Sunday, January 31, 2016

Spices in Order!

I have a rotating spice rack with twenty or so bottles in it, but for years I've been jamming everything else into this cabinet. As of today I have cleaned it out and put all the spices in it arranged in alphabetical order. The stuff I rarely use or I've more than one of is pushed to the back. 

Experimental Food: Bean Burrito

This is a photo of the first bean burrito I have ever made without meat. I baked a sweet potato for an hour or so, tossed in some black beans that simmered in the crock pot for about four hours after soaking overnight, and mixed the beans and potato up on a mash.

I put a little olive oil in a frying pan and tossed in a habanero once the oil was hot, and followed it with a white onion, green bell pepper, and a five cloves of garlic.

I used a green spinach wrap as a shell and it was quite good. The beans needed to be cooked more but the veggies had just the right amount of heat and flavor.


This will happen again after some tweaking.

Veally.

This is from the comic strip, "Rhymes With Orange" by Hillary Price. Incredible wit, this artist.

Drug Of Choice


The Dream Of Fears.





Fear, in dreams, is a very real thing. It doesn’t matter that the dreamer isn’t really falling, and it doesn’t matter at all that the dreamer cannot see or define whatever that pursues in the darkness. Dreaming is a state of mind that transcends reality very much like politics and religion. Rarely does a dreamer take command of the dream and simply refuse to be afraid or demand a state of wakefulness from the mind and be granted a reprieve from the night terrors.

So there I am, dreaming, and one of my female co-workers leads another female co-worker into the closet in my room back in the family home of my childhood. Well now, if we aren’t already chest deep wading into the Freudian symbolism chart we will never be. But wait, there’s more! There’s a feeling of great anxiety and great fear. The reason for this fear is he is coming and he is coming to kill the woman in the closet. She has been chosen. It is her turn to die and nothing will stop him.

There are more people from work there and we’re talking about work stuff and all the while we can hear the woman sobbing in the closet. We’re hiding her, and we always try to hide those he kills as long as possible but it never helps. There’s a male co-worker who tells me it’s time to go and he’ll stay but I once lived here. I feel an obligation to stay. We shake hands and I can see it in his eyes; he is afraid. He wants to stay but he knows we might all be killed if we stay.

A woman I have never met comes in and asks me why we don’t fight back. I tell her I pumped five shots into this creature at close range and it picked me up and tossed me like a toy. Five? She asks this suddenly, and she tells me I held up six fingers. Huh? What the hell difference does it make how many fingers I was holding up? We argue about this, incredibly, for a full minute before we hear the sound. It’s a terrible sound, full of excess violence and incredible pain. The woman in the closet moans in terror and I realize that I have put myself in a position of extreme heroism by standing with this woman against the monster or extreme cowardice by leaping out of the window. The sound comes again and this time it is very close.


I awake with a start and Tyger Linn, who is shoulder to shoulder with me, is on her feet. She’s not going out of a window unless it’s to meet the threat head on and face to face. The sound is closer, really close, and still half in the dream I wonder if I can get to the shotgun in time. Wait, wait, it’s an owl. The sound is a screen owl, harsh but harmless, in the darkness. The total darkness is a benison and I relax. Tyger curls up and I wonder how many millions of times that thousands of dreamers have been eased back into reality by the comfort of a sleeping dog next to the body of a tormented soul? Tyger’s breathing becomes deep and regular, and I can hear the Cousins nearby, and Lilith at my feet. The owl is hunting near us, very near, and I wonder what it is finding out there and if the day frightens it as the night does me betimes.

Another work dream appears but this time it is more anxiety than fear. I travel back and forth in a truck from one site to another and things are different each time I visit the two sites. There are different problems and different people and it’s confusing but at one site I meet a woman who is writing a novel. Another employee, a man, confesses that he’s writing, too, and suddenly we’re all talking about what we are writing and the whole dreams becomes less about work and more about life.

Yet none of this is real and while it is based on reality it’s not exact or defined. It’s a lot like a movie where the viewers know the scene is set in New York, it’s made to look like it’s New York, but everyone pretends they are not in a larger room watching flickering lights two thousand miles away from where the movie was shot, that it, if it wasn’t made up entirely.

I think Alzheimer’s disease must be a lot like this in its early stages. The familiar looks strange and those who suffer from it can walk or even drive for hours trying to find a basis for the reality they’re experiencing. Imagine me trying to explain the places I’ve described to you in this piece but what if I was telling you this was real, very real, and the places, even though they were cobbled together from bits of my memory, invoked very real responses from my mind?

Imagine a person who has been strong and independent for a lifetime suddenly discovering being lost and trying to get help from someone who clearly thinks this old coot is out of his mind. It’s one thing to listen to someone tell you a dream is made up of former memories but quite another when those former memories pirate the mind and hijack reality. The fear, the same fear that walks the halls of our dreams, unfounded and based on nothing more than our thoughts, this same fear well may stalk some of us in our walking hours and it is that fear that is chief among those things in this life that scare the fuck out of me.


The odd thing here is how silly fear is sometimes. Remember the dream this all started with in the dream? Remember the monster that was coming for the woman, the creature I had fired upon, five, or six times, how many fingers was I holding up anyway, do you remember? Yeah, that’s right that’s a photo of him at the top. As you laugh, and you should laugh because it is silly, really, it’s okay, but remember the next time that you see someone dazed and confused as to what it real and what is not, it was that creature that had me frightened still, past the end of my dreams.

Take Care,

Mike

The Writer's Almanac

Norman Mailer was incredibly productive, and stuck to a strict writing regimen. He said: "Over the years, I've found one rule. It is the only one I give on those occasions when I talk about writing. A simple rule. If you tell yourself you are going to be at your desk tomorrow, you are by that declaration asking your unconscious to prepare the material. You are, in effect, contracting to pick up such valuables at a given time. Count on me, you are saying to a few forces below: I will be there to write."


The Writer's Almanac

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Digger Dogs and the Discovery Of Electricity.






Bert was a digger and he dug bunkers that could have housed a battalion. I never quite understood why Bert dug like he did but when I moved from the first place we lived it took half a truck load of dirt to fill in his caverns. The dog never did anything half ass. He was intense and strong when he was a young dog and the center of the earth attracted him like nothing else.
Sam, Sam, The Happy Hound, dug trenches. His mode was to drop down into the yard about eighteen inches and then head in one direction and keep going until he got tired or the earth split into two pieces. Sam eventually would get a mole or two, and maybe even an Egyptian tomb, but he what he did looked all the world like someone was trying to bury pipe or conduit.

Lucas was never that serious of a digger, but he was a large animal so when he did dig it was impressive as hell. Tipping the scales at one hundred ten pounds, Lucas was a lot of dog. Bert and Sam never got any heavier than seventy-five apiece, and honestly, that’s a lot of dog, too, but Lucas was massive and when he did anything it was done in a big way.

When Lucas died that left me with two smaller dogs, with Lilith pushing maybe fifty pounds and Tyger ten pounds lighter. Neither of them were diggers and neither of them thought very much of the outside world. Lucas never got out, Lilith has ventured away just once, and Tyger Linn has seen the outside world before and she’ll stay put, thank you very much, there is food on this side of the fence and goddam little on the other worth fighting for. Tyger Linn doesn’t think the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. She thinks it’s a cruel and dangerous place. Tyger Linn is right.


So Tuesday I got home to discover that Greyson Charlotte and Marco Ladakh had dug their way to freedom and they were waiting for me when I got home. Worse, Thursday they did it again and this time Lilith came out with them. I figure there was someone or something that attracted their attention and they decided to dig under the fence.


The real problem is that I’ve never had a digger before, in the sense that my security system is not set up for diggers. I have two hotwires, one that runs along the top of the fence and another about belly high to a seventy-five pound dog. The Cousins merely dig below the height of the lower wire and they don’t get buzzed by it. It’s a low level type charger to begin with which is meant to startle the dogs not actually burn them.  The Cousins have always shown a great deal of fear for the hot wire. It is time to reintroduce them to this fear at another level, about a foot lower, actually, and a foot away from the fence.

I went to Lowe’s and bought ten plastic fence posts and attached an insulator each one that I used. It turns out I only needed seven of them, but I did have to do some landscaping to get rid of some of the vegetation that is lower to the ground. This is going to be a maintenance problem but hopefully getting bit a few times will make them think the wire is hot even when it isn’t, or better yet, the one true owner of the dog, my older sister, will find a perfect house with a perfect backyard, and I can start helping dig proof their permanent home.  But right now I have Cousin Canines who are Digger Dogs.

The trick is to get it far enough off the ground so the wire won’t get ground every time a twig falls on it, yet high enough off the ground the Cousins can’t dig without touching it. It also has to be far enough away from the fence so it’s impossible to dig without touching yet not so close they’ll be able to dig under the hot wire and the fence.


A friend of mine has had Digger, Jumpers, Climbers, Leapers, Bulldozer Dogs, which are those dogs that through sheer brute force blast their way through obstacles, and at least one capable of teleportation. In the last twenty years or so we’ve slowly but surely transformed her backyard into something that Alcatraz can look at and say, “Naw man, come on, that’s too much” but one of her dogs bit through a sheet of roofing tin during a thunderstorm.

There’s a lot of debate as to how much wild is left in dogs from their days of digging burrows to live in and hunting wild animals and that debate is going to keep going on long after I’m gone. But when I saw those teeth marks all the way through that piece of metal I realized that if a sixty pound Lab mix can do that then a dog a quarter larger than that is going to be packing some very serious heat. Yeah, yeah, it depends on the breed but don’t make the mistake of thinking a big black goofy lab mix tipping over one hundred ten pounds can’t tear your fucking face off.

Don’t ever forget that.

That’s one reason this has to work; I can’t let the better part of three hundred pounds of dog just run free and hope good things will happen because Tyger Linn is right about what lies on the other side of that fence. It’s a cold and cruel world where a dog totally within its right to defend its owner against Cousin Canines trespassing might trigger a very bad incident where no one will leave the room happy.

So now I’m back in the fencing business and I think this will work. Plan B is to add another strand of wire, which I already have, and maybe a hotter charger.


I am open to suggestion.

Take Care,

Mike

For Lunch Next Week

Turmeric Cauliflower Pilaf Vegetable Bowl [Vegan]




I've never made this before but I've got the stuff to do it with.

I'll let you know how it turns out!

Dreams That Go Bump in the Night.




It has been a long and stressful week and the weekend will be filled with trying to figure out a way to keep the Cousins fenced in and house cleaning. First things first as the Cousins have dug out of the yard twice this week and seem to be getting better at it. It’s been cold and that makes me bitchy and not wanting to be outside. Yet I cannot bring the fence in so outside I must go as soon as it is light.

There was a while back I had a dream in which Taylor Swift and I had sex. The dream was very realistic in that because Taylor and I are strangers, and were strangers in the dream, the encounter was more than a little awkward and I’m not sure she enjoyed it as much as I would have liked to have said she did. That’s the whole issue here; my subconscious could have conjured up a very long dream where Taylor Swift and I had such great sex she never wrote another goodbye song or another torch song as long as she lived, but no, BUT NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO I get a dream with Taylor Swift where if she wrote a song about it the song would be longer than the dream and she would likely mention me by name in it.

Stupid subconscious. 

Last night I dreamed there was a vehicle coming down the driveway and when I woke up moonlight reflecting into the room make me think someone was out there so I got up, tripped over a dog, woke the whole house up to discover the moon was outside. Coyotes thought this was high comedy, clearly, for fifteen minutes later they sang to me the song of their people. This reawakened Tyger Linn’s need to go out once again and so in the space of about twenty minutes we had morning rush hour on the bed as canines wanted out, twice.

Did I mention it is cold outside?


So once I went back to sleep, my subconscious, in its desire to make peace with me, could have, and I am assuming the creation of dreams to be rather effortless, very easily fixed me up with Jessica Chastain in an intimate setting where it’s warm and clothing has already left the building and we know each other well, yes, that would be perfectly fine with me, yes. Or even a nice walk on a beach with someone who has something interesting to say, yeah man, even that. But no. BUT NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

I dream I’m walking on a bridge and I break out into a trot to leap over this concrete barrier. On the other side of the barrier is a platform but in mid-leap I discover the platform is gone now and I have just jumped off the side of the bridge. This is the part of the bridge that is over concrete, not water, and I have a few seconds to think about hitting the concrete before impact. It’s a good fifty feet or so and the plan is to land on my feet but to try to break the fall with my legs and hope I can minimize the damage as much as possible.

When I hit I instantly slam face first into the concrete. The impact is incredible. When I landed my legs simply folded up and my head bounced face first. It feels like I’ve been hit by a truck bumper on my skull. I can see out of my right eye and I spit teeth and bones out of my mouth and blood, lots of blood. I can move my right arm but there’s bone sticking out of my left arm. I can feel my ribs and they feel pulverized. There’s growing pressure inside of my skull and I realize that I’m not dead yet but I am dying. I choke on the blood and try to move but there isn’t enough left upstairs to get the signals to the right places. I’m pretty much screwed and I know it. I hear the sound of footsteps and some guy I have never seen before runs up to me and stops short and stares. He has no idea what to do or what to say or anything but he manages to say, “They’re on their way. It’s going to be… all right.” But he doesn’t come any closer. I cough and enough blood to fill a coffee cup pours out of my mouth along with what was once decent dental work. I cough again and the pressure in my skull begins to shut things down. Things are getting darker and darker and I feel cold. I hear a siren in the distance but it sounds like it’s light years away and the darkness closes up on me and I forget to tell the guy something before the lights go out.

I’ve had this dream before.


Stupid subconscious.



Take Care,
Mike



Neil DeGrasse Tyson Slam Rapper, Drops Mic, Walks Off.

The Writer's Almanac

It's the birthday of the 32nd president of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, born in Hyde Park, New York (1882). He said: "Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough."
He also said, "I think we consider too much the good luck of the early bird and not enough the bad luck of the early worm."
And he said, "Remember you are just an extra in everyone else's play."


Friday, January 29, 2016

Post FB Post




I’ve been away from FB for over a week now and I’m amazed at how much time I have that I didn’t before. I few seconds here, a minute or two there, a half a day here… you get the picture, don’t you? I also seem to be a little more focused at work. I’m not checking my phone nearly as much as I did just a week ago. Not only am I writing more I am also writing for longer stretches of time. I once did that. I once could sit down and write for hours on end and it feels good to get in a couple of hours of writing and not have to worry about someone tagging me with a story about a dog who rescued some kid who can’t keep his ass out of wells.

This has, effectively, cut me off from the people in Dog Rescue and I’m not sure how to get that back without FB. More on that later.


While I’m here in the Land of No Book of Faces, I wonder what’s happening on the other side. (Hello from the Other Siiiiiiiiiiiide) I had close to 300 friends when I left and it’s going to be interesting to see how many people are gone when I get back. There’s a core group of people, who know me in real life, who have known me online since I got here, and a few that wouldn’t cut Charles Manson off their friends list, who will still be around when I get back, but there will be a lot fewer, I suspect. FB is like that. It’s a society that demands some signs of life or it’s considered rude or you might be dead.

The one thing I truly miss is the Hive Mind. If you had a problem, no matter how large or how small, you could throw a question out there and get some honest answers as to how to solve them. From how to unstop a drain to how to beat the next level in some game to how to summon a Demon, there was nothing you couldn’t get an answer to from the Hive Mind. My friends, I suspect, were above average at this because that’s the kind of people I connected with. (Yeah, I do believe that’s true, dammit)

I really miss watching people’s kids grow up on FB. Children I have known since they were little kids are now becoming young adults and it’s a little scary to think of some of the kids I have seen in incredibly funny photos are now going to be driving cars and having sex. It’s hard as hell to picture the kids I know now, at the age when I was doing things with girls even younger than I, doing those same things, but I know they are going to do those things. It’s an odd thing that at sixteen and seventeen years old I felt as if I knew enough about my body, and her body, to take chances that in the heat of the moment seemed worth it. There are eleventy billion new diseases out there that weren’t there when I was that age but I’m pretty certain I wouldn’t have let that slow me down a damn bit.

Still, most of the kids I know are great people who are going to make their own mistakes and make their own way in this world. They’ll turn out fine despite my fears and the things I did at that age that they’re doing too. I can only tell them to stay away from redheads because that’s trouble in your life you do not need.


I also miss the photos and adventures of dogs that my friends keep company with. I worry that some of the older ones might pass while I am away and that would be a terrible thing. Losing Popeye and Ranger so close together is a tragedy but both were given the best life and the best love they could have ever known before they went. I never met either dog, never met the people who loved them both, and I might not ever. But I do know there are people on this earth who truly raise the bar in the care and love of dogs and for no other reason, for this I will eventually return to the Book of Faces.

But something tells me not yet. Something within tells me that right now I need to be away from that place and I need to develop my short story that I have been working on and teach Greyson Charlotte to sit and wait for treats. I need to spend this weekend cleaning my house and I need to spend some time looking for a new laptop because this one is dying very quickly. The last thing I need is to buy a computer out of desperation and if this one goes black I won’t have anything to write on and that is going to freak me out.

There is this temptation to set a time on the return but I do not think I will. It’s a feeling thing. It’s a comfort thing. There isn’t an explanation I could give that would make sense to you if I gave you one that was true. There is a lot of noise out there right now and I need some quietness. There’s a lot of shouting and yelling and politics and I do not need any of that.

So here we are again. I’m still gone from there and I am still here. This has been an interesting little experiment and I think it will go on for a little while longer. The urge to walk away totally hasn’t arrived. The idea that life without FB will be better hasn’t formed. I do wonder what would happen if I became one of the twenty-three people on this planet not connected via FB, but I do so miss the dogs.

Take Care,
Mike



Tuesday, January 26, 2016

I, Vegan.

Three bean Vegan Chili with Jicama over Brown Rice


Okay, it’s time for me to come out of the pantry; I am Vegan. This is likely a surprise to anyone who has known me for a while but not likely a surprise to anyone who has known me well. I like animals. I am discouraged by the way human beings treat animals. And it’s a little hypocritical of me to tell people to love dogs and cats and horses and snakes but to eat cows and chickens and pigs and fish. So I’m quitting the carnivore thing.


Now, I know there has been enough collective eye rolling out there to whack the earth out of its rotation but I want to make sure everyone understand something:  I’m doing Vegan different. I’ve met those Vegans that you hate. I promise not to be one of them. I’m not treating this like a religion or a cult or anything like that. I consider myself a man on a journey and the first part of that journey is not eating meat. My belt, the one I’ve owned for about ten years now, is leather. I’m not throwing it away.

Before we go any further let me toss a few idea out at you and see how they feel to you. The first is the unchecked population growth of human beings on this planet. If we are to continue to be carnivorous that means there has to be more and more animals killed to support our appetite and that means more and more farmland to feed those animals we’ll kill and that means less and less rainforest, swamps, and other green areas. The next thing is to look at what we’re putting into animals to make them turn into food. Antibiotics, growth hormones, and a host of other drugs that not only get passed on to us, but to our children too. Have you noticed how early girls are turning into young women these days? Do you really want to know what’s in milk?

The conditions that animals are kept in before we kill them so we can eat them are deplorable. If  your meat was slaughtered in a room night next to where you were eating you wouldn’t be able to finish your meal. At some point in time we have to start wondering about our cultural ethics if we can ignore what happens before a hotdog hits the grill.

You really do not want to know what’s in a hotdog, or how it came to be, do you?

So this leaves me no other choice but to opt out of being a carnivore. Yes, I can see coming the arguments that there are other things I do that are bad for the earth as a whole, and bad for me as an individual, but everyone, each one of us, has to start somewhere, I would hope, and this is where I begin.

No, I have no idea where this will lead or if I can pull it off. But I’ve gotten off to a very good start and right now there’s some Vegan recipes and are truly tasty. I’ve managed to eat tofu only twice in three months, so don’t start with that, please.

I’ll start posting Vegan recipes and propaganda, I mean information, soon.

Take Care,

Mike

Monday, January 25, 2016

Winter is Here.



There’s an interesting situation building here at Hickory Head and I’m not sure what to make of it. Tyger Linn wants to charge out into the woods with the Cousins behind her, the squirrels fleeing in terror before her, and eventually Lilith will make it out into the yard, in her own time, because that’s how Lilith has decided to do things. What’s interesting about this is that the high temperature for Saturday was about 40 and the wind was blowing eleventy-billion miles an hour and the sun didn’t once check in on us.

Tyger Linn was cold.


So she charges out of the house heads for the woods with the Cousins in tow, but it was cold. So Tyger races back to the house to get back inside, leaving the woods to the Cousins, something she is loath to do, and the Cousins, who are Ladb-ish and thick furred, don’t mind the cold. But they do miss Tyger Linn, their leader, so they return. They find Tyger camped out by the door and when I open it Tyger Linn, who has now warmed up a bit, charges out again, and the Cousins follow.

Lilith gets up on the sofa and curls up beside me because it is cold and I am warm.


Tyger Linn, gets cold and comes back, but this time she barks to be let in and the Cousins, assuming the Manson Family have invaded the house, charge back towards the house barking like canine inflicted demons and this awakens the protective spirit in Lilith so she leaps off the sofa and barks back.

This has to end somewhere so I herd everyone in and hand out treats. Lilith gets hers first because she eats slowly, savoring her treat, but this makes her ripe for pillaging by her sister and the Cousins. Lilith takes her treat into the bedroom and I wait until I hear crunching noises before I give Tyger Linn one. Tyger heads to the bedroom and Greyson Charlotte, who has just recently learned to wait for a treat instead of lunging at the naked ape who has armed himself with a squirt bottle for lunging dogs. Greyson is also learning how to sit as well as how to wait. Marco Ladakh, who is a former lunge champion, has learned to sit and to wait. He wiggles around a lot but he manages to control himself. So everyone gets a treat, everyone is inside, everyone finds a spot that is warm and cozy, but there is that squirrel outside and Tyger Linn knows it.

The wind makes a hollow howling sound has it tries to creep in through the chimney. I’m in a sleeping bag on the sofa writing a story about a young woman who decides to be a serial killer because people are boring as hell. This is my second female serial killer story and it’s very different to write about women who kill rather than men who kill. Tyger Linn sits up with her ears cocked, there might be a squirrel, and I tell her to lie down and she does. You know she’s going to want back out, don’t you? Most of the men who were and are serial killers rely on some sort of brute force to capture women or to keep them from getting away. Most of them have preyed on prostitutes. Bundy was a notable exception because he preyed on women who were going to be missed, and missed quickly, by their families.

My first female serial killer used sex and alcohol as a ways and means to incapacitate men. She also used her ability to seduce to make men kill for her. Starkly beautiful yet psychopathic, the first one, Christa, quickly drew the attention of the law because the men she kill were all men of wealth and power. The second female killer, Natalie, goes after the disaffected, the loners, and those who will not be missed quickly. She also evolves into making the murders seem to be accidental in nature rather than homicides. There’s a cop who knows she is killing but cannot prove it. When Natalie becomes a cop herself he realizes that she’s going to use the uniform to stalk and kill but can he stop her?


Tyger leaps off the back of the sofa and lands nearly at the threshold of the backdoor. The Cousins are on their collective feet but Lilith looks at them as if they are all crazy as hell. It’s still light out, late in the day on a Sunday, but it’s still rather cold. Tyger zooms out of the backdoor the Cousin kinda ooze their way out, and the squirrels head for the safety of the branches higher than Tyger can climb or leap.

Natalie pushes her boyfriend and a gym rat off the top of a waterfall and kills two boring people off with one shove. I written a basic outline of this scene but I have to flesh out her emotional response to feeling the weight of a human body becoming weightless as it begins to fall. She pushed her boyfriend first and Natalie relies on shock and fear to paralyze the other man, and it does. Her boyfriend may or may not have realized that he was pushed intentionally, but this guy does know. He makes eye contact with the woman who kills him and she sees the look of realization in his eyes as he falls.

This is what she feeds on.


Tyger returns because it is still too damn cold out there for her to hunt. The Cousins are still in the woods. Lilith gets up and walks to the door and now she wants out, which means Tyger goes out again, and the Cousins race to the house to see what’s going on. They all want in, then out again as Tyger Linn warms, and the day will be spent getting up to let dogs in, getting up to let dogs out, and trying to figure out how someone else can be killed by accident, by a woman who hunts boring people.

Take Care,

Mike

Saturday, January 23, 2016

My First Attempt at Hummus

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/hummus-recipe.html


I spiked it with Habanero,

Tis made entirely of the tasty,

4 garlic cloves
2 cups canned chickpeas, drained, liquid reserved
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/3 cup tahini (sesame paste)
6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
2 tablespoons water or liquid from the chickpeas
8 dashes hot sauce

Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/hummus-recipe.html?oc=linkback



Language

Comparative phylogenetic analyses uncover the ancient roots of Indo-European folktales


"Ancient population expansions and dispersals often leave enduring signatures in the cultural traditions of their descendants, as well as in their genes and languages. The international folktale record has long been regarded as a rich context in which to explore these legacies. To date, investigations in this area have been complicated by a lack of historical data and the impact of more recent waves of diffusion. In this study, we introduce new methods for tackling these problems by applying comparative phylogenetic methods and autologistic modelling to analyse the relationships between folktales, population histories and geographical distances in Indo-European-speaking societies. We find strong correlations between the distributions of a number of folktales and phylogenetic, but not spatial, associations among populations that are consistent with vertical processes of cultural inheritance. Moreover, we show that these oral traditions probably originated long before the emergence of the literary record, and find evidence that one tale (‘The Smith and the Devil’) can be traced back to the Bronze Age. On a broader level, the kinds of stories told in ancestral societies can provide important insights into their culture, furnishing new perspectives on linguistic, genetic and archaeological reconstructions of human prehistory."


I, for one, am enthralled. 

Take Care,
Mike

Friday, January 22, 2016

Jicama and Tahini



The thing is a plant but after that, I cannot guarantee anything that might pass for an attribute. I scroll through the odds things I’ve discovered in my life that are vegetables and this doesn’t get near any of them at all. Asking someone who works here is paramount to begging to be insulted or driven deeper into ignorance, but I already do not know what it is so to be misinformed is only one step to the side not back.
“Excuse me,” I say to a young woman who is trying to avoid eye contact with a customer, “but could you tell me what this might be?”
This is a woman less than half my age who thinks people my age in general, and men my age in particular, are already reeling slowly towards the grave. She looks at the, uh, thing, squints at it as if that might bring clarity, and she looks around for some sort of tag on the bin.
“Jicama” she says if she’s just seen the word for the first time and to her credit she pronounces the J in the word as an H. We’re getting there.
“What is it?” I ask and there her knowledge ends abruptly. Not only does she not know what it is she thinks it looks “nasty”. We Google it on my phone and she doesn’t know what a water chestnut is, as Google makes reference to that. But I have her attention now. She’s at least curious and therefore still alive.
“Have you a knife on you?” I ask and at this she takes a step back and declares, “I know you ain’t gonna put that thang in your mouf and you not know what it is!” She’s just opened up a salvo of vernacular on me and I know at this point she’s actually talking to me as a person and not a customer. She also realizes that I might be bluffing. “You say you’ll eat that thang if I bring you a knife?” and she’s cocks an eyebrow at me.
“Definitely,” I reply and it is, after eye contact and a near dare, most certainly, on.

No matter what culture or age, there’s a look all women have, that they give to men, which means there is a recognition of insanity or a lack of sense, and no matter what woman gives a man this look, all men know it for what it is. But as a man, you have to go forward, just because of that look. You have no choice. She used that look. Now you have to pick that rattlesnake up with your bare hands even though you wouldn’t have if she hadn’t. She goes to get a knife and I stand there with my jicama.

There are things to consider here, really. One, Google doesn’t mention it being fiery hot or something that is a required taste. I’m betting that whatever it is, I can handle the heat of it unless it’s pushing past habaneros and there aren’t too many things out there packing I haven’t heard about yet. Another thing is that deep down inside I’m unable to do something once a woman, any woman, had practically dared me to do it. Think about what’s compelling me at this point; Google says it’s safe and a woman has dared me.

She returned with a knife and even at her tender age she’s spent some time in a kitchen because the Jicama is quickly sliced. She makes a face as I pop a piece in my mouth and start chewing. I cough, gasp, and start making noises like an alien is about to pop out of my chest and her eyes get the size of dinner plates.
“Just kidding,” I tell her. “it’s actually a little on the sweet side, but it tastes somewhat like a water chestnut.”
“Mofo” she replies and she smiles because I caught her flatfooted on that one and she knows it. That’s a look all women have, too. That look where a man has done something that surprises her and no matter how mad she might be, she is secretly pleased he did it.
I ask her where they keep the tahini and her eyes go blank on me. It’s time to renew the search.

Tahini is something that I’ve known about since an old flame and I made our own hummus. But if you are already gracing the edge of discovery and new stuff with the help of a store where discovery isn’t on the minds of the work drones then it is better to split the tasks up among the unsuspecting.

Before we go on here are you okay? Shopping traumatizes me. It jolts me out of my comfort zone like being naked in public affects some people and I never know just  how bad these vivid descriptions of consumerism hits those who read them. I will assume you’re still alive and still with me.

Tahiti was one of the few islands in the pacific to be overlooked in World War Two but Hemmingway made it famous by writing about it. This has nothing to do with tahini, mind you, but when a worker drone is asked about tahini the first thing they say, as if there was an email sent out demanding it, they looked up and say, “Tahiti? “And I said, “Texas”

I find a manager who not only knows what tahini is and what its function is but he also knows, generally, where it might, possibly be. But his knowledge isn’t exact. It’s down to one of three aisles, an acre or so, and I realize this is all business between the two of us and the gender thing that existed between the woman and myself with the Jicama doesn’t come into play here. I don’t interact with guys the same way as I do with women and just as this thought occurs to me as we find, I find, tahini.

The woman in the first frame, half my age and providentially outside my hunting limits, were I hunting, still managed to banter with me in a way that men, no men, ever do. With obscure vegetables I manage to converse with strange females in ways that sesame seed butter doesn’t seem to ease the way with strange males. Is this a function of sexuality or culture?

I find myself curiously heterosexual when it comes to food.

Take Care,

Mike

Bubbles Wears a Coat But Not a Hat Made of Fruit.




One of the things that surprised me when I quit smoking was the amount of time I had freed up to do other things. Very rarely does a human being do nothing at all and there are a lot of little ways we find to fill the tiny spaces of time doing something and doing something else. The problem with doing something that doesn’t take much time but is fairly fun is that it begins to creep into the territory of those things that are important, yet uninspiring, that take most of our lives to do, like work and sleep and interacting with human beings who are in some way important yet uninspiring and likely downright dull.

While smoking was once socially acceptable and everyone stood around and smoked, society drifted away from smoking and now smokers are the pariahs of the workplace who have to go stand outside under a tree or sit in their cars to smoke. There are some workplaces that have banned smoking from their property altogether so you’ll see a guy puffing away on a cigarette during lunch while standing outside the gate. That’s dedication to a habit or it’s stupidity.

As a Hermit and a person with a stronger than average Introvert Quotient I get worn out and worn down by dealing with real people in real time. It really doesn’t matter if I like these people or hate the people, it’s the fact that people drain my emotional energy and after about twelve hours I begin to seriously fade away. FB was my way of being able to interact with real people, more or less, in real time, but when I needed a break I could turn the computer off, or close FB and they were gone. They were always there, mind you, anytime I opened things back up, and like a cigarette break, all I had to do was swipe my phone and there they were again, invisible friends with icons and dog photos.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’ve met some really great local people through FB and there is no greater tool for rescue than FB. Two of the four dogs vying for my attention came from rescue groups on FB trying to save lives and they did. We did. But just like smoking to break up the day into more edible pieces, a habit soon control the smoker rather than the smoker controlling the habit.

The Distance/Attraction Inverse Relationship

One thing I’ve noticed about FB is that most people get attracted to other people who are at least one thousand miles apart. This is akin to think that a new computer is really cool because it cost two thousand bucks and there’s no way in hell you can afford that, but you’d really like to see more of it. People treat these long distance relationships as viable even though they realize there can be only one of three eventual outcomes; one person moves, the other person moves, or they both move. Only in the latter choice is there a sense of equity for the former two require sacrifice of one or the other for the sake of one or the other but not both. It’s difficult, at best, for someone to acclimate to a new culture but in love rarely is anything easy or impossible.  Yet I’m fairly certain there are more ships on the rocks of long distance dating than there are those sailing into the sunset of happiness.


At the same time, there is something to be said about the sheer persistence of love. There something to said about its ability to turn time into longevity despite life. It’s rare, but not extinct, true love, and if it can be found anywhere it can be found everywhere, and if two people can find happiness together everything else, even distance, is just background noise. That’s wildly optimistic of me, I do realize that, but is there anything else to be optimistic about if not love? No matter what else we discover outside our own world if love cannot be found here we might as well just stop and wait for the end, ever it may bring. We, as a species, have to hope that love can be found and can be found by anyone and everyone, anywhere, or we can just stop hoping for anything else.


FB, is more or less an open field where people meet and share things that are important to each individual in some way. Sometimes the noise is greater than the sound and that’s to be expected. Yet dogs get rescued, cats find homes, and people with great hearts discover they can make a difference in a medium not designed for altruism. Even Hermits can find love there, it seems, and in that, perhaps, hope resides if nowhere else.

Yet there is always that draw, that undefinable need to speak in great silence and that is not altogether a good thing. To smoke one cigarette is nothing at all, except what it means at the moment to one person. A habit is rarely what it appears to be at all and time, always time, is something to be balanced at the end of whatever demands it and whatever needs it and whoever wants it. FB is a very slippery slope that leads to a rabbit hole that might devour an entire Saturday afternoon if there isn’t some sort of braking mechanism in place.


So these are the words of the Hermit in the woods who lives with dogs and largely without people these days. FB has been shut down and disconnected for three days now, and it’s odd how many times I find myself about to check to see if I have any notices. Notices? Has someone tagged me or mentioned me or posted something to my wall? The language itself is esoteric. A billion people trade electronic pulses and the world changes.

I’m still not ready to return. Have you noticed that I am writing more?

Take Care,

Mike

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Leaving Facebook: Nixon and Me Go Hunting.



By getting away from FB I’ve taken a step away from Dog Rescue that I really do not want to take, but at the same time, the reality is there are four dogs living with me right now. I’ve got more pounds of dog than I have had in quite some time. There are other things I can do to help rescue but work is devouring more of my time every day. Between work, writing, and having a girlfriend, both FB and Dog Rescue are losing out. As much as I would love to spend my Saturdays at adoption events my girlfriend would like to see me more often than I see my coworkers. At least twice a week.

FB is an insidious time suck because whatever you go there to find you will find it and you will find a lot more as well. There’s a FB App called “FB Purity” and with it I can filter out key words which eliminate a lot of posts by other people. Keywords like, “Trump” and “Clinton” and “Election” and “Liberals”. I grew up reading about Richard Nixon, who was quite possibly the most evil individual ever to hold the office of president. Moreover, he was flanked by some people who were as scary as any Hitler hired and there are still countries with war crimes warrants issued for some of his cabinet members.

Don’t get me wrong here; I’m a big fan of Nixon’s in the same sense that I appreciate the history created by smallpox. I just think electing the man to any office where nuclear weapons were at his fingertips was a colossal mistake in judgement and a pretty good indictment against Democracy as a whole.

America hasn’t done much better since Nixon and that’s fairly frightening. Both Bushes were truly corrupt pols who got us back into the idea that war is a great idea when history shows us that war is a form of insanity that keep getting worse until we get out. Some people want to point at World War Two as the last time we fought a war with a successful conclusion but sixty million people died, and Japan got nuked in the deal. Now, that’s what we’re led to believe is a good war.

Take a moment with that one. I have time.


FB is in a very accurate sense, Democracy in its purest form where everyone has a voice and the most loudly heard voice is the collective. The trouble is that there has become a very large demographic of lower level informed speakers who knee jerk to whatever lands in the trough. This is a truly magnificent tool when taking down animal abusers. Keisha Curtis discovered that social media can make a person an overnight sensation. She also discovered that life on the run isn’t nearly as fun as it might look.
Walter Palmer discovered that there is no safe haven from the people of FB. In a matter of days I had his Florida address, his cell phone number, where all of his employees lived and their names and their phone numbers, and where he was making calls from. Some of this information, I’m certain, wasn’t legal. But if a million people are sending out the same signal who do you arrest?


There’s a certain danger in this sort of mob mentality. It’s the same sort of thing that elects Bushes and a Nixon to the position that has a button that really doesn’t need to be pushed. Even when I’m sure I’m on the right side of things and the person we’re hunting needs to be held accountable I still have this odd fear that I’m opening a dam that will be damn hard to close again. Both Curtis and Palmer deserved what they got and more, too, and I don’t regret being a part of the mob. Sooner or later, and much sooner than later, mistakes will be made with this power, or there will be collateral damage, and who has your soul by the toes then?


Is it ethical to obtain the personal information of a dental hygienist who just happened to be hired by a monster? Is it ethical to possess than information just because someone sent it? Is it legal? It is moral? Is it something that I can deny having culpability when I encouraged action against her employer? Bring me his head on a platter and suddenly I find a twenty year old’s life being breached because I helped start something I can no longer control or predict.

Is this ethical behavior? Even if it brings down a monster and it helps raise awareness, is a twenty year old woman worth the trade if someone hurts her or if she feels hunted or if we make her afraid to go to work?

Suddenly, excuses are made and explanations are given. Photoshopped or stolen nude photos are an idiot away at that point and it is far too late.


With that same power a photo of a lost dog gets passed around and in an hour some terrified terrier is reunited with his mom and there’s a sense that we’re really good people and we do good things, and it’s true. It’s very true. We save lives. We help people find their dogs, even if they’ve never had one, and there’s a sense of compassion being raised. At times, we’re more Gandhi than Nixon and I’ll take comfort in being a part of that. I’ve met some truly great people whose hearts know no limits.

Right now, I have to take a few steps back and look at this thing I’ve been a part of for a few years. Do I want to continue? Can I considering what happens and what can happen? Do I have the time? Does this make me a better person? Does it make the world a better place?

I’m taking a break from it all. Likely, I’ll be back.

Just not yet.

Take Care,

Mike

Off FaceBook: Day One.

Yep, I am off FB. I may be back but right now, I need a break,

Take Care,
Mike

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Our Fathers' Cigarettes




The photograph is of a young man, shirtless, with two other young men beside him, all are smiling in the yellowed photograph, and even the description of a photograph as “yellowed” says very much about everything. He was in The War, and he came home to work in a sawmill in Pensacola, and in the background is blurry machinery and a mule. There is a cigarette dangling from the mouths of the three young men, each one hanging to the right side of the mouth, and all three young men are dead now, very dead, and so are their children for the most part.

But the yellowed photograph’s memory was invoked by a new photograph. This is one sharp and clear, but it was taken at a funeral for the grandson of someone who had fought in The War. The dead man was a smoker, too, and the cigarettes he burned set inside of his lungs a fire that consumed him. We were kids when we started smoking our fathers’ cigarettes, but back then it was cool to smoke and we would live forever, and not die like the old people our grandparents were and the old people our parents were becoming.

The photograph shows her mother, my mind tells me, and it’s a few seconds before I realize that she has become her mother, that she looks a lot more like her mother than she even looked like anyone else, even herself, and there is a moment of lucidity and of horror. There’s no escaping that thought and that moment of clarity, and there’s no escaping that we are who they were and we will become one with all of these people in a very short time which was not supposed to come forever.

We defined who we were at one point in time by how we were guided or controlled by our parents or grandparents and even in grade school grandparents died or even sooner than that. Parents did not die even though they were not quite alive in the sense we thought people could be. We would be, could be, should be, were going to be, alive all the time and forever, never giving in and never surrendering to time, and there would be no yellow photographs, certainly none with mules, that would be looked at one day with no one knowing who the other two guys were or what that was behind them in the background.


How did her mother get into the photograph? There’s a passage of time even when we are cognizant of it, even when we deny it, even when, especially when we are not paying attention to it and suddenly, like the people killed in the war, the causality figures begin to mount. Car accident, car accident, car accident, suicide, suicide by car accident, and so it goes with our friends and we pay homage by drinking and driving fast because that was how they would want it, and suddenly it’s heart attack, heart attack, suicide by heart attack and we keep smoking and keep eating the wrong food because that was how they did it. How did we ever get so old that we would know someone who died of a stroke? How did we get so old that we watched everyone die quickly or die slowly, but everyone seems to be dying the older we get.


Then there’s the realization that of the people who were once friends and maybe even family, that no one gets out alive. The young feed voraciously upon life and life feeds even faster on the old. Those charging the machine guns are mowed down in The War but in life there are no safe positions, no rear areas, no Green Zones, and even the slowest and the fastest, the more careful and careless, the drinkers and the sober, are killed.

I look at the photo of her mother staring back at me through her eyes and it’s a form of possession. There was the beach trip we remember when we met at the funeral and no one mentioned of the seven people there that night three are dead, one is insane, and the rest are tired of living. It’s all we have, really, left of that trip, a sense that we were once very much alive and could take a lot of punishment as if it did not exist and if the future would never come, and in the end, that memory gets edited every time we speak of it. It’s a much larger than life movie we’ve accidently created through decades of speaking about it and thinking about it, and suddenly, one day there will be only one of us left who was there and it will be as if the last native of an invaded land is telling the story of the ancestors.


I’ve never gone to a High School reunion and I never will. But I have to wonder at what point there are more dead left than there are alive? What year will bring us to the point the majority of the people we spent four years of high school with are not voting due to death? Just to wonder these things is death. Just to sit and contemplate these things is death. To sit and idle and wonder how soon, how soon, how, is death. To look at the yellowed photograph and to realize that everyone there, even the mule, is long gone, very long gone, is death.

Delay it, if you can, for that is all you can do, but you should. You should hang on, biting, clawing, running, climbing, exploring, creating, but don’t’ sit there and watch it coming while wondering what happened to the mule. There is another beach trip left with the living so do not go back to relive in photos one with the dead. There is another sunrise tomorrow but if you hurry, there is another one this very day.

The mule is dead. It doesn’t matter how or why or when, no more than it matters about any death.

Live.


Take Care,

Mike

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

And into the Cold, and into the Dark

Last night, or rather early this morning, the Cousin Canines decided everyone should be awakened. Usually, if one gets up the other follows, but they’ll settle back down after a couple of minutes or so. Not last night. Last night was special. Last night they circled the bed from one side to the other making wild hippo noises and looking for appendages to lick. Lilith Magnolia bailed and went to sleep on the sofa, which I really wish she wouldn’t do. Tyger Linn decided that I needed to be defended against the Cousin Canines and sat on my head. Okay, let’s get up and put some dogs out.

Until last night, or rather early this morning, there had been no cold weather to be had. At three I think the temperature was somewhere between negative shrinkage and Smurf bits for those of us trying to urinate outside. Why must men urinate outside? It’s the only place on this earth we can pee and not have to worry about leaving the seat up.

There. Now you know.

Tyger Linn has rocketed into the very darkest part of the back acre and the Cousin Canine are most certainly out there with her. An owl or a pair of them have taken up back there and I hear them at night. Tonight they’ve fallen silent with the invasion of the Cousins and Tyger Linn. It’s far too damn cold to be nude and barefoot outside but I love the way late at night sounds deep in the woods. Something is out there. Tyger Linn is out there looking for whatever it is and I hope like hell it isn’t looking for Tyger Linn, but at the end of the day, and that was hours ago, Tyger Linn likes the deep darkness better than anything else. Lilith Magnolia pokes me in the butt with her nose. This is a reminder that she is a Pibble Princess, and as such, shall not be kept outside in the cold longer than it takes for her to relieve her bladder.

We go back inside and the Cousins come lumbering back a minute later, but no Tyger Linn. I go out on the deck and listen, because seeing Tyger Linn in the woods is difficult under the very best conditions and this isn’t them. Bert did this. Bert would go out into the woods late at night and I think more than anything else it’s to show the night creatures there’s someone else out there. Neither Marco Ladakh or Greyson Charlotte have that thing going and Lilith rather just sit it all out, inside, preferable on a cushioned surface. Bert went into the rain and the wind and the darkness was his favorite place to be. Somewhere out there is a striped little girl following in his paw prints. It’s below freezing but I have to stay and listen for her. Can she smell my scent from where she is? I think so and that means she knows I’m looking for her. It won’t matter. Tyger Linn has something to say to the night and it will damn well listen to her. The coyotes will know she has been around at this hour and they’ll know I have too. They’ll nod and ease a little further away from where they know we tread.

The male body will migrate away from cold weather. I can feel my skin tighten in the cold wind and I have to retreat. My teeth are chattering and the same house I had to sleep under two blankets now feels very, very, warm. I get back into bed and wait. The Cousins bed down and Lilith comes to be petted. Tyger Linn is still out there.


I find all sorts or tracks in the sand around the house but very rarely inside the fenceline. You’ve got to be determined or stupid to cross hot wires to get inside of a Dog Habitat, but it’s been done before. I do not think the Coyotes will do it simply because there are not only a lot of dogs here but large ones. I think Tyger Linn, smallest of my pack, scares them a lot more than anything else with me. Large is scary as hell in the canine world but invisibility and audacity and surprise means cunning. I had a submariner tell me that they surfaced well within Soviet territory one night. They broke out one of those fast rubber boats and scooted up to a Soviet warship at anchor and hung an American flag on the side of it with a bottle of bourbon then left again. That’s had to scare the hell out of a lot of people for all the right reasons.

Sleep overtakes me and when I wake up Tyger hasn’t returned. I find my sweats in the darkness and get dressed. I hear the doggie door get rammed as Tyger arrives at speed and I know she’s home again. The Cousins dance around me as I turn the lights on but I have to see if this little girl is bloodied or had bloodied someone else. She’s clean and cold. Tyger Linn gets under the covers with me and wiggles with excitement. Something has happened. Someone came close. Tyger Linn went into the darkness and something was there. But now she’s back and in a few minutes, my striped little girl is breathing deep of the sleep.


An hour to go before I have to get up and go to work and I drift away into sleep again. I have a lot of troubles in my life but security isn’t on the top of the list. The darkness holds no terrors that can match the heart of what goes forth from my home. I have another wanderer.  I have another Night Stalker. Once again, my pack has someone who goes out when no one goes out and stays out when no one stays out, and returns only when the job, whatever the job is, is finished.

Take Care,

Mike