Yesterday, as I was tooling in to work, I was listening to "Morning Edition" on NPR. Renee Montaigne was interviewing one Ian Lender, author of "Alcoholica Esoterica: A Collection of Useful and Useless Information As It Relates to the History and Consumption of All Manner of Booze".The Culture of Drinking". The book seems to be a compendium of anecdotes and trivia regarding alcoholic beverages.
The book is divided into chapters covering the basic booze groups, and others addressing laws, country songs, history and hangover cures.
"Bar" is short for "barrier"--to keep the patrons from the booze and bartender.
More people have been killed by flying champagne corks than by poisonous spiders.
Folks in olden times drank wine and beer instead of water because the water was fetid and the alcohol killed germs.
Johnny Appleseed planted all those trees with one aim in mind: hard cider.
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Regarding hangovers, I found this great site. Not only does it give a soundly based hangover cure, it explains why you get one, what types of alcohol are most and least likely to cause a hangover, preventive steps to take ahead of time, and how to drink to decrease the chances of feeling totally demolished the day after. It's worth checking out, even if you aren't planning a riotous New Year's Eve.
I mentioned a couple of days that I am making a New Year's Resolution about using the elliptical trainer. Good thing it's not New Year's yet, because I already broke it. I mean the resolution.
But today, I was good. And I can't do my half-hour without some music. It would be great if I could read while doing it, but I've tried, and moving the arm bar with one hand, trying to hold the book and turn the pages with the other, all the while bobbing up and down a bit...we'll, it's enough to give you motion sickness (I can't read in a car either. Can barely read a map. Some navigator.)
Today's music was "Hank Wilson's Back". Hank Wilson is Leon Russell's country avatar. As Wilson, Russell had done a couple of albums, and this one starts of with "Rollin' In My Sweet Baby's Arms", "She Thinks I Still Care" and "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry". Other ballads include "Am I That Easy to Forget" and "From the Window Up Above". These are great songs and can make the time fly by. And you can sing along, if you're not exercising hard enough.
My favorite Leon Russell album is "Carney", which includes the title track, as well as standouts such as "Tightrope", "This Masquerade" and "Magic Mirror". It's a great album.
Of course, the down side is that when I go to Amazon to link to these albums, I see other stuff I'd like. This time I ordered another Hank Wilson CD, "Legend In My Time: Hank Wilson Vol:III," which contains some more country classics. Done as only Leon Russell can do 'em. Click on the link for details.
And finally, since I couldn't get the Super Saver shipping with just that CD, I ordered Dolly Parton's "Ultimate Dolly Parton". For some reason, I've been humming Jolene (jukebox sabotage, anyone?). Years ago when I moved from East Lansing to Tucson, I drove the route in my Triumph Spitfire with the top down (and got the worst sunburn I'd ever had), and the closer I got, the more I heard Jolene--probably the first country hit I got to know and love.
So now I have two great new (old) CD's on the way. And I got the Super Saver. Life is good.
I usually revolt against New Year's resolutions. But this year, I will try to get more regular exercise. This is only partly because this blogging thing compels me to sit on my ass for long periods of time. It also makes me feel better. (The exercise, not the blogging...although...) And it lets me eat more. And sleep better. And look better.
See where I am going with this? This is the big sell. To myself. (Caveat to self: no more gym memberships, ever. I know myself better than to put that much money behind my resolutions. I also know that if I have to drive anywhere to exercise, the life expectancy of that plan is very short.)
I have an elliptical trainer-cum-clothes rack which adorns my office and is reading over my shoulder as I write this. For several months this year I was faithful about using it. Then I went to Scotland and broke the streak. Once the streak is broken, it is all over. Then the holidays came. You can see where this is going.
I have a similar fear (superstition?) about taking a break from blogging, but that's a different issue.
Actually, I have started getting back on the elliptical the last few days. Playing music helps, and I can get lost in it for a half-hour.
So my resolution is this, and I state it here in hopes that making it public will cement my pledge. I will use it for 30 minutes every day that I don't work more than ten hours. This means I should use it most days. If I don't, I will do 30 minutes of something else that counts as exercise.
This is my favorite meatball recipe. I think it had its inception in Cook's Illustrated years ago, but I can't find the original. I have made a few changes to suit myself, that I will comment on as well.
The best thing about this recipe is that the meatballs are baked. I used to saute my meatballs, and trust me, the kitchen was covered with a film of grease by the time I finished. As was I.
Meatballs: Stir together non-meat ingredients first.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
1 cup breat crumbs 3/4 cup grated parmesan 1/2 cup whole milk (I often substitute red wine) 1/2 cup beef broth 1/2 cup chopped parsley 3 eggs, beaten 2 Tbsp. dried oregano 1 Tbsp. minced garlic 1 Tbsp. salt 1 Tbsp. ground black pepper 2 tsp. dried basil 1 tsp. crushed pepper flakes 1 pinch nutmeg (I don't add this).
Note: you can use fresh herbs instead of the dried--up the quantity.
Stir the ingredients together in a large bowl. Use a fork and keep everything light. Avoid compacting. Add beef and mix throughly, with fork or fingers, but again avoid compacting. Shape and place on a greased cookie sheet. Cover the bottom of the sheet with beef broth (I use what remains in the can after the meatballs are made). Bake 25 minutes or until just cooked through. Add to tomato sauce.
Sauce: Saute 1 1/2 cups minced yellow onions in 1/4 cup olive oil (extra virgin, of course).
Stir in 1 tsp. minced garlic.
Add 3 cans plum tomatoes (I like the diced), 1/2 cup meatball drippings, 1/2 cup minced parsley, 1 Tbsp. sugar (I usually don't add sugar), 1 tsp. red pepper flakes, and salt to taste. Add meatballs to sauce, and serve with pasta, and (of course) Parmigiano Reggiano.
I'm so glad I won't be working when this time is added to the day! Extra sleep time is more like it.
From Reuters, by Jim Wolf:
"Get ready for a minute with 61 seconds. Scierntists are delaying the stqart of 2006 by the first "leap second" in seven years, a timing tweak meant to make up for changes in the Earth's rotation."
(Changes in the Earth's rotation? Now?)
"The adjustment will be carried out by sticking an extra second into atomic clocks worldwide at the stroke of midnight coordinated Universal time, the widely adopted international standardf, ther U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology said this week."
(I thought these things were exact; perfect.)
"Enjoy New Year's Eve a second longer," the institute said in an explanatory notice. "You can toot your horn an extra second this year."
(Sleep an extra second, more like it.)
"Coordinated Universal time coincides with winter time in London. On the U.S. East Coast, the extra second occurs just before 7 p.m. on New Year's Eve. Atomic clocks at that moment will read 23:59:60 before rolling over to all zeros."
(At 7 P.M.? I'm so confused.)
"A leap second is added to keep uniform timekeeping within 0.9 second of the Earth's rotational time, which can speed up or slow down because of many factors, including ocean tides. The first leap second was added on June 30, l972, according to NIST, an arm of the U.S. Commerce Department."
(What did they do for all those millennia before? Shift Stonehenge ever so slightly?)
"Since 1999 until recvently, the two time standards have been in close enough synch to escape any need to add a leap second. NIST said."
(Have I got this right? We have two perfect tine-keeping atomic clocks that are out of synch?)
"Although it is possible to have a negative leap second--that is, a second deducted from Coordinated Unviversal time--so far all have been add-ons, reflecting the Earth's general slowing trend due to tidal braking."
(The sky is falling, the sky is falling!)
"Deciding when to introduce a leap second is the responsibility of the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service, a standards-setting body. Under an international pact, the preference for leap seconds is December 31 or June 30."
"Precise time measurements are needed for high-speed communications systems among other modern technologies."
This one asked for near-miss nomers. Competitors were asked to submit titles, product names, slogans that just missed the mark. Without further ado, here are the best:
Fiddler on the Porch Eight Lives cat food From Poland, with Love 6-Up For Who the Bell Tolls Colonel Motors Bonnie and Claude Lady Chatterley's Very Good Friend The Importance of Being Sincere Tarzan of the Larger Primates Mercredi Gras "Dr. Livingstone, I Suppose?" The Green Bay Shipping Clerks The Sun Comes Up, Too The Senior Citizen and the Sea "Quoth the raven: 'Never again'" Good Ole Gatsby The Agony and the Fun The Hairstylist of Seville
For more on this book and other books with interesting titles check out My Word's Worth.
The setting is China in the 1930's. The King of Masks is an accomplished street performer whose son died years ago, and he has yearned for an heir ever since. The heir comes in the form of a child he buys in the market, "Doggie". It doesn't take long for him to discover that Doggie is a girl, and his dream is dashed.
You can see the rest coming. Through a series of misadventures, he rejects and accepts Doggie. His life is threatened and saved, and Doggie is central to all. Also central is Master Liang--a transvestite opera actor who longs to learn the street performer's art.
The setting is pure China. It could be 100 years ago, or ten. It could have been Taiwan when I lived there in 1960, or much before, or after. Colors are vivid against the brown-gray background of daily life and grind. The poverty and need are staggering. The life and death saga riveting.
There is not much mystery to this movie. The poverty is staggering. The plot is predictable, but the scenes are moving and the sets are gorgeous.
And so it is much more than a story. It teaches us, enlightens us, raises us up.