Saturday, September 29, 2012

Arguments I Cannot Win – DST

September 29, 2012

There are some arguments that I will never win. That doesn't keep me from advancing them. I present them to my friends and coworkers, none of whom are in the position to change anything. But, I gotta say something!

Daylight Savings Time

Now, don't get me wrong, I appreciate getting home in the daylight. My only question is, why do we lie to ourselves? I think it's a good idea, so let's get Wall Street and banks to open and close an hour earlier every day. America will follow. I suggested this to one coworker and she immediately objected that she didn't want to get up earlier. I sat looking at her with a straight face until she realized that she was, indeed, getting up earlier. She was just lying to herself about it, so it's okay.

And, why just during the summer when there's already more daylight anyway? Let's do it year-round. We need it more in the winter time, anyway. It's actually a little traumatic to go OFF of DST and get home in the darkness. Reality doesn't have to be sad; we can just all adjust our schedules ONE TIME and leave it that way. Even as it gets darker earlier it will be gradual and not the shock we experience every autumn, which is depressing enough as it is.

My brother lived in Costa Rica and he told me that they would sporadically observe DST. He said he would see campaigns reminding everybody to change their clocks, and people would scoff at the absurdity of the idea... and then not do it. How do you convince a nation full of intelligent people to pretend it's an hour earlier than it is? He also told me that it gets dark at 6PM every day of the year. So what would be the point of bouncing back and forth anyway? I do not know the current DST situation in that country, but 6PM is a terribly early time to get dark. They should definitely do things early.

I cannot find a definitive answer about this, even though I looked online for at least 3 minutes. I saw the suggestion that an essay by Ben Franklin brought it up, and that it was originally used as an energy-saving device. After that, I think this is one of those things that continue simply because it placates the masses, and God knows that the masses must be kept happy and spendy.

So, I think it's a good idea to move everything an hour earlier. I think it's a good idea to get home after a day at work while it's still light out. I think it's an idea that we should embrace, accept and acknowledge, rather than lying to ourselves.

Respectfully submitted,


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Empieza a llover

Long, long ago
In a land far, far away...

Qué romantico, ¿verdad?

Well, it was a long time ago. I was 21 years old, and now I'm older than 21. The land was, indeed, far away. According to Google maps it is 2,255.5 miles from Austin, TX to San Ramón, Alajuela, Costa Rica. They even give you driving directions if you're interested.

It's raining, I've just left work and now I'm sitting in corporate coffee shop waiting for Nameless to get finished with his haircut so we can go to dinner. I woke up this morning with a strange feeling of contentment. I'm not sure what I did to deserve that, but I'll take it. Now I feel like I'm just kind of drifting along on the edge of a dream, drinking a pumpkin spice latte and enjoying the cooler weather that this week has brought. And I'm enjoying the rain.

So... long, long ago in a land far, far away I was visiting my brother, whom I barely knew, and he was taking me around the beautiful countryside of Costa Rica where he lived. He had a whole circle of friends that we visited at different times. We visited waterfalls and parks and friends and we ate wonderful Costa Rican food and drank Costa Rican coffee, which is just a different beverage than anything I've had before or since.

A few things about that trip are worth mentioning. I was young. And stupid. Costa Rica is a rain forest, which means it rains a lot. Rainy season hadn't officially begun, so it rained slightly less than half the time as opposed to the constant rain for weeks on end that my brother told me about. I love rain, I always have. I had discovered international music (Spanish) and Juan Luis Guerra was all the rage with his Bachata Rosa album. My brother didn't have a car, so we walked and rode buses a lot. I was 22 years old and very naïve with regards to sex and love, and I was gay and somewhat lonely in general. And I had a 32-inch waist.

I met a man named Gustavo. (What the heck; I'll use his name. How many Gustavo’s are there in Costa Rica?) I barely spoke Spanish at the time (which, from what I gathered from my brother, might have actually helped the situation) and we were sitting on a patio of a club in San Jose having drinks and eats. I was doing my best to talk to Gustavo, but I had learned my Spanish from Mexicans and the Costa Rican accent is very different. We talked about music and stuff and nonsense. I do remember mentioning that I had always wanted to be kissed in the rain. I don't know that he took me entirely seriously. I was young, I was naïve and a little silly. But, I was giddy and happy, and free.

Gustavo had dark hair and dark eyes and beautiful full lips and I left him in San Jose when I returned with my brother to the mountain town of San Ramón. But, he came to visit me, he rode a bus and we walked to the station to pick him up. We all hung around the house and played card games, listened to music, ate and lounged, talking during the afternoon rain. (You could set your watch by the afternoon showers.) Later, it cleared up and Gustavo and I sneaked out for some pretext that I don't remember. As we walked through the streets of San Ramón amidst the smell of the food and earth, it began to rain again. I could tell that he was a little wary of making a spectacle, but he put his arms around me in the light rain and he looked me in the eyes, and gently he put his lips on mine, and he kissed me in the rain.

Monday, September 10, 2012


Me, I like to use cast iron when I cook. Somehow that Iron is bound to end up in my food, enriching it just by virtue of having been cooked in an iron pan. For the same reason I don't heat things up in plastic. Those carcinogens are bound to end up in my food, and I have enough going against me as it is. Glass Is Life. (I mean, I wouldn't put cast iron in a microwave.)

It all begins with a little yellow box. Fideo. Mexican vermicelli. The price of the little yellow box was 4/$1.00 when I was in school. The price the other day when I bought a box was 4/$1.00. And, it's been a few years since I was in school; I'm just saying.

So, I lied about it beginning with the little yellow box. Indeed, it is all about said box, but for me it begins with onion, garlic and green chilies. I give the onion a rough cut, white or yellow onion. A few cloves of garlic chopped. I like garlic. Heat a cast iron Dutch oven over medium heat and when it's ready add oil. I generally use corn oil, but feel free to use vegetable or olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the onion and the can of green chilies. Sauté for about 5 minutes then add the garlic. (I like to give the onions and chilies a head start.)

Heat another skillet, add a bit of oil and brown a pound of ground beef, after seasoning it with salt and pepper. Once the ground beef is browned (it doesn't have to be completely cooked at this point; we're going to cook it further later) remove it from the pan, being as conscientious about removing the juices as you please. If you've removed everything then you'll need to add a tad more oil to the skillet and brown the fideo until it's toasted.

Back at our Dutch oven, add a can of tomatoes to the veggies. I break these up with my spatula – the metal kind used for flipping pancakes. When I was in school my mother told me that I would need to learn how to cook with a spoon, and I believed her. I felt that when I grew up I would cook properly, using a spoon, and in the mean time I continued using the spatula. More or less the same way that I believed that when I grew up I would like girls, and while I waited for that transition I continued dreaming about the boys in my class and the male teachers. But, let's face it, my cast iron skillet and Dutch oven are flat on the bottom and the spatula is flat on the end. They match. I can scrape the bottom of the Dutch oven infinitely faster with my flat spatula than I could with a round spoon – the spoon makes very limited contact with the bottom. And about the girl/boy thing... I have since given up on that transition. It was lies, all lies.

So, the tomatoes are cut up; add the fideo, ground beef and a can of beef broth. (Or, if you're really a Susie-Homemaker and you have beef stock in the freezer use that, just have it thawed out when you begin.) I usually add about a half a can more of water to the can, swill it around, pour some into the chili can, swill it around and then pour all of it into the tomato can, swill and pour it into the Dutch oven.

Bring all of this to a boil and then reduce the heat, cover and let cook for about 15 minutes. Or 10, I forget. When you've cooked it, remove the lid, give it a stir, scraping the bottom, unless you've burned it in which case you don't want the burned flavor infusing your food so don't scrape. When it is stirred/scraped, remove it from the heat and cover. Let stand.

Here's the thing. You can eat this after 5 minutes or, you can let it cool, put it in the fridge and eat it hours or a day later. The flavors blend and are enhanced by a little bit of waiting, much like marinara sauce. Leftover fideo tacos with flour tortillas is possibly the best food on earth.

And, that's how I make fideo. Not that you asked.

Thank you for reading. Please check back for further unsolicited recipes.


Sunday, September 9, 2012


September 9, 2012

There's something magic that happens after midnight. I'm not referring to the witching hour, though maybe it's related. Things are different to a mind that is not accustomed to being conscious at that time. It's more than a different frame of mind; it's like a separate reality. Thus it was for me last night when I couldn't sleep and I was listening to K.D. Lang's album, Drag.

I've owned the CD since around 1998 and the first song on it that struck me was The Air That I Breathe. I fell in love with that song immediately. I remember listening to it and literally forgetting to breathe, just listening to her voice carry the tune. When she sang, "Sleep, silent angel, go to sleep," then I'd come back to myself. It is almost a completely different song from the original Hollies' version, and perhaps it transcends comparison. I listened to it... a lot. For that reason I listened to the CD a lot. Some of the other songs kind of sneaked into my brain and sat there waiting. Theme from the Valley of the Dolls I also appreciated almost immediately. The others were just kind of very beautiful Other Songs helping to create a wonderful album.

Several years later, around the time that I went to a funeral for my mother's husband, I began to notice Till the Heart Caves In. "How much is not enough, how much is through? How long will I be getting over you? How much grief and sin, 'til the heart caves in?" That last line struck a cord with me as I watched my mother during the funeral and after.

A few nights ago I noticed that I have become very fond of My Old Addiction. I'm not gonna lie; I skipped over the song more than once. It's very slow. It's very different from your average pop tune. But man, when you're in the right mood the song is AMAZING. I did a little research and learned the origin of the song and that made it even more so. Its original title is Chet Baker's Unsung Swan Song and in it the writer, David Wilcox, tries to capture what was going through the musician's (Chet Baker) mind in the  minutes leading up to his tragic and mysterious death. (He apparently fell from a 2nd story window and hit his head on the concrete. Cocaine and heroine were found in his system.) The song captures the turbulent life and takes us right up to the moment he leans out the window. I hate to use the same word twice in one post, but this song transcends music. I have never experienced a song the way I do this one, now that I've read about its creation.

So, last night when I couldn't sleep I put this song in and listened to it 3 or 4 times while I piddled around on the computer. When I got too occupied to set it to play again, the rest of the album played and eventually Hain't It Funny came on. Up until last night I didn't care for the song. But, last night – after the witching hour – I finally heard the muted trumpet. The song has a magic of its own – Lang's version, anyway, which is the only version I've heard or care to hear. It occurred to me that if I were listening to it as a person who DIDN'T speak English (I love listening to songs in languages that I don't speak or understand) then it would feel completely different. The lyrics aren't bad, but they don't speak to me much. The music and her voice, however, speak volumes. It's reminiscent of Miles Davis. Thanks to the magic of the post-midnight mindset I can appreciate this song in a way I never did before. I sat there at 2 in the morning and played it, then played it again.

It's a very special album that can fascinate you after you've already owned it for fourteen years. If you don't own it, perhaps you should check it out. Keep in mind that some of the songs can grow on you. At least give yourself the opportunity to be moved.


Monday, September 3, 2012

Nostalgic Lies

Seeing the rippled reflection of clouds on water makes me nostalgic for life in the colder climate of Canada. Of course, I've never lived in Canada or even been there, so I don't really know where all this nostalgia is coming from.


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Labor Day 2011

September 2, 2012

News as it happened

This weekend is Labor Day. Last year we were in the middle of a drought and on Labor Day the winds picked up. Fires that might have otherwise been localized spread until they became something like I've never seen. In Bastrop County the fire began as local news with residents evacuating and fire fighters on the scene. Then it grew. The fire department requested help from other fire departments, from helicopters, from anybody who could possibly help with the growing nightmare. In the end 34,000 acres and 1,500 homes burned. Over a million trees were lost. That is only Bastrop County. Steiner Ranch also had fires and the residents had to evacuate. There was a fire in Leander, there was a fire in Pflugerville, there was a fire near Riatta Apartments in Austin, there was a fire in San Antonio. We all sat around wondering where the next was going to hit.

I thank God that I was not harmed, nor any of my property. I remember putting the cat carriers by the door so that in case I had to evacuate I would be ready to round up the cats. (You couldn't be preemptive and go somewhere else like with a hurricane; nobody knew where the next fire would happen.) I carried a packed suitcase in the trunk of my car for days. My younger brother was living with his family in Australia for a few months at the time. He heard the news over there that Steiner Ranch was burning – not terribly far from his home.

It was terrible to not know. To not know where the next fire would start. To smell the scent of smoke and water from miles away and know that it wasn't over. To see haze when you looked out the window. To see all of the people who were out of their home and in shelters, to see people on TV who knew that their homes were gone and to see people who didn't know. To feel the illusion of security draining away.

A year later they are still rebuilding. Organizations like the Bastrop County Long Term Recovery Team are helping people who don't have the resources to rebuild. This year we have had rain and it hasn't been over 100º for a record number of days like last year. But, who can forget how easy it is for everything to go up in smoke? Especially when Colorado has so recently gone through the same thing.

Here's to a better Labor Day 2012.


American Gods

September 2, 2012

American Gods

When I first picked this book up I noticed that I was reading a different kind of novel. I noticed the male hormones dripping out of it when I read. I noticed that it was 'interesting' and other patronizing adjectives and descriptive phrases that I might have used.

About halfway through the book something inside of the pages reached out of the book, grabbed me by the neck and refused to let go. I couldn't sleep; I just wanted to read. I didn't want to cook or eat or anything. It was difficult week at work. (I think I mentioned that I read slow.)

The book is magic. I would be 50 pages from the end. Then the next time I picked it up I would be 100 pages from the end. Then I'd read and read and read and I'd be 90 pages from the end. It's like I was reading in place. It's a long book!

But, I kept having to go back and reread things that I had read because they come up again. There are so many sublime phrases in there, so many things said. Then, one of them will come back to the protagonist and I'd have to go back and reread. This is when a Nook – and its search feature – come in handy. Don't get me wrong, I love books on display in my home and I love to feel the paper in my fingers, but I also love to click on a word and look it up in the dictionary (though sometimes Nook's dictionary uses the same root word in its definition, which we were taught in school never to do) and I like to be able to search a word and easily go to where it is printed in the book.

But, about the book. It was captivating. I was forced to learn some mythology and vocabulary. Gaiman is inordinately fond of the word 'diorama', which might be one of those things that mean something that I didn't catch. The book is full of things that mean something, but that I didn't catch until later when it was pointed out. Maybe the excessive dioramas are – collectively – something that he left unexplained, something to be appreciated by those who are bright enough to understand.

I mentioned before that it was Gaiman's introduction that actually brought me in. He writes about having written the book, having it go through the editors and as a 10th anniversary thing he was allowed to put back in what seems to be about 12,000 words. He didn't say that the book reverted back to its original form; he seems to have agreed with a lot of the edits. He just feels that the book is better this way than without those particular parts. It is long this way. It has 560 pages. That's a lot of pages for a slow reader. The average Agatha Christie has around 200 or less.

And, much like the movie Memento I feel the need to go back and read it again now.

I very much recommend this book.