A Tad Past the Ides of September

If this summer is remembered for anything, it won't be for my having another birthday, although that happened. The trillion dollars or so that has been lost on the world's markets will soon be regained by those more capable than I, so that won't be an issue for me, either. No, with any luck, I'll remember this summer as one dedicated to French Onion Soup, which has become something of an obsession with me.

Like most things, it all started many years ago when I had it for the first time. My wife at the time and I went out to some nice French restaurant, just the two of us, and I think that was the first time I ever had it. That was the most memorable part of the meal for me, even though it was also my introduction to escargot.

Anyway, all though I've had it off and on in the intervening years, it's only been the past couple of months that I've craved French onion soup. I can't get enough of it, and that's the problem.

It used to be that I could find Progresso French Onion soup even when I wasn't looking for it. It was everywhere. Now, the markets I frequent don't carry that variety, and I've had to try some others. Campbells has one, but it tastes funny to me, metallic, and only works in a pinch. I tried looking up recipes to make my own, but Alton Brown's first step required purchasing a fifty dollar electric skillet, so that put me in a deep funk from which I've barely recovered.

If I had the money for fifty dollar electric skillets, I'd go out to eat.

This past weekend, on a whim, I thought I'd check out this Bristol Farms market, which I'd seen a few of around town. It's like a Gelson's, only, if this is possible, only more expensive. They carry a good selection of all many of the regular favorites, all at a hefty markup, and many other frightfully expensive goods as well. This Bristol Farms, I quickly concluded, is where rich folk go to get the good food that us masses can only ever hope to taste.

Still, I thought it might be worth it to check out their soup selection, if only to see if they had some of that soup I craved. They carry the Progressive brand, but not French Onion. They did, however, have some jar of French Onion soup with a cute calico cover and a health-inspiring name, but it looked to me more like gravy than soup. Not that there's anything wrong with gravy, not if you have a biscuit laying around, but if there's one thing I demand of French Onion soup it's that it contains, you know, onions.

Pieces of onion. Fibrousy pieces of onion. Pieces you can chew. Chew, taste, and swallow.

They had another store name variety, for about six bucks I might add, that also lacked any particulate onion, and I passed on both of them. Is it too much to ask for onions in my onion soup? I did get some dried package, I think (I'll have to check the cupboard, later), which I hope contains more than dried powdered onion dust.

The rich may very well eat better than you and I, but when it comes to French Onion Soup, it looks as if they may as well sip it through a straw.

Shrieks and Alleys

It's true that I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about myself, but that's not to say that I don't occasionally wander into other fascinating territories, such as what I do. Sadly, today is not such an excursion.

Back in 1985, before many of us were born, the world was quite a bit different in some crucial areas than it is now. For one, it was possible back then for an individual to create a Formula 1 team and compete against the big names, the well-known car manufacturers. Instead of the Ferrari, Toyota, Honda, Renault, Mercedes, BMW, and the like, successful teams carried the names of individuals such as Prost and Tyrell, people whose participation stemmed from love of motorsport and not just corporate profits.

Among them was a guy named Giancarlo Minardi, who is mostly famous for inspiring my dog's name.

His little team was where many drivers got their start, but he couldn't afford to go against McLaren and the others and the team was sold a few years ago to Red Bull Racing. Those Red Bull people have money out the gazoo, and have both a Red Bull Racing Team and the old Minardi team, now named Scuderia Toro Rosso.

And this morning, at Monza, a Toro Rosso driven by Sebastian Vettel won their first race, and was the youngest person ever to win a Formula 1 race, following up on yesterday's record breaking youngest person to win pole.

So, that was good.

UCLA football, not so much, this weekend.

The other thing I'm tracking, the upcoming presidential election, isn't giving me much joy, either, but between the three I was able to spend part of the weekend thinking about how things effect me nearly as much as I did thinking about myself.

Internet Test / Factoid

Not that I ever gave it much thought, but ...


Circle of Ego

Last night I took a break from sitting around, thinking about myself, and went out to hear some music and visit with some friends I hadn't seen in awhile. Of course, I brought my mind with me, so it's no surprise that I saw one thing that reminded me of another, and ended up wondering about the future.

Like happens at all such events, some of the bands performing had T-shirts, buttons, and CDs for sale. Between sets I glanced over the offerings and also thought about what some British music guy said on a TV program. He was an old guy, had been in the business for years, and was talking about how wherever he goes now people push CDs into his hands. They hope to get his interest, maybe have him sign them up for a contract, and propel themselves to a fulfilling and overflowing life of sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll.

One can hardly blame them.

His point, though, was that "back in the day," it was pretty easy to distinguish between any old garage band and, um, a legitimate one. Since hardly anyone could afford record pressing equipment that costs tens of thousands of pounds (or dollars) and crank out records from their basement, damn near every band that had a record had been approved or accepted by someone. Now, anyone with a computer and a microphone can make a professional-looking CD, so you can no longer easily tell the difference. Those without access to recording studios, record labels, and, most importantly, some independent confirmation of their talent, on the surface look just the same as those whose talent has been recognized by someone who knows about such things.

This is not a bad thing, since it keeps the Man from ruling us all, but it does eliminate a vetting process, to use a term which is all the rage these days.

There's a similar thing going on in all publishing. It used to be that someone in power had to like what you wrote before it could see print and receive distribution, but no longer. Nowadays, anyone can short-circuit the approval process and we are both richer and poorer because of it. Richer in that voices that were once silent can now be heard, and poorer because, with this level field, every voice can be heard, regardless of how idiotic.

Like Crenellated Flotsam, for instance.

Although I likely won't be around, it will be interesting to see how this all sorts out. Instead of editors and publishers deciding what can be put out there or withheld, anyone who creates anything is now the sole voice in deciding if it's fit for publication. Newspapers, magazines, TV networks, the entire media, look just the same on my computer as independent bloggers who get sole discretion over what they decide to say. Not only can these people say anything they want, they can do so as poorly as they want, and leave it up to the invisible hand of the free market to decide its worth.

Instead of being considered under any sort of notion of quality, popularity will decide value. The voices that many wish to hear will soldier on and be successful and, until a better metric is decided upon, will garner ad dollars.

No one but me has anything to do with the content of this site, and I'll be the first to admit that it shows.

Even More Progress

I tell ya, there's no end to what people and computers can do, not when it comes to upsetting or angering me.

The fine folks who host my web site, as part of their latest ... enhancement? ... weren't content to merely rearrange the icons that I use to administer the site or modify the GUI to make it just as functional but different, but have now decided that backing up my site is another revenue stream for them. It will now cost me ten bucks to perform a backup, or I can opt in for some annual site upgrade of over a hundred dollars and do one whenever I want.

Or once a month, I forget which.

At a rough guess, I'd imagine there are thirty or so built in icons I can use to perform certain functions when I administer my site, and I've really only used a handful of them. Most of them have no relevancy to my life, but they're there, anyway. I normally don't do much in the way of administering beyond messing about with the files, repairing corrupted databases, and backing things up. I once used the FTP option for awhile, but no longer, and made some use of the message board for a friend, but I don't host that for him any more, either.

Statistics were once fun, but that passed a long time ago.

I can back up the database for Crenellated Flotsam using SQL tools, but it was much easier before, back when I just had to hit a button. I suspect I'll be doing that this weekend as well as copying a bunch of files manually, so I have a morning of boredom to look forward to on that count.

It's a good thing I bought a new coffee maker last month.

They've also migrated the operating system for the host computer(s) from FreeBSD to Debian, which is a flavor of linux. It's no big deal, but FreeBSD was one of the reasons I chose this host in the first place, and I liked that they were running something solid. I was running it at home, and I imagined some harmonic factor, which existed only in my mind.

I suppose if I had that personal assistant, I could add finding a new host to her or his list of chores, right behind getting me cheaper car insurance or a real good onion soup recipe.

Neanderthal Thinking

Boy, these conventions are sure something!

Only not so much the one that's going on now.

Last week I was going through a tissue or three each night because of the emotions raised in me by the speakers and directors of the videos. This week ... not so much. Last week Joe Biden made me think and laugh and Obama made me hope, but this week all I keep hearing is how some nameless opposition is no good at all. "Vote for us or else" is not a campaign slogan that has much traction with me.

Then, last night, I got to see the media fall all over themselves congratulating someone for talking successfully to a very supportive crowd. I admit she did a decent job of delivering a prepared speech, but I can't help feeling that reciting something after practicing on it for a few days doesn't mean a great to me. I expect more of our leaders than that, something I had to do in Junior High.

I guess most of America can relate to her, and there's no small number of political scientists who say that's a good thing. I can't say that I do and, more, I can't say that I'd vote for anyone because I did. I want my president, whoever he or she is, to be like some sort of super-adult from my childhood, and it's hard for me to do that when I can see the strings, mirrors, and through the smoke. I know a lot of people will like Sarah Palin because she has breasts, and I'm not saying that's a bad thing, but it's not like I'm ever going to get much pleasure from them.

Many of the same people who piled on Hillary are now saying I can't judge Sarah. It's true that no one questions any men about how they can work and raise a family, but it's also true that it's a reality that in our current culture, men and women have different roles. I'm not sure that I, even as a guy, would leave a newborn baby who needed me to pursue my career goals, but I'm not saying that makes Sarah a bad parent. It just gives me pause.

I have no interest in her pregnant daughter, either, other than in her name. I would never name one of my kids after some NASCAR track, but, then again, I'd be unlikely to name her siblings Willow, Trig, Track, or Piper, either: it would make it too difficult for them to buy souvenir license plates at the county fair and kids don't need to overcome every possible challenge and disappointment just to grow up secure.

Not that I know anything about kids.

It may be a good thing that the Palins can get out of Wasilla, a city that evidently has one meth lab for every 225 residents, a number I admit staggered me. Granted, there's little to do in Alaska except come up with names for snow and, presumably, exercise your genitals, but that can't be wholesome environment.

Still, she gave a good speech to people who wanted to hear her say bad things about Obama, but it didn't make me change my mind.

Solid Food

For reasons of my own, I'm going to have a celebratory dinner tonight that borders on decadent. Although I have no plans on following this or any other diet, it may be called Atkins-like, especially if you ignore the corn and bread.

Tonight, for the first time in God knows how long, I'm going to have some baby back ribs, even though I have no idea what that really means. About a dozen of them. All by myself.

This uncaring display of consumption, I admit, lowers the hog or pig population by one, and I'm none too happy about that, but I take solace in realizing that if not for my dinner, this innocent pig would have met a cruel and unfortunate demise in this planet ruled by fang and claw by some tiger or would have been carried off in the talons of some, less considerate, falcon or other. I have a hunch most of these scavengers don't live a full life, retire to a soothing pasture, and live out their lives regaling their grandpigs on live as they knew it.

In fact, in spite of our continual whining, hardly any animal has anywhere near the stress-free life we humans seem to consider our birthright.

Tonight's mound of rib bones, which I don't think are good for dogs, will be a testament to something or other, if only to my hunger. I also expect them to be lip-smacking good.