Monday, December 31, 2007

If sock monkeys wrote "Auld Lang Syne"

A rerun from last year. Hey, I am nothing if not thrifty. I am, after all, one-quarter Scots.

sock monkey We twa hae run about the braes,
And pou'd the gowans fine,
But we've wander'd monie a weary fit,
Sin auld lang syne.
Now, gie* me that banana.


(Lyrics to "Auld Lang Syne" are here, along with a pronunciation guide.)

(Oh, and if sock monkeys bought calendars, they'd buy this. Out of stock at Amazon, but I got a copy at Borders for half price this weekend. The photos are great.)

(Now, have a happy new year.)

Friday, December 28, 2007

Smackdown!: Tater Mitts vs. Mitt Romney

Tater Mitts

What: An amazing solution to potato-peeling drudgery.

Pros: Cheap. Unlikely to ruin the country.

Cons: Doesn't, you know, do what it's advertised to do (i.e.: peel potatoes). Surprisingly, has never renounced polygamy.


Mitt Romney

Who: Republican presidential hopeful.

Pros: Give me a minute.

Nope, I've got nothin'.

Cons: Full name, Willard Mitt Romney, is an anagram for Malted Twirly Minor, Treadmill Nit Wormy, and Maimed Wintry Troll, none of which make sense and all of which are vaguely disturbing for reasons that are hard to pin down. Though he was an English major in college, has named L. Ron Hubbard's Battlefield Earth as his favorite novel (really!). The fact that now you can't get that image of John Travolta as a Psychlo out of your head. Unable to do what he's advertised to do (i.e.: lead country without making it even worse). Grudging conclusion that Maimed Wintry Troll isn't a bad name for band. But what kind of music? Emo? You hate emo, although you do admire Emo Phillips. Realize that you've wasted the whole afternoon Googling Emo Phillips to find out what he's doing lately. Discover that Emo most recently did a voice on the animated show Slacker Cats, which, sadly, sounds awful.

Winner: Tater Mitts. At least, if elected president, the worst it would do is leave potato preparation to old-fashioned peeler.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

And a merry Enlightened Selfishness Day, too!

A "Prime" buyer in Virginia placed the last order on Dec. 23 through Amazon, receiving Futurama, A Charlie Brown Christmas, and Pulp Fiction DVDs, as well as Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead (paperback) and a Bridge Over Troubled Water CD, according to the company, which extended its one-day shipping this year. --InformationWeek

"[The individual] must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. The pursuit of his own rational self-interest and his own happiness is the highest moral purpose of his life."
--Ayn Rand

Anyone who would give Ayn Rand as a Christmas present must have either the most overdeveloped sense of irony in the world, or the most underdeveloped. I'm going to assume the latter.

Happy Boxing Day, everyone!

Whatever the hell that is.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

My Christmas gift for you

Because you've been very, very naughty this year, you must watch A Trip to Santa:


Other books that have been indefinitely postponed

A Christian publisher said on Wednesday it has called off a parenting book written by Lynne Spears -- the mother of troubled pop star Britney Spears and her pregnant 16-year-old sister, Jamie Lynn. --Reuters

--The Art of Diplomacy by George W. Bush
--Boy, Am I Heterosexual: Hey--Why Are You Laughing? by Sen. Larry Craig
--How to Win Friends and Influence People (revised) by Karl Rove
--Raising Ferrets for Dummies by Rudy Giuliani
--Secrets of Successful Blogging by The Velvet Blog

Friday, December 21, 2007

The countdown begins

In going over the year's posts, I see that I linked to this story in January:

US: Pat Robertson prophesies 'mass killing':

In what has become an annual tradition of prognostications, religious broadcaster Pat Robertson said Tuesday God has told him that a terrorist attack on the United States would result in "mass killing" late in 2007.

"I'm not necessarily saying it's going to be nuclear," he said during his news-and-talk television show "The 700 Club" on the Christian Broadcasting Network. "The Lord didn't say nuclear. But I do believe it will be something like that."

Robertson said God told him during a recent prayer retreat that major cities and possibly millions of people will be affected by the attack, which should take place sometime after September. ...

In 2005, Robertson predicted that Bush would have victory after victory in his second term. He said Social Security reform proposals would be approved. ...

In May, Robertson said God told him that storms and possibly a tsunami were to crash into America's coastline in 2006. Even though the US was not hit with a tsunami, Robertson on Tuesday cited last spring's heavy rains and flooding in New England as partly fulfilling the prediction.

Given the rather low bar Robertson uses to measure success, perhaps he was actually referring to this?

Oh, fudge!

A few years ago, my family decided it was time to cut down on Christmas gift-giving a bit, and we'd all pick one name and buy just for that person. Spouses excepted, of course--I'm mean, we're not Christmas jihadists. This was a relief, honestly, because I was feeling rather overwhelmed by the season.

Little by little, though, more exceptions were made. My mom bought a little something for everyone--which meant everyone really needed to get something for her. And the annual Baking and Exchanging of 1,000 Cookies went into effect. If I can't buy you a gift, at least I can spend the same amount of time in the kitchen slaving over a hot stove for you! OK, I exaggerate a little. But not much.

I realized earlier this week why I hate making Fannie Farmer's Peanut Butter Chewies, which have become kind of a tradition. Oh, they're yummy, but (ye gads!) they take forever to roll into little balls.

Then I discovered Ghiradelli's fudge recipe.

Folks, if you need to give a little something to someone this year and don't know what to buy and you don't feel like baking all afternoon, this is the answer. It doesn't take forever, and let me state this for posterity: It's the best fudge I ever ate. Er, tested. I mean, I had to test it, right?

I've tweaked it just a tad to make it a bit less sweet, and (I think) easier to make. So, here goes:

1 cup semi-sweet chips (that works out to exactly half a bag)
1 cup Ghiradelli bittersweet (60% cacao) chips
2 oz. of unsweetened baking chocolate (I recommend Ghiradelli's 100% cacao bar--it's better then the standard Baker's brand)
14 oz. sweetened condensed milk (that's one can)
2-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup pecans, chopped and toasted in the oven (very, very optional)

How I do it: Line an 8-inch square pan with waxed paper. Put all the chips and the unsweetened chocolate (chopped) into a Pyrex bowl. Pour the sweetened condensed milk over it and stir so all the chocolate is covered. Heat in the microwave for about 45 seconds at a bit less than half power (I did it at 40% power). Take out, stir well, repeat. Do this until all the chocolate is melted--probably three or four times (and you might go down to 30 seconds for the last round of heating). All microwaves are different, of course, so your mileage may vary--but remember: Just do this until everything is melted; you don't want to boil it. Stir in the vanilla and nuts, if you're using them. Spread into the waxed-paper-covered pan, and refrigerate until the fudge has set--a couple of hours. Then cut it into small squares. And your chocolate-loving family and friends will be devoted to you forever. This comes out more like a truffle than typical fudge and is super smooth.

If you don't like using a microwave, the original instructions call for melting the chocolate with the condensed milk in a double boiler over hot, but not boiling, water. And the original recipe calls for all semisweet chips instead of the half semisweet/half bittersweet.

Nuts or no nuts? I put in pecans for the first batch. But I'm not crazy about nuts in my candy, so I left them out for batch two. It's delicious either way.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


The very funny Jon Swift is asking for readers to send him links to what they believe to be their best post of the year.

This is a silly question, but if you have a fave TVB post for 2007, can you let me know in comments? Thanks.

I find owning them outright is more convenient

Sign in a local pet-supply store's window.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The customer reviews on Amazon are so amazingly helpful!

I was thinking of buying a cheap mandoline on Amazon. Maybe this one. Let's ask previous customers what they think:
Even when its new it works best on hard-ish vegetables like carrots or zucchini or potatos and less well on *juicy* veggies like onions or cucumbers. The more watery veggies tend to slice more unevenly and break apart.

Hard veggies only--no soft ones. That's good to know!

And what about you, ma'am?
... If you are cutting something even remotely hard (such as celeriac, or even an old big carrot) it will flex so much that your slices will not conform at all to the size you want them to be, ...

Hmm. Well, OK. Better use it on soft veggies only, then--no hard ones. And you?:
It really only works on hard vegetables...

Hard only? Point taken. What about you?:
Made the mistake of running a couple of sweet potatos on this. Now, it's a goner. Only made for softer veggies, ...

Soft only. Great!

Well, thanks for clearing that up, everyone!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

I'm The Velvet Blog, and I approved this message

Nowadays Huckabee has more policy positions, but his campaign is really all about his Christian character. His slogan is "Faith, Family, Freedom," which Huckabee, who was once a public-relations man for the Texas televangelist James Robison, wrote himself. ...

In late November, Huckabee began running a short television ad called "Believe." It starts with the candidate declaring, "Faith doesn’t just influence me, it really defines me." As he speaks, the words "Christian Leader" flash across the screen.
--Profile of Mike Huckabee in tomorrow's New York Times

"I've been under that microscope for quite some time, and it's certainly intensifying. All the sharp knives in the kitchen have been brought out of the drawers now that we're leading in polls all over the country. The interesting thing is that there seems to be a great deal more attention on … really, an intense scrutiny on the details of my faith, than there is on anybody else's, including Mitt Romney's. Every day there is some new nuance about the Baptist faith, some statement I made 15, 20, 25 years ago that gets a lot of attention." --Mike Huckabee, in an NPR interview

As a general rule of thumb, if talking about your religion is inappropriate, then PLEASE STOP TALKING ABOUT YOUR RELIGION.

That goes for you, too, Romney.

Oh, and Rudy? If questions about your family are inappropriate, stop staging events where you take cell phone calls from your wife.

Thank you.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Glow, little glow-cat, glimmer, glimmer

Finally, to get a cat that glows in the dark, you no longer have to hollow one out and stick a candle in it.

(Apologies in advance to Fermicat.)

(Oh, but I'd rather have a glow-in-the-dark cat than a spider-goat.)

My personal trial

The publisher where I work is moving to an "open floor plan" next year, meaning no more offices--all cubicles and a big open space.

I think I'm developing a touch of social phobia. (Oh, who am I kidding? I've always had it.)

(Gold star for anyone who IDs that film still. There is a rather heavy-handed clue in here.)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


My friends Pete and Joe have started a business selling homemade doggie treats. Freddie has tasted-tested their wares, and recommends them highly. And they make dandy Christmas gifts!

Shipwrecked on The Velvet Blog

Unusual searches that have brought visitors here recently:

--christmas songs written by jews
--oranges smoranges
--why two birds suddenly appear
--you've just invented a new form of torture
--picture the mongolian cow
--is a paintball safe to eat
--what makes you poop
--had to, dead you know
--gay subtext in rudolph the red nosed reindeer
--what does sex panther mens perfume smell like?
--egg salad sandwiches in orlando
--hemoroidal creams
--i feel like a pickle
--how to make dog poop in rain
--douchebag diagram
--poop throwing machines

The number of poop-related searches is starting to disturb me.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Name that tune

Music meme picked up from TwoBusy:

How many songs on your iPod?
Roughly 870 (it's an old-school 4-gbyte nano, so fits about 1,000). But that counts some podcasts, old radio dramas, etc.

Sort by song title, first and last
First: The cover of "... Baby, One More Time" by Fountains of Wayne. Punctuation comes before the letter A, apparently.

Last: "Youth and Age," by that favorite, Various Artists. It was from a Peter Gabriel-sponsored project called Arcane, which featured ... well, a bunch of various artists, and no one is credited for particular tracks. This one was based on a poem by Yeats, and is rather lovely.

Sort by time, first and last
Shortest, at 6 seconds: "One Last 'Whoo-Hoo!' for the Pullman," by Sufjan Stevens. Not really a standalone track, but a coda from the song before it. Annoying, actually, as when I burned a CD of the album, downloaded from iTunes, there's a space between the two tracks, and I can't figure out how to join them when making a disk. They play without a gap on my iPod.

Longest, at 12:30, "Bros," by Panda Bear. A hypnotic drone, this is sort of a love-it-or-hate-it track, and I fall into the former camp. (That's the longest single song on my iPod, but there are longer podcasts, etc.)

Sort by album title, first and last
First: 1, by the Beatles. Numbers come before A in iTunes, too.

Last: Yours, Mine & Ours, by the Pernice Brothers.

Sort by artist, first and last
First: A Fine Frenzy. Kind of Tori Amos-y or maybe Regina Spektor-ish. The song "You Picked Me" was an iTunes freebie. I liked it enough to keep, but not enough to buy anything more.

Last: The Zombies, for their Odessey [sic] & Oracle album.

Top five most-played songs
Well, the top players are tracks I tend to put on repeat when trying to fall asleep or work, so they play endlessly till I wake up (or stop working, which ever comes first), which doesn't seem quite fair. For the record, they're tracks from Dr. Harry Henshaw's "Music for Sleep" and Gregorian chant by Hildegard of Bingen. As far as songs I listen to while, you know, listening, they would be:

"Cada Beijo," by Bebel Gilberto, as remixed by the Thievery Corporation, at 23 spins. While I do love this track, I was surprised to see it at #1.

"Fotheringay," by Fairport Convention, vocal by Sandy Denny, 17 plays.

"All My Little Words," by Magnetic Fields, 16. Another surprise.

"Acoustic Guitar," by Magnetic Fields, 16. And another.

"At the Chime of a City Clock," by Nick Drake, 15.

Find how many times the following words turn up
Sex: 0

Death: 12, mostly because of a bunch of Death Cab for Cutie tracks.

Love: 83, but the presence of many tracks from Magnetic Fields' 69 Love Songs set kind of skews this.

You: 98

Boy: 10

Girl: 33 (My iPod is straight? How'd that happen?)

First five songs in shuffle
"Come Back from San Francisco," Magnetic Fields

"Hackensack," Fountains of Wayne

"Goin' Back," Dusty Springfield

"(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding," Elvis Costello & the Attractions

"Amplifier," the dB's

Unintentional truths

There was a story floating around last week that short-fingered vulgarian Donald Trump left a $10,000 tip at a restaurant.

It soon trickled out that the whole thing was made up, and Snopes has the story, as usual.

What made me laugh was not the hoax itself, but an off-hand comment by John Resig, the guy behind it. According to The Los Angeles Times:
Reached by phone, Derober's John Resig, 29, spilled the beans and laughingly marveled at the hoax's success. "How many people get on the front page of Fox News with a story that doesn't contain one single ounce of truth?" he wondered in amazement.

Oh, Mr. Resig. Don't get me started. We'll be here all day.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Sign you may be hungry and should really stop for lunch

When you go by a movie theater with Fred Claus on the marquee, but you read it as Fried Clams.

It's funny because it's true.

(BTW, if you're ever on L.I. and want chowder or fried clams, Bigelow's is the place to go.)

Thursday, December 06, 2007

I'm pretty sure dew tastes like water

Sometimes, it becomes clear that I could focus exclusively on insane reviews to fill this blog. I won't, but this New Yorker restaurant review is vintage food-critic nuttiness. It's so crazy, I won't even interupt the flow with any snarky comments, though I will highlight a few of the odder turns of phrase--and keep in mind that this is a positive review.
A simple apéritif of shochu, garnished with tiny morsels of pear cut in leaf and star shapes, tastes the way you imagine dew might. Monkfish liver is presented in a vase of pebbles, abalone on a cushion of salt; you get to sear small rectangles of beef on a terrifyingly hot shiny stone. Dried mullet roe (which you grill over an open flame) looks like carrot, has the consistency of bean curd, and tastes like anchovy, only more so. Coupled with a rectangular tablet of daikon radish, it looks uncannily like a mah-jongg tile. Aigamo duck comes with a cake of mochi—a kind of rice polenta with a texture between dough and string cheese but stickier than either. (In Japan, people occasionally suffocate while eating it.) The kaiseki meal culminates in a dish that might seem plain: steamed rice. But the silvery Koshihikari rice from Uonuma is highly prized, and here it is served with condiments including twice-grilled salmon as light and brittle as a cracker and as salty and desiccated as jerky.

I just love how the writer throws into a parenthetical aside the fact that a rice dish served here has actually, you know, killed people. But, mangia!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Santa kicks Martian ass

Gold star for Punkinsmom for identifying the source of the quote, "Dropo, you are the laziest man on Mars."

For those who have never seen Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, prepare to marvel:

I dare you to get that fiendish theme song out of your head.

I saw this at a Saturday matinee as a kid, and I'm still feeling the effects.

(And yes, the Martian girl is Pia Zadora in her film debut.)

UPDATE: The video above is of fairly poor quality--it looks like it's being broadcast from Mars. There's a somewhat more watchable, 6-minute abridged version of the movie here, though with inexplicable bleeps on the sound track. And there's the first chapter of the Mystery Science Theatre 3000 version here. I love MST3K, but I can't say this is one of its funniest episodes. It's a little dull--though we watch it every Christmas season. Traditions are traditions, after all.

Monday, December 03, 2007

They blinded me ... with science!

I recently became a huge fan of the National Public Radio show Radio Lab, a popular-science program that makes really quite heady scientific concepts (say, the theory of relativity) understandable without dumbing them down.

If it's not on in your area, you can either stream it or download episodes from Radio Lab here. Scroll down that page a little and you'll see links to the three seasons that have aired so far. Season four begins next month.

Listen to one episode, and you'll be hooked. Season two's "Detective Stories" had me ignoring urgent business (well, eating dinner) to find out the end of the tale that begins with two people motoring down a highway in California when they spy a goat standing on the back of a cow at the side of the road. Yes, you read that correctly--and after that, it gets weird.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Quelque chose à ce sujet sent la merde

Third in an occasional series in which we gaze, shielding our eyes, at the intense light given off by the perfume reviews in The New York Times. From today's Style magazine:
I must admit, with some unease, my initial obtuseness toward Comme des Garçons 2 Man, one of the 10 greatest works of perfumery art in the world.

Just slightly above Axe body spray and Jean Naté and below Old Spice.
The perfumer Mark Buxton built the upper decks of this sleekest of vessels out of C11 ISO, a synthetic molecule that smells of clean pressed fire, if you can imagine such a thing; ...

... the pine-scented synthetic C12 MNA; ...

A smidge of Pine-Sol.
... and a high-quality natural Haitian vetiver that smells like dust on jungle trees.

I repeat: No.
But the hull is frankincense from Oman, an incense cool as cream, warm as onion-skin stationery, glossy and slick as a traffic light in the rain.

As strong as a Gauloise, as chewy as an economy-size box of Jujubes, and as furry as ferret.
This technically flawless perfume (it diffuses like radium) ...

So, that's what Madame Curie was working on.
... smells more beautiful than one can say, like a perfect chord in an empty echo chamber.

Is that a koan? Like, what is the sound of one hand holding one's nose?
Herodotus warned that frankincense was dangerous to harvest because poisonous snakes lived in the Arabian trees that contained it, and I do believe my first reaction to 2 Man was, in part, fear.

Much like my reaction to this review. And, to be fair, I suspect that Herodotus was nipping at the absinthe.
This perfume is not just extraordinary. It is perfect.

I am now officially out of snark.

(PS: That subject line translated by the Google language tool. God knows if it's good French, because I certainly don't.)