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Showing posts from December, 2007

Ex-mas

Christmas Day, from a celestial standpoint, is no different from any other day of the year. There is nothing mechanically unique about it and no special provision is made for it within the clockwork of the solar system. At most, it is a day slightly longer than the day which precedes it and slightly shorter than the one which follows. (Its proximity to the winter solstice is among the real reasons we celebrate that time of year in the first place.) Despite containing almost exactly 24 hours, it always tends to feel like it “rushed by”, our perception shifted by the demands and expectations of the day. Everything about Christmas stems from what we choose to make of it.

From 1997 to 2007, I spent Christmas with my wife and we had an obligation to others during the holidays; the entity to which marriage also commits you - family.

For a variety of reasons which eventually boiled down to one, we went our separate ways in 2007. For the first time in well over a decade, I faced Christmas alo…

Dressing the Part

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In my former job at a software company, I was deemed smart enough to do presentations and classes on various topics to 50-1000 people (depending on the venue). I'd often rattle off obscure tips and techniques about our software which the attendees, should they ever read their user manuals, would discover was information they've had the whole time. It was because of that thin gap in human behavior - between needing information and seeking it out - that I made a living.

Getting up in front of a large number of people means dressing better than jeans and a t-shirt (though that would be my preference) so my dress code was "graphic designer business casual". Lots of black, non-distracting shoes, etc. Meanwhile, another speaker, Michael Ninness, always wore a suit. For a graphic designer audience clothed primarily in skateboarding brands, and in contrast to the other speakers, "Myke's" attire always struck me as an impressive, if somewhat fussy, choice. (The f…

Therapy and Obsolescence

A friend of mine worked in the printing business for over 20 years as an "etcher". In this case, etching refers to using chemicals on sheets of film to control color shifts on a printing press. As the "desktop publishing" revolution took hold, computers made it possible to make those same changes consistently, more efficiently, and without having to worry about the effects of those chemicals. Control of color was no longer a matter of chemistry in skilled and experienced hands, it was a matter of moving a slider on a computer screen. In the span of about four years, Robert's core skill was completely obsolete. Gone. Respectable, but quite useless in the new world of printing. Fortunately, he's smart and one of the nicest guys in the world. He joined the company I was working for and adopted the digital age. Unfortunately, digital technology within itself has obsolescence, and its cycles can be shorter than four years. Much shorter.

It was in the opening page…

Dad

At the risk of stating the obvious, food brings people closer together. My own reminder of this fact came about while researching the one person who first inspired me to ask questions about food - my dad.

The need to eat is common to every human on earth and, for most, food is essential to staying live. I like to think that cooks have embraced their own humanity; they've taken a fundamental need and wrangled into the consumption of a passion. Cooking well shares an unfortunate parallel with fuzzy toilet seat covers - a way to take that which we must do and make it a bit more elegant. I find beautiful irony in needing something on a physical level that I also crave on an emotional one.

In exploring food, everyone develops likes and dislikes and the results are as individual as our experiences. However, our preferences can only be based on what we've actually been given the chance to try.

Parents aim to expand the horizons of their children by introducing them to new things. Teachi…

Humble Holiday Traditions

Most people associate the holidays with food, especially those flagship holidays which fall in November and December. My associations between food and holidays are perhaps a bit unusual, but becoming more prevalent and perhaps threatening to the classic definitions of Christmas. While both of my sets of grandparents would do their own take on the Thanksgiving turkey dinner, it was definitely my maternal grandmother who created the most food buzz during Christmas. For some people, it's memories of slow-baked ham or maybe prime rib, but for me, it's tamales, Spanish rice, and menudo. While I cultivate embarrassingly little of my heritage, I am technically half-Mexican and tamales are as much a part of Christmas as egg nog.

Tamale preparation is a bit tedious. I also recall the thought of intentionally cooking with lard sounded a bit disgusting if not borderline suicidal. (My maternal grandfather, it should be noted, died of a heart attack and stroke at the age of 52. I couldn…