Patio Furniture FTW

kids on new patio furniture
There was at least one of these three ensconced here for the remainder of the afternoon

Bought some new patio furniture on a lark today, now I just need to finish preparing the patio.

We stuck it on the deck in the meantime, where it attracted some squatters almost immediately.  I think they like it.  They should, as the human children gave me puppy-dog eyes until I caved and agreed to buy it.  (Butter had nothing to do with the purchase, but she spent the most time of anyone on it today.)

Beta Goes Rock Climbing

Way back at Christmas, Meghan came up with a most appropriate gift for Beta: time at the local rock climbing gym.

We didn’t use it right away because we were out of the country, and then something always seemed to come up or we just weren’t thinking about it, until this past week.  I remembered about the rock gym, Meghan arranged a time, and this morning (Mother’s Day to boot) we showed up for the first of five sessions.

A rock climbing gym, in case you’ve never been, is a series of walls with a random assortment of hand-holds embedded into the surface.  It’s meant to simulate rock climbing enough to help you build strength and skill.

rock wall climbing
Beta nearing the top of a difficult ascent

You wear a harness and clip onto a rope.  Some faces have auto-belays, some have ropes slung and wrapped over a bar above the face (pulley-style) so a partner eases you down.  The ‘cave’ wall has no ropes, as the entire face is inverted.  It has a very thick pad to land on instead.

We booked two hours, and Beta made it through impressive one and a half hours of it.  By the end she had “spaghetti arms,” but she was talking about going back before we were even back in the car.  Score one for mom!

Egg Roll in a Bowl

eggroll in a bowl

Ingredients

You’ll need a pretty big pan with high sides for this recipe.  A 14″ cast iron pan is good.

It’s a pretty low maintenance dish, so you can easily cook it alongside other things.  Bagged slaw saves a ton of time.

This makes a pretty good meal by itself, or goes great as a side dish.

  • Sesame oil
  • 1 pound of ground Chicken or Pork
  • 1 small or 1/2 medium white onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger
  • 1 bag (14 oz) dry slaw mix
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce (reduced sodium is fine)
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Sesame seeds (optional)

Steps

  1. Heat a tablespoon of sesame oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add in the meat and onions.
  2. When the meat is nearly done and onion is soft and translucent, stir in garlic and ginger.  Cook for a few more minutes, stirring on occasion.
  3. Dump in soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and slaw.  Stir frequently until everything is well-mixed, the soy sauce and rice wine vinegar reduce,and the slaw softens up.

Season with salt and pepper to taste, and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Adapted from http://theskinnyfork.com/blog/chicken-egg-roll-bowl

Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect

The Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect is, simply put,

I believe everything the media tells me except for anything for which I have direct personal knowledge, which they always get wrong.  source

Formulated by Michael Crichton, is named after Murray Gell-Mann, an astrophysicist.  (said Mr. Crichton, “I refer to it by this name because I once discussed it with Murray Gell-Mann, and by dropping a famous name I imply greater importance to myself, and to the effect, than it would otherwise have.”)

Mr. Crichton explained it further in a 2002 speech, “Why Speculate?

Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward – reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them.

In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.

That is the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. I’d point out it does not operate in other arenas of life. In ordinary life, if somebody consistently exaggerates or lies to you, you soon discount everything they say. In court, there is the legal doctrine of falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus, which means untruthful in one part, untruthful in all. But when it comes to the media, we believe against evidence that it is probably worth our time to read other parts of the paper. When, in fact, it almost certainly isn’t. The only possible explanation for our behavior is amnesia.

RIP, Mr. Crichton.

 

The General

We all went to see The General at The Cabot, back by a live musical performance.

The General is (very loosely) based on a real-life train theft during the Civil War, but it’s played to some drama and comedy by a prime Buster Keaton.

The true story is that a group of Union spies stole a Confederate train (which was, in fact, named The General) with a plan to damage the rails and generally cause mayhem on their way back to friendly territory.  It didn’t quite work out as planned because they were pursued and (eventually) caught.

The cinematic version takes a few artistic liberties to entertain and “wow” the audience with stunts, as well as adding a love interest and a human side.  It’s considered one of Mr. Keaton’s finest works, and “[he] always said that this was his favorite of his own movies.” (source)  It’s an amazing film to watch, moreso when you realize that the stunts were real, frequently filmed in one take, and as hazardous in real life as they are in the story.

The film that we watched was from a restoration made in 2016, with a new musical arrangement that was played live.  The quality of the film is very good, better than the gif above, while live music accompaniment is the way it was meant to be enjoyed.

The Cabot is a restored theater in downtown Beverly, MA.  It contains many of the artistic features one would expect from a classic venues.  We had center seats and a great view.  This was our first visit, but won’t be our last.

Photo: © Lauren Poussard

Owls!

I stepped outside with the dog while she did her business and stayed for a minute to look at a “spoke” pattern in the clouds, when I heard an Eastern Screech Owl nearby.

It took me a few minutes to identify it when I got back inside, but my Google-fu is strong today.  The call is a “tremolo” which mated pairs and families use to keep in touch.  I heard it repeat several times.

More information here

Super-Quick Teriyaki Chicken

Ingredients

Sauce

  • 1/3 c. soy sauce
  • 1/4 c. rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. honey
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp. finely minced fresh ginger
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch

Everything Else

  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Sliced green onions, for garnish

Steps

  1. Mix the sauce
    1. In a medium bowl, combine:
      • soy sauce
      • vinegar
      • sesame oil
      • honey
      • garlic
      • ginger
      • cornstarch
    2. Whisk until smooth.
  2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat
  3. Add chicken to skillet and season with salt and pepper. Cook until golden and almost cooked through, about 10 minutes.
  4. Pour sauce over chicken and simmer until sauce has thickened slightly and chicken is cooked through.

Goes really well with rice and a veggie.

Originally from https://www.delish.com/cooking/recipe-ideas/recipes/a54003/easy-teriyaki-chicken-recipe/

The Orient Express

My parents upgraded their house, and that included a new elevator to replace their aging stair-chair.

This is the same stair-chair that earned the name ‘The Orient Express’ while we were in high school and Kennon had a house party (without my parents’ knowledge).

Fortunately the stair-chair was not removed after the elevator was installed. Scientific curiosity demanded that we expand human knowledge and answer the burning question: which way is faster?

Kennon and I agreed on the rules: we start at the same place; we would end at the same point on the second floor; both elevators would start at the ground floor; we would walk, not run. Kennon and I both agreed that the stair-chair would probably win.

Meghan was kind enough to take a video of the race.

Results: The stair-chair won by a full second.  A second race was not conducted due to technical difficulties with the stair chair.

Sactional Review, revisited

It has been close to three years since I wrote my original Lovesac Sactional review, so I figured this would be a good time for an update to the review.

We still have the original pieces, plus we’ve added some more: a couple of more bases and backs to make a pair of armless chairs for the dining room, plus a third base for the original ‘couch’ in the living room to make an ‘L’.

  • Our covers have (mostly) held up well.
    • We’ve run some of the covers through the wash a couple of times in order to clean some stairs and general dirt – try that with a regular sewn-on cover!
    • One cover has a thread that started to come out, but it didn’t keep unthreading – it has been stable for a year.  I try to keep that cover away from the heaviest-used sections.
    • We’ve been considering buying a different style of cover, and a bit darker; the standard cover can be a little rough after a while, and the light color that we got shows off dirt.  But oh, the cost!  We’re keeping an eye on sales, which seem to come up periodically.
  • We definitely tell which cushions are newer, as they’re firmer.
    • The cushions seem to firm up a bit if they’re not used.
    • Cushion rotation is a must, but that’s easy.
  • The bases:
    • do get easier to separate over time.
    • are so low to the ground that they don’t capture much trash, which is awesome
    • are not too heavy to slide, and the felt pads do prevent scratching.