Monday, December 28, 2009

Need a Washday Miracle


Mrs Elliott and I hosted a holiday party at our house last night for the volunteers who contribute their time at KPOV-LP (106.7). (With the exception of two full-time employees, everyone else at the station is a volunteer: the radio hosts ["disc jockeys"], engineering staff, office staff, web master, fund raisers, and all the other folk needed to keep a radio station legal and operating 24 hours a day providing Central Oregon with its most eclectic and interesting music and commentary are volunteers.)

The party was a lot of fun; about 40 people showed up. And après-party cleanup isn't proving to be too bad with the exception of the baking pans for the lasagna. Devores market on Newport Ave. stocks these delicious hand-made lasagnas (just heat and serve) which come in heavy 9'' x 12'' Pyrex glass baking pans. We bought four of them for the party.

There is a$12 deposit required per pan, so we've got $48 worth of deposit coming back when we return them.

Being unclear on the subject of bakeware etiquette, I'm presuming that it would not be appropriate to return them all crusted with lasagna leavings. So I'm trying to make them squeaky-clean.

Which is turning out to be a more difficult job than I expected.

The facts are these:

I figured the oven would have a difficult time heating four big cold lasagnas (two on upper rack, two on lower rack) evenly, so after sliding them into the hot oven and closing the door, I turned on the oven's convection blower, figuring this would keep the air inside moving and equalize the temperatures.

This was, of course, merely theory: I've never owned a convection oven. To me, ovens have two settings: "bake" (bottom heat), and "broil" (top heat).

But if you can't experiment on guests, who can you experiment on?

The instructions called for baking for an hour and a half at 350 degrees for one thawed lasagna, but since these were barely above freezing (we kept them overnight in our walk-in cooler, aka the "garage") I reckoned it might be more like 2 hours before all four would be ready.

I could see that I was running into trouble when I opened the door at the halfway point to check the internal temperatures of the upper and lower lasagnas to see how evenly they were heating. The inside of the lasagnas were only about 100 degrees, too cool, but the tops were heading toward deep brown leathery finish indicative of burnt territory.

I turned down the heat to 300 and turned off the convection fan so the food could continue to heat without further browning the tops, and I was able to rescue the meal that way. However, unbeknown to me, the cheese had welded itself to the glass with an incredibly tough lacto-silica bond, clearly more tenacious than the stuff that NASA uses to bond the heat-shield tiles to the space shuttle.

After everyone left, I scraped what could from the pans, and left them to soak overnight in hot detergenty* water.

I was greeted this morning by a sinkful of what looked like cold minestrone soup. And a lot of scrubbing to do.

I've managed to get the pans pretty clean, but there are some spots where no amount of scrubbing with Scotch-Brite will clean.

This is going to require chemistry and power tools.

I worry that if I return the pans in less-than-clean condition I will be blacklisted at Devores forever, necessitating the need to don a false mustache and use an assumed name if I ever want to lease some more bakeware.

I should also probably read the manual for the oven to find out what the convection function is meant to be good for.
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* We say "soapy," so why can't we say "detergenty"? Soap and detergent are two different things. The first does not necessarily lift grease and oil, the last does.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

LAX 2 RDM After Xmas

Mrs Elliott and I got back from SoCal last night. The flight from LAX to RDM was not promised to be able to land due to the fog. They said that it might have to pull up and head to Eugene, and if Eugene was also socked in, then to Portland. We were offered a direct flight to Portland as an alternative.

Neither option looked very promising in terms of getting home easily, quickly, and inexpensively. We decided to take our chances and stuck to the flight as booked, and by the time the plane got to Redmond, the the fog had obligingly lifted off the ground sufficiently high that the pilot could see the landing markers and land the crate.

At LAX a child was made unhappy by her mother's decision to return to their Los Angeles home rather than try to fly to Grandma's house in Bend for Christmas. Another couple were distressed that their holiday plans had been cut short due to burst water pipes in their Bend home, and that they would be delayed getting back. A few chose the sure bet of Portland.

Anyway, when we got back, we found that Santa had brought Mrs Elliott a pair of cross-country skis and ski poles. He also managed to find some elves (at the Wagner Mall) to patch up her old favorite pair of Uggs.

I got some nice Orvis wool sweaters ("for your Friday nights out," suggests Mrs. Claus) and a swell bedside clock that projects the time and inside and outside temperatures onto the ceiling. It also sets itself, having a tiny radio receiver inside that picks up time signals that originate from a highly-accurate cesium clock located in a secure government facility at an undisclosed location. If I ever find that thing blinking 12:00 then I reckon I have more important things to worry about than what time it is.

Looking at the hoar frost on the trees outside the window right now, I'm thankful I live in such a beautiful place (click on the picture to see a larger view - taken from Galveston bridge over Deschutes river, it's a color picture).

L.A. was crowded, noisy, dirty, and not attractive. The receptionist at the hotel apologized for the cold weather. It was about 68 degrees. There's a reason they make Santa-themed tropical shirts.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Cyclocross Nationals, "We'll be coming back next year"

(A few days after last weekend's blowout cycling competition, a friend wrote to me to say that a friend of his who had been in the event wrote to him about the race. I asked for and received permission to quote the letter. Photo Janet Hill.)

Cross Nats from Bend, from John Elgart

Quick Result: 3rd in the 60-64 Men

Of course it snowed. We were expecting it. It always snows at Nationals, accompanied by ice and frozen ruts. Sometime during the event, a blizzard comes along and blows away the tents. Cross is a winter sport and snow is normal for a winter sport. If you went skiing and it snowed would you be suprised?

So deal with it. Or that's my official attitude.

In my race, the temperature was 20 degrees. It had been 14 degrees below zero two nights before. The snow had a nice granular wet sand-like texture. Definitely rideable, if sketchy in the icy corners. I found one of these corners warming up and crashed HARD in the only dirt on the course. Not too good an omen.

The 60-64 field featured 5 or 6 former champions, including Dan Norton from Seattle, who has won at least a dozen times. Dave Rath from Vermont and Phil Bannister from Maine have also won several times. At various times these 3 have beaten me, and Dan had to be considered the favorite. He is a terrific turn rider and this course is nothing but turns. Phil beat me by a minute in the ice of Kansas City last year. Dave Rath beat me 5 years ago in Portland -- this is the one year we overlap. Were I seeding us, I'd put myself in 4th.

Somehow at the start I couldn't find my pedal and slotted in 4th for the hole shot corner. Norton was first and within a minute had opened a gap. Bannister took off after him and I was leading a group of 5 a few seconds back. It was obvious that Norton was riding the turns faster than anyone, and we weren't gaining much in the straight stretches.

My one advantage was that I could ride the steep icy hillside where most were running. After two laps (about 15 minutes into this 40 minute race) I bridged across to Phil Bannister and we took alternating leads. It seemed easy riding behind Phil, but I couldn't shake him. Our skills seemed to balance out: he was a bit faster on turns and I was a bit faster on the straights.

My greatest problem was the cold. While my body was quite warm, my hands were getting stiff, and I was having trouble shifting and breaking. With 2 to go, I hit a stake in a turn because I couldn't apply my brakes from the hoods and Phil got a 10 second lead. Half a lap later I caught him and then took the lead, but on the final lap I missed my pick up on the stairs and Phil passed me. Then coming off the hill, it took me 100 meters to shift into a big gear for the sprint. So in the end I was 2 seconds out of 2nd place.

Phil and I had probably exchanged the lead 10 times. It was a great race.

2 good photos: http://cxmagazine.com/photo-galleries-national-championships-bend-thursday-masters-bs-2009#more-8648

I'm in the Janet Hill Gallery.

A few passing observations on Cross Nationals:

* Technical stuff: tubulars with 25 pounds or less were the tires of choice. And, yes, there were a lot of flats. Most common tubular: Tufo Cubus. Clincher: Racing Ralphs. We rode the Challenge Fango 34 -- it had great traction (until Linda flatted the front!)

* Clothing: If you look in the Gallery above, you'll notice that I'm wearing what looks like Hammer shorts with my Webcor jersey. No I'm not riding for Hammer -- this is Voler's new thermal skinsuit and I only have it in this pattern. It works great!! (You can order one for next season in your order--or we have them on Velowear now). Gloves were another matter. I went to REI and got their best with fingers, used warmers and still froze. (I had frostbite as a kid, so maybe that's it). Interestingly some of the Elites rode gloveless at 32 degrees! For me, next year it's bar ends and mittens.

* As I've mentioned before Cross Nationals is where all the categories participate -- juniors, elites, masters, collegiates. I love the mix. Monday morning after the racing Linda and I were sitting around breakfast in the Ameritel with Jonathan Page (3rd in the Elites in a tough race), a junior from SoCal and his dad, a masters rider. You wouldn't find that at any other Nats.

* Cross brings out the spectators. There were probably 10,000 for the Elite men's race, crowding the course. And of course there were the costumes, the drummers, the dollar bills in beer cans, the guys trying to get the racers to take a drink of their PBR, etc. It's almost as annoying as the crowd at the TdFrance. .

* Bend went all out to welcome the event. People stopped us on the street. Everyone is a cross fan, which is kind of weird. Well, Bend is that kind of place. We'll be coming back next year.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Find Something Nice to Say About The Weather

I was challenged today to find something nice to say about the weather. Easy as cake:

It's not all about you. The shrubberies and trees and other leetle pitiable creechurs need the rain.

Silver Moon getting its Porter on

I sometimes despair of ever finding a good dry stout. Every stout I've tried from the local breweries have been sweet, caramel, molasses-y messes. In contrast to these so-called "English stouts," my taste is more toward what some call an "Irish stout": a full-bodied beer with a dry finish.*

I read in last week's The Source Weekly (I think it was), that Silver Moon had a new stout on tap. Today being the sort of gray, wet, useless day that invites nothing more ambitious than sittin', I decided to swing by Silver Moon after completing some gift-y errands that I told Mrs Elliot were none of her beeswax to try their new stout.

I got there a few minutes before opening time (noon). They must have taken pity at seeing me standing outside the door, in the drizzle, so they let me in. I found a seat at the empty bar, and within a couple minutes a few more locals found their way in, too.

I ordered a pint of the new stout and I gotta say it was better than I hoped for. Still not as dry as I like, but gracious! compared with the dozens of obnoxiously sweet stouts better suited for children -- if children drank beer -- than for adults that I've tried and discarded over this past year, I found Silver Moon's stout quite likable.

As a point of comparison, I asked for a taste of their porter. I last tasted their porter in autumn of 2008, and wanted to see how it differed from the stout (porters and stouts are pretty much the same thing: cf., "What is the difference between porter and stout?" but brewmasters and -mistresses have their own conventions so I'm mentioning this, is all).

I found the porter to be better than I remembered it from last year, and better than their new stout. It has interesting citrusy or maybe cinnamony notes, and a cleaner finish.

"I had this last year. I don't remember it being this good. What did you do?"

"We made it better."

A man of few words, I reckon.

I left with a growler of the porter.

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* Some disagree with the terms "English" and "Irish" as labels for sweet and dry stouts, respectively; I commend to the earnest student "The Hunting of the Stout" at http://zythophile.wordpress.com/2008/02/14/the-hunting-of-the-stout/ .

Monday, December 14, 2009

Boy, That Was Really Bad

After dinner last night, Mrs Elliott and I dressed in our finest Christmas attire (handsome red sweater and nice slacks for me, black skirt and top with cute red jacket for her) and ventured out to the Tower Theatre to see Rita Coolidge put on a Christmas show.

The show was sold out. Outside the theater we came across someone we knew who was selling her tickets because she was unable to attend the performance.

She was the lucky one. The show was just terrible. Wow, it was bad.

The four-piece band was no better than a hotel lounge group. I'm not kidding, there wasn't a single interesting player in the band doing anything of interest, ever. And Coolidge, dragging behind the beat, sucked the life out of every song.

After three songs we were glancing at each other, rolling our eyes. After four songs we quietly discussed leaving. After five, we left.

We had hoped to be able to hear the Youth Choir of Central Oregon, who were on the bill with her, but the thought of listening to Coolidge and her band slog through another clum-footed arrangement of something dreary like "Jingle Bell Rock" made staying impossible.

We were home before 8:30.

Worst music I've ever heard in Bend. In fact, it was the worst music I've paid money to hear.

It's Just Like Summer, Isn't It?

Yesterday was shaping up to being considerably nicer than the weather boys and girls had originally predicted back on Friday, the day I last checked a forecast. Sunny, upper 30's, light to no wind--a pleasant day.

I was thinking I'd like to go watch some of the madness at the cyclocross Nationals by the amphitheater, and Mrs Elliott offered to drop me off and pick me up later (she had shopping to do), but I realized that I was in a contemplative mood, and what I really wanted to do was sit in the sun and read.* So she dropped me off at Drake Park instead, where I foraged for sunny seating, disturbing no end of ducks who gave every impression of having taken great offense by my presence.

Despite my newly-fused ankle, I found the stroll through the park to be pretty easy. The MBT rocker-bottom shoes are a great help, and the arthritis in my foot's subtalar joint didn't trouble, thanks to meloxicam, an anti-inflammatory medicine that a friend with a sore rotator cuff turned me on to. (I asked my doctor if meloxicam was right for me. She shrugged, stubbed out her cigarette. "Sure, why not?")

The park was beautiful and peaceful. I believe that Mirror Pond thawed later in the day, but it was mostly frozen while I was in the park, and looked stunning behind the trees.

Alas, I found no place to sit in the sun: the benches and seats were either in the shade or didn't face the sun. So I made my way to Dudley's Bookshop & Cafe instead, and with a mug of green tea and a brownie at hand, read for an hour or so, until Mrs Elliott came to claim me.

As we walked back to the car, I asked her how the shopping had been and she complained of optimistically high prices and of having forgotten a discount card back at the house.

There were a lot of people out downtown in the relatively warm temperatures and bright sunlight. We met, by accident, an acquaintance of Mrs Elliott's who exclaimed, "Everybody's out! It's just like summer, isn't it?"

It was, in fact, a really nice day; and I'm confident that that perfect sunny, peaceful place to sit and read is out there, waiting to be discovered.

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* Update: it appears that my presence wasn't needed at the races. According to this story, Sunday's crowd of 5,000 or so was the largest to watch a U.S. Cyclocross National Championship.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Shovelin' Snow

Wow. I don't think anyone saw this much snow coming. KOHD's Adam Clark predicted "some flurries." The NWS said "Numerous snow showers in the evening... then scattered snow showers overnight. Breezy...colder. Local drifting snow in the evening. Snow accumulation of up to 2 inches. Storm total snow accumulation 2 to 5 inches..."

Snowed all day. Started to taper off about an hour ago, so I shoveled off the walkway and sidewalk. Nearly a foot of the stuff, too. Light as feathers, though. And pretty as a picture, even under the light of the streetlight out front. Other than the scraping of the shovel and my breathing, all I heard was the wind soughing in the trees.

Mrs Elliott ran with the Jingle Bell Run/Walk yesterday right before the Christmas parade. Today, I puttered, she spent the day in the living room, wrappin' presents.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

For the Most Specious of Reasons

How does one pick a sports team to root for? I'm supporting the Ducks right now. Why? because when I decided to decide between being a Oregon State rooter or an Oregon rooter last month, I had a choice between watching the Ducks or the Beavers on TV. Both games were on at pretty much the same time, But Oregon was broadcast in high-definition, while the Oregon State game was in standard def.

I like a better picture so I watched the Oregon game, and enjoyed how they played. I've learned a little more about the players, so I have a little more invested in Oregon.

It's for that reason that I'm following the Ducks.

Isn't that a stupid reason? Maybe yes, maybe no.

How do most of us pick the team we root for? Often it's simply an accident of birth: the town or state we were born in. Because we happened to live closer to Buena High than Ventura High, I went to Buena, and as a result, was encouraged to cheer for our team and boo theirs.

Russian people are patriotic about Russia, and French people are patriotic about France.

There's a scene in Woody Allen's Love and Death where the Russian military leader is giving his troops a pep talk before they go into battle with the French. He is explaining about how important it is for them to win. He says that, "If they kill more of us, they win. If we kill more of them, we win!"

Allen, playing a conscripted soldier, raises his hand and asks, "W-what do we win?"

The Russian sergeant can't believe his ears.

"Imagine your loved ones conquered by Napoleon and forced to live under French rule. Do you want them to eat that rich food and those heavy sauces? Do you want them to have soufflé every meal and croissant?"

Here in America you better love it or leave it.

My point is that just as folk identify with the country they grew up in, I suspect that we support a particular team simply out of geographic, academic, familial or economic happenstance, a choice made not out of mentality, but sentimentality. Is that any sillier than picking a team based on which one happened to be playing on the network with the better picture?

Beats me. I'm not going to worry about it because I feel that picking a team doesn't have to be the result of careful planning. Just pick one. Cheer for them and boo the other guys. That's what I'll be doing this evening at a cheerfully-noisy establishment downtown. With plenty of screens.

All in high-def.

Learning One's Lesson

I made a big mistake last week. Mrs Elliott and I drove all the way down to the Sacramento area for Thanksgiving with the kids. I assumed I'd find good wines there to bring to the table. But the only place to buy wine in that wasteland of factory outlets and stucco neighborhoods was a Safeway. The main wine in their "Imported Wines" section was -- wait for it -- Yellowtail. The domestics wines section was simply depressing.

I should have brought a couple bottles of decent wine with me.

I have learned my lesson: I'm not going to count on finding good wine in Marina Del Ray on Christmas eve. I'll pack a couple bottles of good stuff in my suitcase before boarding that plane.

The tricky part is making sure that good stuff doesn't to to waste.

No one in the family knows good wine from bad, so those that drink wine pour from any bottle at hand, simply checking the color. This means that the good wine I bring often ends up in the glass of someone who has no appreciation for it. This is not just a waste of good wine: it means that I end up having to drink crummy wine blindly purchased by a non wine-drinker.

With a more discriminating group of people I could camouflage the good wine by pouring it into an empty bottle of a crummy wine, like Yellowtail, for example. But there are some there that buy Yellowtail. Even a Maneschevits bottle would not dissuade them.

There's nothing for it. I'll have to hide the good wine in a bedroom closet.
 
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