 1993 CastelGiocondo Brunello di Montalcino (link goes to the 1994 vintage) that we opened yesterday to taste with the duck teaser. Omiofriggin’dio. So fabulous.

Thanks giving

We said goodbye to Ed and Gina a few hours ago; this was the second Thanksgiving holiday we’ve had with them in as many years. Partly this is because they’re the only ones of our friends who don’t head back to their respective families for the holiday, but mostly it’s because they’re such great company.

While I was putting Thanksgiving dinner together (aside: 14 pound brined turkey, bouquet garni and onion inside, with pan gravy made with prosciutto, veal glacé, and Calvados; the Changs brought garlic mashed potatoes, green beans, candied yams, and salad; and Lisa made a killer apple Charlotte; and after all that I cooked a duck breast with apricot sauce for a kind of lagniappe), I started thinking about everything I was thankful for. This year it’s easy to break it down:

  • Family: I’m tremendously proud and happy to be married to Lisa, and to have made my home here with her. I’m hugely proud of my sister, Esta, who’s living her dream. And I’m thankful and grateful for my family and Lisa’s family, who have given us so much. And my grandfather, and my aunts and uncles, and all those who have come before.
  • Friends: All my friends from work, from Sloan, and from old jobs and long maintained friendships. Some things do grow better with age.
  • Country: Even when its leadership is in error, I’m hugely thankful and proud to live in a country where we can fight for what’s right by staying inside the system and without resorting to violence. Heck, where we even have the freedom to write a sentence like that one.
  • Music: Performing and listening. Yo La Tengo, Elliott Smith, Johnny Cash, Lady Day and John Coltrane. And even Gil Scott Heron.
  • Writing: The ability to express myself, and having the place to do so.
  • All of you. Thanks, everyone, for hanging in here.

Mr. Pinochet, you’ve sown a bitter crop

Augusto Pinochet claimed on Tuesday, during an interview on the occasion of his 88th birthday, that he was a democratic leader, a “patriotic angel” with nothing to apologize for.

On Monday, new court testimonies were published giving details of how at least 400 of the thousands of Pinochet opponents who were “disappeared” during his regime (I believe Mr. Pinochet has the dubious distinction of verbing that particularly ominous adjective) were “dumped into the ocean strapped to pieces of railroad track to make them sink.”

Yes, of course, there is nothing to apologize for. In a world where the opposition does not exist and therefore has no rights.

In retrospect, Sting’s “Cueca Solo (They Dance Alone),” written in 1987, seems grossly inadequate in its description of the effects of the Pinochet regime’s atrocities. But it’s also the humane response to the horrors that the regime brokered:

They’re dancing with the missing
They’re dancing with the dead
They dance with the invisible ones
Their anguish is unsaid
They’re dancing with their fathers
They’re dancing with their sons
They’re dancing with their husbands
They dance alone
They dance alone

Nobody’s fault but mine

Last year at about this time I had my rock and roll debut at the EMP’s Liquid Lounge. I’m returning with some of the same musicians this year for additional holiday party musical jam goodness. I get to go a little further afield this year, doing backing vocals on a bunch of rockabilly, Motown, and country/bluegrass tunes. And then some lead vocals, this year on a cover of Led Zeppelin’s version of “Nobody’s Fault But Mine.”

“Nobody’s Fault” is a really old song that I am still coming to terms with. The earliest recording I’m aware of is the Blind Willie Johnson version from 1927, which is a straightforward gospel lyric (“I have a Bible I can read/If I don’t read then my soul be lost/Nobody’s fault but mine) given a growling, urgent delivery with a slashing slide guitar accompaniment. When Page and Plant turned their attention to the song in the mid-seventies, the instrumentals were turned up to 11, and Page wrote new lyrics that describe a battle with&8212;what? Addiction, possibly, or the life of excess he was leading in general. Add to that the controversy in the traditional blues world about Zep’s refusal to credit Johnson for the song (on Presence, it’s credited to Page and Plant, and Plant has said that the song was “public domain because he’s been dead so long”), and there are about a million ways you could go in performing this song.

So there are going to be some challenges, but I think it should be tremendous. I’m working with two fantastic guitarists with George Bullock and Don Chappell, and if I can just get some rehearsal time so I don’t shred my vocal chords going for the high A on every chorus I’ll be all set.

Ski season opens early

I spoke too soon when I mentioned that the Washington Weather Alert RSS feed showed no active watches, warnings, or advisories. For the past few days, there have been winter storm warnings throughout the Cascades and Olympics.

As a consequence of all the snow that has fallen this month, several of the ski areas are opening early. My local fave Stevens Pass is actually open today, with 48″ of base and 7″ having fallen in the last 24 hours. Whistler is holding the line and will officially open on Thanksgiving, Snoqualmie opens on Friday (with 26″ at the West Summit, they’re definitely getting the short end of the snow stick yet again), and Mt. Baker (which we never got to last season) is open today with the biggest opening day snow base in a decade—70 to 80 inches!

Sadly, I don’t think we are going to be able to take advantage of any of the early skiing, at least this week. But that’s a story for another day.

Foo Fighters turn the clock back

Funny article in the Washington Post yesterday about the Foo Fighters’ remake of the infamous “Darling Nikki” (from Prince’s Purple Rain). I think this was the moment when we all knew Prince had Arrived: on the schoolbus, on the way to middle school, a chorus of white suburban kids gleefully singing along, “I met her in the hotel lobby…”
(The rest of the lyrics are in the Blogcritics article through which I discovered the Washington Post story.)

Real Live Preacher lays out where it all started

One of the points about “traditional” church going that always bugged me was the difficulty in reconciling logical inconsistencies in the Bible with the divinity of the text. Even among churches that don’t insist on the literal truth of the Gospel, you sometimes get people discussing the differences in the Gospel of John, for instance, from the other gospel accounts, without digging deeper as to the meaning.

Perhaps worse are the “cultural memory” versions of scriptural events, such as the placement of the birth of Christ in a wooden barn, with the magi attending, everything glowing and pretty, and a beatific, happy Mary at the center. As Real Life Preacher points out today in the introduction to what he promises will be an eight-part series about the real Christmas story, it is much more about “pain and surprise, of grace, beauty and brutality.”

RLP goes on to lay out known flaws in our received picture of the Nativity, including the aforementioned wooden barn, magi, and prettiness. The other thing, of course, that’s left out is that Mary and Joseph were scared teenagers who had to travel sixty miles during a highly advanced pregnancy. But they did it anyway. God works in mysterious ways.

Cointelpro 2003: files on dissenters?

The report that the FBI is keeping tabs on anti-war protesters casts a chilling shadow, even giving the damages already inflicted on freedom of association by the PATRIOT Act. The FBI says it’s only looking for “anarchists and ‘extremist elements’ plotting violence.”

But by Singin’ John Ashcroft’s actions last year, the agency is already using political and religious profiling to conduct surveillance without evidence of criminal activity.

Taken together, the measures suggest that anyone involved in protesting the war, “extremist” or not, could be subject to FBI surveillance as long as they meet the right political and religious profile.

I used to scoff at the tin hat brigades. Now I wonder. Maybe it’s time for that FOIA request.

New adventures in hi-temp

A great thread on Plastic about cooking turkey reminded me of my own favorite poultry cooking recipe. It hasn’t been turkey tested but might just work with the Big T (where T stands for tryptophan). (Note: original recipe published in Cooks Illustrated, but (a) it’s not on line, (b) I don’t have the magazine any more. But credit where due.)

Note 2: I originally wrote about this approach last year. But it being the holidays seemed a good excuse to drag it back out. Or at least that’s my excuse for having no brain. 🙂

The recipe is a high temperature roast, meaning that the meat cooks at 500° F, but don’t be scared. It solves three problems of high temperature roasting (dry meat, uneven cooking, and smoke) by the following easy expedients:

  1. Brining the meat (see the Plastic thread for a good discussion of the pros and cons of brining). For a chicken, a really large glass bowl is sometimes the right size to hold the chicken and the water. There are also five-gallon tupperware-esque containers that hold a full chicken and brine. If it’s Thanksgiving, your garage may be cold enough to hold the bird outside. Use a thermometer to make sure you’re not breeding bacteria in your brine. As for the seasoning, I use a quarter cup kosher salt and a quarter cup sugar to a gallon of seasoning, and sometimes add juniper berries or whole peppercorns for additional flavor.
  2. Flattening the bird so that all the meat is the same distance from the heat. They recommend doing this by cutting out the backbone of the chicken, spreading it out flat (skin side up) on a slotted roasting pan, and flattening the breastbone by pushing down with the heel of your hand.
  3. Great. But at 500 degrees, or more, all the fat from the chicken will drip onto the bottom of the slotted roasting pan and smoke like crazy, right? Not if you put a single layer of thin-sliced potatoes (appropriately seasoned) on the bottom of the pan first.

So: juicy, crisped-skin, tasty roast chicken, and crispy potatoes, all in one fell swoop. And quick: about forty-five minutes if I recall correctly, though since I don’t have the magazine any more I wouldn’t try to do this without my programmable thermometer set to alarm me when it gets hot enough.

<julia>Bon appetit!</julia>

Plus ça change…

After business school and a couple of years away from being a programmer, you’d think my geekiness would be dropping. Apparently not. I just took Newsweek/MSNBC’s Digital IQ quiz and scored 194, where anything greater than 110 is “nerd” level. Sigh…

New mixes for an old friend

Our friend Shel is getting married around Thanksgiving. I’ve written a bit about Shel before; suffice it to say that the “happily ever after” day for the woman who introduced me to my wife is a pretty big deal. So we’ll be driving down to Portland the weekend after Turkey Day for the party, music in hand.

Music? Yeah, Shel asked me to roll a mix for the reception and party. Being the overachiever that I am, I obliged with three cds worth of a monster mix that takes the party from first dance and family friendly stuff all the way through 80s memories deep into funk grooves before ending in trance and “Classic Girl.” The track listings for the three discs, entitled You’re the First, The Last, My Everything, are up at Art of the Mix, so check them out.