Monday, December 22, 2014

Why I don't feel bad for Pluto


Planets and demiplanets and the whichness of why
 

In 1596, Johannes Kepler wrote, “Inter Jovem et Martem interposui planetam.”

Translated into contemporary English, “There’s gotta be a planet between Jupiter and Mars that we haven’t seen/discovered yet.”

Johnny said that because the math demanded a planet-sized mass there which was affecting the orbits of the other planets. As it turned out, there was a planetary-sized mass there, it just wasn’t all in one big piece. It was a zillion asteroids (actually about 200 larger than 60 miles in diameter, about 40K known), the largest of which was named Ceres when it was discovered. Ceres’ mean radius is about 300 miles which, by current definitions, qualifies it as a dwarf planet, like Pluto. Speaking of Pluto…

In the same way that Johnny K. knew that the math required there to be a planetary mass between Jupiter and Mars, math also demanded a planetary mass out beyond Uranus. In 1930, Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto and astronomers decided that Pluto must be “it”. Their ability to determine specifics about Pluto in those days was not very sophisticated and as the years passed and instrumentation improved, doubt about Pluto’s status seeped in. It was not nearly massive enough to be the “planet” (gravitational mass) astronomers were looking for out there.

Imagine if Johnny K. had seen Ceres in his primitive telescope. Perhaps Ceres would have been called “Phaeton,” the planet between Jupiter and Mars, for a lot of years until careful observation determined that it wasn’t big enough to be what they were looking for. AAMOF, in 1801 the astronomer Giuseppe Piazzi did indeed discover Ceres and declared it that “missing” planet. Piazzi called it “Ceres,” other tried to stick their name(s) on it: Hera, Demeter, and of course the generic Phaeton. It was indeed considered a planet for a while, until more precise observation revealed its more-accurate status as one smallish object among many. That’s parallel to what happened with Pluto. Ultimately, astronomers knew that Pluto wasn’t adequate to be what they were seeking.

Nowadays, we know that Pluto is merely one object in the Kuiper Belt (a formation similar to the Asteroid Belt) and it’s not even the biggest object there. For instance, Eris is about 30% bigger than Pluto. This doesn’t make me feel bad for Pluto, personally. I think it’s nice that Pluto is not alone out there in the deep black. He is surrounded by dark companions. And the entire Kuiper Belt is not alone out there, either. The Oort Cloud lies beyond even the distant Kuiper Belt at the far edge of the Solar System, the leaping-off point to interstellar space.

I think that’s pretty cool.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Christmas 2014

There's a tree at Cadaver Gap on Rainier!

That is, there's a Christmas tree at our house (called Cadaver Gap) on Rainier Ave. Almost the same thing.

 

Remembering Willi Unsoeld, who was an unschooler in spirit, who died in an avalanche on his way down from Cadaver Gap in '79. RIP, Willi Unsoeld.

I made my first attempt on Rainier in '78. We climbed to Camp Muir in shorts and T-shirts on a perfect Summer day. We went to sleep and woke at midnight to make a summit assault only to face hurricane force gusts and whiteout conditions. No summit attempt when it's like that. We descended after breakfast time the next morning in a whiteout blizzard. That was the days before Gore-Tex was readily available and we wore 60/40 parkas. Miserable. My guide/leader on that climb was Chris Kerrebrock who died on Denali in '81 while climbing with Jim Wickwire, practicing for an '82 Everest expedition. RIP, Chris Kerrebrock.

10 years later in '88, as a mutual 40th birthday present for my friend Bob and me, we made an attempt from the Sunrise side with some friends from the '84 Everest Ultima Thule expedition. Beautiful, and nobody else was on that side. Excellent. That was in August and sleeping in our bivisacks at high camp that night, we were kept awake by the Perseid meteor shower. So beautiful. The next day going up the Emmons glacier (biggest glacier in the continental US) my local friend (not Bob), who had been to Everest, had his back go out and we abandoned the summit attempt to get him back down and home. Mt. Rainier has about 40 square miles of glaciers - two dozen active and a dozen more which are static. It's incredibly beautiful. And deadly.
 
 

 But this is a Christmas post, not a mountaineering one.
 
This is a year of significant change for us. As long as Ronnie and I have been together, and for the girls’ entire lives, we’ve spent Christmas Eve at grandma’s house. Not this year. Arbitrary pseudoChristmas there on a different day because of logistics complications. Both girls have significant boyfriends, adding to the fun but also adding to the logistics. Both girls finish their AA requirements at community college this month and will be transferring to the University of Washington (Go, Huskies!) as juniors, starting January 5, 2015.
From unschooling to university juniors with 3.9+ GPAs. What a pair of offspring we have!
Ronnie is still slaving away with the group she’s been with for a long time. MJ is working parttime as a bartender at a (golf) sportsbar. Yes, indoor video golf is (apparently) a big thing in the drizzly, grey Northwest. Who knew? This Summer, Chloe decided she wanted to try kendo, having watched me a few times a decade or so ago when I had started. We’ve been doing it together since then and competed in our first tournament together in November. She and I were even on the dojo team for the team competition!
 
Ronnie not at work
 
MJ not a work
 
 
Chloe in kendo gear
 
Me, dinner on Grand Cayman, Summer 2014
 
 
We are all healthy (in my case, healthy enough, despite old age crap, and I’ve even pared down from a high of 185 a coupla years ago to a svelte – kind of – 150ish), and content, and we’re moving forward with positive anticipation toward 2015.

Hope this season finds you and yours equally content!
 
P.S. Chloe will (temporarily) transfer her kendo allegiance to the University of Washington Kendo Club but will still practice (SOMETIMES!) with our Everett Kendo and Iaido Club. It's cool. It's all PNKF.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Autumn



I am in the Autumn of my life. Deep Autumn. People laud Spring, praising it for its burgeoning life and promise. My Spring was shit. Actually, Spring into early Summer was shit. Death and alienation. Travelling through the season(s) like an astronaut enclosed in my own life-support vehicle, observing only, not interacting, except negatively, of course. Ah, but Summer! Summer was different.

Summer was when I connected with life. Rich and redolent, fragrant with the scent of joy and happiness. Promise? Hell, yes! Promise fulfilled. The warmth and comfort of Summer embraced me and let me blossom. Ronnie was/is my Summer. MJ and Chloe, too. Lovely, lovely Summer. Bright, warm, contented Summer. Best of seasons. Loveliest of seasons. But everything comes to an end eventually.

I am in the Autumn of my life. Ronnie is still in the heart of her Summer. The girls are just leaving Spring. But I’m in deep Autumn. I appreciate their seasons. I take great joy in their seasons. And because of them, Summer lingers for me. I feel it still enfolding me in its warmth and brilliance. But I smell hints of Winter.

Honestly, I’m jealous of Ronnie and the girls. It’s sad and petty of me and I feel guilty about it; but that doesn’t make it untrue. I’m glad the girls have had a charming Spring. And my Summer with Ronnie and them has been exquisite. I love Summer. I think Autumn will be fine. Probably. But I dislike Winter.

That surprising chilly disquietude, sneaking in from the edge and cutting Summer’s beneficence. The intimation of frost, not here – yet – but coming. Oh yes, coming. And soon, too soon. The smell of ice and freezing fog. Arthritis more transcendent than nascent.

I am afraid of Winter.

I love(d) my Summer and want it to be eternal. It can be, but only in thought and memory – Huginn and Muninn. Like Baldur, everything in reality has its mistletoe. In the real world, Winter is inevitable, inescapable. I expect Autumn to be pleasant, a lovely extension of Summer. An evolution, perhaps. Summer after exposure to a mutagenic event. But it is not Summer itself. It is Autumn. I might hope for a respite, an idyll of Indian Summer. Yes. That would be nice. But not something to be counted on. A serendipitous accident. What can be counted on is Autumn itself and nothing more. And I need to relax and enjoy it.

But I am still afraid of Winter. Just as Spring is embraced as the season of hope and life and growth, Winter is shunned as the season of despair and death and the end of things. Rightly so. Or perhaps not. Is Winter’s nature inherently despicable or is that our imposed value judgment on it? The latter I think. Of course, that doesn’t obviate the fact that Winter is the season of death. Despair, however, is optional. Probably. Death is not.

But it’s not Winter yet and I don’t want to dwell on that season. Too much. Autumn, Autumn is my concern. I desire a pleasant Autumn, not a fearful, deteriorating one. Aestas aeterna. Kind of. The lingering, long afternoon of Summer, segueing into my Autumn, overwhelming the adumbrations and intimations of Winter’s night.

I want to enjoy Autumn. I desire to hear the songs of Autumn with receptive ears. To smell the odors of Autumn with a willing nose. To touch the changing leaves of Autumn with tender hands. I’m trying to. But I don’t feel that. Not right now. And I don’t want to fear Winter. Even Winter can contain isolated pearls of joy and happiness on its long string leading to The End of Things. And, again, that’s after Autumn, still a way away. But Autumn is here and Autumn…

I think that today I’m just in a bad mood.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Kendo bogu lust

I have a wonderful set of bogu (armor) for kendo. I really like it. The do (body protector) is wine/gold chameleon colored. It's beautiful. (Photo includes my iaito (sword/katana) for iaido.)






But there's always room for lust. This do (body protector) is exquisite and, well, it's less than $3000. Yep, those zeros are accurate. Maybe if I start a gofundme kinda thing.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Unschooling dad interview 7/2014

For the second time in my life, I agreed to do an interview as an unschooling dad. It's here. No more need be said.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Top 69 Things for Kids and Teens to be Successful in Life

People like to make numbered lists; it seems to be a human trait.

5 Reasons To...
10 Quick Ways To...
Top 3 Reasons For...

In this vein, I offer my very best advice in a numerical list.



Top 69 Things for Kids and Teens to be Successful in Life

Ready?

1. Have fun.
Iterate 68 more times.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

$50, Brother!


$50, Brother!

(Frank Maier – 2014)
For the Basement Boys
 

*INTRO: (A)

Dah-dah-dah-dah-dah (E-G-E-G-A)

Guitar lick

Dah-dah-dah-dah-dah

Guitar lick

Dah-dah-dah-dah-dah

Guitar lick

Dah-dah-dah-dah-dah

Guitar lick

Dah-dah-dah-dah-dah

*(Verse 1)

We were playin’ the blues down in the basement one night.

We were feeling real good and sounding just right.

I was right in the groove and playing with pride,

Then the vocals ended and it was time for my ride.

 *(change from staccato dah-dah… to walking bass blues D for chorus)

Shit! I fucked it up again! (A)

Played some real bad notes, and then (E)

Everybody in the band yelled, “Amen! (D)

$50, brother!” (A)

*Keyboard ride (verse form-chorus form)

*V2 (back to staccato dah-dah-etc.)

The Godfather of Soul was Mister James Brown.

When he got his band rockin’, they could really put it down;

But if he heard you fucking up, he’d throw you a harsh frown;

Then charge you $50 and sit your lame ass down!

*(Chorus)

*Guitar ride (verse form-chorus form)

*Bridge (walking D)

Beethoven said you can play a wrong note, (A)

But if you play without passion, that’s what makes you a goat. (D)

If Ludwig said that, ya know it works for me,(E)

So I’m gonna set my solo spirit free!

*V3 (back to staccato dah-dah-etc. )

So we’re rockin’ this old basement every Tuesday night

And we really don’t care if each note is wrong or right.

The most important thing under the sun

Is that everybody’s down there just to have some fun!

*(Chorus – with responses)

Shit! I fucked it up again! (So what?)

Played some real bad notes, and then (Me, too!)

Everybody in the band yelled, “Amen! (That’s true!)

$50, brother!” (Not really!)

*OUTRO: (A) same as intro

 

 

 

 

 

Friday, May 16, 2014

To Brad Who Lives in My Memory


To Brad Who Lives in My Memory

 














Herculean hug from a blithe spirit warms my heart,
Wandering the halls of memory tonight.
Here at the end of the scene, wanting it to be the start,

Retrieving vignettes from my memory’s sight.
 
The warmth of his embrace, the Aether of his joy,
Enfolding me with enthusiastic energy.

Releasing for eye-contact, like a cherubic boy,
And asking sweetly about my family and me.


Not a worshipper of Haropcrates, he. Hermes better suited his style.
Always entertaining, maybe woo, never stuffy,

On the Sisyphean homilectic of unschooling. With a smile,
He’d endeavor to unscrew the inscrutable with me.
 

At LIFE is Good near Portland or San Diego’s Good Vibrations,
We’d deconstruct the meaning of meaning

Over breakfast, in passing, or with the bar’s nectarous libations,
‘til our families for sleep would be keening.

 
It was Brad and Lucretia and then there came Lena,
But before that sweet sprite, there was John.

A family so sweet, they would make you a dreamer,
But then quicker than Huginn, Brad was gone.

 
No hug for my corpus. No dialectic for my mind. For my dolorous soul, there’s no balm.
Lucretia, Lena, and John fill my head.

So many friends in so many places, so many souls feel the harm,
‘tho’ alive in our memory, in fact, Brad is dead.

 
Vita brevis, memoria aeterna. Life is short but memory is forever.
Eheu! Eheu! Oh so young, far too young.

But our memories of him will fade never.
And for now, my song for Bradley is sung.




















Bradley Holcomb 14 May 2014
Frater, requiescas in pace.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

66


Achievement Unlocked – Two of Three Numbers. Only One More Needed!

Sixty years ago, I had my sixth birthday and got the first of my ultimate three digits. Today, on my sixty-sixth birthday, I finally got the second six. Only one six left to go to achieve completion!

(maybe a bit older than 6 but close)
 

There were minor 666 plateaus over the years, of course. I graduated high school in 6/66, a lovely adumbration, especially since it was a Jesuit-run prep school. The Pope’s ninjas nurturing the once and future beast! How droll. How ironic.

 

In 6/76 (Just one number off!), I made the huge change of moving from New Orleans to Seattle, bringing my seductive Creole decadence to the innocent Northwest. One bad apple and all that.

 

By 2/86 (and eight minus two is, again, SIX), I was dating my beautiful Ronnie. Peripherally, I’m 17 years older than Ronnie and 1 from 7 is (Wait for it!) SIX! Put that together with the two sixes of 2/86 and it makes for a pretty nice triple-6.

 

In 9/96 (Nine is just an upside down six, so how Satanic is that?) I was taking flying lessons in Destin, FL; and, yes, I did want to learn how to land as well as take off. By that time, spin training had been omitted from the private pilot requirements and replaced with stall awareness; however, spin training was not prohibited and I made sure to find an instructor who was not spin-averse. I mean, what’s the fun in light aircraft if you’re not gonna spin the bastard? Wheeeeeee! I am a leaf on the fucking *whirl*wind! E-ticket rides are for pussies!

 

Finally, here today, 4/27/14 (as only we in the ass-backwards US write it), I made it to sixty-six or, numerically, 66. W00t! So close.

 

So today I celebrate being two-thirds of the way to my ultimate destiny. Pleased to meet you. Won’t you guess my name?

Sympathy for the Devil

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Letters to the dead: Jorene


On Sunday April 6, 2014 my beloved aunt Jorene (Adams) Maier had her appointment in Samarra. Well, technically, rather than involving a frightened rush to Samarra in the vain hope of avoiding such an event, it was an anticipated meeting in Selah, WA in the privacy and comfort of her own home, embraced by her family, especially her husband of more than sixty years, my uncle Moritz. Together they were the MoJo of the Maier clan: Moritz and Jorene, a unit, a single and singular entity. Now, she has departed to explore Shakespeare’s undiscovered country alone, while Morrie and the rest of us are left with a huge lacuna in our lives here in the mundane, workaday world.


They married not long after the war, that’s WWII of course, and embarked on a life together. During that journey, they shared nine children, twenty-eight grandchildren, twelve great-grandchildren, countless nieces and nephews, spouses of most of those, and enough love and kindness to blanket the world. Jorene was kindness personified. She was Catholic, and in that context I think it is completely appropriate to call her a saint. She lived her life that way and, in death, per her beliefs, she is absolutely one.



Given the power of her life and its effect on those around her, I thought immediately of John Donne’s poem when I heard of her death. She may be gone, but her legacy of love and kindness transcends the grasp of Death himself. Once her appointment was scheduled, she did not tarry here. In my experiences with death, it seems that the good ones never do. They are anxious, in the concept of the old spiritual, to board the morning train for home because that evening train just might be too late. Bon voyage, cher tante (per alliance).

Mornin' Train  (Technically, "Get Right, Church")

She is at peace. It is those of us who remain who wish there were a train to carry us to Gilead. Alas! There is none. The only balm we have is our memories of her. Perhaps, that is enough.


Death be not proud – John Donne

Death be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not soe,
For, those, whom thou think'st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill mee.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swell'st thou then?
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.


P.S. My lovely friend Ren maintains a blog of letters to the dead. I have submitted this to her for inclusion there, too.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Long Train Runnin'


LONG TRAIN RUNNING 

INTRO

V1: Down around the corner half a mile from here
See them long trains run and you watch them disappear
Without love where would you be now
Without love

V2: Though I saw Miss Lucy down along the track
She lost her home and her family and she won’t be coming back
Without love where would you be now
Without love

V3: (hit the ones) Well the Illinois Central and the Southern Central Freight
Keep on pushing mamma you know they're running late
Without love where would you be now
Without love

RIDE

V4: (Same as 3) Well the Illinois Central and the Southern Central Freight
Keep on pushing mamma you know they're running late
without love where would you be now
without love

V5: (hit it staccato)
Well the pistons keep on turning and the wheels go round and round
And the steel rails are cold and hard and the mountains they go down
Without love where would you be now
Without love      [SLOW IT DOWN]

INTRO as OUTRO

Gotta gotta
Move it down
Baby, baby, baby, etc.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

LIFE is Good 2014 poems

So, my friend (and Hot Backup Chick extraordinaire) Robin had this fabulous idea for parents to write snippets about what they've learned from their kids as they've unschooled through the years. The snippets would be anonymous and randomly posted/distributed. In the ensuing conversation, the concept of writing these snippets as poetry (or doggerel) came up. Challenge accepted. I can write bad poetry like anybody's business. I grant that these won't be very anonymous here on my blog but it's so lightly visited that it's almost like they're anonymous.

Without further ado or explanation, here they are.


DD1 poems


DD1 - 01 (2014)


I’m “dad,” soi disant Duke of Metaphor,
Not like the Duke of Earl. Oh my, no.
But the dad of DD1, child of grace and more,
Seeker of “Who,” “What,” and “How do we know…”



What can a Duke learn from a DD?
A Duke is a superior being.
A DD is an ingenue, a newbie;
 A Duke’s experienced, long-knowing, far-seeing.



Ah, but Dukes get old and set in their way;
They think they know all that’s worth knowing.
The Lady, Ducal offspring, retorts with a “Nay.”
Her knowledge is a fresh Zephyr blowing.



An old Duke, if he’s wise, can learn a new trick,
If he’s not too stubbornly shut.
A young Lady can share, through the old Duke’s thick brick,
Her bright info to the balding grey nut.




DD1 – 02 (2014)
I listened to doo-wop and second-line style.
I liked R&B and rock ‘n’ roll power.
I faded at disco but returned in a while.
Punk and/or rap? I was done in an hour.
Pop was too treacle, no matter the time.
New Wave too affected, it just left me cold.
As for the Big 80s, some percentage was fine.
But Reggae, ah! Reggae so bright and so bold!
Then sweet DD1 shakabukued my head,
Dragged me out of my rut and onto the groove.
“Don’t be such a fuddy; it’s like you were dead.
Give this track a listen and watch your butt *move*.”
So I changed my brain entrance from CLOSED right to OPEN.
Uncalcified my music tastebuds and tried a new song.
Not so amazingly, some tunes were smokin’.
I *like* these new artists, my rejection was wrong.

DD1 - 03 (2014)
I lived in the past. I lived in the future. I lived in my own fantasy.
DD1 lived in NOW at every point in her life, her process was so unlike me.
She remembered the past, she certainly did, and though deep thoughts of the future;
But her actual life is based in the present and living like that, well, it suits her.
My dissatisfaction with my classic approach was a thing of which I was aware.
Dredging muck from the past as a daily repast was a meal for which I did not care.
Dreading a future of what evils might come was surely a waste of emotion,
Like living near Phoenix, not the bird but the desert, and fearing the depths of the ocean.
So I thought that, perhaps, I could give it a try and be here more than then, if, or daydreams,
Not a natural fit for a person like me, and an act more complex than it seems.
But instant, complete success just ain’t real. What’s important is that you must try.
And success, like beauty, is a thing which, at root, is defined by the beholder’s eye.

> DD1 – 04 (2014)
From the time they were small our daughters shared all, had us read every syllable written.
Then came a sea change, privacy viper, how strange, DD1 had been fatally bitten.
Although just a tween, she wrote scene after scene of a virtuoso novel - complete.
To her sister, she read every night in their bed; but her parents’ desire, she’d defeat.
In our V-berth we sat, strained our ears to hear that new chapter which she had just done.
From the stern berth came giggles and we assumed wiggles, as they enjoyed their sisterly fun.
But we heard ne’er a line, just a tease time to time, as we floated in our sea-borne home
O’er blues rich and poor, on the deep or near shore, she wrote and she read as we’d roam.
Her manuscript she’d embiggen and the wind in the riggin’ sang the songs of Aeolus to us
As each evening drew nigh and Nyx ruled the sky, they’d retreat to their cabin, no fuss.
They did read; and their woop, heard from bowsprit to poop, left us lonely old parents sore puzzled,
Alone with no notion, flotsam on Mother Ocean, we languished without them… and nuzzled.
Her privacy earned, our lesson we learned, each person deserves to make choices
Of what they will share, either when or e’en ne’er, to make public or private their voices.
Yes, parents must learn that respect is to earn; it’s not something power can force.
Crews must work together, whatever the weather, for a family cruise to hold course.

DD2 poems

DD2 – 01 (2014)

Lively sprite of Persephone, the greening shoot,
DD2, Princess of the night, fair daughter of Nyx.
Internal, external, quiet, loud, wolfing from cap to boot
Throwing fact spaghetti onto the wall, grinning when good stuff sticks.
The wanderer, a planetary child of Ancient Greece, astral seeker,
Searching, scouting, questing, delving, ferreting occult knowledge
Fiercer than Atilla; alternately, than pre-mutagen Scylla, meeker.
Young enough, old enough, unschooled enough, now in the universe of college.
Spanning the arc from Planck Epoch to zero Kelvin entropy
Or a vacuum metastability event. Who can name the final affair?
Travelling from the Id to the Unified Field Theory of “Me”
Learning, thinking, synthesizing, just breathing the air.


DD2 – 02 (2014)


Fear was my mentor, pervading my life,
All-encompassing, behind and before.
Hiding, withdrawing, avoiding all strife
Seeking peace, I asked for no more.


Then I watched DD2, eyes and heart open wide,
First lying, then crawling, with wonder;
And there she was – vertical! - living life at full stride,
Tearing my tenebrous worldview asunder.


Each new, simple thing she perceived with such pleasure;
The joy it could bring was sublime.
A plain, young Spring lawn was her national treasure;
And I found that her joy became mine.


And O! how she grew, each new adventure a feast,
Becoming a doe, no mere fawn.
No more a Bethlehemic rough slouching beast,
I followed into her new dawn.




DD2 – 03 (2014)


So many questions, year after year. So much knowledge to gain.
A voracious daughter was sweet DD2, most anxious to fill up her brain.
For me, growing up, failure deemed unacceptable, I became Encyclopedia Dad;
But no one knows all, and I had to accept that not every failure was bad.


Oh, the pain and the guilt to admit, “I don’t know.” to my fresh sapling, seeking to know.
“Encyclopedia Dad” was a construct of the past, an artifact who needed to go.
Realization came, like Apollo’s bright dawn, that her life, unlike my youth, was real.
Not a contest for grades or performance on tests, only seeking for its own appeal.


“Failure” - a word I was taught to detest, a lamentable place, quite near Hell;
But failure and error and mistakes, it turns out, are learning modes which are actually swell.
Encyclopedia Dad, a Frankensteinian freak, created by outre social pressure
 Could retire forever, useful no more. Now dad and DD2 learn for pleasure.

DD2 – 04 (2014)
Manga. A word quite unknown to me, its meaning was clearly unclear.
What a strange style of art, oddball narrative flow, a genre assuredly queer.
It seemed like a comic, at best - graphic novel, but of quite a curious kind.
Comics, I liked. Graphic novels, ok. But Manga’s charm escaped my mind.
DD2, oh so gently, took pity on me, introduced me to various forms.
Varietal manga, in myriad styles, she led me to accept its charms.
Fruits Basket, Fullmetal Alchemist, too, and Naruto! Well, who could forget?
So many kinds! O who would have thought? But, it seemed that we weren’t done yet.
“Hentai,” she said. Introduced a new word, something I hadn’t yet heard.
She expounded a bit and my brain almost quit. It sounded completely absurd.
But who am I to judge others’ taste or scorn their version of porn?
I buried my prejudice in a full deep-six grave. A fresh appreciation was born.
My child, a sophisticate I had to accept, as I worked to digest this new thought.
 I pushed my old psyche to a brand new zeitgeist. The effort with tension was fraught.
A person’s a person, no matter how small. Or how big or how old or how young.
Once I surpassed my Precambrian mind, I knew that my song was full sung.





Friday, February 14, 2014

Crawfish Bisque


This is my favorite dish in the entire universe. It's the sine qua non of New Orleans cooking. It's primus inter pares. It's nonpareil. It's… Awwwww, you get the idea! If you've never had it, stop what you're doing right now and make this dish immediately. Well, at least get started by going online and ordering some crawfish tails from one of the many internet purveyors, if you can't get crawfish locally. I'm not kidding. Order 4 pounds of crawfish NOW. When they arrive, come back to this recipe and make it. Serve it for dinner and your family/friends will apotheosize you for it, I promise.

 

Yes, it's a lot of work. Yes, crawfish are kinda expensive if you're not somewhere where they're readily available. Yes, it's not perfectly authentic unless you put the stuffing in crawfish heads (actually the carapace behind the head) instead of making balls/boulettes. Ignore all these factors and just make this stuff already. Here's how.

 

CRAWFISH BISQUE

 

INGREDIENTS:

 

Bisque:

2 pounds crawfish tails (leave whole)

1/2 pound butter (Substitute EVOO, if you must, but I don't recommend it.)

1-1/2 cups flour

1 onion (chopped fine)

3 stalks celery (chopped fine)

1 bell pepper (chopped fine)

1 whole garlic (chopped fine)

1/3 cup tomato sauce

3 quarts stock (crawfish, if possible, otherwise just do the best you can)

1 bunch shallots (chopped fine)

1/2 cup parsley (chopped fine)

A coupla bay leaves

Cayenne, salt, and pepper (to taste)

 

Stuffing:

2 pounds crawfish tails (chopped semi-fine)

1 onion (chopped semi-fine)

3 stalks celery (chopped semi-fine)

1 bell pepper (chopped semi-fine)

1 whole garlic (chopped semi-fine)

1/2 cup parsley (chopped semi-fine)

1/2 stick (1/8 lb.) butter (Substitute EVOO, if you must, but I don't recommend it.)

3 eggs, beaten

1~2 cups bread crumbs

Cayenne, salt, and pepper (to taste)

Optional: About 50 cleaned crawfish heads(carapaces) (See prep choices later in the instructions for heads vs. balls (boulettes), if you don't have access to crawfish heads)

 

To make the bisque:

In a large (dutch oven is perfect) cast iron (substitute if you must) pot, heat butter over medium-high heat. Add flour and, using a wire whisk, stir constantly to make a medium roux. Add onions, celery, bell pepper and garlic and sauté about 5 minutes. Add crawfish tails and tomato sauce. Slowly add stock a little at a time until you get a sauce-like consistency. More may be needed as cooking progresses to keep the bisque from becoming too thick; but it's supposed to be hearty. Ya don't want it to be as thin as soup, more of a stew-like consistency. Bring to a rolling boil, then reduce to simmer for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep the tails from settling and scorching. During the last ten minutes, add the heads (or balls), green onions, parsley, and season to taste.

 

To make the stuffing for heads/balls:

Grind crawfish tails, onions, celery, bell pepper, garlic, and parsley in a food processor to the point that individual pieces are small but not pureed. Add butter, eggs, and enough breadcrumbs to hold the mixture together but not so much that it becomes bready. You wanna taste crawfish, not bread. Season to taste using cayenne, salt, and pepper. Then use prep1 or prep 2

 

Prep 1, if you have crawfish heads(carapaces): Preheat oven to 350 F. Put stuffing mixture into crawfish heads(carapaces). Bake on a cookie sheet for 20 minutes or until lightly browned, then set aside for later addition to the bisque.

 

Prep 2, if you don't have crawfish heads(carapaces): Form the stuffing mix into balls (boulettes). I'd recommend about the size of a ping-pong ball or a Swedish meatball kinda size. A tennis ball is definitely too big; a marble is too small. Ok? Sautee them briefly to brown the outside and marry the ingredients, then set aside for later addition to the bisque.

 

Serve in a soup bowl over white rice with a crusty baguette. Wine? Crawfish bisque is a dish which is robust enough to eat with strong, red wines. Go for it.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Bananas Foster


This is definitely an old family favorite. I've even prepared it on a one-burner campstove in the middle of nowhere. I guess it's mostly a dessert, although it's also a fine breakfast/brunch offering, especially with champagne or a champagne-based drink, like mimosa or kir royale (one of my favorites). This is one of the first things the kids learned to cook for themselves. Snicker! Motivation is a wonderful thing. If you want something fervently enough…

 

Bananas Foster

 

Ingredients:

1 banana per person (for us that's 4)

1/4 lb. of butter (No, you can't substitute margarine! That's disgusting!)

Some rum (Ok, a lot of rum.)

A little Grand Marnier (Ok, some GM)

Lots of brown sugar (The more, the merrier.)

Some vanilla (Real vanilla is best, of course but imitation works.)

Cinnamon to taste (Again, fresh is good, if you have it. Powdered works, if you don't.)

 

Slice bananas down the middle lengthwise once and crosswise once, resulting in 4 pieces from each banana. Put butter, rum, and Grand Marnier into an adequately-sized sautee pan. As the butter melts, add the brown (Other kinds will do in a pinch.) sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon.  Some people like a little nutmeg, clove, et al. Cook's choice. Simmer it until it's at the soft-ball stage, then add the bananas. Cook for a minute or two on both sides. That's it; you're done. Serve and enjoy. As a breakfast item, I like to have this with buttered toast. As a dessert, it's pretty tasty over ice cream. Breyer's is good; homemade is excellent. Diner's choice. Whatever you do, please, do NOT use banana liqueur in this recipe. That stuff is just nasty!

 

Alternate preparation: The previous preparation cooks away all (well, most, anyway) of the alcohol, making this dish suitable for everyone, including kids. If you're a showboat chef, serving adults and wanna impress 'em, try this instead. This method will typically leave a lot more of the alcohol content in the final dish. Put the cinnamon in a small container and have it ready. Prepare the other ingredients as above but in a chafing dish with a heat source at the table; and use 151 rum, which you'll add after you've added the bananas, instead of at the beginning. Give the rum a minute to get warm, then IGNITE the dish. That's right. Set that sucker on fire. Please, be careful at this step. Stir it to keep the flame going and sprinkle the cinnamon into the flames. The cinnamon dust will flare orange in the blue alcohol flame. Very impressive. Unless you set yourself and/or everything else on fire. Of course, that would be impressive, too; but in a different way, huh? Did I remind you to be careful?

 

Enjoy!

Chef Francois, le loup-garou de la cuisine