No Bad Kittens

How can there be bad kittens? I look around at the shredded piles of toilet paper and I see only good kittens who sometimes do bad things. That said, it is pretty hard to shake the sense that Tangerine is truly a bad, bad kitten pretending at occasional goodness -- what's with all the glowing demon-eyes in the photos!!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Mystery at the Library.

FYI. I volunteer down at the local library on Saturdays, shelving books mostly, eyeballing the librarians covertly. It's a win-win.


I saw the strangest thing today while shelving books. Someone is hiding books!

Oftentimes I find books pinched in behind others. All those books belong on the same shelf and I just tidy things up. Sometimes the book has actually worked its way in behind far enough that it is half-falling down to the next shelf below. Still when I retrieve the book, it is definitely a book that belongs right there in that section. I fix things up -- no big deal.

Today I found four self-help books carefully tucked in behind in the fiction section, one per shelf, sideways in a way no pinched-behind book ever gets. Highly Suspicious!

So, I told the other librarians about it.   OMG, they took it all very seriously.   "Which books were hidden?    Where are the hidden books right now?    Exactly where were they hidden?    Which shelves?    Were they hidden up high or down low?"

I said "hidden down low, obviously, because it was a low down thing to do Ah hahahha."

No one else laughed.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Goofy brother roommate. At 6am sharp, Sandy's phone started ringing out here in the living room where I was sleeping. Did he get the phone? No. Did he come out and turn that noise off? No. ARGH!

I mumbled, grumbled, and tried to get back to sleep while the blessed thing rang for an entire hour. Wow, his boss at work is an even bigger butt-head than mine, ringing the phone for so long. My boss usually gives up after 20 minutes or so. Sheesh.

Eventually I got back to sleep while the phone rang and rang. Sleep wasn't good though. I had dreams of cat-bosses with moustaches chomping their cigars and calling me on the phone "Chavitage! Why haven't you even started these reports!!!" That sort of thing.

Roommates and their goofy habits. Bah!

A short time ago I woke up and wondered why my alarm hadn't gone off. I checked it and saw that it had been ringing for an entire hour. Sandy came out of the bedroom, all sleepy eyes, and said "bro, your alarm rang for an hour or two, eh?"


Monday, January 9, 2012

walking the cats

It's funny how something so nice and ordinary can suddenly get kind of creepy.

I walked out on the street with the cats this morning, common for sunny Sunday mornings. I stopped near an empty lot which has a big gopher field, always interesting for the meowsers. I sat on an old tree stump at the side of the road because oftentimes the cats jump up beside me to be patted and praised on their excellent foliage-rustling and whatnot. Sure enough... Wasabi dashed across the field to where I was sitting, but then stopped short and started digging in the dirt and leaves just a few feet from me. Gopher? Oops, nope, time to cat poop.

I sort of turned a little to one side and tried to call skittish Tangerine over. She started to come close, until a neighbour's car came down the street and parked a short way away. Tangerine got spooked by the car and streaked off to some point on the compass known only to scaredy-cats.

I turned back to see Wasabi who was just finishing up his business, less than 3 feet from me. That's when the neighbours got out of their car and turned to stare at me -- some guy sitting on a tree stump watching a cat poop (now enhanced with noisy squirty sounds) right in front of him.

How embarrassing. I wanted to tell them... "it's not what you think. This is MY cat pooping here, I'm no cat pooping voyeur, I was actually trying to get my OTHER cat to come over here, perhaps not to poop as well, but do something, y'know, normal, my other cat is orange as well, but doesn't poop so noisily as this one"

However, there is nothing you can say to redeem yourself when people come upon you sitting in a field, uncommonly close to a pooping cat. lol

Friday, March 18, 2011

Mister Crunchy (aka Croque Monsieur)

Here is our recipe for making Croque Monsieur:

A problem with this recipe is the Gruyere. It is hard to find around here -- only Deluxe Foods carries it, and it is very expensive.

This wonderful little link, complete with photos of each and every different kind of cheese makes a number of suggestions for the Gruyere:

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Pancakes are made out of Pancakes!

Pancake Tuesday is almost here and we're going to eat pancakes this morning!

I've added a link to our pancake recipe. But, here it is on its own:


* 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
* 3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1 tablespoon white sugar
* 1 1/4 cups milk
* 1 egg
* 3 tablespoons butter, melted


1. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Make a well in the center and pour in the milk, egg and melted butter; mix until smooth.
2. Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Brown on both sides and serve hot.

If you follow the link to, you'll see they've provided two suggestions on what to drink with your pancakes: coffee or Harvey Wallbangers.

We'll be evaluating ordinary pancake syrup and real Canadian maple syrup with today's pancakes! Yay!

Monday, March 1, 2010


This past weekend, Tatiana and I made Ratatouille. Here is a link to the recipe we used.

In the discussion section at the bottom of the recipe page, there are many comments about how to make eggplant not be bitter and not turn mushy. We were successful in having non-mushy, non-bitter eggplant in our recipe by cutting first our eggplant into coins, salting them heavily, then placing heavy books on top of the coins for 45 minutes or so. Lots of water came out of the eggplant. When fully cooked (and even when eaten as leftovers a day later) the little eggplant cubes were firm.

All in all, the recipe was a great success for being able to make green pepper and eggplant into something that doesn't actually taste bad. In fact, it was nearly yummy!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

French Onion Soup

Last night, Tatiana and I made French Onion Soup.

(Also here is a photo of lovely Tatiana playing with Tangerine last night.)

Here is the recipe we followed. We halved everything shown below, and it still made a lot more than two can eat for supper.

French Onion Soup Recipe


* 6 large red or yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced.
* Olive oil
* 1/4 teaspoon of sugar
* 2 cloves garlic, minced
* 8 cups of beef stock, chicken stock, or a combination of the two (traditionally the soup is made with beef stock)
* 1/2 cup of dry vermouth or dry white wine
* 1 bay leaf
* 1/4 teaspoon of dry thyme
* Salt and pepper
* 8 slices of toasted French bread
* 1 1/2 cups of grated Swiss Gruyere with a little grated Parmesan cheese


1 In a large saucepan, sauté the onions in the olive oil on medium high heat until well browned, but not burned, about 30-40 minutes (or longer). Add the sugar about 10 minutes into the process to help with the carmelization.

2 Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add the stock, vermouth or wine, bay leaf, and thyme. Cover partially and simmer until the flavors are well blended, about 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Discard the bay leaf.

3 To serve you can either use individual oven-proof soup bowls or one large casserole dish. Ladle the soup into the bowls or casserole dish. Cover with the toast and sprinkle with cheese. Put into the broiler for 10 minutes at 350 degrees F, or until the cheese bubbles and is slightly browned. Serve immediately.

Serves 4-6.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Today we made Chocolate Zucchini Loaf (Bread).

We're waiting for it to cool now.

Here is the recipe that we followed. The link to the original recipe is in this posting.


1 1/2 cups of shredded zucchini

1 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch processed with alkali)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon allspice

1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce (instead of 1/2 cup canola oil because apple sauce makes the cake more moist)

1/2 cup white sugar

1/2 cup golden brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, salt and dry spices. Set aside.

In mixer, beat eggs, apple sauce, sugars, and vanilla extract until well-blended.

Fold in shredded zucchini

Add flour mixture, beating until well-combined.

Gently fold in chocolate chips.

Scrape batter into greased 9 X 5 X 3 loaf pan.

Bake at 350 for 55 minutes. Perform futile tests with toothpicks for done-ness.

Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.

Remove bread from pan and cool completely.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Waking up Canadian

I'm kind of used to waking up as a Canadian, so I'm not as excited as this guy is in the morning.

I usually let the anthem play a little longer, too.

This is actually a real thing, though. Lots of people had to renounce their Canadian citizenship to become Americans (or Russians, Kurds, etc). How shocking!!!

Apparently now, all is forgiven and it is okay to be a Canadian again. Weirdly, for a country that is All About Human Rights, you don't get a choice -- lots of people woke up on April 17th, 2009 and were instantly, automatically Canadian again.

I guess the draft can't be far behind, eh? "Waking up Canadian Forces". LOL

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Saturday, February 28, 2009

pancake recipe

* 1 cup all-purpose flour
* 2 tablespoons sugar
* 2 teaspoons baking powder
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1 large egg, slightly beaten
* 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
* milk, just enough to make pourable batter

Combine dry ingredients. Stir in egg, oil, and enough milk for batter to pour easily. Mix lightly to blend. Cook pancakes on a hot, well greased griddle. This recipe for pancakes makes 2 to 3 servings.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Forget BarbieBarbie, it's KenKen Time!

The latest puzzle craze is KenKen.

The New York Times has a daily KenKen puzzle here.

I'm trying to find one for my BlackBerry.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Cake in a coffee cup/Make a cake in 5 minutes!!!

Here is how to make a cake in a coffee cup, in 5 minutes!!! WOW!!!

What you will need:
jumbo coffee cup(holds about 2 cups of water)
Pam or butter
9 tbs. hot chocolate mix
4 tbs. self rising flour(if you don't use self rising flour, you will basically be eating a hockey puck, or something really hard and jaw breaking)
1 egg
3 tbs. cooking oil
3 tbs. water
mini marshmallows(optional)
chocolate chips(optional)
ice cream(optional)

What to do:
1. Spray your coffee cup with Pam/butter.
2. Add dry ingredients. Stir until uniform.
3. Add egg. Stir.
4. Add cooking oil. Stir until not lumpy.
5. Add water and stir until it looks like cake mix.
6. (Optional)Add chocolate chips, marshmallows or other things. You can experiment with it.
7. Put in the microwave(the oven is not an option!)and set the timer for 3 minutes. Keep an eye on it incase it explodes.
8. After 3 minutes, let it stand in there for about 2 minutes. DANGER! THE COFFEE CUP IS SO HOT IF IT MAKES CONTACT WITH COLD WATER IT MAY SHATTER OR EXPLODE.
9. Turn coffee cup upside-down over a plate. Shake vigorously. The cake should fall out onto the plate.
10. Let cool before serving with ice cream or frosting. ENJOY!!!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Funny Cat Cartoon

This is kind of what happens every morning around here.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Globe and Mail: Toronto's National Newspaper

I just ran across this catchy byline for CBC's radio programme called "The Island" (emphasis mine)

On The Island is a lively and informative blend of news, reviews and interviews, designed to keep Victorians informed about the issues that matter to them.

Are Victorians the only people on the Island? This kind of thing drives me nuts! (Dees am drrrriving me nut!) Surely the good people of Victoria are aware that Victoria and its environs are only about half of the population of Vancouver Island.

When we used to live in Comox (now there is a wooden website "welcome to the Town of Comox Electronic Information System" HAHAHAHAHA), we knew full well that Victoria was the le Grand Fromage of Vancouver Island.

So, it is not terribly surprising that there would be a radio show called On The Island which is for and about the only important people on The Island, Victorians. Grrrrrrr!

Of course snooty Victorians are used to being slighted, because they can go to and read absolutely nothing about Victoria or Kamloops or Kelowna or Prince George or Terrace or Comox or Spuzzum or Hundred Mile House or anywhere in British Columbia that is not (cue Heavenly chorus) Vancouver. Everyone in BC knows that if it doesn't happen in Vancouver, then it didn't happen. Try it now -- click on that link to CBC British Columbia and just TRY to find out anything about Spuzzum.

Vancouver people know this kind of slight, too. Everyone in British Columbia can read the Globe and Mail, "Canada's #1 National Newspaper", which has all sorts of news that's important to Canadians. Today's news talks about the big strike ending at York University. I've never heard of YU and I don't know where it is, but I betcha it is in Toronto. Years ago, I read a lampoon of The Globe and Mail, and it had the slogan "Toronto's National Newspaper", which sums up things about right. When there is an article about a new bus route in Oshawa, the byline simply says "Oshawa", because all readers know that Oshawa is a city close to Toronto! When there is an article about Vancouver hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics (uh huh, oh yeah, uh huh, oh yeah!), the Globe refers to Vancouver as "Vancouver, British Columbia", because its gentle readers on Yonge Street (Toronto's National Street) might be fuzzy about the location of such a far-flung, vaguely heard-of place as Vancouver.

All Canadians (even those not in Toronto, Canada's National City) know what it is like to live next to the noisy neighbours, who aren't even slightly aware that Canada's President still has to be Knighted by the Queen. Here's an example of what it's like.

Even in the good ol' US of A, there are two entire time-zones of states with the sobriquet "The Fly-Over States".

That's why it is good to live in California, which feels like The Centre of the Universe, even though (according to Wikipedia) that title already belongs to Toronto.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Sheep of Destiny

As long as the Sheep of Destiny is smiling, you have nothing to fear. But if the Sheep of Destiny stops smiling... look out!

This comes from, although I don't see the Sheep of Destiny there any more. I guess the Sheep of Destiny forgot to keep that little self-directed inward smile going.

But at any rate, the Sheep of Destiny lives on here, and as you can see, he smiles because he sees YOUR future. And Oh, how happy shall that future be! Yay!

Personally, I think the Sheep of Destiny is smiling at my post-all-star-break trade in the hockey pool.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Pumpkin Pie Recipe

This is the recipe found on cans of Libby's pumpkin.


3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
2 large eggs (okay to use Egg Beaters or other whole egg substitute)
15 oz pumpkin
12 fl oz evaporated milk
1 unbaked deep dish pie shell (I buy frozen shells)


Mix together sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves
Beat eggs in large mixing bowl
Stir in pumpkin
Stir in dry ingredients
Gradually add evaporated milk
Pour into pie shell
Bake at 425F for 15 minutes
Reduce oven to 350F for another 40-50 minutes, until pie looks set.
Cool on rack for 2 hours.


If you are buying frozen pie shells at the store, inspect them carefully for damage. Do buy brands wrapped in opaque plastic where you cannot see if the shell has broken.

I prefer pumpkin pie cold, the next day.
Tatiana likes cold pumpkin pie, too, but with whipped cream.
The kittens like the pie and the whipped cream but not the pie crust.

This recipe can also be found here.

Monday, December 1, 2008


I've started playing chess at You can check out how I'm doing by clicking here, or go to and search for the member named NoBadKittens -- that's me. You can see if I'm winning or losing these days. Challenge me to a game, if you don't mind getting a serious spanking!

I've never played chess much through the years, maybe 20 games or so. Once I started playing on-line, I realized I should get a real chess board so that I could try out scenarios before making my moves.

I got the new chess board all set up last weekend. It has plastic pieces. I set up some chess puzzles, made some spectacular wrong moves, and turned some close matches into absolutely routs for the other side. Three cheers for the darn chess board! I went to bed.

In the morning, the chess pieces had been scattered by the kittens. I looked under the fridge and behind the book cases and out on the balcony, and eventually found all but two pawns and a bishop. So much for using that chess board. No Bad Kittens, indeed.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

hahaha! im back!




[uh... that was Tatiana, again.   It's quite a good likeness, don't you think?]

Ginger Pumpkin Soup

And now presenting, the Almighty Ginger Pumpkin Soup! By Dora the Explorer!

Of course we can't put a real picture of Dora the Explorer, because Big-Bird dressed as a lawyer will come after us. So instead, we'll use a more generic, non copyrighted depiction.

And now presenting, the Almighty Ginger Pumpkin Soup! By Dora the Explorer!

Also Starring, Uncle Sandy the Demented Orangutan!


2 - 15 oz cans pumpkin puree
3 - 14.5 oz cans chicken broth
1 - 11.5 oz can pear nectar
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
2 cloves garlic (finely chopped or pressed)
2 Tbsp grated fresh ginger root.
2 Tbsp finely chopped green onion
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
toasted pumpkin seeds (optional) for garnish
chopped chives (optional) for garnish


1) in a 6 quart saucepan, combine pumpkin puree, chicken broth, and peat nectar. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes.

2) In a blender or the bowl of a food processor fitted with chopping blades, process 1 cup pumpkin mixture with peanut butter until smooth. Return to saucepan with the pumpkin mixture. Add garlic, ginger root, green onions, lime juice, salt and cayenne pepper, cook 10 minutes over medium hear.

Extra directions:
For next day leftovers, bring to boil, reduce heat to low and let simmer for 5 minutes. Use stove to re-heat, do not use microwave!


Beware! If you use pumpkin pie mix, it will taste weird. Use pumpkin puree!

For this recipe, Dora uses Skippy or Jif or Gyp, one of those sugary peanut butters. Luckily, she sent me a jar of old-tyme sugary peanut butter. You can't buy peanut butter in California that is not made of 100% organic peanuts, sustainably-grown and cold-pressed in small batches by happy peasants paid a living wage.

Maybe take it easy on the ginger. Tatiana and I got quite gingered up when we followed the recipe and used 2 tablespoons of freshly grated ginger.

Tatiana and I don't have fancy stuff like food processors or 14 speed blenders, so we simplified the recipe to one step: put everything in a big pot, boil, simmer, eat, get gingered up.

Also, for reheating, Dora doesn't seem to like microwave heat, without really saying why.  Well, I don't like electrical heat, myself.   I much prefer gas, because the heat is so much more immediate and even - don't you agree?   Anyway, Dora is too bossy to let me use microwave ovens and I'm too snooty to use electric stoves, and I don't have a gas stove.   So, I have to eat the leftovers cold.

When I took the leftovers to work, I found that all they have there in the lunchroom is a microwave oven.  I was shivering away one day, hunched over and eating my ice-cold leftover soup when a colleague suggested I warm it up in the microwave oven.  Philistines!  Aposates!   I harrumphed the wise words of Dora: "use stove to re-heat, do not use microwave" and went back to chipping chunks off the soup lick.

Honestly, though, the soup was really good, and I enjoyed the beneficial effects of ginger for days!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Gingerbread Man Recipe

3 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter (room temperature, softened)
1/2 cup dark-brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
Optional raisins, chocolate chips, candy pieces, frosting
Royal Icing
1 egg white
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 3/4 cup confectioners sugar (powdered sugar)
1 In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, and spices. Set aside.

2 In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter. Add sugar and beat until fluffy. Mix in eggs and molasses. Gradually add the flour mixture; combine on low speed. (You may need to work it with your hands to incorporate the last bit of flour.) Divide dough in thirds; wrap each third in plastic. Chill for at least 1 hour or overnight. Before rolling out, let sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes. If after refrigerating the dough feels too soft to roll-out, work in a little more flour.

3 Heat oven to 350°. Place a dough third on a large piece of lightly floured parchment paper or wax paper. Using a rolling pin, roll dough 1/8 inch thick. Refrigerate again for 5-10 minutes to make it easier to cut out the cookies. Use either a cookie cutter or place a stencil over the dough and use a knife to cut into desired shapes. Press raisins, chocolate chips, or candy pieces in the center of each cookie if desired for "buttons".
4 Transfer to ungreased baking sheets. Bake until crisp but not darkened, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven. Let sit a few minutes and then use a metal spatula to transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Decorate as desired.
Makes 16 5-inch long cookies.
Royal Icing
The traditional way to make Royal Icing is to beat egg whites and lemon juice together, adding the powdered sugar until the mixture holds stiff peaks. With modern concerns about salmonella from raw eggs, you can either use powdered egg whites or heat the egg whites first to kill any bacteria. With the heating method, mix the egg white and lemon juice with a third of the sugar, heat in a microwave until the mixture's temperature is 160°F. Then remove from microwave, and beat in the remaining sugar until stiff peaks form. Using the powdered egg whites method, combine 1 Tbsp egg white powder with 2 Tbsp water. Proceed as you would otherwise. (Raw egg white alternatives from the 2006 Joy of Cooking)
If the icing is too runny, add more powdered sugar until you get the desired consistency. Fill a piping bag with the icing to pipe out into different shapes. (Or use a plastic sandwich bag, with the tip of one corner of the bag cut off.) Keep the icing covered while you work with it or it will dry out.

We're not using the "Royal Icing". We're going to be lazy and get a few tubes of icing instead. In fact, we feel so lazy we're going to lounge around eating tubes of icing all day.

Shortbread Recipe

Here is the original recipe
from my cousin Rob Armitage, 2001

1 # butter
1 c fruit sugar
cream well 10 minutes
3 c flour (remove 2 Tbsp flour add 2 Tbsp cornstarch)
mix and cream mixture
then add 4th cup (may not need it all)
knead until firm dough using a little flour
press into 11 X 15 (jelly roll) pan
poke with fork (the dough, not yourself)
bake in 325 F oven 40 minutes
check after ten minutes


I have homies who get me the "fruit sugar" from Canada. Fruit sugar is 100% fructose. It is much sweeter than normal sugar. I don't know what would happen if you used ordinary table sugar.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Four Second Fury!

The Four Second Fury  is a great game!

Here is the link:

It is a Flash game, I think.   It's crazy and fast.

Good music!

Free free free!

The best game in it is Swat 8, which is shown here!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

It's pom-pon, not pom-pom

Wikipedia calls them pom-pons

Grandma's Feta Pasta

For supper tonight, we're having one of my favourite recipes.

Grandma’s Feta Pasta

5 to 8 oz crumbled Feta cheese
1 large onion, chopped
1 bell pepper (1/3 green, 1/3 orange, 1/3 red), chopped to bite-sized
4 oz (?) spinach, optional
4 to 8 oz mushrooms, sliced
4 Roma tomatoes, chopped bite size
12 oz pasta (we used mini-farfalle tonight)

Sauté onions
Sauté red pepper/yellow pepper/corn/spinach/mushrooms with onions
Cut into quarters or wedges tomatoes
Sauté briefly the tomatoes with everything else
Add crumbled feta cheese
Add fresh basil if you’ve got some
Mix with cooked pasta.
Serve immediately

Apple Crisp

It is autumn, so tonight we are making Apple Crisp.

Here is the recipe:

Auntie Rae’s Apple Crisp
Rae Jones 1967, adapted by Daniel Chavitage 2001

6 to 8 peeled and sliced apples, enough to fill up 2/3 of a 9x13 pan
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup melted butter

Spread apples in bottom of 9X13 pan
Mix dry ingredients separately
Add melted butter
Pat mixture over top of apples
Bake 1 hour at 375F

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Revenge of the Nerds

With this whole hit-counter spinning like mad, it turns out that Uncle Sandy and his pal Craig were getting me back for something I did years ago.

Back in 1999 or thereabouts, SETI @ Home came on the scene. SETI, the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, had created a downloadable screen-saver that helped the Search for ET by having your computer crunch radio-astronomy data, looking for organized information in the random radiation pouring down on us from space. Very geek-cool.

Not only could you download this screensaver and crunch data for them, but you could have an account of sorts with Seti@Home, and they would keep track of how many individual crunches or analyses you had done. That way, if your computer crunched two or three sets of radio-astronomy data, you could see if your friends had done the same. Of course, that meant having friends so geeky that they would download the Seti@Home screensaver. Too.

And that's not all! You could form teams and compete with other teams! There were top Seti@Home data crunching teams who had "analyzed more individual packets of radio-astronomy data for signs of alien life" than any other team. Woo Hoo!

This is all silly-sounding Internet geeky stuff, just like weird stuff out of Wired magazine, and all this happened almost 10 years ago.

Well, Sandy, Craig, and I were on a team with a bunch of other friends. Or maybe we were on several competing teams. I don't really recall.

I had a fast computer with a good Internet connection, and I could crunch numbers very quickly. I had a pretty high score. I recall that Craig, in particular, wanted to get the best score. He figured out that if you put several computers to work on the task, each with the same Seti@Home account, you could crunch Seti's astronomical data even faster! Craig's score started moving up fast.

I got into the competitive spirit and harnessed half a dozen computers around the house (I'm the type who *has* half a dozen computers kicking around the house). That pumped up my score and I kept my lead.

So then, Craig set up an entire training room at work with 30 computers and had them all start grinding away at the task. His training computers were slow, but they were an army. Craig's army started chugging 24 hours a day, completing maybe 10 analyses an hour, and his score roared past mine.

I didn't know what to do at this point. I could not physically match the large amount of computing power Craig was using, but I didn't want to lose.

So, I hacked the Seti@Home program. I looked at what it did each time it did a download and upload. I figured out how to spoof the Seti@Home website into thinking I had completed my packet as soon as I received it. I scripted this spoof and turned it on. Suddenly, on a single computer, I was "completing" one analysis every second. Craig's army could do 10 analyses an hour. On a single computer, I was spoofing Seti@Home at the rate of 3600 analyses per hour! Craig would need literally 10,000 computers to go *that* fast. Heh heh.

My score shot past Craig's, then doubled his score, then 10 times his score, then 100 times his score. It became impossible for his army to catch my score even if they ran for a year.

While this was happening, Sandy and Craig talked to each other on the phone... "Ww-ww-ww-wwhat's happening!!!! Like, OMG!!! How is it possible that his score is, like, growing so fast!!! He is totally demolishing us! Oh Nooooooooooooooooo!!"

As soon as I reached some threshold, (Craig times 1000 or something), I killed my hack, and closed down my Seti@Home account. I had spoofed their system, beaten Craig and Sandy, and so it was time to walk away. I retired undefeated.

Until now....

So, I guess some time in the last 24 hours, Sandy and Craig finally had their revenge. They discovered that I had a counter on my blog and their faces curled into evil-Grinch smiles. They scripted something to hit my blog, over and over and over, until I started noticing the huge number of hits. They haven't admitted to doing so, exactly, but Uncle Sandy has hinted at it. For instance, Sandy emailed me a taunt that included the photo of the fighting goalies just minutes after I had posted it on my blog.

I'm sure they enjoyed my consternation earlier today. I even went crazy right on the blog below, wondering what was going on, fighting with Patrick Roy.

They got me back. And so they win! For now.

Hit counter spinning like mad

What's with the hits on this blog?

Yesterday I put my shiny new hit counter on NoBadKittens here, and set it at 1000. That way, when it got to 1057 in a couple of months, it wouldn't look like the blog is so forgotten and dusty (like me). 1057 hits looks a lot better than 57 hits.

So, today I went to the blog to post something about Uncle Sandy's hockey pool goalie somehow getting himself injured. Bro, was Martin Brodeur gooning it up like these goalies here?

Look at the hit counter! It says 4563! There were 3500 hits in the last day?

Now the hit counter says 4669! There were 100 hits in the last minute!?!?!

What's going on here? Good grief, there cannot be hundreds of people reading my blog every minute.

This hit counter is useless.

Arghhhhh! I'm so frustrated. I feel all punchy like those goalies in the photograph.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Oooooo! A hit counter

I don't know where I can plop this hit counter so that it always shows at the top or bottom of the entire blog, so I'll just post it here.

Free Counter

Free Counter

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

It was cheesy fun!

Here is a photo of Tatiana cooking up Velveeta cubes as part of our cheesy sauce. The recipe says to start with a rue and add everything afterward. Once the velveeta cubes start melting into the goo, everything (cats, girls, fathers) turns to cheese, as in the photo below (from Asterix comix).

I think one of us should have been wearing the cooking apron that Auntie Alene gave me years ago, that hangs ignored on the pantry door. You can see it there in the photo, all homemade and quilty looking -- and the only thing that didn't get cheesy at all that day.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


i smell like stinky cheese!!! im a weirdo!!!bye Bye!!! HAHAHA :)

[This was Tatiana going crazy here while we were making Chocolate Mousse]

Chocolate moose

We're also going to make chocolate mousse!

This recipe is from Chris at work. He says he got it verbatim from a friend named Frank who is an executive chef in Tahoe. Tatiana and I have made this once before, and so now we're practicing so as to get good at it!

10 oz Chocolate Baker’s squares, unsweetened.

1 ½ cups Coffee reduced to ½ cup coffee

Brandy (save some for the mousse)

3 cups of Heavy Whipping cream

Powered Sugar to taste (at least a cup, if you have good taste like us)

Reduce the coffee in a sauce pan (or make a double/triple espresso and you’re ready)

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler, stir often (make sure the chocolate doesn’t burn or sieze. If you want to make it easier,just melt it in the microwave).

Add the reduced coffee/espresso & brandy; at the beginning of the melting process.

Stir until mixture is smooth. Place in ice bath and continue to stir.

When mixture is cool to touch, add whipping cream and beat w/ mixer on high.

Beat until soft peak (or desired consistency.)

Add Powered Sugar to taste (I do during the mixing).

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Rebecca's Macaroni and Cheese

This weekend we are going to make cousin Rebecca's very own special recipe for macaroni and cheese.

It looks pretty easy to make.   And with a entire pound of Velveeta "cheese" in it, you just know it's going to be yummy!

Rebecca's Macaroni and Cheese

3-4c uncooked elbow macaroni
1/2c butter
1/2c flour
1tsp salt
1/8tsp pepper
3 and 1/2c milk
16oz Velveeta cheese
1 small onion (I suggest two medium onions)

It turns out Rebecca eats the onion while she makes the macaroni.

She tells me this helps her create a defensive shield against hostile forces at work, you know, like Sue in the Fantastic Four.

If you're going to eat the onions while you're cooking, maybe one will be enough for nice, fresh breath.
Boil macaroni.

Saute onion in butter (or eat onion while looking fetching in green silk pyjamas).

Add flour and stir. This is your rue.

Add salt, pepper, and milk, bring to a gentle boil (no scalding, like last time).

Add cubed Velveeta and stir until melted

Pour over cooked macaroni noodles (which should be in greased baking dish, 9X13ish type size, though I [Rebecca] use a casserole dish that holds that kind of volume).

Bake uncovered at 375 for 30 minutes.
note: if your casserole dish is pretty full put a cookie sheet under it in the oven cuz it may bubble over a teeny bit and its easier to clean a cookie sheet than the oven! lol
Hope you like it :)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Back when the kittens were small

Look at this photo, way back 3 months ago on Fathers Day. Look how teensy that kitten is!

The kittens are a lot larger now.

Monday, September 15, 2008

HP to cut 25000 jobs at EDS

iTunes 8 with Genius

The new Genius feature in iTunes 8 is the best reason yet to have all your CDs ripped into iTunes!

With Genius, you don't have to make all your own playlists - Genius will put together similar music you into a playlist.

The more of your music you have in iTunes, the more interesting will be the Genius playlists generated.

I've got several hundred CDs, so I need to get some big storage to hold all my music.

Early reviews of the Genius complain that Genius often doesn't know what goes together with pretty popular material, like The Beatles or FatBoy Slim. I'm not sure why they had such problems.

With just a few hours of testing, I have found the Genius to be pretty weirdly eclectic, as it mashes together my Sarah McLachan, Moby, and Enigma. Genious did not add in any of my Pumpkins or DefTones or Big&Rich or Mozart to the mix, which would have been pretty jarring. I like Genius a lot!

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Maybe you have to be Tatiana or me to find this funny.

Click here to follow the link to watch the world's hardest video game.

Think "cheese" and maybe you can win!! (Grandma, don't go nuts with your mouse... it's a video not a video game).

Tatiana presents "The Disappearing Mouse"

It cost $799.95 to send Tatiana to Claymation Director's school for 3 weeks in Aspen, Colorado. But as you can see, it was money well spent!

Oops. I mean, "The Vanishing Mouse". The title "The Disappearing Mouse" vanished on the cutting-room floor.

Now, the plot in that movie was pretty good, compared to some others.

But if you go to movies more for the special effects and music and don't really care about plot so much, then check out this action sequence...

Wasn't that great! Better than that big car chase in The Day of the Jackal, if you ask me.

I'm told that last clip was shot with a stunt double who did not get mentioned in the credits.

Tatiana made some other videos, too - some studies she did while she was working on these two flicks. Write me if you want more of them posted, and I'll see if she is willing to share (artists are so personal, you know).

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Tatiana and Wasabi

Here's Tatiana reading a story to Wasabi last night. Tatiana got the book from the Morgan Hill library, which is almost walking distance from home here. I forget the name of the book, but according to Tatiana, it is the story of a young girl who goes swimming and discovers she has become a mermaid (apparently when she can't get her jeans back on).

Later yesterday evening, I fell asleep watching Tatiana decorate her igloo in a rousing session of Club Penguin. Once I was safely snoring, she and Wasabi crept off to the bathroom and Tatiana showed the kitten how to become a mercat.

Tatiana told me this morning that Wasabi fell unaided into the toilet, but I wonder if he was pushed, or more subtly influenced by the story she read to him.

Poor soggy kitten.

The Potlatch

I was reminded today of the Salish custom of the Potlatch. In British Columbia, we are either Salish or familiar with some of the Salish language and customs. A potlatch is a lavish party that you throw for prominent community members. You give guests eye-popping gifts, like smoked salmon, oolichan paste (see photo) canoes, totem poles, and so on, which enhances your position in the community. To receive an impressive gift at a potlatch and not be able to answer in kind is a social gaffe. When you receive lovely potlatch gifts from community members, the proper response is to hold a potlatch of your own, and invite everyone and give out even MORE breathtaking gifts, all of which is done with a mixture of boastful swagger ("no one outdoes ME") and humbleness ("please accept this meagre token as a thank-you for the wonderful gifts you gave me a year ago, etc etc"). All of this is done within one's abilities and standing in the community. How much to give and to whom is all quite complicated and involves the social standing of you, the receiver, and the witnesses. Wonderful human stuff.

Wikipedia really doesn't give a good treatment to the custom of the Potlatch in their article. Their wooden discussion seems to miss the entire point.

In modern times, we in Western Canada have verbed the word "potlatch", thereby making it possible to potlatch someone. To potlatch someone is to give someone an ostentatious gift in front of others. Your status is enhanced by giving such a gift and the recipient's status is enhanced by having been worthy of such an honour. The witnesses are important to see the public cementing of a friendship (and to eliminate any whif of patronage, nepotism, or hank-panky).

We all know the embarrassing, almost sickening feeling of having received a gift that is "too much", which is the first part of a potlatch. The wisdom of the Salish is to define the act as a custom, so that the receiver doesn't feel embarrassed at having received something that is too lavish. Custom allows a fitting response. Later, perhaps a year later, they can respond in like kind, publicly with a too-lavish gift. The exact extent of what is "too lavish" is hard to define, of course, but because these must be public gifts, all bystanders can quickly arrive at a consensus as to the extent of this potlatch, and if it was a worthy-enough response to prior potlatches. Great fun for all.

It is not possible to "even the score" by trading potlatches. Once you have received a potlatch gift, even if it was a poor answer to a potlatch gift you gave sometime earlier, the onus is now on you to respond. As a well-mannered potlatcher, you should ignore any implications of a meagre response, but should lavishly redouble heaping riches upon the other, so that all can see how generous you are and your determination to potlatch others into flattened pancakes, crushed beneath canoes, Rolexes, totem poles, iPhones, beaver pelts, and Robertson Davies first-editions (the unkempt master's photo is to the right).

A potlatch has elements of show-off about it, to be sure, but it is also a wonderful way to interact with others.

The way I was raised, there was a similar but different custom. When two fathers, say, drove to a gas station together, both would jump out of the car and rush towards the gas station building shouting and brandishing cash, one man yelling "it's my car, and I'm gonna pay for the @&%!# gas", and the other countering loudly with "you've been driving us all over town, so let me at least pay for the gas, you sonnava8!tch". They would noisily push and shove each other through the door and up to the counter, then bellow at the confused clerk to take their own outstretched money and not the other's. Serious stuff dressed up like fun. Both men proudly showing off their ability to pay, and not be paid for by others.

When I was in University, I had a Chinese girlfriend, Nancy. Her parents (who hated that I was white) would come to town, everyone would go out to supper to a restaurant, and arguments would break out over who would pay -- arguments I would always lose, and be shamed into letting them pay for Nancy and me. One time, I made the reservation and cleverly paid for the supper over the phone with a charge card, a week before we even went to the restaurant! Fiendishly evil! Victory was mine! Bwa ha ha ha ha HAAAAA! Unfortunately, it was a Chinese restaurant. When the bill came, I had a cocky smirk on my face because I had won the battle this time and I knew it. I leaned back, toothpick in mouth, and reached for the bill as the owner approached the table. The owner came to me and bowed sheepishly and handed me my charge card receipt ripped in half, and apologized deeply in broken English for the offense (odd, his English had been fine earlier in the evening). Nancy's father's eyes twinkled triumphantly as he talked with the owner in Chinese and paid for the meal -- with cash, large bills. Her mother scowled at the entire proceedings. I had been thwarted again, and it was necessary and proper to behave as though I was swallowing a lot of anger and humiliation (which I was) and politely, meekly thank her parents (again) for paying for supper. Nancy laughed happily and said in both languages (so that all could plainly hear and understand) "Dan, you'll have to do better than THAT". That was the right remark to make, making light of my umpteenth consecutive failure to pay (despite a creditable effort, this time) and thereby complimenting her parents on their stubbornness (a Chinese virtue) which made them insist on paying, no matter what, even if it meant cheating and switching to Chinese to perform the transaction. They liked me better for having tried so hard (though I was still lo-fan, white rice) , and were happy and relieved that they had bested me -- I was penniless and they were quite wealthy. I don't know what would have happened if I actually HAD ever managed to pay. Their shame at that would have prompted some sort of disproportionate response, I'm sure. It would have been wonderful to suffer that retribution whatever form it took (100 tins of Danish Butter Cookies?) knowing that, proportionally, it would not have measured up to me having paid for supper.

That's a principle similar to the potlatch. Something topsy-turvey where it is better to give than receive, where the giver gets the joy of watching the agony in the eyes of the receiver.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


I'm so hungry right now! This stuff looks pretty good, but I'm not sure about the prices.

Tonight is going to be buffalo dinner! I'll upload the recipe later. It's pretty great stuff!! The kittens sure like it!

Blackberry Thunder!!

According to some smarmy tech bloggers, the BlackBerry Thunder is on the way. The name sounds pretty ominous, like you've eaten too much blackberry pudding.

I have a Blackberry Curve. Naturally, it is red (shown). But with the iPhone out for a year now, you just gotta know that companies like Nokia and Blackberry are feeling pretty bad. Feeling like... well, feeling like they had too much blackberry pudding.

So, I can hardly wait to get a cool touch-screen iPhone-clone, but one that is a Blackberry.

Of course, mine will have to be red, Red Thunder!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Grandma's new puppy

I finally got a photo of Grandma's new one-eyed puppy, Rudyard Kipling, known as Kipper for short. Kipper is a Malta-Poo, which I first misunderstood to be Multi-Poo, which apparently is apt enough anyway.

Kipper is a rescued puppy, just like Tangerine and Wasabe were rescued, so we can all feel good about that. The kittens seem to have a different opinion about adorable one-eyed rescued puppies crowding the stage.

The story I heard about Kipper is that a dog breeder took his pups to a vet in Chilliwack (Bro, you have to actually follow these links sometimes). The breeder twirled his moustache and told the vet to put down the one-eyed runt puppy. The vet had a better idea and called Grandma's friend Claire, famed all over the Fraser Valley for rescuing animals and feeding them cooked square sausage. Claire put the pup in a picnic basket with some nicely broiled pork chops, drove by Grandma's place at 3am, put the basket on the porch, rang the door-bell, kicked the basket a couple of times so the pup would start yiping, and drove off into the night cackling with glee. Something like that.

I don't know if I go for that story. There are a few holes in it. Grandma keeps her gate nailed shut and I don't see Claire with a bumbershoot gliding over the gate like Mary Poppins, with puppy, pork chops, and all.

Also, I recall that Claire doesn't approve of broiled pork chops for puppies -- the rescued guppies get pork chops.

Also, when I look at that photo, I'm pretty sure I see two eyes on that puppy.

And wait-a-minute. Didn't Grandma break her right arm a month ago? How come the sling is on her left arm? And look how much firewood she's chopped and how muscular she's become. Hmmmm.

Grandma also sent me some other photos, including one of a wet cat that looks like Tangerine. I was trying to get the photos organized on my computer last night. The kittens sure aren't helpful when I'm trying to work (they chase the mouse on the screen), and the Mac isn't always so great at working with photos and movies. Anyway, the kittens were jumping around, the Mac fell off the desk into my special KD Broc and the photo below came out.

Honestly, if I'm going to doctor photos, I'm going to have to get a PC. Mac software isn't cheap. This package I used, Pixelmator, was okay. But because I'm using the 30 days trial, it put blobs right over Grandma's face and a big watermark across the front of the photo.

Actually, I think the problem was that I looked for software right from the Apple website, which is a big infomercial, not a good list of freebies. I think I'll look else where, like next time; that's where I go for good quality, virus-free PC stuff.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Kraft Dinner with Broccoli

This is a great recipe for a guy on his own.

Guys don't have the patience to cook, generally -- when they are hungry, they want to eat. Shopping on the way home from work to get some nice Swiss chard and... oh, look... cukes are on sale! That's just not going to happen a lot.

What's needed for a guy on his own is something that uses standard ingredients found in most gentlemen's kitchens (things that store a long, long time) cooks easily but is healthy and not too fattening.

This recipe fits the bill.

You need:
- 1 box of Kraft Dinner "KD", also known as Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. Guys all know which particular brand is their favourite. Get the good kind, whichever that is. Thankfully, you're pleasing no one but yourself and you can probably afford the 75 cents to get the very best. Don't get that brand called Annie's Homegrown Bunnie Pasta -- too many questions from the kittens about if it has real bunnies inside.
- 1 frozen package of broccoli in cheese sauce. It comes in a convenient square box, so that you can buy 20 and stack 'em up in the freezer. Can't you tell this is going to be a great recipe already! Green Giant brand, of course. We're guys here -- no tinkerbell brands.
- 1 small container of milk. If you want to lose weight, get skim (non-fat) milk. I always buy the non-lactose milk if they have some, because ... well, you know.

  • Boil the KD noodles as you normally would. Extra points if you can make the whole thing foam over three times!
  • Meanwhile, nuke the frozen broccoli. You have to cut apart the plastic package a little, which can be done with 14 or 15 expert slashes with your pocket knife -- no need to wash one of the dirty knives that live in the dishwasher.
  • Check the blade on that knife. Does it need sharpening? Maybe look at it in a better light. Looks okay, I guess. Fold it up, and back into your pocket it goes. Safety first. Whoa! Noodles are boiling over again.
  • If you time it right (and who doesn't love to get the timing right) you get the noodles done the exact instant when the microwave is done melting the frozen broc.
  • Drain the noodles. This is pretty complicated to do without a strainer. But if you take a look at how much one of those high-end colanders costs, it gets a lot easier to use the pot lid to keep most of the noodles in the pot. If you're pretty hungry and a lot of noodles fell in the sink, well, blow off the germs and put them back in the pot!
  • Fish the KD box out of the garbage (oh, there it is on the floor!) and find the cheese powder mix. Even though the broccoli has cheese sauce, too, neither of them is really made of cheese so you need both of them just to taste anything.
  • Cut the top of the cheese powder package open. I won't keep mentioning that it is good to use the ol' pocket knife -- you get the idea. Maybe spend some time with that blade later, though, when this 9 minute cooking agony is over.
  • Dump the cheese sauce on the noodles before they get cold.
  • Make sure the milk isn't bad. Don't use spoilt milk or you will be sick. Ignore the expiry date. You have to sniff the milk (I'm serious). If it smells bad, it's bad. If it smells okay, it's good. If you think maybe it might be bad, then it's good. When you take a big ol' sniff of milk that's bad, you don't use wonder "uh... maybe it might be bad?". The smell just about makes you ralph.
  • So, now that it has passed the sniff test, dump in a little milk. Just a splash. Half a glass. You didn't have a fancy strainer so there is still a lot of water in there. If the milk was bad, add some water. Or try the sour milk -- live on the edge!
  • If you like butter or margarine, and you actually have some, add it too. Too creamy for me, but you're making this for you.
  • Stir it up until the powdered cheesey goodness is no longer powder and no parts of the goop are more orange than others.
  • In goes the broccoli-n-cheese. You have to have already nuked it. Don't get the bright idea that you can get the cheesy noodles to melt the frozen broccoli. It won't work -- I tried it. You will end up with a half-frozen broccoli mass with cheese and noodle barnacles all over it. And since everything is in a metal pot, you can't use the microwave to save you now, Einstein.
  • So, let's assume you already melted the cheesy broccoli, so it stirs nicely into the KD.
With the broccoli mixed into the noodles and goopy cheese everywhere, the result is suddenly quite impressive. You were hungry, you spent ten minutes doing fairly easy things, and now the pot is brimming with good food. It smells like KD, and the broccoli is firm and dark green. Galloping Gourmet, eat your hearts out!

Enjoy! And save the cheesy pot for the kittens!

While you eat, let's study how much this cost, in dollars and calories!

In my concoction, I skipped the milk because skim milk doesn't really add much, and it always goes bad after a month in the fridge.

My local Safeway is pretty expensive:
- one package Kraft Dinner $0.80
- one package frozen broccoli w/cheese $2.00.
I stocked up and bought 3 of each, and that cost me less than $10.00

I'll read you the calories off the boxes:
the entire box of KD (without milk) 260
the entire box of broccoli and cheese 150
If you are a pig and eat all of everything, that's barely 400 calories. You could eat that 3 meals a day and lose weight like crazy.

By contrast, click here to see the amazing Chipotle calorie counter. Just click on the items you had in the burrito you ordered last time you were there, and see if it tops 1500 calories. I had a chicken burrito -- 1300 calories!! I'm not eating at Chipotle any more.

Yessiree! Only 3 bucks and 400 calories, and you ate so much your stomach hurts. And tomorrow you can brag at guys (hopefully with certain women in earshot) that "yep... cooked me up a mess of pasta primavera last night -- I stick mainly to broccoli as my prime prima. So-oo-oo good and so good for ya. Oh, that reminds me, I'm not sure I didn't nick the blade on my pocket knife... let's see that thing here...".

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Please... think of the kittens

All God does is watch us and kill us when we get boring. We must never, ever be boring.
Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters, 1999
US writer (1962 - )

That goes double for kittens!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Salt in the Rice Shaker

Tips for Salt Shaker problems:
  1. If you have a problem with salt clumping in your salt shaker (salt cellar), then put some rice in there. Don't believe me? Check the science on it here, here, and here.

  2. You're not supposed to cook the rice first. I thought cooked rice would be nice and fluffy (like a sponge) and would be good at absorbing moisture. Not so.

  3. You need salt in the salt cellar, too. Not just rice cooked with lots of salt.

  4. Rice may be good at keeping the salt from clumping, but it does not have great de-clumping properties. If you have a solid salt-ball in your salt shaker, a few grains of rice don't have enough absorbency to disintegrate that much clumped salt. Shaking helps a little, but you're going to need a lot more rice to break up your salt block.

  5. If you can't get the salt ball out of the salt shaker, you're gonna have to break it up inside the cellar somehow.

  6. Don't use the microwave oven to melt the salt ball. Microwaves don't "melt" wet salt. I won't explain what really happens to the wet salt (or the salt shaker or the microwave oven), because you might want to try it, too. Just forget about the microwave oven, unless you're at the office and you're pretty sure you're going to get fired anyway.

  7. Don't add water into the salt cellar in an attempt to melt the salt ball if you're trying to recover the salt. You have to keep adding more water, then dumping the brine out, then adding more water, etc.

  8. Do use something long and slender and sharp to break up the salt ball inside the salt cellar. Sometimes you have little skewers normally used for stitching together whole turkeys for baking in the oven. Those will fit.

  9. If you fancy yourself a bit handy around the house, you probably have a power-screwdriver or power drill or Dremel. A Dremel is best for being handy around the kitchen, because its petite form factor better suits the culinary atmosphere. You may laugh at this, guys, but you know that you're not going to be allowed anywhere near that salt cellar with your new hammer-drill.

  10. Don't be in so much of a hurry to get the salt out that you think there isn't enough time to go find the Dremel. As they say, there is never enough time to do a job right, but always enough time to do the job over.

  11. Don't forget to bring back the drill bits, too, or you'll be making a second trip to the garage.

  12. Put a drill bit in the Dremel. Why not use one of those fancy carbide-tipped metric bits that someone got you for Christmas; after all, they're not much good for anything else.

  13. Goggles. This is a Union shop.

  14. Fire up the Dremel to it's impressive sounding maximum RPMs and carefully break up that salt ball.

  15. Don't be tentative -- if you ease the bit into the ball too slowly, you'll burn the salt (see Microwave above).

  16. One confident, manly, high-precision stab (think hammerdrill) with the drill bit and you're done -- don't do more or you're just showing off, doofus.
Random extra thing:

Here is a tip from someone even more confused than me. The author writes what do when you are "Hot?" or when you have rice (sic) clumping in your salt shaker.

One last tip. If you don't have rice, you can substitute sugar. Sugar is better at absorbing water (scientists say hygroscopic affinity or desiccant) than salt and it will keep your cellar running clear. Try it! Don't believe me? Check the science on it here, here, and here!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Elevator Ride

This is a story from last fall when I was working down in Los Angeles at SpotRunner.

A little background before I start my story:
My office is on the top floor of a twenty-two storey building. To get
there, I ride the 15-22 express elevators. Our express elevators blast
off from the first floor with discernible G force up to the 14th floor
then slow down for the milk run through the upper floors.

A little more background before I start my story:
My floor is a "secure" floor. The Turkish Consulate (!) is on the 17th
floor and is a secure floor, too. The elevator will not stop on those
floors unless you have a special keychain fob that you wave in front of
a special panel inside the elevator. You get in the elevator along
with everyone else and people press buttons for their floors, "18",
"15", what have you. But a person going to a "secure" floor must
wave their key fob at the special panel, then push 22 (or 17 if they are
going to the Turkish Consulate).

This extra security thing is not really much of a security barrier for
terrorists or other ne'er-do-wells to infiltrate but it *is* a very
ostentatious sign of office-grade class distinction. For instance, if
the lobby is crowded, the first person who gets on the elevator first
often stations himself next to the buttons and helpfully asks other
fellow travelers "what floor?" and presses the buttons for them. Not
really necessary, of course, but such small courtesies are part of
what makes the world go around (and the elevator go up). But the
person going to a special floor must (with a mock-rueful shrug and
half-smile) decline the "what floor?" offer, and say "I have to wave
this to get to my floor, sorry." They must reach past everyone and
wave the key fob and press the button themselves. Everyone in the
carriage watches this wordlessly, but the camaraderie of the upcoming
voyage upward is definitely broken -- someone from "First Class" is in
steerage. Icy silence reigns as the elevator leaps upward. The snob
is jubilant.

And another wee point about this particular bank of elevators:
There is some sort of irksome timing issue with our key fob security
system. There is a little light on the panel that is always glowing
orange. When the key fob wave is successful, the light goes red.
Then you can press the 22 button, the 22 button will light and the
elevator will eventually stop on the 22nd floor. The fob system seems to like to
wait a second or two before granting access, so you wind up jabbing away
at the 22 button until it lights. Sometimes, the little light goes
from red back to orange without the 22 button lighting and you have to
start the key fob waving over again. These antics are always conducted
in grim, frosty silence. The other passengers have already dubbed you an
elevator elitist (the worst kind) and no one will provide helpful suggestions or offer
encouragement. The helpful "what floor?" button-pressing man has moved as far
away from you and your key fob as possible, preferring to stand with
his disenfranchised, fob-less brothers and sisters.

I have mixed feelings about the whole thing. I like being special and
having to press my special key fob to go to my special top-floor
super-spy-hideout complete with Inter-Galactic Council Chambers. But it is embarrassing
at the same time to have a showy, geeky, malfunctioning, self-important
procedure I make everyone else suffer. But that's life in the big

One more point in general about elevators:
If the lobby is quiet, there will generally be an elevator carriage
sitting with its door open awaiting riders. If you walk into the
elevator and don't press any buttons, the elevator will still sit
there. Of course. It doesn't know where you want to go yet. Press a
button and off it goes. Or... wave your key fob frantically and jab
away at 22 (or 17 for the Turkish Consulate) and off it goes.

So, on with my story.
One fine evening, I and a colleague walked into our building after
stepping out to get some take-out food. The lobby was quiet and dark,
and there was an elevator carriage waiting for us. We stepped into the
carriage and got started on the procedure of trying to get approval to
travel to the 22nd floor. We both had our key chains out and ready,
and since there was no one else in the carriage, we could be quite
openly jolly about being First Class elevator travelers together -- no
coach passengers to feel slighted. In short, we co-operated on the
whole waving the key fob and pressing the buttons procedure. I am a new
employee and therefore it is appropriate for me to be slightly
obsequious. Therefore I was first and vigorous with the key fob wave
while my senior colleague manned the 22 button. No joy on 22 -- the
button wouldn't light. So, with a mock-exasperated sigh, the "veteran"
did the key fob wave while I meekly worked the 22 button. The elevator
doors closed and off we went. However, the 22 button still wouldn't
light. I pounded relentlessly and enthusiastically on the button.
So many things are difficult at a job when you are new, and that day
like most days was fully of "new guy" humiliations big and small --
so this evening, at this moment, I told myself I was not going suffer
defeat to an elevator button simply for lack of effort! Thus goaded,
I redoubled my efforts. Stab stab stab stabitty stab stab stab...

My colleague faltered, his fob-waving slowed, then stopped. I stabbed and stabbed.
He turned to me and said "Dude..." I jabbed away, heedless. stab stab stab "Dude! Dude!"
He put his hand on my arm to stop me "Dude, stop pressing the button.
Stop! Look. There are no buttons lit. And there's no one upstairs... "

I stopped. We stood there and looked at the unlit buttons. We were closing in on the Turkish Consulate's floor with no sign of slowing, and the panel remained unlit.

He said slowly, "Dude? Where.. are.. we... going?"

The elevator carriage kept whooshing skyward, now faster than ever it seemed, so it was becoming
comically urgent to get our floor selected. Finally, laughing and screaming "augh!!!!", we both mashed our
key fobs against the panel to get the light to go red again and we
machine-gun pressed the 22 button. The Turkish Consulate was fading in our taillights and we were still
accelerating skyward
before the button finally lit up! Moments later the elevator calmly slowed
and stopped at 22, with a smooth calm, quiet finish. The doors efficiently whisked open and we peeked out at the dark, empty
lobby on the 22nd floor. No one had summoned the elevator to 22 or any
other floor -- the lobby was dark because the lights go out when no one is around.

We got out, the lights came on, and life seemed to return to normal. But we just stood and looked at each other, then looked back at the
elevator. The elevator doors stayed open, the carriage still. Clearly, the elevator had
nothing else pressing to do, no other urgent business requiring a headlong unasked-for rush to the basement, say. So where had the elevator been taking us at top speed? Good thing we managed to get it to stop at 22!! If we hadn't pressed any buttons, where would it have gone?
To the roof, the universe, and beyond? Or even further, say, to Santa Monica?

We still don't know what that was all about.

Snow Pudding with Hard Sauce

At Christmas time when we were children, my Mum used to serve snow pudding. In that long-ago time we felt very modern and had left behind the old ways, so much so that snow pudding wasn't made out of snow anymore. By the 1960's Canada had become a prosperous Dominion and contemporary mothers used whipped egg whites to give snow pudding its ethereal frothiness, not snow. Still, with eyes a-twinkle Canadian fathers would sagely tell solemn youngsters that snow pudding was made "with clean snow from out in the back yard over by the fence where no one has walked, cooked extra slowly in your mother's double-boiler, you see, so that the snow won't melt as the pudding sets. Your mother has to make snow pudding while you children are at school, because running and jumping in the kitchen can make the snow-fle fall." Good grief, that's a bad pun, but it's pretty funny when delivered without a smile to children who don't know they are being had.

Snow pudding sounded and tasted wonderful. When the poet wrote "as pure as the driven snow", he was probably reaching for "as pure as snow pudding made with real snow from over by the fence where nobody has walked."

However, served alongside snow pudding came (insert terrifying chord) hard sauce.

Hard sauce?!?!?!?

HARD sauce?!??

hard SAUCE!?!?!

"Hard sauce" sounds as unappetizing as runny sauce.

Or scratchy sauce.

Heavy sauce.

Woolen sauce.

10w30 sauce.

Iron sauce.

Big sauce.

Coal sauce.

Dry sauce.

Birch Bark sauce.

Waxy Sauce.

Lye sauce.

Black sauce.

Bug sauce.

Black bug sauce.

Kitten sauce.

Low sauce.

Ralph sauce.

Carcinogenic sauce.

Box Sauce.

Hard sauce.

"Black bug sauce" reminds me of another freakish concoction Grandma served in the summers, called "shoo fly pudding". But that's another story (about merry-eyed fathers spinning yarns at the table to nauseous children) for another time. It's becoming apparent to me that I was raised by wolves.

But back to our current story....

On Christmas Eve (or Boxing Day) silent youngsters would receive a brief stern lecture about the "very lucky children in this room" and then out would come the snow pudding. And the hard sauce. At the kitchen table we would receive a small portion of snow pudding, sans hard sauce thank Goodness.

We each had at some time surreptitiously tasted the hard sauce. I remember once, when I was alone in the kitchen, taking a small spoonful of the solid, burnt-orange substance. It didn't look promising, but if it was forbidden and an accompaniment to heavenly snow pudding, it must be a subtle wonder, too. Into the mouth went the spoon. Ewwwww! Out came the spoon, just as quickly. The taste was lingering and sour, like something burnt. Once on the tongue, the sour paste melted and the fumes immediately went up the nose, working as an aide to over-congestion.

Most things that adults forbid are actually pretty great! Second helpings of pie. Staying up until midnight to see in the New Year. Throwing around tennis balls in the back-back of the station wagon. All forbidden, all wanted.

However, hard sauce was one of those rare things that was forbidden, like coffee and whiskey, but that didn't need forbidding. "Children, you may NOT have a cup of coffee." Hello!?!?! Did you see us trying to sneak some coffee when you weren't looking? Du-uh!! It's so gross!!

So... we children would have our pure, sweet snow pudding in the kitchen.

The rest of the snow pudding, all of the hard sauce, and all of the adults would sail off into the living room. We didn't have dining rooms then. There was only one table in the house for eating at. The adults were in the semi-darkened living room using (wow!) TV tables or (gasp!) no tables at all.

Being left unattended by adults was a rarity. In those uncomplicated times, we children were not suspicious of what our parents were up to in the living room. We noisily enjoyed our good fortune and flicked spoonfuls of snow pudding at each other.

In the living room, our parents served snow pudding to their friends. As well, they politely and magnanimously allowed themselves and each other to partake in the hard sauce. Was this simply a Christmas tea party, or do I remember increasingly raucous laughter?

Looking back now (A La Recherchee du Temps Perdu) as I casually flick tapioca pudding at the kittens, I have a grown-up's sharp and cynical mind. NOW I wonder what the heck was going on.

Were the grown-ups getting into the sherry? Or does hard sauce have hard liquor in it, as the name suggests? Or maybe they were simply flicking snow pudding at each other and didn't want to encourage the children.

In recent years, whenever Grandma gets to acting silly, I ask archly if she's gotten into the hard sauce again. I never found out and still don't know what hard sauce actually is. I know I could Google it, but I really don't want to know.

The name "hard sauce" conjures up something better than the reality ever could be. I'll leave it at that.