Thursday, September 18, 2014

Actually putting some thought into an internet book meme...

I was threatened with social network failure by a coworker on facebook, so I’m doing this whole 10 books thing.  I actually tried to think back to books I enjoyed and stuck with me when I was younger and more recent reads that have really resonated with me.  So, in no particular order, my “top ten”:

DUNE – Frank Herbert
I’ve read the original series at least 7 or 8 times, but I’ve read the first book at least a dozen.  Really hit me in the sweet spot around 9th grade or so.  The extended library isn’t as bad as it could be, so keep reading the Brian Herbert/Kevin J. Anderson novels if you want more.

The Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
I actually “read” the Hobbit as a comic book and so technically I read LotR first, then found the Silmarillion, etc.  This is the standard by which all other fantasy is measured.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma – Michael Pollan
This was my first “foodie” book, and has really improved the way that I eat, the way I think about food in general, and I think improved the way that I cook almost as much as Alton Brown.  I think everybody who eats should read this book.

The Old Man and the Sea – Ernest Hemmingway
I never read any Hemmingway before this, and I only just read it the first time a few years ago.  I was kind of pissed about life at the time and this really struck deep on my view of how I thought my world should work.

House of Leaves – Mark Z. Danielewski
Perhaps the greatest horror-genre book I’ve ever read, and definitely the best “haunted house” story.  Go for the hardback with multiple ink colors if you can.  Difficult to encapsulate in a sentence, it will draw you in.

Wonderful Life – Steven Jay Gould
First book I read for class that I just finished the whole damned thing because it was amazingly interesting.  This really kick started my natural history reading trend and was followed shortly by Annals of the Former World by John McPhee.  I now have a crap-ton of books from both authors and Gould also lead me to David Quammen who’s books I have read more lately.  Check out Spillover by Quammen to get the scoop on how Ebola works (among others).

Guinness Book of World Records/World Almanac
They came out every year, and I read them every year after I discovered them in elementary school all the way through high school.  These spoke to my inner nerd, also allowed me to destroy at trivial pursuit at the time.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis,_the_Witch_and_the_Wardrobe
I read all 7 of these in elementary school.  They may well have been the only fiction or books with a plot I read between 4th and 7th grade, as everything else I consumed came from the reference section.  Before LotR these probably gave me my taste for fantasy fiction.  (also, it made the Christian myth more palatable at the time).

The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories – H.P. Lovecraft
This was the first, I now have them all.  Of the horror and weird fiction category Lovecraft is my master.  I have every major compilation of stories from Arkham House press as well as many others from Brian Lumley and others.  The modern reader is aware of Cthulhu only recently and the wider world is beginning to understand that after Poe, Lovecraft is perhaps America’s greatest early author of the weird.

Since I technically named more than ten above I’ll put some notable mentions here.  The Black Company (series) – Glen Cook, The Harry Dresden Files – Jim Butcher, A Brief History of Time (and later books) – Stephen Hawking, and the art books of Wayne Douglas Barlowe and Dougal Dixon

I would like to challenge my Dad (who isn’t on facebook), my Grandfather Frank (who is dead and so, also not on facebook) and my favorite brother-in-law, Heath William Anthony!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Dakota Style Honey Mustard Kettle Chips

The bag is green. The chips are slightly yellow. . .

I am assured by "Spud" the tractor-driving potato in a straw hat on the top left of the bag that these chips are made of a better potato. (they guarantee it!)  These potatoes go to a veggie day-spa where they are lovingly bathed and scrubbed.  They are then dumped like a truck-load of silently screaming lemmings into a thick-gaged industrial slicer.  To limit the amount of stress on the potatoes, knowing of their impending doom, the whole process of washing to deadly slicing takes less than an hour.  Too much stress before a potato's demise can concentrate negative flavonoids in the flesh of the spud.  This obviously reflects poorly on the finished product, which we want to be clean, fresh, and crisp with no taste of murder most foul.

However, these chips must have been made from potatoes lingered in the hot-tub long after they knew what awaited them after their bath, and so they suffered that mental anguish of one's own imminent severed mortal coil for days.  While the initial aroma from the freshly split bag was at first somewhat vegetal and musky, it soon took on a not unpleasant odor of a mediocre brown mustard. Upon tasting these fine sloughings of potato death I was gently assaulted by the taste of both bland mustard and honey (if that honey were stolen from bee-prison where the inmates were trying to make toilet hooch from their ill-gotten flower nectar).  The honey had a tang to it that may have been part mustard, and may have been part green rot.  And then the texture reared its ugly head, not unlike a horse drowning in thick ropey molasses would breach through the surface to gasp a last breath before sinking to a sucrosian liquid tomb.

The initial crunch that suggested these potatoes were given a clean death was, upon the second or sometimes third mastication, replaced by a gumminess of such viscosity as to be outright chewy. The flavor did not subside, either, instead intensifying upon continued enamel pummeling until, after the mass was finally purged past the epiglottis, a lingering sensation of vague horse radish twang remained. I do not think I shall try this variety of potato chip again, I have seen into its dark malaise and do not wish to subject my soul to that anguish again.

Perhaps some day Spud will realize the horrors he has been akin to, as he leads his own people to a genocide of pseudo-crispiness.  The flavor of that dark extermination breaking through into this bag tuberous corpses...


(I have a really boring lunch break...)