Spam Haiku: Carp Bait

Once again, I have received a spam too delicious to not celebrate. This one, apparently, extols the virtues of carp bait. 

Carp bait.

Like I could leave that alone.

In order to preserve the syllabic pattern of a haiku, I inserted one word. Just one. Otherwise, it is untouched. Enjoy.

You will probably

recognise some or all of

these as some as used

i-have-too-much-stuffmore than others with

very great success in carp

baits. After users

carp baitchoose their avatar

they’re transported into their

apartment. But have

avatar apartment

you ever once thought

about living in your boat

full time. Esquimaux.

eskimo in a kayak

Photo credits:

Pile of stuff: http://infolific.com/leisure/safe-long-term-storage-of-household-goods/

Carp bait: http://www.trails.com/how_30322_homemade-ground-bait-carp-fishing.html

 Avatar apartment: http://avatar.wikia.com/Mako_and_Bolin’s_apartment

Eskimo in a kayak: http://bonkersycarax.blogspot.com/2012/10/road-trip-part-five-problem-is-all.html

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Travel Theme: Horizons

This week at Where’s My Backpack?, Ailsa asks us to look to the horizon for her travel theme. So, OK. Off into the distance!

George and I recently went to visit his daughter in Baltimore. The first night we were there we went out, you know. Dinner, cocktails, that sort of thing. The next day we walked around the city and then went to a baseball game, which was great fun but made for a long day. That night, we decided the right thing to do was have pizza and wine on the rooftop deck, and admire the skyline as the sun set. Here is Baltimore’s iconic Domino Sugars sign, seen over the rooftops of Locust Point.

Ahh, beautiful Domino Sugar sign...

Ahh, beautiful Domino Sugar sign. Even from the back you’re sassy.

This picture was taken closer to home for me. It was so close, in fact, I was home. We had some fantastic fog roll in from Buffalo Creek (Crick, if you’re local) one night, and this was how my back yard looked. I love that you have no idea where the tree line ends and the sky begins. Oh yeah. There’s a whole line of trees in that fog.

There's a crick and some trees back there. I swear.

There’s a crick and some trees back there. I swear.

This past December, we were in Myrtle Beach for our niece’s college graduation. When we were on our way out to dinner, a crazy-strong storm blew in–we were completely waterlogged crossing the street from the parking lot to the restaurant’s lobby–and we were a little early for the dinner rush, so I could run around the restaurant at will. The restaurant was right on the beach, and I ran around from room to room (big restaurant) looking out all the windows at the soaked world outside. This is what I got.

That is some angry ocean.

That sure is some angry ocean.

Sometimes…oh, this kills me…sometimes, cliches and stereotypes have some basis in fact. And New Jersey’s snark-riddled reputation as a land of refineries and factories and traffic…well, there’s this section along the Turnpike that George and I joke about, that we know we’re home when we see it. (Jersey peeps,’fess up, you do it too.) But. Sigh.

Cars and smokestacks, far as the eye can see.

Cars and smokestacks, far as the eye can see.

However! New Jersey also gives it up for moments like these.

Sunset, Normandy Beach, NJ.

Yes.

Yes.

What’s on your horizon?

I’m Still Processing The Death of Robin Williams

The news this week, it was shocking. Shocking. Robin Williams. Dead at 63. I grew up on a steady diet of Robin Williams. I remember when he, bizarrely, showed up on Happy Days and had an epic thumb battle with The Fonz.

And I watched Mork & Mindy almost greedily every week, because–particularly in first two seasons–there was nothing quite so aggressively funny on TV.

My mom even got me a pair of rainbow suspenders, which I wore until the clips gave out and just stopped gripping. (And I’d think they were secure and would go out and then a clip would slide up until it reached the end of my waistband. Once it did, it would indeed fly, be free, right into my face. Oh, embarrassment on the playground fer sure.)

Like so many others out there, I loved Robin Williams for his energy and razor-sharp wit, his lightning-fast ability to find the joke, to make anything (a basket of eggs? Really?) hilarious. And I loved him for his ability to handle dramatic roles, too, bringing human complexity and an astonishing depth of emotion to a character that, in the hands of a different performer, could easily end up being too one-dimensional. I’m looking at you, Dead Poet’s Society.

He was brilliant. He was admired. And now he’s gone. If he’d died of a heart attack or was killed in a car accident…we have mental scripts in place to cope. But Robin Williams took his own life. He’d always been open about his long-standing struggles with depression, and also with substance abuse, so it was no secret that he had some malignant, tenacious demons. But still. In a society that views “success” as the answer–which he had, at least outwardly–Robin Williams’s suicide is inconceivable. 

The commentary surrounding his death has been interesting. I have, for the most part, stayed away from anyone who’s completely vitriolic; I don’t need to read articles written by socially stunted hatemongers to know they exist.  But the one statement that I can’t stay away from, which I’ve seen expressed in various media outlets and have heard from people I know and love, is that his act was selfish. And I recognized myself in that statement; ten years ago I might have said the same thing. I have since moved past it, realizing that depression is far more pernicious and illogical and lying and thieving than those of us who aren’t depressed can understand. Still, I get why it’s part of the public patois about suicide. I just don’t think it’s right or fair. We’re never inside anyone else’s head. We don’t know what’s happening anywhere else except in our own noggins…and even then, if you find me someone who’s legitimately got it all together, I will pass out in shock. Mental illness is so dreadfully misunderstood. As a society, we need to bring the same sensibility to the treatment of depression that we bring to, say, the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Both can cripple. Both can kill. But you don’t tell an RA sufferer to “get over it”. 

When I was a little kid–maybe 9 or 10 years old–I was at the beach and got caught in an undertow. I was pulled out in the waves, and slammed back on the beach, and pulled out, and slammed back. Over. And over. And over. I didn’t see a way out, there was no way to break the cycle of being sucked out into the water, and slammed back to the shore. Finally, something solid loomed up in front of me and in desperation I grabbed it; I remember breaking the grip of the waves, and how the waves felt resistant to my release. Luckily, the solid thing turned out to be the feet of a man doing surf fishing. It could have been a shark, it could have been an electrical box that was on fire, it could have been Jason Voorhees in full machete-and-hockey mask regalia. The point is, I didn’t care at that moment what I grabbed, so long as it got me out of the crazy cycle I was trapped in. 

While I don’t claim that that’s what was going on in Robin Williams’s head, I will say that for that split second, for that one miniscule moment in time, I understood what it’s like to not care any more about what the exit looks like. Desperation isn’t selfish. It’s just desperate. We tend not to revisit these moments, since they’re usually unpleasant and force us to contemplate our own mortality. But I’d make the bet that if everyone took a good, long look at his or her past, we could all find at least one moment where logic and presence failed and desperation took over.

That’s a spot from which compassion can grow. I challenge everyone to find it.

 Rest in peace, Robin Williams. 

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 – National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Scenes from the Rail Trail: August 5, 2014

The weather in Lewisburg has been sublime the last few days. Cool. Not terribly humid. It’s been that beautiful sort of “makes you want to go outside and do something hearty and robust” weather, even if you’ve been working your tail off trying to get ready to teach your first Zumba class while brushing up on Silver Sneakers routines, and you really should take opportunities to sit or drive or relax because you’ve literally been dancing for three or four hours a day.

For the record? It takes a staggering shit-ton of work to get ready to teach a class at a gym, especially early on when all the routines are brand new. Never mind prepping for two different ones. Moving on.

One of these recent glorious mornings–Tuesday, if all y’all must know–I hit the ol’ Buffalo Valley Rail Trail and pedaled my way off to work for the best commute ever. It’s summer, so mostly everything is lush and green.

Everrrrrrything.

Everrrrrrything.

Far as they eye can see. This. Green green green. Fecund is, actually, the word that leaps to mind, and I’m fairly certain that that word has never readily leapt to my mind until now.

Do I sound jaded? Like, “oh, lorrrrrrrrrd, everything was all verdant and…yawn…greeeeeeen…“. If that’s the case, I apologize, because it’s pretty fantastic to ride through. I felt like I was in The Shire, or something. (LOTR nerds: represent!). While a prolonged tunnel of greenness doesn’t necessarily make for the most dramatic pictures, I did manage to click one or two… :)

Like this one, of a morning glory, complete with some kind of bug having its way with the flower.

Hey bug, what'cha doing in there?

Hey bug, what’cha doing in there?

Or this, with the tops of the corn against the bright blue sky. Power lines stretching overhead gave a bit of an interesting perspective.

Sometimes, you just need to look...up.

Sometimes, you just need to look…up.

And, city folks, have you ever really looked at the roots of a corn stalk? No wonder they’re so easy to make horror movies about.

These are digging straight in to the bones of the Earth, it seems.

They’re like fingers, man, digging straight in.

I came upon this fuzzy thingie sticking out into the trail and really liked how it caught the light.

Remember making fake moustaches with these things?

Remember making fake moustaches with these things? You must pay the rent!

A tangle of pokeberry bushes… Wait, what? ***A*** tangle? These things are everywhere. The berries are inedible, and more than inedible, they’re poisony. The mature berries make great ink. Legend (i.e., Wikipedia) has it that the Declaration of Independence was written in pokeberry ink; the National Archives puts the kibosh on that tall tale (it was iron gall ink, which was apparently the ink of choice for centuries). But the bushes sure are pretty.

Poke. Poke poke poke.

Poke. Poke poke poke.

The pokeberry bushes intertwined with the delicately-flowered orange touch-me-not. I’ll have to go back and look to see if there’s a mature fruit capsule hanging there, because they apparently burst on contact, hence the name.

Kaboom.

Kaboom.

Then I found the leaf where bugs were making with the love. Avert the children’s eyes.

Bow chicka wow wow.

Bow chicka wow wow.

And remember, fecund? 

This is what that word means.

This is what that word means.

And finally…

A little bit of everything. Some sun, some sky, some green, a barn, a cow, and some early-turning leaves already sporting their fall color. Despite it being the height of summer, autumn is just around the corner.

Welcome to central PA.

Welcome to central PA, a little Nirvana on the Susquehanna.

See you on the Rail Trail!

Nosh: Apricot-Radicchio Crostini

Who’s ready for a bite of summer?

I was invited to a gigantic, mid-summer girls’ night at a friend’s house, and in the interests of friendship I offered to get there early to help set up. Which, of course, meant I didn’t have the luxury of doing that last minute, panic-and-run-around-while-I-get-something-ready dash through the kitchen. I needed something easy. I needed something portable. And it was summer, so I didn’t really want to tie myself to the kitchen for something fussy and elaborate (and long on the feet and sweaty).  What to do?

Seriously. apricot-radicchio crostini. They are ridiculously easy. A minimum of cooking. You can pack them up and go. And they are delicious. Here’s what you need:

  • 1 long baguette
  • 3-4 apricots (or 3 peaches), ripe but not super-soft; the super-soft ones don’t make pretty slices
  • 1/2 a small head of radicchio (more on this in a minute)
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 handful walnuts (or pecans, they’d also be lovely)
  • 1-2 teaspoons poppy seeds
  • shaved slices of pecorino romano cheese
  • chives (or parsley or tarragon) to garnish
  • salt/pepper/oil, as needed

First things first: get the hot stuff out of the way. Brown your baguette and toast your walnuts. This is–really–the only time you’ll need the hotbox for this recipe, so get it over with. Heat the oven to 350°; while that is warming up, slice your baguette into nice even slices, no more than ½ inch thick. Daub the bread generously on both sides with olive oil so it gets nice and brown and crispy once it goes into the oven.

It's an assembly line of deliciousness.

It’s an assembly line of deliciousness.

Put them in; flip once after 7 or 8 minutes. Keep an eye on them, and another 5 or 7 (ish) minutes later, they should be golden and crunchy and ready to eat. Set aside.

While the bread is cooking, toast the walnuts. Set out a heat-proof bowl to pour them into when they’re done toasting. Break the walnuts into small chunks and put them in a dry pan, over medium heat.

Yup. Just like that.

Yup. Just like that.

Stay there with them, and shake the pan every minute or two. When you start to smell lovely, toasty walnut that gives you a warm, happy feeling inside, take them off the heat. They’re done, and nuts will burn easily once they’ve reached the point of doneness. Put your walnuts into the handy bowl you’ve already set up. Put them aside.

 I had some beautiful, rosy-cheeked apricots that I couldn’t wait to get my hands on. They were so gorgeous they practically glowed with their own inner light.

Hey there, beautiful.

Hey there, beautiful.

Cut the apricots (or peaches, if you can’t find apricots) into thin slices. Mix with the cooled walnuts. 

Take half a head of radicchio and cut into fine shreds. Mix with poppy seeds and the zest and juice of one lemon. Remember, zest first, then juice.

Oh look, poppies!  *name that movie*

Yesssss, poppies! *name that movie*

Please note a few things about radicchio: it is an incredibly hardy vegetable, so IF you cut half the head, mix it with lemon, and end up with a reasonable pile of leftover lemony radicchio…yes, it will wilt slightly overnight but will retain its overall crunch. And it is fantastic the next day on a pita with some hummus and cucumbers. For the remaining half a head, it’s summer, so fire up the grill (or get out your grill pan if you hate cooking outdoors) and grill it.

Chop chives into little bitses. Get beautiful shavings of pecorino romano cheese thanks to the clever use of a vegetable peeler. 

That's all you need for fancy. A vegetable peeler.

That’s all you need for fancy. A vegetable peeler.

You most certainly may use parmesan cheese if that’s what you have in your fridge, but I think pecorino romano is a better choice for this dish. It’s sharper and less nutty, and I think it’s got more of a salty bite, so it provides a fun contrast. But hey, it’s your kitchen. Go with your heart.

Got everything? Great. Start to assemble the crostini. It’s pretty simple. Lay out your bread, then put down a layer of the apricot/walnut mixture, top that with radicchio, then top that with cheese, chives, a sprinkling of salt and pepper, and a little drizzle of oil.

Dig in, y'all!

Dig in, y’all!

Let’s review: Easy? Check! Almost no-cook? Check! Portable? Check! Provides a great contrasting combination of crunchy, sweet, bitter, salty, savory? Check! It’s easy to do something later with unused but prepped ingredients? Check! Super-portable? Check! They taste great the next day?

Ummm.

I can’t tell you that. There weren’t any left to bring back home.

Mission accomplished.

Great TV Theme Songs, Part 1

In light of the recent death of beloved actor James Garner, I have been reminiscing about my favorite…TV theme music.

Really. It’s not the effect of his death I would have expected. He was an actor, and when an actor dies we normally talk about which of his movies we loved (The Great Escape) and hated (The Notebook, there, I said it, though he was the best part of that crapfest).

James Garner, for those who didn’t grow up with me, was in a scrappy little show in the 1970s called The Rockford Files.

Don't mess with Jim Rockford. From fansshare.com

Don’t mess with Jim Rockford.
Photo from fansshare.com

He played Jim Rockford, a smooth-talking private eye who drove a giant car, had a really nice…answering machine…and loved the ladies. And this show had one of the GREATEST TV theme songs of all time.

I mean, I’m part of the generation that grew up with TV as a babysitter, and make no mistake about it–these shows provided much of the soundtrack of my youth. They’re often more readily retrieved from the inner recesses of my brain than, say, the Preamble to the Constitution. Is that unfortunate? Maybe. But if the most lasting side effect is that I suffer from an abundance of useless information…meh. There are worse things.

On second thought…I can access the Preamble easily enough. It was burned into my brain thanks to the efforts of Schoolhouse Rock!. Saturday morning cartoons weren’t complete without at least one SHR short coming across my TV screen. They were catchy. The songs were peppy. And I learned stuff from them; SHR also taught me, in no particular order, how to unpack my adjectives, how bills becomes laws, and how to determine multiples of 3, because it’s a magic number. Here’s the Preamble, which I used to have to sing to remember; at least now I can recite it in my normal speaking voice.

One of the many things I’ve always loved about the Rockford theme is that it’s purely instrumental. There’s nothing wrong with TV theme songs that tell a story (i.e., The Brady Bunch theme), but to be able to hook the viewer in without chirpy and/or heartwarming narrative? It’s a talent. In more modern TV themes, think of the unforgettable music from Law & Order.

Infectious, right? You’re going to walk around doing that “Boom-boom, doot-do-do-do-DOOOO” thing for the next hour, at least. All day, more likely. Because that’s how music hooks work. They anchor themselves in your head and fuse themselves into your mental DNA like controlled nuclear strikes that irrevocably litter your brain with pop culture references.

There are a few other instrumental theme  pieces besides Rockford that have been bound unto me from my adolescence and are part of my permanent mental loop. One is the bass-heavy, groove-funk theme from the cop sitcom Barney Miller.

Cop shows aren’t funny? Watch Barney Miller‘s legendary hash brownie episode and get back to me.

But if we’re talking about instrumental TV themes that infiltrated the core of my consciousness–and indeed, the public consciousness at large–then no conversation is complete without a celebration of the incredible theme from (non-sitcom) cop show Hawaii Five-0. Performed by The Ventures, this instrumental theme helped define surf-rock and set a new standard of TV-based awesome.

It wasn’t unusual for me to think that Hawaii Five-0‘s theme song was the best part of the show; the show itself could be a little formulaic, but I could always dance to the song.

Added TV show bonus? Jack Lord had the best hair.

Slick. Photo from ctva.biz

Slick.
Photo from ctva.biz

Looking back, I’ve realized…there was a lot of fun music bouncing around the airwaves when I was a wee paisley. I’m just getting started with this; there are family-based themes and women-show-oriented themes and weepy themes…and on and on. These shows worked their way into the fabric of my life, and I’m glad to take a sun-dappled, gauzy, nostalgic look at them. If you were (or are) a TV kid, then the theme music you’ve encountered along the way has informed you too. Don’t disregard; embrace! And tell me…

What’s your favorite theme music?

Scenes from the Rail Trail: July 16, 2014

It was a glorious day in central PA yesterday; there was no real summer heat (high of 79? WHAT?) and the humidity was present, but bearable thanks to the lower temperature. When I woke up yesterday morning my first thought was, I am SO riding my bike to work today.

Even before I longed for coffee, that’s what I thought, so you know it was important.

Before too long I packed up my lunch and my change of clothes (because who wants to work in sweaty bike clothes?) and pedaled myself off to the Buffalo Valley Rail Trail and onward to work. It looked a little something like this.

I call this one "The Commute". Yes, that is a coffee cup at the handlebars.

I call this one “The Commute”. Yes, that is a coffee cup at the handlebars.

The rail trail is currently in high-summer foliage, so most of it is full-on lush greenness.

Sure, I'll get to work. Soon as I make my way through this time portal.

Sure, I’ll get to work. Soon as I make my way through this time portal.

And the birds were keeping it kind of low-key.  I heard the birds a-plenty, but didn’t see them. I did, however, get a visit from an inquisitive groundhog.

Which is my good side, he seemed to say. Sadly, I thought...it's neither. Because they're really not cute. But thanks for playing, Mr. Groundhog!

Which is my good side?–he seemed to say. Sadly, I thought…it’s neither. Because they’re really not cute creatures. But thanks for dropping by, Mr. Groundhog!

I saw some funky orange fungus doing its thing on a decomposing tree along the trail side. I believe this is Pycnoporous cinnabarinus.

Eventually, this fallen tree won't stand a chance.

Eventually down the road as rot happens, this fallen tree won’t stand a chance against a mighty tree fungus.

A few things: 1) Don’t eat it. 2) I’m happy to learn if I’m wrong. 3) Say “Pycnoporus cinnabarinus” three times, fast.

It's even coming out the top.

It’s even coming out the top.

Bet you can’t.

Anyway.

There were delicate little wildflowers all over the place.

Is this some kind of clover? I have no idea.

Is this some kind of clover? I have no idea.

Some flowers in the process of pollination.

Or a little somethin' somethin'.

Or a little somethin’ somethin’.

Some wild raspberries.

Delish!

Delish!

And a farm that’s been plucked straight out of a movie set.

Seriously? Are you frigging kidding me?

Seriously? Are you frigging kidding me?

Here’s a shot looking over one of the out-buildings of the farm. Notice the awesome sky.

I have no idea what this building is for. But it looks great.

I have no idea what this building is for. But it looks great.

And the side of part of the farmhouse. Complete with wagon wheel.

Wagon. Wheel. Can it get any more rustic?

Wagon. Wheel. Can it get any more rustic?

Location scouts, call me.

All in all, it was a surreally pretty day out on the BVRT.

Yup. Ain't no doubt about that.

Yup. Ain’t no doubt about that.

And I’m glad to say I took advantage of it.

See you on the trail!

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