Today I had pizza with a friend who I haven’t seen for a long time. A lot of things have happened to this friend, and we sat and talked about them over our pizza for a long time. Then my friend’s friend happened to come to the same pizza restaurant, and then this other friend ate some pizza while we all talked together. I don’t know why but I feel like the pizza was somehow integral to this experience. I don’t know that this experience is replicable if the food item under consumption is something other than pizza.
I have some other thoughts about pizza that are not related to my conversation with my friend. One of these is that whenever I eat pizza, or indeed any dish that is topped with melted cheese, my moustache smells like melted cheese until I have a chance to wash it with soap. I don’t know why this is. My moustache is not really long enough to dangle in my food (you’re welcome for that mental image), but I didn’t ever notice this effect before I had facial hair. I wonder why the smell of melted cheese clings to hair (and particularly facial hair) when it doesn’t cling to skin (e.g., on my fingers, or my lips).
I have a great recipe for sourdough pizza dough that I haven’t made for far too long. I intend to make more pizza dough in the near future, because I have a great deal of arugula in my garden that is going to need to be eaten, hopefully in creative and delicious ways. I’m thinking that arugula, pears, balsamic vinegar, and sautéed onions would be good friends on top of a pizza, with just a little olive oil and a little cheese underneath. Maybe sprinkle some feta on top, or maybe add a little prosciutto.
Do you ever get way too excited about something that may not actually be happening, and you keep telling yourself not to get way too excited, but you do it anyway because you can’t help yourself, and you’re at once bracing yourself for extreme disappointment and enjoying the ride?
For instance, my roommate might be buying a house. It’s apparently a great deal. He’s trying not to be all stoked about it but I can tell he is.
There is another
Skywalker for instance (sorry, I couldn’t help myself) but I don’t feel about talking about it right now. :)
So on the last interview I was transcribing, there were only three voices; one was mine and the other two were easily distinguishable (although the one dude didn’t articulate very well and began to piss me off by the end). Today I finished cleaning up the recordings of the other interviews (I decided to straight-up remove all the terrible putting-the-recorder-down noises this time, instead of passing them through a hard limiter, and I like the outcome a lot better) and started transcribing the next one.
This time there are five voices: me, a guy sitting on the left, and three girls who are all sitting to the right. This makes my job much more annoying, because it turns out I’m really bad at telling women’s voices apart. I resorted to making a sticky note with timestamps where I know each person is speaking, so that I can jump back and compare. (Also note my rad pseudonyms; I got the idea of using superheroes or cartoon characters from my advisor, who does this when he does focus groups.)
So I have entered into a tedious, tedious phase of my dissertation research: I have something like nine or ten hours of focus group interview and classroom observation data that currently only exists as audiorecordings, and I need to turn it into text. The most direct way to do this is to manually transcribe it: listen to it all and type it in as I listen. (In extremely related news, if anyone knows of decent automatic transcription software for Mac OS X that is either free or inexpensive (I have no budget for this sort of thing), they should definitely tell me what it is called.)
There are a few things I can do to make this process marginally less painful. First of all, I use a media player called VLC to play the audio files. VLC has a lot of really nice features. First of all, there’s a slider in the playback window with which you can control the playback speed (without changing pitch!). I’m a fast enough typist that I can keep up with speech at 50 to 60 percent of normal speed, depending on how fast the subject talks, so if I crank the playback speed down around this level, I don’t have to keep skipping back to type everything. So what I do is, I close my eyes (so I don’t see typos and feel compelled to fix them immediately), kind of zone out, and type like a madman.
But on the topic of skipping back, VLC has another nice feature that lets you skip back five seconds by holding down the “skip back” media key. (EDIT: This length is even customizable; see here for directions!) Most other programs I’ve played with make you use some sort of crazy key combo (Option-Command-Shift-B or something stupid), which means that the media player window has to have focus to begin with, which, when you’re transcribing, it usually doesn’t, because your text editor is the thing that has focus. VLC will listen for media keys even if it doesn’t have focus, which is beautiful.
However, this feature sometimes backfires on me. See, if you don’t hold down the key for long enough, VLC interprets it as “go back to the beginning of the file.” Nothing is more frustrating than accidentally skipping back to the beginning of the file, because a) you lose your place, and if you haven’t recently put in a timestamp, you’ve got some guessing to do, and b) at the beginning of this file there is an annoyingly loud (even after I attenuated it a little in Audacity) noise from me putting the recorder down on the table. So basically what happens is, I’ll be in this sort of intense transcribing zone, and I push the media key not quite long enough, and suddenly CLUNKWHACKGHRACHKHGKGH, which makes me rip my headphones off my ears and spew profanity and go get a cookie.
So – now you know what I’m doing when I’m working on my dissertation for the next little while.
Pardon me while I blogwhine a little, and also demonstrate my ironic self-awareness by explicitly noting that I am going to blogwhine.
Do you ever do things that you kinda like but kinda hate? Like, you really love one aspect of this thing you maybe do, but on the other hand, this other part sucks. What do you do about this? Do you keep doing the thing because of the part you like, or do you abandon this thing because of all the other things you really don’t like about it? Is there a way to approach an issue like this while maintaining some sort of authenticity? Is there a way to answer this question while still being honest with yourself?
Back to blogging after a conference hiatus.
So here’s what happened. I was in a session at the conference, and I was sitting behind this guy who also had red hair, but whose hair was really closely buzzed. It looked really great, and I found myself wondering if I could pull it off.
So tonight, I went over to my friend Matt’s house, because he has a set of hair clippers, and before I could talk myself out of it, I snapped the #3 guard on the clippers and went right for the fauxhawk.
It was kind of a lot of hair.
A fair amount of hay was made, btw, by those commenting on this picture. I’ll summarize: It was suggested that this was “the shaming of Aslan” but you can tell that it is not because it isn’t curly enough. It was also suggested that this may have been from my legs; ha ha, very funny. Finally, it was noted, in a message separate from the public thread, that now we know “the carpets match the drapes.”
You’re welcome for all this extra information.
Anyway, I kinda like the result. I’m actually thinking about going shorter – down to a #2 or even a #1 – dude at the conference basically had stubble-length hair. But I decided I’d start out with the longer length, because it’s easy to go shorter than it is to go longer.
(I’m literally writing this just for Alex and am not particularly invested in this post. :P )
So I’ve been playing some Skyrim lately. I played a lot over winter break, but then didn’t play video games much at all over the last couple months because of school, but then when I handed my proposal in, I decided to dust off the controller.
I play a Khajiit named Sneaky. My basic idea was to play Splinter Cell in Skyrim, so I picked Khajiit a) for the sneak bonuses and b) because aw kitties. And then I quickly realized that “stealth archer” was going to be doubly awesome, because I could hide in the shadows and pick people off from distance while getting sneak attack bonuses. So that’s what I did. I found myself a tome of Bound Bow and played a lot of tricks to get a big enough mana pool to cast it without having many conjuration perks. Bound Bow hits like a truck. Also I ended up getting deep enough into the Conj tree that I could pick up the perk that makes it automatically soul trap, so I always have full soul gems. Also I finally got deep enough into the Illusion tree that I could pick up the Silent Casting perk, so just in case my bow runs out, I can re-cast it without giving my position away.
Sneaky is the leader of the Thieves’ Guild and the Dark Brotherhood. He once assassinated the emperor. He has a cool (and surprisingly bellicose) horse and has taken down lots of dragons. He is gradually becoming an expert lockpick and pickpocket (just got a perk that gives you 100 extra carrying capacity; this is ridiculously OP). He owns two houses and has decorated the hell out of them so that they are now super rad.
In short: I’m afraid my Skyrim character may in fact be cooler than me.
So here I am, taking the trash out. I have the trash bag in one hand and the recycle bin in the other. I am cheerfully walking along when suddenly spider web across my forehead. There is nothing I can do except curse under my breath and furiously wrinkle my forehead until I get to the gate and can drop a bag and manically scrub my face like a nervous promgoer fighting off acne.
I hate spider webs. It’s funny, because I don’t really have a problem with spiders. Spiders are pretty rad. They eat annoying bugs and don’t eat my plants. If I see one inside, I will usually gently move it outside where it belongs. (If it is a particularly venomous variety I reserve the right to murder it without any semblance of mercy.) They largely leave me alone and I largely leave them alone.
Spider webs though – spider webs slay me. They’re totally invisible and they just drift around until you walk into them and then uggghhhh. Usually they’re near a tree or a bush or something, but sometimes you can be out in like a parking lot and get a floater across the face; this is the worst. The common internet truism is that spider webs instantly turn you into a ninja. This is absolutely the case with me; I tend to flail senselessly for a little bit and then rub my face (or arm or leg or whatever) a lot until the sensation is gone. However, spider webs have an additional effect on me, which is to cause me to unleash a poisonous, bubbling stream of vitriolic profanity that turns the air blue and withers peaceful flowers and causes small children to cry within a fifty-yard radius.
When I was in Ohio on my mission, there was a particular time of year during the fall when there was a sudden proliferation of spider webs. We’d be out walking around, knocking on doors, walking up people’s sidewalks, and ASDFLKDSJFLK SPIDER WEBS. (I largely succeeded during this two-year span in containing any arachnid-related profanity.) The weird thing was, it was always me that got a face full of invisible silk, even if my companion was walking ahead of me. It’s like my face is a spider web electromagnet.
My friends Matt and David live in this condo that is surrounded by waist- to shoulder-high hedges: perfect spider territory. And thus: perfect spider web territory. During that time in the fall, I can’t walk out of their house after a Rock Band night without getting spider webbed at least once. It’s just impossible.
It has been like thirty minutes since I ran into that spider web and my face and head are still all itchy. Damn spider webs.
No, I’m serious. Look at my dinner:
This is chicken in a white-wine-rosemary-oregano pan sauce, on risotto, with beet greens on the side. It was also super, super easy. My cousin asked me for the recipe on Facebook, and I can’t give it to her, because there really isn’t one, except sort of for the risotto. All there is here is a collection of techniques – nothing fancy.
See, let’s talk about the risotto. I made it in a rice cooker. Do you know what that means? That means that whenever you make rice in the rice cooker, you could spend about 5 more minutes and have risotto. I mean it’s not always going to go with whatever else you’re making (I wouldn’t put stir fry on risotto, ew) but whenever it sounds good, voilà, risotto!
Here’s how you make risotto in your rice cooker. Take the pan out and put it on your stove burner. Melt a little butter in the bottom and add some diced onion or shallot. (I generally keep some diced onion in my freezer for just such occasions.) Add a little salt and pepper and cook it until it’s translucent. (This is called sweating and you should do it all the time.) Then pour in some white wine if you have it, wait a little bit, and add some chicken broth or vegetable broth. You want your total amount of liquid to be about 3-4x the amount of rice – for just me, I’ll use 1/4 c rice and thus like 1c liquid. Bring it to a boil, add your arborio rice, and stick it in the rice cooker. Maybe stir it once halfway through cooking to minimize bottom stickage. Stir in some parmesan when it’s done. If you have frozen peas, throw some of them in too. That’s all.
Here’s how you make chicken with a pan sauce. Take your chicken breasts and sprinkle them with flour. Cook them in a pan in a little olive oil or butter. When they’re just not quite done, pull them out and put them on a plate. Sweat some diced onions in the pan, with some dried herbs: basil, oregano, rosemary, tarragon, whatever sounds good. Then dump in some white wine and scrape up all the crusty bits at the bottom. (This is called deglazing and you should do it all the time.) Add a little lemon juice if you want, and maybe some butter or cream or even just milk if you want it to be rich. Then put the chicken back in and simmer it for a few minutes until the sauce is saucy. That’s all. You can do the same thing with any kind of beef and either white or red wine. Chuck some sliced mushrooms in there with the onions. Done.
Here’s how you make beet greens. Take some beet greens (i.e. the green things on top of the beets), wash them off, put them (still wet) in a pot, cover it, and turn on medium heat for like five minutes. That’s all. I’m serious. Put some red wine vinegar on them if you want. You can do the same thing with chard or kale or collards or spinach.
This is the big secret of cooking: You can make basic food, and then spend 5 more minutes and make it kind of amazing.
(I never got around to writing yesterday. Sorry Alex.)
So for the last – wow, goodness – six months, I’ve been posting a Song of the Day on my Facebook. This has been a really fun thing for me, and it has reminded me of how much I like music. I had sort of gotten out of the habit of listening to music for no particular reason, and this pulled me back in and forced me to think about why I like the music I like.
Anyway, I’ve (loosely) imposed a set of rules for myself. I think I’ve broken each of these rules at least once, so really I should be calling them something more like “guidelines,” but I figured they’d make good blog fodder anyway.
First of all, except for the times where I do a themed week, I try not to post two songs by the same artist. I’ve broken this rule for special occasions (like after the Boston bombings, I used a Boston song again, even though I’d used one before). Other than these exceptions, though, the list of repeats is basically a who’s who of my favorite artists; it includes Franz Ferdinand, Jimi Hendrix, Coldplay, Jack Johnson, Nirvana, Imagine Dragons, Led Zeppelin, RHCP, Rush, Foo Fighters, and Kasabian. This is a rule that is going to have to eventually go by the wayside, because there’s only so many artists to pick from. I think I’ll change it from a prohibition to a cooldown – so, once I use an artist, I have to wait so many months before they’re fair game again.
Closely related: With exactly one exception (which was in response to the Sandy Hook tragedy), I have never posted the same song twice. Again, this is a rule that will have to change eventually. I think I’ll set a year limit on specific songs.
Another rule I have (and have flagrantly broken several times) is that when picking lyrics to put in the description box, I don’t pick lyrics from the chorus, nor the opening lyrics. I try to pick lyrics that I find personally meaningful (“Congratulations, you were all alone / Your time will come, if you wait for it / It’s hard; believe me, I’ve tried” – see, look, that one’s partly from the chorus; I’m such a rule-breaker) or particularly clever (“Shoot your mouth if you know where you’re aiming / Don’t forget to pick up what you sow / Talking trash to the garbage around you”).
There’s no good way to end this post so I’m just going to abruptly stop writing.