November 29, 2006


Only two days remain until the return of the Calendar of Disturbing Santas, your daily visual marker of All Things Grotesquely And Inexplicably Santa, Santa-Related And, At Best, Tangentially Santalike.

Need a visual cue?


Govern yourself accordingly.

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November 27, 2006


A couple months ago, I did a round of photos for The Fez Project. The occasion? The Shrine Circus had come to town.

I have a long history with the Shrine Circus. One of my uncles, Cecil, was a Shrine clown who also drove one of those mini Shriner cars in parades. My aunt Betty was a Daughter of the Nile. They had paintings of clowns in their home that scared the shit out of me.

When I was about 4, my Dad took me to go see Uncle Cecil perform in the Shrine Circus at the Bayfront Center in downtown St. Pete.

The circus was okay - when you're 4, every circus is like a bonus - but it was no Ringling Brothers. Imagine a circus thrown by a bunch of guys at your dad's Moose lodge. You get the point.

Over the weekend, I found this photo of my dad and I taken just before we went in for the show. I can still remember that about 10 feet away from where we're standing/kneeling, there was this obnoxiously loud calliope. The Bayfront was kind of depressing, too. The walls were painted a minty green and the arena still smelled of beer from the wrestling matches held earlier in the day. My dad offered to buy me a bag of blue cotton candy and I just about puked at the thought of a mouth full of evaporating sugar mingling with the aroma of stale Budweiser and elephant poop.

Anyway here's the photo.


Even then, I dug wearing goofy hats.

I have no answers about the jacket. I give thanks every day to God or Buddha or Krishna or Jillette and Goudeau or whatever deity is available at the time that I finally grew into those jug-handle ears.

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November 25, 2006


As with every day around Casa del Ensalada, thoughts of our dear friends Drew and Susan and their boys were always in our minds during Thanksgiving. Their family always celebrated the holidays with great joy and fervor, and Thanksgiving was no different.

It wounded our hearts to think of Susan at home in Hawaii with the boys and Drew thousands of miles away standing in in harm's path in Iraq, but we knew that Drew is where he is because he feels a deep sense of service. Not to make him into a Red Cross character, but where there's a need - be it hurricane relief or a neighbor who requires a helping hand - there you'll find Drew. I've seen it firsthand.

The November before they redeployed to Hawaii, Drew and Susan were planning to drive to South Florida to spend Thanksgiving with his family in Jupiter. But they wanted to have a dinner at home here in Valrico. What did they do?


They did both.

They invited neighbors over, cooked a gigantic bird and had a tremendous feast for everyone.


The kids had their own table. Which, you know, was good for the kids and the adults.


Drew conducted operations forward at the head of the table.


A toast was raised to our hosts.


And then Drew redeployed to the recliner.

Good times.

Then this year, we got another surprise: Susan had shipped us a turkey fryer.

Now, I have a turkey fryer, but mine runs on LP gas. And as long as I've had it, it's made my family worry that I was going to either immolate myself or the house or the entire ZIP code with a fiery grease ball of flame.


This year, because of Susan and Drew's thoughtfulness, we had a wonderful - and safe - tool at our disposal.


The damn thing worked like a charm. Unlike my Flintstones-style gas fryer, this one had no open flame. You could program the cooking time and tempearature. And it has a drain nozzle that helps you get rid of the grease instead of pouring it out like a bucket.

The result?



So when I say that Drew and Susan were with us even though they were thousands of miles away, you can see what we mean.

All of which made this letter from him during the holiday even more special. It sounds like he helped make Thanksgiving as memorable for his soldiers as he did for us in Valrico.

It's one of the most moving letters I've ever read:

Family and Friends of the Wolfhounds;

Thanksgiving Day was a singularly unique holiday for the Wolfhounds. Our plan was executed perfectly and provided everything you would expect from a Thanksgiving back home: We were not back home!

The Forward Support Company did more than anyone could possibly ask in
providing a meal that would make any family proud. They worked tirelessly throughout the night to prepare everything from the Turkey down to the decorations on the table. We had steak, ham, stuffing, all sorts of pies and the list goes on and on. The Soldiers had a feast prepared to the highest of standards, but that is the only standard that Wolfhounds know.

There were multiple events available during the day. We had the Wolfhound Turkey Shoot where men competed for the right to be the best shot in the Battalion. We played soccer with our Iraqi Army counterparts and continued to build on our strong friendship and mutual respect for each other. And of course, we watched football, but we did it on an outside projection TV as we warmed ourselves sitting next to a nice warm fire. We executed a great
Thanksgiving Day and made the most of our time as the deployed Wolfhound Family. Our Wolfhound families and friends were never far from our minds.

Our mission here does not stop because of a holiday. This is the sole
reason for this Thanksgiving being singularly unique. The enemy might have expected us to have our guard down because of this holiday, but the enemy hasn't figured out what being a Wolfhound is all about. This Thanksgiving, the enemies bullets were silenced by not only the ruthlessness of the Wolfhounds bite, but also by a capable Iraqi Army and Police Force that share equally in our ability to provide a safe and secure environment for the innocent people of Iraq. The police and army are becoming more and more proficient every day simply because they are learning it from the proudest and most professional Regiment in the United States Army. Our Thanksgiving was interrupted at times with enemy fire, but the fury and ruthlessness that 105 years of tradition provides us, gave us the opportunity to burn off some of that great Thanksgiving food and come back for seconds.

Our area of responsibility is learning about not only the Wolfhound's
ruthlessness, but also our compassion. This Thanksgiving Day marks the
first time since we have deployed here that a civilian has come to us for care and help. The terrorists that brutalize and oppress these people had thrown a grenade a week back that blinded a 4 year old girl in one eye. The father had heard of us taking care of innocent people and came to us for= help. He learned first hand just how compassionate we can be. At the same time, we forced another woman who was injured today by a fragment from one of these grenades to be brought to our base. The Iraqi Police, who know all about us, brought her in and we not only rendered her the medical attention
that she needed, but also let her and her cousin share in our feast. She was completely confused by the whole situation and left our base not afraid to tell us that all she had ever "heard" was how mean Americans were and that all that she has "seen" love, care, and compassion: Now that is a Thanksgiving!

I want to extend everyone in our Family and Friends network of Wolfhounds a blessed and happy Thanksgiving. We love and miss you all, but this holiday has provided us with memories that we will never forget. More importantly, it provides the Iraqi people with memories that they will never forget.

Iam so proud to command such an incredible bunch of Soldiers. I sleep well at night knowing that the future of our Army and our Nation is bright because of these young men and women that work tirelessly every day in completing our mission. We are truly thankful for all the love and support we get from back home. We all are eternally thankful for the sacrifice of our fallen Wolfhounds and their memory is always in our hearts and minds.

We continue our mission here with more determination than ever living in their memory and by the motto that continues to make this the most powerful Regiment in our Army: NO FEAR ON EARTH!

Respectfully Yours;

Commander, 2-27 Infantry "Wolfhounds"

Drew and Susan - if you're reading this - we want you to know how proud we are of you and how much we love and miss you.

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Tune in at noon Saturday to WUSF 89.7 FM to hear my chat with host Carson Cooper, Moffitt Cancer Research Center nutritionist Kathy Allen and chef Ron Davagian, culinary supply manager at the Art Institute of Tampa.

UPDATE: You can listen to the half-hour program by clicking here.

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A father and his 11-year-old son are returning home from an afternoon of holiday shopping to briefly let their golden and Labrador retrievers relieve themselves in public of accumulated canine fluids.

Father and son are riding in a red pickup truck along an oak-lined road that abuts nicely appointed neighborhoods surrounded by ivy-strewn concrete security walls. The boy begins to note spray-painted symbols along the roadway, defacing walls and street signs.

SON: (pointing) Vandalism...

[A few seconds pass as the truck continues down the road.]

SON: (pointing) Vandalism...

[A few more seconds pass. The father says nothing.]

SON: (pointing a third time) Vandalism...


SON: Vandalism. Spray paint.


[Twenty or so seconds pass.]

SON: We live in the 'hood.


SON: Yep. We live in the 'hood.

FATHER: This is not "the 'hood."

SON: Yes, it is.

FATHER: It is a 'hood. It's not "the 'hood."

SON: Did you see that vandalism?


SON: I told you that we have gangs here.

FATHER: No, we have kids who think they know what gangs are.

SON: I told you, we have Crips.

FATHER: No, we don't.

SON: Dad, yes we do.

FATHER: No, we don't.

SON: Then what are Crips?

FATHER: A gang in L.A. There are Crips and Bloods. They take turns snuffing each other out.

SON: See?

FATHER: A gang in L.A. is not the same as a gang in Bloomingdale.

SON: Do you know what "Crip" stands for?

FATHER: Truth, justice and the American Way?

SON: Dad. No, what the word stands for?

FATHER: Tell me what the word stands for.

SON: It stands for Criminal... Republic...

[long pause]

FATHER: Go on.

[long pause]

SON: In the Park...

FATHER: What park?

SON: The park by our house.

FATHER: So, you're saying that the Crips in L.A. named themselves after the park at the end of our road?

SON: Yes.

FATHER: Okay. Whatever you say.

SON: Dad!

FATHER: You're telling me that Doughboy and his crew are rolling through here bussin' caps?

SON: What?

FATHER: You heard me.

SON: Yes. Yes they are.



SON: What is that, bussin' caps? My friend Victor at school always says, "Boy, I'm-a take you down to 40th Street and buss' a cap in yo' ass."

FATHER: Does he.

SON: Yes. We all fall down laughing.

FATHER: I can see why.

SON: What does buss' a cap mean?

FATHER: It means to shoot someone with a gun. To fire a bullet.

SON: In anger?

FATHER: Do they ever get fired in friendship?

SON: Guess not.

[Extended pause. Several minutes go by. Father and son contemplate previous exchange.]

FATHER: You know what would probably make them angry?

SON: Who?

FATHER: The Crips.

SON: What?

FATHER: If you took the same color spray paint and painted a dash and a Y at the end of all the "Crips" on the walls.

SON: [laughs violently]

FATHER: Then add the word "strips" after that. You know. Like KFC crispy strips?

SON: [talks between giggles] You mean add a dash and a Y at the end of Crip? And then "strip."

FATHER: Exactly!

SON: Crippy Strips!

FATHER: Crippy Strips!

SON: [laughing uncontrollably] Oh, dad. You kill me.


Watching TV with Andre.

Breakfast with Andre.

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November 24, 2006


podcastearbuds.jpgSo, I've been considering jumping into the podcast pool. Not listening. Making.

I already listen regularly to more than a dozen each week. I love being able to hand-pick the content I want instead of listening to the crap music on the radio and the garbage talk radio available locally.

I enjoy the podcasts done by National Geographic. I love listening to Studio 360 and This American Life. I dig listening to the daily segments by Keith Olbermann and Dan Patrick on ESPN Radio. The Loh Down on Science is brilliant. So is The Writer's Almanac. Diggnation is cool on the days when I'm feeling all webby and geekish. KCRW's Good Food is interesting most episodes, although it has a tendency to get a bit pretentious, West Coasty and "Schwety Balls"-ish (and not in a funny way.) NPR's All Songs Considered has introduced me to some interesting tunage.

But my absolute favorite is the Penn Radio, done in Las Vegas by illusionist/comedian Penn Jillette. The guests are usually great, the host is hilarious and the hour flies by. It's a great way to spend the ride home on the World's Most Expensive, Corruptly Run, Dangerous, Potentially Lethal and Useless Piece of Shit Elevated One-Way Highway. Listening to Penn Radio calms me and helps me forget that I'm an enabler funneling financial support twice a day to this horrific, poorly designed and wasteful expenditure of public money.

I've enjoyed podcasts to the point that I think it could be fun to do my own podcast. Not sure about what, really. Maybe about food pop culture. I don't know. If anything, it would be a great way to learn about the technology by dipping my head into the pool of piranhas. I have the sense that enjoying podcasts is not the same as enjoying assembling them. It might have an unappealing sausage-making quality, for all I know. I also get the sense that it might be fun to be an aerial trapeze artist doing quintuple sommersaults without a safety net, but that doesn't necessarily make me qualified to participate in the activity.

But then I read this story, which says, in essence, that podcasts are reaching only the smallest leaf of the smallest branch on the tiniest tree of listeners.

The survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project found 12% of US people online had downloaded a podcast.

Earlier this year, a survey by the same research group found that just 7% of online Americans had downloaded a show.

But despite the growth, just 1% of respondents said that they would download a podcast on a typical day.

This figure remains unchanged from the February survey.

Research firm Nielsen NetRatings estimates that there are 207,161,706 Internet users in the US.

Now, I'm not in this for a popularity contest. I don't blog because I want to be some new media tycoon. I do it because I see funny stuff or interesting stuff or I have what I think are unique experiences - or, hell, really common ones - and I need to get them out of my head and share it, hopefully in a way that's unique and fun. In the process, I try and learn some new skills that will possibly keep me from being relegated to the dinosaur tar pit.

It's possible I could achieve the same thing and do as a podcast every so often. And while 2.07 million possible listeners does seem like quite a lot, it doesn't really average out so well when you divide it by the pool of 26,000 regular podcasts that are out there. Is something worth doing for an average audience of 7,900 listeners? Depends on what it's worth, I guess.

Not all podcasts are created equal. Those that deal with sex attract much larger audiences. Those associated with established brands like NPR, Digg, Boing Boing and The Onion do very well.

Those that deal with humorous errata and morsels of food culture? Well... who's to say? Maybe it would be fun to get into the ground floor of an established technology. That would be different for a change.

If I do decide to jump into that pool, I'll let you know how it goes. And by all means, I'll share it with you, trainwreck or masterpiece. That's pretty much how I operate with the blog, even though the masterpiece has yet to make itself evident. I see no reason to change that policy.

Shoot me an e-mail (sidesalad-at-gmail-dot-com] if you think it's something you'd be interested in listening to or downloading. Or not. But definitely one of the two.

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November 23, 2006


A Thanksgiving tradition for radio disc jockeys everywhere:

Arlo Guthrie singing "Alice's Restaurant."

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Help yourselves to some leftovers of unintended food porn.

Oh, go ahead. Have a second helping.

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November 22, 2006


Jacqueline reminds me of a great moment from my childhood: the Thanksgiving turkey episode of "WKRP in Cincinnati."

Speaking of turkey and local radio, tune in WUSF 89.7 FM at 11 a.m. on Friday. I was lucky enough to be asked to join host Carson Cooper and a panel that included a nutritionist from the Moffitt Cancer Center and a chef instructor at the Art Institute of Tampa to talk about holiday food.

There might have been a mention of the story I had in today's Tribune (I wrote about the "Table of (Mal)contents.") And I might have mentioned a certain attempt to cook Thanksgiving dinner in an Easy Bake oven. But I won't say for sure. You'll have to tune in to hear for yourself.

Speaking of the Easy Bake episode, apparently my attempt to choke down a Triscuit piled high with aerosol spray Cheez 'n' Bacon has disqualified me from the fantasy league of one avid reader.

Vegitarians can be so touchy sometimes.

Besides, any Tiger Beat list that includes me, Jack Black and Fareed Zakaria, I'd rather not be on. It bespeaks a lack of reasonable standards. For their benefit, not mine.

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GumballRallyDVD.JPGMy all-time favorite movie: The Gumball Rally.

The premise: teams of drivers try to be the first to motor from New York City to Long Beach, Calif. Some use the brutal, demon speed that only Ferrari can provide. Others pose as highway patrol officers. One turns himself into a human bullet on a souped-up motorcycle. Another agrees to drive a Rolls Royce across country just so he can participate, only to watch the paint strip in a duststorm.

The race starts innocently enough. Tycoon Michael Bannon (Michael Sarrazin)gets bored during a meeting and picks up a phone. He says only one word to the person on the other end of the line: "Gumball."

From there, the race is on.

I know, I know. It sounds like "Cannonball Run."

Trust me; this is no Dom DeLuise vehicle. There is no Captain Chaos in this movie.


For one, it stars Raul Julia as Franco, the Italian race car driver who is easily distracted by the female form. Tim McIntyre, who played a great Allen Freed in "American Hot Wax," plays Franco's teammate, Smitty, who arranges for a mobile pit stop for them in the back of a semi-tractor trailer. And Gary Busey plays Gibson, the Camaro-driving, whistle-blowing loon who enjoys propping up his car on two wheels during rush hour traffic. Two years later, Busey would go on to great acclaim in "The Buddy Holly Story."

In addition to the great quote in the headline of this post, there was also this great one: "Fifty-five is fast enough to kill you, but slow enough to make you think you're safe." If anything tells you about driving during the ridiculously earnest-yet-decadent 1970s, this is it.

I always swore that if I got enough money I'd do two things: build a house with a moat that had dolphins swimming around it, and host my own Gumball Rally. (Give me a break; I was 11 when the movie came out.)

Okay, so I'm 0-for-2. But there's still time.

I mention all this because I just saw this video at YouTube of Team Polizei competing in Gumball 3000, an contest.

The team - whose Web site proclaims their 2006 victory thusly "Enemiesz Dealtd Annihilatory Death Blowen; Szabotagen, Treczhery Obercome Fur Viktorie!" - gets a police escort through an Italian city at high speed.

The 2007 route starts in London, makes its way through Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Istanbul, Athens, Dubrovnik, Vienna, Berlin and back to London.

One day... one day...


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November 21, 2006


Now for sale in the ornament aisle at Lowe's:


Jingle bells, Vinnie smells. He just rolled an 8.

My colleague at work Ryan:

Gives new meaning to “We Three Kings.”

Keep the Christ in, “Christ! I can’t believe I hit on a 19!”

Okay. That’s all I got.

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November 19, 2006



Last year, Rommie and I cooked an entire Thanksgiving meal in an Easy Bake oven.

Well, we did it again, only we filmed it for professional purposes.

Keep an eye out for the brief view of Breadstick Dough Baseball we played in the studio. Rommie was The Splendid Splinter of Dough Ball, going 5-for-5 and slicing one of the balls in half with his Easy Bake spatula.

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November 17, 2006


DeadSchembechlers.JPGThere are quite a few Ohio State Buckeye fans in the office where I work, so with the Michigan-Ohio State game this weekend, we've been joking around the office about the band The Dead Schembechlers, which took their name from the former Michigan coach, Bo Schembechler.

Now comes word that the ol' ball coach has gone to the great bowl game in the sky. He apparently died today while taping a TV interview.

Which, you know, makes for a fairly ironic band name.

The band quickly issued the following statement:

BO SCHEMBECHLER: OSU'S MOST VALIANT FOE: The band is crushed to learn of the death of Bo Schembechler. We named this band after Coach Schembechler to honor him as the face of Wolverine football. We have never wished ill will upon him in any way and have always wished him the best. When we learned that Bo had seen our web site and was amused by it we were delighted. We were simply delighted. He said to those with him as he read it, "See, I still matter in Columbus!" That may have been the greatest understatement in football history. We believe that he took the band's name as the compliment that it was meant as and that he was flattered by it. We wish to extend our deepest and most heartfelt sympathies to his family. We are truly sorry for their loss.

That being said, the band is still planning to play the Hate Michigan Rally tonight in Columbus, Ohio.

Reverence is one thing. A paying gig is quite another.

UPDATE: The Dead Schembechlers are, in fact, quite dead. They announced that the Hate Michigan Rally would be their last gig.

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November 16, 2006




It's funny because it's not true - and yet true at the same time.

You can read the rest of the story here.

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November 15, 2006


... if the cat just happened to bite into the strand of lights.

As I've always said, there's a fine line between a cat and a speed bump.

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November 14, 2006


How to not rob a convenience store, in one easy lesson.

Hey. At least he brought his smokes.

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Got another couple letters from my buddy Drew in Iraq. (I've been pounded with work and have been trying to spice up The Stew, so I haven't had a chance to catch up the Salad with his correspondence.)

I'm still awestruck by the immediacy of the front lines. Every e-mail seems like a little miracle to me. It's surreal that he's there fighting terrorists and negotiating with factions and training police and yet still has the presence of mind to stay in touch back home. If there's a better example of poise and sacrifice, I can't think of it.

A couple weeks back, after I posted a Moment of Zen sunset photo, I got one in my e-mail from Drew.


You can see a larger version of it by clicking here.

In the foreground, you can see the names of fallen soldiers in his battalion etched on a memorial wall at the Forward Operating Base.


A few days after this, Drew's wife, Susan, e-mailed a link to a story about Drew participating in a graduation ceremony for the first class of SWAT graduates in Hawija.


The story quotes Drew as saying:

"If you watch the news one of the questions that always seems to be asked is, 'Is this war in Iraq worth it?'" said Lt. Col. Drew Meyerowich, battalion commander, 2-27. "There is a simple answer to this question that involves two [elements]," Meyerowich continued.

"As long as there is an enemy that is willing to blow up innocent children and families and there are men who are willing to stand up against these criminals, then what we are doing here is worth it.

"Sitting here today are a group of young men who want to take back their society from these terrorists. They understand that the future of their families, the future of their towns, and the future of the nation rests with them," Meyerowich said. "“I am honored to be here today congratulating you."

Then I got this note from him this week in honor of Veteran's Day.

Each word is full of dedication, longing, weariness and sense of purpose. The extended family here at Casa del Ensalada could not be more proud of what he's doing and all he's accomplished:

Family and Friends of the Wolfhounds;

Veterans Day is a special time in America in that our society takes a moment to reflect on all that veterans have done and sacrificed for the freedom that our society lives in. There are no people in our society that understand this sacrifice better than the veterans themselves. Today, members of TF WOLFHOUND celebrated this sacrifice on FOB McHenry, Iraq. This morning, all members of out team were awarded their Combat Patch for the 25th Infantry Division. It was a simple yet meaningful service that gives each Soldier the Tropic Lightning patch that they wear on their right shoulder for the rest of their career and symbolizes the service that all of us are doing for the cause of freedom. Following that, I took great pleasure in helping to barbeque the steaks our Soldiers ate for dinner. Dinner was followed by a Veterans Day celebration of music and meditation on what it means to be a veteran and on our Wolfhounds that gave the ultimate sacrifice. While we tried to afford every Soldier the opportunity to attend all these events, mission and operations didn't stop.

Every member of Task Force Wolfhound continues to do incredible things for both the Iraqi people and each other. Operations have not slowed down and every day I see first hand how hard working this team is in the accomplishment of our mission. As we send Wolfhounds home for R&R Leave, this fact becomes even clearer. We are all excited about spending a few weeks at home, and having to do extra work so that others can take R & R makes us all work harder. Every Soldier, every leader is a vital part to this team.

This Veterans Day was a special event for us. In the past, many members of our team saw this as just a day off. Every Wolfhound has seen first hand what it means to be a veteran and what sacrifice for the sake of freedom feels like. Our Wolfhound Veterans from the past have over 100 years of ruthless battles and campaigns that they fought when our Nation called. We stand proud today living in their footsteps and living by the same motto that has kept the fire in this Regiment burning bright: "NO FEAR ON EARTH."

We all miss our families and friends deeply. This sadness never seems to go away, but the discipline and dedication of each member of this team knows that our work here is not only important to the people of Iraq, but also to the safety and security of the very same people we long to see. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for what you do and continue to do for Task Force Wolfhound. My love and respect goes out to every one of you today and I wish you all a safe and happy Veterans Day.

Respectfully Yours,

Commander, 2-27 Infantry "Wolfhounds"

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November 13, 2006


"The Office" comes to life at a bank meeting.

This is so Schrutian it hurts.

My favorite YouTube comment:

I just shot myself in the head, I hope I can finish thi

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November 07, 2006


Yes, the Salad Bowl's comments system is screwed.

Yes, I'm sorry.

Yes, I haven't a clue about how to fix it.

Yes, I've asked for help.

No, I'm not worried.

Yes, I said I'm not worried.

Yes, I am enjoying not deleting hundreds of comment spam from my system every day.

No, that's not the reason it's yet to be fixed.

Yes, you have the right to remain skeptical.

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WillItBlend.JPGI'm drawn like a moth to the stupid and surreal.

So it was with great pleasure that I have enjoyed the pleasure of "Will It Blend?" - a site created by blender manufacturer Blendtec to showcase how powerful their machines are.

What do they blend?

Try a rotisserie chicken and a 12-ounce coke.

Or an entire McDonald's extra value meal.

My favorite? A rake handle that gets ground to a nubbin.

The best part is the white lab coat that company founder Tom Dickson wears in each video. It's so authoritative. Kinda like the coats that doctors used to wear in cigarette ads in the 1960s.

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November 06, 2006


A father and his 11-year-old son are watching television during a weekend afternoon. The father is flipping through channels with a remote control, desperately searching for something meaningful to watch. The remote trips over a showing of "The Breakfast Club," co-starring Emilio Estevez. The father leaves it on that channel.

SON: [in casual voice] Is Emilio Estevez related to Charlie Sheen?

FATHER: [blankly] Yes.

[Several seconds of silence pass.]

SON: And Charlie Sheen is related to Martin Sheen?

FATHER: [in a monotone] Yes.

SON: Emilio was in "Mighty Ducks," right?


[Several more seconds of silence pass.]

SON: Why is his name Estevez?

FATHER: I don't know. Street cred.

SON: Huh?

FATHER: His father's real last name is Estevez and I think he didn't want to use his father's name to get work.

SON: Oh.

FATHER: It's working perfectly, by the way.

SON: It is?

FATHER: Yeah. Emilio's not working much today.

[30 seconds of more silence]

SON: I think they're all really good actors.


SON: You don't think so?

FATHER: I'm not one to criticize a Sheen.

[Minutes pass this time. The scene where Estevez decks Judd Nelson in the library comes on.]

SON: I like Charlie Sheen.


SON: Yeah. I think, you know, he's, like, a really good person. He seems like a good person. Like a role model.

FATHER: I see.

[Minutes pass.]

SON: Are there other Sheens?

FATHER: I believe so, yes.

SON: What are their names.

FATHER: There's a brother. I think his name is Ramon.

SON: Any others?

FATHER: There's one named Afro.

SON: Afro Sheen?


SON: What's Afro Sheen?

FATHER: It's a hair-care product.

SON: He made a hair-care product?

FATHER: Yep. Makes your hair shiny.

SON: I'll have to try that sometime.

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November 02, 2006


There is a great war going on within my soul.

On one side of this great Gettysburg stand goodness and light and all that is natural and perfect. There is a yearning for that which is authentic. There is a desire to become purity and truth.

On the other side? Nothing but a den of greay iniquity, a place where hell looks like a pristine sanctuary in comparison to the grimy bus-station of twisted, gutteral, basal urges that lurk just beneath the surface.

How do I know each exists? Because of Sonic Drive-In.

They sent me this press release and reminded me to which side of the neighborhood my basic instincts gravitate:


Everything is better with chili and SONIC Drive-In’s newest menu item is proving that to be true!

Available only in November, SONIC now features the Fritos® Chili Cheese Wrap and Large Tots combo with a suggested price of only $2.99. Just in time for wintry weather, this warm wrap and home-style favorite is sure to heat up the coldest of days. Thaw out with warm, slow-cooked chili mixed with crunchy Fritos® chips and topped with melted cheese. A soft flour tortilla pulls this warm-weather creation together and makes for effortless eating on the go.

Drive in to SONIC and get your Fritos® Chili Cheese Wrap & Tots today!

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Boop. Boop. Boop. Boop.

Hat tip: Katherine.

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November 01, 2006



Halloween is always a large time at Casa del Ensalada. It was no different last night.

Grandparents visited. Traditions were upheld. Candy was hauled. And the house, as you can see from above, was elaborately decorated. (Click here to see a larger version.)

Among those traditions?


An order of Dead Man's Foot meatloaf, of course.

Longtime reader(s) might remember that the Bride of Saladstein enjoys sculpting edible meat sculptures for special occasions. Some chefs carve beautiful ice swans. She molds magnificent meat masterpieces.

What did Salad Boy go as this year?


A banana.

Which, of course, inspired innumerable jokes from those handing out candy. Lots of "don't slip" gags. Plenty of "a-peal" goofs.

When people asked what he was, I'd say he was a Banana Republican.

That kind of joke plays very well in Valrico.

Campaigning on a supply-side, pro-candy platform, he went off door-to-door to meet the neighbors.


He admired Sherrye and Paul's spiffy arrangment of new fiber-optic pumpkins. (Not pictured.)


He also paid a visit to Miss Jori's home to collect some goodies.

The neighborhood's most elaborately adorned family:


The O'Briens, of course.

The Star Wars theme is strong with this one. Even baby Charlie got into it as a stroller-riding Yoda.


Obi-Wan O'Brien was mightily amused by the finished version of Dead Man's foot, not to mention the impressive (toe) cleavage.

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So, my OCD is kicking in.

I'm trying to think of all the great movies scenes that involve food. I want to do a list and then do a story in the paper for Oscar time.

"The Godfather" films are riddled with great food-related scenes.. (Canoli, Enzo the baker, the dinner table scene with Sonny, Roth's carving of the cake in Cuba, the spilled oranges when Don Corleone gets killed, etc.)

You can't ignore the blindfolded-eating-in-front-of-the-fridge scene in "9 1/2 Weeks."

The scariest scene in "Alien" was when the alien zygote pushes through John Heard's chest while they're all having dinner.

Pretty much the only thing most people remember about "Five Easy Pieces" was the chicken-salad sandwich scene.

The dinner sequence in "Beetlejuice" when everyone gets attacked while singing a possessed version of "The Banana Boat" song? Classic.

"Tom Jones" features a pretty erotic dinner scene with Albert Finney. The lobster-sucking scene in "Flashdance" is pretty hot. The "Aunt Jemima Treatment" administered in "Stripes" still makes me laugh. Then there's the spaghetti and meatballs sequence in "Lady and the Tramp."

Okay, so that's more romance than eroticism. You've got me there.

I particularly love the scene at the drive-thru in "American Beauty" when Kevin Spacey sees his wife making out with "The King" of real estate and utters the line:


"You don't get to tell me what to do ever again."

For my money, though, it's hard to top the Mr. Creosote scene in "Monty Python's The Meaning of Life" when John Cleese offers Terry Jones "a wafer-thin after-dinner mint."


When Jones, as Mr. Creosote, refuses, Cleese entices him by saying, "It is only... wafer-thin."

Then all hell breaks loose.

Classic stuff.

So let's hear it: Which one is your favorite movie scene with food?

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Saw these on the shelf at The Green Boutique in Valrico:


Now that I look at them again, these books aren't necessarily mutually exclusive.

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My story about cooking with Indian chef Suvir Saran ran today in Flavor. I had a blast making fried chicken and green beans with him at the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. He was utterly charming and patient, and the chicken recipe he gave us (you can see it on the link) was outstanding.


Anyway, he mentioned that his cornbread recipe had garnered him some raves at a conference he attended.

The chefs at the conference reportedly gave him a standing ovation after tasting it. Then he announced that he had used Jiffy mix and had doctored the recipe a bit for his own stamp on it.

1 package Jiffy Mix
1/3 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black peppercorn
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
2 Serrano chiles, very finely minced
Kernels from 2 corn cobs
1 egg
Buttermilk, just enough to make a mix that resembles muffin batter
3/4 stick of butter

Preheat oven to 350F.

In an 8-inch round baking tin, melt the butter. When melted, pull it out and sit it on the stove.

Mix all the dry ingredients and the minced pepper together.

Add eggs and buttermilk together and mix quickly and lightly.

Put the tin back in the oven for a couple of minutes. When the butter is hot again, bring the tin out, pour the batter into it, move the tin around so that the melted butter that had come on top of batter is evenly distributed all over the batter.

Bake for 35 minutes until the top begins to get golden and a toothpick stuck into the middle comes out dry.

Place the tin on a wire rack for 10 minutes.

Turn over onto a platter bottom side up and rub the cake (the bottom, now the top) with the remainder of the butter stick.

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