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Yup, I was right [08 Jul 2014|12:28pm]
Who knows, I might want actually to eat later on - but right now, Chaz'z lunch is a mug of seething-hot chicken broth, fortified with a slug of brandy. Who was the genius who suggested that? You're a genius...

Also I am sweaty and suspicious and do not want to work. Also as predicted, I think. Karen is studying statistical programming (or some such? for it is out of my stars); I am the one who's going to lie on the sofa and moan softly and mop my fevered brow with any cat who happens to come within range. They've got to be good for something.
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Yarnbombed! [08 Jul 2014|10:50am]
Some splendid civic-minded individual has knitted and fitted bikestand-cosies for all the bike stands downtown, to keep them warm and fluffy all summer long. Observe:


In other congestion-based news, what bright spark thought of using the word "phlegmatic" to mean anything other than coughing up gallons of icky phlegm? This leaves me without a word to describe myself just now.

Other than "stressed", that is. I feel like crap, and I have two unexpected Thursday-like deadlines for secret non-fiction writings, which are my least favourite thing ever apart from being sick or my friends being sick or my cats being sick or or or.

(Mac would like me to thank all his polite enquirers, and confirm that he feels much better now. No more needles, quoth Mac. Firmly.)

Meanwhile, m'wife is on an all-clear-liquids diet, on account of Medical Procedure. I have made her jello (new mango flavour, which she calls delicious; all I know is the depth of my disappointment. When I was a kid in the UK, instant-ish jelly was made by taking cubes of rubbery jellystuff and dissolving them in water, or just eating the rubbery cubes which was better. Over here, jello these days is a powder, and no fun at all) and iced tea and chicken broth, and that's me about done for ideas. It's only till tomorrow, so I guess she'll survive, but oh: the poor sweetheart. I did consider eating pig's brains for lunch, in front of her, just to revolt her utterly at the very notion of food, but I'm not sure even that would work. (Besides which, see under "feeling crap". I am disinclined to eat at this time; I might even join her on the diet. Mmm, chicken broth...)
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Re: placement [06 Jul 2014|07:43pm]
If there were only room, I would totally store our napkins in the fridge, if only because when we need fresh napkins I always, always go to the fridge first. And open it, and stare in a little blankly, and think "What did I...? Oh, right. Napkins." And close the fridge, and open the cupboard to the left of the fridge, where we actually keep the napkins.

Also, I find that I do rather fancy saying "Are these napkins sufficiently chilled? I could bring fresh..."

But of course there is no room.
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Call this a thought experiment. Not (necessarily) including bacon. [06 Jul 2014|05:41pm]
"You sound sick," quoth m'wife.
"I feel sick," quoth I.
"So why aren't you reclining on the sofa with a hot toddy and a book?"
"Y'know, I was just asking myself the exact same question, in almost the exact same words..."

So now I am - but I do also know why I wasn't, before. Truth is - and I hate to admit it! - I am starting to regard the hot toddy mildly askance. It's fine mornings and evenings, when I'm really sick; but this time of day, I really don't want to be swigging something sweet. I find I have less and less tolerance of sugariness, as I age; before dinner particularly, I do not want sweet at all.

Which leads to the inevitable question: where is the savoury toddy of my dreams?

It really doesn't have to include bacon*. But strong alcohol, and something sharp to stimulate the appetite and cut through the clagginess of being ill - citrus or hot sauce or both - and physical warmth, and something emollient to the throat that is not honey or sugar syrup. That's the tricky one. Butter, perhaps? And/or a beaten egg? But it's hard to warm egg without scrambling it, especially if you're not feeling well. And hot buttered rum is a classic, but there's a fuckton of sugar in that. I dunno, people. Give me your best...

*Tho' I am not by any means averse to its inclusion, if need be.
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This qoph just keeps getting better and better [06 Jul 2014|03:47pm]

In other news, it is perhaps unfortunate to recognise only towards the end of it that one is in fact having a holiday, but there it is. Here it is. Much of the rest of America is enjoying a three-day vacation, and so apparently am I. Friday was all about cooking and socialising, as a party cohered all about me; yesterday was all about being late and slow and cleaning up; today there is more focused cleaning (oiling the chopping-block! etc) and still absolutely no inclination to work. Which might be a pity, as I have an accumulation of increasingly urgent deadlines, but I am in hopes that three days of rest will invigorate me for tomorrow.

Just, I might've liked to know in advance that I would be having three days of rest, so that I might not've castigated myself quite so fiercely.

*qophs again*

In otherer news, Mac is feeling under the weather today. As I had both boys sleeping either side of my legs last night, for the first time since the winter, I am inclined to look to yesterday's jabs as the cause. We'll keep an eye on him, and see how he is tomorrow.

Me, I'm not really under the weather, but I do wish this qoph would go into retreat mode. Every day it's just a little stronger - I am now taking qoph medicine regularly through the day, which I had not been ere this - and I am aweary of it. Possibly so is Karen.
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Kippling! On Mars! [06 Jul 2014|11:09am]
You will have to forgive the subject line, for I surely never shall: but I am rereading classic SF texts, for reasons of happenstance, and I had forgotten that "kipple" first saw light of print in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?.

So too did disemelevatored. It is no great surprise to me that one of these words is still in use today, while the other is not.
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What's better than the Best Game Ever? [05 Jul 2014|11:28pm]
Well, duh. The Best Game Ever with String, obviously.

(For those not in the know, the Best Game Ever is changing the bedsheets. With cats. Either one, or both together. But once the bottom bedsheet is safely emplaced - instate, we like to say - without a cat beneath it, then whichever cat is currently on top of it? Is going to be extra enchanted by added string, I am just sayin'. Also bleedin', I am just bleedin'. But only a little. Baz has claws, and string must be pinned down firmly.)
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Cleaner [05 Jul 2014|06:03pm]
I did once want to write a novel called Cleaner, which would not be a genre novel at all; it would be about a runaway boy who turns up in a Georgian square (not in the least unlike Summerhill Square in Newcastle, where I spent much of my happiest adult time, though I never actually lived there) and gets absorbed into the community and cleans their houses and and and. Sort of a bildungsroman with extra soap.

Obviously I never did that (tho' I still could!), but I do kinda feel like today has been all cleaning all the time. So far I've done two dishwasher loads plus a heap of pans and such that couldn't go through the machine; four loads of laundry; and I still haven't finished even in the kitchen. Perhaps I should've done that thing where you clean the house before the party, too? Then it mightn't have been such an effort after... (Seriously, I remember being genuinely baffled by that when I was a young man. "You know you're going to have to clean up after, people make such a mess; why on earth would you want to clean up before? It just doubles the work!" "Chaz dear, do you really want your friends to see your house in its usual state?" "They're my friends! They come round all the time! They've all seen the house in its usual state!" etc. Sometimes I think we developed rationality purely and solely to argue the inarguable. I shoulda bin a lawyer.)

I've even cleaned the shelf in the mudroom, to instate Morgan's KitchenAid (it's legit, but does anyone in any context actually say "instate"? Or is it a lost word, retained only in memory, in "reinstate"? I had to look it up, to check it was legit; I do not believe I have ever heard it. Or used it, before this).

There is (much) more yet to do, and Dr Amy is coming round soonish to stick needles in the cats, for we are croo-ell; but right now I am going to stop a bit, and drink this rather good glass of Sauvignon Blanc without even thinking about anything more. Karen was telling me earlier, a depressingly large number of people would genuinely rather give themselves mild electric shocks than be left alone with their thoughts. Fortunately, neither one of us is among 'em.
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Happy 5th July: or, God but I love our friends [05 Jul 2014|11:17am]
In an age-old solution to a twenty-first century problem - oh noes, my machinery is broken! - Morgan's family have lent us their KitchenAid, and taken ours away to poke about in its interior and see what's what. This just in: people are lovely.

Also, Morgan is Nearly Two. She told me so.

We are late and slow this morning, can't think why: but the other machineries are doing the first round of post-party clean-up; the wife is napping in her chair, yay; and I am off to the farmers' market to see what's what. Weirdly, there is almost no food left from yesterday. People ate it. People: lovely, but incomprehensible. (Apart from the chilli in the six-quart pot, and three rounds of bread buns through the day, I mostly made my favourite grilling thing, a vasty chunk of pork smoked slowly for hours'n'hours. There is precious little even of that left, hey-ho.)
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Good choice, bad choice [04 Jul 2014|11:38am]
I do have trouble making decisions. I know only two ways to do it: to let others tell me what's best (essentially, outsourcing my need to choose) or else dithering long, considering and reconsidering and finally just snatching. Even my spur-of-the-moment choices tend to have been mulled over for days.

The internet, of course, is full of advices. And I should probably stop reading one-star reviews, yes?

Anyway: as you know, if you've been following along, when I moved from the UK I left all my electrical gear behind me. They have different electricity over here*. Among the abandoned was a vintage Kenwood Chef that I used seldom but loved none the less.

I wanted a replacement over here. Can't get Kenwoods, don't know why. Nothing else seems to have the power, but people said KitchenAid was best. On the internets, people said "Get a vintage model, they last for ever; new ones blow up with monotonous regularity."

In the end, that's what I did. I E-Bay'd, and bought an '80s model, and it was splendid.

For, um, almost exactly a year.

Today is 4th July. And my half-birthday. All America rejoices, yay. We invite people over (I am 55.5!). I have a vasty hunk of pork smoking slowly on the grill outside; I have a big pot of chilli bubbling gently on the stove, and it's not even midday yet. What more do we need? Breads, obviously. Bread buns, for pork sammiches and so forth.

I go to mix my first batch of dough in the KitchenAid - and it makes a horrible noise and stops working.


I am remembering how to knead bread by hand, and why I stopped doing that, because ouchie. The bread'll probably be fine, but the mixer won't. If we weren't expecting guests soonest, I'd be off down to Macy's to see if they've got a deal on a new one, right this minute. It's probably just as well that guests are coming; it should certainly wait till one or the other of us has an income again. *twitch*

On the other hand, at a previous Macy's sale I came home with a 6-quart enamelled cast-iron pot, because I'd nearly broken my old 4-quart and it was bigger and brighter and and and.

And I was assembling the chilli in the 4-quart which isn't quite broken after all, and thinking "Oops, this really is getting to be over-full, it'll spit and splash when it comes to the boil - oh, wait. New one!"

So I decanted from that into this, and now I have a margin of an inch or more between food and lip, and all is well. Best fifty bucks I spent that day, yay me. But that was an example of the other kind of decision, where I'd been dithering - "do I really need another bigger cast-iron pot?" - for two years already, every time Macy's had them on sale. (And I'm still dithering about the eight-quart. It's beautiful. But do I really need it...?)

*I don't think it's as good, but hush. Mustn't say so.
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Where are the sloths of yesteryear? [03 Jul 2014|10:58am]
There was a time when "Finish Kipling on Mars" was all the to-do list that I had, and that was too much.

Now, of course, I pine for such simplicity of purpose, such an achievable failure.

Right now my required-writing list includes but is not limited to:

Finish Kipling on Mars
Finish The Ice Weasels of Trebizond (with wife)
Write BT piece, instanter
Do editing job for Lethe, also instanter

- and today almost all of that is in abeyance, because tomorrow all of it will be, because tomorrow I will be 55.5 and we will mark the occasion of my demi-birthday in consort with the whole of America. So today my to-do list is mostly along the lines of clean kitchen, cook in kitchen, clean kitchen again and like that. With added shopping*.

*It has only just struck me: here in the US, we call them stores, not shops. We go to the store, not to the shop. But we do not go storing. It's like gardening: we work in the yard, not the garden, but we do not do yarding.
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A question! Of Russian! [02 Jul 2014|11:07am]
O my Russian-speaking readers: the internet assures me that "predtecha" is a fair Romanisation of the Russian word for precursor, or forerunner. Which is lovely and grand and I can use it - but what would be the plural? I really need a plural. And nothing in Cyrillic.

Also if you have any alternatives to offer, I am all ears. Well, mostly eyes in this particular medium, but my inner ear is attuned to your unspoken voices. It's all about the rhythm of the sound as we see it. Reading is weird, and writing is worse.
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Actually, this is almost a genuine question [30 Jun 2014|07:09pm]
[NB: the question referred to above comes later on]

Yesterday, my old friend & colleague Colin Wilbourn (from the St Peter's Riverside Sculpture Project days - that's a link to an index page, but if you're curious do read "The Year of Living Differently": it's not too long, and it says much) and his partner Lynn stopped by in mid-road trip, for general catching-up and meeting-Karen and drinking wine and dining. I made a shrimp salad and chicken couscous, with a quatre-quart cake and roasted rhubarb to follow (and yes, we may have talked about Paris, somewhat).

Today of course is yogi night. Karen's actually gone off to yoga alone, but we're expecting a slew of diners - and I am tired and disinclined to spend another long day in the kitchen. Fortunately, there is leftover cake & rhubarb; and plenty of leftover stewed chicken. I have disassembled the stew, picked out the chicken and turned the remainder veg & chickpeas into soup for tomorrow, probably. With the chicken, I am thinking I can add mushrooms & onion to make a sauce for pasta; I have some nice spinach linguine. Green beans with my own bacon as a side shouldn't stress me overly, and knocking up some pesto is the work of moments. I don't even need to flinch at the cost of it, as I wisely sold a house last year and bought some pine nuts.

But! [Here comes the question. Do you remember there was to be a question?] I had made the pesto, and I was thinking about making up the sauce, and "garlic, of course" crossed my mind - at which point I was brought all to a standstill by a sudden dawning.

Am I in fact the only person on the planet who doesn't put garlic in his pesto?

Everybody else seems to, and every recipe I look at wants me to, and I won't. I think this dates back to my first encounter with the notion that actually one could grow basil and make pesto, even with no more than a windowsill to work with; and I suspect the recipe was Elizabeth David's, and it's even possible that she said something along the lines of "do not add garlic, that is heresy!" She was notoriously prescriptive. But anyway, all my cooking life, pesto has been another quatre-quart concoction: basil and oil and pine nuts and cheese*, and you're done. I seem to be an outlier; what I don't know is if I'm holding to a stubborn tradition, or if I've build a stubborn tradition on deeply shaky ground, or if there really is a school of thought that waves flags wildly at the mention of my name asserts my own philosophy. All I know is that my pesto tastes grand just as it is, and garlic is very welcome to sneak in to the meal otherwise, but it won't be coming via the green stuff.

*Sardo Pecorino for preference, which again came from that long-remembered recipe; Parmesan at a pinch. Mostly, over here, I am pinched.
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Letter press [27 Jun 2014|02:11pm]
Most of the last 48 hours, Baz has been lying in the hallway six inches from the bathroom door, so fixed I was tempted to draw an outline around him.

When he takes a break from this guardpost, he has decided to spend his time on top of the dresser in my study. Not on the nice warm pile of clean laundry, though; he feels that a spare keyboard is more his style.


*shrugs* Don't ask me. He's a cat.
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Doing it Rong. Again. [25 Jun 2014|05:53pm]
Okay, so I'm sick. I'm not very sick - the slow progress of this bug is either a tribute to my astonishingly healthy Californian lifestyle or else a dire warning of something very bad heading inexorably my way to lay a very patient siege to my bones - but sick I am, we have determined that. *issues an advisory qoff*

So: sick, check. Sofa, check. Toddy, check. Book? Um...

Here is where I am doing it rong. When I'm sick, I'm supposed to fall back on comfort reads, old favourites, the undemanding or the wallow. As soon as I acknowledged the sickness, I should've laid all else aside and reached for a buoyant lifejacket book.

Instead of which, I am still reading The Mayor of Castro Street, the life and times of Harvey Milk. And I've just reached the inexorable very bad bit. Hey-ho.

Come to think, I'd better be better by tomorrow; we have tickets for The Mikado. I'm told that it's singalong night. I guess whatever happens I will not be singing along; I barely have a voice to speak with. (Mildly to my astonishment, m'wife is a G&S newbie. We watched Topsy-Turvy last night, just to give her a little background. I'd forgotten that Allan Corduner really does play the piano that well.)

...And I just abandoned this posting to talk to her about other things, that we may or may not discuss hereabouts later, and we drifted into the bedroom where the walls are K's TBR pile, entirely lined with books - and my eye fell on Tales of Sector General, which appears to be an omnibus volume. And good lord, I haven't read James White in years, and he is something close to my definition of comfort reading. 'Scuse me, I'm heading back to my sofa...
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*qoff* [25 Jun 2014|12:32pm]
I have mentioned I think herebefore (or possibly elsewherebefore) that I hold it as a truth self-evident, that talking about things only makes them worse.

As witness: woke up this morning - alas! - to find that last night's koff had progressed again already. As if in anticipation, sovay had already gifted me with qoff, as the next progression. So that's what it is, and I would sooner have spent this morning keeping it company on the sofa, but instead we went shopping. Now all I have to do is erect the new garden umbrella and install the base that our previous one never had, which is why our previous one is all broke, and then we'll have shade again for those who like that sort of thing.

Me, you will find me sitting stubbornly outside its ambit, trying to bake all through to my bones. Whatever bug this is, I'm sure it's lurking in my marrow. I will address it internally with toddies, and externally with sunshine. Then it'll be sorry.

In consonant news, I need better honey. When I'm sick, I occasionally revert to a toast-and-honey breakfast, because memory is almost as soothing as the honey itself; but the generic squeezebottle stuff that does fine for cooking and toddying is just not up to snuff for actual eating. There's a honey-merchant at the farmers' market, Saturdays; I may have to interrogate his stock, see what works. I used to love chestnut honey from France, and I'm sure there are chestnut groves in California, but I have only encountered blank looks when I ask for it, so I guess comprehensive testing is on the agenda. Hey-ho.
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Well, this is a little odd [24 Jun 2014|06:12pm]
My coff of former posting is now inarguably a koff: harsher, sharper, more deeply embedded. Still occasional, though; I don't really koff very often. When I do, I am entirely convinced that I am sick of a sickness, and want nothing but to lie on the sofa and be wan. But then I stop koffing, and I feel fine. Five minutes ago, I was thinking about a beer while I worked. Then I koffed, and was instantly thinking about stepping away from the computer in the general direction of a hot toddy. Now I'm not koffing, and actually maybe a glass of wine might sit well in my one hand, if it were counterbalanced by a book in the other...

What is actually significant, of course, is that it's 6.15 and I haven't had a drink of any sort thus far. Yup, must be sick.
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We have ignition [24 Jun 2014|11:33am]
We may have been watching too much Criminal Minds. When the gas cooker repair guy was fumbling about in his tool bag conspicuously failing to find the right size of head for his screwdriver, I thought, "Last week's diagnosis guy was an organised killer: everything in its place, meticulously to hand. This fixer guy is totally a disorganised killer, he is walking chaos..."

Which he then proved, by going to turn off the electricity to the cooker - and instead turning off the electricity to the whole damn house, and coming back in to find that the cooker was still cheerfully drawing power from somewhere. That's not so much his fault, the wiring in this place is clearly weird and utterly unmapped - but it is emblematic. I may have giggled, when we saw the cooker clock numerals still shining brightly in a totally dark house. Can we hum the Twilight Zone theme, people...?

Still. He was chaotic but nice, and he did know what he was doing. We have four working burners again; and hopefully I will never again have to compose a boastful post about how I just cooked the yogis a four-dish Chinese meal with two burners and no wok. I didn't actually write that one - I don't write most of 'em, come to think - but it was there in my head. And the leftovers are still in the fridge, yay. Spicy pork with star anise, cabbage with black vinegar, yard-long beans (cooked whole for once, because why doesn't anybody ever cook them whole? They're a yard long!) and green-garlic rice. Om nom.
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Five Fridays make a thing [20 Jun 2014|12:11pm]
It may only have been yesterday that I was reading about how true passionate bakers will get out of bed at ridiculous hours of the morning to achieve the perfect loaf at the perfect time, and it is possible that I may have thought "Alas for me, that I am not truly passionate! I am a fraudulent baker! I do not do that!"

...And then it was midnight last night and I was getting out of bed because I had forgotten to feed my sourdough starter, and just maybe I thought, "Oh, wait a minute. Maybe I do..."

And now I come to think about it, I think there was at least once that I got up at four o'clock in the morning to take a dough out of the fridge, so it'd be at room temp when I was ready to work with it. But I don't do it regularly, 'k?

*is still a dilettante*

In other news, as I was walking into town this morning I was musing on dogs and barking, no doubt for reasons, and wondering if there is regional or national variation, accents even, and if an American Lab would sound different to a British Lab's ear - his floppy ear, I thought, cheerfully - and then I realised what should have been obvious for years, that my inner monologue has become the voice of my journal, or possibly vice versa. I always have walked around playing with the wording of my thoughts, reshaping them for finer euphony, for clarity, for rhythm and for charm, of course I have, doesn't everyone? - but now apparently I cast that in the guise of talking to you people, telling LJ about my inner life, even though I write up very little. I suspect this comes under the same heading as "I'm not talking to myself, I'm talking to my cat..."

Last night a bunch of us went to see Marry Me A Little in Mountain View, which is one of those Sondheims I'd only ever known from the cast recording, and that barely: it's a wossname, a patchwork, a stitch-up (I know we have a word for this!) of songs cut from other shows or else utterly reworked - very odd, hearing half the lyrics from "Being Alive" in a different shape, a different mood, a very different song - and it works like a charm.

And then we sat outside a tapas bar and ate tapas and drank sangria and the only thing missing was m'wife, who didn't come. But the same company is doing Sweeney Todd in the fall, and the same company of us has pledged to go, and I will inveigle Karen if I can.

Meanwhile, I have an irritation in my throat which makes me coffy. Sometimes. Sometimes I coff at night, and worry that I'll disturb Karen; last night I coffed in the theatre, and worried that I would disturb the audience; just now I was coffing here in the library, and worried that I would disturb other users. It's irritating, to me and (I worry) to others; this must be why it's called an irritation. It goes away, though, after not very long at all mostly. Which is also kind of irritating, because even when I'm coffing I can't really work out if I'm sick or not, I'm just coffing; and when it goes away I have to conclude that I'm really not sick at all, because look, no symptoms; and then I coff again. Snarl. So I never get to lie wanly on the sofa with cats and petition for soup, which is the sole benefit of being poorly. Which apparently I'm not.
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Further appalling news from Chez Brenchley [18 Jun 2014|07:37pm]
I can't use my wok, on the two surviving rear burners; there simply isn't room.

Let me say that again. I CAN'T USE MY WOK.

A week without wokking; a wokless week, before the nice-but-slow men come back to fix things.

People should probably check in on Karen, every now and then. I may prove unlivable-with.
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