Mr Pigeon advances on Ms Pigeon

Mr Pigeon advances on Ms Pigeon

Today’s post is instructions for how to do something I don’t know how to do. I looked out the window and saw a pigeon from the flock across the street and had my idea. Then I realized it would probably actually be pretty easy to catch a single pigeon, so I’m upping the ante and will now enlighten you as to how to catch more than one during the same operation.

I believe the key to achieving success in this endeavor is to attempt it during mating season. Unknown-by-me thing #1: do pigeons have discreet times of the year when they seek a mate or are they kind of generally always randy? For the purpose of this instructional, we’ll assume that the gentleman pigeon is more interested in the ladies during particular times.

The one thing that I and anyone who’s watched Mary Poppins know is that pigeons will go where the goodies are. An additional aspect of pigeon behavior that I have personally observed in the Riverside Plaza flock is that Ms Pigeon does not really give amorous Mr Pigeon the time of day, going to far as to actively avoid him, despite his impressive chest-puffing. He can make his neck look three or four times thicker than it really is. I will use both of these facts to my advantage.

The capturing of two pigeons begins the same as the capturing of one pigeon. Find a cardboard box that has ample room for both birds. Tie a long string to a stick. Prop up the box with the stick. Put some irresistibly tasty bird seed under the back of the box. Hide behind a nearby tree and wait.

It shouldn’t be too long before Ms Pigeon makes her way toward the box with its tasty treats, especially if she’s used to having food provided, as is the case with the Riverside Plaza flock. She will probably head right under the box because she’s used to being fed in a fairly safe environment and doesn’t have danger on her mind (except for love-minded Mr Pigeon). But don’t pull the string just yet.

Unknown-by-me thing #2: I was going to make this second assumption but as I sit here thinking about it, I realize it’s probably a moot point. I was going to hope that Mr Pigeon would be so distracted by his amorous advances that he wouldn’t notice that he was following Ms Pigeon under the box and into potential danger. I would yank the string and have two birds in my hand, so to speak.

I do now realize that these instructions are unnecessary. It wouldn’t matter if Mr Pigeon were following his hormones and Ms Pigeon, or just following the trail of bird seed. Either way he’d be under the box with Ms Pigeon due to an uncontrollable urge.

That also means that these instructions are guaranteed to work.

Ugh, letter to 16yo me, not

September 26, 2013

yearbook photo

Usually when I see that someone has written a letter to their something-year-old self I roll my eyes and move on immediately. And now I’m supposed to do that very thing. Groan.

There isn’t actually any reassurance or advice you can give your adolescent self because at that age, you’re going to think you know it all and not listen anyway. And that will just be frustrating for your current self. Nobody wins in this situation.

The thing I’ve always said with regard to this topic is that I wouldn’t be who I am today if I hadn’t lived my life the way I have and done the things I’ve done, and since I more or less like myself, I wouldn’t really advise myself to do much differently. And even if I had tried to advise myself, I certainly wouldn’t have listened to someone else giving me directions.

I still don’t.

Right. This is a dead-end.


8:15. It is, of course, a workday for me. I bike to work every day in the not-cold weather. I’ve wimped out. I used to bike all year, down to about 15F/-10C and/or unless it was slippery-slushy-treacherous. Not any more. Now I only go down to about 40F/5C, mostly because I prefer to walk, but when it’s nice outside I can’t overlook the time savings of biking, even though it’s more stressful. I have to cross from one side of downtown to the other. I forgot to start taking photos, so you get the original of one I took to post on Instagram.


8:30. I am at my desk. I’ve eaten my breakfast and checked in with the kitten cam (eating breakfast while I’m dong things like checking email saves me precious minutes at home). It’s time to dig in. I’m project managing and art directing a 500+-page illustrated children’s story bible. No time to waste!


9:30. Oh damn, nobody made coffee yet.


10:30. My boss asked me to read a thing. It’s a series of sort of spoofy, fake news stories written from the points of view of characters from other books that we’re publishing.


11:45. Lunch at my desk. I usually eat at my desk whether I pack or go out and bring something back. Today it’s the veggie pie recipe I posted last week. In this week’s version I used brown rice, a poblano pepper, a red bell pepper, an onion, and three tomatoes. Still versatile, still delicious!


12:45. Post-lunch. This is the first and last bathroom mirror selfie you will ever, EVAR see of me.


2:00. I drink a lot of water anyway, plus the air in our building is really dry, so I feel better if I drink even more water. At a minimum I drink one glass in the morning, one with lunch, and one or two in the afternoon. Lately I’ve been getting two in before lunch, partly as a result of the weather’s having been incredibly hot for a stretch.


2:45. We play hangman with dry erase markers on the kitchen window. I’m the wordmaster this time around. The word is hubbub.


3:45. Still slaving away.


4:45. Freedom! Or at least it will be when I make it back across downtown.


5:00. First destination of the evening, a neighborhood, er, microbrewery?… brewpub? This is Minnesota and we still have on the books antiquated liquor laws from the Prohibition Era that restrict how breweries may behave. Because this one is classified as a brewpub (I think that’s what they actually are), they must keep production below 3,500 barrels per year. They’ve gotten around this by exploiting a loophole which allows them to increase capacity if they have additional physical locations. So they’ve opened a tap bar and a bowling alley bar, which garners them an extra two 3,500s of capacity per year. But I digress.

The bowling alley venue just opened up and I am in one of the inaugural bowling leagues there. I was talking to the owner as I bowled against him and he said I should get to the brewery and try the limited release very limited quantity wee heavy ale that they had tapped a few days earlier which wouldn’t be around for long and which had turned out particularly well this year (each of the three locations serve all the regular beers, but each also has one or two brews that are exclusive to it). Since the brewery is across the street from my actual first destination on Wednesdays, I complied. It was, in fact, delicious as promised. Not as boozy as some wee heavies and with a pleasant brown sugar and prune taste.


5:45. Now I’m across the street waiting for my usual early activity, beer school. Yes, I said beer school. There’s a really nifty organization called the Better Beer Society that was formed to be an educational facilitator both for people who offer and serve beer and for people who drink beer. To that end, they put on two thirteen-week sessions per year of Beer University. I am a longtime student.


6:45. This week it was learning about three of the four basic ingredients of beer (malted grain, yeast, hops, and water), which kinds of flavors each imparts, and how to taste beer, presented by beer smartypants Michael Agnew. We sampled five without knowing what they were and had to identify what we tasted, and then make a guess about the style if not the actual brand. I correctly guessed the first sample to be Victory Prima Pils and the fourth to be Rodenbach Grand Cru. I am ashamed that I did not recognize that the third sample was Odell Myrcenary, one of my top favorite beers. It was fun and interesting as always.


8:00. Now I’m at another neighborhood venue where I kill two birds with one stone. First up is to drink the Midweek Beer Geek beer, which is usually something limited that’s just been released for the season or ever, or something less common that maybe is in extremely limited release. This week it was Stone 17th Anniversary Götterdämmerung (whoa, iOS, totally impressive that you predicted Götterdämmerung after just the Gött!). Over the last couple of years, I’ve gotten pretty geeky with a lot of people who work in beer in town, so the local Stone Brewing brewery rep, Corey, was happy to mug it up with me for a photo. I’m going to leave the photo dark because he doesn’t know that I wanted the picture to post here.


9:30. The smartest thing I did in the context of beer, bars, and doing things was to defect from my Thursday bocce ball league to a Wednesday team (with one of my fellow Midweek Beer Geeks)—because I’m there anyway. There are two courts and four shifts, so our matches begin anywhere between 6:15 and 10:00 (there’s a schedule, of course). Tonight we played at 8:45. We actually won two of the three games. We’re very streaky.


10:30. As if I haven’t already had enough fun on Wednesdays, a year or so ago I realized that yet another other neighborhood bar has karaoke. If you’ve been with me on this blog for a long time, you may remember that I used to publish my Thursday Karaoke Report, where I’d share crappy iPhone recordings of my karaoke warblings after bowling. I still record every performance but I’m not currently doing that over here on WordPress, though I was thinking I might at least make a page to just list what I’ve sung each time.

Karaoke is where I get in trouble, because I love it so much that I tend to stay until the bitter end, and then I’m so amped up that it can sometimes be 2am by the time I get to sleep. That, of course, makes for some rather difficult Thursdays. Tonight, though I still felt compelled to go over there, oddly enough I wasn’t actually in the mood to sing, though of course I did. It was busy and I was tired already anyway, so I did actually hit the sidewalk after just the one song. Last week it was really fun because it was really slow, to the point that it was just me, another gal, and the bar staff, to Joel the host got it in his head that we all should. participate in running through the Beatles’ Abbey Road album. It was a blast! And yes, I recorded the whole thing.


Midnight. So I actually got home early for a Wednesday, though not nearly early enough for how tired I was the whole day. The cat’s got the right idea.

Good night!

I got caught doing what?!

September 15, 2013

I’d need a while if I were to recount all of the incredibly embarrassing moments I’ve endured in my life. But whenever the topic comes up, there is one incident that my memory invariably shoots straight to, even though it was, now, forty years ago.

the scene of the embarrassmentI was about ten years old. I went into the Lawson’s Dairy, the 1970s version of today’s convenience store, I don’t even remember why. Maybe my mom had charged me with the important task of buying some milk, or maybe I merely intended to procure some candy with my allowance. I don’t recall that part. I only remember that curiosity got the better of the cat and I innocently picked up a Playboy or Penthouse and started leafing through it all wide-eyed with wonder.

The store attendant, an “older” man (so probably in his thirties or forties) with dark hair, glasses, and a mustache, bustled over to me and grabbed the magazine out of my hands. “You shouldn’t be looking at that!” I don’t know which one of us was actually more embarrassed. I do know that I nearly ran him over trying to push past him to exit the store as hastily as possible, absolutely mortified. It was a long, long time before I’d go back into that store.

And now for something lighter: I can’t believe I’ve never shared a list of pet peeves before! Roughly in order, then, from most annoying.

Fingernail clipping. I don’t shave my legs at the office, please have the courtesy to at least go into another room if you must spontaneously groom in the middle of the workday.

Open-mouth chewing. I get that you’re enthusiastic about your baby carrots. But I have started leaving for my lunch break when you make your lunch because I can’t take another half hour of your open- mouthed chomping. Crunches carry. To twenty feet way.

Smokers in front of building entryways. This one particularly gets my goat when I get to work in the morning. I am all freshly showered and optimistic about how much ass I’m going to kick today. I get immediately cranky when I have to walk through your cloud of fumes and smell it in my hair for the next hour. Thanks for ruining my day before it gets started, chump. Move your stinky habit a few feet away from the door.

People in front of me walking more slowly but not in a straight line so I am unable to pass. I know I’ve ranted about this before. Walking in public throughways would go ever so smoothly if only people observed the same conventions when walking as they do driving. Stay on your side of the road, slower traffic to the side.

People in front of me walking three or four abreast so that I am unable to pass. Please have some awareness of yourselves in the wide world. You are not the only bodies in motion and some of those other bodies would like to get around you.

People walking toward me two, three, four abreast who don’t break rank and expect me to give way. I don’t. I’ve bumped into people. Why should I flatten my solo self against the wall because you’re too self-important to have common courtesy?

Fellow bicyclists who blow through red lights and stops signs. You are breaking the law. You are a safety hazard.

SUVs on the road. We live in Minnesota and we have snowy winters and you want to feel secure on the road. I get that, especially since I have a little gnat of a car and often feel very insecure in winter driving conditions. But so often it seems like you drive with an air of entitlement and complete lack of consideration toward your fellow road warrior. It is not all about you. We’re all rushed and trying to get somewhere.

Not saying please or thank you. I might have told this story before, too. One night at closing time in my youth, I barked a command at the night manager. He completely stopped what he was doing, turned to me with his full attention, and say, “You know, I would like my job so much better if you guys just said ’please’ and ’thank you.’” That has stuck with me for these last thirty years and I try very, very hard to abide by it every time. Every time. It’s not hard and it does make things so much nicer for the party on the receiving end.

Litterers. Show some respect for the neighborhood at small and the world at large.

Other people’s toddlers and small children, usually. It most often happens at the farmer’s market or other crowded gatherings such as the State Fair. Your child is not the most precious thing to the rest of the world and nobody wants to hear it badgering you until you give in because parents these days are afraid to say no and mean it. If it is so young that can’t self-locomote, leave it and your double-wide stroller at home.

Please, was that eleven things? Thank you.

Hard for me, harder for her

September 8, 2013

Two years ago, my cousin and her fiancé were in a car accident. They were stopped in traffic in an interstate highway construction zone. They were behind a semi-truck. Another one barreled up from behind. It turned them and their little Honda into sandwich filling. They both had serious head injuries. I suppose that’s redundant. When is a head injury not serious? When is it not life-changing?

I will preface whatever else I write today with the acknowledgement that anything I felt or feel is nothing compared to what my cousin, her fiancé, and both their families struggled with and will continue to struggle with for the rest of all their lives. I know that I’m just a bystander and that in life, it’s not about me.

But this blog entry is. The immediate aftermath of the accident ranks right up there as one of the hardest things I’ve been through. That’s why it’s been more than a week since I last wrote. I had to work up to this. Selfish.

Me and cousin A, a week after her birth. One of the only times in my life that I've held a baby.

Me and cousin A, a week after her birth. One of the only times in my life that I’ve held a baby.

I have a small family. I’m an only child, my mom’s an only child, and my dad has one brother. My uncle and his wife have two children. The oldest, A, the one in the accident, is seventeen years younger than I, and our two branches of the family never lived nearby geographically. My cousins and my parents are pretty close, but not them and me.

Nevertheless, when my parents called to tell me about the accident, the family instincts kicked in. The first thing to do was shepherd my other cousin, A’s sister M, through her overnight layover from Montana through Minneapolis to Michigan. I brought her back to my place for a few hours of fitful sleep, then got her back out to the airport. M is outdoorsy. She didn’t care about a refreshing shower.

The next day at work, I began making my own arrangements to go to Michigan. Fortunately my schedule usually can be pretty flexible, so I was the first of my family to be able to go. I didn’t know what I was in for.

Again, because of our tiny family size, I haven’t had to deal with many misfortunes. My parents are ridiculously healthy. My four grandparents all made it to old age, so there weren’t any big surprises when they died in their 80s, 90s, and, finally, 105. I’ve attended the funerals of friends’ loved ones, but those weren’t people I had a huge vested interest in. I had my own visit to the emergency room a few years ago for what turned out to be severe heartburn brought on by a week of eating tomato-based dishes breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Don’t laugh. Women tend not to think they’re having heart attacks. I didn’t want to be a statistic. Twelve hours later it all made sense.

My point is, nothing in my life had prepared me for the shock of seeing my cousin lying unconscious in a hospital bed.

You see it in movies and in soap operas. You see actors with fake needles in their arms and fake tubes in their mouths. You see actors weeping at the bedsides of their actor fake relatives. It doesn’t prepare you for the first time you see a real person whom you actually care about lying unconscious in a hospital bed with needles in her arms, a tube down her throat, a tube in her neck, her delicate hands that could play the violin so well lying limp at the side of her induced comatose body. It just doesn’t. And then you go into the next room and see her beloved lying there in the same condition.

A and A (my cousin’s fiancé is also an A, also a musician, and I think it’s appropriate that I’m not using their full names) had just finished packing up their Michigan home to move to Boston for job opportunities, with their wedding to follow soon thereafter in Wisconsin where my aunt and uncle live(d).

I am an emotional ice queen. It’s not that I don’t feel stuff, but I don’t often give much away outwardly. I partly get that from my dad. With my mom, nothing is unknown. She doesn’t filter, and she kind of badgers and passive-aggressives to have things go her preferred way. My dad, on the other hand, internalizes, maintains a pretty even keel, and mostly goes with the flow. I internalize, too, combined with the life experience of failed relationships and not wanting to make that emotional commitment too soon. I try to save my energy for the things that matter more.

I guess I had been saving it up for the moment I saw my aunt and uncle, which was followed closely by the moment I was ushered into A’s hospital room. I became a puddle of mush. My aunt and uncle had the advantage of having had a week already to culture their disbelief and numbness. I was fresh.

I stayed for a week. I met A’s good friends and cousins-in-law from my aunt’s side. Everybody was trying to be optimistic about A’s chances. I feel guilty because at the time I was more in the realistic camp as it seemed in those early days. I felt guilty for not having been a better cousin in the previous thirty-one years. At A’s bedside I promised to do better, but I haven’t. I still feel guilty.

I’m happy to report that I’ve been proved wrong about A’s recovery, at least. Again I’ll say that nothing you learn about head injuries leads you to think that things will return to the old normal. But A is leading a decent life, considering her circumstances. She remains in Michigan and my aunt and uncle live there with her. She has resumed many professional musician activities, though she has issues with short-term memory.

I don’t know the status of A’s relationship with her fiancé, whether they are still considered to be engaged. He, too, has made a recovery, but is not as well physically. He has paralysis, which includes not being able to swallow, and is confined to a wheelchair, though his mental faculties are intact and strong. He is back in Indiana with his parents.

I don’t know how to deftly wrap this up. Thanks for reading.

Lies, lies, lies, yeah

September 1, 2013

I fib regularly. So do you. If you claim not to, then you’re lying! I massage the facts, I don’t tell the whole truth, I say I like the food or the beer when I didn’t quite. Everybody does it. Then there are the things that I’ll tell to health professionals in whatever field but about which I’ll keep stumm in casual conversation. You don’t need to know some of those details.

But have I ever told a whopper of a lie? I honestly can’t remember. Continuing on the theme that has cropped up the last couple of posts of remembering back to my youth (which is longer ago for me than it probably is for you), I imagine there must certainly have been things that I lied to my parents about. Well, no imagining about it. You’re a teenager, you lie to your parents.

Actually, going back to that list of things that I remember about where I grew up and the peeing along the side of the church incident, I know I lied to my mom about that. She, of course, wanted to know why I hadn’t just come home to use the bathroom. Home was two doors down. I told her that I just had to go so bad that I wet my pants. I didn’t confess that Lulu had shown me how she always did that and goaded me into doing it with her, sans pulling down my shorts.

When I was an older child, maybe eight or nine, I perpetrated some vandalism. I ended up being questioned about it by the administrators of the building and I did out and out lie and say I knew nothing about what happened. I imagine the adults all really did know it had been me because after it happened I was no longer taken along to that place. Don’t ask, I’m not telling more than that!

Some youthful indiscretions I didn’t get away with. The main one I remember was when I stole pocketfuls of penny candy from the drug store. Naturally, my parents wanted to know where I had gotten it all. I could maintain the subterfuge for only so long, and then it turned into a confession, and then into the inevitable kid learning experience of taking the unconsumed items back to the store and shaming myself to the owner.

The other one that I remember “getting away with” was in high school when I had entered into my rebellious phase the second year after we moved. I stayed out all night for the first time ever with my friend Kurt. When my parents and I were having the heart-to-heart in the aftermath I told them everything except where we had actually been, which was behind a rollaway bed in an upstairs back hallway in the Holiday Inn.

I can’t think of any major lies that I’ve told as an adult. Of course I pull the occasional sickie—again, who doesn’t? And I suppose I do have to count the times when I’ve proclaimed “I’m fine to drive” knowing I probably wasn’t actually.

Lying is an uncomfortable thing to think about. What’s your biggest lie?

photo of me not lying about anything

Age 6-1/2, amusing myself at home drawing a picture, which doesn’t require lying. Note how my mom artfully framed me off-center so that she also captured the Christmas decoration on the coffee table behind me.


I don’t exactly remember the day I moved out. By that I mean it was either when I moved into the boarding house or into the college dorm. I have a document at home (I’m writing from elsewhere) that I believe will shed light on the matter. I haven’t updated it for many years because I’ve lived at my last two addresses for eleven and eight years respectively, and I’ve had my job for over eighteen.

I’m inclined to think that it was the boarding house to which I moved when I first left the nest. When I get home and can refer to my sheet we may find that it was the dorm, but the boarding house is where I’ll start. The only thing I can say that I remember for sure without consulting the reference material is that I was at university for only two and a half weeks my first go-round. (Also, geez, life-changing high school occurrence and first moving out, I’m going to have a nervous breakdown remembering these things from my youth!)

I tried college for a couple of weeks. It didn’t work out. The following semester I tried again. I lasted a little longer but still nowhere near a full term. I think it was about then that I made my move.

It was my first experience, so I knew nothing about anything, not what “a room” meant, or “shared,” or “boarding,” or any of it. I just knew it was what seemed like an inexpensive price that meant I wouldn’t be living with my parents anymore. As a post-high school teenager, not living with your parents can seem like the most important thing.

I wasn’t savvy enough to have gone over and looked the place in advance. I only reacted to the “facts” in the newspaper ad. If I had been, I wouldn’t have been surprised when my part of the arrangement turned out to be as the (bed)roommate of another young lady. The “private” room was merely the semi-divided off area in between the stairs to upstairs and the other divided-off area beyond which my comrade and I slept. She and I had to go through “private” room to go back downstairs to the bathroom. There were not, as I recall, any doors in our upstairs area, just half-walls.

Here is where you will either roll your eyes or think, huh? One of my favorite memories of the place involves the house TV downstairs. By which I mean the television that we young squirts could watch after our older landlord-couple retired for the evening. When you’re eighteen or nineteen, the age I am now (fifty) seems like the end of the world. They were probably about that age then.

I remember coming home after work one night (again, I’d have to consult the document in order to say exactly where that was). It seemed that the old people had gone to bed so, it being the age when MTV actually played music videos (first half of the ’80s), I took advantage and turned the TV on real low to MTV. It was about two-thirds through Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” video when the old man came in and said the equivalent of “turn that long-haired hippy-freak music down you damned kids!”

That was the last time that I dared to turn the television on in that house.

It wasn’t long after that that my coccaine-snorting though good-looking acquaintance Jon sent some flowers to the house. Everybody got very excited and thought a proposal as imminent. I did not, but they were all a little sheltered.

It was a month-to-month arrangement, I stayed there only a few months. I think I also remember that I had bought some pans to use in the house kitchen, because we had to supply our own supplies. I think my two porcelain pots are those original equipment.

When I attempted to resume university the next time (after a year at a technical college where I learned some computer programming on punch cards), I decided it would be a good idea to move into a dorm. I didn’t go away but I still wanted to get away.

I had an adjustment or two of roommates, but it wasn’t awful by any stretch of the imagination. There are some boy things I could go into (like a crush starting a rumor about himself just to see how gossipy we all really were, and we were) but my fondest memory was about Def Leppard.

The album “Pyromania” had just come out. Pauline, who lived across the hall, and I both possessed it. For a few weeks we loved nothing more than to fire up our record players and play dealing turntables with Pyromania. I think we had fun just coordinating the synchronization, but I enjoyed also the imprecise phasing in and out of how the 33-1/3 revolutions per minute happened (you know, 33rpm) and how that sort of simulated cross-hall stereophonics. You know, hi-fi.

The other main memory about moving out over the years is that the first time (or two or three), everything I took with me fit in the back of my 1973 periwinkle AMC Gremlin—with the back seat folded down. Eight years ago for my last move (some twenty-five years later), I rented the largest U-Haul truck and filled it to capacity. Next time, I’ll probably have to hire an actual moving service.

I often have nightmares about having to move back in with my parents. Shiver me timbers. That would never work. That’s why it’s a nightmare!

– – – – – – – – –

me in the dorm

Now that I’ve been able to consult my sheet, I see that time has clouded my memories. I lived in that boarding house for only one month, it looks like, and I had two other addresses besides my parents’ house before I moved into the dorm two and a half years later.

I was going to give you the Street View shot of the boarding house, but the town doesn’t rate full coverage so there’s only a low resolution satellite view. Then I thought I’d show you the dorm, but Street View only goes on the parallel street a block away. So I guess you’ll have to make do with this photo of me in the dorm. One of my finer moments, for sure!


This is one of those wonderful recipes that comes out fantastically no matter how hard you try to wreck it. If you broadly generalize, you only need three ingredients—2 cups cooked grain, 6 cups chopped/sliced vegetables, 3 ounces grated cheese—well, and seasoning. The beauty of it is you can use whatever you have lying around, as you will see below when you compare how I made it tonight with the original.


As are many of my favorite vegetables, tomatillos are currently in season and I wanted to get some at the farmer’s market this afternoon. I found an excellent tomatillo soup recipe (by the way, disregard the photo of the red soup that is the default and click through until you find the lovely photo of green soup in a square white bowl—that’s how it really is, and I pulled the chicken rather than diced it) but since we’ve been in the depths of the summer sauna for the last week, soup is kind of the last thing on my mind, delicious though that recipe is. Then I remembered the Cooking Light (magazine) roasted vegetable tart that I’ve been making for years and knew I could make a Southwestern version based around the tomatillos. I trotted over to the market and filled my bag up with the fixins, then quickly retreated back to the subpar air conditioning in the office.

Thursdays during the non-winter season (this is Minnesota, we were still having snow in April and May this year) the market happens downtown on Nicollet Mall. It’s an offshoot of the larger, daily market on the west edge of downtown. It’s pretty good, though I’d estimate that about half of the vendors don’t grow anything and peddle the B- or C-string commercial produce that stores and restaurants reject. I’m a little skeptical that those bananas were grown here in the northwoods.


For actual farmer-grown stock, it is my impression that the best bet is the stalls on the north end between 5th and 6th Streets. And if they don’t grow what they sell themselves, at least they have the courtesy to hide the commercial waxed cardboard boxes and remove the stickers from the items. But I’m confident that their offerings are homegrown. I remembered from a couple years ago that the one family had tomatillos—big, giant, fresh tomatillos. Tomatillos are one of my favorite, newer ingredient discoveries. I gave them a shout-out three years ago. You should try them if you are unfamiliar with them. My favorite way to use them is in my “Mexican” pizza—you can get the scoop on that under the third photo in this post.

Anyway, I’ve kept you long enough. Here’s the original recipe, and below is how I made it tonight. For simplicity’s sake I copied and pasted some of the instructions but that doesn’t mean I’m a plagiarist (erm…). I’m just lazy. You don’t be lazy and make this!


Southwestern Summer Vegetable Pie
(adapted from Cooking Light)

1/4 cup regular quinoa, cooked
1/4 cup red quinoa, cooked
1/4 cup black rice, cooked
2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
1/4 cup Swiss cheese, grated
1-1/2 cups sliced red bell pepper
1 cup sliced onion
2 cloves garlic, crushed/minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups sliced tomatillo
1 medium tomato, sliced
salt, pepper, oregano, crushed red peppers to taste
1/2 cup pepper Jack cheese, grated

Cook the grains according to package directions. Combine in a medium bowl and let cool.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 450°F. Toss the bell pepper, onion, garlic, and olive oil together in a bowl. Place mixture in a baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 450°F for 15 minutes.

Because the tomatillos and tomatoes cook down and get watery, I did the following. Place the tomatillos in a second baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 450°F for 10 minutes. You can do this concurrently with the peppers and onions. At the same time, sauté the tomatoes until their liquid is reduced, about 7 or 8 minutes. Combine all cooked vegetables in a bowl. Stir in seasoning.

Reduce the oven temperature to 400°F.

Combine the egg white and Swiss cheese with the quinoa mixture. Press into a 9-inch pie plate coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400°F for 10 minutes. Remove from oven.

Reduce oven temperature to 375°F.

Sprinkle 1/4 cup pepper Jack cheese over quinoa crust. Top with vegetable mixture. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup pepper Jack cheese. Bake at 375° for 30 minutes or until cheese is golden brown.


the robot and the canary

The robot shuffled into the country movie theatre. Its expectations were low. It was winter and the place was rundown, so it wasn’t surprised to learn that the heater wasn’t functioning. But the robot had a Saturday afternoon to kill, so it bought a ticket anyway and settled into a threadbare seat in the middle of the third row from the back.

The robot and the canary had the day off from the game they played with each other. They both enjoyed following the stock market. They found it intriguing to watch the ups and downs and imagined that profiting from it was much like making one’s fortune with a sword in medieval times, or at least the robot did. The canary wasn’t old enough to know anything about medieval times.

The robot, having traveled from the next inhabited system over, was very old. Its planet had the technology to build it itself and to build a ship to send it off on an adventure, but not to speed up the travel much. So the robot figured it was, well, it didn’t know exactly, so it chose the level of the Nasdaq on the day it arrived, and declared itself to be 3,578 years old plus two, for the two years it had been tested after being built. The robot was 3,580 years old.

The canary had a much easier time with its age. It knew it was the same age as the child in its house, and that was simple to remember because once a year the child’s family would have a party and the canary would count the number of candles on the cake thrust before the child. The canary was four.

The robot and the canary had met purely by accident. The robot’s first assignment was to locate 81RTHD47, another robot. The robot’s capsule had landed in the front yard in a suburban cul du sac, and it couldn’t believe its luck when it stumbled out of the pod and immediately laid its visual sensors on a sign that said “JEREMY’S 81RTHD47 PARTY HERE!” It didn’t know what a JEREMY or a PARTY was but it thought it very fortunate that 81RTHD47’s whereabouts were so conveniently labeled and immediately activated its retrieval mode.

The robot crashed into the building behind the sign. Its auditory sensors registered vocal music that included the word JEREMY. It moved toward the sound but was momentarily held at bay by rubbery pods of air that floated around JEREMY.

The robot quickly ascertained that 81RTHD47 was hidden somewhere in the building. It began smashing any compartments or walls that might be concealing the other robot. When the entire interior of the building was in shambles, the robot reluctantly concluded that 81RTHD47 was not on the premises after all.

As the robot picked its way through the debris, feeling like a failure for lack of success in the mission, it was distracted by a flash of yellow that flitted past its visual sensors. The color was accompanied by a different form of music, this more lighthearted and uplifting than the previous vocal sounds. The canary wished to thank the creature that had toppled its metal prison and set it free. And so the robot and the canary had become acquainted. They shared a beer that had rolled out of the toppled refrigerator and found they had much in common, not least an interest in both swords and numerical patterns.

So the robot and the canary had combined their ages. They were 3,584. For 3,584 minutes at a stretch, they would each play the stock market separately. At the end of the 3,584 minutes, or sixty days (they rounded to the nearest whole number), they would come together and see which of them had played the market most skillfully. The loser had to buy dinner the following weekend. On Monday they started the next round.

And so it was that the robot was passing a Saturday afternoon in an unheated theatre waiting for a bad movie to start, before its dinner date with a canary.

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My blogging topic tonight was the worst movie I ever did see but since I generally don’t get too worked up about movies, I instead went with a random word generator short story. I use randomly generated words (country, heater, robot) to get started, and every time I get stuck I generate another word to move the piece along. The random words are in bold. I try really hard not to censor the words or myself. It’s a good exercise and in the spirit of today’s blog subject prompt, I worked movie viewing into it. Here’s a previous story I wrote this way. This is the random word generator I used tonight.