The Ownership of Sound

Please watch the video first before reading the rest of the post.

The artist in this video, Christine Sun Kim, raises some very thought provoking questions about sound and language.   After I watched the video to find out what it was about, I watched it a second time so that instead of concentrating on reading the subtitles, I could watch her face, and her hands as she signed.  (Did you get why it was subtitled instead of “voiced over?”)  Since she is hearing impaired, she has no experience of language as a sound phenomenon.  As she points out, her language is visual, silent.  It occupies space. Think about that for a moment — language occupying space.

Her comments about people “owning” sound were intriguing.  How, indeed, can a hearing impaired person “own” sounds they are unable to hear, sounds they have no way to tell if/when they are making? That is the thrust of her artwork.  She is finding her own unique way to “own” sounds.

Although we experience reading as a visual, silent form of language, even then, we still “hear” the reader’s “voice” “speaking” to us through the words.  Can you separate the look of a word, the reading of a word, from what it sounds like when spoken? Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t.  An insight that occurred to me while I was thinking about this was that maybe I resist buying audio books because the reader’s voice would compete with the author’s.  When I’m reading a good book — a real page turner — I can actually hear the “voice” of the book in my mind’s ear as I read — not the author’s voice, but the book’s voice.  Each book has its own voice, even books by the same author.

She also got me thinking about vocal language.  I’ve spent my entire career listening to people talk and typing what they say.  They call it “transcribing” but what I’m really doing is translating auditory language into visual language.   I’ve become very focused on the sound of language and how it looks on the page.

I cannot imagine what it would be like to grow up having one’s primary language circuit (mouth-ear) disrupted.  Our mouths and ears are so intricately wired into the  language centers of our brains that hearing language is all it takes to trigger the language acquisition process. (We even use “tongue” as a synonym for “language.”)  We are hardwired for language; we will acquire it and use it by whatever means necessary. If we cannot hear it, we will learn to see it.  Signing is as valid a language as any other human language.  It has grammar and syntax, dialect, slang, and even “accents,” just like any other language but, as she pointed out,  it operates within completely different parameters.

When I was a child, my dad worked for an office supply company that did custom printing.  We’re talking old school, here.  They did have an offset press for brochures and things that had photographs, but they also printed things like wedding invitations and custom business cards, and that was done with type set by linotype machines and printed on mechanical printing presses.  It was a very noisy environment.  When the presses were running, you had to shout at the top of your voice to be heard.  The printing department was run by a man and his wife.  The noise didn’t bother or inconvenience them at all.  They had no trouble communicating with each other when the presses were running.  They were both profoundly hearing impaired.  On the few times I got to go see “where dad worked,” I was fascinated to watch them sign.

I like watching people sign when I don’t have somebody “translating” — for the same reason I like listening to foreign language films with the subtitles turned off — just to “see” if I can figure out what they are saying.  It’s an interesting exercise.  You might try it sometime.

Today’s Earworm

Even if you aren’t familiar with the term “earworm,” you know what one is, because it’s a sure bet that you’ve had one, even if you have a tin ear or couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket.  I get them all the time.  Songs get stuck in my head for days.  I wander about the house warbling away.  (Mind you, I’ve never actually caught any of the kitties doing the teenage eye rolling thing. . .)  So here it is:

Today’s earworm comes courtesy of Sir Paul back when he was one of those scandalously long-haired teen idols who, with a little help from his friends, turned the music industry upside down and hit popular culture like a ton of bricks.  It comes from the infamous “white album” and its odd assortment of tunes.  Sir Paul (does he get as big a laugh out of the “Sir” bit as I do?) has a gift for melody — tuneful, catchy, delightful and eminently humable.  He’s not so big on lyrics, but oh, those melodies.  I think George Martin, the noted musical midwife, picked up on that straight away.  His arrangements for some of them — Eleanor Rigby, Yesterday, Penny LaneShe’s Leaving Home, and When I’m Sixty-Four (which Sir Paul wrote at the tender age of 16), provide platinum settings for those little jewels.  And then there are I’ll Follow The Sun, and the spare solo guitar of Blackbird.  Even after the breakup of the Beatles, the hits kept on coming — Only Love RemainsBluebird, No More Lonely Nights, the insanely popular Mull of Kyntyre, When the Wind is Blowing, Great Day, to name but a very few, and his ability churn out  these merry melodies has made him a mint (and a knight).

The writer Douglas Adams took a somewhat jaundiced view of the Macca phenomenon.  In Life, the Universe and Everything, the third book in his five-book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy, he puts this thought into the mind of his well-traveled protagonist, Arthur Dent as he listened to the Masters of Krikkit singing: “Arthur could almost imagine Paul McCartney sitting with his feet up by the fire one evening, humming it to Linda and wondering what to buy with the proceeds, and thinking, probably, Essex.”

(BTW If you are looking for something zany, off the wall, and hilarious to read  (and you are willing to dangle your disbelief off a high cliff), I cannot recommend the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books highly enough.)

Owing to the fact that the resident human has an extremely low earworm threshold, the kitties have become hardened veterans. Sometimes they luck out, like when this and the vocal part of this got lodged in my ‘hum-de-diddle-er” following a re-re-re-re-re-viewing of The Secret of Roan Inish, but when this was the earworm du jour, it got whistled.  Endlessly.  For days.  The kitties spent a lot of time under the bed.  They hate the whistle-y ones.

While searching YouTube for songs for this blog, I ran across this video — which is also another “marvelous Macca melody” case in point.  (I can just see the black one jerk his tail back and forth and mutter between clenched fangs,  “Oh, crikey.  Not another whistle-y one.”  And doing the eye roll thing.)

My 200th Post!

Not bad for a blog that isn’t a year old yet (January 2013).  This is a smorgasbord post of things and stuff, starting with this:

Image Source: Tumblr blog “The Fall of Rome”

Isn’t that the most gorgeous rose? It’s for real, folks. Described as: “a Hybrid Tea, or large-flowered bush rose with an upright habit, dark green leaves and, in summer and autumn, fragrant, double flowers with deep red inside the petals and silver-white on the outside of each petal.” Not only that, but wouldn’t “Osiria Rose” make a lovely name for a girl?

Lipton Spiced Cinnamon Chai and apple juice is heavenly.  I’m having some now, about half and half. I brewed half a glass of the tea in one of my heavy blue glass tumblers (the glass is over 1/8-inch thick), and heated the apple juice in the microwave before I added it. (Caution: The two liquids need to be roughly the same temperature when you combine them, otherwise adding that much cold to hot or hot to cold causes a sudden change in temperature that might shatter your cup or glass.)  I like it so much, I’m going to go make a carafe full when I finish the glass.

I’m listening to Nirvana internet radio’s Relaxation channel, which features what I call “floaty” music — soft, melodic, with no percussion at all.  Very soothing, tranquil, and delightful.  The perfect music for sewing, reading, blogging, watching scenery, having a nice hot soak in the tub, or just generally chilling out. . .  If you’d like to give it a listen, go here to tune in.  The Nirvana website supports Winamp, Windows Media Player, RealPlayer and Quicktime, but it wants a plug-in that I apparently don’t have.  I did an end run around this problem by going through the Internet Radio website, which gives you a choice of using Flash Player, Windows Media Player, Winamp, iTunes or RealPlayer to stream their music.  Just click on the appropriate icon. These programs can all be downloaded for free.

If you use Wiindows 7, use Windows Media Player (WMP) to stream music from internet radio, and have several different stations and or station channels you like to listen to, rather than bookmark the stations and access them through your browser, try this:   Make a folder on your desktop (position your mouse pointer on your desktop, right click, choose “New” and “Folder” and give the folder an appropriate name).  Next, open your browser and go to the website of your internet radio station of choice.  Hover your mouse pointer over what you click on to start streaming, and right click.  Choose “Save Link As” and save the link to your desktop folder.  Compatible files will end in either .asx  or .m3u file extensions.   WMP treats these files the same way as it does one of your WMP playlists.  You’ll want to rename the file (the same way you would any file) using the name of the radio station and channel, so you’ll be able to tell which one is which — be careful not to write over the file extension!  This way you don’t have to open your browser.  You just open the folder on your desktop and click on the link you want.  The WMP program opens and starts streaming.  In my “Players” folder,  I also have shortcuts for Windows Media Player, Rhapsody and a link to my Squeezebox server.  It’s my “one-stop-shop” for music on my computer.

I’ve just downloaded this free internet radio app for Kindle Fire (and other Android devices) called “Tune-In” that allows you to access AM/FM radio as well as internet radio, news and sports feeds, podcasts, etc.  It apparently also offers the capability to make “presets” of your favorite stations.  If it works as advertised, and if I can get “my” stations using it, I will be a happy camper.  Stay tuned.  (Edit: I could find Stillstream, Radio Gaia, and Mind Potion Radio on their list of stations, but not Nirvana, or Blue Mars — I haven’t tried using it through the Kindle yet.  Tune-in has an app for my Squeezebox internet radio, too, which I just enabled, but I haven’t used it yet either.)

It’s leftover turkey, dressing and jellied cranberry sauce for lunch.  My mom’s wonderful cornbread dressing.  I have this thing where I spear a small morsel of dressing, a small morsel of cranberry sauce and a small morsel of turkey on a fork and eat it as one combined bite.  To my mouth, the taste of the three of them combined is 3 times better than each individual taste.  Chacun, as they say.  It’s a taste that is fraught with memories.

Podstakannik with matching spoon, Image Source Wikipedia Commons

A Russian lady I once knew told of drinking tea from glasses in “podstakanniki”  (подстаканники), metal holders with handles, brewed with water heated in a samovar (самовар).  They drank zavarka (заварка), a strong tea concentrate.  The procedure was to pour oneself a glass of tea, place a cube of sugar in one’s cheek, and slowly sip the tea, allowing the hot tea to melt some of the sugar to sweeten it.  She also told of putting a spoonful of jelly into the hot tea, which melted and sweetened it.  Tea glasses come in sets consisting of podstakanniki and matching spoons, which can be purchased with or without glasses.  A set of pretty podstakanniki with matching spoons was traditionally given as a wedding present by one relative with a set of glasses given by another relative.  The glasses were also used by themselves for alcoholic beverages, like vodka, which is traditionally drunk neat

Agnes Morehead Image Source: Wikipedia Commons

I’m sure living in the starvation conditions of the siege for 900 days had as much to do with it as her habit of drinking tea this way, but when I knew her (in her late 40’s), all of her molars were decayed to the point they had to be extracted.  She was a remarkable lady.  In appearance, she reminded me a great deal of Agnes Morehead.  She had dark, dark auburn hair, this wonderful Lenningrad drawl, and a wry, ironic sense of humor.  I was living in Monterey, California, when I knew her.  Periodically, she would mention that she had spoken with her father by telephone (he still lived in Leningrad), and tell us what he said the temperature was there.  Needless to say, there was usually a significant difference.  She refused to have a washing machine in her house, and paid a lady to do her laundry for her because the sound of a washing machine in operation reminded her of the engines of the Nazi planes that regularly strafed and bombed the city.   Of course, when I say “Leningrad,” I’m speaking of “Peter’s City” — St. Petersburg. The Soviets changed the name in 1924, and in 1991, after the fall of the Soviet Union, it was changed back.  I don’t blame them.  (N.B. I googled her name just now, and discovered she’s still living in Monterey, California, is aged 84, and has written her> autobiography.  There’s 6 copies available on Amazon.  Payday is next week.  God, I love the internet.

I have a pair of podstakanniki with glasses that I bought in a charity shop when I lived in Berlin, Germany.  They are chrome coated steel, but most of the chrome has worn off.     (I also have some teaspoons from Berlin, but they are plain and unadorned.)  Although the podstakanniki were “well loved” and the glasses didn’t match, I liked them, and the price was right. They bring back memories of an exciting time in my life and they reminded me of the Russian lady I knew, who was indirectly responsible for my going to Berlin, but that’s another story. . . .

I’ve made a carafe full of the Lipton Spice Cinnamon Chai with apple juice.   I’d saved the heels from the loaf before this in a baggie in the refrigerator.  Just now, I buttered them, then minced some turkey to sprinkle on them, sprinkled on some chopped black olives and a little chopped onion, sprinkled some shredded Mexican Four Cheeses on them, and nuked them. (Supper.) Kind of a turkey pizza-cumchalupa.  I’ve already snarfed down half of one heel.  I use the heels because they hold up better under the weight of the toppings even when softened by the melted butter.  Two little “pizzalupas” are just about right.  Top it off with a container of raspberry yogurt, and there you are.

I’m technically “at work” although there hasn’t been much work today.  With my KVM switch, I  have two computers connected to the same keyboard, monitor and mouse.  I can have both computers on and switch back and forth between them simply by pressing CTRL-CTRL.  Makes it easy for me to nip over to my work computer to check to see if there’s any work and, if not, I can go back to whatever I was doing on my “play” computer — like writing my 200th blog post!  However, I see there’s work now, so I had better post this and get busy!

(Really) Wild Turkeys

Meleagris gallopavo silvestris male Image source: Wikipedia Commons

When the Pilgrims landed in Massachusetts in 1620 and set up shop, the American wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris) was high on the list of locally sourced foodstuffs.

(Just to clarify things here, I’m talking about lower case “wild turkey,” which is a species of large American wildfowl (see right).  Upper case “Wild Turkey” is a brand of bourbon whiskey distilled in Kentucky, and is a horse of quite a different color.)

Although Meleagris gallopavo are commonly called “turkeys,” they have nothing to do with Turkey.

Helmeted Guineafowl (Numida meleagris)    Image source: Wikipedia Commons

When Europeans first encountered the American wild turkey, they mistakenly identified it as another species of the guineafowl (Numididae) which had been imported into Central Europe through Turkey.  Because they also thought that the back end of North America was attached to the front end of Asia, and these American birds bore a resemblance to a bird known to come from Turkey, it made sense to them to call them “turkeyfowl.” Unfortunately, the misnomer stuck and now we call them “turkeys” instead of nemmiziseg, mišihrew or whatever the Wampanoag called them before they were exterminated by the Europeans and/or the diseases they brought with them. 

Meleagris gallopavo silvestris hens. Image source: Wikipedia Commons

Meleagris gallopavo ranged over the dense forests of the eastern United States and up into Canada.  Male turkeys (called “toms”) can reach 4 feet/1.2 m in height and can weigh as much as 30 lbs/14 kg. (That’s a lotta bird!).  The females (“hens”) are noticeably smaller.  Although they’re not very good distance fliers (short bursts of up to 55 mph/89 kph), they can run quite well (10-20 mph/16-32 kph), as anyone who has ever tried hunting one can tell you.

Meleagris gallopavo gallopavo tom
Image source:

Oh, BTW, for all you trivia buffs, that “red dangley thing” that hangs over the beak of the adult males of all the subspecies of Meleagris gallopavo is called a “snood,” which is odd considering what else that word refers to

The founding father Ben Franklin was a secret admirer and once confessed that he wished the wild turkey had been chosen for the national bird instead of the bald eagle, who he termed “. . . a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly, . . . too lazy to fish for himself, [he steals prey from other birds] . . . he is never in good Case but like those among Men who live by Sharping & Robbing he is generally poor and often very lousy. . . a rank Coward.”**  Franklin preferred “the Turkey [who] is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America… He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.”* *

By the 19th century, the wild turkeys had been hunted to extinction in many parts of the eastern seaboard including Massachusetts, where it purportedly featured in the famous Plymouth Colony “Ye First Harvest In Ye Newe Worlde” bash in November of 1621.  However, conservationists have reintroduced it into some parts of its old range.

Wild turkeys are now being spotted in towns and suburbs throughout the New England area, including downtown Manhattan.  The Pilgrim’s old stomping grounds of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts currently has approximately 20,000 of them.  And there’s the rub, to coin a phrase.  As Franklin noted, they can be quite aggressive. Residents of Brookline, (a suburb near the center of Boston) have mixed feelings about the bird’s reintroduction. Complaints about them have more than doubled within the last two months.  One police officer reports he spends his mornings protecting Brookline High School students from them.  They crowd the sidewalks and cause traffic jams.  They fly up into people’s faces, attempting to scratch them with their claws and buffet them with their wings and/or chase after people pecking at them, a strategy which is apparently quite effective.  “I’ve had them come after me,” one Brookline resident told “I cross the street to avoid them. . .

Here’s the problem:  It was once thought that turkeys required about 6,000 acres of contiguous forest habitat.  However, “[w]e found that not to be true at all. Turkeys are pretty adaptable. As long as they have some cover and some trees that they can get up into at night to roost, they can do pretty well.”  Unlike their domesticated cousins, wild turkeys are wily and adaptable, like coyotes, opossums, and other native urban infiltrators, and can thrive on a variety of foods easily found in urban environments.  And, like all the other native wildlife species, they were here first.  We tend to forget that.  It’s not that wild turkeys are encroaching on our turf, we’re the ones encroaching on theirs.

domesticated turkey, Image source: Wikipedia Commons

Let me disambiguate once again. The domestic turkey (Meleagris gallopavo gallopavo) comes from Mexico where it was domesticated by the Aztecs at least 2,000 years ago.  (They called it oaxolotl). The Spanish called them guajolotes when they took these domesticated turkeys home with them as part of their booty following the conquest of Mexico in 1521 and were responsible for introducing the species into Europe for culture as a barnyard fowl.  Domestic turkeys were first brought to England in the latter half of the 16th century and were sent from England to the Jamestown, Virginia, colony in 1607.  Until the late 19th century, domestic turkeys were expensive in England.  In Charles DickensA Christmas Carol (1843), Bob Cratchit’s Christmas dinner was to have been a goose, before Scrooge bought him a turkey.

Domestic turkeys are bigger and slower than their wild cousins.  They are also notoriously dumb. Some of them literally do not have sense enough to come in out of the rain. Case in point: The author C. J. Cherryh, who grew up near Lawton, Oklahoma, tells this family anecdote: One afternoon, as her mother and her mother’s best friend, Irene, left the rural one-room schoolhouse where they attended school, they could see that a big thunderstorm was on its way.  Irene begged C.J.’s mother to come home with her and help her, “. . .because [Irene’s] parents weren’t home; and the oncoming storm didn’t look good. They went to [Irene’s] house . . . and, as the storm hit, started trying to herd turkeys into the shed. The rain and hail began to pelt down, and the remaining birds stood transfixed in the poultry yard, staring up at the sky. Mum and Irene grabbed a washtub, loaded each fat bird in and hauled them to the shed, one after another.”  It is from the noted under-intelligence of the domestic turkey that the term “turkey,” meaning an inept, foolish or stupid person, derives.

Although a wild turkey may have gotten the plum role in the first thanksgiving chow-down, the odds are high that at subsequent celebrations, their easier-to-catch domestic cousins were the pièce de résistance.

Photo © 2012, Spokane Washington

And speaking of Thanksgiving, last Wednesday, on the eve of the big day, a group of wild Meleagris gallopavo intermedia (rowdy cousins of silvestris) raised such a ruckus in the South Hill section of Spokane, Washington, that police were called in to break it up.    Considering the timing, this may have been a protest march.

**From a letter dated January 26, 1784, written by Franklin, then in France, to his daughter Sally (Mrs. Sarah Bache) then living in Philadelphia.

The Cat With The Bearskin Rug and the Other Two

It was a gift from Auntie N (my BFF) to the kitties.  The white one and the black one have never shown any interest in it, but my little grey girl adores it.  When I lived in the other house, I made two “cat tables” out of plywood that were the height of the window sills to facilitate world watching.  Once I moved here, I recovered them in gold cloth to match the decor, nailed wooden picture frames to the sides to mimic the detail on the cabinets under the built-in book-cases and painted them “renter buff” to match.

The “rug” has squeakers in its “knees” and “elbows” and a “squawker” in its head, but that’s a moot point.  I’m the only one who ever squeezes them to make them sound, and nobody is very much thrilled with the noise.  (I get that look that  teenagers make when their mothers do something they think is funny but the teenagers think is too dorky for words.  You know, the “What-ever. . .” one. )

I’m pretty sure the “rug” is a dog toy, intended to make satisfying squeaky noises when it is “worried” by the dog.  I haven’t told them that, but I have a feeling that if I did, I’d get another one of those looks.  I’m not surprised that she’s the one who has taken to it.  She’s the only survivor of an abandoned litter, and I suspect she has a deep need to snuggle against something furry.  The “rug” is kind of off center.  I try to keep it in the middle, but when she jumps up on it, she tends to scoot it over to the side.  She’s being photogenic here.  Usually when I come close to her when she’s snuggling, she leaps up to her feet and chirrups and gets all happy to see me, so I try to avoid doing it.  She gets “bounced” so much by the black one that I don’t like to intrude on her private time.

I put a pillow down in this basket thinking the cats would love it, but I only ever saw “Sister” (my angel girl Shadow) sleep there, and that only a few times.  Then we lost Sister to cancer, and there it sat until one day the black one claimed it.  Since then, I’ve caught both him and the white one napping there.

The white one has been sneezy lately.  He’ll snort and snawk two or three times then sneeze at least once and sometimes twice.  This will go on for about 15 minutes, then he’ll be fine for hours.  Since I’ve been sneezing and wheezing myself, I wonder if he’s having allergies like I am.  Seems like he did the same thing year before last at about the same time.

It’s sometimes hard with cats to tell when they’re feeling sick although the white one usually hides under the bed when he’s not feeling quite up to snuff.  He’s 13 now, and naturally I worry about him.  He has been acting unduly clingy lately, which is slightly out of character for him.   When I lie on the sofa to watch TV, the black one takes possession of my legs, and has been known to fend off any attempts by the other two to join in.

However, Tuesday, the white one joined us and came and went several times without demure from the black one.

And indeed, the black one seemed to have no problem with the interloper.

Will wonders never cease?  Apparently not.

Sing a Song of Biscuits, Fooféd Not the Bread

Last time I went shopping, I bought the large economy size of Bisquick. On the package, it says if you mix up the entire contents you can make approximately 79 biscuits. That’s a bit more than I wanted.

The contents come sealed in a bag. Package directions say to refrigerate after opening. So, just roll up the top of the bag, shut the box and bung it all into the fridge? It’s a big box. An unneeded box, once the relevant bit is cut out. I put the bag inside a plastic freezer bag that can be sealed air tight.

Monday, I made a batch using the last of the “Heart Healthy” Bisquick, and made a second batch of the regular (and cheaper) Bisquick. (Why is it that when manufacturers leave stuff out of a product — like most of the added salt and/or sugar — they charge more for it?) This is one of my set of nested striped crockery bowls. There’s one smaller and two larger. The largest is huge. I have a set of three nested polished tin biscuit cutters. These are the “medium” and “large” ones.

I made both batches with almond milk. I don’t buy liquid cow’s milk. I just don’t care for it. I keep powdered milk for making bread, though, since some of the bread recipes that came with the bread machine call for it.  Almond milk makes the biscuits taste a little sweet, but I personally have no problem with that.

I have a large tempered glass cutting board that I keep out on my counter. It comes in handy for messy stuff like rolling out biscuit dough. It makes cleanup a lot easier. Also, this house was built in the 1970’s, and has been rental property for about half its life, so the counter surface has several chips and dings in it, and I never feel like it’s totally clean. However, I can scald the glass cutting board.

Once the biscuits are cut out, they go on a baking sheet. I know. I shouldn’t use aluminum foil to avoid having to wash the baking sheet. But I recycle the aluminum, and we have to be water conscious out here, especially as we are bordering on severe “100-year drought” conditions — not to mention that the water I save is water I don’t have to pay for!

In my vintage 1970’s electric oven, they take 9 minutes to bake. The biscuits in the two rows on the left were made with the “Heart Healthy” Bisquick, the rest were made with “regular”  Bisquick. When I compared these two batches side by side, I noted there was a difference in color when they bake up. Most of the biscuits are cut with the “large” size biscuit cutter, but I cut a few with the “medium” size one.

Using the cutting board to roll the dough out on makes cleanup easy — I just put the board in the sink, wet it, rub it down good with detergent, and rinse it in scalding water.

Before I started the biscuits, I started a loaf of bread in the bread machine. I added two heaping teaspoons of gluten to the flour on the theory that the reason the top “deflates” (“foofing”) is that I’m using general purpose flour which doesn’t have as much gluten (what the little yeasty beasties eat) as bread flour does, which apparently affects how it rises.

Apparently, my theory is a sound one. This loaf only “foofed” a little bit on one corner, but the top was otherwise nice and rounded.  This loaf is made from the “comes with the machine” recipe called “rosemary bread” — fortunately, the rosemary is optional as I didn’t have any.

This loaf turned out beautifully (if I say so myself), and tasted very nice in the two sandwiches I’ve had from it, and the pieces that were buttered and slathered with peach butter (like apple butter only with peaches instead of apples).  It did “dent” slightly, but that happened after it was baked.  Although this machine beeps at the point in the process where you can remove the mixing paddle if you wish, I leave it in for the whole baking cycle, so the paddle gets baked into the loaf.  Consequently, I have to turn the pan upside down and shake it rather vigorously to get the paddle to come off the little shaft that turns it, and catch the loaf with an oven mitt — Hot!  Then I have to turn it upside down and surgically extract the paddle.

T’is the Snuggly Season

This morning, I woke up covered in cats.  The black one lying on my feet, the grey one curled up against my back.  I can’t watch TV without the black one lying on my legs.  If I’m sitting somewhere, the white one comes and sleeps on my feet.   The grey one is curled up between my knees as I sit here, and has been for over an hour.  Now I need to get up.  NEED to get up.  But, I don’t want to disturb her.

This morning, I finished a reread of a book called “Laura.”  It’s a detective novel written by Vera Caspary that was first published in 1942.  It was made into a film in 1944, staring Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews, Clifton Webb, and a very young Vincent Price in his break-out role. I saw the film years and years ago, saw it again on Turner Classic Movies or some such cable channel, and discovered it was based on a book.  Naturally, I hunted down the book, read it, thoroughly enjoyed it, and kept it as worthy of a reread (this last reread was my third).  One of the outstanding things about the film is Laura’s theme from the movie sound track. It has a delightful melody.  I’ll bet you’ve heard it.  If you haven’t, here’s the soundtrack version with some stills from the film:

In 1945, the sound track was adapted into a song, “Laura,” which has been recorded by a whole host of musicians, both then and now.  Here’s Carly Simon‘s version from her album “Film Noir

One of the things I liked about the book (and the film) was the way the romantic triangle between three of the main characters, Tierney, Webb and Price, developed into a “quadrangle”  with the introduction of Dana Andrew’s character.  As hugely famous as he later became, it was also interesting to me to see Vincent Price , who was relative unknown at the time, (and sporting a southern accent!) in his first big role.   Oddly enough, I felt the juiciest part was not Tierney’s as the beautiful Laura, nor Price as her fiancé, nor Andrews as the hard-boiled cop, but Webb’s role.  Webb resisted the temptation to slather it on.  His understated performance was what made the film for me.

A Two-Shirt Day

At 2 p.m. it’s 57F/14C with a predicted high of 60F/16C, and I’ve got a long-sleeved T-shirt on under my short sleeved T-shirt, long pants and “footlet” socks on (the kind that don’t show when you wear them with tennis shoes/trainers).   Monday and Tuesday,  it’s supposed to be back up into the 70’s/40’sF (20’s/4+ C) again. I had my first oatmeal/porridge breakfast of the season — the instant kind — in this case a packet with dehydrated cranberry bits and a packet with dehydrated blueberry bits.  The fruit bits rehydrate when you pour on the boiling water.

Last night, my mom and dad and I, and a couple they’ve been friends with for a long time went to Red Lobster for dinner  to celebrate the folks’ 66th wedding anniversary.  (When you do the math, my folks have spent exactly 3/4ths of their lives married to each other. ) Our Red Lobster here recently remodeled their dining rooms, and we were shown to one of their new “extra large” booths that can seat 8.   “Traditional” booths only seat 4 comfortably and are situated such that one end of the booth is up against the wall.  But, these bigger booths are, perforce, open at both ends.  The booths are much more comfortable than their chairs, which have wooden seats.  It was a nice evening.  We got to try Samuel Adams Winter Lager beer, which I had not had before.  It was tasty.  So was the food.  And the company was exceptional.

We’ve had an “OK” cotton crop this year up in the panhandle (about 4.15 million acres, but the yield per acre is way down) and they’re currently in the process of stripping it.  That means that for the past month or so the air has been full of dust, plant particles, cotton particles and gin trash and I’ve been wheezy and sneezy.

When the cotton is ready to harvest, they spray the fields with defoliant to wilt off the foliage.  As the cotton is stripped, the stripper crunches off the seed pod part of the boll, and that part is ejected back onto the ground during the stripping process, so that just cotton goes into the catch basket on the back of the stripper.  From there, it gets dumped  into a “boll buggy” (hear the wind?) and from there into a second machine which presses it into “modules,” which are deposited in the fields and tarped.  However, if the farmer has one of the newer strippers, the stripper itself will compress the stripped cotton into a cylinder, roll it in plastic and deposit it in the field (which does away with the need for boll buggies and module builders).  (BTW, one of these new type machines goes for around $580,000/£368,0000.  Cotton is big business out here.)  I’ll be glad when they get it all ginned and the dust can settle.  During the last couple of years, we’ve been in “100-year drought” conditions, although we got more rain this year than we did last year — a lot of the farmers didn’t even make a crop last year.  Maybe we’ll get more rain next year.

I Got It Right This Time

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve had problems with the top of my bread-machine loaves “foofing” — The dough rises beautifully into a nice, smooth, dome shape, but before it can bake, the top “deflates” a little, as you can see below.  In that post,  I also mentioned about being obsessive (or is that ‘compulsive?’) about having the slices of bread aligned right when I make a sandwich, and about “booking” the bread.  This time I got it right.  The below is not a single slice, it’s a sandwich.

No sticky-outy bits on this one!

Fortunately, it’s not considered bad manners to type with your mouth full. . . .