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I’m a chronic magazine subscriber.

I currently subscribe to:

I’ve dropped a half-dozen magazine subscriptions in the past year.

At one time, these magazine subscriptions were a good thing: I had the time and inclination to sit in the evening, leafing through Harper’s or National Review or Linux Journal. The magazines kept me well-informed, allowed me to read widely.

Over the past two years, however, I’ve retained my subscriptions merely out of habit. I rarely read the magazines that arrive each month and, as a result, my to-read pile grows and grows and grows.

Every few months I give up on this massive stack of words, and move the unread magazines to the storage shed. New magazines soon arrive, however, and the stack grows and grows and grows again.

Why don’t I read magazines any more? Two reasons:

  • I haven’t the time. I’m too busy reading books or spending time with friends or working on the computer or playing games with Kris to find time to read magazines.
  • More to the point: much of what I once obtained from magazines, I now find on the internet. A weekly news magazine? I’ve got USA Today and BBC News. Computer magazines? There are scores of computer-oriented web sites that are more up-to-date. Opinion pieces? I regularly read about 25 personal weblogs; I get my fill of opinion from these.

Weblogs—maligned by some as narcissistic and self-indulgent—are a revolutionary form of journalism, a type of personal journalism that, to me at least, is more compelling and more informative than traditional journalism (though, obviously, not subject to the same standards).

I’ll retain four subscriptions (Cook’s Illustrated, Harper’s, Orion, National Geographic), but I’m going to allow the others to lapse.


Two late nights recently:

  • Last night was the MNF group’s annual sweetheart banquet (delayed this year from Valentine’s Day). Jeremy and Jennifer, with Jeff’s help, prepared a fantastic feast for sixteen. This is the fourth or fifth year the Gingeriches have been holding this event, and I think it was the most successful yet. The conversation was good, the food delicious, and the pace relaxed. We didn’t get to bed til one o’clock, though.
  • Thursday we went to see a 10:20 showing of The Matrix with Joel and Aimee. The Matrix is a great film; the more I watch it, the more willing I am to forgive the sometimes gratuitous violence. I was impressed this time by the cinematography: some of the shots are beautiful. I wonder if the next two films can maintain the same level of quality. I didn’t get to bed until about two o’clock on Thursday night/Friday morning.

I was a zombie at work Friday. It was all I could do to stay awake. Apparently it was more than I could do: Jeff says that when he left the shop at about three, I was slumped back in my chair, slack-jawed and snoring.

Driving home after the movie, Joel made the statement: “All science fiction is about destruction.” I believe that science fiction is no more about destruction than any other form of narrative fiction, but my brain was too tired to put up a fight. Maybe I’ll write a rebuttal in the near future…

Comments


On 23 March 2003 (09:19 PM),
J.D. said:

Kris tells me that Joel clarified his statement to “All science fiction films are about destruction.” I still disagree, but not as much. The science fiction that gets put on the big screen is inherently more fraught with conflict than that in literature. In order for a film to maintain the audience’s interest, it has to have a strong central conflict. I still maintain that this focus on destruction is true of nearly all films, not just science fiction films.



On 24 March 2003 (11:05 AM),
Dana said:

Contact, 2001, and Gattaca are not about destruction, at least I don’t think so. They are about perspective, man’s relationship with his tools, and prejudice.

Neither are Time Bandits or Buckaroo Banzai, for that matter.

Of course, maybe I’m missing Joel’s point.



On 24 March 2003 (03:12 PM),
Joelah said:

Right, it would be unfair to say that ALL S.F. movies are fantasies of destruction. Just a whole bunch of them. I would venture to say that S.F. movies are (almost) always about Encountering the Other, and, in general, there is a very strong anxiety associated with the Other. In most cases this anxiety resolves itself when the Other is blown to pieces. What can separate interesting S.F. from the rest of Hollywood product is the leeway a fictional time/space frame allows the creators to approach the question: “What do we do about [slavering aliens/out-of-control-robots/spaced-based tyranny]?

Snatch, turn, suck, drop, hop

I’m sitting at the computer, making a mix of Irish music for tonight’s ‘Spring Fling’ sweetheart banquet at Jeremy and Jennifer‘s. Over the strains of “Danny Boy”, Kris calls, “Come here! Come here!”

I can tell by the way she’s calling that she wants me to see something outside: some animal hijinx or some bizarre aspect of the weather.

She points to the tree by the patio, the Japanese ornamental cherry (‘snowgoose‘), which is currently exploding with tiny white blossoms, a beautiful contrast to the glossy red of the tree’s bark. In the tree is a tiny bird, probably a finch, hopping along one branch, snatching up blossoms in its beak, turning them around, consuming some small part, and then dropping the blossoms to the ground.

Snatch, turn, suck, drop, hop.

Snatch, turn, suck, drop, hop.

Is it devouring some small pocket of nectar in each flower? Is there something tasty in the petals? We don’t know.

“What a waste of flowers,” Kris says. Where’s Simon? If he were here, he’d be interested in the bird, too, though for a wholly different reason.

Within minutes, the bird has stripped one small branch of all its petals and has begun working on the next branch. It’s joined by two of its brothers. The birds have red heads and breasts, gray feathers on their backs. They’re small. We note that a similar bird, without the red (a female perhaps?), is eating from the birdfeeder.

I grab The Sibley Guide to Birds from the bookshelf and on page 529 we find a match: the house finch. (Why doesn’t Sibley‘s have a taxonomic classification system for easy bird identification? Surely serious birding books have something like this?)

I remember our trip to Yakima with Jeremy and Jennifer. Jenn’s dad is a birdwatcher, and his backyard is devoted to feeding the birds of central Washington. He keeps his binoculars and his bird books by the kitchen window, overlooking his bird sanctuary.

Though Kris and I are not what would rightly be termed birdwatchers, we do enjoy them. If we had more time, it might be a hobby we’d undertake together. Perhaps it’s something for us to do together when we’re older, each night after we eat dinner at the bowling alley.


“We should go to the bowling alley to eat dinner some time,” says Kris as we drive past Canby Bowl. Is this the woman I married? Suggesting that we eat at the bowling alley? Canby’s restaurant selection is poor, but it’s not so poor that I want to eat slimy fish and chips in a dark and smoky corner while watching a fat middle-aged man (hey! that’s me!) struggle to pick up 7-10 split.

Menagerie

I grew up around animals.

Two dogs, the names of which I do not remember
When we first moved into the trailer house, we had two dogs, possibly labs. Perhaps their names were Prince and Lady? In any event, Dad shot them for some reason before I was very old. Mom cried.
Chickens, which had no names
When I was young, before the age of five, we kept chickens. We had chicken coops and roosters and collected eggs, etc. Then one day, Uncle Norman’s family came over and they tore the heads off the chickens and plucked them and we had chicken to eat for some time thereafter. (One of Dad’s favorite stories to tell, even up until the month he died, was how the butchering of the chickens caused me to wail and wail. When he came to comfort me I sobbed, “Daddy, you’re not going to tear off my head, are you?”) (Also: I remember Dad bringing home the baby chicks. Jeff and I greeted him at the front door of the trailer house and he showed us the box full of chicks. Jeff loved them. He wanted to hold one, but when he did, he nearly squeezed the thing to death (did he kill it?). He cried and cried, and Mom said, “What do you expect? He’s only two years old.”)
Rabbits, which did have names that I do not remember
The chicken coops became rabbit hutches. Dad bought several rabbits and he entrusted their care to two young boys, barely in grade school. This worked fine during the fall, but when winter came, the boys’ diligence waned. The rabbits, hungry, gnawed free of the cages and subsequently froze to death, starving, in the fields near the house. We received no end of grief for this, though I’ll bet that in some measure Dad’s anger was self-reproachment for not having cared for the rabbits himself.
A goat (Billy?)
We had a goat. Jeff does not remember it, and I remember very little. What I do remember is this: it scared the shit out of me. I must have been five years old, and the goat was bigger than I was, and terribly aggressive. If I was in back, in the goat’s territory, it would charge me and butt me with its head. Hell: it would butt me with its head no matter where I was. I remember standing on the back steps, screaming, unable to open the door because the damn goat was butting me, butting me, butting me. I hated that thing.
Wilma the Pig
After the chickens, after the rabbits, after the goat, we raised Wilma the Pig. She was a good pig, I guess, as far as pigs go. She started small but got bigger. She was always noisy and stinky and ornery. Did we eat her or did we sell her? I don’t recall.
Kitty
Uncle Norman had too many cats, thus we ended up with Kitty. We must have been very young still when we got her because:

  1. We named her Kitty, and
  2. I remember Mom and Dad scolding us for not behaving well around her.

Kitty was a great cat and she bore many kittens. Here descendants roam the countryside to this day. Even Toto may be related to her.

Batman, Wonderman, Batgirl, et. al.
Kitty’s progeny. Our cats suffered through a series of unfortunate names, as might be expected when the naming is being done by small boys during the 1970s.
Charlie
Charlie was a big, slobbery, shambling mound of a dog, a Saint Bernard, Jeff’s closest friend. Jeff was five or six when we got Charlie, and the two formed a close bond. I can remember a night in what must have been the Winter of 1978-1979, snow falling fast and furious, playing soccer with Jeff and Charlie in several inches of snow on the ground. Batman and Charlie were best friends: Charlie would curl up on the front porch, and the cat would snuggle on top of him and they would sleep together for hours on end. Charlie developed arthritis and had to be put down.
Husky
When Charlie had to be put down, Jeff was broken up. Charlie was his friend. To console him, my parents brought home Husky. Husky was but a puppy, and not even that for very long. I was in the car with Mom, and we were backing out of the driveway, when we ran over what seemed to be a log. A log that yelped. Though I didn’t know it at the time, this was an early introduction to natural selection.
Flint
Flint didn’t have a problem with cars. He was just a jerk. I don’t remember much else about him except for after we got…
Smokey
Smokey was a black lab. He was a bouncing bundle of enthusiasm, not a bad dog for kids in fourth or fifth grade. However, he and Flint could not agree on who was boss. They fought. When they fought, Jeff cried. Flint was a jerk, but he loved him. Once he tried to break up a fight, which made Dad furious with him. Ultimately, Flint left and Smokey stayed.
Indiana, Marion, Robert, and friends
When I was in sixth grade, we got a batch of kittens from someplace. They lived in the wood shed and they scrabbled around, climbing the woodpiles, doing kittenish things. They were cute. We loved them. Unfortunately, Smokey loved them, too. One by one, he loved them to death. Over the course of several weeks, we found each of them, covered with slobber, heads torn off. To this day I’m traumatized by the memory of Smokey tossing snow-white Robert into the air over and over and over again while I begged him to stop until it no longer mattered. (Robert, by the way, was named for a character in General Hospital. I was a huge General Hospital fan when I was in the sixth grade.)
Amanda
Amanda was my dog, a loving medium-sized animal that I named after a character in The Bad News Bears. She wasn’t a great dog. She barked and barked and barked. In the country, the barking doesn’t bother the neighbors, it bothers you. Eventually I sold her to my father for five dollars (which I probably used to buy comic books) and he took her away. He never let me live that down: selling something that I ostensibly loved for a mere five dollars. What can I say? The Fantastic Four and the X-Men were more important to me in 1983 than a stupid barking dog. Come to think of it, they still are today.
Fuzzy
We had Charlie for several years, but then we went through a rapid succession of dogs until we got Fuzzy. Fuzzy was a smallish mongrel, very cute, eager and playful. Did we have him when I was in junior high? I don’t recall. We loved him equally, I think, and he loved us. One Sunday, Tony had Ron Kropf over. The rest of us were gone someplace, so when Tony and Ron found the keys to the car, they decided to practice driving around and around the driveway. Fuzzy did not survive the experience.
Hairy
After Fuzzy’s death, we got another small dog. Hairy, a smelly Shih Tzu, was more sedate than Fuzzy, but no less loving. He stunk, though, no matter what we did to try to help him. Jeff and Hairy had a close bond. During the early 90s, Custom Box Service employed a chubby Hispanic worker named George. He liked Hairy, so we gave him the dog when George’s time with us was over. Some time after, we heard that George and Hairy were still together.
Freddy
Freddy was the first bird Dad bought during his bird-obsession phase. Freddy was a yellow-naped macaw, and vicious. I hated that fucking bird. His bite was painful. Jeff liked him, though, and they formed a bond. (In retrospect, it seems that Jeff was always forming bonds with the animals.) Also, for a bird, Freddy was stupid. I have nothing good to say about him, though Jeff might be able to relate a few stories in his favor.
Sammy
Sammy, however, was a fine bird. He was a yellow-breasted Amazon parrot, and he was quite young when he came to live with us. I took it upon myself to improve his vocabulary. When I was finished with him, he could say “Superman!”, “I can talk, can you fly?”, “I’m a pretty chicken”, and many other such gems. We once counted his vocabulary at about one hundred words. (Dad’s favorite was when Sammy would shout, imitating us whiny kids: “Mom! Mom!”) My favorite Sammy story: There’s a huge window extending across one end of the trailer house upon which the curtains were usually down. One day, for some reason, the curtains were up. Sammy was at the other end of the trailer house, in this very room, I believe, when decided to go for a fly. He flew down the hallway, through the kitchen, into the living room, and smack into the window, falling like a stone to the ground (behind the couch). We were sure he was dead. We rushed to the couch and we looked behind and there was Sammy, stunned, struggling to his feet. He cocked his head and he looked at us and he said, “Hello.” “Hello.” “Hello.” As I’ve mentioned before, we traded Sammy to the local barber for one hundred haircuts, a not-inconsequential sum.
Gandalf
Gandalf was my bird, a parakeet, and the only animal I can ever remember loving as a child. Toto, my current cat, is Gandalf’s twin in temperament: petulant, opinionated, strong-willed. Gandalf took no shit from anyone. In fact, he and Freddy used to get in squawking and strutting matches for dominance. A tiny parakeet vying for dominance with a big, mean macaw? I tried to teach Gandalf to talk, but he never showed any interest. One day somebody left the window open in Mom and Dad’s bedroom and Gandalf flew away. I was heartbroken. Some time later (days? weeks?) I was outside and I swore to myself that I heard Gandalf’s chirp. I followed the noise to the Big Tree (a tree a few hundred yards from the house) and there was Gandalf, sitting on a branch with some finches. I don’t remember who managed to catch Gandalf, me or Dad, but he came back to live with us, but only for a short while. He developed a cold, and within two weeks I found him dead on the bottom of his cage.

There were other animals, of course—cats, dogs, and birds with names and personalities that I’ve long since forgotten. Mom had a cockatiel for a while. Gandalf had a little friend. We had a Basset Hound that we sold to Darren Misner’s family. Billy Cat, one of Kitty’s descendants, was one of our first shop cats, and Nick’s pal. Bandit was a cat that I wanted to love me, but which refused my overtures despite the fact that I spent many hours with hot dogs and bologna, trying to convince him of my charms.

And these are just the animals I knew before college!

Comments


On 20 March 2003 (02:25 PM),
Mom said:

No, the goat wasn’t named Billy, it was Jason. I can’t remember the reason right now. I can’t remember exactly when we got him but it would have been within the first year or two that we were in the trailer. (1972-3?) You would have been 3 or 4. He was such a stinker — I would leave the back door open on a hot day and he would run up inside the house and stand there in the hallway looking at me. I would chase him back out and he would run away, then as soon as I got busy doing something, would run back in again. I wasn’t getting much done chasing that goat out of the house! He was a nuisance in that sense but one day you were up on a bit of decking out behind the old woodshed that Steve had built up off the ground and he got up there and butted you off, and that’s when we decided we couldn’t have him around any more. We sold him to the Wrights in Needy, who had goats.

The dogs you are remembering were Sarah and Abraham, which we had at about the same time. We got them through an ad in the paper, I believe, and they were nice dogs except that they were so rambunctious that they were knocking you and Jeff down a lot, so we decided we couldn’t keep them. Rather than try to give them away, Uncle Norman talked Steve into killing them (which is what he did with dogs he didn’t want), with his assistance. They took Sarah and Abraham up here to Grandpa’s, out in the field, and Steve almost chickened out but since Uncle Norm was there, he felt he had to go ahead. He said it took all he had in him to shoot them, and that he would never do that again!



On 20 March 2003 (03:52 PM),
Scott said:

JD, Scott Smith here. You once told me you remember staying at my house for a short period while your parents were away. Do you remember the menagerie my father kept? When our families had contact through the Mormon Church, my father restricted his activities to St. Bernard dogs (about 20 at all times, he bred and showed the dogs all over the country) chickens and parrots (at one time we were up to about 30 including cockatoos, cockatils, mccaws, amazon greys, etc.) (this collection was later expanded into jungle cats (cougar, ocelot and others) rex rabbits, suffock sheep, arabian horses, ostrichs, emus and even a few goats). I wonder if our fathers ever went in on purchases or traded animals? I don’t know, but I will ask my father.



On 20 March 2003 (06:43 PM),
Mom said:

It’s interesting that Scott would mention his parents’ animals. We got Sammy from Scott’s father, Byron. We got him as a baby and I hand-fed him until he was big enough for regular bird seed.



On 21 March 2003 (08:44 AM),
Jeff said:

I have fuzzy memories of sitting on the floor in Scott’s kitchen eating iced graham crackers.

Cousins

Kris and I braved stormy weather to travel to Sweet Home on Saturday to attend the marriage of my youngest cousin, Ben Swartzendruber. The event was notable because it was the first time I’d seen some of my cousins in more than a decade. I have many cousins. They have many children. We all look so old!

The Noah Roth family tree:

Noah Joseph Roth (9/8/1902 – 7/13/91) and Lola Ann Sharp (4/8/1906 – 7/3/1981) had three children: Norman Duane (10/27/1938 – 1/17/1990), Virginia Eden (2/20/1942), and Stephen Eugene (7/31/1945 – 7/21/1995).

  • Norman married Janice Birky (12/9/1938 – 6/20/1987) and they had four children: Ronald Duane (1/13/1960), Robert Dean (6/27/1962), Nicholas Leon (3/6/1964), and Debra JoAnn (7/23/1965).
  • Virginia married Stanley James Swartzendruber (5/16/1940) and they had nine children: Robin Lou (6/11/1959), Tamara (5/27/1960), Gwendolyn Kay (8/3/1961), Laura June (6/10/1964), Valerie Ann (7/15/1965), Stanley Scott (10/18/1966), Tedric James (5/31/1968), Martin (1/25/1971), and Benjamin (12/30/1976).
  • Stephen married Suzanne McClellan (4/21/1948) and they had three children: John David (3/25/1969), Jeffrey Stephen (8/3/1970), and Anthony Michael (12/29/1972).

That’s my father’s family as I remember it as a child. We lived a quarter-mile from Grandma and Grandpa, and they were our primary babysitters. We saw Norman and his family fairly often because they only lived about ten miles away. We saw Virginia and her family less often, though; they lived in Estacada, so we only saw them on special occasions. There were many special occasions.

My memories of my cousins have faded with the years, but I still hold a great deal of affection for them. I regret not being able to spend more time with them Saturday at the wedding reception.

I did make the time to have most of them write down their family information, though. Virginia’s family has been fruitful, and multiplied:

  • Robin married Nevin Richard Danner (8/18/1958) and they have five children: Nevin LaRay (8/24/1982), Robin Jolene (6/11/1984), Stanley Walter (5/1/1987), Elsie Marie (2/1/1989), and Starlita Dawn (4/16/1993). Starlita Dawn? I didn’t get a chance to ask Robin about that; it seems incongruent. I’ve never met these first cousins once removed; Robin and Nevin live in Hanover, Pennsylvania.
  • I haven’t any information for Tammy‘s family. She lives nearby, and reads this weblog from time-to-time, so her information should be easy to gather.
  • Gwen married Henry Peter Hertzler (9/21/1959) and they have twelve children: Cynthia Rose, adopted (9/29/1978), Jon Anthony (7/15/1982), Justin Lyell (12/14/1982), Jeremy Lowell (12/14/1982), James Arthur (2/23/1984), William Henry (3/14/1987), Josiah David (7/18/1991), Hans Jacob (12/26/1992), Stephen Christopher (6/14/1994), Henry Micah (9/27/1996), Grace Elizabeth (8/12/2000), and Raphael Joseph (10/29/2002). I remember Cyndi from when she was very young, living as a foster child with Norman and Janice. I met Anthony and little Raphael Joseph on Saturday, but I’ve never met the other children because the family lives in Bainbridge, New York.
  • Laurie married Jacob Mervin Lehman (8/12/1962), and they live with their family on a centuries-old dairy farm in Hagerstown, Maryland. From what I understand, their eleven children run the farm: Sharon Kay (5/21/1984), Sheila June (5/13/1985), Jana Louise (3/23/1987), Jay Mervin (3/1/1988), Kyle David (5/10/1990), Andrew Lee (11/2/1991), Michael Lynn (3/26/1993), Leland James (9/21/1995), Jolynn Marie (4/22/1997), Randall Joel (11/9/1998), and Edward Hans (9/26/2000). I met Randall at the wedding on Saturday; he was very well-behaved, entranced by the string trio that played before the ceremony.
  • Valerie married Veasey Eric Glenn (5/28/1963) and they have nine children, so far: Verlyn Clark (6/13/1987), Vance Ellwyn (9/25/1989), Vonda LaRose (2/9/1992), Veldon Randall (2/1/1993), Vernell Collin (7/4/1995), Vaughn Benjamin (9/6/1997), Vivian Crystal (12/15/1998), Veronica Beth (5/9/2000), and Vale Tyler (3/9/2002). Valerie’s family lives in Fruitland, Idaho, so I’ve seen them a couple of times in the past year, though I’ve never had a chance to talk with Valerie (she was always my favorite female cousin, probably because she was closest to my own age). Verlyn is a giant of a boy — big, robust, imposing. He’s only fifteen, but he’s the biggest person in the entire extended family.
  • Scott married Annette Kay ??? (3/2/1967) and they have six girls: Rowena Fern (10/9/1988), Sylvia Rose (8/28/1991), Monica Lou (4/27/1993), Sheila Anne (5/8/1996), Melinda Jo (11/19/1998), and Sonya June (6/21/01). Scott and his family live in Shedd, Oregon.
  • Ted was my favorite cousin of all — he and I were nearly the same age. Ted married Jolynn Kay Kauffman (9/25/1970) and they have three children: Brittney Kay (1/13/1997), Jaremy Lewis, adopted (10/22/2001), and Christina Marie (7/10/2002). Brittney is as cute as a bug’s ear, as my father would have said.
  • Mart and Elizabeth don’t have any children yet. I didn’t jot down their particulars because they’re at every family gathering.
  • And, of course, Ben and Ruth just got married.

Most of these families, particularly those from the east coast, are conservative Mennonite, not quite old order Mennonite. They’re not Amish, but they live near Amish communities. They wear plain and simple clothing, work large farms, are devoted to their god. They live in a very different world than I do, and this makes me love them all the more.

In Norm’s family, Bob has four children (five?), and Deb has two. My brothers have three children between them.

Norman would have six grand-children if he were alive today. My mother has three grandchildren. Virginia has 46 grandchildren, not counting Tammy’s brood.

It’s no wonder I can’t remember all their names.

Cousins

Kris and I braved stormy weather to travel to Sweet Home on Saturday to attend the marriage of my youngest cousin, Ben Swartzendruber. The event was notable because it was the first time I’d seen some of my cousins in more than a decade.

We all look so old!

I have many cousins. They have many children.

The Noah Roth family tree:

Noah Joseph Roth (9/8/1902 – 7/13/91) and Lola Ann Sharp (4/8/1906 – 7/3/1981) had three children: Norman Duane (10/27/1938 – 1/17/1990), Virginia Eden (2/20/1942), and Stephen Eugene (7/31/1945 – 7/21/1995).

Norman married Janice Birky (12/9/1938 – 6/20/1987) and they had four children: Ronald Duane (1/13/1960), Robert Dean (6/27/1962), Nicholas Leon (3/6/1964), and Debra JoAnn (7/23/1965).

Virginia married Stanley James Swartzendruber (5/16/1940) and they had nine children: Robin Lou (6/11/1959), Tamara (5/27/1960), Gwendolyn Kay (8/3/1961), Laura June (6/10/1964), Valerie Ann (7/15/1965), Stanley Scott (10/18/1966), Tedric James (5/31/1968), Martin (1/25/1971), and Benjamin (12/30/1976).

Stephen married Suzanne McClellan (4/21/1948) and they had three children: John David (3/25/1969), Jeffrey Stephen (8/3/1970), and Anthony Michael (12/29/1972).

That’s my father’s family as I remember it as a child. We lived a quarter-mile from Grandma and Grandpa, and they were our primary babysitters. We saw Norman and his family fairly often because they only lived about ten miles away. We saw Virginia and her family less often, though; they lived in Estacada, so we only saw them on special occasions. There were many special occasions.

My memories of my cousins have faded with the years, but I still hold a great deal of affection for them. I regret not being able to spend more time with them Saturday at the wedding reception.

I did make the time to have most of them write down their family information, though. Virginia’s family has been fruitful, and multiplied.

Robin married Nevin Richard Danner (8/18/1958) and they have five children: Nevin LaRay (8/24/1982), Robin Jolene (6/11/1984), Stanley Walter (5/1/1987), Elsie Marie (2/1/1989), and Starlita Dawn (4/16/1993). Starlita Dawn? I didn’t get a chance to ask Robin about that; it seems incongruent. I’ve never met these first cousins once removed; Robin and Nevin live in Hanover, Pennsylvania.

I haven’t any information for Tammy’s family. She lives nearby, and reads this weblog from time-to-time, so her information should be easy to gather.

Gwen married Henry Peter Hertzler (9/21/1959) and they have twelve children: Cynthia Rose, adopted (9/29/1978), Jon Anthony (7/15/1982), Justin Lyell (12/14/1982), Jeremy Lowell (12/14/1982), James Arthur (2/23/1984), William Henry (3/14/1987), Josiah David (7/18/1991), Hans Jacob (12/26/1992), Stephen Christopher (6/14/1994), Henry Micah (9/27/1996), Grace Elizabeth (8/12/2000), and Raphael Joseph (10/29/2002). I remember Cyndi from when she was very young, living as a foster child with Norman and Janice. I met Anthony and little Raphael Joseph on Saturday, but I’ve never met the other children because the family lives in Bainbridge, New York.

Laurie married Jacob Mervin Lehman (8/12/1962), and they live with their family on a centuries-old dairy farm in Hagerstown, Maryland. From what I understand, their eleven children run the farm: Sharon Kay (5/21/1984), Sheila June (5/13/1985), Jana Louise (3/23/1987), Jay Mervin (3/1/1988), Kyle David (5/10/1990), Andrew Lee (11/2/1991), Michael Lynn (3/26/1993), Leland James (9/21/1995), Jolynn Marie (4/22/1997), Randall Joel (11/9/1998), and Edward Hans (9/26/2000). I met Randall at the wedding on Saturday; he was very well-behaved, entranced by the string trio that played before the ceremony.

Valerie married Veasey Eric Glenn (5/28/1963) and they have nine children, so far: Verlyn Clark (6/13/1987), Vance Ellwyn (9/25/1989), Vonda LaRose (2/9/1992), Veldon Randall (2/1/1993), Vernell Collin (7/4/1995), Vaughn Benjamin (9/6/1997), Vivian Crystal (12/15/1998), Veronica Beth (5/9/2000), and Vale Tyler (3/9/2002). Valerie’s family lives in Fruitland, Idaho, so I’ve seen them a couple of times in the past year, though I’ve never had a chance to talk with Valerie (she was always my favorite female cousin, probably because she was closest to my own age). Verlyn is a giant of a boy — big, robust, imposing. He’s only fifteen, but he’s the biggest person in the entire extended family.

Scott married Annette Kay ??? (3/2/1967) and they have six girls: Rowena Fern (10/9/1988), Sylvia Rose (8/28/1991), Monica Lou (4/27/1993), Sheila Anne (5/8/1996), Melinda Jo (11/19/1998), and Sonya June (6/21/01). Scott and his family live in Shedd, Oregon.

Ted was my favorite cousin of all — he and I were nearly the same age. Ted married Jolynn Kay Kauffman (9/25/1970) and they have three children: Brittney Kay (1/13/1997), Jaremy Lewis, adopted (10/22/2001), and Christina Marie (7/10/2002). Brittney is as cute as a bug’s ear, as my father would have said.

Marty and Elizabeth don’t have any children yet. I didn’t jot down their particulars because they’re at every family gathering.

Most of these families, particularly those from the east coast, are conservative Mennonite, not quite old order Mennonite. They’re not Amish, but they live near Amish communities. They wear plain and simple clothing, work large farms, are devoted to their god. They live in a very different world than I do, and this makes me love them all the more.

In Norm’s family, Bob has four children (five?), and Deb has two. My brothers have three children between them.

Norman would have six grand-children if he were alive today. My mother has three grandchildren. Virginia has 46 grandchildren, not counting Tammy’s brood.

It’s no wonder I can’t remember all their names.

Comments


On 03 September 2003 (11:47 PM),
Ron Roth said:

Debbie has 5 children, Vanessa, Shanika, Shilo, Tabitha, and Amanda. Uncle Norman would have 9 grandchildren.



On 03 September 2003 (11:47 PM),
Ron Roth said:

Debbie has 5 children, Vanessa, Shanika, Shilo, Tabitha, and Amanda. Uncle Norman would have 9 grandchildren.



On 21 March 2004 (11:52 AM),
Gwen said:

JD, I feel quite safe just writing cousin to cousin here as this spot obviously sank into oblivion months and months ago. I don’t know if it makes any difference to you, really, but Gwen and family are not Mennonite, by denominatinal definition, and have not been for many years. I suppose that in some sense anyone born into that culture cannot entirely say they are not Mennonite, any more than an American who chooses another country would be truly not American. There are some points of reference, some biases, some cultural baggage you may never be able to be rid of, and in this case I don’t necessarily desire to be rid of it, not all of it, anyway.

But we are not membersof a Mennonite church, nor any “church” as the term is commonly known. We do what we do and live as we live out of a deeply held faith in Christ Jesus and love for God as Designer, Creator, and Ultimate Ruler of this Universe. No man-made creeds or rules govern us in a religious sense. We also do not believe in organized religion, though we love and respect many people who do. We even respect some of the organizations, but are sorry of the confusing methods they use.

A Wonderful World

iMovie (and all of the iLife applications) are more difficult to learn than Apple probably believes they are.

There’s little documentation. There are no tool-tips. There are no printed manuals. There are on-line docs available for each application, but they are not only inadequate, they’re also difficult to search.

If one wants to learn how to use, for example, the Ken Burns effects in iMovie, it’s a frustrating beat-your-head-against the wall plow-through-it kind of experience. I hate it.

I’ve had to puzzle over the interface several times: Why does iMovie keep resetting the zoom I just set? I rotated this photograph in iPhoto, why doesn’t the change appear in iMovie? Why do I lose time when I add this transition? How do I keep from losing time? How come the updates don’t take effect when I try to alter the slide transitions between frames? Why doesn’t the export command display the estimated file size (and time to export) so that one doesn’t start a high-quality Quicktime export if it’s too big? Etc.

Yes, I know it’s a free product.

Apple markets its applications as easy-to-use. They may be, but they’re not always easy-to-learn. I know that Apple’s marketing machine should be ignored because it’s prone to hyperbole and little white lies, but I expected the iLife applications to be easier to learn. (I’ve had terrible trouble with iTunes, also — a clumsy, clumsy application.)

Despite my complaints, once learned how to use iMovie, I was able to work efficiently. Once I learned to use iTunes, I was pleased, too. My complaints are with the initial ease-of-use, the lack of documentation, and the poorly designed interfaces, not the power and usability of the applications for experienced users.


Last night was the final session of our photography class. Seven die-hards attended (of the eighteen who started the class) and shared slide shows and enlargements.

Only three of us completed the “What a Wonderful World” slide show. Warren confessed that he hadn’t expected anyone to complete it — it was time-consuming and required a lot of effort, and he had given the assignment just to see what we might accomplish.

The three of us that completed the task each took a slightly different approach. Sue used 70+ traditional slides (all of them brilliant). Larry captured ~30 digital images (many of them brilliant) and converted the project to digital video tape and played it on the television. I used ~40 images (few of them brilliant), displaying my slide show in iMovie on my iBook.

Though I’m satisfied with my completed project, it’s not nearly as good as it could be. I know more about scanning negatives now, know more about iMovie, know more photography in general. If I were to undertake the project again, I’d have a better idea of what to do.

Here is my slide show (6.08mb, Quicktime file): What a Wonderful World (click to view in your browser or right-click to download)

After viewing the slide shows, we displayed our enlargements. Five of us brought a total of 33 photographs. The results were impressive. Nearly every photograph adhered to Warren’s tenets: get closer, eliminate extraneous elements, etc.

We voted on our favorites. Sue’s gorgeous photograph of a lighthouse silhouetted against fiery clouds at sunset took first place. Larry’s lovely pastoral image (white fence, plum trees in bloom, rolling hills) was voted second place. Two of my images tied for third:

[Little white flowers]  [Simon climbs a ladder]

The cat climbing the ladder won the run-off. The class knew before-hand that this photograph was not taken during class, but they liked it enough to keep it in the pool from which we voted. The prize for third place was a roll of 3200-speed (!!!) black-and-white film. (The prize for first place was an old box-camera from Warren’s collection.)

It was a great class session. Several of us exchanged phone numbers and e-mail addresses, and discussed plans for future photography courses.


Now I’ve discovered this site’s raw log files. What fun!

Google search terms that led people here yesterday (in chronological order):

  • fun house JD Roth downloads
  • she’s come undone
  • Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
  • earth below us drifting falling
  • crack total club manager
  • where the gin is cold and the
  • Plot summary a thousand acres
  • Wgpoadmn.dl_
  • scrabout download
  • john krakauer
  • oregon crime lay layoffs
  • Geraldine Brooks
  • mac copy bubbler
  • scrabout
  • chatwin songlines criticism
  • geek love dunn
  • amy sherrard
  • ulrich midwife commentary
  • Ken Kesey Sometimes a Great Notion
  • Bagel dog facts
  • Bagel dog facts
  • photography neon signs
  • blueberry candy “blueberry candy” -daylily
  • timothy ferris milky way
  • literary review for snow falling on cedars
  • sienkiewicz original sale
  • tender is the night by f. scott fitzgerald
  • pronounce sinead o’connor
  • Warcraft III Access Violation
  • Contextual selectors
  • The rapture of canaan information
  • natural history of the senses touch ackerman
  • suskind perfume
  • suskind perfume
  • Dialect Survey
  • interesting quotes from Into Thin Air
  • new arrival…congratulations mom rest
  • Quotes from Into Thin Air
  • holding pattern response
  • robert pirsig
  • Jon Krakauer quotes
  • discussion of perfume patrick suskind
  • all the pretty horses symbolism
  • Ursula Leguin Biography
  • the power of one bryce
  • U Penn Off the Beat sheet music
  • a thousand acres book summary
  • F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald
  • How do I know what I think until I see what I say
  • power of one bryce courtenay
  • best clam chowder

Holy cats! All of that info can be found on this side, to some extent. My favorite search is: blueberry candy “blueberry candy” -daylilies. And note: nobody searched for milky women. Also note that there were no hits for Helms Deep — my review of Peter Jackson’s Helms Deep shuffled off Google’s front page a few days ago, so I’m not longer getting hits on that page. Google has a strong influence on page popularity.

Comments


On 14 March 2003 (07:42 PM),
Paul said:

JD,

I really liked your final project. It was fun to see how the photos we’ve seen over the past few weeks (months?) were used for the song. I hope I’m not over-stating it but I think that you’ve started to yank that song back over to the pleasant side where it belongs after the damning treatment it got int “Good Morning Vietnam”. (Can you do one for the song “Blue Velvet”?)

Paul

Comfort Films

Metafilter‘s not dead yet; occasionally it can produce gems such as this thread on “the greatest one-liner in the history of film”.

As I considered my favorite one-liners, I realized most of them are from my comfort films — those films that I watch again and again and again, that I watch to take the sting off a bad day, that I watch just to kill time. These aren’t the best films ever made, but they’re my favorites.

This being the internet, I wondered if it was possible to find the scripts for each of my comfort films. Sure enough:

  • This is Spinal Tap — “This one goes to eleven.”
  • The Big Lebowski — positively filled with memorable quotes, such as: “Nihilists! Fuck me. I mean, say what you like about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it’s an ethos.”
  • When Harry Met Sally — “I’d like the pie heated and I don’t want the ice cream on top, I want it on the side, and I’d like strawberry instead of vanilla if you have it, if not then no ice cream just whipped cream but only if it’s real; if it’s out of the can then nothing.”
  • The Princess Bride — “INCONCEIVABLE!! “
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail — “Strange women lyin’ in ponds distributin’ swords is no basis for a system of government! Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony!”
  • Buckaroo Banzai— “Evil! Pure and simple from the eighth dimension!”
  • Joe Versus the Volcano — “I’m a flibbertigibbet.”
  • Alien — “Ash, that transmission — Mother’s deciphered part of it. It doesn’t look like an S.O.S.”
  • Blade Runner — “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.”
  • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan — “Khaaaaaaannn!!!”

The only script I couldn’t locate was for the recent Amelie; there’s probably a French script out there someplace.

I’ve been craving the seriously underrated (and misunderstood) Joe Versus the Volcano lately; I need to watch it soon.

Joe Versus the Volcano resources from around the web:

Kris’ favorite comfort film? Hopscotch.

Comments


On 13 March 2003 (09:20 AM),
Buckaroo Banzai said:

Remember, no matter where you go, there you are.



On 13 March 2003 (10:16 AM),
Dave said:

“Joe versus the Volcano”? I just don’t get your fascination with it. You keep mentioning it, and although it was on one of the cable channels a weekend or two ago, I could only get through a limited portion of it (although the part where he leaves his employment was amusing in a tragic way given it’s obvious attempt to analogize to post-Industrial work compartmentalization). For some reason it reminds me of that Harrison Ford/Anne Heche movie, “Six Days, Seven Nights”. And no, that’s not a favorable comparison. Still, I’ve generally agreed with most of your comments on movies (and yes, the hobbits DO get their rocks from the Ent, damnit!) so perhaps I’ll check it out some evening.

Is this your favorite movie? I notice that you’ve listed Kris’ favorite “comfort” movie, but didn’t make a similar comment regarding J v. Vol. Although it would seem somewhat uncharacteristic, my preference in movies runs straight to “Amadeus”, which to my mind competes directly with “Dangerous Liasons” for my favorite movie, comfort or otherwise.



On 13 March 2003 (10:37 AM),
J.D. said:

My favorite movie is West Side Story, though Dr. Zhivago is a close second. Other favorites include Magnolia and Being John Malkovich.

The movies I listed above are favorites, but the list was meant to highlight comfort films.

I tend to like films that my friends don’t care for. How many of you like Farewell My Concubine? How many of you have even seen it?

Dana and I (and to an extent, Joel and I) have had a conversation about the difference between “favorite” and “best”.

I don’t think anyone could claim, for example, that Buckaroo Banzai is a good film, but it’s still one of my favorites.

Dana likes truly goofy stuff. Time Bandits? Yuck! 🙂



On 13 March 2003 (04:35 PM),
Dana said:

“I’ll tell you one thing…. No matter where we go, we’re taking this luggage.”
Joe vs. the Volcano

“Oh, so that’s what an invisible barrier looks like.”
Time Bandits

(In my defense, Terry Gilliam has stated that Time Bandits, Brazil, and Baron Munchausen make up a metaphorical trilogy of related works. So, Nyah! 🙂 )

“I find that a modicum of snuff can be quite efficacious.”
Baron Munchausen

“You seem a decent fellow. I hate to kill you.”
“You seem a decent fellow. I’d hate to die.”
The Princess Bride

“Why is there a watermelon there?”
“I’ll tell you later.”
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai: Across the 8th Dimension

“Once again we see that Evil triumphs over Good, because Good is Dumb!”
Spaceballs

“No way, eh! Radiation has made me an enemy of civilization!”
Strange Brew

“Throw me the idol! I’ll throw you the whip!”
Raiders of the Lost Ark

“And then, I saw the most disgusting thing…Laslo Holleyfeld in his pajamas.”
Real Genius

“Look; we’ve been over this. Lance Hunt wears glasses. He can’t be Captain Amazing.”
Mystery Men

“I have a bad feeling about this.”
Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, The Return of the Jedi, The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones

“You know; for the kids!”
The Hudsucker Proxy

“Damn! We’re in a tight spot!”
Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?

“Strange things are afoot at the Circle K.”
Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure

“End of Line”
Tron

“Listen! Do you smell something?”
Ghostbusters

“…[W]hat is your quest?”
“I must kill a man.”
“Tell me–does this walking corpse have a name?”
Ladyhawke

“Why is that cork there?”
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

“A bear in his natural habitat. A Studebaker!”
The Muppet Movie

“We’ll catch them red handed!”
“What color are their hands now?”
The Great Muppet Caper

“You activate it and leave it on the ground. Anybody that picks it up is vaporized.”
“Why would anybody pick it up?”
“Look.”
Turns the grenade over to show the words pick me up written in large letters.
Mom and Dad Save the World

“I don’t know. It’s a mystery!”
Shakespeare in Love

I could go on, but it’s time to go home from ‘work’ 🙂



On 13 March 2003 (08:44 PM),
Nikchick said:

It’s wonderful to see someone else with an appreciation for Joe Versus the Volcano. Really like that movie.

Nicole



On 14 March 2003 (09:34 AM),
J.D. said:

Testing…I’m trying to post a new entry, but Movable Type won’t load. Do comments work?



On 14 March 2003 (10:05 AM),
joelah said:

Whassa matter with Time Bandits? Not a happy enough ending for you, you Amelie-loving Broadway Boy?



On 14 March 2003 (03:28 PM),
Dana said:

How does Time Bandits not have a happy ending?

  • Evil is defeated
  • The ‘robbers’ get their jobs back
  • Kevin’s more or less ignorant, shallow, parents are no longer a bother
  • Og is no longer a pig
  • Fidget is resurrected
  • Kevin has met the Supreme Being
  • Agamemnon is a fireman

Seems pretty happy to me 🙂



On 14 March 2003 (05:03 PM),
J.D. said:

My problem with Time Bandits is just that I don’t like it. It’s a personal preference thing. I like Brazil (and have it on my Amazon wish list), and think Munchausen is okay, but Time Bandits is tedious. The story isn’t compelling. And, worst of all, it’s got midgets. It’s rare that I like a movie with midgets. I’m sizeist.



On 14 March 2003 (07:01 PM),
Scott said:

Sorry I am a day late on this one.

JD – I am a huge Joe fan. I cannot begin to tell you how much I’ve enjoyed that film – everthing from the obvious but often missed sight gags to the layers of metaphor – it’s the good soil for a playground of diversion. Anyway, it’s good to know at least some of us appreciate the truly underappreciated JOE!!!

Milky Women

My little brother is so good to me. He brought me more Chernobyl beef jerky.

Yum! Ouch! Yum! Ouch! Yum! Ouch! Yum!

Tony says the company that makes the jerky might call me to do some work on their computer network. Maybe I could just trade them my services for Chernobyl beef jerky.


It’s Monday afternoon, and I’m in Citizens Photo, killing myself over which photo retouching system I should purchase (dyes? oils? inks?) when a woman standing near me says, “Excuse me, sir, can you tell me which…hey! Hi, J.D.!”

It’s Sue from the photography class. She’s killing herself over which photo retouching system she should purchase.

So, we spend the next half an hour together, killing ourselves over which photo retouching systems we should purchase: “Warren likes dyes.” “Inks are cheaper.” “Oils are more versatile.” “There are three sets of colors in each system — which set is best?” “Why don’t any of the sets have white? Doesn’t anyone have to touch-up white?”

The employees are antsy. It’s after five, and they want to go home. I decide to go with touch-up pens. Sue buys the dyes that Warren uses. We agree to compare notes later.

We pay each other compliments, each admiring the other’s work from class, and then we’re out the door.


Andrew and Dana and I had built a strong friendship at the end of the 1990s — we spent time together in Minnesota, in Portland, in Canby, pursuing pure geekness. Since we lived near each other, Andrew and I had formed an especially strong bond. Andrew’s life entered a tumultuous stage two years ago, though, and he began to shed his old life (or so it seemed to us on the outside). He and I haven’t had a good chat in years.

Monday night, Andrew and I made time to go out for Thai food and to visit Powells Books (where I was able to convert some useless computer books into Patrick O’Brian novels — hooray!). I’m glad we did. It was great to catch up with him, to listen to his perspective on his life, to hear his plans for the future.


Guess whose site is the number eight match on Google for the term milky women. That’s right! My question: why in the hell is anyone searching for the term “milky women”? (Actually: I don’t think I want to know.)

(Nick, as he watches me type this: “You’re really disappointing some men there, J.D.” Yes, I know. If I use milky women enough times in this weblog entry, it will become the number one match for milky women. And you know, that’s the audience I want coming to this weblog: those people searching out milky women! Nick again: “What’s Aunt Virginia going to say about this post?”)

It’s fun to have access to the search terms that lead people to this weblog. Here are the top search terms that have led people here each month since my hosting service started tabulating stats:

August
1. cold mountain synopsis (11)
2. a lesson before dying (9)
3. the power of one (8)
4. windows messaging for windows 2000 (7)
5. john krakauer (6)

September
1. a lesson before dying (20)
2. cold mountainquotes (12)
3. a midwife’s tale (10)
3. laurel thatcher ulrich (10)
3. pinched nerve shoulder (10)

October
1. pinched nerve (36)
2. the power of one by bryce courtenay (35)
3. david james duncan (31)
4. pinched nerve shoulder (30)
5. bryce courtenay (20)
5. laurel thatcher ulrich (20)

November
1. the power of one by bryce courtenay (37)
2. john krakauer (30)
3. david james duncan (27)
4. a thousand acres by jane smiley (24)
5. pinched nerve shoulder (22)

December
1. helms deep (36)
2. david james duncan (33)
3. chewy gingerbread cookies (23)
4. best gingerbread cookies (22)
5. bryce courtenay (21)

January
1. helms deep (29)
2. pinched nerve shoulder (21)
3. the power of one by bryce courtenay (20)
4. david james duncan (19)
5. pinched nerve in shoulder (18)

February
1. helms deep (100)
2. pinched nerve shoulder (23)
3. shaved cat (23)
4. cold mountain quotes (22)
5. david james duncan (22)
5. rating movies (22)

March (first nine days)
1. helms deep (29)
2. meteorlogical spring (17)
3. scrabout free download (17)
4. pinched nerve shoulder (10)
5. homsar Halloween (9)
5. pinched nerve in shoulder (9)
5. jd roth (9)

My entry on Peter Jackson’s Helms Deep is popular (er…unpopular), and I still get spiteful comments and e-mail messages to this day. My encounter with adhesive capsulitis draws a lot of hits, too.

The stats make it quite clear that most of the hits to foldedspace.org come on the book group pages. This is why I feel compelled to complete them; I’m embarrassed to have so many people come here looking for book info only to find a mass of disorganization.

Another use for stats is determining how many people visit my weblog. Here are the average number of visits per day that my front page has received during the past few months:

Aug: 25
Sep: 29
Oct: 45
Nov: 57
Dec: 77
Jan: 109
Feb: 114
Mar: 108

I know of maybe two dozen friends and family that read this, but where do the other hits come from? Don’t be shy: leave a comment and let me know who you are!

On this day at foldedspace.org

2004
I’m the Best Uncle Ever
  My nephew, Alex, came in to work today. I watched him while Tony worked. Alex showed me ants and birds and Big Water. I gave him a Ding Dong. This is our story.

Comments


On 12 March 2003 (10:02 AM),
Dana said:

Your guess about Milky Women is probably spot on, even if you leave it unvoiced.

I, however, am more curious about why people are searching for ‘shaved cat’…

Ick.



On 12 March 2003 (11:53 AM),
Dave said:

Ummm, how exactly did you come to find out that you’re #8 on a “milky women” Google search?



On 12 March 2003 (12:24 PM),
J.D. said:

Stats log, man! Stats log!

I like to browse my stats to see what brings people here, and sometimes discover surprises. Like milky women.



On 12 March 2003 (03:44 PM),
Drew said:

Indeed, it was good to re-connect with JD once again. I discovered a fascinating, incontrovertible fact about JD that evening – he has no tongue. Yes, i know you must be saying to yourself that this seems impossible since he wags it so often. But, i witnessed it with mine own eyes. He has no tongue.

We dined at a fine purveyor of Thai cusine – Sweet Basil on Broadway. JD ordered the curry (predictably). I ordered the soup (predictably). When asked if he would like his curry mild, medium, wild, or extreme, JD, without a blink, said extreme. Abashedly I warned him, “JD, they don’t play here.” With an only slightly smug look he says, “I like it hot.” So our meals arrived. JD’s curry is seething with spice (Arrakis?) – chunks of chicken floating in a molten cauldron of curried coconut milk. I eat my soup waiting for that cartoon moment when whistles pop out of his ears, flames jet from his mouth, and he turns bright red like a thermometer rising from his feet to his head.

It never came.

At one point during the meal, with only slightly rheumy eyes, he pops a cube of something unrecognizable from the heavy coat of devil pepper powder into his mouth and states, “This is the fourth hottest meal I’ve ever had.” That’s when I realized that JD has no tongue. Perhaps, it’s a prosthetic device. Perhaps, it’s bionic (comments Kris?). Perhaps his hypoglossal nerve was damaged in a freak photography accident. One can speculate, but not dispute JD’s tonguelessness.

Many church groups are holding prayer vigils (most notably the Mennonites, but the Unitarians are giving it a good go too) that a suitable tongue donor be located. Maybe a foolish teenager with O negative bloodtype will win a Darwin award in such a way that his viril tongue might be harvested and transplanted into JD’s bereft mouth. If you would like to contribute to the JD Tongue Fund please send a check or money order to Eclipse Technical Consulting LLC. Thank you for your steadfast support.

Best Clam Chowder Ever

I found a good clam chowder recipe in Bon Appétit a couple of years ago. Though it’s not a creamy chowder, it’s the best clam chowder recipe that we’ve been able to find. The ingredients produce a rich, hearty clam chowder with a complex mingling of flavors. I’m making myself hungry just writing about it.

Skipjack’s Clam Chowder
from November 2000 Bon Appétit
with modifications by J.D. Roth

  • Three 8-oz bottles of clam juice
  • One pound russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch chunks (resist the urge to use Yukon Gold potatoes)
  • Two tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
  • Three slices bacon, finely chopped (I use thick, hammy deli bacon — use six slices of bacon if you’re using the thin, pre-packaged stuff)
  • Two cups chopped onions (about one large yellow onion)
  • Three stalks (about 1-1/4 cups) of celery with leaves, chopped
  • Five garlic cloves, minced
  • One bay leaf
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • Six 6-1/2 oz cans minced clams, drained, juices reserved (chopped clams are fine — I use minced because Kris doesn’t like large, rubbery clam chunks)
  • 1-1/2 cups half-and-half
  • One teaspoon hot pepper sauce (we use Tapatío, but you might prefer Tabasco)
  • Optional: 1/2 teaspoon hickory smoke salt (hard-to-find, but great flavor!)

At the top of my recipe card I’ve written, in bold: NOTE: Prepare ingredients before starting! Experienced, or quick, cooks can ignore this advice. I’m neither experienced nor quick. If I don’t prepare the ingredients before starting the chowder, it’s a disaster.

  1. Bring the bottled clam juice and potatoes to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until potatoes are tender (about ten minutes). Remove from heat.
  2. Melt butter in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add bacon and cook until bacon begins to brown (about 8-10 minutes). Add onions, celery, garlic, and bay leaf. Sauté until vegetables soften, about six minutes.
  3. Stir in flour and cook two minutes. Do not allow flour to brown.
  4. Gradually whisk in reserved juices from clams. Add potato mixture, calms, half-and-half, hickory smoke salt, and hot pepper sauce. Simmer chowder to blend flavors, stirring frequently.
  5. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. Chowder can be served after as few as ten minutes of simmering, or it can sit on the stove contentedly for hours.

This is a damn good clam chowder, and it re-heats well. I made a double batch yesterday, so we’ll be eating it for a week or two, but with no complaints.

I sometimes make biscuits to go with the meal.

Cracked Pepper Biscuits
from November 1998 Bon Appétit

  • Two tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Two tablespoons chopped fresh thyme (or, if you’re forgetful like me, you might use rosemary instead)
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper (this might stand increasing)
  • 1/2 cup chilled whole milk (I used half-and-half leftover from the chowder)
  • One large egg
  • Two cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • One tablespoon baking powder
  • One teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Preparation is straight-forward, though it does require a food processor.

  1. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees.
  2. Melt two tablespoons butter in heavy small skillet over medium heat. Add thyme (or rosemary) and cracked black pepper. Sauté until fragrant (about two minutes).
  3. Transfer thyme mixture to small bowl. Whisk in milk, then egg. Cover and chill until mixture is cold.
  4. Blend flour, baking powder, and salt in food processor.
  5. Add 3/4 cup butter. Using on/off pulses, process until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
  6. Add cold milk mixture. Using on/off pulses, process until moist clumps begin to form.
  7. Transfer dough to a floured work surface. Knead until the dough holds together (about six turns).
  8. Roll out dough to 1/2-inch thickness. Using two-inch diameter biscuit or cookie cutter, cut out biscuits. Reroll dough scraps and cut out additional biscuits, making sixteen biscuits total.
  9. Transfer biscuits to large baking sheet. Bake until golden brown, about twelve minutes. Serve biscuits warm.

You might think, looking at these two recipes, that I’m a huge fan of Bon Appétit, which isn’t the case. I subscribed for a couple of years, and clipped interesting recipes, but generally I find the magazine to ad-centric for my tastes. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m now partial to Cook’s Illustrated.

Comments


On 04 January 2004 (12:30 PM),
J.D. Roth said:

Over the past several months, I’ve made some refinements to the clam chowder recipe. Here are the most important:

  • The recipe calls for one pound of potatoes. Two cups of potatoes (or about three medium russets) is close enough.
  • I use more bacon than the recipe calls for. I like five slices of thick bacon instead of three.
  • I’ve increased the amount of half-and-half from 1-1/4 cups to 2 cups, but this may actually decrease the intensity of the flavors, so be careful.
  • Note that when you fry the bacon in the butter, the bacon fat will become gummy and stick to the bottom of the pan. Do not be alarmed. When you add the veggies in the next step, their juices will wash the bottom of the pan clean.
  • I’m not sure why you’re not supposed to let the flour brown. Anyone know?
  • Try not to let the chowder boil.

I still make this chowder all the time, and can never get enough of it.



On 24 January 2005 (06:38 PM),
J.D. said:

Here’s an important note: the beginning of step four is the key to transforming this chowder from simple excellence to the status of Best Ever. I only just learned this technique a few weeks ago, when Kris read the recipe for the first time. She guided my hand and showed me how to develop a roux.

If, in step four, one adds the reserved juices just a bit at a time, whisking vigorously between additions, the stuff in the pot thickens and develops into a sort of paste. This is the roux (pronounced “rue”). And a thick, gooey roux will yield a thick, delicious chowder.

Actually, the taste is left unchanged; the chowder is just as good without attention to this step. But the texture is much more appealing, and worth the minimal effort to achieve.

More insights a year or two from now.