By the time this post goes live, it will be 6:00 Christmas night. This Christmas was different, to be sure, but there was one consistent thread the connects this Christmas to all the others; I’ve arrived at Christmas night having consumed approximately 30,000 calories and feeling like whatever’s larger than a beached whale.
My estimate of what would constitute a nice, reasonable Christmas dinner here on the homestead ended up being something more in line to feed a family of five while providing them ample leftovers for the weekend. Overkill? Most assuredly. Still, having all the right flavors felt like an important part of marking the holiday in a plague year.
If anyone needs me, I’ll be on the couch… or possibly the floor if I can’t make it all the way to the living room.
Christmas pudding, or plum pudding as it’s always been called around my family table, as far as I’m concerned, is the definitive flavor of Christmas. It’s the treat that’s topped off every Christmas night for as long as I can remember.
It’s a dish so rich and tasty that the regicide Puritan and traitor Oliver Cromwell banned it in the 1650s. It’s dessert made with beef fat and a host of other sweet and savories, so you know it’s bound to be good, right?
I’ve mostly come to terms with the idea that I won’t be making my traditional Christmas trip home. Schlepping across the plague lands to a place that’s recently made it into the New York Times as having one of the highest positivity rates in the country feels like a bad idea, regardless of the justification. It’s a tradition I care deeply about, but when pitted directly against my instinct for self-preservation doesn’t really stand a chance.
While I’ve settled myself on the idea not being home for Christmas, I realized quite late in the game that I don’t have the skill (or time) to make a proper pud on my own. Having a plum pudding to serve up on Christmas night, though, is a tradition I simply am not willing to forego even in the face of global plague. Fortunately, our friends across the water in the mother country are happy to drop one in the post and have it flown over. If the tracking is to be believed, it should be here tonight or tomorrow.
Now all I’ll have to do is manage the vanilla sauce and some semblance of proper Christmas tradition can proceed uninterrupted in spite of taking place in an alternate venue. For 2020, that’s probably doing alright.
This time of year my social media posts are usually well represented by comments about an upcoming office nondenominational winter holiday party. In recent memory these events have mainly consisted of an office pot luck lunch or if the power that be were feeling more expansive, heading out to one of the nearby food service vendors. These activities weren’t so much festive as falling into the broad category of just being better than being in the office. Their highlight, as often as not, was that after lunch and the requisite amount of socializing with coworkers, we were able to punch out a few hours early.
I didn’t always participate in these functions. Some years meetings interfered and during others I just didn’t have the mental energy to devote to small talk or other mandatory niceties. What I did enjoy, though, was having the option of “buying” a few hours of time off for the low, low price of going out to lunch.
This year, it seems we’ve decided that it’s not worth the effort to even pretend to be interested in morale and dispensed with the holiday lunch altogether. I’m not here to shed any tears over the demise of forced employee social functions, but I do hate to see the fine and noble tradition of those couple of extra hours off fall by the wayside. Some traditions are, after all, worth preserving.
Google Chrome is a remarkably powerful web browser. When running on Mac OS it’s also an incredible power and memory hog. At least once a week it bloats so badly that it makes my desktop unusable. Starting today I’m going to take a trial run of living life without Chrome.
Since it’s Mac native, I’ve given Safari the honor of being the first test platform. Although today’s tests have been limited, it’s held up admirably – and more importantly hasn’t slowed the machine down to an infuriating place. As it turns out the threshold for victory in these real life tests isn’t going to be all that high. Anything that lets me get through a week without crashing the computer will likely get a pass as a better option than continuing on with Chrome.
There was a time I’d want to go out and try all the obscure browsers hoping to turn up something with wow factor to spare. These days, I’m mostly about simplicity in use rather than wow. I don’t care so much how the machine runs just so long as it does. I’m not going to spend a lot of time wanting to tinker around under the hood until it behaves “just so.”
I’d love to place all the blame squarely on Google here, but if I’m fair, I’m currently running a slightly more than 4 year old machine that was a touch under powered when it came out of the box. The ever increasing demand for raw processing power in a computer hasn’t been kind to my Mini. Truth is, switching browsers is probably the last ditch effort to coax a bit more life out of the machine before bringing a replacement online. If I were smart, I’d go ahead and make that purchase now instead of when something finally fails on me… but then needing to buy a computer right-the-hell-now after the old one has crapped out is pretty much one of my oldest continuously observed traditions.
Ditching Chrome won’t solve all that ails computing here, but it could well alleviate the most obnoxious symptom of aging equipment. For today, that would be more than good enough.
It’s Tuesday. Yawning away on the other side of Friday close of business is eleven days off as I burn away the rump pot of leave left over at the end of the year. We’ve reached the point of 2017 where grinding my teeth and just doing whatever’s necessary to get through the week has become the most important order of business.
Sure, some of those days will be consumed by the holiday, in making the rounds, putting in appearances, and keeping up the traditions. I don’t really mind those things though. They’re a friendly constant in a world that seems to be bent on upending itself at every opportunity. With those filial obligations tended, though, there’s still a long stretch of days that I’m leaving unplanned, unscheduled, and just barely accounted for on lists of things to do.
In a week that should be winding things down towards a good rest, Olympus seems determined to grind we mere mortals on towards the bitter end. I’m quite sure I’ll be sanctioned for not displaying the requisite good cheer and positive attitude the season demands, but just now I’m going to consider any obstacle at all between me and the 11 day weekend to come an existential threat to my well being and therefore something to be avoided with extreme prejudice.
Just so we’re clear on this point, I hope everyone remembers the real reason for the season: gluttony. Let other holidays simper about peace, love, and joy, I’ll take the one that pushes consumption to grand new levels each year. Unlike the others this is still a holiday in its most primal form. It’s the one our caveman ancestors sitting around a roasting saber tooth cat loin would at least understand. All we’ve done is dress it up in a big hat with a buckle and a few proclamations, but it’s still the most primitive of the holidays we celebrate as a society… and I love it for that.
It’s in that spirit that I wish each and every one of you a very happy Thanksgiving and a Black Friday filled with spoils and pillage.
Over the last couple of years I’ve tried to be a decent member of the community and distribute the requisite candy on the day designated each year in which we teach America’s youth that begging door to door is the key to momentary happiness. After watching literal van loads of kids and adults from elsewhere being hauled in and deposited in the neighborhood to scavenge last year, though, I’m out.
The comings and goings and ringing doorbell agitate the hell out of the dogs – which in turn agitates the hell out of me. It’s the middle of the week and after a day’s work, a hundred trips to the door amidst the frantic jostling of Maggie and Winston sounds like the polar opposite of a good time. The whole process requires a level of polite interface with perfect strangers that I will just never find enjoyable no matter how traditional the holiday experience.
If I thought individual humans were to in any way be trusted to restrain themselves and display a modicum of civil behavior, I’d leave heaps of candy unattended for the taking… but since experience tells me that doesn’t last past the third visitor, it’s all going to be a big pass for me tonight.
It’s a Tuesday night and all I really, truly want to do is be home, enjoy the critters, make dinner, and spend a few hours relaxing before sleep claims me. Truly Halloween is the night of the year when I most regret not buying a house with a gated drive or a drawbridge I could pull up.
First I’d like to thank Chrissie for letting me off the hook to coming up with a new idea tonight. Since she asked three questions, I’ll do my best to take them one at a time. The first, and not just because I’m waiting for what’s cooking away in the stove is a response to (and I’m paraphrasing here) “the best and worst meal I ever ate.”
The best I’ve ever had makes it a bit of a loaded question as I’m not a foodie, per se. My tastes tend to run a bit towards the traditional. No surprise there I’m sure. I could tell you about the half dozen out of the way local crab houses on both sides of the Chesapeake between St. Mary’s County and Crisfield that are all in the running for best crab cakes and/or blue crabs I’ve ever had. I could tell you about a remarkable slice of beef served at the top of the Stratosphere in Las Vegas. I could tell you about the world’s most perfect cheeseburger, french fries with brown gravy, and strawberry milkshake combination that came from the kitchen of a health code violating former county sheriff in my home town. It’s not an exaggeration to say I’ve had dreams about that one.
With all that said, the best meal I ever had was actually a regular occurrence throughout my formative years. The local chapter of the Loyal Order of Moose had a steak feed once a month. They packed people in shoulder to shoulder at paper covered tables and served us the biggest bowl of buffet-style house salad I’ve still ever seen in person, a t-bone steak, and a potato. It was a monthly staple. It wasn’t the best cut of steak I’ve ever had (although they weren’t bad), but it was the company that made the meal. Steak at the Moose was one of the few times you could count on the entire extended family being together in one place. That was before my grandparent’s generation passed and the whole thing split into warring camps, before a couple of decades of hurt feelings and animosity. I’ve had better meals purely in terms of technical excellence, but I’ve rarely dined in better or more entertaining company.
The worst meal? In a world full of really appalling fast food options that’s a little more difficult to pinpoint. The only one that really stands out in my mind is more because it’s a meal I regret than it was because the chow was bad. The award belongs to some long forgotten Ethiopian restaurant in Adams Morgan. I was a college freshman in the city on a school-sponsored trip to get us hillbillies some culture in the form of dinner and a show. I liked the show well enough – I think maybe it was Rent – but I wasn’t quite evolved enough just yet to appreciate the virtue of truly ethnic food. The flavors were strange, the service was different, and I wasn’t a fan of everyone around me just diving in with their bare hands and some spongy bread. Between the end of the meal and when the time the bus showed up to deliver us across town, I managed to get a get across the street and wolf down a quarter pounder… and that’s what and why it ranks as my worst meal even though it says far more about 18 year old me than it does about the quality of the food.
1. Last minute. It’s safe to say that we all know my feelings about almost every meeting I’ve ever sat through. For those who don’t, I generally find them to be enormous time-sucks from which there is no hope of escape. They’re the black hole of the “professional work environment” and I’m all for canceling them as often as possible. All that I ask is that when they are cancelled, the meeting organizer should probably give a fellow enough notice so that he doesn’t walk halfway across the county to find himself turned away at the door. Giving sufficient notice of changed plans is just good form, really. Although I’m glad to have the unscheduled free time in the middle of my calendar and all, a few minutes’ notice would by me have been appreciated.
2. Contempt of Congress. The fact that the House of Representatives has the unmitigated audacity to hold anyone in Contempt of Congress for any reason whatsoever is simply stunning. Now I think Lois Lerner and the IRS were probably up to some dirty tricks – one doesn’t tend to invoke the 5th Amendment when there are no skeletons lurking about – but I hope you’ll forgive me if I don’t consider Congress a particularly honest broker when it comes to issues of fact. The truth is, they’d probably have to level charges at most of the country if they wanted to root out everyone who currently holds Congress in contempt. God knows I find them the most contemptible band of thieves and charlatans currently not serving time in prison.
3. Tradition. The older I get, the worse “because it’s tradition” sounds as a justification for doing anything. I was always under the impression that most people become more traditional as they get older. I seem to be veering in the opposite direction. I’m never going to be a sandal-wearing hippy, but I do seem to take increasing amounts of joy from rousing rabble as often as possible. Maybe it’s just my inner cynic finding his voice and preparing for a long career as a grumpy old sonofabitch… but if you can’t give me a better reason to do something that “it’s tradition,” I’m afraid I’m probably going to invite you to bugger off at the first available opportunity.
As often as not, Sunday dinner at my grandparent’s house meant roast beef, mashed potatoes, green beans, and all manner of home cooked food. While I may not have a dozen or more gathered around my table at 5PM on the dot, at least once a month, my house fills with the savory smell of roasting beef as I do my best to keep with tradition. Sure, I’ve made some tweaks to the recipes – I use more garlic than my grandmother would have ever dreamed of, for instance – but the underlying idea is still the same. Sunday dinner is important, if for no other reason than it’s a touchstone with the past.
While we’re on the topic of touching the past, I’d be remiss if I didn’t remind you that this week’s posts from the archive are now available for your reading pleasure. Pulled into the present from the last half of June and July 2008, today’s posts are a bit more pithy than they’ve been in the last few weeks. They feature a few more explanations of some of the more colorful words and phrases that show up in my vocabulary from time to time. Get your dose of the archives soon, because from the look of things, in two months this particular Sunday tradition will be drawing to an end.