Friday, September 26, 2008

Why... So... Serious?

Charlotte (the girl, not the city) recently showed me some pictures she took from her photo session with the bacteria "B. Cereus". I especially liked this one, which shows the bacteria as a tragic, Pac-Man type figure, world-weary from running away from his ghosts:

Charlotte writes about the picture: "The stain is indian blue. It is a negative stain, meaning that it stains the actual glass slide, leaving the bacteria unstained. It is viewed in a compound microscope in oil immersion under 1000x total magnification. I took the picture with my digital camera through the microscope's eyepiece; that's why it is sort of blurry. "

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Krisp to the Kreme

Holy shit, my friends. After 7pm at the Cloverdale Harris Teeter, something un-fucking-believable happens. Look at that sweet-ass sign: Twelve Krispy Kreme donuts for $1.99!

Harris Teeter just blew D.W.'s fucking mind.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Return to Chi-Town

Rich and I made it back to Chicago yesterday to catch our friends Evan and Miranda's wedding reception. While I've been covering the Winston-Salem beat, Rich has been an hour down the road in Charlotte. Rich's experience in the South has been mixed. A couple days ago, I got an email from Rich where he said that he was "stuck at work because there's no gas in Charlotte, apparently, and I can't get home because my tank is empty." I think Rich spent that night sleeping at work. So... he had kind of a rough week. As we landed in Chicago, Rich felt like he was coming home.

Since we made it to town pretty early, we had about half a day to kill before festivities started. We started by getting lunch at the Lao Sze Chuan restaurant in Chinatown. We were afraid that we had ordered too much spicy food, and when the food arrived, it appeared our worst fears were confirmed. The "Chef's Special Dry Chili String Bean" that we ordered is below:

Luckily, by picking around the peppers the dish was not fatally hot. When we were through with it, there were about 30 uneaten red peppers left on the plate. I offered Rich 20 bucks to down the rest of it, but he declined, reminding me that he wasn't a grad student any more, and therefore didn't need to do stupid stunts for a quick buck anymore, either. So I tried a different tact:
Me: "If you do, it'll make for a good story."

Rich: "Really. And what story would that be."

Me: "The one where you earn your 20 bucks, but then end up stuck in the bathroom for three hours at Evan's wedding."

Rich: "That sounds more like a good story for you than for me."
...So to make a long story short, it didn't happen, and I am now reduced to writing a story of a story. Or something like that.

We next went to the Museum of Contemporary Art, where we saw a very interesting exhibit by Jeff Koons, and then made it to the wedding reception. The location was amazing: the "Library" bar on the 40th floor of the 190 South LaSalle building downtown. But more than that, it was just great to see our old friends again.

View from the party near sunset. Batman can sometimes be spotted atop the building to the left.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Sunflower 'Do

My new roommate is a hairstylist, and so far we have been getting along swimmingly. So well, in fact, that he suggested that perhaps I could stop in and get a new haircut -- on the house, gratis -- sometime in the next couple days. I imagine that I will take him up on this, but I did have to pause for a second... was he trying to say that I need a haircut? I dunno.

All this talk of haircuts reminded me of a picture that I received several years ago from my friend Serpico. As it so happens, Serpico and I collaborated on bringing a previously unknown hairstyle into existence, which I called "the Sunflower." Basically, the idea was to take the Mohawk, and turn it sideways so that you had a strip of hair running across the top of your head. Then, the strip of hair would continue down the sideburns, under the chin, until finally you have completed the full 360 and your face was in the middle of something that looked like... a sunflower!

Serpico was very interested in this idea. After we discussed what this would look like, he decided to take a poll to determine whether he should end up getting the haircut or not. Since our friends knew Serpico well enough to knnow that he would go through with the haircut if we voted for it, people took their votes very seriously. Eventually the vote came out an even 12 in favor, 12 against. (I can't remember how I voted... probably for it. Maybe I abstained.)

To break the tie, Serpico determined that we should enlist the opinion of Lawrence Ferlinghetti -- founder of the City Lights bookstore in San Francisco. We attempted to get in touch with Mr. Ferlinghetti several times without success, and when the matter came to a rest, Serpico ended up not getting the haircut.

Soon afterward, Serpico and I graduated from college and headed our separate directions. And that seemed like the end of the story. However, about a year later I ended up getting this picture emailed to me:

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Bad Cop, Worse Cop

Carrying home our quarry after
another garage sale expedition.
As a new homeowner, I have been faced with a challenge. How do I fill up the house with stuff? So I've responded by getting to it in the only way I know how: Get my mom in to town. My mom is a certified Dumpster Diver (there are pictures) and is recognized far and wide as the Queen of Garage Sales. Surely she will know what to do.

My mom did not disappoint. On her first walkthrough of the house, she went through every room with a measuring tape and was throwing out suggestions like gunfire: "You should add some shelves here -- add a long pillow to the window-sill -- find a longer table for the dining room -- this room would look good with a nice taupe rug -- maybe we could find a Chaise sofa for this room? --" ...and so on. Before we ever left the house, she had measured out the sizes for each ideal object.

Our search began in earnest yesterday, as we woke up early to hit the Winston-Salem garage sale circuit. After we found something we wanted, we would initiate our patented "bad cop, worse cop" routine. My mom would make an insulting offer, and then the sellor would make a counter-offer, and then my mom would look to me, where I would be pulling off my best "I don't know if I even want this piece of crap anyway" look, at which point the sellor would come down to about my mom's price. Here are a couple near-verbatim conversations:
Mom: "Would you take $250 for the armoire?" [which showed a sticker price of 395]

Sellor: "The wood alone is worth the asking price!"

Mom: (Looks at me.)

Me: (Face says "uggh, what an ugly piece of trash.")

Sellor: "Okay, how about $265?"

Mom: "How about $260?"

Sellor: "Fine!"
This was the typical story for big-sticker items, but my mom's haggling was unflagging. If something cost 50 cents, she would ask for 25. Here was another conversation:
Mom: "Would you take 50 cents for the coat hooks?" [A set of three which was offered for a buck.]

Sellor: "Surely you have a dollar."

Mom: (Looks at me.)

Me: (Face says "uggh, these hooks disgust me.")

Sellor: "I think we could do fifty cents."

Me: (Face says "This is 50 cents that could be better spent on used toilet paper")

Sellor: "Just take them for free if you like!"
In the end, we still paid the woman 50 cents anyway. With our bargaining powers combined, it just isn't even fair..

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Adventures of Johnny Coffee-Bean

Photo by Andrew Scrivani
of The New York Times
I've had iced coffee several different ways, and most are unexceptional... usually they are made by just chilling coffee that you've already made from a drip coffee machine or a french press. And this is pretty vile until you add large amounts of sugar and half-and-half to cut the coffee.

However, a couple years ago, I discovered cold-brewed iced coffee at Cafe Kopi in Champaign, IL. Making cold-brewed iced coffee is simpler than you would think: you simply add lukewarm water to coffee grounds and let it all sit in a container for about 8 hours (see the linked easiest recipe in the world ever)*. By never using hot water to extract the flavor from the beans, the resulting coffee is amazingly smooth, not bitter, and surprisingly sweet. Indeed, I almost always prepare it by just adding water and ice and drinking it black.

So after years of drinking this concoction in Champaign, I was very disappointed to find that none of the coffee places in town actually serve their iced coffee the cold-brewed way. As the self-appointed Johnny Coffee-Bean -- spreading the good news of the cold brew method -- I have traveled far and wide through this town with a Nalgene of my iced coffee, and sharing it to whoever I can without solicitation. Apparently my efforts are beginning to show dividends. Mitchell, one of the managers of Krankies, has recently been sighted drinking cold-brewed iced coffee around the store, and word on the streets is that cold-brewed iced coffee should soon be on the menu. So I recommend that the next time you head to Krankies (or indeed, any coffee shop), you ask "do you have cold-brewed iced coffee?" If they say no, throw on your best dejected hangdog look. But if they say yes, enjoy!

*Alternatively you can by a "Toddy" iced coffee maker. This is a huge waste of time and money. Seriously.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Searching for my Taco De Ojo

A couple fine tacos from
La Perlita on Waughtown Road.
I recently had a conversation with a friend of mine who wanted me to explain the appeal of the taco. Since she was a vegetarian, she figured she could join me on a leg of my taco quest and eat a reduced taco of lettuce, cheese and sour cream. Not so! I explained. No, the traditional Mexican taco never comes with lettuce, sour cream, or even cheese. Instead, the taco is made with a lightly oiled corn tortilla, which is then filled with a type of meat, diced onions, cilantro, and then accompanied with lime wedges and hot sauces to use to taste. "So I would be reduced to eating onions and cilantro on a corn tortilla?" she asked. "...With lime," I corrected.

It may not sound like much, but what makes the taco great is the tasty meats that you can put in these things. The standby is the taco al pastor (taco with barbecued pork), which are served at any taqueria and are almost always excellent. But I usually also try a place's taco de lengua (tongue taco). These are usually terrific, with the beef tongue tasting like very tender cuts of steak, although sometimes the tongue is cut in such a way that you can taste the tastebuds, which I'm not really so down with. It doesn't seem right to be eating a food that might be tasting you back.

Of course, I am adventuring to find places that serve other exciting taco meats. At one place a couple weeks ago I tasted my first taco de cabeza (head taco), which is made with cuts of muscles from a cow's head. Ultimately better than it sounds. What I would really like to find is a place that serves the elusive taco de ojo (eye taco). From what I understand, these are at least served in Los Angeles somewhere. Interesting fact: the phrase "taco de ojo" is basically used in Spanish the way we use "eye candy" and will return some very interesting results if you do a Google search.