blarg?

Everyone who cooks has got some trick for making spaghetti sauce. Some of those I have tried recently and enjoyed are as follows:

  • Cook a big pot of it ahead of time; simmer and stir for two or three hours after it’s all together, and then turn off the element, put the lid on and let it sit on the stove overnight. The next day, turn it back on and let it simmer again for a few hours. When you’re done, the taste will jump out at you.
  • Soy sauce instead of salt. Darkens the sauce very nicely, and adds a nice richness to it. This can very easily be overdone, so be gentle.
  • Big chunks. I used to mince everything up, but big hunks of stuff is a lot more satisfying. Mushrooms cut in four, sausages cut in four or five, and so forth.

My own trick, such as it is, is this: sautee the mushrooms in garlic separately before adding them into the sauce. To cook a large pot, and use an entire bulb of garlic; peel it, mince it all up. Fry some sausages up, if you like that kind of thing, and when they’re done enough to cut up pull them out of the fry pan and lightly sautee the mushrooms in that same pan with two thirds of the garlic and a generous hunk of butter. Throw the cut-up sausages into the big pot (where, presumably, your ground beef has been browning) along with your onions and green peppers and crushed tomatos and so on. Put the rest of the garlic into the pot when you mix all of that together, and simmer. Put the mushrooms in when they’re lightly browned and proceed as usual.

Season to taste, of course, remembering that too much oregano is the signature finishing move of the rank amateur and tasteless philistines the world over.

A few words about moving into a new place:

  • If you need to hang up pictures, posters, curtains, basically anything that you want to be at right angles to walls or gravity, a tape measure and a laser level (Thanks, Mel!) are must-have tools.
  • If you need to put down plastic liners in your drawers and cupboards, pull the old ones up beforehand. I had to pull up five layers of that crap here, and and it was repugnant. In the dark ages, the royalty had dining halls where they’d just put down another layer of straw over the discarded scraps until the the whole place had to be shovelled out by the peasantry; I once had to pull six layers of drywall, twenty layers of wallpaper and at least six different kinds of mold off the walls of an old house because nobody had bothered to pull down the old stuff before installing the new stuff. This is how vermin live, not civilized people.
  • You may want to replace your shower head, if your shower seems less than enthusiastic; it’s cheaply done, those things clog over time, and a hot shower under good water pressure is also a must-have. Invest in one set of really, really nice towels as a luxury item.
  • Generally speaking, you should not move into anywhere carpeted. If you do, you should have the rug professionally steam-cleaned before you bring in any furniture.
  • Clean under the fridge, behind the stove and every flat surface, edge and corner before you put furniture in. Crap builds up in the crevices, and that’s how people wind up chronically sick. See above point re: vermin.
  • Ikea, among all their wondrous goods, makes “Billy” bookshelves; these are the de-facto International Standard Bookshelf, and if you buy one now you will be able to buy another one exactly like it in six months or five years when you run out of room.

Thank you for your attention.

I’m finally, finally back to having broadband where I live. Hallelujah. If you’re in their service area you need to run, not walk, to iStop.com. Dealing with them is absolutely painless. They do not fill your inbox with garbage or put absurd, dadaist web interfaces in front of simple things. They take your money and provide you with an IP address and commensurate packets. You’d think all ISPs would be like that; further, I used to laugh long and hard when I walked through the Management section at Chapters, ridiculing their walls of books about customer service, but no, dealing with Rogers and Bell has changed my opinion right around. Now I realize that there’s a great need for customer service and management literature in this world, no matter how trivially, stupidly simple it is, because most companies are so offensively goddamned bad at it that it’s amazing that we have an economy at all.

This, I swear to you, is true: I picked up the phone and called Rogers, and the guy at the other line said “Hello, my name is Dave, how can I provide you with excellent customer service today?” Jesus. Dave, I’m sorry they make you say that. No, now that you’ve said that, I can’t buy anything from your company. I can’t support a company that makes people say things like that to other people. I cannot, I will not give my money to a company whose chimpanzee middle-management thinks that might be a good idea. I’m sorry if you work on commission, I really am, but at this point the only way you can provide me with excellent customer service is by saving the last bullet for yourself. Make sure to put a few in the chimpanzees before you check out.

And then there was Bell, and Bell being Bell, it was worse. Even on my sunniest days I hate “automated attendents” of every stripe so much I could scream, and even among its peers, Bell’s is awful.

“Hi, this is Emily, your automated service representative. Bell’s customer service office is made entirely of monkeys in front of typewriters. To speak to a monkey, say ‘monkey’. To speak to a typewriter, say ‘typewriter’.”

… “monkey”.

“Our customer service office is now closed.”

My call to iStop was answered by a human, an actual live human, information was exchanged, a date was scheduled for the service to start and they were two days early. The transaction was straightforward, the staffer was cordial and the entire thing took less than 90 seconds.

And now I’m finally back inside the bounds of civilization. Phew.

I’m hardly an aficionado of efficient management practices and practical motivation techniques, but as a practical matter I might observe that yelling at somebody for ten minutes one day because he’s doing the thing that you’re going to tell him is his top priority the very next day is neither efficient, nor motivational. Indeed, it might be a good way to take any goodwill or motivation you might have built up thus far and kick it right in the throat.

I’m just saying, is all.

As many of you know, I am an evolutionary holdover from an earlier age, a simian Coelecanth well-adapted for few things more complex than procuring fire and killing elks with femurs from other elks. Somehow, despite all that, I have accrued a collection of friends who seem to not only enjoy but actually request my company, even when they don’t need elk.

Melanie is one of those people, who somehow puts up with me even though she’s known me for twenty years. She and Mike Richters were married a week ago in Boston, and it was a thing to see. The whole trip was fun, so let me tell you how it went.

My first notice of this was when Melanie told me that she wanted me to be one of the wedding party’s groomsmen, an honor I could not pass up, and that I was going to be wearing a top hat and tails, an honor I probably would have passed up if it had been anyone else. I had to get myself fitted for a tux, quelle horreur, so that I could mail all my measurements to Boston and pick it up when I got there. That was no fun at all.


“Ok, stand up straight and relax.”

“Blarg?”

“No, straight. And relax, not collapse. Now stick your arm out.”

“Oog.”

So if any of you foreign types who’ve never set eyes on me feel a pressing need to cut me a suit before I get wherever you’re sending me, I can now take all the guesswork out of the process.

The drive down there was for the most part uneventful, and New Hampshire is quite pretty; we overnighted there briefly on our way to Boston proper, which is not.

If you intend to visit Boston, for any reason, you need to find and make use of a native first chance you get. Use a gun if you have to; that city’s forefathers have apparently settle on the the “organic growth” model also favored by ignorant hippies and kudzu vines. And the buildings, good Christ, the buildings; a handful of beautiful old stone structures surrounded by some of the ugliest, stupidest architecture in the western world. What Chad called “Architecture On A Dare”, as though some architectural enclave looked around and decided that they had noble, venerable and enduring pretty much down, and it was time to try something else. There are supposed to be a bunch of smart people in Boston but you wouldn’t know it from, say, looking at the actual city of Boston. I mean, you can tell that once upon a time there were smart people to be found; the fossilized remains of sensible thinking can be found here and there, sometimes in plain view. But not anymore.

I crashed in Boston with a few of Michael & Mel’s friends, good folks every one, though I suspect they recognized the proximity of my caveman ancestry. We ate, we watched TV and hustled around to a number of things including a bachelor party, in which I had Perhaps A Bit Too Much Fun™ a wedding rehearsal, in which I had Exactly As Much Fun As The Situation Required™ and in which I observed that particular kind of smart people that require complication that will, in its absence, make trivial things complicated to fill the void. This combined with the fine-grained control-freakery of the soon-to-be-married couple gave the days leading up to the wedding a very elegant tension, as though everyone shared the unspoken knowledge that the backup wedding planner was the Keystone Kops, and that’s not gonna happen, so keep your shit together.

The wedding was elegant and beautiful. Not simple, because Jewish weddings involve a surprising amount of hardware that’s not present at your typical wedding, and this one had a few details (like tuxes and tails) that’s probably not present at your typical Jewish wedding, but elegant and beautiful nonetheless. That’s where the title of this entry comes from, incidentally; having suited up with the other groomsmen, one of Chad’s roommates looked me up and down and said “You clean up good.” Woot! It turns out everyone did, and it was a hell of a time.

Dinner afterwards was also great fun; Mel, Michael and a couple of their friends are swing dancers, serious swing dancers, and they put on a hell of a show. You know how, during movies, people periodically leap into a bunch of previously-choreographed routines that look spontaneous? That kind of thing actually happens. I’ve seen it. A bunch of them, at one point when the music picked up and the floor was mostly empty, busted out this four-minute routine on the spur of the moment that just destroyed the crowd. It was awesome.

A great night, and a great honour to be there.

Amusingly, I met a guy at dinner who recognized my name from a thing that I wrote about the Wheel Of Time a while ago, who said “You’re that Mike Hoye?”, shook my hand and thanked me on behalf of former Robert Jordan fans everywhere, which means I might have discovered the atomic weight of Internet Celebrity. You’re that Mike Hoye? Why yes, yes I am.

I’ve got so much to say, and so little time. I’m losing weight, I’m so busy. I don’t have that much to spare. Most of my life is still in big plastic bins.

Mel’s wedding was awesome. Boston is an unmitigated civ-eng disaster. Mel’s friends are great hosts. Japanese fun. New bike. Chu Shing tonight, 9:00. Love friends, family, miss girlfriend, hate computers. Jeebus, do I hate computers.

More soon, promise.