What a horrible thing to wake up to

After my first trip to the bathroom last night, I returned to bed and was dozing off to the sight of our dog Lucy snuggled up tight in Cara’s arms. And then I heard this. (Turn your sound up.)

I think it was a fox. There’s an outside chance it could be a mountain lion. They both make wretched sounds at night, the sort of thing that makes your sphincter clinch. Noises that make it easy to see where early horror stories originated. I’ll tell you this, if I was a pioneer back in the day, or Native American before then, and had to listen to this at night without the benefit of being on the second floor of a house with nice sturdy walls, I might have just thrown myself in a river rather than try to sleep through that every night.

And the audio here doesn’t remotely do it justice. Whatever it was was off to the southwest, but it sounded like it was right outside the window — right outside all the windows.

Special bonus track: If you listen really closely, you’ll hear an elk right around the 16-second mark. It was off to the north somewhere.

The cat-eating alien that America loved

Alf - 1986-1990

Funny how the internet works. At some point in the last week or two, someone on Twitter was discussing “ALF,” which led to someone else discussing ALF, which led to me remembering ALF, which led to me digging up this oral history of “ALF” from 2016 that I absolutely loved at the time. Because I loved ALF.

Now some of you of a certain age are likely asking, “Who is Alf?” and “Why do you keep capitalizing his name like you’re some sort of deranged PR spokesman who thinks this Alf is a client or something.”

ALF actually stands for Alien Life Form. ALF was the star of “ALF,” a hit sit-com on NBC in the mid 80s. ALF was, in fact, a puppet. That’s right, after a string of humiliating flops, including a pilot season in which NBC didn’t order anything (“Manimal!”), the network greenlit a primetime sitcom whose main character was a loud-mouthed alien who ate cats, drank beer, and was basically an insult comic. And this alien was a puppet.

And it was apparently one of Ronald Reagan’s favorite shows. Mine too! Even though I don’t remember any of it — especially the episode in which ALF, who is a puppet, gets his own puppet. From the oral history.

“We did an episode, ‘I’m Your Puppet,’ which gave ALF a puppet of his own. That was written by Al Jean and Mike Reiss [The Simpsons], and their original script was very dark, almost Twilight Zone-ish. It kind of creeped people out.”

Anyway, go read this old piece. It’s hilarious and dark and gets at just how insane TV is.


Iceland: Snorkeling and Other Water Sports

Photo courtesy of Dive.IS

We went snorkeling in Iceland. In March.

If you did a double-take and thought, “Why the hell would you do that?”, that’s exactly why I did it. One of the many reasons for traveling is to brag to your friends and family that you went somewhere. But if everyone’s going somewhere, it makes it harder to brag about your special, very unique vacation. If we end up going to Vietnam-Cambodia-Thailand later in the year, we’ll have to book a landmine-clearing excursion just to have something unique to write home about. Oh well. I guess we still have “Getting married at The Four Seasons in Bora Bora.”

(Previously: Day 1. Day 2. Day 3.)

At any rate, everyone’s going to Iceland these days. It used to be backpackers and Northeastern folks stopping on a layover to or from Europe. No longer. Everyone is there. EVERY. ONE. Northern Lights. Shrug. Glacier hiking. Yawn. Ate a horse? Pffft. Did you try the urine-soaked shark? (No.)

So I booked a snorkeling trip.

Continue reading “Iceland: Snorkeling and Other Water Sports”

Suckling Pig Sous Vide

I know this isn’t a suckling pig, but how cute is he? (Credit: Ben Salter)

Dear Internet,

For my birthday this year, Cara gave me an Anova Precision Cooker so I could try my hand at sous vide. I was hoping for a man-ring or maybe some sexy underwear*, but alas, another kitchen appliance.

It seems like a neat tool, even if its motto should be, “All the food you like in six times the amount of time you usually need to cook it.”

For those of you unfamiliar with sous vide, it’s the process by which you place your food in a plastic bag — typically vacuum-sealed (but it doesn’t have to be) — and then place the bag into a bath of water. The water is heated to the desired target temperature of your food. Medium-rare steak, for example, is somewhere in the 130-degree area. So you set your sous-vide to heat the water to 130, put the steak in a bag, draw the air out of the bag, seal it, plop it in the water and leave the steak in there for about an hour or longer (depending on thickness). You don’t have to worry about overcooking with sous vide, so you get very tender meat that is uniform all the way through. Just take it out the bag and sear it and voila! With the Anova Precision Cooker, all you need is a tub and water. You don’t have to do it anywhere near the stove. (Is “That’s what she said” still a thing?)

But instead of farting around with steak or chicken or pork chops, I figured I’d jump right in and start with a suckling pig.

I’ve got a tub big enough and the Food Saver that my good friend Shawn Adamson gave us as a wedding present came with a roll of bagging material sufficient to create a properly sized bag. As for the pig, it turns out you can find anything in Brooklyn.

But here’s where the problems start.

Getting the pig into the bag and getting the bag sealed. The pig didn’t seem to mind getting a marinade massage (Pro tip: Just steer clear of his eyes and snout!), but all hell broke loose when I tried to cram it into the bag. That damn piglet wasn’t remotely cooperative with getting into the bag. The squealing upset the dogs and, I’d assume, the neighbors. (Pro tip: If you have a landlord who lives downstairs, be sure to try this only when he’s at work.)

But mama didn’t raise no quitter. Eventually, the pig was bagged and the bag sealed.

The size of the tub. Although I knew it would take forever to heat the water with the wand, I thought a bigger tub would be better. (Pro tip: You can cheat by heating water on the stove to get it closer to temperature faster.) I figured it would allow the water to circulate better. But the bigger tub also allowed the pig to thrash around like crazy. I don’t know why I was surprised. I’ve boiled crawfish and crabs before, and they’ve never been happy about hitting the water. Who hasn’t lost at least one crawfish that managed to vault itself out of the pot before you clamp the lid down? But there’s no lid involved in sous vide, sadly. I guess part of me thought since the water wasn’t actually boiling, the pig wouldn’t mind as much. But boy did it?! And I ended up with water all over the kitchen. All I can say is thank god I didn’t do this on the living room table so I could watch TV while cooking. (Pro tip: Even though you CAN sous vide anywhere in the house, you should keep it in the kitchen for just this reason.  (Another Pro tip: Make sure your spouse isn’t home.))**

The sealed bag did restrict the pig’s movement some, but not as much as I would have liked. Maybe I need an industrial sealer. On the upside, I think the struggling did exhaust what little oxygen was still in the bag and he quieted down soon enough.

The mess. But before he finally quieted down and even though I’d removed any excess space in the bag, the pig managed to “leak” quite a bit. Thankfully, the bag held strong. Unfortunately, I had to throw the whole thing away.

Now look, you’re probably saying, “Duh, Ken. You have to clean an animal before you cook it like that.” But cooking is all about experimentation. You want to make the same scrambled eggs the same way your entire life, be my guest.

Besides, I thought maybe all the internal stuff would add flavor. It works with shrimp, doesn’t it? So why wouldn’t it work with a pig? Maybe next time I should purge the pig like people do with crawfish. But I’d like to avoid any harsh laxatives. Adding drugs or chemicals to the process defeats the whole purpose, right?

Anyway, if any of you have tried this and have had success, let me know!


*That’s a joke, yall.
** Ugh. Double parentheses. Do I even have the period in the right place on that one?


I Welcome Our Robot Overlords

To military hardware geeks and those who spend countless hours surfing the web, this video from Boston Dynamics is pretty old. But it came up in conversation this morning and I figured I’d let it haunt the dreams of those who haven’t seen it.

Sure, like most military tech, it could have plenty of peace-time applications that improve the quality of life for civilians. But don’t bet on it. Because that process usually takes years. And by that point, SkyNet will have become self-sufficient and this will be one of the foot soldiers it uses to herd us into flesh pens where we will be turned into batteries.

Let slip the robot dogs of war.

There Are Two Types of Men in the World

There are two types of men in the world:

1. Those who, while standing at a urinal doing their business, think it’s perfectly fine to pick their noses and then wipe the results on the wall in front of them.

2. The rest of us, who stand there confronted with the results of such people, thinking, “Seriously, dude? What the fuck?”

Dear USTA and U.S. Open Sponsors

I’m not going to gripe about the price of tickets or the price of concessions or the exclusive Heineken sponsorship that forced me to drink, well Heineken, or even the weather, as you had no control over that.

But a few questions:

1. Upon arriving at the stadium bag-free as per your security notes, I was told that e-readers were not allowed in the stadium. E-READERS! iPhones, BlackBerries, video cameras, real cameras, these things are all allowed. On these things one can take pictures, video, talk, blog, surf the web. On an e-reader, one can … read. Why does the USTA hate literacy? By the way, I went to another entrance and snuck mine in, so take THAT!

2. Why don’t you take a tougher stance against guidos and goombas there to socialize rather than watch tennis? (Granted, it’s sometimes hard to distinguish these from Eurotrash, but I think Eurotrash typically wears better shoes.)

3. As folks were standing around in the rain on Sunday, going into the fourth hour of delay for the men’s final, CBS was broadcasting the previous day’s match. The minute they went to a live shot of the empty stadium and put up a graphic saying something about the match being postponed until Monday, you cut the transmission. And then didn’t make an announcement for another ten to fifteen minutes. WTF? No. Seriously. WTF?

4. Sure there are contracts and TV rights to consider but you do realize there is a difference between Sunday at 4 p.m. and Monday at 4 p.m.? Right? Then again, I imagine you might be a bunch of slack-jawed suburbanites or rich and out of touch. Here’s a hint. Monday is a weekday. Sunday is a weekend. Besides it’s not like anyone needed to see CBS Monday-night lineup. Then again you already had the money from ticket-goers so what did you care?

5. After one day of rain delay, rain moved again on Monday and the entire stadium seem unprepared. Concessions were closed. I assumed that was done because of lightning. But on our level (the prole level), they simply weren’t reopened. It was hard to get a straight answer from anyone whether they were out of food or simply didn’t feel like opening. I did see one long line of people have the screen pulled down in their faces. People were forced to eat $5 ice cream bars for dinner. (And by people I mean me.) And you ran out of beer on an entire level. YOU RAN OUT OF BEER!?!?!

6. No. Seriously. You ran out of beer?