Sunday, April 30, 2006

I'm starting a di ... er ... lifestyle change

I've been purposefully not writing about you-know-what lately. I still believe now what I've believed all along, it's just that the whole thing gets me really pissed off. Plus it seems to get more weird and hard to keep track of every day. And it brings horrid people with nasty little fatheaded comments to my peaceful little blog.

Instead, I'll wallow in self-absorption.

The other day someone took some photos of me in which I resemble a butterball turkey, i.e., very plump. Excessively so. And I've noticed I have a marked tendency lately to prefer my stretchy, elastic-waist sporty pants (inexplicably, I wear a size small, which makes me wonder: what do actual small people wear?) over jeans or other fixed-width clothing. In fact, in every pair of jeans I own, save the "fat" pair that are supposed to be too big for me, I am remarkably uncomfortable--to the point of crankiness. I have increased the amount of exercise I get, and although I could always get more, I don't think that's the problem. I have just been eating too damn much food. It has made me too big for my britches. I realized I must make a choice: increase the size of my clothing or decrease the size of my body. Since I'm too frugal to do the former, I've decided to do the latter. Ten pounds should do the trick, but I'd like to take off 15.

The "lifestyle change" of my choice is what I'll call "black market weight watchers." It's essentially the WW diet without paying them any money. I still have all the materials for figuring out the "points" for food from way back when I did pay them some money, so now it's just a matter of eating 23 points a day. Not too hard if you know what to eat, and you can save points all week for a bit of indulgence on the weekend. It's easy, and from previous experience I know it works if I actually stick to it.

One thing I'm incorporating is more tofu, which I love (my fave is on the Whole Foods salad bar). Yesterday I was finally able to make tofu with the consistency I like. I sliced it about a half-inch thick, painted a little barbecue sauceon it, and baked it. I just have to remember to use a non-stick pan next time. I'll also experiment with different sauces. I also made an ugly but delicious very low calorie vegetarian jell-o using juice, agar-agar, and strawberries from the Durham Farmers Market. Another fave low-pints thing to eat is baked corn tortillas topped with (low-fat) refried beans and salsa, but can you believe that Harris Teeter doesn't have corn tortillas? Looks like a need to make a trip to Galaxy Foods.

Anyway, here's my new mantra:
nothing tastes as good ...

Friday, April 28, 2006

I meant to post this earlier ...

An alert reader, let's call him "Jake," sent me this link ear;lier today because he was too hung over to blog it, and I've touched upon such issues before ... such issues being photographers rights. The Guardian sent one of their peeps out to see if he'd get hassled by secrity for taking photos at certain places London. The answer: Not so much. Which is good, in my opinion, because hassling photographers in the name of "security" is an asswich thing to do. And it pisses me off. The article also had a very handy link for photographers in the UK: The UK Photographers Rights guide.

One a totally different not, I believe I pulled a muscle in my thigh at agility runthroughs tonight. Ow.

The audio thing again ...

My pal Matt (who never updates his blog) sent me this great link to a 1998 article about the history of punk/DIY in North Carolina: How North Carolina Got Its Punk Attitude. A good read if you're interested in that sort of thing.

And I just have to mention another of the cds I picked up to review this week. No one else claimed it (it's a major-label, high-profile release ... not really WXDU's specialty) and I figured "Hey, I like Bruce Springsteen, and I like Pete Seeger ... why not give this a listen?" I am of course referring to We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions, Bruce Springsteen's tribute to the music of Pete Seeger. Before I had listened to it or read anything about it, I sort of expected it to be a bit morose ... maybe Bruce, a guitar, a 4-track ... sort of like Nebraska (which I liked very much, by the way). Boy was I wrong ... it's a hootenanny--and a kick-ass one, at that. Springsteen assembled 14 musicians in the living room of his house ("horns in the hall") and recorded the whole album in three one-day sessions "no rehearsals. All arrangements were conducted as we played, you can hear me shouting out the names and instruments of the players as we roll." The result just seems like the perfect way to hear these songs (not to imply any disrespect to Pete Seeger's versions, which I love). Just about gave me goosebumps. I immediately had to make somebody else listen to it ... fortunately Matt (you know, the one who never updates his blog?) was handy. He loved it, too.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Audio update

Oh yes, the new Devotchka EP grabs me by the throat. I know I was ready to dis it earlier--before listening to it--for being a covers ep, but I've changed my mind. It's just ... well dreamy is the first word to pop into my head. The Devotchka sound is so unlike any other band that they could probably cover Journey or REO Speedwagon and make it fascinating.

But these aren't run-of-the-mill covers--one of them is of a slightly obscure, now defunct Colorado band (Baldo Rex), so they get extra credit in my opinion. I had to google the name of the songwriter because I didn't recognize it (Ted Thacker) and I had never heard the song. I got too many disparate results to sift through (there are many Ted Thackers), and I finally resorted to contacting Devotchka (I had to sign up for a MySpace account to do it--eww, I want to go take a shower now). Anywho, so there's that very interesting cover, then they cover one of their own songs from their first album--which is not technically a cover, IMO. There's also one from Siouxsie and the Banshees ("The Last Beat of My Heart"), a Frank & Nancy Sinatra cover ("Somethin' Stupid"--written by C. Carson Parks, brother of Van Dyke Parks, but erroneously listed in the liner notes as "Park C. Carson.") the Velvet Underground's Venus in Furs (yeah, so everybody covers VU ...) and a traditional mariachi tune (El Zopilote Mojado).

So it just goes to show you that, done correctly, a collection of covers can be delightful. Done poorly and it can be frightful, as in another cd I picked up on a whim a music staff--Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs (as "Sid & Susie") Under the Covers, Vol 1. No one else was going to give it a listen so I figured I would because I've always liked Susanna Hoffs' voice (Matthew Sweet makes me say "meh") and I saw that they covered my favorite Dylan song ("It's All Over Now, Baby Blue") and my favorite Who song ("The Kids Are Alright"). Argh. Overproduced and bland. They claim they picked these songs because they love them so much, but their renditions are so mechanical it's hard to believe ... all I could think about while listening was that I would rather be listening to the originals ... or even to lush string interpretations by David Rose--he would execute them with more originality and imagination.

Nice weather for ...

Originally uploaded by andrea not a.w.k..

I know we need the rain--we always need the rain--but all at once? Maybe every other day would be good. On the upside, the various flowers I've planted look very happy.

I'm on audio overload status right now. Sunday night at music staff I took home way more than I can handle (Including the mind-blowingly huge 4-cd Poetry on Record set. It's hard to listen to so much poetry all at once, but it's a really good collection.) I haven't even had a chance to crack open the new Devotchka cd Curse Your Little Heart, which I was excited about until I noticed it's all covers. Not that there's anything inherently wrong with covers ... but we'll see. Also Awaiting me is the new Natacha Atlas, Mish Maoul, and a few other things. I'll let you know if anything grabs me by the throat ...

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

It's what's kicking me butt right now ...

Cordero: En Este Momento. Mr. Pants likes it, too. The whole thing rocks (bilingually!), and by rocks I mean really in a rock 'n' roll kinda way (via la frontera). Track 2, "Heart In Me," is one of those songs I want to listen to over and over again and then put on a mix tape ... er, I mean cd ... because I think everyone else should listen to it as well. Oh, and I guess it would be a good time to tell you that tomorrow night is radio night, 8-10 pm EDT, 88.7 FM if you live in that little sweet spot or maybe you're driving your car from Durham to Chapel Hill or Hillsborough, for everyone else. You bethca there will be a Cordero track mixed in there somewhere ... maybe it'll be track 2.

And speaking of Chapel Hill, I know this is a bit schadenfreude-y, but it's about time someplace besides Durham got some bad press. Not that I'm happy the Apple Chill Festival is being deep-sixed because of the shootings, but just because ... hey look, something bad happened in Chapel Hill and not Durham.

And in case you weren't aware, WXDU beat WXYC in kickball again Sunday, rather narrowly (16-15), and over WXYC's protests that they should be awarded a point made on a third-out kick. Well that wasn't the only thing they protested ... I think we were actually playing their debate team and not the kickball team. At any rate, photos of people standing around and drinking beer in their WXDU kickball shirts can be found here.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Are you there Flying Spaghetti Monster? It's me, pants ...

So I was idly perusing the keywords at statcounter again, checking to see what search terms are bringing poor unfortunate souls to this dreadful destination, and the very first search term listed today is "feeling of impending doom." Yes siree, if you're searching for a feeling of impending doom you're sure to find it here at A Complete Bunch of Pants! In fact, "A Feeling of Impending Doom" would make a fine name for this here blog if I ever decided to change it. So welcome, doom seekers!

(Actually the search term hit comes from the entry I wrote that time I thought I was having a heart attack.)

It's the thought that counts, or why I don't cook and bake often

a lovely little disasterit's the thought that counts

Last night I made cupcakes for a co-worker's birthday. Had I been thinking correctly, I would have just bought a box of cake mix and then spent the bulk of my efforts just getting the icing right. But I wasn't thinking--I was being overly ambitious, inspired by the lovely creations of rakka, chotda and all the fabulous cupcake bakers of the world, so I foolishly though it would be fun to just whip up a little something from scratch. I couldn't just choose a nice vanilla cupcake recipe either--no sirree, I just had to make mine special. I saw a recipe for "sweet potato cupcakes" somewhere on the 'nets and I couldn't resist. I love making sweet potato stuff, and I live in a sweet potato state (North Carolina is the top sweet potato-producing state in the US, producing almost forty percent of total U.S. production), so I figured it would be appropriate.

Had I any real cake-baking experience, I would have realized that sweet potatoes are not an appropriate cake ingredient. Cakes are supposed to be light and airy, and sweet potatoes are rather dense--even when they are whipped smooth, as mine were. Upon adding the flour to the recipe I was quite dismayed to see that it was closer to a dough than a batter--perfect perhaps for making sweet potato bread, but not at all suitable for cupcakes.

More baking experience may have prevented me from trying to fix the problem. I should have just tossed the batter out and made some nice vanilla cupcakes instead, but I stupidly thought I could fix the problem by thinning the batter with something. I used milk--not a lot, but enough to render the batter a bit more spoonable so I could more easily get it into the cups. I was apparently breaking some fundamental law of baking chemistry, because the resulting concoction was like a cross between a bread and a pudding--moist, heavy and slightly doughy.

But dammit, I'd gone this far, I was going to put some pretty poufs of pastel-colored icing on something! And speaking of the icing, it was my first time making buttercream icing from scratch. It was fun, but I think I should buy a proper sifter if I'm ever going to do it again. I was sifting the confectioner's sugar through a little wire mesh strainer with a spoon, and it took forever. It was fun to make colors--I made a baby blue, a yellow, a sherbet orange and a minty green-- but I definitely need more icing-application experience. For example, I should have used a heavier bag to pipe the icing on the ... things. I used baggies but I think freezer bags would have worked better. I also wasn't sure how to put the icing in the bag to get a stripy, multi-colored effect. I did OK, but I'm sure there's a better way.

At any rate, I'm probably done with baking for a while--at least long enough for me to forget why "Hey, it would be fun to make some cupcakes," is a very stupid and wrong thought.

Monday, April 17, 2006

I got chills, they're multiplyin'

So over the weekend it felt like July out there (minus the humidity, thank the spaghetti monster), and today it's 55 degrees. And rainy, I should add, which is a good thing because not only do we need it, but it washes away all that annoying yellow pollen that's all over everything. Nature can be such a pain in the ass sometimes.

Starbucks stinks

I meant to blog this before but you-know-what bumped it from the front burner: Starbucks is suing a guy for calling his coffee shop "Doubleshot" because they claim they own the term. Never mind that "doubleshot" is common, universal coffeehouse lingo for a double shot of espresso, and never mind that Starbucks owns the trademark only to "Starbucks Doubleshot," not just "doubleshot" itself. This is about the Starbucks suits being heinous assholes because they own lots of lawyers. Makes me wish I drank Starbucks coffee just so I could quit.

Here's a link to Consumerist's coverage of the brew-ha-ha (heh, get it?), and here's a link to the Doubleshot Coffee Company blog.

If I had more social muscle on the 'nets I'd tell everyone to link the word "starbucks" to the Doubleshot blog, like this: Starbucks, to make a Google Bomb. Remember Google Bombs? Good times ... But alas, no one actually reads this blog, y'know, and the ones who do aren't about to do anything anyone else tells 'em to because they're feisty like that. So I'll just have to feel satisfied that it was a good idea anyway ...

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Is it still April?

Damn it's hot for April. Or maybe it's just hot when you're out in the sun all day long. I spent today at an agility trial in Youngsville and I really didn't feel like runing around in circles in that heat, so I'm sure Lucy wasn't thrilled. She was definitely going slower than usual, although she was plenty fast to qualify when we had clean runs (three qualifying runs out of five total). There are baby pools and water sprayers to cool down the dogs, and I jerry-rigged a nice shade contraption out of a tarp and the back hatch of my car so that Lucy stayed cool in her crate (there was a breeze that helped). But I had to broil out in the sun most of the day because I helped build the courses and crew the ring when I wasn't running.

My next trial will be up in the mountains (Fletcher, N.C.), in a covered arena, and I'm really looking forward to it. Then over Memorial Day there will be a three-day trial in Chapel Hill. I'm hoping it rains--I'd rather be soaked than fried.

UPDATE: I forgot to add, and I really need to because it was the highlight of my day, that Lucy and I placed first ahead of a border collie in our Gamblers run (we tied for points accumulated and our time was about 4 tenths of a second faster). This may not be impressive if you don't know much about border collies, but let me assure you that when they are good they are very, very good--and fast. To be fair, success in Gamblers is as much about handler strategy as it is about dog speed, and I think the border collie is really a faster dog than Lucy. But the upside of that is that it means I did a really good job as a handler ... and it's about damn time, I must say.

Friday, April 14, 2006

The opinions are on their way

Happy Great Friday (any day that I don't have to work is more than just good!) I'm writing a post about how I still believe that a young woman was raped in the Duke Lacrosse house about a month ago, but I'm not done with it. So I have just two things for you right now:

First things first: "The Border Puppy Task Force" would be a good name for a band ...

Second, thanks to Christa for posting the list of reasons to love Durham. I've seen it on my neighborhood e-mail list (in fact the author solicited input from our list--I contributed the mention of the dinosaur, which sparked some fun discussion on our list). The list was compiled in response to a Duke Chronicle editorial by a whiny little chowderhead who squawked on about how Duke was the only reason anyone would ever visit Durham. I think one of the reasons Durham is so cool, and it's not on this list but maybe it should be, is that pain-in-the-ass people with no imagination or appreciation for "culture" or experiences that aren't packaged, commodified, sanitized and "safe" choose to live in places like Cary or North Raleigh. That leaves Durham for the cool people ... plus the Duke Chronicle staff. (Here's my ever-growing photo love-letter to Durham, by the way.)

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

the nip is a two pack breakfast

the nip is a two pack breakfast
Originally uploaded by bunchofpants.

Looks like I will be expanding my horizons a bit--I've been invited to participate at a blog called Foodbloggin. I think my food aesthetic will fit in nicely over there. I don't think I'll make "The Nip" my first post there, however ... it may be a two pack breakfast, but even by my standards calling it "food" is a stretch!

Monday, April 10, 2006

Who's a good boy?

See Mr. Gomez do agility for the first time (via Vimeo).
Now see Lucy showing us how the course is supposed to be run.

I have another clip of Gomey to post, but I've used up almost all of my Vimeo upload bandwidth for this week and YouTube keeps giving me an internal server error whenever I try to upload.

My dogs are tired

Mr. Gomez had his big agility debut yesterday. It was a bit of a hoot--he was very distracted and curious about all the people lined up around the fence watching him (and I think he was looking for "Dad," aka Mr. Pants), so I only had about half of his attention. Still, it went about as well as I expected for his first time at a trial. It was weird to run two very different dogs on the same course, but it was gratifying that after struggling with Mr. G I was able to go run Lucy (just about) perfectly. It made me appreciate more just what a great little agility dog she is. Mr. Pants got some video, and I'll probably post it later when I figure out where I want to put it. I've posted before to my >Vimeo account, but last time I did it really pissed me off that they converted my stuff in to unwatchable crap. Maybe YouTube? I dunno, but I'll let you know when it's up somewhere.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Comment of the week

Like many web sites, the one maintained by my employer has an e-mail form through which the general public may send in any and all comments they may have. These go to the webmaster, who attempts to route them to the proper people for follow-up. He's not sure what to do with this one, however:
Comments:You keep changing the Nip Cheese,put it back an leave it alone.
You made it ,Cheeser,bad move. Now, you've added peanut butter, another bad move. You've already got peanutbutter crackers. Put the nip cheese back and leave it alone. We've got alance machine in the shop, the nip was a two pack breakfast.
The webmaster is still trying to figure out who's in charge of Nip Cheese around here.

(For those of you who ain't from around here, the commenter is probably talking about Lance Nip Chee snack crackers. They're not just for breakfast anymore.)

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

If you feel safe enough ...

I've not yet been to an event at 305 South (tempting as their Saturday "Metal Matinee" may be ...), but I think I'll stop by this Saturday to see the TBC Brass Band. Meet you there?

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Time to talk of pretty things

Originally uploaded by bunchofpants.

Again, still on a respite from talking about the you-know-what case, even though I'm bursting with opinions ...

I had planned to stop at the Raleigh Farmers Market on my way home today because I wanted--no needed--some gerbera daisies (two orange and two yellow) for a container in front of my house. I didn't have my wallet, however, so I would have been able to buy nothing (I discovered it exacly where I thought it would be when I got home). I had already ascertained that the little local garden store near my house didn't have what I wanted, nor did Big Orange Home Improvement Store, but I decided to nip by Big Blue Home Improvement Store on the off chance they had them. Holy crap, I think they have the widest selection of very healthy plants I've ever seen at a big corporate home improvement store. Better than they have had in the past. They definitely kick Big Orange's ass in the plant department. They did indeed have the exact color of gerbera daisies I wanted, plus a few other things to put in my remaining containers.

I also picked up a few perennials, because any time I see something that likes full sun and arid conditions I have to try it in my front yard, which is a harsh and unforgiving wasteland. I suppose it wouldn't be so bad if I watered things more often, but I don't like watering much during a drought; I think it's anti-social to pour a lot of water on the ground when the reservoirs are running low. So the rule in my yard is take care of yourself in a drought or die. The rosemary loves it. Other plants, not so much.