Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Cause for Alarm

Dear First Alert,

I understand from several independent consumer reporting agencies that you are the manufacturer of the best all around smoke alarm. I must respectfully disagree. This is to inform you that you will soon be receiving a package from me via express courier.

My wife and I have lived in the same house for 9 years now, and your smoke alarms were already installed when we moved in. The low battery alarms have always gone off at seemingly the most inopportune times, but last night was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.

First, let me bring up a point. There is no need for the low battery beep to be as loud and piercing as the beep that occurs when your house is in flames. There’s just no reason for it. A nice, soft reminder beep would serve the same purpose. Now, last night’s debacle.

At approximately 3:22am, I was awakened by the incessant chirp of the alarm outside our bedroom door. Well, by that and by my ShihTzu wrapping himself around my face like a cartoon. Apparently the frequency you chose for your beep is one that makes small animals tremble violently and lose clumps of hair. Way to go.

After deciding that the chirping wasn’t going to stop, I got up and dug around in our junk drawer in the kitchen to find a replacement 9-volt battery (seriously, 9-volt? It’s the 8-track tape of the battery world. I’m just saying.).

After stumbling through the dark house, stubbing my toe on the ottoman, and nearly severing my finger on the knife that I forgot was in the junk drawer, I found the battery and made my way back to the still-beeping alarm. By the way, Gizmo, the aforementioned ShihTzu, was at my feet the entire time, still trembling.

I don’t know why I never noticed this before, but your installers chose to place the unit at ceiling level—10 feet in this case. I realized I was going to need a stepladder. I opened the garage door to retrieve said stepladder, setting off the house alarm, an eardrum-bursting 150-decibels. Gizmo began climbing my leg as I entered the code on the keypad to turn off the alarm.

I peeled him off, stepped out into the garage, grabbed the stepladder, took one step back in the house and slipped in the puddle of urine that Gizmo had just created, dropping the stepladder squarely on my face. As I lay there in a warm puddle of fresh dog urine on the cold tile floor, the alarm chirped again.

In the package you will find one pair of urine-stained pajamas, the bashed remnants of your stupid alarm, and enough dog hair to make a wig. Enjoy.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Must Try Harder to Not Be Stupid...

Every Friday night Mary and I have date night. We go to dinner and sometimes a movie. This past Friday night we went to Red Lobster, one of our favorite new places. Only in recent years have we become seafood fans, so we're still testing the waters, so to speak. We both like shrimp, scallops, tilapia, and sea bass, but our favorite item on the menu is without a doubt their Cheddar Bay biscuits. They're light and fluffy and buttery and garlicky. They are magnificent, and if I ever figure out where the hell Cheddar Bay is, I may move there.

Anyway, I've been working on developing a taste for salmon—a task I'm not having much luck with. I don't necessarily dislike it, but I just can't make myself really enjoy it. But in yet another attempt to become a fan, I ordered the wood-fire-grilled salmon. Salmon, as you may already know, is rich in essential vitamins and minerals, as well as Omega-3 fatty acids. It has tremendous health benefits. Benefits that were completely eclipsed by my consuming roughly 38 Cheddar Bay biscuits.

I was modest at first, breaking my first one into several small bites. But as the butter and garlic took over, I got all worked up into a froth and began to devour them Cookie Monster-style, with bits of buttery crumbs flying about. At one point, the waitress asked me to slow down because the guys in the kitchen couldn't keep up. I was reduced to picking the crumbs off my chest like an otter. I even offered the folks at the table next to us $20 for the three they had left. It was not a proud moment.

But every experience is an opportunity to learn, and that's exactly what I did. People say that changing your habits and losing weight is a battle that's fought a day at a time, but I disagree. I submit that it's a bite-by-bite battle. You have to be consciously aware of every single thing you put in your mouth. Next time we go to Red Lobster, I'll be ready for the challenge. You know, once the restraining order expires.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010


by William Henry Davies

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

Monday, April 5, 2010

New to Me

I seem to be a bit of a late bloomer when it comes to trying new things. I get excited about finding some exotic new food, only to discover that all of my friends and family have been eating it for years. I imagine such will be the case with my latest discovery. This weekend Mary and I made a day trip to Branson, MO. It’s only a couple of hours from us, so it’s great for a quick getaway.

She took me to a Mexican restaurant she had been to during a conference there last year. Cantina Laredo is an upscale Mexican bistro, doing for Mexican food what PF Chang’s did for Chinese food. It’s located in Branson landing, a trendy outdoor mall of shops on a river walk waterfront of nearby Lake Taneycomo.

It’s a beautiful day, so we decide to sit on the patio and watch the water and fire shows that occur every hour. We place our order and sit back and relax, the breeze gently carrying the sounds of nearby fountains and music. When the food comes, I’m impressed. I ordered mushroom and goat cheese enchiladas in adobo sauce. Good stuff, but not my food trophy for the weekend.

On the side is a small salad of lettuce with a white-fleshed fruit or vegetable of some kind. I poke at it, trying to figure out what it is. I stab a small piece with my fork and take a hesitant bite. It’s a little crunchy, with a mild sweet flavor like an apple or a pear. It’s actually pretty darn good. Even after I’ve finished my enchiladas, I’m still picking at this mystery food. When the waiter comes back, I ask him what it is. He tells me it’s jicama (pronounced “hick-uh-mah”). It’s fabulous.

I’m sure many of you reading this have already experienced the crunchy sweet goodness that is jicama. But for those who haven’t, check it out sometime. It’s high in fiber and a great source of Vitamin C. It’s also fairly low in calories and carbs—about 50 calories and 10 carbs for one cup—making it perfect for a diabetic like myself. And it’s a culinary chameleon, perfect for anything from salads to entrees to desserts. Maybe it’s old news to the majority of folks. But to me, it’s brand new.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Cultural Revelation

In my sometimes-successful quest to eat healthy, I have also recently begun expanding my dining repertoire. I always seem to eat the same things: broccoli, asparagus, chicken, beef, etc. Not that there’s anything wrong with those. But I wanted to get outside my culinary comfort zone and try something new. Which is precisely what I did last weekend. One of the guys I work with sometimes gets lunch from a place called Aroma here in Bentonville. It’s a Pakistani restaurant. The first time he brought the food in—chicken biryani, he said it was—I thought it stunk horribly. But over the next few times, I began to break down the complex scent into its pleasing components: cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, mint, cumin, garlic, chili powder, and turmeric. It’s a hearty smell that may offend at first. But like making a new friend, once you get to know what it’s made of, you settle in comfortably.

I decided to visit Aroma. Mary, though reluctant, agreed to go. I promised her that if it was horrible I would take her somewhere else immediately. I also wondered how my middle-aged digestive system would process Pakistani fare. I was prepared to have regrets, either in the restaurant or in the bathroom. We arrived at Aroma, and even getting out of the car, we could smell the strong spices on the breeze. Mary made the comment that it smelled really good, and I agreed. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad. The gentleman taking food orders at the front counter was obviously of Middle Eastern descent, but when I told him we wanted 2 chicken biryanis he said (with no trace of an accent), “Dude, you don’t wanna do that. Get the buffet. It’s like 4 bucks cheaper and you get everything.”

So we did. We sampled a small portion of everything: chicken biryani, chicken tikka masala, chicken vindaloo, and dal masoor, as well as roti (also called chapatti) and naan, baked flatbreads with amazing texture and flavor. It was, in a word, wonderful. Each dish had so many contrasting flavors that work together so well.

Admittedly, Pakistani food, like traditional food of any culture, is probably not terribly healthy, what with its liberal use of cream and butter. But I’ve already found several websites that offer healthy versions of the dishes we enjoyed. So now when we get tired of plain chicken and rice with vegetables, I have a whole other culture from which to borrow.