A Door Unopened

A Door Unopened
Knock, knock...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Hunter and the Hooker Cook it Up.

Once upon a time Guido, a hunter (cacciatore), was out in the wilds of the Tuscan hills trying to roust up some dinner. He was wily. He was intrepid. He was a good shot. But this day he was unlucky. The rabbit (coniglio) made a run for it. The deer (cervo) dashed away, and the wild boar (cinghiali) bolted wildly upon his approach. The ducks (anatra) had all ducked and, having heard report of his gun, the pheasants (fagiani) were no longer present. And for all Guido knew the woodcocks (beccaccia) were attending Woodstock-- there were none to be seen. He returned to Montecatini Val de Cecina tired, hungry and miffed that his hunt had gone so badly. He stopped at the grocery and got chicken, onions, tomatoes, red peppers and a nice bottle of primitivo. Even though he'd bagged no game, he'd set his mind on having Chicken Cacciatore. After all, he was a hunter and therefore he'd dine like one. Screw (cazzo) stereotypes!

While Guido had been out blasting up the countryside to no avail, his neighbor, Carmen, had slept the day away. Although it was early evening, she was just sipping her cappuccino, having only recently awakened. Naturally enough, this is how it goes when you're a hooker (puttana). She had just been thinking about breakfast--which would really be dinner--and thinking that she may have to succumb to that stupid, old cliche since all she had in the house was some garlic, olives, capers, canned tomatoes and spaghetti. Apparently, Pasta Puttanesca (whore's pasta) was the only thing she was stocked to make. Sick and tired of living the stereotype, she sighed and looked out her window just in time to see Guido coming home with groceries. Seeing an opportunity, she adjusted her red silk robe to allow him a gander at her fine Tuscan cleavage (scollatura). She opened her front door to let the cat (gatto) out making sure her leg widened the short hem of her gown enough to stop Guido in his tracks.

"Ciao, bello! What's in the bag?" She grabbed at the shoulder of her robe just as it slipped to her breast (seno) and pulled it up.
"Ciao, Carmen. Chicken Cacciatore." Guido tried to act naturally but he was stressed. Seeing Carmen always made him stressed and seeing her in her red silk robe with her breast (mamella)  momentarlly exposed made him much more stressed than usual.
"No luck on the hunt?" She smiled her most beguiling smile and leaned into him.
"Not today."
There was an awkward pause while Carmen waited for Guido to help the conversation along but he seemed to have nothing else to say and was intent on staring at the toes of his boots.
"The hunting was good last night for me." she said.

Carmen winked, tilted her head from side to side and put her hands on her slightly swaying hips causing the clingy fabric to highlight her Sophia Loren-like form. Guido's boots lost the battle for his attention and he tried very hard not to stare at her. He knew for sure she was wearing nothing at all under her silk. He tried not to think about how many men she'd been with the night before. Instinctively, he could tell she was very good at her job. Not wanting to think about her expertise or hear anymore about her hunt Guido tried to end the conversation.

"Well, I gotta go." He began to turn away.
"Guido! What's the rush?" She put her hand on his bicep, kneading it slightly.
"I... just..." Eyes back to his boots, he turned towards her again.
"Come in. Have a coffee." She slipped her finger through his belt loop and tugged.

Guido, having had a disappointing day, had no will to fight and allowed himself to be pulled into her flat. Maybe, he thought, it wouldn't be so bad to be the one who was hunted for a change.

In addition to her other courtesanly talents Carmen was charmin'. Carmen was also a gal who knew what she wanted and Chicken Cacciatore sounded like just the ticket. And truth be told, she'd always thought Guido had a certain something--maybe an odd mix of Roberto Begnini and Marcello Mastroianni--quirky but handsome. She decided tonight might be the night to look into it a bit further. It didn't take long before she persuaded Guido to unload his groceries onto her kitchen counter. And being a girl who had her own things to bring to the table she contributed olives, capers, garlic, olive oil, thyme, basil, spaghetti and a little sweet vinegar to the fixings.

They cooked.

Together they made Chicken Cacciatore Puttanesca. And it was good. It was indeed so good and the wine so powerful that they decided to make a night of it. Carmen did not go out for her evening hunt so that she and Guido could continue to cook--really cook. After they cooked in the kitchen, they cooked in the parlor and after the parlor, they cooked in the bedroom and when they'd worn the sheets off the bed they cooked in the shower. In fact, they cooked so well together Carmen ended up with two buns in the oven. Now that's what you call cooking.

So they decided to go with the cosmic flow. They married, had their two buns (Franco and Francesca) and opened a restaurant. Carmen gave up hooking for cooking. Guido never once regretted being the prey instead of the predator.  They continued to cook more sensibly and use precautions because with a restaurant and two babies, they had more than enough on their plates. Their special house dish was Chicken Cacciatore Puttanesca.

Chicken Cacciatore Puttanesca

  • Chicken breast, 1 large boned, skinned. Cut in half, and halves cut longitudinally into 4 pieces to equal 8 strips.
  • Red peppers, 3, seeded and sliced into  1/4" strips
  • Onion,1 medium, chopped
  • Basil, 1/2-1 cup, chopped
  • Thyme, as much as you like
  • Garlic, 2 cloves, minced or pressed
  • Capers, 2-3 TBSP
  • Black, pitted kalmata olives cut into halves, 1 cup or more
  • Heirloom tomatoes, 2 medium chopped
  • Sweet vinegar--scant TBSP--fig vinegar, balsalmic or something along those lines. If you don't have anything else, add a little sugar instead.
  • Red wine
  • Olive oil
  • Flour, seasoned with salt and pepper for dredging chicken.
Dredge chicken in seasoned flour, and cook in hot olive oil (med.-med. hot) about 3 minutes on each side, until chicken is cooked through. Remove from pan and set aside.

Add a bit more oil to the pan and saute onions, then add peppers and garlic. Cook until soft, about 4 mins. Add some red wine to help deglaze the pan and add tomatoes, thyme, capers, vinegar and olives. Let that cook down for a little bit, 5 mins. at most, and add back the chicken and basil. Keep at medium heat until the chicken has rewarmed. You can add some more red wine if you think it looks dry. It should be a chunky, thick sauce.

Serve over pasta or rice, as desired.

P.S. To say they lived happily ever after would be over simplifying. 18 years went by before they were able to use the parlor or kitchen table for cooking. But when the twins went off to university, they were able to once again cook all over the house.

A poem for Katherine. Turning 40 and getting divorced is better than you'd think. Been there. Done that.


A dollop of this, and a jigger more that
All go into making our fine feathered Kat.
You once were a Porth but now back to Brovont.
This decade you’ll master life just as you want.

At 40 your journey is not at all fated.
With work and two sons your life’s been updated
To include no more husband, but of men, there’ll be plenty.
‘Cause let’s face it, my darling, you’re no innocenti.

You’re hot and you know it-- don’t have to be nice.
You’ve got it, so flaunt it. Yeah! Bring on the spice!
On Charlie, on David, on Joe, Frank and Max
The dudes to be conquered! No time to relax.

You’re out there and stirring it up with the men.
You’re groove is so on you can rival cayenne.
With Tom, Dick and Harry you just shrug and say “Next!”
You’re calling the roll, and rewriting the text,

About how to rock it. You’ve got it all wired.
No rush. You’re at peace and at 40 inspired
To show what you know about older and wiser.
And your friends have your back; we can help as advisor.

Dear Katherine, cheers! as you start toward the middle
Of life.  You’re the bomb, girl. You’re no second fiddle.
Ten years goes by quickly, you can take it from me.
And I see in your future the best yet to be.                       

                                                                                                ~For Katherine from Lyn October 23, 2010

Monday, October 18, 2010

Sister Skirmish

This is the retelling of a classic story of sibling strife. We were about 14 and 16 when this fracas occurred. The moral of the story: Old clashes die hard or sometimes not at all.

My sister, Beth, and I were seventeen months apart in age, two years apart in school, eons apart in temperament and light years apart in dispute settlement capabilities. Hitting was absolutely forbidden in our house. Our mom insisted that we use words instead of physical violence to solve our differences. This explains why there was always quite a bit of yelling at home; we were never short on conflict. The no-hitting rule was instituted early on and was very rarely broken. Very rarely, however, does not mean never.
I had something Beth wanted and I didn’t feel like sharing. She was pestering me, big time.  Righteousness personified, her customary state of being, she barged into my room to ask me again; it seemed like the billionth time. “Please. I really want to try it. I just want to use it once. Please!” I could tell by the whiny edge of her voice that she was tired of asking. I was tired of it too.
I’d been turning her down for days. Being the youngest in the family, it seemed to me that I rarely wielded any power in household dynamics. This was an unusual, heady moment for me; I had my sister begging. I felt fully justified in saying no. I bought the stuff with my own money and it was expensive. I didn’t want to share it, and I didn’t have to share it. So, I didn’t.
The coveted item in dispute was a goopy, apple-green, apple-smelling facial mask. You applied it with a synthetic brush mounted to a screw cap. It tingled for a few minutes while it squeezed your pores down to invisibility and dried into a gluey sheet. After ten minutes, you pulled off the ghastly, rubbery shroud and … Voilá! Your skin was youthful and blemish free. (Of course, my skin was youthful. I was only fourteen at the time.) 
Beth was dying to try it. I figured that if she wanted to try it so badly, she should get her own. Certainly, she had plenty of stuff she refused to share with me. This was day five of her campaign. I wondered what made her think I’d made any sudden strides in the generosity department since she asked the day before and the day before and the day before that.
     “No!” I said, for probably the fourth time in this particular exchange, finally starting to lose my cool. I went back to practicing my flute. Lord knows, I needed the practice. I played the flute for four years in school and never really got very good at it. Just the two of us were home since our mom worked full-time as a secretary.
Beth would not give up. “Hey! I asked nicely! I just want to try it. Why can’t you just let me try it?”
“I don’t feel like it. If you want some, go get your own. It was expensive.”
“How do I know if I want to buy it if I haven’t tried it?”
“You heard me. I said no and I’m saying it again. No! Now get out of my room. I’m practicing!” Both our voices were getting louder and edgier.
“You are a spoiled brat!” Her voice escalated; I could tell she was reaching the level of red alert. She had an easily breached tipping point and I sensed that she was teetering on the edge of going to the dark side. When this happened, there was no reasoning with her; she got unpredictable, scary, and crazy. I knew I needed to get her out of my room before something bad happened but I had no idea how to make her leave. Looking back, I can see that the easiest thing to do would have been to let her use the green goo just to get rid of her, but my fourteen-year-old mind didn’t always work toward the most peaceful means to an end. I stood my ground.
“I told you to get out of my room! If you don’t get out of here now I’m gonna call mom at work!”
“If you call mom at work you’re gonna get her mad at both of us.”
“So then why don’t you leave me alone and no one will get in trouble?”
Strangely, logic always seemed to undo her. This last comment provided just the nudge she needed. Her face turned red and scrunched and she started to cry. She entered the zone of fury.
“You are such a little bitch!” She said it in a wailing screech. At the exact moment she said the word, “bitch,” she gave my metal music stand a hard shove. The stand and all the books and pages of music that were on it came flying at me.
Feeling I was under attack, I suddenly entered my own zone of fury. For a change, I was the one who got scary and crazy. I bolted up from my bed where I’d been sitting. The music hadn’t yet settled after the first violent assault and it subsequently went fluttering around me in frenzied anticipation as I went after my sister.
Beth was not fast. In all my memories, I can never remember her being faster than I, even though she was older. There must have been some point when we were younger that she could beat me in a race. Not that it mattered at this point; we both knew there was no way she could outrun me. I was the faster girl.
Unfortunately, for her, she had not fared as well as I in her genetic roll of the dice. She was shorter, rounder, less coordinated, and less athletic, factors which, no doubt, contributed to her constant irritation with me. In truth, neither one of us was particularly athletic but when it came right down to it, I was the stronger girl.
Unfortunately, for both of us, I had not relinquished my flute when I came for vengeance. Because of this oversight, (Whether it was deliberate or accidental is debatable, I suppose.) I was also the better-armed girl.
     She made the wrong turn down the hall. It might have gone differently had she made a left instead of a right. Left would have taken us down the hall and into the living room. In the seconds that would have ticked past it’s possible that I might have come back to my senses … or not. However, she took a right turn coming out my room and immediately came smack against Mom’s closed, bedroom door.
It all happened quite quickly. I can assure you that I didn’t actually premeditate the blow. There was a brief scuffle, while she tried to push me away and then, with one quick whack to the eye, it was over.
A major cry-fest ensued. My sister, not known to be particularly stoic, let loose with a stream of indignant, morally outraged howling. (For the record, this was how she spent a good percentage of her childhood and adolescence.) As soon as I connected my flute with her eye, I came back to a state of sanity.  As I recall, by that point I was crying too. It wasn’t just from the emotion of the confrontation, although that was part of it. It was obvious I would be fingered as the evildoer in this situation and it seemed entirely unfair. But I knew that a plea of, “She started it!” wasn’t going to pull me out of the hole that I’d dug for myself. She had shoved my music stand at me and, in return, I’d given her a black eye. There was no question about it. I was in big, big trouble.

Mom listened to both sides of the story when she came home. She was mad. She was mad that the entire, ridiculous incident occurred over teenybopper cosmetics. She was mad that we were fourteen and sixteen and unable to figure out how to get along together without coming to blows. She was mad about Beth’s black eye but was madder still when I told her that as a result of the fisticuffs, I’d damaged my flute.  I imagine she was mad that she came home without fortifying herself with a stiff drink before she walked in the front door.
I can’t really blame her. My sister and I were tolerable, possibly even endearing, when we were apart. Together, we were beyond exasperating; we were hateful, incorrigible, mismatched bookends.
     I was grounded for a month and I had to use my allowance to get my flute fixed. My sister’s eye went from bruised back to normal in a couple weeks. I never knew if Mom thought Beth didn’t deserve punishment or if she thought the black eye was punishment enough.

The story has become part of our family lore. Dad brought it up just a few months ago. “You and your sister. You two never could get along. Remember that time you hit her with your flute?”
Yeah, I remember. I’d like to call her up and share a laugh about that story since we’re older and with our middle-aged perspectives we should be at peace with that kind of thing. It happened over three decades ago. I’d call and make the attempt but … well … she’s not speaking to me at the moment.

"Big sisters are the crab grass in the lawn of life."
            Charles M Schulz

Thursday, October 14, 2010

It's All About the Attitude

This is a review of "Attitudes," a clothing store in Calistoga. It is also an expose Tim's attitude, or perhaps the better phrase is madditude. Known as Mr. G. (Mr. Grumpy, a self-inflicted moniker), the Huzby, and my stylist, his mood is easily turned to the dark side by wardrobe infractions and/or me forgetting to put a specifically requested article of clothing in the luggage when we travel. In this review we discover footware is a fulcrum for Mr. G.'s mood swings. It begs the question: Does Prozac treat shoe fetishes?

(Pictures included below.)

Pre-post script:
1) Since the writing of this review I have instituted a new rule. From here on out if I have to wear sandals, so does Mr. G. You know what they say, "What's good for the goose is good for the gander."  Honk, honk.

2) Mr. G. owes Ozzie, the mad masticator of mayhem, a huge debt of gratitude.  During his puppyhood, The Oz opted to chew only one pair of shoes and it just so happened to be the offending pair described below. An accident? Doubtful.

So here goes...

My stylist/Huzby and I are headed to Calistoga for a one night stay at Solage. We're 20 minutes into the drive when he asks what shoes I brought to wear for dinner. To be clear, Mr. Grumpy has already specified what skirt and sweater I should wear and I have dutifully packed both.

"You're not planning to wear those horrible elf boots" Mr. Grumpy says while giving me the hairiest hairy eyeball he can give and still stay in his lane.

"Yes. And they're not elf boots. They're closed-toed heels. It's supposed to be pouring tonight." I cross my arms, battening down the hatches; I can see I'm in for a tirade.

Mr. G: "I hate those shoes. You said you were bringing the sandals I got you for Christmas."

ME: "Oh, right. Well I wasn't going to wear those to dinner. I was just going to wear them in the room. Anyway, I forgot the sandals. I'm not wearing sandals in the rain. "

Mr. G: "I HATE those shoes."

ME: "Well, hopefully it won't ruin the night. You're a big boy."

Mr. G: Glowering silence.

ME: "What do you want to do, turn around and go back for the sandals?"

Mr. G: "You KNOW I hate those shoes. I can't believe you forgot the sandals!"

ME: "Well it is what it is. If you really can't stand the shoes we can probably get something else in Calistoga."

Mr. G: "We'd better be able to find something. God! I HATE elf boots!"

Clearly--the pressure is on.

We get to Lincoln Ave., the main street in Calistoga and park. We've been told there is one shoe store in town--Bella Tootsie, which we find and the shoes in the window look promising. Unfortunately it closed at 3:00, ten minutes before we show up.

Sensing the possibility of a major fail on my part from which Mr. G may suffer irreversible upset, I grasp at the possibility that the clothing store we're passing--Attitudes--may sell shoes. We go inside and (There MUST be a God.) there is a small wall space devoted to shoes. Mr. G looks the 12 or 15 styles over and declares there is only one acceptable pair --sandals, naturally. Unfortunately they only have them in a 6 or a 10. Thinking the 6 is likely too small (usually I'm a 6.5 or 7), it's still the closest to my size. So I try them on, willing my feet to think small. Lo and behold, a Cinderella moment occurs. They fit exactly with no room to spare and on the very last strap hole. Not only that, they're comfortable! Not only that, they're on sale! Not only that, I notice a pair of elf boots (which I AM permitted to wear when we're not dining out) and try them on and they fit! (Size 6 again: Born brand must run slightly big.) Not only that, they're on sale, too! So, Mr. G springs for the sandals and I spring for the elf boots. End result: two very satisfied customers and one evening disaster averted.

It is, of course, pouring down rain when we WALK the block and a half to dinner (SolBar) under a shared umbrella. My feet are soaked when we get there, but we sit next to the fire and my feet and sandals are dry in about 10 minutes. I do a cursory inventory. I am the only fool in the place wearing sandals. The upside? Mr. Grumpy is looking pretty happy.

Thanks to Attitudes! You saved the evening! I thank you from the bottom of my toes.
The offending footware has been Ozzified and gone to the great shoe closet in the sky.
The new elf boots
The shoes that saved dinner--not exactly rainware.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

True Blood: Shameless and Shirtless

The Huzby and I have recently become fans of True Blood. This is an HBO show featuring vampires, telepaths, werewolves, shape-shifters, maenads, zombies and various and sundry other creatures you probably thought were mythical. Not so in the land of True Blood. All "imaginary" beings are alive and kicking--at least for a show or two. There's an alarmingly high death rate for True Blood characters which shouldn't be at all surprising given how vampires, werewolves and zombies tend to treat "normal" people and how "normal" people tend to treat them. Let's just say the show's theme song "Bad Things"--sung by Jace Everett--explains a lot. The refrain--"I wanna do bad things with you" is a recurring theme.

Part of True Blood's allure (aside from the supernatural storyline and boatloads of blood)--at least for us--is that it's pornography without the graphy. Well, not too much graphy, anyway. You get to view some boobs, the occasional tush, some distant and indistinct frontal shots but that's it. The implied sex is pretty significant, however. Between zombie orgies (Eww. Those zombies look so weird and creepy with entirely black eyes, but they do like their sex.), Jason Stackhouse's jonesing Johhson (Talk about eye-candy, this guy is perfexcellence-- see below), and kinky, chained-up vampire sex (Would you like it here or there? Vampires like it anywhere. Torture wheel? You've got a deal.) you can really soak up some vicarious carnal knowledge. Gets a nice flow going to the old spongiosum if you know what I mean.

I give you Jason Stackhouse (Ryan Kwanten)--a modern day David. Oh, so yummy! But please, Jason, just don't speak.

In this purely prurient pursuit we are catching up. Currently we're in the middle of season 2 while the rest of the True Blood collective/coven is watching season 3. We aren't supposed to know that Sookie (the female lead) is telepathic due to the fact that she's really a fairy--but someone  let that naughty kitty out of the bag. Somehow I can't imagine this revelation went over well. A fairy? A FAIRY? I don't know. It just seems lame. Why can't she just be telepathic and that's it? Given the story is already over the top far-fetched, why launch it into true fairy-tale land? I'm sure the writers have something in mind but I've never thought of putting fairies and vampires in the same story. It just seems wrong somehow--like mixing milk with lemonade. You just wouldn't do it.

My favorite character is Lafayette. As far as I can tell at this point, he's a "normal" person. He's a buffed, street savvy, drug-dealing, cross-dressing, grill-working king of snappy verbiage. The dude has heart coupled with a certain charmingly tarnished morality. He used to deal "V"--vampire blood--which, based on the reaction of the trippers, has a similar effect to an ectasty meets LSD hybrid. As a result of dealing "V" he got locked in a vampire dungeon for 3 weeks and then fed upon. I'm so glad they didn't kill him. His pet name for his near and dear cousin,Tara, is "Hooker". Is it twisted of me to find this totally endearing? I want to hang with Lafayette in the hope that some of his uber-coolness will rub off on me. The sad reality is, I'm forever destined to be a goofy groupie from afar and as close to cool I'll ever get is chilly. Lafayette, I love you, man!
Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) Admit it. You want him. But he only loves the boys.

As much as I love Lafayette, the character I'd most like to take home is Sam. He's a shape-shifter and the animal he most often changes into is a dog. His human persona is fairly dog-like too. He remains loyal no matter how badly he's treated and has an innate sense of who's good and who's not. Not only is he a dog, he's a good dog. Sam is a good, good boy. I'd just love to put Sam in my car, let him hang his head out the window, drive him home, feed him some biscuits, scratch his belly, give him a nice bath and a trim (he seems to prefer a shaggy look) and have him keep my feet warm or perhaps lick my toes while I type, read or watch movies. And as long as Sam stays in dog form I don't think the Huzby will mind too much. Sam would fit right in with our mutts, Ozzie and Willie. C'mon home with me puppy! We've got a place for you in our pack.
Sam Merlotte (Sam Trammell) Woof, woof! Did I forget to mention he's easy on the eyes?
And because it IS ultimately all about the vampire and you have to pick a side, I have to go with team Eric. He's hot--scaldingly so, in fact. With vampires like Eric roaming the land of True Blood it's no wonder there are so many fangbangers. He's darkly dangerous. He's ancient and powerful. He's even sentimental and emotionally vulnerable, believe it or not. He thinks Sookie with her high fallutin' morality is cute but naive and pesky (she is pesky)--although, unfortunately I do believe I see a love story brewing there. Honestly, Sookie's holier-than-thou 'tude is hard to take and hopefully exposure to Eric will even her out a little--make her easier to like. She's always going off on some "the right and the only way" spiel. Blah, blah, blah. Yadda, yadda, yadda. Maybe a little vampire sex with Eric (instead of the mild-mannered Bill --::yawn::)will knock her off her high horse and put her on the same level as the rest of us "normal" people--except, oh yeah, she's a fairy. Who knew fairies were so obnoxiously righteous? Sic 'er Eric!

Eric Northman, giving new meaning to the phrase, "Bite me."

By now you've realized I left out a very important and obvious draw of True Blood. It's packed with beautiful bods. In my opinion, the male works of art outnumber the females but if, as am I, you are an equal opportunity enjoyer, all you need to do is watch and salivate. Don't forget your drool bucket. There's a fount of fine flesh to feast your eyes upon.

Amy (Lizzy Caplan) was only in 6 episodes but garnered our votes for best breasts...so far. And yes, you get to see them for real in the show--numerous times.

In our quest to catch up we enjoyed a 3 episode marathon a few weeks ago. It was late when the shows finished and I was tired and therefore only joking when I asked the Huzby if he wanted to do bad things with me. I know--such a tease. Instead, we went to sleep.

A few hours later Huzby started whining and moaning--a nightmare. I woke him up. He went back to sleep and in seconds started up again. I woke him up again. A minute later I had to wake him again.
"What's going on?" I asked. "What's the dream?"
"Well it's over now. No more bad dreams."
Another round and I woke him again.
"Dream that you have a wooden stake so you can kill them." I suggested.
"NO! I'm ONE of them!" he growled back.
Oh, brother.
It took 6 go arounds of rousing before he finally gave it up.

Luckily we haven't had a repeat performance of "I'm ONE of them!" nightmares. I'd hate to have to give up True Blood due to hyper vampire sensitivity. We've both confessed to being banned from watching from "Dark Shadows" as little kids for the same reason. The nightmares inspired by that sinister serial I can still vividly recall. But True Blood offers more than just scary vampires and their partnering preternatural personalities. Along with the gratuitous fright and gore you get access to some salaciously steamy spectacles. It's a truly phantasmagoric and fleshy phenom--if you're into that kind of thing.

This cover from Rolling Stone pretty much sums it all up:

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Girl Can't Help It: Hetero--WHAT?!

The Girl Can't Help It: Hetero--WHAT?!: "Who knew 3-D heteroscedasticity could be so beautiful? Jargon. Lingo. Vernacular. Drivel. Call it what you will. Every field of interes..."


Who knew 3-D heteroscedasticity could be so beautiful?

Jargon. Lingo. Vernacular. Drivel. Call it what you will. Every field of interest has its own lexicon. One may speculate that such esoteric vocabulary is a good way to keep out the riff raff. And whether or not that’s the intention, it is in fact, the end result.
In our house we sometimes have a war of words.  This does not involve the dropping of bombs (OK, I admit, the occasional F-bomb is discharged), deployment of weapons or even IEDs (unless it stands for intellectually extravagant doublespeak), but nevertheless results in a certain level of shock and awe.  
I’m talking about Life sciences (myself) versus Statistics (the Huzby). A smack down for a throw down.  A biological head butt countered by a mathematical crotch shot. I mean, check out these rosters and see which side speaks to you. Which team wins you over? Which has more understandable terms? Which squad do you play for?
Team Life Sciences:                                
Pyknotic (nope, not related to hypnotic)   
Phenotype (with its tag-team member genotype)  
Endocytosis (and its evil twin exocytosis)       
Team Statistics:
Heteroscedasticity (not to be confused with homoscedasticity)
Ergodic (not at all what you’re thinking, I’m sure)
Eigenvalues (and their nasty cousins the Eigenvectors)
I could go on. There are many, many more players in the lineups on both sides. It’s possible you play for a different team all together. And don’t worry, I won’t bore you with definitions.  If you’re really that interested you can look them up yourselves. But I’m guessing this is enough to prove my point. We sling jargon like a gum-smacking, big-haired, bad dye-jobbed, red-lipped, wise-cracking, pencil-licking waitress slings hash. It happens with regularity at our house. However, should a definition be requested we do try to educate each other—not always successfully—but we try.
Generally, we make an effort not to assault unsuspecting visitors with these terms.  But there was one occasion at a dinner party we threw where a guest asked Tim about ergodic data. The out-of-the-know rest of us watched and listened as Tim went through the explanation. It’s possible I had my mouth open and may even have had food dropping out of it but no one would have noticed. We were all rapt, trying to understand what the hell Tim was talking about as he parsed through the definition for our statistically curious guest.
I believe the wife of this inquisitive diner may have been feeling a bit insecure and out of her element because after a minute or two she interrupted saying, “You know Tim, we all know you’re very smart. You really don’t have to prove it to anyone sitting at this table.” Hello? Lady, it was YOUR husband who asked the question in the first place. Anyway, another compassionate dinner guest (Thank you Greg K.) offered an easy out, stating that it was the first and probably last time he’d be privy to such a rarefied and abstruse dinner topic. The conversation politely moved on.
Shoptalk. Parlance. Twaddle. Gibberish.  It’s what we do and what we speak. And as “erotic” as “ergodic” data may sound it doesn’t necessarily provide for scintillating dinner dialog—at least not by everyone’s standards. Nor should “pyknotic” be used to describe the Catherine Trammell/Sharon Stone character in “Basic Instinct” although it’s tempting, isn’t it? And to further clarify: Bayesians are not required to wear beige. Blebbing is not what our thighs do after the holidays. Kurtosis is not what happens when your quarterback is Kurt Warner. And just think how much more exciting statistics would be if "bootstrapping" was the latest and greatest in S&M and "heteroscedasticity" had anything to do with sex. But no. It's just a tease. Still, it's always fun to think of the possibilities.
Where bootstrapping meets life sciences: Not as thrilling as one might hope.

Note: Thanks to Tim for helping me with some of the stats speak.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Review of Hunter Douglas custom window coverings

How many weeks does it take to have window coverings for an entire house made to order?

Let's calculate, shall we?

Week 1:
The order and measurements are taken by the designer/contractor and submitted.

Week 2:
Another person comes out to REmeasure everything. This guy makes some changes to the game plan. Those shutters you wanted won't be quite what you were hoping for but they'll have to do. You are excited to think that in 3-4 more weeks (this is what your designer told you) you'll have your windows covered. You'll be able to take the sheets off the furniture and you won't have to look at the cat sunbathing on the blanket covering the dining room table. You'll be able to put down the area rugs and stop worrying about any old nosy-creepy-pervy persons peering in the windows at any old time of the day or night.

Week 3:
You assume, according to the new game plan, the order and measurements are now in the line-up at the factory. You envision American techno-know-how at its finest as they start carefully, ACCURATELY churning out your request. You really are looking forward to shades/shutters being installed so you'll have more temperature control. The afternoon sun is turning half your house into an EZ-Bake oven on a daily basis. You start to hallucinate a burnt chocolate chip cookie smell coming from that side of the house.

Weeks 4-7:
You've called what you consider to be a reasonable number of times and have been told Hunter Douglas is really backed up. "Yeah, but we were told 3-4 weeks." "Well, everyone's order is backed up right now, ma'am. Summer is when people order window coverings." You should be glad to hear this because it's an indicator that the economy must be on the upswing. But you've been living in a fishbowl for so long you've started to develop gill slits in your neck and you wonder if that bump on your spine is the beginnings of a dorsal fin. You have a momentary inspiration that fish flakes for dinner might be delicious. Crap, you think as you brush at the silvery scales on your arms. What could be taking so long?

Week 8:
Happiness! Bliss! Joy! The window coverings are installed! But wait. What's this? The main front shutter was made to only half height. It has to go back. Also one kitchen blind is too wide--that has to go back too. Still, MOST of the coverings are in and now you can at least reclaim the dining room table from the cat and sleep in the bedrooms without experiencing the blinding, morning sun bugle call. The gill slits, dorsal fin bump and fish flake craving disappear immediately. The scales take a few days more to drop away. Still, your living room remains swathed in sheets since you can't allow the uncovered window to cook the stuffing out of your sofa. The cat now bivouacs there.

Weeks 9-11:
You wonder how the hell long it can take to trim down a shade and remake a shutter. You think your order should really take priority since you've been waiting so long. Your fat cat has smooshed the back of your sofa cushions into unrecognizable blobs. You're tired of seeing what will someday be your beautiful living room covered in sheets. Your sofa has morphed into a couch-be-que from the afternoon sun. It's so hot in the afternoon even the cat evacuates the area.

Week 12:
The shade arrives. It's still a bit too wide so the installer has to remove the end caps from the bottom slat. You accept this as a reasonable solution because you can't stand the thought of sending the thing back and waiting ...AGAIN. You wonder how many spiders will decide to set up shop inside the hollow slat and how hard it can be to take the right measurements.  Oy! The sofa and surrounds continue to scorch in the front room.

Week 13-14:
Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick. When you call to ask about your shutter no one has any answers other than it's not ready. You know this already.

Week 15:
The shutter is installed. You are thrilled to have you living room looking presentable and the cat relocates. He is now king of the queen bed. You vow to never again use Hunter Douglas. You paid in advance and were not in any way compensated for the extraordinarily long wait. Nor did HD ever contact you to make an apology or explanation of why the process took so long.

~HD has their name plastered on all the pulls. You don't really want your home to be a blatant advertisement for their product but you have no choice.

~The shade in your study is also a cap too wide. You don't want to wait another 3-4 weeks so you take the caps off the ends of the bottom slat. Now that you look at it you see they already took the caps off the top slat. You think the spiders in your home will find that you provide a variety of comfortable and safe nesting environments. No doubt their babies will feel that way too. You hope that while the cat is sleeping on your bed he's dreaming of killing spiders. He's going to have to earn his keep.

~On the plus side, the window coverings do look very good. Don't you agree?

Imagine without the shutters how sun-blazed this room was: