A Song of Geekery, Prose and Art

I’m sure this won’t come as a surprise to most of my 30 readers, but I’m a bit of a geek.  I know you probably aren’t surprised because if you are visiting my little vanity project here  you are probably a good friend of mine.  (Your visits are always appreciated.)  For those of you that don’t already know (I think that’s 3 of you), I worked in a comic shop in college.  More specifically the non-comic company center of the universe in the mid to early 80’s.  That explains the 15,000 or so comics and cache of original art I have. And my banner here.  About 15 years ago I added a new category to my myriad geekery – A Song of Ice and Fire.  You probably know it better by “A Game of Thrones.”

In 1983 one of my best friends handed me a copy of  Fevre Dream by George R.R. Martin and said it was the best vampire novel.period.  He was right.  Thanks Carl.  Thus began my love of the collected works of Mr. Martin.  His next novel was the Armageddon Rag, a rock and roll horror story.  I’ve never understood why it was not more popular.  It was, in my opinion, the perfect book for the time, with Reaganomics changing our culture, the Rolling Stone generation had hit a crossroads that I felt and saw. Add some horror and kick ass Victor Moscoso cover (on the Limited Edition) and you have the perfect book.  Try to see the words in the negative space in the picture.  Its one of the great features of the cover. Oh yes, I love my horror and my 60’s Rock Posters.  You already know our home is teeming with vintage Fillmore Posters.

Martin quickly became one of my favorite writers.  I devoured everything he wrote or contributed to.  Have you read the wild card series?  George and several others take comic concepts — super heroes, mutants and aliens — and place them in our history to create shared world series of mosaic novels, short stories and novellas.  It’s required reading if you love comics.  Or music.  Spoiler Alert – in this world Frank Zappa is a general and The Lizard King (Mr. Mojo Risin’) is a villain.  Great stuff. But in 1996, it all changed.

The internet was still developing and information flowed differently.  I got my book and literary information by going to Barnes and Noble once a week or so.  I saw on the new releases table A Game of Thrones, the first book of A Song of Ice and Fire.   Not only was different from anything George had written, but it was one of the singular best pieces of fiction I’d ever read.  Thus began my love of all things Westeros.  You thought Lost (the TV show) was complex and full of mysteries? Nope.  The slowly exposed back story, puzzles hidden in the background, and unreliable narrators make these books a serious investment in thoughts and emotion; a cost that pays off in spades.

I’ve been a huge fan from day one.  It was several years later when it dawned on me that level of detail (nothing in ASOIAF is insignificant) was a fertile field of information, perfect for an internet forum.  And there it was –  Westeros.Org.  If you haven’t been there, you should go.  It’s a wonderful community (minus a few trolls, as with anywhere in cyberspace).  Elio and Linda have set up, grown and maintained an important resource for years.  With the increased interest from the wonderful HBO adaptation, it’s even more needed and appreciated.  I have benefited greatly from the discussions and friendships that have grown from being part of  that on-line community.   The Brotherhood without Banners (you’ll see them in Season 3 of Game of Thrones) is the George RR Martin fan club and has a home there.

Yes, I’m a bit of a zealot.  But it’s rational — who doesn’t want to share something they love?  I was able to make Lambchop a convert several years ago.  It took a while, but I finally got my brother to get on board and he reads far less than we do.  Even my father watches the HBO version and then calls on Tuesdays with questions.  Even though we are heavily invested in all things Westeros, Lambchop was hesitant when I insisted we go to the World Science Fiction Convention in Reno last year.   Afterwards, after making friends and being knighted by George (we and several others are now Awful Awful Knights) we were thrilled to be going again this year.

Last year we met John Picacio, a gifted artist.  His work is well represented in my book collection — He’s done the cover for several Dan Simmons novels, another of my favorite authors.  John did the art work for the 2012 ASOIAF calendar.  He debuted the art at the convention and we were blown away.  Needless to say we were thrilled to find out he was producing limited edition prints of the images.  And who doesn’t want to support people they genuinely like?  I know I do.  Of course I had to get some. I did and off to the framer they went.  Lambchop was excited to have these prominently displayed in our house.

Several years ago, through Westeros.org I had met Mike Miller.  He had done the comic art work for The Hedge Knight.  The Hedge Knight was the first of a planned seven novellas that help solve several of the mysteries in ASOIAF by slowly revealing history.  Being the comic geek I am, I was thrilled to be able get several nice pages from him, including an alternate cover, which I consider to be the iconic image of that series.  Through Facebook (isn’t social media wonderful?) I have kept abreast of Mike’s work and was able to acquire the cover to one of the issues.

Yesterday was a red-letter geek day.  We had gotten a call from the frame shop where the 5 prints from John were being framed.  We had spent some serious time pondering how best to frame and display this spectacular artwork. When we got to the framers, they purposefully took their time bringing the pieces out.  Lambchop was clearly touched by what a great job they did and how it all looked.  But they brought out the Jon Snow piece last.  It was stunning and she teared up in happiness. There really isn’t  much that compares to seeing someone you love in the throes of unbridled joy.  Tyrion found a home a top the book-case next to the Wall by Martina Pilcerova, who also does some wonderful work.

After our framing adventure, we went by FedEx where they were holding a package for me.  Being a consultant, I can’t really have packages delivered where I work; I think it is bad form.  I wasn’t sure what it was, but I had a sense.  I was hoping it was the piece from Mike.  Indeed it was.   Lambchop hadn’t seen the original and seeing the color version next to the pencil and ink it was clear these needed to be framed together.  I guess I’m going back to the framer.   I might need to buy a bigger house if only for the wall space.

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I never worked at McDonald’s or Burger King.

Lambchop decided to have some of her Opera/theater cast mates over to watch a DVD of their recent show.  Being the kind, loving woman she is, she volunteered me to cook for everyone.  <snark> And she set the menu for me, knowing I hate ambiguity when comes to cooking. </snark>  Hamburgers and sausages it was to be.

It was a lovely night and I’m sure if I tried I could find lots of things to make fun of.  Instead, I want to direct you to the lovely and delicious burgers I made.  After the Pink Slime debacle, I decided to not risk being turned into one of the walking dead (Zombie sounds so cliché’ these days) and start grinding my own meat and creating a signature custom blend.  I’ve experimented with many different cuts of beef (and pork to be honest).  I love what prime rib does to a burger.  I don’t like what it does to my wallet.

The downside is that making a good blend requires a significant amount of meat. <Juvenile humor> That’s what SHE said! </ Juvenile humor> Cooking for 3 really doesn’t allow me to flex the culinary chops.  I feel like I need about 4 lbs of ground meat to create a repeatable blend.  We were having (a very soft) 15 people over.  I could buy 5 lbs or so and really do something good.  <spoiler> And I did. </spoiler>

In all honesty, I have backslid a bit.  My butcher has big signs stating they never have and never will use pink slime.  And I’m basically lazy.  I knew my blend would start with 80/20 ground beef.  Not quite the same as ground chuck, but close.  I asked for 3lbs.  He scooped out a bit less.  I asked for about 1.5-1.75lbs of Brisket.  He undercut it and I went with the 1.25 that was on the scale.  Then I added 1lb of ground veal for the lusciousness it would add.  And of course, to support the milk industry.

My secret weapon was <wait for it>  Bacon! </wait for it>  I had read somewhere that a chef had added ground bacon to his burger with spectacular results.  Genius! Idea theft is a compliment, isn’t it? So I added about a half of pound of bacon to the mix.  For your own usage what I did was:

Ground Beef 80/20 (or chuck) – 50%
Ground Brisket – 22%
Ground Veal – 18%
Ground Bacon – 10%

I also tried something different with the grinder; a first grind to cut and a second grind to mix.  I ground my brisket and bacon together, then interspersed the beef and veal on the second grind, gently mixing the results.  Nothing else.  I formed 16 very unequal patties and let them set in the fridge for 2 days.  There was no way I was grinding meat on a Monday after work.  Nor on a Tuesday before people arrived.

By the time it was time to cook the burgers – I had been waylaid by late arrivers and 10 ears of rogue corn – my coals were a bit cooler than I wanted.  I turned to a trick I’ve used before.  I often smoke meat with mesquite chunks.  Mesquite burns very hot and wood gets hot fast.  Voila, flaming, usable heat.  I cooked them in 2 sets and also added some Siracha bacon to the grill.  Who doesn’t like Siracha bacon.  Some of our guests were stymied by the name Siracha.  When I said, “perhaps you know it as cock sauce” every headed bounced a happy nod.

Nice bun, slice of onion, fresh slice of tomato (sadly, I’m still a few weeks off from feeding people from my tomatoes) Siracha Bacon and the Signature Greenburger, it was Burger Nirvana.

 

And What? A rough clown, its hour come round at last? No!

The other day, a coworker and I went to my favorite punk themed diner.  Yeah, like there are very many of those.  We were seated a few tables to left of the door and I had my back the giant picture window.  As we enjoyed our lunch and talked of weather, lunch trucks and work, my eye was drawn toward the door.  Just inside stood a woman that looked as out of place as the Jello I found hiding behind the polenta in my pantry.  I guess one might glance at her and think nothing of it.  For me that was not the case.
 
I immediately picked up on a vacant look in her eyes and general demeanor that ran somewhere between knuckle dragger and mouth breather.  She was of indeterminate age between 42 and 62, slightly stocky with spiky orange Kool-aid colored hair.  As she walked toward us, I could tell her wardrobe was clearly designed to be worn in this restaurant.  Her top was in somewhat military in nature and her cargo pants were tucked into her boots.  On first glance they looked like odd combat boots, but I eventually came to realize they were more in the wrestling boot category, with zippers up the back. Or we could go with high topped, zippered bowling shoes.  It didn’t matter, they looked more like clown shoes with the left zipper completely unzipped.
 
I think “clown” might have been on the right track.  She made her way toward us, much to my dismay.  I was horrified at what I saw.  If I thought her hair was bad at first, a longer look convinced me it was worse; the color was hideous and the humorless spikes seemed out of place on a face more appropriate for Sheldon Cooper’s mee-maw.  Her lipstick was a pinkish orange, turning her lips into some sort of mutant alien larva.  The aliens were reproducing moving up from the middle of her lip to the outside of right nostril like ants looking for water.  I couldn’t look and I couldn’t look away.  She wasn’t clownish, she was a refuge from a clown snuff film.
 
She stammered her way through the explanation that she worked at the salon across the street, as she handed me a postcard with her name written in a very shaky hand.  I’ve seen Tabitha’s Salon Takeover enough to know what this was – incompetent marketing to drum up business.  It works for Tabitha, so it must work for clowns, right?   I am not getting my hair done at any place that makes me think of bail bonds.  This is a rule.  But then it got inexplicably worse.
 
She sat down on the bench next to me.  I didn’t issue an invitation and lamented not bringing my bear trap with me.  There was no small talk, only “you look like you need a haircut.”  What?  Seriously?  Why didn’t she lead with “you look like shit and I can make it worse,” because that is what I heard.  I can respect anyone trying to drum up business and working hard to do so.  But please don’t insult me to get my business.  I guess leading with “you have great hair and I’d love to be able to work with it” was too much of a stretch. And yes, even I know I have great hair — but it doesn’t play nice with everyone.  No wonder she never got the call back from Clowns Gone Wild — Everything Wrong Edition; she probably sent her reel to the wrong place.
 
I was starting to feel a little guilty as I was thinking pure snark and nasty toward someone’s mee-maw.  But then, those thoughts went away. This escapee from  the central valley clown concentration camp went all the way over the top.   With her nauseatingly colored spikes reflecting in the sun like a beacon for the Enola Gay she announced to my friend, “I do color too.”  “Your hair looks like it could use some color.”
 
My parents never taught me much about girls, but I know you don’t tell a woman her hair needs to be colored.  We were mortified, with nothing left to say. Luckily, she slouched off like some wretched beast towards Bethlehem. She spotted her next potential victims a few tables away.  Away from us was all I wanted.  Luckily, there wasn’t too much of our lunch left.  Nothing else was being eaten on this day.
 

The Ruling Class

The sun was shining and the street was clear.  The Catholic school next door isn’t in session in July, so there was no unending line of cars to try and break through leaving my drive way.  The drive to BART was easy, traffic was light.  Normally, there is a ton of traffic and it can be difficult to make the right turn onto the main artery and drive the 2 miles to the station.  But today is Friday and Friday has its own rules.

Traffic is lighter on Friday.  People work from home.  People take the day off and start a long weekend.  I look for patterns and rules in everyday life.  I understand the Friday commute and traffic patterns.  Of course, since it is July, the rules vary in my favor.  Generally the main parking lot at BART fills up by about 7:40 am and 8:00 am on Friday.  It’s July, so I knew there would be spots for me at 8:15.  There we about 20. Score one for the good guys.  There is always plenty of parking on weekdays, as the auxiliary lot a block away fills about 9:00am.

The weather was perfect at 8:20 as I made my way down to the end of the platform.  The sign flashed that the next train would be in 5 minutes and was an 8 car train.  I always go to the rear of the train as it is always the least crowded.  Knowing that an 8 car train centers itself on the platform, I walked to where the rear door would be and stopped.  There is one train that generally breaks the rules.  It stops at the extreme front of the platform, leaving 2 empty spaces in the rear.  This is the exception and I believed it was THIS train.  I smiled and walked to where I believed the end of the train would be, not where it should be.

I was third in my line and all the lines grew to the opposite side of the platform and curved back.  Seeing the lines to my right grow, where there would be no train, I realized they’d need to be on my car.  Shrug. It would be crowded, but I’d have a seat.  Suddenly I noticed a woman to my left approaching.  Talking very loudly on her cell phone in a language I didn’t recognize.  Let’s go with something Eastern European.  She walked toward the front of the line, and then circled away.  By now our line had more than 15 people in it.  Perhaps 20.

A moment later the train approached.  She circled back again slowly walking toward the line  As the train stopped a bit short of our line, she was to the left – the door to my right, we line waiters turned slightly toward the door. As the door opened and we walked to enter, she shouldered me out of the way, never missing a word in her unintelligible conversation and pushed her way on to the empty train.  That right this train starts at our station.  Everyone was getting a seat.  Beyond my contempt for this rude woman, I had 2 thoughts.

First, why does she think the rules don’t apply to her?  Ok, there are no rules but there are social conventions and etiquette.  It made me thing of the Seinfeld episode with the squirrel and George yelling “we have a pact!”  I wanted a car so I could break my pact with her.  Violently.

Second, “Mob Boss’ Wife.”  I’ll keep the pact.

She kept on talking when the train started.  Luckily it was so crowded I couldn’t hear her by the 2nd stop.  I was hoping that the people around her would stone her.  Luckily for her, that’s against the rules.

Walking from Bart to get my morning coffee, I saw a table on the corner.  They were selling Krispy Kreme donuts as a fundraiser; $1 each or $10 for a dozen. “There were these  3 cute coeds holding signs and selling donuts,” sounds like the first line of letter to the Penthouse Forum.  What confused me was that nowhere was there any indication of what they were raising funds for.  I guess that is unimportant when girls want your money.

The other day, my Ex dropped my son off because he wanted to visit.  6 Flags, not me.  He’s an adult and doesn’t drive and clearly roller coasters outweigh Dad.   They live about 100 miles away.  Unsurprisingly her car had significant trash in it and it was her good fortune that it was garbage day in Concord.  The recycle can was empty and so was the yard clipping can.  The garbage can was half full, with an 8 foot outdoor blind the wind had obliterated sticking out.  Of course she threw her papers, food waste and assorted yuckies in the yard waste can.  I’m guessing the 2 additional feet she’d have had to walk to put the trash in the trash was too far and the rules written on the can didn’t apply to her.  I think this factual recounting (as told by my son) explains quite a bit.

 

My Day In Pictures

Saturday starts with coffee.  It is generally a french press, rather than the drip coffee we have on weekdays.  Today it was Major Dickason’s Blend from Peet’s.  Lambchop insists on her Tinkerbell mug on the weekends.  It is her ritual.

All the plants get watered on Saturday.  My succulents only get watered once per week, while the tomatoes and roses get watered every day.  After this small cactus lost its flowers, it gained several babies.  This is in a pot put together by friend Jo.

I am very fond of most of my plants.  This small pot currently tops the list of those that make me happy.  It’s a melange of small soft plants and one tall one.  I found the duck and older bottle recently.  These 3 items make a nice set.

I have also been playing with plants in old soda boxes.  The 7 -up  box will ultimately be staged vertically.

My friend Anne gave me lots of Basil for my birthday, in an effort assuage my fears of an extreme shortage when my tomatoes ripen.  I’ve been liberally taking from them, so I’m not worried about the rest of the summer.  These babies are growers.

And then on to the tomatoes.  There are 9 plants and all are various heirloom varieties.  Roma, beefsteak and the other varieties you get at the grocery store have nothing on these.   All are doing  so well.

When this plant eventually bears fruit, it will be an explosion of tomatoes.

I can always tell when the gardener comes.  His assistant always moves Clementine and Clara.  He rarely puts them back when he’s done.

But I do.  For the record, they are Lambchop’s pets.

We planted the apple tree just over a year ago, and now we have almost 3 dozen apples getting ready for us to eat.

The cacti are also doing well.  I”m never sure what to make of this one.

Later we went to the nursery.  I didn’t take any pictures there, but this is what happened when a car cut me off.

but I cleaned it up and we went to the store.  You can see the cactus, jumped from its pot, lying in wait of rescue.   In the store I was thinking, ” I hope this is the last time I have to pick something up from here this summer.”

We bought stuff for fish tacos — Lambchop had caught lots of fresh fish on the Monday and her highness demanded fish tacos on Saturday.  Ok, perhaps I embellished a bit, but she caught 17 fish!

We went home and I promptly fixed the Cactus disaster.  You’ll see my verticals in the back, rooting and the rogue cactus sitting in the green pot incognito.  Lambchop has named this cactus  Dolerous Edd. or DE for short.  Last night she decided the cactus should be called Greyworm.  That’s why WordPress has an edit function.

After significant laziness watching HGTV (who’d have thought it would come to this?) it was time to start on the fish tacos.  First up fresh Pico de Gallo.

I didn’t realize the cilantro and jalapenos were so shy.  But, the finished product is always gorgeous.

 I made fresh Guacamole, and a beer batter for the fish.  Indeed they were great.  Fresh fish is so much better than what we get in the store.

We ate.  We did dishes.  Nothing else was picture worthy.  The end.

Myriad Randomness

Sour Notes
Every day, there is a different busker at the 12th Street BART station in Oakland.  Sadly, the only one worth listening to is the guy with pipes of Pan.  He must be one of those Peruvian musicians they featured on South Park.  Just thinking about it makes me throw up a little in the back of my mouth.  Today was the homeless drunk guy.  He was doing “She Loves You” (Lennon-McCartney) in a vaguely familiar strum on his guitar and a throaty “Please buy me an Olde English 800 40oz” voice.   It was seriously sickening.  If big brother was watching, he should have done something.  Something severe and final in the name of public safety.  My ears were violated and my tummy still hasn’t recovered.  Jello might be the only thing I can eat today.

Social Consciousness in the New Millennium
Remember when cities put up the “don’t block the box” signs?    I guess as a society we figured out that blocking an intersection was not a terribly bright idea.  Of course we needed legislation and penalties to help make the behavioral change.  I get coffee at Peet’s every morning.  They have their own version of an intersection.  The line goes out the door and the counter is awkward, making it often difficult for patrons to leave and the baristas to move to the floor from their works space.

I have figured out that if I stand just outside the door opening, I can leave enough space for the wondrous workers to go back and forth easily and the departing patrons have plenty of room.  I was waiting in this spot the other day, leaving copious room for traffic.  I was waiting for enough room on the far side of this retail grand canyon.  There were 5 or 6 people behind me.  The older Asian woman behind me tapped my shoulder and said “you can move up.”

I was writing an email on phone and demonstrated with my arm that I was leaving room for the staff to move through and the other patrons to leave.  As if on cue, my favorite barista walked by with an arm full of empty milk and cream dispensers.  I got a smile from the barista and  an “oh” of understanding from the woman behind me.  Perhaps I had made the point and made a small change in the world.  A moment later,  there was room to cross the aisle and be out of the way;  I moved forward, leaving room for others.    Then the older woman moved forward as did the rest of the line, forming a near impenetrable barrier. Why do I bother?

Brother can you spare a fish?
Lambchop and her family went deep sea fishing.  Of course I was invited and of course I said, “WTF? On the dock at 5:30am, sea sickness and fish guts?  I’m honored you thought of me, but I’ll be asleep.  Thank you kindly.”  Rational thought says I’d be asleep.  Reality, sadly, was different.  On those nights when you get up differently – Lambchop wouldn’t be gently waking me, there’d be an alarm – you rarely sleep soundly.  The whole night is spent on edge, trying not to oversleep.  Add in another waking up at 4:30 and no matter how hard they try to be quiet, sleep is vanquished.  At least a little.

So that didn’t go the way I planned.  And I got home from work to a sleeping princess, recovering from a long day of fishing and swaying.  And lots of fish.  Lambchop was a fishing star, catching almost twice the limit.  Some went back. Others went to the family to make their limits.  Rock Cod, Ling Cod and Red Snapper.  Last night I concocted a Thai inspired sauce for a large fillet of Ling Cod.   It was indeed, Spicy and delicious.  We’ll be eating fish at least once a week for a few months.  Just don’t ask me what kind. I don’t think the bags in the freezer were labeled prior to deposit.  But it will be fresh.  And you know what they say about fresh fish – it doesn’t taste like fish.

Ewww
All the men, please take one step back.  You are excused.  For those of you left, have you read Fifty Shades of Gray?  Please, don’t lie to me.  Much better.  What is it with that book?  Suddenly everyone’s reading it.  As I understand it, it’s got as much to do with consensual kinky relationships as Rosie O’Donnell’s dominatrix in “Exit to Eden” had to do with any reality.  So why is everyone reading it?  I guess it takes fake BDSM to capture the mainstreams fantasies. (I only know what I read in EW.)

The other night in Costco, a woman that reminded me of my MieMaw (in her 70s or so) was so caught up in a book that she was oblivious to people walking by.   I saw it was a table of 400 copies of Fifty Shades Darker.  Really?  At Costco?  We all know – at least you should –that I am not a prude.  Do we really want our daughters picking up this book at Costco?  Shouldn’t our MieMaws be forced to at least go to Barnes and Noble or Amazon.com to pick up this titillation?  Its like breaking the fourth wall.  I don’t want to know.

I had the willies after seeing this.  What do you think Pat Robertson, Rush Limbaugh or  the Southern Baptist Convention would think of this scene? Has Fox News documented this wonderful new book for its female views?  I’m guessing a protest is coming to a Costco near you.  Maybe they could put the books by the pharmacy.  I don’t go to that section of the store.

 

For reference Sheldon Cooper calls his grandmother MieMaw.

A Whole Lot of Nothing

I have been a bit remiss in keeping my blog up to date.  I have had a ton to say, but not the desire to say it.  Generally topics like work and personality quirks in people I know make wonderful blog fodder, but are hell on relationships and employment.  I have had a ton of stuff going on.  Some highs and some lows.  And a dash of confusion.

Lambchop challenged me to write a novel.  I have a concept. I have some thoughts.  I probably should dedicate an hour a day to it.  I haven’t and I probably won’t.   but I might.

On a separate note, I dragged her to see Marillion at the Fillmore.  Wow.  Even if you didn’t know them (which she didn’t), it was clear that Steve Hogarth owns the stage.  Lambchop thought they sang a lot of power ballads.  This was not your mother’s prog band.  But damn they were good.

We spent a lovely few hours with Bryan Appleton in his workshop.  Damn this guy makes great furniture.   While we were there ostensibly to design the console table our entryway calls out  for, this case spoke to us.  It will have books and tchotchkes and look stunning in the house. (Side note: the urban dictionary is considered tasteless and blocked at work.)

We went for a table.  We left with an order for 3 pieces to be made and that case.  I think the Monkey will be happy with a desk made from a bowling lane.  Check out his stuff. He’s good and affordable.  He deserves to be very much more popular than he is.  I think you’ll be blown away when I post pictures of the pieces being made.

Meanwhile, my tomatoes are growing like you wouldn’t believe.  Luckily I was gifted a ton a basil and the crisis that could be will be averted.  On the other hand, my succulent problem was out of hand this weekend.  I bought tons, planted them and repotted others.  I mean how long could I keep plants around in the plastic containers they came from the nursery in?   One was actually falling over.

I think my next post will be a photo blog.  Few words. Lots of pictures.