Dishevelment update, 6/30/20

Let’s check in on my DISHEVELMENT, shall we?

For those of you just joining us, my last haircut was six months ago. I was due for one halfway through February, but because none of my friends had stepped up to claim the role of Adam in As You Like It I was forced to take on the octogenarian myself, and I thought the longer, more unkempt hair would be appropriate. After all, the morning after AYLI closed and we left  for Basel to cruise down the Rhine, surely I could get a haircut there, right?

Hahahahahahahahaha and also tee-hee.

Sure, Georgia Gov. Brian “The What Now?” Kemp opened up hair salons and tattoo parlors (and bowling alleys) sometime in the last 90 days, but do I look stupid? No, I look disheveled, and the basic reason is that I don’t intend to go into a hair salon until I feel safe in doing so.[1]

To my hair stylist, Sammie D., my apologies. I’m sure you’re doing the best you can, but you shouldn’t be responsible for keeping the virus out of my lungs. And as I’ve said before, I have always voted for the candidate most likely to institute universal healthcare and a social safety net that would have taken care of independent business owners and workers in crises like this one. Why should I feel guilty when it’s the rest of you who didn’t?

Anyway, all of this is to say that here is where I am:

It’s long enough to fall free into my face but not long enough to pull back into a ponytail, so I am now sporting a hairband when I can’t stand the annoyance any longer.

But Dale, I hear some of you cry, surely your wearing a hairband is a violation of societal expectations of gender roles too far? It’s a… girl thing!

Honey, please.

It is a utilitarian object, pure and simple. Society’s decision that it is necessarily or essentially feminine is without any kind of logical basis. My hair is long and keeps getting in my eyes. What does a woman with the same problem do? She wears a hairband. But I, because I am a man, am expected to forego that solution? I think not.

But Dale, you continue to whine, wouldn’t a manly headband do? Actually, no: I have a headband I wear while doing yardwork to keep the manly sweat from rolling into my manly eyes, but it does nothing to contain my luscious flowing locks. I’m good with my plastic hairband.

It all reminds me of the mid–late 60s when longer hair started coming (back) into fashion. My parents and their peers mocked the Beatles for their long hair — which was not that long, was it? — and many were the jokes about not being able to tell the boys from the girls. I remember thinking then that their concerns were without any kind of real foundation. Times change; fashion changes. And on the whole the changes — since the 60s at any rate —have been for greater personal freedom and greater personal choice.[2]

To say otherwise is to grant a single society’s prejudices a reality they do not actually possess and to grant that society unholy power over your comfort and style.

And do I look like the kind of guy who’s apt to grant society that kind of power?

Stay tuned.

—————

[1] I’m not getting any of the tattoos I’d like to get, either. The fact that my Lovely First Wife has forbidden them is not relevant to this discussion.

[2] Whenever I pointed out how long General George Custer’s or Thomas Jefferson’s hair was, and my parents said, “Well the fashion was different then,” my incredulous response was, “Well, the fashion is different now; what is so hard about this?”

Revel in the Dishevelment

REVEL IN THE DISHEVELMENT.

This is a phrase I coined sometime back in April or May — time has no meaning any more — to highlight the necessity of foregoing haircuts during lockdown. Make it a badge of honor that you didn’t risk your life or others around you just to look good, that kind of thing.

My last haircut was in February. I had not gotten one in March because I was forced to take the role of Adam in my production of As You Like It at Newnan Theatre Company, and I thought a shaggier look would be better for the octogenarian. I figured I would get a haircut in Germany after we left for our Viking River Cruise down the Rhine, the morning after AYLI closed on March 29.

And so here I am, June, no haircut in sight.

Yeah, I know, it doesn’t look bad. I’m glamorous that way. Just like Jake Gyllenhaal.

But my hair is the longest it has ever been, and certainly my beard has never been anywhere this long. (There are those who will claim my hair was this long back in the 80s, but that was when it was not gray and had no texture, hanging lankly about my ears.)

Now it’s beginning to bug me: it’s too long, and despite the flattering photo, it doesn’t really look good.

Here’s my point: WHY DO I NEED TO LOOK GOOD? 1. I’m in Captivity — who cares what I look like? 2. Let’s think about the pressure to LOOK GOOD.

LOOKING GOOD is one of those cultural/economic hoops you jump through to be “acceptable,” and you always have to ask yourself… to whom, exactly? The short answer is to other people jumping through those same hoops and who now firmly believe in their reality.

I’ve never been one to grant those hoops “reality” — I jump through them because I’m privileged and it’s easy — but I am under no illusion that a) I really have to; or b) I would be accepted as “acceptable” by gatekeepers whose gates I have no intention of going through.

So it’s easy enough to wear my hair uncut — and my beard untrimmed, even though I could keep that in check — as a symbol of my “purity” of intent, even though the way things are going I probably won’t be getting a haircut until August or September — if then. The important thing is that I continue to self-quarantine in order to do my best to keep myself and my family from being exposed to the virus.

I’m kind of looking forward to the ultra-dishevelment. New boundaries to transgress, old hoops to set on fire and not jump through. I’ll keep you updated.

Meal prep strategy

I’m pretty sure most people who cook have some similar system in place, but just in case you find it frustrating to throw a meal together and have all the components come out ready to serve at the same time, here’s how I do it.

I had a soy sauce glaze that I had made (to replace a missing ingredient in a Blue Apron shipment) and wanted to use up, so I decided on sautéed shrimp, roasted broccoli, and rice for the meal. Each element is going to take a different time to prepare, so the idea is to break that time down into chunks and set kitchen timer “checkpoints.”

Step 1

(Preheat the oven, of course.)

Get a sticky note and write your elements at the top of the sheet, with the actual cook time involved. (If something requires a long prep, like marinating, etc., you might want to include that as one of your time chunks.)

Clearly I will need to start the rice in the rice cooker first.

A little basic math, and now we have our first timer setting: 21 minutes before the broccoli has to go in the oven.

Do that again with the shrimp:

Now we have our timer settings.

And there we have it:

I scribble all of this down and put the sticky note on the counter where I can keep track of it. If this were a set of instructions in a cookbook, it would be like this:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°.
  2. Start the rice in the rice cooker, setting the timer for 35 minutes.
  3. SET THE OVEN TIMER FOR 21 MINUTES.
  4. Prep the broccoli and the shrimp. Chop the lovage to add to the rice when it is done.
  5. When the timer goes off, PUT THE BROCCOLI IN THE OVEN.
  6. SET THE TIMER FOR 6 MINUTES.
    1. When there are a couple of minutes left, preheat the pan. (You could break up the timer in to 4 and 2 minute chunks, of course.)
  7. Put the shrimp in the pan.
  8. SET THE TIMER FOR 3 MINUTES.
  9. Turn the shrimp
  10. SET THE TIMER FOR 3 MINUTES.
  11. Add the glaze.
  12. SET THE TIMER FOR 2 MINUTES.
  13. Stir the shrimp to coat with the glaze.
  14. And ding! everything’s done. Plate and serve.

And that’s my good deed for the day.

Cocktails: Lemony goodness

Yesterday a friend emailed me with a request: he really liked this nice tonic water with a lemon taste, but it’s expensive. Did I have a substitute/workaround?

Probably. Not having tasted this particular brand, I wasn’t sure what we were looking for, nor could I find it during my ramblings during the morning.

So we improvise.

First, I got a bottle of pure lemon extract and gave that a whirl. For a lowball glass full of tonic water, one drop is enough to give it a strong lemon taste. (Ingredients are lemon oil, alcohol, and water; you could dilute it with more alcohol.) (Also, remember those ingredients.)

Next, I prepared an oleo saccharum. (I have a killer sour mix that’s an oleo saccharum.)

It’s easy. Use a vegetable peeler to peel a lemon.

You can leave them whole; this time I cut them into strips.

Put them in a bowl with one teaspoon of sugar and muddle them. If you don’t have a cocktail muddler, use a wooden spoon or something similar.

Let it sit for 4–6 hours. The lemon’s oil will ooze out and collect. Add two tablespoons of lemon juice and one of vodka, strain into a container. You have basically just created pure lemon extract from the store, but fresher and a little more balanced (with the sugar) for your cocktail.

One or two drops of this in your tonic water is effective.

Thirdly, you could just use lemon bitters.

There you go. That’s my civic responsibility for the day.

New Cocktail: Cedar & Sorghum

I’m not wild about the name. As you will see, I could also name it the Cedar & Sassafras. Or I could find another gemstone/crystal to name it after, like the Smoky Topaz, the Smoky Quartz, and the Jasper. Time will tell. In the meantime, here’s the new cocktail, which I am wild about.

Quick background: Years ago I made a stab at mixing my own bitters, choosing to create tinctures of all the ingredients and mix proportionately with those (as opposed to dumping all the herbs, etc., into a jar and not being able to adjust anything).

Yesterday, while musing about clearing out two decades of software installation disks, I came across the jar of cedar shavings, still soaking away. Hm, I thought, and began to experiment. (ABORTIVE ATTEMPT)

Manhattan + 1/4 oz of the cedar stuff was astringent. (GESTALT)

I modified. (SUCCESSIVE APPROXIMATION)

Cedar & Sorghum

  • 2 oz rye
  • 3/4 oz sweet vermouth
  • 1 barspoon cedar tincture
  • 1 barspoon bourbon-barrel maple syrup
  • 2 dashes WoodfordReserve Sassafras & Sorghum bitters

Stir over ice, strain into glass. Garnish with orange peel.

To make the cedar tincture, find “cedar papers,” the kind used for grilling. Break up 3–4 of them into chips and place in a jar. Add vodka, let steep for a week or so, until it’s a dark amber color. Strain and filter. You’re not going to need a lot.

The drink is good: the woodiness and astringency of the cedar is still there, but doesn’t overwhelm your palate on the aftertaste. The maple syrup mellows the overall front of the drink while still contributing to the woodiness. The bitters bolster the flavor of the syrup and provide one more layer to the drink.

Enjoy!

Day 5 of the Captivity: Cleaning out the electronics drawer

It is Day 5 in our COVID-19 self-isolation. I have cleaned off my desk, my drafting table, and one large pile by my drafting table. It is time now to ::dramatic music stinger:: clean out the electronics drawer.

I will liveblog this for your entertainment.

10:08 am

We begin.

This drawer has been the repository for lots and lots of stuff. As you will see as we go through it, the deepest layers are practically pre-Internet.

10:14 am

Here’s the drawer in full panoply on my drafting table.

Right off the bat you can see my dilemma. This is my old iPad 2 that used to provide the music out in the labyrinth.

However, it can no longer be updated, nor will it allow items like Pandora to be updated.  What am I to do with this thing? It doesn’t need to stay in the drawer, and that’s the #1 decision being made today. Into the LATER box it goes for eventual resale/recycling.

10:28 am

Here’s the keyboard/stand that went with the iPad.

Still useful? Probably. So here’s a pro tip about cleaning out a repository like this: touch everything once, make a decision, then put it in the appropriate pile. Since this requires some testing to make a final decision, I’m starting a TEST pile.

The first layer is the most recent and consists of obvious KEEP items.

My new projector.

Our external CD drive. (Thanks, Apple.)

My rangefinder that I use to estimate distances when laying out the burn.

10:49 am

No, it’s not taking me this long to clean out the drawer. It’s taking me this long to document it, edit the photos, upload them, and then comment. APPRECIATE MY LABOR HERE, PEOPLE.

We’re still in the KEEP layer.

Headsets.

These look like random flotsam, but they’re actually part of a kit that I kind of have to go with the projector. I’ve learned from the past: show up with all the cables and connectors.

Okay, this one’s a puzzler. It has flotsam from last summer’s trip to Grand Canyon: room key for our cabin at Bright Angel Lodge; emergency diarrhea medication; a car USB plug; and what appear to be prior flotsam from aforesaid projector kit: plug covers and a ¿remote control case? No matter. This is the new projector baggie.

Another headset. This one is wireless/Bluetooth. I bought it back when I was composing more than I am now, so that I would not annoy the rest of the house with my repetitive ABORTIVE ATTEMPTS and yet not have to deal with the cord while pivoting from the computer to the piano keyboard. You may imagine my annoyance when I discovered it did not work with Finale.

USB microphone, still handy for online meetings.

Same with the USB speaker.

Now we’re getting into the weird layers.

A body cam, unopened. I think this came from my late father-in-law’s stash of electronics. Into the TEST pile it goes.

11:30 am

This is a keyboard cover for the MacBook Pro for those times I have it out in the labyrinth. Still useful, of course. KEEP.

I think this is a hard drive, but whose is it and what is on it? Into the TEST pile.

I have an hypothesis and it is mine and I made it up and here goes: all those missing socks were just the larval forms of charging cables. Their DNA is finally triggered after enough runs through the wash, and they disapparate into a drawer. This is the only sane explanation.

I mean, this connector was at least two MacBook Pros ago.

And what did this go to? LATER, in case the device is still lurking somewhere.

It doesn’t matter that this isn’t in focus. Why aren’t these in baggies/bags/boxes with their devices?

Finally, I know what this is.

I’ll just put it with the other audio cables…

…or maybe not. Into the projector travel baggie it goes.

A Wacom tablet, very useful.

Need to TEST it, though; these things are notorious for slipping behind the current technology. The reason I own it is that my original Wacom no longer worked with the laptop.

Solar-charged charger. Still useful.

These USB chargers, on the other hand, were useful once, but their ability to charge is limited to one charge. Perhaps to put in my shoulder bag when traveling, but certainly not to take to a burn. I’ll need to TEST first (and find their charging chords).

This, on the other hand, is a nice heavy-duty charger I bought for burns. Definitely a KEEP.

But now we’re down to the lower levels indeed. Lunch break.

1:31 pm

And we’re back, starting a very slow exploration of the chthonic layers of the electronics drawer.

An iPod Nano. Into the LATER box (for certain recycling).

Accoutrements for the aforementioned Wacom tablet that died. The tablet itself is in another pile—another day, another post.

 

Ah, but then there are treasures.

What is that, you ask? It’s We Three Kings, and if you’re really good I’ll make you a copy for your holiday enjoyment.

I think the font is Papyrus, and that just about sums up the quality of this wonderful work of #CorroborativeEvidence.

Tucked away in the back was a definite KEEP: the cassette tape converter I bought to convert Aces & Eights, another beautiful lump of #CorroborativeEvidence. Now I can use it to make a quality transfer of We Three Kings.

How does one end up with so many fossils?

Part of it is my impulse to make sure I have enough charging cables for every device in my life such that I never have to go looking for one: one in the car, one in the study, one for the labyrinth, one in the kitchen, and one in the den. What? You don’t do this? Huh, weird.

I don’t even know what this is. The label says RAVPOWER, and it seems to be some kind of adapter, but I have no clue what it goes to. UPDATE: it goes with the heavy-duty charger shown above.

Here’s a major point to make: if I don’t know what it is and I haven’t needed it for three years or more—why am I keeping it? Keeping it out for TESTING, but let’s face it, it’s a useless bit.

Remotes. These were all for software that controls presentations.

The outer ends are Apple products that I’m pretty sure do not work any longer. The middle one I think goes to the projector. NO, I DON’T KNOW WHY IT’S NOT IN THE BOX WITH THE PROJECTOR LEAVE ME ALONE. The others… I’ll have to see if they still work, and if their dongles are in my laptop case.

A digital camera.

Pretty sure my phone does a better job now. Still, it’s nice enough. Does anyone want it?

The Assistant Assistive Feline™, aka Cecil the Pest, is being as helpful as he usually is.

Ah, something useful! A vacuum for your electronics—I definitely need to slip some new batteries into this one and see if it works.

No clue. I mean, it’s an audio adapter, but I don’t know where/when I would have used it.

Software and receipts from the MacBook Pro before this one. (FWIW, I am on Filemaker Pro 17; the company now has 18 and other mutations available.) This goes straight into the trash.

2:33 pm

The last — and strangest — layer.

This is truly flotsam from long past. For example: this is a case for an architect’s scale which now lives in my actual desk drawer along with two others.

Why do I own architect scales? Because, O children, we used to have to draw our set designs and working drawings by hand. That’s why I have a drafting table in the first place. Somewhere in my study are a clip-on lamp and a device that clamped onto the drafting table and slid up and down providing a ready horizontal line (with an attachment that did angles).

What’s left of a drafting kit; the other compass, etc., are on my desk.

Drafting triangles: 45°, 30°/60°. As I said, my German attachment let me do all kinds of angles, so these are truly what I started out in college with. (One day I’ll show you my original drafting board and the canvas tote I designed and made to carry it all in.) These are KEEP because who throws away stuff like this? (The masking tape was to elevate them just enough so that ink wouldn’t bleed under them.)

“Drafting dots.” These were a lazy way to tape your drawings down without permanent damage to them. They seem to be still okay, so I’m keeping them to use with mini-art projects.

Ah, this is a blast from the past. You see, children, working drawings — and here the current members of Newnan Theatre Company are saying “the what now?” — for sets came in a certain order, and this was my cheat sheet for that order. I think this might have been from one of the big Feydeau farces we did back in the 1970s.

More pre-computer stuff: ink.

Remember, these have been sitting untouched for decades in the back of this drawer. Observe:

See how the pigment has completely settled? Decades do that to you.

And what’s this?

I think it’s to apply gold leaf. It still sounds as if there’s fluid in there when I shake it. More exploration is required.

Here’s something from the modern era, a toolkit for you to get into your MacBook laptop and repair/upgrade it. Okay, so it’s not that modern.

And here are a couple of memory cards. TRASH.

A memory card from a camera, I guess. No clue as to what’s on it and no way to find out. TRASH.

You may well ask, am I not seized with fear that I am tossing some beloved memorabilia? Yes, I am, but the logical part of my brain says that I would never have stored anything important on a memory card without making sure I had it in more accessible formats.

Ah, I’ve been looking for this multi-use adapter. Into the projector box it goes.

OF COURSE I BOUGHT ANOTHER ONE IN THE MEANTIME.

A power adapter from a couple of laptops ago.

An audio adapter. Over to the cable corner, which I’ll get to before long I’m sure.

Here’s a fun thing:

This is a Box Rivet Remover. What’s a Box Rivet? Go look. I used to use them to create Reading Caves. I think I have a box in the basement somewhere. Anyway, you use this to pry the little devices apart for reuse.

Memorabilia. A nametag I made for one of those occasions when either the State Board of Education or poobahs from the DOE came to visit GHP and we would have a luncheon for them to chat with students and faculty.

I forget who made this for me. I’m thinking it was back at East Coweta High.

And this one. Mercy.

1990 was the 20th anniversary of my going to GHP as an art major, so despite the fact that I had a two-year-old at home, I thought it was important for me to leave my wife to deal with the child and household for seven weeks. It is truly a miracle I am still a) married; and b) alive.

BTW, if you’re a math nerd, you’ve already figured out that yes, this year is the 50th anniversary of my life-changing summer.

These three cards are safely tucked away in the back of the drawer for my heirs and assigns to find and deal with.

These cassettes must have come in a set, because although I may have had an interest in actors learning British accents, I don’t think I would have cared about the others.

Speaking of two-year-olds, won’t my 32-year-old child be excited to know I’ve uncovered this:

I think this was the choral program we went to and were stunned when he stepped up to the mic for a solo — he had not bothered to mention that to us.

I do wonder what’s on this tape.

I will keep it to find out.

Do people still use these?

They’re white-out tape dispensers. I bought them in bulk back in 2001/2002 when I was translating Marriage of Figaro; I just took the Schirmer vocal score and taped over the Italian/German and wrote in my lyrics by hand. Kept me on track/meter, and then I could just photocopy the results.  (I still have all of that, btw, if your musical group would like to stage Figaro. We had a blast doing it.)

A rock.

It’s probably linked in spirit to this last corner:

Some mechanical pencil leads, and definite flotsam:

These are bits and pieces I’ve picked up here and yon, because these things can become part of art. Especially now that I’ve uncovered them and put them with the incomplete art project where they most definitely fit in.

There were several buttons in there; these two jumped out at me.

Both are meant to be snarky, but the first one has a different resonance at the moment: I don’t need half the stuff that was in this drawer. Clear it out. Let it go.

Et voilá:

Tidy, uncluttered, everything necessary, and room for items that previously could not fit. Not a bad way to spend a day in Captivity.

3:12 pm

Still to come on another day:

  • The TEST pile
  • Converting We Three Kings and Christmas in Our Town to mp3s
  • Tracking down a video camera to see what’s on the Hi-8 cassette
  • Double-checking all the cables with the electronics that are still hiding all over the place; I have hard drives that I don’t think I can even hook up to the computer at this point
  • Cleaning up the cable corner

This has been a long time…

Fifteen years ago today, March 11, 2005, I hit publish on the first blogpost on this blog: http://www.dalelyles.com/2005/03/11/here-we-go/

As usual, its origin date is muddy. I actually began blogging about curriculum and the media center over on Blogspot.com, and then I decided I wanted my own. So I got in touch with an old AOL buddy who hosts these kinds of things, and lo! I had my own domain and my own email address. (Having “dale@dalelyles.com” has been very handy over the years.)

I used to blog a lot on here. I talked about curriculum, the role of the media center, education in general, liberal policies, rightwing idiocies, travel, GHP, just tons and tons of things.

All my creative stuff was posted here. The Lichtenbergian Society began as a blogpost here, and we all know where that led.

Indeed, once the Lichtenbergianism website went live, most of my writing was done over there. Now over here I blog mostly about travel and burning and rightwing idiocies, and the past year or so not even so much about the idiocies — there are just too many of them. I’d be like a golden retriever and a garden hose trying to catch it all.

Who knows? I may get back into the habit of blogging about life, the universe, and everything — as far as I know, we’re all about to be quarantined from COVID-19, so I’ll have to find something to do. It’s not like I’m actually going to finish Seven Dreams of Falling or start Ten Little Waltzes, is it?

Anyway, happy birthday to my blog!

Assembly required

You will recall that we spent a weekend in Quebec and that I came home with this:[1]

Now its secrets will be revealed. This is a lighting fixture that I bought at Rare & Different,[2] the fun store next to the CHRISTMAS BOUTIQUE, KENNETH, on rue De Buade. It’s full of these bizarre lamps, all different shapes and colors, and all inexplicably beautiful and fascinating, and all made from the vinyl pieces you see above. If you’re from the area they will build your selection for you while you wait or shop, but if you’re from away you have to take the pieces home and build it yourself.

Here’s how it works: when you’re home and ready to assemble your lamp you email the address on the business card, including the receipt number of your purchase. They then send you the link to two videos: the first one explains the vocabulary they’ll be using (“right/left-leaning,” “rosettes,” etc.) and the mechanical strategies of assembly; the second is specific to the model you picked out. Both are very well done, narrated by Marie-Josée (MJ) Bouchard in a careful yet firm manner.

The concept is enough to make a math major drool: each piece slides into another, like so:

As you can imagine, the lamp is built in layers. My model is the “Saucer,” which MJ pronounces charmingly as “sow-ser.”  Here’s the first layer of five pieces:

And flipped, ready for Step 2:

Here we are after Step 2:

You can see how fascinating the concept is. Imagine a store full of these things, all sizes and shapes—your brain really cannot distinguish which pattern is which or which one is going to be the most fascinating when you get it home.

Stage 3:

In the video, MJ is working with alternating colors on each step so that you can see what goes where. This does not help those of us assembling a pure white Saucer; at Step 6 I got lost every single time. Step 5 was made up of alternating left- and right-leaning pieces, and Step 6 involved adding two pieces to every left-leaning piece. After starting over for the fourth time, I had a scathingly brilliant idea: add a colored paperclip to the left-leaning pieces. That way, I could tell a) which were the left-leaning pieces without peering intently at the things; and b) which piece I started with as I worked my way around.

I still got lost a couple more times before I got it right. Part of the problem is that as you start closing the top, the tension between pieces becomes greater and unfinished rosettes will come undone. That presents difficulties in recognizing where the next piece goes: does it just hook up with its neighbor, or were there supposed to be two “petals” already there?

Finally, though, I triumphed: Step 6, and the ultra-difficult Step 7 to close the top and install the lighting fixture.

Et voilà:

In its natural habitat:

And a video:

No, I’m not leaving it out in the weather (although the shop maintains that the lamps are good for outside). I will store it inside and take it out to install it over the worktable whenever we’re out there of an evening.

So: great lamp, interesting assembly, 10/10 would do it again.

—————

[1] Plus gin.

[2] I would link to the store’s website, but there is literally nothing there but the store’s name and a map.

AUTO-REPLENISHING TECHNOLOGY, KENNETH!

Forty years ago, give or take, my Lovely First Wife came home from shopping and handed me a little jar: it was moisturizer from Clinique, her preferred brand.

“Here,” she said. “You need to use this.”

Whatever, I thought, but I started using it and have used it every day since. Here’s the deal: everyone tells you to moisturize, but hardly any of us do it. I’ve done it, and although it’s primarily due to my mother’s genetic donation I am often mistaken for being much younger than I actually am.

This is not new. Until I was 35, I was often mistaken for being 16, which was pretty irritating. However, now that I am gray and officially old, it’s amusing to be taken for a 50-something. (Sidenote: when I started going gray, my hair stylist at the time asked if I were considering coloring my hair. Bah, I replied, now people will start taking me seriously. And lo, that’s exactly what happened.)

All this is prologue. I needed a new jar of moisturizer, so yesterday I headed to Belk’s Clinique counter. They have often not stocked the stuff, but this time they had it. The sales assistant alerted me that “it’s a new formulation,” as if that makes a difference. For the record, they “reformulate” the stuff every couple of years or so and change the color of the jar.

And here’s why I’m writing this. Curious about the “new formulation,” I actually read the blurbage on the box:

This addictively refreshing gel-cream instantly boosts hydration and rehydrates for 72 hours—even after washing your face. Auto-replenishing technology with activated aloe water helps skin create its own internal water source to deliver a superior level of hydration in a lightweight, oil-free texture.

Honey, please. Any verbiage describing any cosmetic or the benefits thereof is always pure puffery, but really, Clinique—auto-replenishing technology, activated aloe water, create its own internal water source? Suddenly my dermis has transformed into a fusion reactor? And what the hell is “activated aloe water”?

The latter is described by Clinique as “created to hold both positive and negative ionic charges,” which is supposed to “increase your skin’s affinity to [sic] water.” I have my doubts, especially since the only description/evaluation of “activated aloe water” I could find on the intertubes was Clinique’s own puffery. There is no scientific evaluation anywhere that I could find.[1]

And what is this “auto-replenishing technology?” It seems that squeezing the entire description onto the tiny box (in multiple languages) created an editing situation. Here’s the same puffery from Clinique’s website:

This addictively refreshing gel-cream instantly boosts hydration and rehydrates for 72 hours—even after washing your face. Auto-Replenishing Technology with caffeine helps trigger skin’s own rehydration system. Hyaluronic Acid fragments and Activated Aloe Water infuse skin with moisture. A super-holding matrix of humectants and polymers help reduce water loss and seal in moisture.

Caffeine. Well, there we go. I’m smearing coffee on my skin to wake it up.

I’m good with that.

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[1] Amazingly, “hyaluronic acid fragments” is not only a real thing, it’s an important part of our epidermis and is used to heal damaged skin. The More You Know™.

Quebec

So one of us decided that we needed to visit Quebec City in December. The official excuse was that there was a German-style Christmas Market, but I’m pretty sure it was to make me freeze.

Normally I blog about each day of our travel, but this was just a long weekend, plus I was out of commission for about a third of it, what with an injured ankle and some sleep issues. You are therefore getting just a summary of the adventure.

This was definitely one of those trips where I just packed my suitcase and got in the car; my Lovely First Wife made all the arrangements. I didn’t even research cocktail bars this time.  So it was a great delight when we arrived at our lodgings, the Auberge du Trésor on Rue St-Anne, on the Place Armé right across from the Chateau Frontenac.

The hotel is located on the top floors; the bottom is the Bistro 1640, a really really good restaurant and bar. It is entirely possible to eat nowhere else your entire trip. Its name derives from the fact that the original building was built in 1640; parts of the foundation wall are still visible in the bar.

Here’s the view from our room:

If you’ve ever wanted to feel as if you’re in a Hallmark Christmas movie, Quebec at Christmas is where you want to be. (You would be responsible for your own idiotic plot, and if you’re not a single woman with a successful career that you’re willing to abandon after a week, you’re probably out of luck.)

Besides the glorious holiday decorations everywhere, the highlight of the trip was our visit to the Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec.

Dear reader, we walked there through the tundra.

The first thing you should understand is that one of the primary rules of my marriage is never, never, ever set out for any destination with my Lovely First Wife without an exact address. When we finally arrived at the spot she had circled on her Top Ten book’s map, there was no fine arts museum anywhere. If only we had a computer in our pocket oh wait… it was another fifteen minutes of walking away. Off we went.

Sculpture outside, the title of which I failed to record, but it was something like Event Horizon:

The highlight of the MNBAQ was the main exhibit, COZIC Over To You / From 1967 to Now. COZIC is an artistic collective, and their art has been consistently fun, interactive, and beautiful all at the same time.

In the entrance lobby, there was this piece:

You were encouraged/permitted to explore.

The entire exhibit was exhilarating—I’ll be blogging in more depth over at Lichtenbergianism.com in a few days.

After all that walking, my ankle had taken a beating, so we Ubered back to the hotel and I went to the bar to sample the local gins while everyone else went out to explore the Christmas market. The bartender was great: he explained the tenor of each of the five gins he had; I selected two, and he poured a shot into a glass so I could savor the gin’s flavor profile. He also provided me with ice and tonic water so I could then finish with a proper gin and tonic. The two I sampled were St.-Lawrent (flavored with seaweed from the St. Lawrence Seaway), very briny; and Menaud, reminiscent of the Desert Sage gin from Arizona.

While sitting at the bar, I was joined by a couple from New York, very chatty and friendly. Talk turned to Christmas decorations, and I commented that my Lovely First Wife had twenty-six (26 tubs, Kenneth!) of decorations. I said she was no longer allowed to mock me for my 12 tubs of camping equipment. They laughed and said they had whittled their camping equipment down to a manageable size because they go to Burning Man.

That’s right, a thousand miles from Alchemy I randomly meet burners while sitting in a bar. They were super-interested in the Georgia burn, so I gave them my 3 Old Men business card.

When the gang returned from the Christmas Market, we set out via Uber to L’Oncle Antoine, the oldest bar in North America, for dinner. Alas, on a Saturday night it was not possible to get in, so we set off on foot back up the mountain, Kenneth, to find sustenance.

At least the walk was lovely:

But it was all uphill. Back at the summit, we popped into Chateau Frontenac to try to get into 1608 Wine & Cheese bar, but the “music was too loud,” so back we went across the square to Auberge du Trésor for dinner at 1640 Bistro.

The main hallway leading to 1608 at the Frontenac:

At least I got a great meal and a fabulous dessert (and more cocktails):

On Sunday, we set out to revisit parts of the Market and the Christmas Boutique—my Lovely First Wife needed more decorations, apparently. I found a SAQ store to buy my gin; after I left the store I realized that although Marie Brizard Parfait Amour (a floral liqueur used in classic cocktails) is very rare in the U.S., it was quite available in Canada. When we retraced our steps, I popped back into the store; they didn’t have it, but another store did. Everyone else headed back to the hotel while I trekked all the way down the mountain to the store that stocked it. (We will not speak of my ankle.)

When I finally rejoined the gang, they were seated at a table by the window in 1640, enjoying Caribou, a Canadian hot spiced wine concoction. They were waiting for the appearance of St. Nicholas, who would be visiting the Market that afternoon. Finally he appeared from the Frontenac, accompanied by three Krampuses,[1] a couple of musicians, and an angel.

The photo does not convey the absolute delightfulness of this. Have a video:

Everyone had settled in for cocktails and dinner, but I went up the hill to the Frontenac to get a cocktail from 1608, a highly ranked cocktail bar.  Here is the Genie in a Bottle, a sweeter variation on the Aviation:

The bartender said he preferred the original, and he was right. Still, a great little bar.

The hotel from the square:

The next morning, we made it to the airport.

So unlike our dear Hartsfield International. The ticketing desk didn’t even open until 10:30.

However, due to the storms pounding the rest of the continent, our flight — originally scheduled to depart at 12:25 — didn’t even arrive at the gate until after 2:00. We barely had time in Toronto to make through security and then customs before our flight to Atlanta boarded.

Still, it was a fun trip. Quebec is lovely, and we will go back. Perhaps in warmer weather.

Here’s my booze haul:

I got the Menaud gin, of course. The Madison Park, with its label of “Breakfast Gin,” amused and intrigued me, so I bought it. (It is distinctly floral with its use of bergamot—think Earl Grey tea—and makes a perfect Aviation.) And of course, the Parfait Amour, which had been on my shopping list for six months.

Also purchased, while my Lovely First Wife was in the Christmas Boutique:

I’m not going to tell you what this is. I’ll do another post when it’s ready to go in the labyrinth.

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[1] No one seems sure what the plural of Krampus is; Wikipedia carefully avoids having to say.