Sunday, April 29, 2007

Festeja Adelante, Wayne

Growing up in Michigan, I did not spend a lot of time in Mexican restaurants. There was Carlos Murphy's, the Irish-Mexican place (yes, you read that right) on the other side of town, but I think I usually got the ribs there (barbecue being a staple of both Irish and Mexican cuisine). These days, I live in a town with almost as many Mexican restaurants as churches (stay tuned for our follow-up visit to Fiesta Grille), and thanks to a preponderance of good ingredients, I spend a lot of time cooking dishes that are, at the very least, Mexican-inspired. This week's recipe, despite my cilantro-deprived childhood, has been a family favorite, courtesy of my Aunt Muggs, for almost two decades. Of the things I miss about my youth (besides youth itself), our family "fajita nights" are high on the list.

Mexi-Marinated Lime Chicken

2 tablespoons lime juice (about 1 lime's worth)
1/4 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon grated lime peel
1 cup medium salsa (I actually prefer Pace Picante, which is not, strictly speaking, salsa, but that's a post for another time)
2 chicken breasts, halved and skinned
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup medium-hot taco sauce

Combine first four ingredients to form the marinade. Marinate the chicken at least 35 minutes (preferably a few hours; this is the sort of thing you can do in the morning if you're planning to make the chicken that evening. Marinating overnight is overkill, but it won't hurt anything).
Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat (if you're using an electric skillet, 350 degrees). Remove the chicken from the marinade (do not throw out the marinade!) and cook 5-8 minutes, turning, until golden on both sides. Add the marinade and taco sauce to the skillet. Reduce the heat to medium low (250 degrees) and cook, covered, for an additional ten minutes.
Remove the chicken from the skillet and shred into bite-size pieces. Return the chicken to the skillet and stir until coated. Serve with warmed tortillas, lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, grated cheese, etc.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

I Guess Someone Had To Plug Marci X

Finally, a trivia night I don't have to post in two parts!
As predicted, the questions were easier than they had been for the last several weeks. So easy, in fact, that we were solidly in first place going into the final question. Sadly, however, we didn't know it, and lots of other teams did. Like I've watched SNL in the last 15 years.

1. How many Grammy Awards has Pink Floyd won?
2. In the 1989 film The Little Mermaid, what is Scuttle's name for a fork?
3. If you get a tattoo today, how long does the FDA suggest you wait before giving blood?
4. What condiment was a popular treatment for diarrhea in the 1800s?
5. What material nets recyclers the most money?
6. How many eggs is the average human female born with - 5,000; 50,000; or 500,000?
7. Which two French cities are connected by the world's fastest passenger train?
Et, finalement:
8. As of today, five of the six main cast members of Friends have hosted Saturday Night Live. Which member has not?

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Just Saying, Is All

Dear Miss Manners:
What has become of the polite habit of RSVPing? It seems half the world totally ignores one's request. What is one to do?
Entertain the other half.

How did a room full of college students not know #14?

The second upside of everyone stinking at trivia night several weeks in a row is that it has happened before, and The Powers That Be are pretty good about adjusting the difficulty level downwards. Then, eventually, most of the teams get to the last question with scores in the upper 50s (the highest possible score is 63), and the questions get hard again. It's an endless cycle, sort of like control of Congress.

10. What tennis star was nicknamed "Boom Boom" by his fans?
11. In what literary classic is the title character's full name Oscar Zoaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkle Emmanuel Ambroise Diggs?
12. How thick was the wire cable that French aerialist Philippe Petit used when he tightrope-walked between the twin towers of New York's World Trade Center in 1974?
13. What company's symbol on the New York Stock Exchange is GAP?
14. How many ounces of beer does a half-barrel keg hold?
15. What character's voice did Farrah Fawcett dub in the 1998 animated film The Brave Little Toaster Goes To Mars?
16. How much time per day does the average giraffe spend sleeping?
Final question:
17. In what year did the prize become part of a box Cracker Jacks?

Good luck.

Friday, April 20, 2007

I Know That The Spades Are The Swords of a Soldier

Remember when I said this week would have to be better? Good times. We - by which I mean I - got the entire halftime right (three questions about the Heisman Trophy; the gf is not a football fan). Beyond that, we got two questions right - one was a true/false question, the other one, the triviatrix accidentally read the answer (Ronald Reagan) when she meant to tell us the category. That leaves you fine people seventeen questions that we didn't know. No one else did much better; despite our struggles, we were once again within five points of first going into the final question. There are two upsides to this week. The first is that the triviatrix now knows that I blog our misses, so she has agreed to give me the official question list after the contest; this will prevent mis-remembering of both the questions and the answers. I'll save the second for part two.

1. Each King in a deck of cards represents a famous historical king. Who does the King of Hearts represent?
2. What one-time TV kiddie-show host urged New Years' Day viewers to dig into their sleeping dads' wallets and send in some "little green pieces of paper with pictures of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson on them?"
3. What are you doing if you are filliping?
4. What is the lowest denomination of paper currency ever issued by the U.S. government?
5. Wreaths made of what vegetable were awarded to victorious athletes at the Nemean Games in ancient Greece?
6. What is the major league baseball record for consecutive successful stolen base attempts?
7. What is the state fish of eight states - more than any other fish?
8. When it comes to space flight, who are Arabella, Anita, and Miss Baker?
9. What leading British actor was considered for the role of Don Corleone in The Godfather before it was offered to Marlon Brando?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Sparkle and Fade

Last week, Drew Bledsoe retired from the NFL after 14 seasons. Drew came to the Boston area a year after I did, and left a year before; more than any other pro athlete, I identify my time in New England with Bledsoe's career.
Five years ago, I had a brief discussion with a fantasy football leaguemate over whether Bledsoe was a potential Hall-of-Famer. Here's part of what I said:
[Bledsoe] presumably has several more seasons as a starter, and other than this year, has been quite durable (only three games missed since he became a starter)... Bledsoe has a pretty good shot at 50,000 passing yards, which by itself would make him a pretty good Hall case. Plus, he has three Pro Bowls and counting, and a Super Bowl (or two). Certainly, if his career ended today, he's not in, and he'll never be considered better than Aikman/Elway/Favre/Young. But ten years from now, who knows? He's certainly a lot better than he's given
credit for around here. ('Can't win the Big One,' they say. What Big One? The Super Bowl where they were two-touchdown underdogs? The other playoff game in Pittsburgh? How many Big Ones could there have been?)
I should point out the context: This was the week after the AFC Championship, where Bledsoe had come in for an injured Tom Brady, completed four straight passes (the last a touchdown), and played a mistake-free second half to hold off the Steelers for the upset. As we waited for medical reports on Brady, Bledsoe was absolutely savaged by New England Fandom on talk radio and in chat rooms. One thing I've never missed about the Boston area was the relentless negativity of its sports fans; I am told that three Super Bowls and one World Series title have done wonders in that regard.
But I digress. At the time of this discussion, I figured five more seasons as a starter would put Bledsoe into the Hall. He got four; is that enough?
The Keltner Test has become a tired device for Hall standards, but it does have the advantage of being more readable than a standard hammer-out-the-numbers paragraph. Plus, I can't find an example of anyone doing it for Bledsoe, so here goes:

1. Was he ever regarded as the best player in football? Did anybody, while he was active, ever suggest that he was the best player in football?
Put simply, no. See #3.

2. Was he the best player on his team?
Bledsoe was probably the best player on the Patriots in 1994, from 1997-2000, and on the 2002 Bills.

3. Was he the best player in football at his position? Was he the best player in the conference at his position?
To suggest Bledsoe was even the best quarterback in the AFC would be unkind to John Elway until 1998, and to Peyton Manning afterwards. We don't even have to mention Brett Favre.

4. Did he have an impact on a number of playoff races?
Absolutely. In particular, his play in late 1999 (with a finger so badly broken there were pins sticking through the skin) was key to the Patriots making the playoffs that year.

5. Was he a good enough player that he could continue to play regularly after passing his prime?
Unless you think he passed his prime the day Parcells benched him for Tony Romo, yes. Frankly, Bledsoe could still play regularly for a number of NFL teams, though these are not teams that should be interested in signing him as a starter.

6. Is he the very best player in football history who is not in the Hall of Fame?
Probably not, but if you check out the list of 2007 eligibles, there are only about a half-dozen guys I would objectively say are better, and a few of those (Derrick Thomas, for example) will likely be inducted soon.

7. Are most players who have comparable career statistics in the Hall of Fame?
Among eligible players with comparable passing statistics to Bledsoe (completions, yardage, TDs), only Dave Kreig and Boomer Esiason are not in the Hall.

8. Do the player's numbers meet Hall of Fame standards?
Bledsoe is in the top ten of all time in completions, passing yards, and touchdown passes. Favre is ahead of him on all three lists, likely-retiree Vinny Testaverde is ahead of him on two, and Manning will pass him in completions and yardage, probably in 2010 (he's already ahead in TDs). Other than that, we've got a while before those marks are challenged. His quarterback rating isn't spectacular, and neither is his TD/INT ratio, but those don't make or break a candidacy (see Namath, Joe). The answer here is yes.

9. Is there any evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggested by his statistics?
The main knock on Bledsoe has always been his immobility. That isn't by itself a bad thing, but the secondary knock has been that he's easily taken out of his game by a strong pass rush. His playoff statistics (6 TDs, 12 INTs, and a 54.9 rating in 7 games), against teams which were certainly blitzing more, and more capable of putting pressure on the quarterback, appear to back up this theory. Maybe he really can't win the Big One.

10. Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall of Fame but not in?
I'd put him ahead of everyone currently eligible; that includes Randall Cunningham, though it's close, and Cunningham will probably be inducted before Bledsoe is eligible. When Bledsoe actually is eligible, the answer will be the same, but if Drew isn't elected his first year, he won't get in the next year (when Favre will likely be eligible).

11. How many MVP-type seasons did he have? Did he ever win an MVP award? If not, how many times was he close?
Bledsoe's best seasons (1996, 1997, and 2003) were not MVP-caliber. As I've said, he wasn't even the best quarterback in the AFC any of those seasons.

12. How many Pro-Bowl-type seasons did he have? How many Pro Bowl games did he play in? Did most of the other players who played in this many go to the Hall of Fame?
Bledsoe had four Pro Bowl appearances (after the 1994, 1996, 1997, and 2002 seasons) and had the numbers to back it up every time (though for 1994, one could point out that anyone who put up 691 passes was going to have Pro-Bowl numbers). Four Pro Bowls would be the second-smallest total for a Hall-of-Fame QB since the AFL-NFL merger (Terry Bradshaw, inexplicably, has only three).

13. If this man were the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the conference?
Curtis Martin was the best player on the Super Bowl team, but not by much. They'd need a lot of players almost as good as Bledsoe, but the answer to this is yes.

14. What impact did the player have on football history? Was he responsible for any rule changes? Did he introduce any new equipment? Did he change the game in any way?
Other than Bledsoe and Rick Mirer being the forerunners to Manning/Leaf in the great "which quarterback should (crappy team) take with the #1 pick?" controversies of the early 90s, there's not much to say here.

15. Did the player uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider?
I don't know if the Football Hall of Fame has these guidelines, but we'll examine it. Other than one prominent incident, Bledsoe has had a quiet and upstanding off-field life. His full-page farewell ad in the Boston papers the week after being traded to Buffalo was a model for the genre. Most of Patriot Nation didn't deserve such a classy good-bye.

The verdict? By this list, Drew Bledsoe has a reasonable, though not strong, shot at the Hall of Fame. But I'm going to say he's out. The thing that really works against Bledsoe is his contemporaries. The first half of his career was dominated by Aikman, Elway, and Young; the second half, by Manning, Brady, and McNabb; and that guy in Green Bay has been around the entire time. There are only 30 quarterbacks in the Hall; Bledsoe is certainly one of the best who isn't in, but he'd also be one of the weakest who is. On top of that, Vinny Testaverde is going to be eligible at the same time, and has similar numbers (admittedly, over six more seasons and thirty more games). It's tough to induct one and not the other, so neither will be inducted. Hey, someone has to be the best guy not in the Hall.

Surprise! You're Not In High School Anymore!

It happened yesterday:

I was wondering if there is any extra credit or extra work I could do to raise my grade in your class, because I'm not doing as well as I'd like to. Please let me know if there is anything I can do. Thanks.
Student X

I usually get 3-4 of these a term, depending on how many sections I'm teaching, and while the one above is paraphrased, they're all pretty much the same. And my response is always the same:

I'm afraid I am not allowed to give extra-credit work to individual students, particularly in a common class. This is a department policy, and I won't be allowed to teach here anymore if I break it. If you'd like to come in to my office, we can discuss how you need to do on the final exam, and what you should be studying.

That's my "official" response, anyway. My unofficial response, the one I occasionally wish I could send, is this:

If you'd like to do some work to improve your grade, here is what I'd like you to do:
1) Build a time machine.
2) Travel back to the third week of the semester, when you apparently decided that it was no longer important to attend class regularly or hand in homework.
3) Come to class, hand in your assignments, and study for the exams.
If you can accomplish this, I'm quite certain I'll be able to improve your end-of-term grade.

I've come to believe that grades are like money. Some people work very hard for what they get, others hardly work at all. Some people do very well, some barely get by, and it isn't always correlated to how hard they work. Most people earn what they get, but a couple choose to beg.
With few exceptions, my "grade panhandlers" have been students who can't be bothered to come to class, don't do any work outside of class, and then wonder how I can deny them the D they feel they are entitled to.
Folks, when you've got a job to do, the Xbox needs to be turned off. Tonight's party is not the last party that will ever be thrown. No one's ever going to tell you not to take time for yourself, but consider the possibility that you need to give more time to other things.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A Story About A Story About Four Stories

Ten years ago, when I decided that my busy tech-industry lifestyle needed some organization, I purchased a Palm III. I used to use it constantly; I completely filled the memory with to-do lists, memos, scheduling, more memos, more to-do lists, a program to keep track of all of my passwords and PIN numbers, restaurant guides for Boston and New York, and a cheap translator program when I was working in France. I was constantly jotting things in it, although whenever anyone asked me about it, I just said, "Oh, I'm playing hearts." Unfortunately, that little joke turned out to be a large link in the chain of events that led to my retirement. The lesson: when you're working on multimillion dollar deals, don't be glib; clients won't want to pay if they think you're actually enjoying your job. Ironically, I had deleted the hearts program long ago - not enough memory.
But I digress. A couple of months ago, I was going through the old notes and lists - I had cleared out anything work-related, but there were still a few random thoughts in there, a shopping list from before I got the awesome HandyShop program, a URL for a band called Fencing David that probably no longer exists, and one memo that just said "an instance of the fingerpost." This one caught my attention, because I'd seen it before.
In fact, I knew the memo was about eight years old, because I vaguely recalled finding it one Monday morning and having absolutely no idea what it meant. Clearly, someone had told me something over the weekend, but who? Was it a band? A book? A game? What the hell is a fingerpost, anyway? I asked a couple of people at work, but they were no help. My roommates were similarly clueless. I asked some folks in a chat room I used to frequent, and checked Hotbot or Lycos or whatever it was we were using back in '99, but nothing. I left the note in my PDA, thinking at some point I would resume the search for its meaning.
On this particular day in January 2007, however, it occurred to me that if this was a band or a website, it had probably long since disappeared. I assumed searching the web for a random phrase, particularly one with this many little words, would be fruitless. I took action. I deleted the memo.
The next day, I was at the library, exercising my brand new library card. I was browsing the fiction aisles, and I had nearly settled on a book, but I figured, "I'll take one last pass to see if something really grabs me." I don't even remember what that book was, because when I turned around, I was face-to-face... er, face-to-spine? Anyway I'm sure my savvy readers have already figured it out: right at eye level was a large black tome, on which was written the phrase An Instance of the Fingerpost. The choice was made.
I won't further lengthen this post with a review, but every once in a while, I get all philosophical and reflective (some would say I get "drunk." Cynics), and I think about the interconnectedness of things, how choices and events lead us to a particular point in space and time, and this is a good example of that. I was in a particular place on a particular night, talking to a particular person about who-knows-what (I'm guessing it was Sick Boy's Sean Connery monologue from Trainspotting. Points to those who can connect the dots from there). I kept this nearly meaningless memo in my Palm Pilot. Eight years later and hundreds of miles away, the day after I finally delete this memo, I find this book, and suddenly it all has meaning to me.
How 'bout you? Any stories about butterflies flapping their wings in China?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Next review: L'Ane Riche

Tonight, I attended the Grand Opening of a new Clemson-area restaurant, the Fiesta Grille. In what I hope will become a semi-regular feature, I now present a restaurant review.

I arrived at the restaurant shortly after 6:30 to find the parking lot very full, making me regret the decision to have my dining companion meet me there. However, despite the overflow parking situation, we had little trouble finding a table. As this was opening night, our expectations for service were not too high; I can forgive a lot in the first week or so after the opening. There were communication issues throughout the evening; after our waiter took our drink order, he abandoned us for ten minutes, until another waiter came to ask if our order had been taken. Minutes after he took our order, our original waiter returned to take our order, and we had to inform him that it had been taken already. A different server brought our meals, which led to more confusion (more on that in a bit). And when the original waiter came to bring us the check, of course he didn't have it, and so had to re-write our ticket. No doubt the waiter who took our order has tabbed us as dine-and-dashers. A mariachi band played throughout the evening; I thought they were excellent, though my companion pointed out that their main purpose was no doubt to distract from the slow service.
Despite the communication problems among the staff, I was pleased (at that point) that we had been visited by several servers; I'd rather they err on the side of being overly attentive than forgetting about us entirely. The menu also offered a few selections that were new to me. There are a lot of Mexican restaurants in this area, and their menus have about 85% overlap; it's the selections unique to a specific place that make it worth going to (or not). On my next visit, I'll be sure to try the pollo con chorizo, but this time I went with the carne asada burritos, mainly because they came with guacamole, and the other deciding factor in whether or not I continue to patronize a Mexican restaurant is the quality of their guacamole and salsa.
The good points: As I said before, I was pleased that the servers were looking out for each other to make sure everyone's order was taken, and despite a clearly stressful evening, everyone was still smiling. My companion's pork platter was fantastic: delicious chunks of slow-roasted pork, striped with three different sauces (red sauce, queso blanco, and some of the best salsa verde I've ever tried), on a bed of rice that was not sticky, not dry. This was definitely the star of the night.
The bad points: Unfortunately, my companion had not ordered the pork platter, nor had she ordered the pollo fundido that was originally delivered to her; we simply decided, after the waiter had brought us the second wrong plate and then disappeared, that this looked better than what she had originally ordered, and that it wasn't worth an additional 10-15 minutes to take a third try. My burritos were advertised as being made with beef tips, but were pretty clearly made with ground beef. The guacamole was too creamy; it tasted like my mother's guacamole, which is basically an avacado puree with mayonnaise (if my mother is reading this, I'm sorry that you had to find out this way that I don't care for your guacamole). And the salsa was too tomato-y and not enough, well, anything else-y that might identify it as salsa. One of our party likened it to marinara sauce. Okay, it was me.
The service became slower as the night went on; we left around 8:45 (two hours for a two-person table), and the table next to us (who arrived about half an hour after we did) gave up and left, without receiving their food, as we were paying our check. I've mentioned once that I can forgive slowness on opening night, but I did find myself quite irritated when our waiter asked every other table in our section if they'd like their half-finished drinks topped off, whilst our empty glasses, prominently placed at the edge of our table, sat ignored.
The price is right: even without the 30% opening-night discount, our meal (two entrees and soft drinks) would have been just over $15, and very few menu items are over $10. I'll certainly give it another shot in a few weeks, once the staff gets their feet under them, but the disappointing salsa may keep me from becoming a regular customer.

Two stars out of four.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Un Voyage Dans le Sofa

So a while back, I was introduced to the list of 1001 Movies to See Before You Die. My first run through the list put me at 215, and it's slowly becoming an obsession. As in, when I'm flipping through channels, I check AMC and Turner Classic Movies to see if they're playing something on the list (and they frequently are); if we're renting a movie, I try to ignore things not on the list (which, of course, includes anything made later than 2004, so I'm not usually listened to). I'm not watching a movie a day, but they're slowly getting checked off. Slowly.
That is, until yesterday, when I added seven (7) - that's right, seven (7)! - films to my checklist. In the morning, TCM was showing His Girl Friday; I particularly enjoyed the line, "He looks like that guy from the movies... Ralph Bellamy." They followed that up with The Nutty Professor. Yes, the Jerry Lewis version. While I was waiting for that to start, I skipped over to the Library of Congress site to watch A Trip to the Moon and The Great Train Robbery, thus finishing off the entire "1900s" decade of the list. After the adventures of Julius Kelp came Hannah And Her Sisters, one of far too many Michael Caine movies I've seen in the last week (insomnia + television = sitting through Blame It On Rio). After that was Saturday Night Fever, which I'd actually seen before, so it wasn't an addition to my checklist, but I hadn't seen it in a while. Finally, I watched Trois Couleurs: Rouge, the last of Kielkowski's "Three Colors" trilogy. And, like most French films I've seen, I didn't get it. I probably will if I watch it three more times, but how likely am I to do that? Darned art films.
"But wait," I hear you cry, "if you'd already seen Saturday Night Fever, how did you add seven (7) films to your list?" Well, as I was perusing the list to find my new entries, I came across Frenzy, and suddenly recognized it as a Hitchcock film I had seen many years ago ("Mr. Rusk! You seem to have forgotten your tie!"). This has happened several times; you just can't read through 1001 film titles and recall immediately if you've seen each one. So there's my seventh, which puts me up to 227. Summer break is coming; I'll bet I can hit 250 by June.

TV made me stupid, part two

Yeah, the first bunch was hard. They don't get any better.

8. How many U.S. Amateur championships did Tiger Woods win?
9. Who was the first cartoon character to be featured as a balloon in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, in 1927?
10. What type of lizard carries malaria?
11. How many teeth does the average mosquito have?
12. Name the sport in which neither the participants nor the spectators know the score until the contest ends.
13. What is Walt Disney's birthdate? Yes, birthdate, as in MM/DD/YYYY.
14. Who was the first act at Woodstock in 1969?
15. What is the most recognized smell in the world?

Next week will be better. It has to be.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Little Rice, With a Little Pig

Tonight, I indulge my decade-long obsession with risotto. Real risotto is a pain to make, because you have to add stock slowly, and stir constantly, and you've got to be careful not to have the heat too high, or too low, or run out of stock, or... there are dozens of things that can go wrong. But when it goes right, it's totally worth the effort. At some point, I'll put up my recipe for chocolate risotto, but this is one of my dinnertime favorites.

Spinach-Bacon Risotto

5 cups vegetable stock
1 red onion, sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pound bacon, shredded
2 cups short-grain rice (e.g., arborio)
4-6 ounces beer (I like Miller Lite for this)
8-12 cherry tomatoes, halved
salt and pepper
1 10-oz package spinach or baby spinach, washed
1/2 cup grated parmesan or romano cheese

In a large saucepan, heat the stock to a gentle simmer.
While the stock is heating, put the onion, garlic, and bacon in a large heavy-bottomed skillet or risotto pan. Heat until the bacon fat renders and cooks the onions translucent, about 3 minutes.
Add the rice, stirring until each grain is coated and begins to toast.
Pour in part of a can of beer, stirring until the rice absorbs the liquid.
Drink the rest of the beer. By the way, here's a tip: once you get the stock to its gentle simmer, try to have the risotto pan at the same heat level.
Add 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of the stock, and cook, stirring constantly, until the liquid is absorbed. Continue to add stock, about 1/2 cup at a time, until the rice becomes creamy, about 12-15 minutes (you'll have used about half the stock at this point). Add the tomatoes, and salt and pepper to taste.
While the rice is cooking, cook the spinach in a large covered pan over low heat. Yes, this recipe requires a bit of forethought, or three hands. You can do it. Remember, "stirring constantly" doesn't necessarily mean stirring continuously.
Continue to add stock to the risotto until the rice is thick, another 10-15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, and stir in the cooked spinach and grated cheese. Serves 4-6 as a meal, 8 as a side.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

TV made me stupid, part one

Well, something made me stupid, because we missed entire rounds of questions this week. Even the stuff we got right, we were guessing. Still, so was everyone else, because we were only five points out of first going into the final question, which we once again missed. Here's the first half of our misses; I'll put up part two early next week.

1. According to First for Women magazine, eating what kind of candy can help reduce stress?
2. From what country did the guitar get its name?
3. Who gave rapper Snoop Dogg the nickname "Snoop?"
4. Denzel Washington graduated from Fordham University with a B.A. in what field of study?
5. What birds have been trained to herd sheep?
6. Where does natural vanilla flavoring come from?
7. Tiger Woods made his PGA tour debut in the Nissan Open at what age?

Friday, April 13, 2007

I must have left it in my other pants

I can't find the list of trivia questions right now, but I'll locate it and post some of it later. Why some of it? We missed even more questions than last week, so I think I need to break this one up into sets.
I also have other posts in the works. In particular, there's a story about a book, and a discussion of the career of a certain immobile and recently-retired quarterback. I'll put them up as I finish them.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

My Cuisine Regins Supreme

There was a time when I got a lot of my recipes from Iron Chef; I'd see something interesting, say to myself, "hey, I could make something like that," and off I'd go. This one sticks with me, though. One night, as my friends and I were watching, and commenting on how often we thought the dishes sounded terrible (clearly, we do not posess the palate of the Japanese upper class), and I asked, "have you ever seen one of the judges say that a dish is terrible?" We all agreed that we had not. Two minutes later, we were floored when we heard Asako Kishii say, "this is awful! Just terrible." Tonight, you get the first dish I ever saw panned on Iron Chef. My theory is that Iron Chef Kobe was hampered by having to use chocolate. This makes a great side dish to a pork roast.

Spicy Sliced Bananas with Garlic

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 small cloves garlic, sliced thin
2 crumbled Tien Tsin peppers or 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 bananas, sliced
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and pepper; cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the bananas and a pinch of salt, and stir until the bananas are browned, about 2 more minutes. stir in the sugar until it makes a paste coating the bananas. Serve warm.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Trivia Night Is Only A Two-Hour Tour

From left to right:
Mary Ann, Ginger, Gilligan, Thurston Howell III, Eunice Wentworth Howell.

Theme Nights Are The Devil

I was so excited about TV trivia. After all, I've spent 33 years in front of the television, I know this stuff. Well, I avoid a lot of reality shows, and I didn't watch ABC's TGIF lineup in the '90s, but other than that, what could go wrong?
Well, we could have two rounds of questions about that stuff. Not surprisingly, not many other teams were TV experts to the point where they could tell what kind of car Higgins drove, or which season of ER featured Mark Greene's death. We were close, but didn't know the final answer again. Here's what we missed. Wow, there are a lot of them.

1. Who was Michelle's first boyfriend on Full House?
2. What school did Cory attend on the early seasons of Boy Meets World?
3. What city was Three's Company set in?
4. On Magnum, P.I., what kind of car does Higgins drive?
5. Including Real World: Denver, how many seasons of The Real World have there been?
6. On which season of Survivor (i.e., which location) did John Dalton lie about his grandmother's death to avoid being voted off?
7. What's the name of the theme song to the Andy Griffith Show?
8. On Three's Company, what is the name of the restaurant that Jack Tripper opened?
9. On which season of ER did Dr. Greene die?
10. Which Friends cast member was never nominated for an Emmy for their work on the show?
11. On Tom & Jerry, what was Tom's original name?
12. What phrase is screamed in every episode of SpongeBob Squarepants?
And, finally:
13. On an episode of The Cosby Show, Vanessa and her friends travel to Baltimore to see a concert. Who do they go to see?

On the plus side, we won the costume contest; I'll post our team picture in a minute.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

My Name Is... Andy?

Now wait just one minute here.
The Office is moving to 8? That's fine. It'll be followed by 30 Rock, then Scrubs? Super! And then Andy Barker? Um... okay, but where's Earl?
Tomorrow night, it's on at 10:30, but here's hoping the new Thursday schedule is just a temporary move to build an audience for Barker, and not a sign of a timeslot change. That's what killed Sledge Hammer!, you know.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Homer, Ozzie, and The Straw!

My actual schedule today:
1:25 statistics class
2:30 office hours
4:00 walk dog
6:00 IM softball
8:00 postgame celebration
9:00 gf calls and wants to know if I want to come over and watch "The Bachelor."

My imagined schedule today:
1:00 Tigers - Blue Jays
4:00 Royals - Red Sox
7:00 Twins - Orioles
10:00 Angels - Rangers

Oh, and there's a basketball game on at some point, too.
Get excited people! It's Opening Day!

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Cylons Bake The Best Brownies

A while back, I was discussing desserts with a friend, and when the conversation turned to brownies, she mentioned that she used to get Andes Mint brownies at Starbucks. Emboldened by drink, I claimed that I would not be outdone by some cruddy coffee chain. Of course, the next day, it occurred to me that I had never made brownies from scratch before. After extensive (read: almost thirty minutes) research, I stitched together this recipe from several sources. You could probably leave out the mint chips, but I've never tried it, as they are the recipe's raison d'ĂȘtre. They are particularly nice as a complement to a spicy main course.

Andes Mint Brownies

2/3 cup cake flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
2 squares (2 tablespoon) unsweetened chocolate
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup Andes mint chips (about a third of a bag, or you could make them yourself; chop up 15-20 mints)

Preheat oven to 350°F.
In a double boiler or reasonable facsimile (I use a pyrex bowl, propped up by foil balls, in a pan of water), melt the chocolate and butter over barely simmering water until the mixture is smooth. Remove the mixture from the heat and set aside.
While the chocolate mixture is cooling, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
When the chocolate has cooled for about ten minutes, whisk in the sugar until combined, then add the eggs and vanilla. Fold in the dry ingredients and the mint chips.
Pour the batter into a greased 8"x8" baking dish. Bake until a toothpick inserted halfway between the edge and center of the pan comes out not quite clean, about 20-24 minutes. Set the pan on a wire rack and allow to cool completely. Makes 16 brownies.