January 4, 2018: Exercise, Eating, Birds, Resolutions
Androp is a model for consistency when it comes to exercise. He went to the gym the EXACT same number of days in 2017 as in 2016.
The number of recoded bike rides was almost identical as well. Nonetheless, the amount of weight gained increased year over year. Food possesses devastating allure, based on evolutionary mandates (e.g. fats, sweets, and salts were in short supply for early hominoids). Sedentary activities dominate work and leisure time, and basal metabolic rates have been conclusively observed to decline with age. None of this helps an aging individual maintain their ‘ideal’ weight.
Days of sub-freezing temperatures resulted in frenetic activity at the feeder and backyard bird sauna (heated bird bath). Visitors from the west were taken with the beauty of the Northern Cardinals which are common at the feeder. At least one Red-breasted Nuthatch, fairly rarely seen in past years, has been a regular visitor to the suet feeder. Barnabas the Barred Owl was seen swooping in and taking a White-throated Sparrow. The latter seem to be seen as fun-sized, savory chunks of meat by the backyard predators.
If a human only has so much will-power, it should be saved for emergency use. Examples may include repeatedly going blind to the antics of he who must not be named in order to avoid a heart attack, or not laughing or calling someone a ‘moron’ in a professional meeting. For this reason, Androp has never been into New Year’s resolutions: they represent an unnecessary squandering of will power. However, in a technical break with the ‘no resolution is a good resolution’ tradition, Androp has resolved: “do better” in 2018. Note that no reference point is given (e.g. ‘than in 2016’ is implied but not stated, so this could mean do better than in 1972, or 1983, which are distant enough to be essentially unmeasurable). Also, no actual ‘better at what’ is stated. Hence, this resolution should not result in a waste of will power.
Androp Gerard has never appeared in a picture with The Grinch, because they are the same person.
This year, the Christmas season progressed as usual: from broken routines to creeping unease to swirling confusion and uncertainty, followed by debilitating anxiety and brief incapacitation.
Fleeting Norman Rockwell-esque moments were centered around the grandchildren cooking with Mom and Yaya.
Androp’s job was to buy a large basket of groceries. Androp’s chef knife was used during the cooking process by people other than him, and it was treated with disrespect, but without apparent harm. This is proof of God.
Finally, an unblemished goat was again sacrificed this year to ensure that days will get longer and spring will come. The same goat as last year was sacrificed. Recall that the sacrifice consists of shouting, “Bad goat! Bad, bad goat! You are a bad girl!” until she is thoroughly servile and obsequious. The short, cold, gloomy days should now not persist. You are all welcome.
Androp’s two-year old, $685, Rancilo Miss Sylvia home espresso machine began to throw the kitchen surge protector. After viewing on-line videos of possible fixes (the heating element was implicated), the decision was made not to attempt a fix. Androp has negligible ability in terms of home repairs. It is suspected that his wife was quite relieved.
An elegant, simple solution was proposed and subsequently executed: a Bialetti Moka Espress stove-top coffee maker was purchased. The elegance is sublime: octagonal base and an 80 year old design. The resulting brew is aromatic and less better than a 15-bar pressure pulled shot, but more flavorful than boring drip coffee. Extraction is at 1 to 2 bars pressure. The Bialetti has achieved Androp’s highest level of recommendation: GJGO (Gawd, Just Get One). At around $40, you have not much to lose. .
Androp prepared two loaves of cinnamon bread and was reminded of breakfast on the bike trail. He purchased slices of bread at $2 or $3 each. Five pounds of flour costs less than $3. Of all the things to be amazed by, the fee for a single slice of toast with butter, at $2, seems supremely shocking. The bread was homemade, but not as fresh or as fragrant as what Androp can produce at home.
Lemon filled, lemon frosted, lemon cake was produced for the wife’s birthday.
This required large quantities of lemon juice and lemon zest combined with a great deal of time and effort (but not much skill, really). The result was coma-producing, but worth it.
The youngest grandchild has a new skill: opening and closing the front door. This is both exciting and panic-producing. One more can get away, and this one tends to want to escape. She is a maverick.
Finally, Androp purchased a new bicycle, after months of anguish over prices and styles. No identifiable event tripped the wire toward making the purchase, but it was nonetheless made. Intense self-loathing, post-purchase, lasted about two weeks, and has since slowly faded to simple, intermittent, moderate self-criticism. Decision points included: steel frame (not aluminum), drop handlebars (not straight), semi-upright geometry (not more aggressive; Androp is old), up-graded wheelset, and up-graded (not stock) tires.
The final contestants were the Salsa Vaya, Salsa Fargo, and Surly Long Haul Trucker. Among these, the Fargo had the must up-right geometry and was selected on that basis. About 200 miles are on the bike. One initial frustration: the disc brakes are not as simple to use and adjust as rim brakes. For most uses, rim brakes are probably better, but marketing has made the discs standard on ‘up-scale’ bikes.
June 16, 2017: BLT’s, Cupcakes, Real Estate, Getting the Right Pasta
The wife made fantastic BLTs’ without the bread. Leaves of romain lettuce, uncured bacon, and fresh tomatoes were featured (no bread). Tomatoes are the key: they need to taste reasonably like tomatoes and have moderate to high acid content. Store tomatoes often have no flavor: they appear on restaurant sandwiches. Money could be saved if those were simply replaced by cardboard soaked in red dye. Appropriate cardboard could be acquired via raids of recycling centers.
Androp hates cupcakes because (1) they generally taste awful (sweet smeared on puffy, semi-sweet, tasteless foam), (2) the containers in which they are cooked are insanely hard to wash, take up too much room in storage, and are single-use tools, and (3) they are difficult to eat gracefully. Children like them because adults give them to children as treats. The fact that this tradition ever started is proof of poor brain function among all humans. Think cookie. Think brownie. Think a granola bar. Think a slice of cake. Think, even, a fruit! An apple! A pear! A banana! Any sort of sweet treat, and even fruit, is better than a cupcake.
The bike riding has been lovely in the Midwest this spring. Favorable conditions found Androp out with young people on the trail recently. The trip was highlighted by easy conversation during the ride. The dive bar visited after the ride was stinky, smoky, stale-smelling, and filled with iffy characters. Individual pizzas from a toaster oven and horrible beer were consumed. Bike trail towns have few options.
The local relator looked surly, and had only old (though sometimes elaborately modified) trailer houses for sale.
Here’s what happens when one spouse sends another one shopping in the modern age: Pictures are taken of items on the list. Is this the right thing? Is this the right size? What did people do in the olden days?
Probably more food was wasted, and more spouses were disappointed.
Androp has been busy and happy about it, so this blog has suffered. A flood that was widespread across the Midwest and Southeastern USA impacted bicycle riding in a negative way. The local rails-to-trails bike path was flooded and washed out.
Within 10 days, County workers had the trail passable, though still a little dangerous due to loose gravel.
A trip to Texas resulted in some scribbling on a dry erase board, and more important, viewing of a Red-cockaded Woodpecker during one afternoon field trip. The bird is rare and endangered.
The doodles are not uncommon.
Fun on the cul-de-sac has been rampant with the temperatures pleasant and bugs not too numerous. The grandchildren and youngest child displayed themselves on a Nissan Sentra while they at push-pops.
The volume of push-pops that can be consumed by children while they play outside is startling. Numbers range from several to a crap load, with a bunch being average.
Finally, the Spring Migratory Bird Count resulted in 78 species seen or heard on a 6 mile slow walk over 5.5 hours, plus 14 miles in an auto.
The counts are done in a systematic way by block. Otherwise, more birds would have been seen, because wetlands would have been visited. The route taken had no wetlands. Nobody is too gawddamned bitter about it though, just because they were not given a good block whereas otherpeople were.
April 28: March for Science; Clever Use of Bungee Cords; Devices with Buttons
The March for Science was successful in Androp’s small home town.
At least 1000 showed up on a bright Saturday afternoon. Speakers were moderately low key and randged from un-inspirational to downright boring. Clearly, they were scientists. Neil Degrasse Tyson and Bill Nye attended different venues, so were unavailable. To get 1000 scientists to show up in a small town is amazing:
Me, to scientist friend, “So. Are you going to the march?”
Him, “I want to.”
Me, “I’ll be there.”
Him *pause” “Here’s the thing: there will be other people there.”
Me, “And you do not that much like other people.”
He felt a little bad for not going, but was happy to learn that so many turned out. Probably, many who attended just hate he who must not be named. Secondarily, they do support science. A few were scientists, like Androp.
A comment on modern technology: in the past, electronic devices were few, large, had clearly useful functions, and were easy to use. Now we have many small, difficult to operate devices. They are designed mainly to sell for profit, and secondarily to perform an array of largely useless functions. Each and every one of them is designed to fail soon, and offer hours of frustration to the owner between purchase time and throw away time. Dozens of new rectangular, plastic cell phones are sold each year, and yet each one performs essentially identical functions.
A T.V. used to have two knobs: a combination on-off and volume knob, and a channel change knob. Now, devices have many buttons or virtual buttons and no knobs that are actually easily accessible to human fingers. Trying to set the time on a device with a different primary purpose is largely futile, and results in negative impacts on heath, such as elevated blood pressure. The most elegant devices and softwares, presumably, such as anything by Apple, are frustratingly difficult to operate (and often, in fact, essentially functionless).
That is why it was so inspiring to see the wife make use of bungee cords to enhance the effective screen size of her small computer. Simple solutions are still possible in a technologically advanced world. Humans are clever.
Finally, in heath news, four out of seven in the most immediate clan have had (probable) norovirus.
This one gets around admirably via aerosol (caused by projectile vomiting of victims) and by living on surfaces for long periods of time. Interestingly, alcohol hand cleaners have little impact: soap and water are deadly to it, though. You don’t want this short-lasting but debilitating illness.
April 13, 2017: New Bikes, Meditation, Spring Birds and Amphibians, Teeth Cleaning
New bicycle longing (lust) was a topic of concern over the late winter and spring.
The desire was finally incompletely satisfied via purchase of a bicycle for the middle grandchild. Extensive research (exhaustive, in fact) on children’s bikes was done earlier (see January 26 post), but was completely disregarded in favor of purchasing “whatever bike they were selling that fit” at the local bike shop. Results have been so far acceptable, although a trip to the bike trail resulted in failure (too scary).
A new bike for Androp seemed, in the end, unreasonable, and the idea of buying on was scrubbed, because:
There is no place to store an extra bike in the garage (the ‘tipping point’ issue)
The current bike is fairly new
New components, including a chain and highly puncture resistant tires, were added to the current bike last fall
One human can ride only one bicycle at a time, normally
Different purposes may call for different bikes, but Androp rides almost exclusively on the bike trail, for pleasure, fitness, and mental health
To elaborate on the mental health benefits of bicycle riding consider this: fairly often, when riding alone, Androp “wakes up” to find he does not know where he is, exactly, on a familiar bike path. Probably this is due to many parts of his brain having temporarily shut down while pedaling along. This represents the essence of meditation (see Dec. 22, 2016 post).
Spring is in full swing, with migrating and returning birds too numerous to list.
Two of the more striking species include the Prothonotary Warbler and Northern Parula (also a warbler), both heard but not seen on bike trail rides. Moderate flooding filled swamps along the big river and woodland ponds.
During an overcast, warm afternoon, four amphibian species where heard in a wooded swamp: American Toad, Western Chorus Frog, Bullfrog, and Southern Leopard Frog, the latter in abundance.
Finally, a teeth cleaning appointment was reluctantly kept. These are characterized by:
Anxiety about pain that will be inflicted and endured. This slowly builds for about 4 days before the appointment, and becomes virtually incapacitating within 2 to 4 hours of the appointment.
Pain being endured. Usually this is inflicted in unpredictable, sharp, excruciating waves across time (sweaty palms, chants to an internal voice: I am not here. I am not here. I am not here. I am not here).
Relief when it is over, with internal admonitions, “I am never coming back here. This is stupid.”
The US Center for Disease Control, in their Oral Health section, mentions two things: (1) fluoridation (it is good), and (2) tooth sealant (also good). Nowhere do they mention teeth cleaning. All articles on this subject retrieved via a Google search were written by dentists. Readers of a certain age will recall the dentist from the movie, Little Shop of Horrors. Google that, and take a look at the YouTube clips.
April 3, 2017: Green Chile, Frogs, Morel Mushrooms, the Grinch
The culinary note involves New Mexico green chile: this is the most delicious member of the “hot” class of taste elements needed for cooking (recall that the needed elements are salt, fat and sweet, and sometimes hot and tart; see November 20, 2016 blog entry). The taste and fragrance of roasted New Mexico green chiles is indescribably inspirational: truly sublime.
Roasted chiles that retain the terroir of the Hatch Valley in New Mexico can only be purchased fresh or frozen in the late summer. Google Hatch green chile. Get the Big Jim variety (medium hot), or the Joe Parker (medium). The Anaheim chile, commonly available in grocery stores, is a Hatch chile from which all the fragrance and flavor has been sucked out and eradicated: horrifying. Canned Hatch chiles are made from material that is scraped off the floor (then canned and sold to the ignorant) after good chiles are roasted (and sold to the enlightened).
In biking and nature notes, a somewhat windy afternoon ride was highlighted by southern leopard frogs singing (in addition to Western Chorus Frogs) and Morel mushrooms seen on the trail side. The Morel hunters will be out in full force by next week-end gathering these prized mushrooms. They are often covered in flour and fried in butter. The Bald Eagle nest next on the trail was occupied by a mature adult sitting on the nest. The trail was busy, with afternoon temperatures hovering around 60 F and winds to about 12 mph.
Two Grinch-themed birthday parties ensued for the middle grandchild: the local cheer gym was a venue one day, and a family-only party followed the next day. Androp’s wife and daughter require that each grandchild/child have at least two birthday parties each year: a big one with friends and a smaller one with family. This practice probably is not common, but we do what we do.
Elaborate plans and execution apparently are required to mark annual time monuments. Humans are a strange species.
One final note on politics: the titanic failure of he who must not be named to pass a health care law seems to bode poorly for his overall plot to turn the USA into an authoritarian government with him and his kinfolk in charge. This good news has at least temporarily eased Androp’s ongoing anxiety.
March 20, 2017: Cold Bike Ride; Signs of Spring; Kid Soccer; Brussels Sprouts; Androp’s Famous Sauce; Forming Society
Androp ventured on a bike ride on a bright, sunny morning with the temperature at 44 F and a 12 mph wind. Feet went numb and cheeks felt mild frost bike. Pedaling was slow. Hint: bright sunshine will not very much counteract the impact of cold air temperatures.
Signs of spring: Western Chorus Frogs were singing, despite the cold, from a shallow pond along the bike trail.
Henbit (Lamiumamplexicaule) was abundant in last year’s soybean fields. And an Eastern Phoebe was seen and heard defending a nesting site in the mouth of a cave.
In culinary notes, brussels sprouts and chicken quarters were cooked on the gas grill for one meal. The sprouts were almost good. Almost. Steak, potatoes, baked pears, corn on the cob, and steamed asparagus were made for Sunday. Androp’s famous white sauce was made to couple with asparagus:
-1/3rd cup each of Greek yogurt and mayonnaise,
-one tsp each of dill and paprika,
-two tsp of lemon juice,
-1/4th tsp salt
This simple white sauce goes well with fish, asparagus, and really, pretty much anything. It is so often requested that it is called “Androp’s famous sauce” around the house.
The youngest grandchild was taken to “organized” soccer practice. This is how that goes, with 2 and 3 year old kids:
Coach, “This class is adult-help.”
Adults, to selves “Oh. Holy Crap. Buck up. Strap in.”
Coach, “Take your little rings. Sit in your rings.”
Team, Pick up rings, toss, use as hoola hoop, hit other kids in head.
Coach, “Where are you ears? Touch your listening ears.”
Team, No Reaction. Continue to play with ring.
Coach, “Where are your soccer feet? Touch your soccer feet.”
Team, No Reaction. Continue to play with ring. Fidget. Struggle against adults who are frantically restraining movement.
Androp, to self, “Geezus. This is senseless. These kids do not know the coach exists on earth. Just let them run……Please…. open revolt is possible…Just. Let. Them. Run!”
Mercifully, the Coach said, “Okay. Run (a “toward something” was stated by Coach, but that part was inconsequential).” This was the highlight of practice for every child.
Finally, Androp has pondered how humans, a species of small troupe primate, have been able to form societies with millions of members. Foremost is the recognition that humans are smart buggers: they can learn, and can pass on knowledge, so they have been able to find ways to ensure the growth of a large, essentially pan-earth population (7 billion, and counting). Stream of thought includes:
Cooperation at some level is an advantage; the individual needs the troupe
Selfishness and the attainment of high social status may have been an evolutionary advantage at times: the sultan/king has a lot of off-spring out of that harem/stable of concubines. Never mind Joseph Smith and Brigham Young: light weights.
Populations of both in-groups and out-groups have increased: small troupes cannot compete in a pastoral, agricultural, or industrial age.
Large in-groups have to maintain internal order or break apart, leaving themselves susceptible to attack by larger out-groups. This is manifest in the establishment of governments and institutions.
He who must not be named in the USA has explicitly re-defined a limited in-group (that does not include all humans in the USA) and made them frightened of both internal (other USA citizens) and external out-groups. This will tend to destabilize and fragment the original in-group (the USA as a whole).
March 13: Lawns, Urban Burning, Spring, Brown Sauce, Envy
Humans spend excessive time and energy on maintenance of tame grasses they call “lawns.” Nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, and gasoline are all used in abundance on these largely useless grassy areas. They are pollution pits and wastes of fossil fuels. The tendency to try to manage the environment seems universal among humans, but urban lawns are a particularly radical, and way too popular, example. City ordinances sometimes preclude reasonable people from doing the right thing: they force the pollution and waste that goes with lawn maintenance on homeowners. Androp favors those humans getting over it. Late winter burning of unfertilized native plants seems more reasonable.
The decorative magnolia trees and Bradford pears bloomed two weeks ago, so this last blast of freezing temperatures in town was due. The return of cold corresponded with a return to Daylight Savings Time, so confusion and disorientation resulted.
DST was adopted nationally by most states in 1966. The primary result was supposed to be energy savings. Now, nearly nobody approves of switching time twice a year, and no real energy savings result. However, switching back to not switching time would take an act of Congress, and everyone knows that will not happen.
The culinary note involves a brown sauce (gravy), in this case, made for serving over rice and seared scallops.
The easiest way to make gravy is to put equal parts flour and butter in a pan, brown a bit, and then add whatever is desired for flavor. In this case, onions were browned, then some crushed garlic was added. Those were removed, then scallops were seared. Finally, 1 tbl butter and 1 tbl flour (plus salt and pepper) were added and the flour was browned. Then 1 c milk and the browned onions and garlic were added back and heated until bubbly. Hint: for white gravy, the flour is not browned, but this results in a somewhat doughy-tasking gravy. Androp prefers to brown the flour.
Finally, under humans are strange, Androp has been considering the source of envy. Probably, recognition of good resources is adaptive, and a desire to take those away from other troupes of humans could be seen as adaptive.
Modern humans manifest this desire for resources a yearning for material goods such as automobiles and houses. Ironically, survival and reproduction of modern humans in the developed world is not enhanced by owning these types of resources. High social status might also have improved fitness throughout most of our evolutionary history, but not any longer in the developed world. The current desire for high social status may partly explain our fascination and admiration of celebrities. Possibly, this explains partly the election of he who must not be named. Humans are an exceptionally strange species, and possibly are becoming more and more ill-adapted to the environment they have created for themselves.