February 27: Best-selling Car; Odd Use of a Urinal; Potatoes and Onions; Pileated Woodpecker

February 27: Best-selling Car; Odd Use of a Urinal; Potatoes and Onions; Pileated Woodpecker

The Cozy Coupe: Best-selling car in America – for good reason.

The best-selling car in America is the Cozy Coupe by Little Tykes.  No child can resist the allure of this riding toy, in production since 1979.  It seats up to four, including two on top, and is powered by humans: no greenhouse gasses are produced in excess of those produced by living humans.  WHAT A CAR.  Androp has never much desired automobiles of any sort, but the cozy coupe is a must for children.

Androp spent several days in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and came away unimpressed by the city itself.  No food that scored above “okay” was consumed.  Some said that the city had charm, with art deco buildings.  Mainly, Androp saw monolithic downtown structures designed to impress plebeians.  This reminded him of the People’s Square in Taipei City, which actually is way more impressive, although in a blue-smoke-filling-the-air way.  As for the art deco: Napier, NZ, has more beauty and charm (not close).  The meetings attended included visits with many old friends, which is always the highlight of any conference.

Cultural icons of Tulsa, Oklahoma.  The food was bad and the hand washing was creepy.

A note: Androp is invariably dreadfully uneasy in large groups of humans he does not know.  Basically this represents mild to medium agoraphobia.  Probably this is common: small group primates should mainly not be relaxed in large groups.  Some stranger may be looking to steal your resources.

The culinary note this week centers on fried potatoes and onions.  These are made and eaten approximately once a week at Androp’s house.  The keys are (1) cut the potatoes into small, even-sized cubes with a sharp, 20 cm (8 inch) chef’s knife, and (2) cook the potatoes until almost done before adding the onion, which cooks much faster.  The cooking shows that add many different kinds of vegetables to a fry pan at once are insanely wrong:  And for gawd’s sake, never add garlic to a fry pan more than two minutes before food is removed from heat.  Bitter, burnt garlic is unappetizing.  Any advice from any celebrity chef that recommends adding garlic early can and should be safely ignored.

Potatoes are nature’s perfect food.  To cube: square off, plank, form posts (not shown), cube (end product shown).

In nature notes, Andorp acquired photo-documentation of a Pileated Woodpecker on the back deck.  This was a first.  Spring is early: the daffodils are nearly blooming.  Finally, the wife heard coyotes yipping from both sides of our urban cud-de-sac at once.  The urban peninsula is about 50 m wide, with wooded ravines on either side.  One group of coyotes was on one side, one on the other side.  They were close enough, apparently, to actually see the wife and the little dog on the sidewalk, because they stopped yipping when the wife approached.  Likely, they were spooked by the appearance of a human, not of a little dog.

The level of anxiety that he who must not be named is causing Androp’s friends is distressing.  Staying ignorant of events is not responsible, but staying constantly frantic is not healthy.  Hopefully, most will find some happy medium.



February 21, 2017: Weird Weather; Big Meals; The Park

February 21, 2017: Weird Weather; Big Meals; The Park

Warm weather enabled outdoor activities.  This child was allowed to play until clear signs of leg muscle and brain fatigue were apparent.

A vast quantity of humans in Androp’s home town spent some of both days over this past week-end outside.  Conditions were unseasonably warm: a new record was set on Saturday with a high of 77 F.  Normal high (average of previous 30 years) is 46.  Hint: Weather Underground has great information posted online; their weather app is good as well.

Androp got in an early Saturday morning bike ride and a trip to the park with the youngest grandchild.  The slide was accessed and used more than 30 times.  The first experience in a ‘big girl’ swing resulted in great joy as well as a fall.  Jumping off a moving swing resulted in a face plant into weathered chunks of shredded trees.  Hint to adults: children younger than about 5 years or age are not ‘swing aware:’ they will walk right in front of a moving swing.  Small children do need some help with decision making.

In culinary news, Androp made way too much food for the family meal on Sunday: pork ribs, sausage, coleslaw, glazed carrots, rice, broccoli, baked pears, fresh pineapple.  The pears were effectively baked on the grill in a covered dish.  To accomplish baked pears, slice about 4-5 pears into cut into large (1 -2 inch) chunks, and toss them in 0.5 c sugar and 1 generous tsp cinnamon (a touch of ginger helps too).  Add a tbl or two of butter on top.  Baking time for pears can be quite variable: whether they are firm or soft, just pretend that was the idea.  Channel Julia Child and act like you meant them to be exactly as they came out.

Carrots enjoy being glazed – you can seem them quiver with excitement when sweet stuff is added.  Just boil them first, drain, add back to the pan, and then add a tbl of brown sugar or, better, real maple syrup and a tbl of butter and a tsp salt.  Heat them a bit.

Pork ribs that can be eaten off the bone. Cut out every other rib close to the bone and the remaining ribs will be extra meaty.  Ribs are consumed with rapt enthusiasm by most humans.  Androp prefers to let guests add their own seasoning or BBQ sauce.

Ribs benefit from slow cooking.  Hint: St. Louis style pork ribs offer a good compromise between not meaty enough and too meaty to be called ribs because they cannot be eaten off the bone (as are some baby back ribs).  Ribs eaten with a fork are just pork chops or something – avoid this.  Androp usually simmers his in water with 0.25 c vinegar added for about 30 minutes, then drains, and places them on a hot grill to add a little crispy on the outside.  Seasoned salt is added before grilling.  Huge hint: to serve, cut every other rib out (close to the bone).  The chef or his favored assistant(s) should eat whatever meat is left on these ‘waste ribs.’  Everyone can add what they want later in terms of BBQ sauce.  Most humans will simply eat them hot off the grill with seasoned salt.  Few dishes are eaten with more blissful enthusiasm than ribs.  Two large racks were consumed Sunday, without use of any sauce at all.  Seasoned salt can be easily made at home: 2 tbs salt, one tsp sugar, one tsp paprika, and then lesser amounts of powdered garlic and onion, and dried mustard.

Painting on frames covered in cloth was added as a leisure activity.

Finally, the younger daughter has discovered painting as a hobby.  She brought canvases and paints for everyone and all of the kids and some of the adults made paintings.  It was a fantastic idea, and a great outlet for creativity.  The children were quite pleased with their own efforts.

Odd note under inquiring minds want to know: why do humans buy un-hulled pistachios when they could buy delicious, ready to gobble down, cashews?  This seems to make little sense.

February 12, 2017: Pancakes; Biking; Owls and Woodpeckers; Conspiracy Theories

February 12, 2017:  Pancakes; Biking; Owls and Woodpeckers; Conspiracy Theories

The culinary news involves pancakes.  The wife’s grandmother left a buttermilk pancake recipe that has been used, presumably, for more than 60 years.  Results from this formulation are always exceptional: perfect fluff, browning, and taste.  The recipe is remarkable because a full batch calls for 12 cups of flour. Most modern recipes call for 2 cups of flour.

Go big or go home on pancakes: use buttermilk; eat real butter and real maple syrup. Dab maple syrup drops onto the cooking pancakes if you want (lower left).  The pancakes on the cutting board will be frozen and fed to children later.

Hints on pancakes: (1) a person can place drips of real maple syrup in them before they are turned and successfully feed them to small children later (even after freezing), (2) use real butter on them if consuming hot; do not be timid, (3) use real maple syrup if maple flavor is desired – go big or go home.  Pancakes can be successfully cooked in a cast iron pan, but this is one case where a large, electric cooking surface may prove useful, if many people are to be served at once.  For the record: Androp Gerard does not have an electric cooking surface, and would pay hundreds of dollars to avoid owning one.  He is a minimalist.

Many were out enjoying a 70 F degree day over the week-end.

In biking and nature, the weather allowed a pleasant trail ride.  A Great Horned Owl was seen from the trail.  This species is more often heard than seen, and not that often heard.  This was a rather uncommon and exciting observation.  Two Bald Eagle nests were also spotted.  One clearly had a mature eagle on the nest.  Interestingly, these two nests are less than 3 km apart, which seems a bit close.  Finally, a Pileated Woodpecker was seen slide4in the yard.  Sightings occur less frequently than one per year, in general, so this was another exciting wildlife observation.

Androp has been considering the origin of conspiracy theories. Belief in conspiracy theories, superstitions, and religions seem to be in the same family of human behaviors. These spring, basically, from the need to explain patterns, past events, and future possibilities – all to reduce anxiety.  To the extent that conspiracy theories are different from religious beliefs, the following observations apply:

Conspiracy theorists enjoy few benefits.
  1. Conspiracy theorists are by most definitions in the minority within a society, although they may often be members of a majority religion.  This may tend to diminish the direct social benefits of belief.Few conspiracy theorists gather regularly to perform rituals: (songs, chants, responses to prompts).  These types of activities offer benefits similar to meditation, as well as enhancing social bonding.
  2. Belief in conspiracy theories does not effectively sooth anxiety, even though these beliefs spring from anxiety. Religious adherents (who are not at the same time conspiracy theorists) are generally soothed via belief.
  3. Conspiracy theorists see those in control of events as malevolent. No reward is offered for belief.  Religious believers see their god(s) as loving, and adherents are rewarded for belief.
  4. Conspiracy theorists generally lack trust in many or most institutions and their representatives. Believers in majority religions make up the institutions and their members.

The most prominent conspiracy theorist in the world today is Donald J. Trump.

Feburary 9, 2017: Jiffy Pop; Breakfast Tacos; Cortisone Shots

Feburary 8, 2017: Jiffy Pop; Breakfast Tacos; Cortisone Shots

Jiffy Pop: As much fun to make as it is to eat!

In culinary news, the grandchildren made Jiffy Pop.  Androp Gerard remembers when that was a new thing: “As much fun to make as it is to eat!”  None was ever popped at the boyhood home.  This was a first for both for the papa and the grandchildren.  For that reason, approximately a third of the kernels did not get popped.

In things you do when you are semi-awake when you should be totally asleep: in the wee hours Androp failed to properly identify which grandchild was talking, and therefore needed tending.  Since nobody was talking when he got up to check, he just went back to bed.  “That one talks in her sleep.”   Later:

Child, “Hello!  Bye bye!”

The wife gets up.  Me, “(Names a child) is talking in her sleep.”

The wife, “No. It is not that child.  There is a cat locked in the other kid’s room.”

Thump thump thump.  Meow. Upon extraction of the cat, the child apparently went back to sleep fairly quickly.  Not so much for Androp and the wife.

Breakfast tacos require modest culinary skill but require massive clean-up.

Breakfast tacos were made and consumed for brunch the next day.  These require a surprising number of bowls and prep time: eggs, bacon, refried beans, tomatoes, raw onions, cubed potatoes, salsa, cheese, plain yogurt, hot peppers, and tortillas.  Those containers plus plates added up to more than 20 dishes and two pans.  Probably more than 30 serving spoons and forks were used.  Buy stock in dishwasher makers.  When someone says breakfast tacos are simple, that means anyone can make them.  Prep time and clean-up can be somewhat daunting: they are hard in some regards.  One culinary hint: whip the eggs with a whisk and then salt them 15 minutes before they are cooked.  Add one tbs of cold butter for each 2 eggs when scrambling.  Do not over-cook: they should be a bit gooey when removed from the pan.

Trail use is amazingly high, even on cold days.  Four bike shops serve a town of only 120,000.

The weather was good enough to bike, although the wind in the face was stinging more than invigorating.  The Bald Eagles (one of them anyway) are supervising their nest site, although none was seen on the nest.  A surprising number of humans were out walking near trail heads, including many couples and families.  In Androp’s city of 120,000, four bike shops that carry four different flagship major bike maker brands occur.  A medical school and three major hospitals also occur.  So anyone who has a bike accident will likely be seen by a passing Doc.

Androp’s initial cortisone injection was given by a person who was later disqualified from cramming long needs deep into other people’s flesh.

Androp got a cortisone shot in the shoulder for adhesive capsulitis.  Recall that he had a terrifying experience the first time he got one (see December 8, 2016, journal entry).  This time, the Attend Physician (teacher who was supervising the Fellow or Resident Doc for the earlier injection) was in charge.  The procedure was fast and mostly painless.

Me, “That was fantastic, Doc.  You were supervising someone else, a Fellow or Resident Doc maybe, when I got my first injection.  That did not go so well.”

Her, “Really?”

The radiology waiting room was not very inviting.

Me, “Ya. (I provided some horrifying quotes similar to the ones I gave in the December 8 post).”

Her, “Oh I am sorry.  I usually try to be more discrete with the patient in the room.  Was it (insert description of Fellow or Resident student Doc).”

Me, “That was her.”

Her, “She never did get it.  I stopped letting her give injections.”

Me, to self, “Oh just gawdamned fine.  I was given an injection by a trainee who failed the course.   A proven failure at giving injections crammed a needle 6 inches into my body.  Possibly, her failure was in large part due to how much she screwed up on me.  There are two witnesses standing here.  Get their names.”

Hint: ask for the Attending Physician, not a Fellow or a Resident.

This dog will spook from nothing.

In nature news, coyotes were heard yipping from Androp’s cul du sac dog walking route.  The little dog was spooked.  But then, the little dog spooks from a leaf blowing across the sidewalk.  And often, she jumps due to nothing visible in the external environment (e.g. brain worms).  To anyone who has not heard coyotes: they make a lot of noise, but it is not howling, it is yipping and barking.  Probably at least two were yipping on Sunday evening.  The number is impossible to tell, since they can make a lot of noise.

Politics remain pretty much the same.  Those who think he is trying to discredit the press are incorrect: he has already successfully discredited the press.