I saw the world in a day

March 12, 2015

Nobel Peace Prize Forum posterLast Saturday, I attended the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize Forum. I heard its sponsorship promo on Minnesota Public Radio and perused their website, where saw that single-day tickets were $75(US), at which I initially balked. But then I thought, “you know, that’s not the kind of thing that comes to your town every day” and went for it. We could all use some global perspective, especially here in the United States.

The conference was over a three-day weekend. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter was the headline speaker on Friday and I would have loved to hear his presentation, but the topics of Saturday’s line-up, disarmament and sustainability, were more interesting to me in general. And Saturday also featured Steven Pinker, whose book The Stuff of Thought was enthusiastically recommended to me by a friend, which I found on discount at Barnes & Noble, which I bought and began reading, and whose chapter 2 I have not gotten beyond. My friend said that after about the third chapter, it was much less dry. Apparently I’ve not felt too compelled to investigate that for myself.

photo of reception area

The first impression is that this is a swanky place. But it really is just a large, cavernous room with movable tables holding artfully stacked coffee cups. Who decided on purple?

On the day, check-in began at 7:30am. Two parts of my grand plan for the day revolved around food. The conference was conveniently located in downtown Minneapolis, and even more conveniently in the part of it with which I am most familiar but which, sadly, is no longer where my office is. I carefully planned to arrive at the check-in pretty close to right at 7:30, and then go across the street to Au Bon Pain (whose website promised they opened at 8:00 on Saturdays) for one of my favorite breakfast items, the smoked salmon and wasabi bagel sandwich thing.

All of a sudden, spring has sprung here in the upper-midwest, so I biked the less-than two miles. I arrived at the check-in at 7:25, but they were ready for me! I killed time with a cup of coffee while I read the day’s schedule. At 7:55 I wandered over to the ABP (makes me think of AVB), only to find it not open, with 8:30 listed on the door as the actual time. I reconsulted their website and Google maps and concluded that I should be at the other one, the other one a couple blocks away. I wandered over there (okay, high-tailed it) only to find that it, too, was not open, nor would it be on a Saturday. I spent a lot of battery power in confusion and finally concluded anew that I should, in fact, go back to the original location.

By this time it was 8:15 and I was beginning to feel a little anxious because, as an only child, I am a slow eater. I resumed lurking and conducted additional research on the ABP and Google maps sites. I realized that this particular location was listed twice, once on 6th Street and once on 7th Street, and not only that, but its suite number (225) was identical to the street number of the not-at-all-open other location. As I rolled my eyes in frustration, I saw that the doors were now open. I entered and filled the manager in on all of the above, and she said that she tries to get things going by 8:15.

My bagel was delicious.

I had no idea what to actually expect from the day’s talks, but I was pretty sure it would be enriching, whatever transpired. I’m not going to list the program; you can read it here, Day 2 Saturday. But I will call out what I enjoyed most.

Photo of John Packer speaking

John Packer knows how to hold an audience!

The first highlight was the breakout session. Three caught my eye; I chose John Packer’s talk, called “Managing diversity and inter-ethnic relations in peacemaking: herding cats and cutting pies,” and not because it had cats in the title, though he did start with the herding cats commercial from a few Super Bowls ago, which didn’t hurt. The base idea of the presentation was how language is used as a divider and categorizer when apportioning states and nations, and asking why this one is an “official” language of a nation or an organization, when this one with more speakers isn’t, and all kinds of interesting things about how peoples are validated or subjugated based on their mother tongue (L1). Not only that, but he was a most engaging speaker. Yes, he had projected slides, but they were only an outline and he spoke mostly extemporaneously (please compare this to later comments below). So, so interesting. I will read his books. And finish them.

Then, it was lunch time, for which I also had a master plan. Perhaps you’ve heard of the Twin Cities’ food truck boom in the last few years. A perennial favorite is Vellee Deli (I’d swear they originally spelled it “Dellee”), and they have joined the ranks of wheeled businesses that now have stationary endeavors. Their soft opening was Saturday and, unlike all the others so far, they kept their new storefront is downtown, just two blocks from the truck’s usual spot. It wasn’t a tough decision to support them rather than overpaying for the box lunch offered by the hotel. At the truck I have always gotten the burrito or bowl, so I tried the duck confit banh mi and it was delicious!

After lunch, it was time for my second highlight of the day, Imam Muhammad Ashafa and Pastor James Wuye, from opposite, warring sides in Nigeria. I am atheist, but it was not hard to get behind their message which was, simply, take your worst enemy and make him your best friend, and that the killing of others in the name of your religion has no legitimate place in any religion. It’s so simple. Listening to these two men talk with each other should be required world education. For everybody.

photo of Farah Siraj performing

Though Steven Pinker came and stood right in front of me to listen to Jordanian vocalist Farah Siraj, I was far too shy to introduce myself.

Then it was time for Steven Pinker, the main impetus for my attendance. I suppose it’s only natural that that which you build up the highest in your anticipation has the greatest potential to disappoint. His topic, that we are actually experiencing the least violent time in the history of humans, was very interesting, and he had statistics to support it. But Steven, Steven, Steven. It is the death knell of a presentation to read verbatim the slides which you are flashing on the screen. Tsk tsk. John Packer in the morning used his slides as jumping-off points. Steven Pinker used them as a script. It was distracting. Womp wah.

The Saturday schedule must have been adapted based on ticket sales. I’m very certain that, three weeks ago when I bought my ticket, the general program ended after Steven Pinker, with the option of paying extra for a dinner and documentary screening. On the day, it was a cocktail hour and movie screening at no additional cost. Hurray!

photo of fancy snacks

Fancy bites during the cocktail hour

Hors d’oeuvres, light macro beers, wine, and booze were available. I wasn’t certain if I was going to hang in there for this unanticipated foray into the evening, but I gave myself time to consider it while noshing on Parmesan pastry-encrusted asparagus spears and cheese and cranberry hazelnut Raincoast Crisps (my favorite!). In the end, I decided to make the most of my $75, and thanks to all the coffee I consumed during the day, I had the wherewithal to do so.

The last feature of the day was viewing the documentary Food Chains, about how tomato workers in Florida have come together for better rights, such as providing a mechanism for women field workers to report on-the-job sexual harassment, and convincing large food chains to sign on to program to pay a penny more per pound, which basically doubles workers’ wages.

I was exhausted when I got home a little before 9pm, but what an interesting day! No disappointments about the investment.


photo of Nobel Peace Prize Forum speakers

A long day of listening and being enriched. I know you can’t really make anybody out well, but top to bottom:
Director-General Ahmet Üzümcü, Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons;
Adama Dieng, Under-Secretary-General and Special Adviser, Prevention of Genocide;
Courtney Radsch, Advocacy Director, Committee to Protect Journalists, who led a moment of candle-lit silence for the journalists who have been killed on the job due to conflict;
Imam Muhammad Ashafa and Pastor James Wuye, Nigeria, with Reverend Mark Hanson;
Steven Pinker and his slides, author of The Better Angels of Our Nature;
Chief Arvol Looking Horse, 19th Generation Keeper of the Sacred White buffalo Calf Pipe and Leader of the Lakota Dakota Nakota Oyate, The Great Sioux Nation;
Sanjay Rawal, Smriti Keshari, Eric Schlosser, Lucas Benitez, of the documentary Food Chains

Why do I torture myself year after year? I willingly go to a place where I get to hang out with 150,000 of my closest friends. I spend a hot summer day outside in the sun. I tolerate waiting in long lines for the ladies room. I eat battered, deep-fried, junky food. What is this torture? Why, the Great Minnesota Get-Together, of course!

Any self-respecting Minnesotan will trek to the Minnesota State Fair at least once each year. I have friends who go multiple times. Take my friend Jen A, for example, whose husband is in the Army. They got stationed in Guam for three years. A year ago he left a month before Jen. Jen waited until after the Fair. And when has she come back for a visit? To coincide with the Fair. She has been there just about every day. I don’t know how she does it. I go for a few hours and I’m done in. Think I’m joking about attendance of 150,000? Look at this. And I went on the last Sunday. The last Sunday usually goes over 200,000.

These just in:

Quotes from Jen (which I include because I truly am impressed by your desire, determination, and stamina, and I know you were doing what you love to do): 1) “After a 15.5 hour day yesterday, I’ve logged 67 hours at the fair this year. A record for me. One day to go. (Sunday).” 2) “My last day at the fair. 16 hours for a total of 83 hours over 6 days. That’ll do.”

2014 State Fair breaks all-time attendance record. Thank goodness I didn’t go on Saturday, attendance 252,092.

So this is the fun I had at the fair.

photo of overheated Kelly

When I bike to the fair, I am hot and miserable before I even pass through the gate.

Biking to the fair.

Just like going to the fair at all, biking to it always seems like a good idea before I do it. It’s a four-and-a-half-mile ride, most of which is on a dedicated bike- and busway. Easy route, but even if the temperature isn’t too hot, I get overheated. So I’m at a disadvantage before I even get through the gate.

I should also mention that the fair encourages you to not take your car. As could benefit me, there are three bike corrals. Unfortunately they are at the three corners of the grounds other than the one where the transitway spits me out. Getting to a bike corral adds a half-mile onto my ride. But I’m glad they have them because it takes a lot of the thinking out of arriving at the Fair.

Anyway, I had a couple of personal connections at the fair.

Personal connections and vegetables in general.

My coworker’s grandmother enters vegetables every year. And she wins every year. Look at those Yukon gold potatoes! Jen (a different Jen) helped harvest those winners. And since I love vegetables, you get a photo of the west wall of the Horticulture Building. And who wouldn’t be impressed by giant pumpkins, Charlie Brown?

photo of potatoes

Blue ribbon Yukon Gold potatoes dug up and sorted by my coworker, grown by her grandmother.

photo of giant pumpkin

It’s the Great Pumpkin!

panoramic photo of vegetables

These are a few of my favorite vegetables.

photo of Larry's painting

A little purple goes a long way.

I also managed to find my nextdoor neighbor Larry’s painting in the Fine Arts building. As my mentor Chris Gargan always said, a little purple goes a long way. Or was that John Ribble? It was twenty+ years ago.

photo of mini-donut beer

Mini-donuts! In beer form!

Beer.

Natch, it didn’t take me long to acquire beer. Unlike last year, Lift Bridge Brewery made PLENTY of their Mini-Donut Brown Ale. It sounds so wrong, but it works. This year there was also a s’mores beer replete with a floating marshmallow, and a lager that came with blueberry frozen foam.

photo of Kelly with beer

Kelly visits a beer exhibit. Yes, a beer exhibit.

A great thing about the Minnesota State Fair is that it keeps up with the times. Whether it’s an evening of Minnesota bands, sponsored by The Current, or craft beer, the fair is all over it. Back by popular demand for the third year, was the Land of 10,000 Brews exhibit, also in the Horticulture Building. This is where there are six options for four-beer flight from Minnesota breweries. The selections vary daily. Sometimes there’s fancy stuff, but mostly it’s a way to support our burgeoning craft beer industry.

[Update from the interim between writing and posting: Some asshole robbed the exhibit at gunpoint a couple hours after the Fair closed for the year. Armed robbery of over $10,000.]

photo of double-wide stroller

Does she look like she’s actually having fun?

Major annoyances.

I’m pretty sure I ranted about this last year, too, and every year before that. If it’s not old enough to walk under its own power, it’s most likely not old enough to really comprehend, and therefore actually enjoy, what is going on at the fair, and should therefore be left at home. Your doublewide stroller isn’t doing anybody, and I mean anybody, least of all you, any favors. Tell the truth. Do you actually enjoy pushing that thing through the throng, having to constantly apologize to the crowd around you for needing non-standard space accommodation, the crowd which is already annoyed by the rest of the crowd? Are you having fun when the tot is screaming because it wants cotton candy, or is over-stimulated, or is over-tired? And when it falls asleep, well, what was the point anyway?

photo of parade float

It’s a parade. Yay.

While we’re on the subject of hindrances to the already crowd-hindering crowd, what about the daily parade? I guess some people watch it, but it seems like it’s mostly meaderers scattering to the curbs to make way. I find it particularly purturbing because on either side of the street it goes down are some of the things I’m most interested in, such as the aforementioned Horticulture Building and the abeermentioned Ballpark Cafe, from whence the Mini-Donut Brown Ale (and many other fine, Minnesota brews) is served, and because I always manage to encounter it. I just want to cross the damned street. Call me a chicken if you must, apropos to the fair.

photo of Kelly with a Pronto Pup

It’s a Pronto Pup. Or is it a corndog. Huh?

Fair food.

Unless you live in a cave, you’ve likely heard of all the any-state’s fair food you can get on a stick. Minnesota’s fair does food on a stick like no other. However, I mostly avoid it. Battered, deep-fried delights are so far from how I typically eat that it doesn’t take much of it to do me in. But I’ll always get a corndog. I don’t like weiners but I love me a corndog. I am a poor Minnesotan because I’m still not sure exactly what the difference is between a corndog and a Pronto Pup. What I do know is that this year I got a Pronto Pup rather than a corndog and I didn’t like it as well. I think a Pronto Pup is more of a batter batter while a corndog is more of a cornbread batter. Next year I shall go back to the corndog.

photo of Kelly eating corn on the cob

Corn!

What never disappoints is the roasted corn on the cob. Minnesota sweetcorn, grilled in the husk. ’Nuff said. Oh, except for that they compost all the discarded cobs.

 

photo of weather radar progression

How much time do I have?

Weather, more beer, more food.

All afternoon I felt like I had blown it with regard to the weather. The day before, Saturday, was a little less warm, a little less humid, less unsettled. Sunday started out overcast and not-warm, but of course by the time I got pedaling the sun came out and the dewpoint started creeping up. The forecast was for a clear afternoon with rain and thunder likely in the evening. It approached more quickly.

photo of Kelly and cutout of Mark Stutrud

Hanging out with Summit Brewing founder, Mark Stutrud. Well, a reasonable facsimile of him, anyway.

I made my move in the direction of the exit when I figured, based on radar panel number three, that I had about forty-five minutes before the heavens would open. I need about twenty-five for the bike ride. Fortunately, the main Summit Brewing counter, in the International Bazaar, is right on the way to the entrance I use next to the bike corral. Summit had a fair-only brew this year, but it was not on offer on Sunday (unless it was at an auxiliary location). Nevertheless, I ordered one of the beers that was available and participated in what was their genius marketing ploy for the fair, taking a selfie with the life-sized cutout of founder Mark Stutrud. I have actually hung out with Mark several times in person, so this was a little weird, and yet, necessary.

photo of tacos

Tacos al pastore y asada.

I had just about decided that I was out of weather-time and had every intention of heading out, when I was dazzled again by what had caught my attention on the way in, tacos from Los Ocampo. I wasn’t exactly hungry, but wanted to eat, and figured that if I ate a little more at the fair, that would be enough for the day. I went for one each of the al pastore and the asada. The nice people sitting on the bench next to me approved of my choice (having vast, it seemed, experience at one of Los Ocampos’ restaurant locations) and gave me a piece of their fried plantains. It was all very good.

photo of approaching weather

Hopefully I’ll beat this home.

I finally, finally, uncorraled my bike and headed home, a little later than I meant to. On the other hand, it wasn’t already raining so I knew whatever happened, I wouldn’t get it too bad. As it was, I only got spritzed on during the second half of the ride. I got home and took my second full shower of the day. I tied my hair up in a different way that proved to be a beneficial way, but that doesn’t really have anything to do with the fair.


8:15

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

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

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

10:30

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

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

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

2:00

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

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

3:45. Still slaving away.

4:45

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

5:00

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

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It’s not that I’m into Black Friday shopping, or even shopping, but I needed a new sleeping bag winter coat and today was the day I had the time and cash flow to take care of it. So I set off.

Workout

The first stop was at my new workout place. A couple of years ago I wrote about how I loved going to Curves and how I was feeling the most fit I ever have. But that location closed so I transferred to the next closest one which no longer was conveniently on the way home from work, so I didn’t go much. But then that one closed as well, and for the last seven months I’ve been clubless which didn’t really matter since I wasn’t going regularly anyway.

A month ago, I got off my sorry backside and signed up at a different brand of gym that once again is convenient to on the way home from work. I don’t like it  nearly as well as Curves except for the part where something is better than nothing, so I like a lot because I’m working out again and that feels good. Because I’m just easing into it again, I haven’t initially been diligent about pacing myself to get my health insurance-reimbursable twelve workouts in for the month.

But I find myself close enough that I can still make it if I’m diligent for the next seven days, so I stopped there first this noon, even though my hair was still wet from my refreshing morning shower at home. It’s cold so I was wearing a hat anyway today so the wet ponytail part didn’t really matter, and I set myself up with some positive energy for the ugh part of the day, shopping.

I did a little shopping practice run by popping into the bike-slash-coffee shop a couple doors down from the gym to get coffee, and decided to support Small Business Saturday and purchase one of those under-the-helmet hood/face mask things as well. I’ll go back there for lunch pretty soon, too, because the Foursquare tips all say this place has the best soup and sandwich in the neighborhood. But I digress.

Shopping

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MicroCenter. Lucky for me, MicroCenter and Burlington Coat Factory are in the same strip mall. I popped into MicroCenter to get an HDMI iPad cable. Last weekend I discovered (belatedly) the joy of Netflix online. Happy day! Unfortunately though, the G4ness of my old PowerMac that I have hooked up to my TV isn’t acceptable to Netflix. Then I thought, well, I can hook up my iPad.

I found the cable, then found the iPad external keyboards and was dazzled by instant gratification. Had I been paying better attention, I would have comprehended the ramifications of the one I got (Kensington) being just the stand version, not the case version. But I am sitting here at the bar typing this and the keyboard feels great! I am incredibly faster than I have been with the on-screen keyboard, and because a) half the screen is no longer taken up by keyboard and b) I can turn the iPad vertical, c) I can see about four times as much of my pithy prose with the external keyboard, and that also speeds me up and makes it all easier in general. But I think I will trade for the case version of the keyboard. Must look into this online.

Though I didn’t pay attention to stand versus case, I did realize that I was cutting into my coat budget by buying the keyboard in addition to the HDMI cable. But I did it anyway because I was excited to finally get a keyboard for the iPad because (as I think I’ve mentioned here, but maybe not) now that my ancient laptop is on the fritz I’ve been hoping that iPad+keyboard would be an adequate replacement and it looks like it will be.

So I merrily skipped up to the front of the store where I was greeted by reality—the checkout line. But to MicroCenter’s credit, they were ready. All of the regular registers were in operation, and they had three additional, temporary ones going as well. The line that looked like it would take half an hour only took five or six minutes. I stashed my bag in my trunk/boot and walked over to my main objective.

Burlington Coat Factory. A few years ago, I got the best winter supply I’ve ever acquired—my sleeping bag coat. For those of you unfamiliar with “sleeping bag coat” because you live in tropical Silicon Valley or dreary-but-not-frigid England, this is a coat that is puffy and down-filled and which reaches to your knees or below, and has the shape of a potato sack. It is perfect for one such as myself who walks in the winter. My torso is warm enough because I wear multiple shirt layers, and my calves are warm enough because they’re lean, mean, muscle machines. But my thighs, where the flab is thick and the jeans tight, need extra protection.

My existing big coat gave out at the end of last season when the zipper broke. The tailor said it would cost more to repair than to buy a new one, so today, my goal was a new one.

When I was shopping for the old coat fiveish years ago, I was utterly mortified that the one that had the best combination of fit and unsacklikeness was “by” Jennifer Lopez. Well, whatever. There was a little bit of form with the function. It took me an hour to find that one.

Today, I walked in, found my size, and found a coat in a matter of minutes. There were two coats. One was longer and by some “designer” that I’d never heard of, not that that means anything. One was not as long and by Calvin Klein, not that that means anything. The first one, though longer and probably somewhat more preferable in that regard, looked like fat-drapery. The Calvin Klein coat, though only just to my knees, actually had some tailoring, and I figured it was probably made in China a little bit better than the other one was. It was cut well and had comfortable room for my currently expanded torso regions (beer belly and beer boobs, sad but true). I chose it.

Unfortunately, due to my iPad keyboard transgression at MicroCenter, I had to settle with putting the coat on layaway until next weekend after I’ve received another paycheck. But at least I don’t have to think about shopping anymore. And, as at MicroCenter, Burlington Coat Factory was geared up for business with competent employees and it was all-in-all also an alright experience.

The Four Firkins. If you’ve been reading for any length of time, you know that I love beer. If you’re a local friend, you will be horrified to learn that today was the first time that I have been to the new Four Firkins. By “new,” I mean they’ve been open at their different, larger store for over a year. Their former location was kitty-corner from one of my bowling alleys so it was less inconvenient to my usual activities to go there. Anyway, MicroCenter and Burlington Coat Factory are across the street, so today, finally, I stopped in to see Alvey and his awesome crew in their awesome store. Just fantastic. I mixed and matched a six-pack of beers I haven’t had, except for the Fuller’s ESB. I’ve had that. I love Fuller’s.

Eating

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This is what the day boiled down to, besides getting (putting on layaway) my coat. I learned last night that the new restaurant of one of my favorite food trucks, World Street Kitchen, was soft-opening this weekend, so stopping there on my way home from horrible shopping was to be my reward. Only the shopping wasn’t so horrible, so really, it was just the frosting on the cake. The menu is expanded from the truck plus they have adult beverages.

I was tickled that both brothers Wadi, Saed and Sameh, excitedly greeted me. I had the shrimp po’ boy, which is new to the truck menu, and crispy chick peas and a Summit Säga, and then a second Summit Säga. Bonus, 25% off for opening weekend. I felt loved.

Drinking/Blogging

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So here I am, testing my new iPad keyboard at the bar. I can confidently say that it has allowed me to write with more pace and accuracy than the on-screen keyboard did, despite the beers I’ve been trying (and I’ve tried all new ones here at Acadia). The external keyboard is definitely the way to go with an iPad, and once I get the case version I think the set-up will take over nicely from a small laptop such as my (once again) G4 iBook, as I had hoped, and that’s a good thing.

Conclusion

It is not lost on me that any one of these sections is long enough to have been an entry in its own right. Thanks for hanging with me if you did. Now I shall try out the iPad HDMI on a movie called “The Christmas Bunny.” You read that right.

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Today we had a potluck at the office, which was what I made the Tex-Mex Soup for. I managed to get the two large containers of it to the office intact, despite having to make a dash for the train. I have had liquid disasters in my backpack before due to loose-fitting lids and jostling.

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My soup was met with a fair amount of enthusiasm, but not nearly as much enthusiasm as for what Office Santa left under the tree for each of us. We knew we were getting a couple of the recently delivered new company mugs and probably figured that, like past years, there would also be a little bonus check. Boy, what a bonus. My bosses are getting each of us an iPad—an iPad 3 when they come out in a few months, or an iPad 2 now if we’re just too impatient. 

Patience is a virtue. 

I had been vaguely mulling over the idea of getting one with my tax refund in February but hadn’t yet decided whether to spend that much money on something I don’t really need. Problem solved. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. I have the best bosses in the world. There’s a reason why I’m coming up on my seventeen year anniversary.

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There was much gaiety for the rest of the afternoon.

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After I went into denial about the $130 grocery tab yesterday and just started making stuff, I thought everything was fine. Until 3:00 a.m., that is.

I went to bed feeling pretty accomplished. I had:

– baked the chicken for the Tex-Mex soup
– concurrently baked the turkey sausage for the Sausage and Mushroom Strata
– concurrently cooked a bag of pinto beans, some of which to throw in the soup, the rest to freeze
– made the Tex-Mex soup
– cooked a bag of garbanzo beans, some of which to throw into the Greek Salad with Sardines, the rest to freeze
– made the three helpings of Greek Salad, hold the sardines until I’m read to eat it
– washed all the kitchenware as I went, as I have a tiny kitchen (I reused the Dutch oven for three jobs without having to wash it)
– relaxed with a delicious Bellatoria frozen pizza and several tasty beers that I picked up at the Ale Jail the day before
– relaxed with three hours of Downton Abbey on Masterpiece

However, it’s true that I did no housecleaning in preparation for having visitors, nor did I do any of the work overtime that I could and probably should have.

But, I was asleep before 11:00 and optimistic that I’d be perfectly able to get up early to go work out and then continue on with a productive Monday.

Enter 3:00 a.m.

Okay, fine, I have to get up to go to the bathroom. With the amount of water that I drink, that’s to be expected one to several times a night. Usually I’m able to fall back to sleep immediately upon regaining my horizontal position.

Not so last night.

I am a more than occasional sufferer of Sunday Night Insomnia. I’m not going to look it up now for a link to information, but it is a recognized condition in which you can’t sleep Sunday nights because you’re stressing out about the work week ahead. 

I am stressed out about work. Last week, the entire office ground to a halt on regular projects so that we could bang out this iPad app that we are making in time for the Christmas hangover. That means I am now a week further behind on the work that I’m already behind on. That means that I know it won’t be long until it starts being wondered if others should kick in to help me, and once again I won’t be able to finish a couple of jobs that I have good ideas for. That means I’m stressed  out. Couple that with my self-inflicted stress about my parents’ impending Christmas weekend visit, and blammo! I was awake until after 6:00 a.m.

It is not helpful when that happens.

I had a reasonably productive day today, but the specter of stress plus PMS was lurking in the background the whole time. I tried to minimize the level of interaction I had with people in order to prevent as much crankiness as possible. I don’t think I was entirely successful. I wasn’t the only one who was a little off their game today.

The evening was a brighter note, though, as I bowled well (808 for four games) and am getting to bed before midnight. Hopefully I’m tired enough that I will sleep all night and get up in the morning for that workout I missed today.

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I don’t know why, but my parents’ impending Christmas visit seems like it will be twice the usual length. In reality, it’s only twenty-four, perhaps thirty-six, hours longer than normal. Nevertheless, today I made an ambitious menu and appropriately raided the grocery store.

I spent $130. I don’t spend this much on groceries in a month. (Bad panorama, but it shows everything except the dozen and a half eggs.)

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A little of it goes toward my breakfasts (eggs and whatever), three lunches (Greek Salad with Sardines), and three suppers (my refried bean pizza staple) in this upcoming week. A little more went into another incarnation of the delicious Tex Mex Soup that I invented a few weeks ago, which I’ll offer up at the office potluck we’re having on Tuesday.

For my parents’ visit (they arrive Friday for supper and will leave Tuesday), I have put myself on the following ambitious cooking schedule.

Friday:

Lunch: Vegetable Soup (I’ll eat a little, we’ll have the rest for subsequent lunches)
Dinner: Sweet and Sour Pork (looks delicious but will be challenging for my traditionally-eating parents)

Saturday:

make: Cherry Pie (my mom and I like pecan pie, but my dad likes fruit pies and this cherry pie is outstanding, and I’m in the mood to make it.)
Dinner: Sausage and Mushroom Strata (my mom loves this and it’s easy to make)

Sunday:

Dinner: Turkey (I decided to go easy, since I’m doing so much during these few days); Butternut Squash Gratin; roasted Brussels sprouts; salad; cherry pie

Monday:

Leftovers 🙂

I will follow up with photos of the completed dishes and meals.

One of my joys in life is to spend the day cooking. This usually happens on Sundays as I prepare lunches and suppers for the week ahead. I confess that in the last year or two I’ve gotten a little lazy about cooking, generally because I discovered I like trying restaurants and particularly because food trucks hit the Minneapolis scene. But every time I end up cooking I remember how much I love it.

This weekend I was in overdrive. Odell Brewing had posted a recipe earlier in the week that I wanted to try for dinner. I also found an egg recipe to make for breakfasts; I’ve burned myself out on plain eggs recently so I need to dress them up currently in order to be able to consume them. Finally, I decided I wanted to make soup for lunches this short Thanksgiving week. No recipe for that.

I am copying and pasting the quinoa and egg recipes from the original sources, but editing them to reflect how I made them. I am linking to the original sources after the titles. The soup recipe I made up. 

They’re all delicious!

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Brussels Sprouts & Quinoa Salad (original source here)

1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

2. Toss Brussels sprouts in olive oil, salt and pepper, and spread onto a baking sheet and bake for 20–25 minutes. Remove and let cool.

3. In a large non-stick skillet, toast the quinoa over medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes; add two cups of water, bring to a boil, cover and cook for 15 minutes.

4. While sprouts cook, whisk 1-1/2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, 1/2 tablespoon of honey, a pinch of salt and pepper and garlic until thoroughly combined.

5. In a separate bowl, whisk together 1-1/2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, 1/2 tablespoon honey, and a pinch of salt and pepper until thoroughly combined.

6. Toss the sprouts in soy garlic dressing and the quinoa in balsamic dressing and serve.

7. Optional: Serve Odell Brewing Mountain Standard Double Black IPA with this dish.

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Mini Mushroom-&-Sausage Quiches (original source here)

8 ounces turkey breakfast sausage, removed from casing and crumbled into small pieces
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup sliced scallions
3 ounces shredded Swiss cheese
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
12 eggs
1/2 cup 1% milk

1. Preheat to 350°F. Coat a nonstick muffin tin generously with cooking spray.

2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage and cook until golden brown minutes. Transfer to a bowl to cool. Add oil to the pan. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until golden brown and water is evaporated. Transfer mushrooms to the bowl with the sausage. Let cool for 5 minutes. Stir in scallions, cheese and pepper.

3. Divide the sausage mixture evenly in the muffin cups.

4. Whisk eggs and milk together in a medium bowl. Divide the egg mixture evenly among the prepared muffin cups.

5. Bake until the tops are just beginning to brown, 40 minutes for a 6-cup large muffin tin. (Regular 12-cup tins may need less time.) Let cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool completely.

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Tex-Mex Soup (I made this one up all by myself!)

1/2 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 cup sliced tomatillo
14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes with green chilies
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup sweet corn kernels
1 cup cooked, shredded chicken
1-1/2 cups cooked black beans

1. Coat a dutch oven with cooking spray. Heat over medium heat. Sauté the peppers and onions until soft. Add the tomatillos. Cook for 2 minutes more.

2. Add the diced tomatoes and chicken broth. Bring to a boil.

3. Add the corn, chicken, and black beans. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes.

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You’re going to have to live with a few goofy pictures of me. BECAUSE I WENT TO BELL’S!!! When I think back on it, my enlightenment via Oberon might have been my entry into my current beer obsession.

Unfortunately, my sojourn to Michigan was due to my visiting my cousin in the hospital. I knew I-94 would be taking me right past the mothership, but because of the timing regardless of the direction, it wouldn’t work out for me to experience much enjoyment. I’d have either 100 or 550 miles still to drive after having been there. The impetus of the trip was not pleasure so I didn’t feel like I could take an extra night to pause in Kalamazoo.

But I couldn’t not at least drive past the place. So on my way back to Minneapolis from Ann Arbor, I made it work as best I could. I had consulted the Bell’s website and thought I had learned that about all I’d be able to do would be to drive up to the place, take my picture, and drive off.

The brewery (the existing brewery in Kalamazoo, versus the new facility under construction just out of town in Galesburg) is conveniently located right on Business 94, minimizing the effort required to find it. It’s a very unassuming group of small buildings and, in fact, I almost drove right by.

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I was delighted to discover that the General Store was open. I dutifully dropped a couple bucks on Oberon and Two Hearted t-shirts, as well as this bottle of Wedding Ale which is only available at the brewery.

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I was excited when the guy in the store told me that the Eccentric Café, the brewery’s bar, opened at 11:00 rather than noon as I had been under the impression. That meant I only had twenty minutes to wait. As I had eaten breakfast at 7:00, I was ready for lunch.

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In the meantime, I walked back to the brewery and saw a load of fresh barrels waiting to go somewhere. Kalamazoo seems to be pretty old and railroady; I wish I could have taken time to drive around and explore a little. I bet there’s a lot of neat architecture. Bell’s is situated where three tracks intersect.

At long last, the twenty minutes had passed and Carly opened the door to the café. She probably rolled her eyes behind my back when she saw me sitting on the steps, having slipped the Oberon t-shirt on over my other shirt. Oh well. It’s people like me who make her establishment a destination.

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When I saw the beer board, I was supremely sad that I couldn’t partake. In addition to all the varieties that have made it to Minnesota, there were a bunch of others that are only available on draught at the brewery, the ones with the yellow tags by their names. I couldn’t stand it. Carly gave me a taste of the Le Batteur farmhouse ale. IT WAS SO GOOD!

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I made do with my turkey croissant sandwich. Before I left, I discovered the gallery of Bell’s- and beer-related license plates in the restroom hallway. Ha! Then I realized that I hadn’t thought to look for a Hopslam t-shirt and promptly forgot about it because I walked around and looked at the rest of the space.

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Up in the balcony, there was a variety of custom wrought iron work, including the wonderful Oberon sun. Out the back door, there was a garden for hanging out and enjoying a lovely Midwestern summer’s evening.

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Then I realized that there were several installations of hop vines. HOP VINES! Squeeeeee! Hops! Alas, none of them had developed flowers yet, but oh well. Now I know what I’d be in for as I consider planting some decoratively at home.

It was a ninety-minute stop during a 650-mile drive that ultimately took me sixteen hours to complete (I make a lot of pit stops). But hey, that was better than the seventeen that it took me to get to Ann Arbor. I knew I’d have regrets if I hadn’t spent the time that I did.

The next beer pilgrimage will be to Odell in Fort Collns, Colorado, next summer.

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Maybe it’s a little unfair to call it “creepy GPS tracking” since I’m the one who installed the app on my iPhone and turned it on for the express purpose of tracking my bike ride. If you were a reader already last summer and saw my bike ride reports, know this: the maps that I included were all hand generated by me. 

A couple of months ago, my friend Jack who was already out biking in, of all places, Scotland, turned me on to Cyclemeter.app, one of the three flavors of app that Abvio Inc makes to track your activity at three different paces (walking, running, biking). I haven’t delved into why different apps are necessary for different speeds. Someone else can figure that out if they’re curious.

(Not because it was Scotland per se, but because it would have been Scotland in March, and that seems a little early to be galavanting around on one’s bicycle that far north.)

Anyway, I embraced Cyclemeter as an easy way to get a map of where I’ve gone. I had tested it on a couple of previous short rides that didn’t involve stops. Saturday was the first time I’ve used it on a longer ride. As I said in last night’s entry (to which you can refer for details about the highlights on tonight’s map, other than the toilet which is mentioned below), I didn’t plan on all the stops and wandering around that I ended up doing. I left the app running the whole time.

When I got home, I had Cyclemeter send the map data to Google Maps. I looked at it and at first glance I thought, great, that’s where I went. Then I zoomed in and things got the aforementioned creepy.

It followed me around the Midtown Farmers Market, and it followed me following the deer. And it captured all of my movements in Minnehaha Park where I ended up spending an hour or so between the Falls and the band I listened to for a while. I didn’t think too much of it. I was mostly pleased that even though it’s the bicycle version of the three apps, it kept working while I was walking, too.

The creepiness crept in when I noticed that in addition to tracking my general walking around, it also managed to capture my every move inside the bathroom, which was my original reason for getting off the bike path and going a little ways into the park. The GPS shows you that I used one of the northern stalls and then had to walk a few feet to the center to use the sink. I exited and started walking around.

Had I thought about it beforehand, I wouldn’t have had any reason to believe that the tracking would pause while I was in the bathroom. A satellite doesn’t know that I had to pee like a racehorse. Next time, though, I will try to engage the pause feature. I don’t mind a little privacy for certain things.

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Map and satellite image © Google Maps and affiliates