Begging The Question

Friday, May 20, 2005

Events have conspired against me. Nothing so dramatic as being drafted or fired or hospitalized or anything. No, it's just that what I once thought of as my "good" vehicle (1993 Jeep Grand Cherokee) gave up the ghost this week, completely unexpectedly. I took it to the dealership for an oil change and asked the mechanic to take a look at the A/C because it was acting up. The diagnosis was not good. Not only would the projected repairs to the A/C cost more than my Jeep was worth, but several other, more serious repairs required immediate attention. I would have needed to sink about $1,500 into the Jeep to keep it in safe working order and I just could not see spending that money to continue to limp along in a 12-year old vehicle.

So, last night I returned to the dealership to talk to a salesman about something newer and more reliable. After a couple of hours and a couple of test drives, I settled on a very nice 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee (Relax, TP, the M3 is still on the agenda, but that won't be until next spring). I didn't do a lot of haggling over price because (1) it was priced about where it should have been and (2) I really didn't have the energy to pretend I was shopping in a Moroccan bazaar. I traded in my old Jeep (that I got anything at all for it was surprising), gave them some cash, and drove away in my new ride only 3 1/2 hours after arriving at the lot. I really thought that spending that much money in one transaction would have been more complicated and / or time consuming. I kind of wish it had been. I spent more time agonizing over my purchase of an X-box than I did over the decision whether to buy a new Jeep. Maybe that is some kind of commentary on my personality or character or something, I don't know. I'll leave that to the professionals.

Here are a couple of poorly framed, low-light pictures of the new vehicle (click to enlarge).







Friday Spies: "Would You Rather?" Edition
The Friday Spies questions this week were inspired by the popular "Would You Rather?" game. Each question presents a choice between two possibly unappealing options. Please tell us would you rather:

1. Live alone on a deserted island for 10 years or be paid handsomely to live at Neverland Ranch with the King of Pop for one year?

Ten years alone or 1 year with Thriller? A, B, C, easy as 1, 2, 3, I'd pick Neverland Ranch. The dude has a llama and the Elephant Man's skeleton! He has a roller coaster! He probably knows who killed Kennedy. I think I could tolerate Jacko for a year far more easily than I could tolerate 10 years alone with myself.

2. Be deaf or blind?

I don't know. Who writes these questions? Blind I guess.

3. Have skin which changed color depending on your mood or visible sight lines?

Moody skin. I'm pretty sure that people already know where I am looking. Contempt or interest, I never really try to make a secret of the fact that I am looking at someone.

4. Spend a year in prison or a year on tour with Celine Dion and John Tesh?

Anything is better than prison. I'm not built for prison life and I doubt they have a Clinque counter at Folsom.

5. Have threesome with your close friends or with total strangers?

It would have to be strangers because I don't know any 2 people well enough to do THAT with them. Who are we kidding, though? Even if I knew some people, I'm not cool enough for a threesome. I can barely manage a twosome most of the time.



Sorry for the lame answers, I got swamped this afternoon and didn't have the proper amount of time to devote to this week's entries.



Thursday, May 19, 2005

I spy.
Inspired by Amber (a belated edition to my blogroll) and Kristine and in lieu of actual content, I decided to join the fun and post a picture of my eyes. Well, eye anyway.





Thursday Recipe Post: In which - SURPRISE! - I suggest that you wrap something in bacon
This post is meant to address a couple of requests from last week. Wadsworth asked for appetizer recipes and the lovely THL needs a recipe for mussels. As always, I'm happy to oblige. I have actually prepared the two scallop recipes for Wadsworth. I have not cooked mussels, or anything for that matter, for THL. Not yet anyway. But I digress. On to the recipes!

Margarita Scallops
(from Chevy's & Rio Bravo's Fresh-Mex cookbook - Yes, I got this recipe from a lame Cal-Mex chain restaurant's cookbook. Deal with it.)

1 pound large sea scallops, cleaned, rinsed and patted dry
1 tablespoon of olive oil

1/4 cup tequila
1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (if you can find Mexican or key limes I recommend them)
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
1 to 3 jalapenos, stemmed, seeded and coarsely chopped
3/4 cup of green onion pieces cut into 1/2-inch lengths
1 cup chopped cilantro leaves
1 teaspoon garlic (about 1/2 clove)
1/2 teaspoon salt

For garnish
1 lime, quartered
3 teaspoons minced cilantro

Place all the ingredients except the scallops and olive oil in a food processor or blender and puree. Taste the mixture and adjust the jalapeno to your desire. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and set aside.

In a nonstick saute pan over high heat, heat the olive oil just until smoking. Add the scallops to the pan and sear well without tossing or stirring (these will come in handy for turning the scallops). Add the mixture from the blender and bring to a boil. When the liquid reaches a boil, turn the scallops and cook for 1 minute more. Remove the scallops, cover to keep warm, and reduce the sauce to half its original volume over high heat.

Pour the sauce over the scallops (either on individual plates or on a serving platter). Garnish with the lime wedges and cilantro.

This recipe works well with shrimp, too (as Wadsworth can attest). Simply substitute 1 pound of cleaned and deveined shrimp for the scallops. You may have to adjust the cooking time, because few things are worse than overcooked shrimp. The shrimp are done once they've turned pink.



The second recipe today is for bacon-wrapped scallops, because apparently my preferred cooking method is "wrap _____ in bacon. Cook until done. Eat." Kosher? No. Tasty? Yes.

Bacon-Wrapped Scallops

1 pound large sea scallops, cleaned, rinsed and patted dry
1 tablespoon of olive oil
coarse sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
several strips of premium bacon (DON'T SKIMP ON THE BACON)
toothpicks, for securing the bacon

Wrap the outside of each scallop in a single layer of bacon (about half a strip) and secure the bacon with a toothpick. Lightly season both sides of the scallops with sea salt and pepper.

In a nonstick saute pan over medium high heat, heat the oil just until smoking. Add the scallops and sear well. Don't stir them or shake them. Turn the scallops after about 3 minutes. Let the scallops cook another minute or two. Remove the scallops to a plate and carefully remove the toothpicks. Be careful. Those babies are hot! Serve immediately.

For folks who don't dig on swine, you can omit the bacon from this recipe and not really suffer. The salty sweetness of the caramelized scallops alone is quite the treat for the tastebuds.



I saw this recipe on Tyler Florence's Food 911 and it is an easy, yet delicious way to prepare mussels. There are certainly more complicated methods to prepare mussels, but you're not going to be disappointed with the results of the quick and simple dish.

Steamed Mussels
4 pounds mussels
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 cup dry white wine (use something you would drink)
the juice of one lemon
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
Pinch red pepper flakes
1 tomato, seeded and cut in large dice
1/2 cup roughly chopped parsley (flat leaf, Italian parsley)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Rinse the mussels under cold running water while scrubbing with a vegetable brush (or your roommate's toothbrush). Remove the beards, if any (the stringy black things hanging off the shells). Discard any mussels with broken shells and discard any that are not closed or do not close when you tap on the shell.

In a 6 to 8-quart stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute the shallot, garlic and thyme for about 1 minute to create a base flavor. Stir constantly or the garlic will burn. Add the mussels and give them a good toss. Add wine, lemon juice, chicken broth and red pepper flakes. Cover the pot and steam over medium-high heat for 5 minutes or until the mussels open. Toss in the tomato, parsley and butter, cover the pot again, and steam for another minute. The tomatoes should keep their shape. Transfer to a serving bowl. Serve with plenty of grilled garlic bread to sop up the broth.



Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Coalition for Darfur: Delays and Complications
[The following post is a weekly update from Feddie and Eugene, the authors of the Coalition for Darfur blog]

The genocide in Darfur began more than two years ago. Since then, more than 400,000 people have died and the international community has yet to take any concrete action toward stopping the violence or helping the nearly 2 million displaced return to their destroyed villages and resume semi-normal lives.

And the longer the world delays, the more complicated the situation seems to become.

Just last week, the UNHCR was forced to pull its staff out of four refugee camps in Chad after five of its workers were wounded in protests over food distribution. The same day, two refugees and two Chadian police officers were killed during a clash in another camp.

Also last week, two drivers for the World Food Program were killed and rebels abducted but later released 17 members of the African Union ceasefire monitoring force.

The UN reported that militia attacks have intensified in the last month and there are now reports that rebels in the East have amassed along the border with Eritrea, potentially creating a Darfur-like conflict there as well.

All the while, the world makes symbolic gestures of concern and assistance. The AU has decided to expand its force in Darfur but lacks the troops, money and logistical resources necessary to fully do so. Help from NATO has been requested but has not yet materialized. For domestic political reasons of its own, Canada recently pledged to send 100 troops to Darfur but has since backed off because of objections from Sudan. Meanwhile, leaders from Egypt, Libya, Chad, Nigeria, Sudan, Gabon and Eritrea jointly announced their rejection of "any foreign intervention in the Darfur problem."

The crisis in Darfur is by no means simple and solutions are going to require serious thought and real political will. Unfortunately, Darfur has not yet been able to garner either. But the longer the world refuses to deal with this, the more complicated the situation is going to become.



Tuesday, May 17, 2005

It's a slam dunk. Oh, wait. These are not the droids you're looking for.
Apparently, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith is not just the culminating film in the Star Wars saga, it's an anti-Bush metaphor. Glory be to God, because, you know, there just aren't enough of those in circulation right now. It's bad enough when truly gifted (but perhaps politically misguided) writers can't think of anything smarter than Bush=Hitler, but when a ham-handed schlockmeister like George Lucas takes a crack at it...well, let's just say that I'm not sure the man's talents (to say nothing of the talents of his cardboard cut-out actors) are up to the task of making a watchable StarWars film while simultaneously taking shots at W over the war in Iraq.

That Lucas, he is so clever. I'm guessing that JarJar is the stand-in for the Red States? The Trade Federation is McDonalds and Wal-Mart? The Jedis must be academia and the Upper West Side? The Force obviously represents little "l" liberalism. Droll. How very droll.

I'm with Han Solo on this one, though. Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side. A lesson that George Lucas would have done well to have taken to heart.





A Public Service Announcement
Kids, this is not chili. The ingredient list for chili does not consist of the following:

bacon
baked beans
lima beans
kidney beans
pinto beans
potatoes

and

wait for it...

wait for it...

ketchup.

Dumping a can of Hormel chili into this concoction does not make it chili. That is what we call "bean soup" or "foul bowl of crap" or "gross, inedible slop." We do not call that chili and we do not feed that to human beings. I for one would not even feed it to my dog.





Songs in the key of B[log]
Inspired by my new iPod shuffle, which holds about 7 hours of music, and undeterred by the lukewarm response the last time I posted a request for music suggestions, I'm putting another question to you. I'd like to compile a playlist drawn from the suggestions of the readers and writers at BTQ (quick digression: Where the hell is the Russian? I'm guessing either in jail or Milbarge's basement. Either way, I'm certain that physical restraints are involved.). I'd like this playlist to be a musical version of my blogroll. So, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to name some songs that fits the theme, either songs that you would choose as the theme songs of your own blogs, or songs that remind you of other people's blogs. If, through an oversight on my part, your blog is not listed on my blogroll, feel free to participate anyway (and drop me a note so I'll know to add you to the roll). If, through and oversight on your part, you don't have a blog, you should still feel free to join the fray.

Yes, it's geeky and silly, but it could make for an interesting mix. So, you leave the songs in the comments and I'll compile the playlist, organize it, and post it some time next week. Be creative and have fun.



Monday, May 16, 2005

Fitz-Hume 411: I decided to break from tradition and actually post something
What I'm doing at work: Working. I've been working on a lot of bankruptcy and tax issues. Not my forte - but then I don't really have a forte - but I think it speaks well of my previous work that the powers-that-be have seen fit to throw some time-sensitive and politically sensitive issues my way. Of course, it could be that I was assigned these projects because I was the only person busy enough dumb enough to still be here on a Friday evening at 6:30 p.m. when the realization hit that we actually needed to address these issues. I'm in the office so much that the janitors know me by name now. You know you've spent too much time at work when the janitor knows who you are and your dog doesn't.

What I'm doing away from work: Sleeping (when I can). Running (when I can). Trying to finish TP's Tex-Mex post (when I can).

I've been fooling with my new phone. I discovered recently that there is video feature in addition to the still camera. I can record up to 15 seconds of video, and it even records sound. I've been experimenting with this new found feature. So far, I've only made movies featuring myself, but I hope to expand the cast of these short features in the near future. Did I use the word "feature" enough in this paragraph?

Oh, and I had the "good fortune" to attend a fondue party on Friday night. You know, because after a 12-hour day all I want to do is party like it's 1979.

What I'm listening to: Eric Clapton Unplugged

What I'm watching: The Shield because it's the only thing on at 11:00 p.m. when I'm dead tired from running but too tired to sleep

What I'm reading: The Complete Book of Abs

What I'm thinking about: Taking a trip the hell away from here as soon as the session ends. Milbarge suggested that he and I do a Sideways-inspired tour of Napa. Yeah, because drinking wine and getting my ass kicked by some chick from California sounds like the perfect way to relax. Of course, that assumes that I'll play the role of the Thomas Haden Church character.

What I'm not thinking about: Milbarge frantically emailed me today to report that Howard Bashman moved BTQ down his blogroll. Color me unsurprised.

Shout outs: Congratulations to McP and Dylan and all the other newly-former law students. Also, I'm relieved that THL got a clean bill of health last week. Good for her!



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    The views presented here are personal and in no way reflect the view of my employer. In addition, while legal issues are discussed here from time to time, what you read at BTQ is not legal advice. I am a lawyer, but I am not your lawyer. If you need legal advice, then go see another lawyer.

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