Archive for the ‘musings’ Category

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The Nuts

October 14, 2007

Alas, not a poker post. Instead, I’ve been tinkering the last few days with spiced and roasted nuts, both sweet and savory. (I’m at home, I figure I should be in the kitchen at least part of the day.)

They’re super-easy to make, very forgiving in their recipes, and then, after all the spicing and the cooking, you get to eat them. Good stuff. That said, for all that they’re easy, I burned the hell out of the first batch. Burned them black and brown, straight through. The batches since then, though, have each been good in their own ways.

If you want to try something similar, here’s what you do:

Sweet Cashews

Sweet Cashews

4 cups unsalted cashews
4 tablespoons butter
a little shy of 6 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon crushed/powdered ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground orange peel
some nutmeg
some salt

Mix all those spices, except the salt, in a little bowl and set them aside. Don’t lose them.

Get a saucepan, something with a lot of surface area, and put it over medium heat. (Don’t use a wok — I tried that, and not enough nuts were hot enough at the same time.) Better to use too little heat than too much. Cashews toast fast.

Put those cashews into the saucepan. They’re start to smell good almost immediately. You could pop a few out of the pan and into your mouth, but they’re, you know, in a saucepan over medium heat, so be careful. Stir them around for four or five or more minutes, and toss some salt in there with them. Even better: grind sea salt on them. Sea salt’s great. If some of the cashews are getting a little (or a lot) browned on the sides, I think that’s a good sign, because that is genuine toasting, and those cashews are going to taste great.

But it’s time for butter. Put the butter in the pan and stir it all around. A good measure for time I found: Put in that half stick as a stick and keep it all moving until there’s no more stick, just buttery cashews.

Next, sprinkle on that mix of spices. Do it in a few batches, maybe thirds, so you can get the cashews into the brown-sugar glaze that’s forming. Stir like crazy. I didn’t stir enough and I ended up with a bunch of brown-sugar goop all over, which sounds like it would taste great, and maybe is, if you like to just in front of the TV and eat brown sugar. (Looking at you, wife.)

Oh! You know what? If you got a good lid for that saucepan, put it on and toss those cashews like you were stir-frying shrimp or something. That ought to work.

When they’re done, pour them onto a cookie sheet with or without aluminum foil. (How will you know when they’re done? My experience has been that they’re done about 60 seconds before I stop stirring them.) Spread them out into a single layer. Eat a few. Remember: they’re hot. Also, at this point, they’re probably gooey. Scrape out any excess brown sugar goop. Maybe give some of that to the dog, if she’s good.

Let them cool about an hour. (Good luck not touching them for an hour.) You should end up with tasty, sweet cashews with a soft glaze and uneven coating of spiced brown sugar. These isn’t the kind of recipe that yields a lethal, teeth-splitting candy shell. If, through the delicate alchemy of the process, you end up with something unexpected, don’t look at me. I pretty much just cross my fingers and put in cinnamon when I don’t know what to do.

Savory Cashews

Savory Cashews

about 2 cups unsalted cashews
2 tablespoons butter
roughly 2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon crushed/powdered ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon or so jerk seasoning
too much garlic
several pinch-fulls of herbes de Provence (which you know I love)
a whole bunch of sea salt

The first time I tried these, I dressed them all up and then roasted them on the grill. Smelled great. Were ruined. I also made my classic mistake of putting a little bit of every damn spice I like or like the name of, which created a taste with no particular flavor. It was okay, but it wasn’t exactly compelling eating. My mouth was all, “Uh, okay, but I don’t know what this is.”

This time I just mimicked the sweet recipe but tossed in a bunch of savory junk. I’d read a recipe for rosemary roasted cashews that also used brown sugar, so I figured what the hell. Everybody likes brown sugar, right? Or, rather, my wife likes brown sugar, right? I put some in, and thought of it as insurance. Plus it helps the spices stick, and keeps stuff from getting too hot. (I love it when you eat something, and it’s sweet, and then it’s spicy, so you go back for more to get the sweet back, and get caught in that delicious cycle.)

The jerk seasoning I used was McCormick’s, which is mostly sugar, red pepper, thyme, allspice, salt and onion. All the sugar in there, combined with all the brown sugar I put with it, ended up with these savory things still being pretty sweet. Also, I only used about two-thirds of the spices and brown sugar I listed. It seemed like too much brown sugar. So, to counterbalance the spices that didn’t get added because they were mixed in with the brown sugar I didn’t add, I put in a bunch more garlic and jerk seasoning.

Anyway, the routine here is the same as above: medium heat, toast, butter, spices, stir, stir, stir, spread out, cool. If it doesn’t come out looking like the picture, or tasting any good, I don’t know what to tell you. I pretty much just cross my fingers and put in lots of garlic when I don’t know what to do.

Music: PJ Harvey, “The Devil”

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Things Toby Says

October 10, 2007

Who would have thunk that I’d get the most hits ever to this site just by not having a job. Thanks to everyone who commented or wrote in with kind words. Unfortunately for those of you here looking for dirt, I can’t say much more yet about the future or the past. Not yet.

So let’s talk about writing. Sometimes, when I’m feeling like a pretentious and self-involved writer1, except I’m not actually sitting down and writing anything, I watch this clip of The West Wing (episode: “Arctic Radar”) in which Toby vets Will’s writing. I like the part where he says, “This is incredibly good, Will.” I close my eyes and imagine I’m there.

But I also like the way he describes something that’s maybe akin to writer’s block, but isn’t quite the same. Writer’s fatigue, maybe? Whatever. The point is this: Toby’s talking about how badly it’s going, but he’s still got his own “500-word stanza on American leadership in a globally interdependent age,” doesn’t he? In this little parable, “the President” is anything or anyone for whom you are writing.

(While we’re at it, I adore the writing and the timing in this clip about the funding available from the NEA.)

If you’re not a regular visitor, I expect you won’t be coming back for long, so let’s save you some time. Here are three of the most-read posts on the site. In most cases, this is because I fell backwards into valuable Google keywords. In one case, I think it’s because the post is sort of good. You decide:

1. The punchline is obviously, “So, just when I’m awake.”
Music: The Drovers, “Book of Songs”

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Any Title Except “Lone Wolf,” I Beg You

October 8, 2007

As of last Friday, October 5th, I am no longer an employee of White Wolf Publishing. I’m a freelancer once again, actively looking for contracts and assignments to add to those I already have queueing up. Likewise, I’m looking for one of those legendary “day jobs,” so I can pay my real mortgage while chasing my imaginary career.

Stop sending emails to my white-wolf.com and ccpgames.com addresses. I can’t hear you when you do that. If you’d like to contact me about work (or whatever), please send an email to my first name @ wordstudio dot net (except all assembled into a grammatical email address). If you’d like more information on what’s happening with me now, what the future holds, and what this all means for you and I, the line starts here. Let’s hope the show is worth the price of the ticket.

This is an exciting time. (An obvious lie — I mean “terrifying,” not exciting.) More commentary, speculation, rumination, and melodrama to come in the near future, since I’ll have time to blog. This time might be the explorer’s wide horizon of layered mountains hiding the misty fields laid on the mystic curve of infinity, or it might be the prisoner’s pit of drowning hours accumulating in a cell like a cistern. We’ll see. Hell, I may even cogitate. Don’t want to miss that. So do stay tuned.

Music: The Veils, “Night Thoughts of a Tired Surgeon”

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About “Lair”

September 24, 2007

Tonight I’m listening to John Debney’s soundtrack for Lair1, one of the much-hyped titles unique to the PS3. The score is excellent — evocative, textured, exciting without being immature — to the point that I went to check out whatever I could find about the game’s setting at the official website. Go there, click on the Behind the Scenes link and see what may be the best concept art gallery I’ve ever seen on a video-game’s website. It’s not just pretty, but informative. It really makes me want to know more about the designers were intending for the game to be (since their testimony is the closest I’ll probably ever get, since I vow to never buy a PS3). Dragon-riding sky-knights duking it out in a war-torn, post-apocalyptic fantasy world with a full orchestral score? Sound’s terrific. Too badaboutthe game, …though.

Music: John Debney, “Elegy”

1. I wouldn’t have known it was even released if I hadn’t searched for it, since iTunes does such a lousy job of listing, cataloging, and announcing their soundtracks.

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Leather Year

September 18, 2007

Today’s the third wedding anniversary, which they tell me is traditionally the year for leather and glass. So, you know… ouch. That sounds like kind of a weird night. I guess Sara could go out line dancing and beer-bottle-breaking, since she’s in Denver handling French art. I’ll be here in Atlanta, writing like crazy to catch up on a missed deadline. Ever on and on.

Noise: The White Stripes, “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground”

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The Golden Apple

September 2, 2007

The old external hard drive is replaced. The names of its three partitions have been re-absorbed into the list of possible names for future devices, and the new hard drive is here. As of this writing, I have erased the hard drive on Arethusa (the MacBookPro) and am reinstalling software updates from the last year or so, to bring the thing up to date. (I am writing this on the eMac.) This, like the massive back-ups I did all through the night, will take a couple of hours. When it’s done, I will re-install Boot Camp, re-partition the hard drive, and install a few of the PC games I’ve been playing of late: EVE Online and LOTRO.

You know what this means. A new peripheral means a new pretentious, overwrought name must be chosen. And, Lo!, it is done.

The new external hard drive is a Seagate FreeAgent Pro. It glows this weird amber color. Thus, its single, enormous partition (about 450 GB) has been named the Golden Apple.

The Golden Apples of the Hesperides, not to be confused with about a million other golden apples (and peaches of immortality) from various world mythologies, were hidden on an island in the far west, beyond the Straight of Gibraltar, and protected by a hundred-headed dragon. Hera wanted to be certain that their life-giving power didn’t fall into wrong hands. (Hera tended to have a funny notion of “wrong hands,” though.) The Golden Apples were the target of Hercules’ eleventh labor.

Whereas the last HD was intended to house data from our PC and our Macs, this one is dedicated to our Macs alone. Plus, since the job of this new HD is to approximate a degree of immortality for the data of the other hesperid computers — Arethusa (second definition) and Hesperia (first definition) — the name seems fitting. Beyond all that, it reminds me of an old haunt in my beloved Chicago.

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Two Pretty Movie Things

August 24, 2007

Two especially well designed things have come out of Hollywood and lodged behind my eyes like little glass splinters this week. The first is the trailer for The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. The film looks absolutely gorgeous, from compositions to colors to textures. And I expect that I will not like the title of any other film this year as much as I like this one.

The second is the poster for the new film by Tony Gilroy (who wrote those Bourne movies I like so much). Like we did on the poster for Syriana, we see that the star power of George Clooney is so great, and his ego so easy-going, that you can blur and obscure his face and still be affected by him. If this were a book called The Truth Can Be Adjusted, I’d buy it: