Mystery Trip!

At 6:42 a.m. tomorrow (Fri) morning, my Lovely First Wife and I will be at Hartsfield-Jackson International Spaceport and Hair Salon. Where are we off to this time, you might ask?

We have no idea.

This is the envelope we got last week. We are not to open it until we’re headed to the airport, where we will have to print out boarding passes, etc., all on the fly.

It’s from a company called Pack Up + Go, which I learned about when a Facebook friend posted that they had signed up for a trip. It’s pretty simple: you select the category of trip you want to go on, your dates, your budget, and where you’re traveling from.

You also tell them where you’ve traveled recently, places you’d like to go, places you never want to go, and the activities you like. You can also opt for warmer weather, which of course I did.

Then you hand over your credit card and hope for the best.

I gave this to my Lovely First Wife as a Christmas present, because she loves to travel. (I hate to travel. I like being there, but getting there is invariably a pain in the butt.)

I was semi-inspired by New Yorker cartoon (that I cannot find at the moment) that featured a couple, presumably married, and the woman is saying, “I’ve prepared a PowerPoint slide show of all the ways I’d like you to surprise me.” We’ll just say that it resonated with me.

Further, as is well-known in our circles, my Lovely First Wife is an obsessive PLANNER. We joke about her travel books and her lists (while acknowledging that with her along, we don’t have to do anything), so this seemed like an awesome way to practice a little malicious compliance: I’ve given you a trip — but you can’t plan for it.

Bwahahaha, as we say in the supervillain biz.

The company sends you an email the week before, letting you know what the weather is going to be like (highs upper 50s, lows mid-40s, no rain) and what you will want to pack (nothing untoward other than a bathing suit for the spa, but it’s not a beach). I just a moment ago got an email update on the weather, and now I suppose we pack.

Follow along for what I am sure will be a very entertaining long weekend.

New Cocktail: No Name Nixta

You know how when you’re in the liquor store and there’s a bottle of something that is just so off-the-wall that you have to buy it to see what it tastes like?

No? Just me, then? Okay.

The bottle in question is a concoction called Nixta, made in Mexico from an ancient strain of maize.

It does in fact taste like corn. It’s not too sweet, and as another reviewer has said, you also get notes of vanilla and something vaguely chocolate.

How to use, though? The bottle is not a lot of help, just suggesting you can add it to “your favorite cocktails.” Honey, please.

I pulled out all the Central American bottles — Ancho Reyes liqueur, Cocalero, tequila, blood orange liqueur — and started playing. I started with cognac as a base, but it didn’t quite work, so I switched to Calvados, figuring the sweetness of the apple brandy would complement that of the Nixta.

I was correct; it worked.

No name yet, but try this:

No Name Nixta

  • 1.5 oz Calvados
  • .75 oz Nixtos
  • .5 oz lemon juice
  • .25 oz simple syrup

Shake with ice, strain into a Nick & Nora glass.

It ‘s simple, not too sweet, and refreshing. You can also use tequila instead of Calvados and it’s equally delicious.

The Savoy Variations: Young Man Cocktail

I’m bored, so I’m taking random cocktail recipes from The Savoy Cocktail Book (1930), giving them a try, and modifying/improving them if I think it’s necessary, and reporting my findings here.

Young Man Cocktail

[p. 180]

I flipped to the back of Savoy and found the Zed Cocktail:

But the mythical substance the Elders knew as “Hercules” remains beyond our grasp.

So I backed up a bit and went with the Young Man Cocktail.

[I heard that.]


It was good. It was okay good, though I doubt I shall ever make it again. But it was good enough that I didn’t need to fix it.

Another point to Savoy.


  • Savoy: 4
  • Dale: 2
  • Sink: 3

MINIONS! Why does it always have to be Minions?

Bear with me — I am unused to writing fanfic.

A little while ago, during The Decoratoring™, I had a holiday Pandora station playing because I am a good husband like that, and at some point I apparently snapped because I suddenly started singing along to “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” — in the voice of Gru, from Despicable Me.

It made sense at the time.

Suddenly I thought how wonderful it would be to release a holiday album of Gru singing Christmas classics. Imagine it — I know you’re smiling right now just thinking of it.

And then I thought, we could probably get Steve Carrell and Julie Andrews to pull together something like this for charity. THE MINIONS SINGING THE CHIPMUNK SONG, YOU GUYS! Turn turn kick turn, YES, IT WILL WORK!

But what charity, you ask? I thought about leaving that to our artists, but the problem of homelessness weighs on my mind a lot, so let’s make it contributions to organizations that are working to end or at least reduce our houseless population.

Then it hit me: A MINIONS HOLIDAY SPECIAL that ties into the charity fundraising CD.

You can see where this is going, and so here you go, a half-baked treatment for The Minions Do Christmas: Homeless for the Holidays. (We can negotiate the title.)


Chaos: the GIRLS [MARGO, EDITH, and AGNES] are hyper, squealing, writing enormous wish lists, play-acting the toys they hope to get, etc. GRU waits patiently, gleefully, to fulfill their wishes.

GRU’S MOM[1] is grumpy. “You’re spoiling these girls. When I was little girl, I was lucky to get turnip for Christmas.”

GRU: “Yes, yes, we know, but things are different now. Look how happy they are.” The girls are oblivious and clearly adore MOM (and she them, though she tries to conceal it — can’t spoil them, with love and all that business, you know).

The GIRLS finally finish their lists and hand them over. GRU distributes the lists to the MINIONS to buy everything, but AGNES’s list is too long, so he tears it in half and takes half for himself.

GRU forces his MOM to go with him to buy all the toys, leaving the GIRLS to decorate the house with NEFARIOUS.

(As GRU and MOM drive through the streets, we see in the background, among the holiday hustle & bustle, homeless families.)

As GRU’s car fills with packages, MOM gets testier and testier until she finally pitches a fit and leaves the car. GRU, in a snit, drives off, figuring either he’ll come back to get her later or she’ll get a cab and come home by herself.

In a rage, MOM flings her purse to the ground/street, where it is promptly run over by a bus and destroyed, so she’s without ID or money. She begins to walk.

Meanwhile, MINION shenanigans as they shop, maybe some GIRL antics as they decorate. (It is important to note that because of the GIRLS’ varied personalities and interests, the MINIONS are loading up on all kinds of toys, not just “girl” toys.)

GRU pulls into his driveway, goes in, discovers MOM is missing. The GIRLS panic, but GRU tries to remain calm. They pile into the car to go look for her.

MOM is becoming disoriented, not sure which way is the way home. Her confusion is noted by a boy who asks if he can help her. She grumpily replies that she’s not even sure if she has a home (or words to that effect). He interprets her dilemma as one of houselessness, so he tells her to come with him — he takes her to the homeless shelter where he lives with his mother. It begins to snow.

The homeless shelter is clean and well-lit, but it is filled with families with children who have nowhere else to go. MOM is nonplussed, but she is polite enough with the people whom she meets and is soon enjoying interacting with the children there.

GRU radios the MINIONS to let them know of the problem and in true MINION fashion they swing into berserk helpful mode. Hilarity ensues.

Back at the shelter, one of the workers approaches MOM and asks if there’s anyone they should call. Sure, she says, and scribbles down GRU’s home phone number. She goes back to enjoying herself.

NEFARIOUS, home alone, is working on a MOM Tracking Device (with a helpful MINION of course who finds himself tagged in hilariously uncomfortable ways). The phone rings, he answers it and learns that MOM is at the shelter. He springs into full alert and radios GRU and the MINIONS.

General screeching of tires and traffic shenanigans, until GRU and the GIRLS pull up at the shelter and dash inside, where they discover MOM safe and sound and having a good time with her new friends. They are introduced, and it slowly dawns on them where they are and who these people are.

EDITH and MARGO come up to GRU, distressed: None of these kids are going to have any Christmas. GRU is likewise upset [and maybe something happens here…]

Suddenly the MINIONS burst into the shelter, squealing and bringing all the presents they’ve spent the day shopping for. GRU and the GIRLS and MOM all look at each other and make the unspoken decision. They turn to the families and shout, MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Party time as the children receive gifts from the MINIONS and unwrap them. Pizza is delivered (we see GRU paying for it). Merriment abounds.

Segue into the low energy of a party winding down. One of the MINIONS begins to sing “Silent Night,” and soon he is joined by MOM. A chorus of MINIONS takes over as she goes to GRU and tells him she is proud of him, etc.

AGNES and the GIRLS come over to GRU. AGNES tells GRU she wants to go home.


They all realize what that means in this context. They all are trying to think of a way to help, but MARGO quietly says, “There’s nothing we can really do, is there?”

GRU is forced to admit that they cannot solve the problem themselves. EDITH is angry; there must be something they can DO!

Wait, GRU says slowly, I think I may have an idea…


They make a pitch for homeless action groups [TBD] and promote the CD as a means for the audience to contribute to these groups…


GRU, MOM, and GIRLS are walking in the front door of home, to the unfinished decorations. NEFARIOUS greets them with hot chocolate, and they decorate the tree together. GRU is suddenly stricken that he has given away all the GIRLS’ Christmas presents, but they tell him they’ve already had Christmas.

Not to worry, though, KEVIN comes in with three presents, one for each of the GIRLS, and they declare them the best Christmas they’ve ever had.

Swell gemütlichkeit, begin to roll credits. NEFARIOUS tells MOM he has a way to keep her from getting lost again, if she will just step over here out of camera range — we hear the distinctive thnk of the tagging machine and her scream.



[1] That’s her name. Even after three movies, GRU’S MOM’s official name is GRU’S MOM.

The Savoy Variations: White Lily Cocktail

I’m bored, so I’m taking random cocktail recipes from The Savoy Cocktail Book (1930), giving them a try, and modifying/improving them if I think it’s necessary, and reporting my findings here.

White Lily Cocktail

[p. 176]

I opened the Savoy Cocktail Book randomly and there was the White Lily Cocktail. Wow, I thought, there is no way that this is going to be palatable. Rum + gin? And a dash of absinthe?

So I mixed up a small one, only 1/2 oz of each, so as not to waste the booze before tossing it into the sink.

In anticipation of having to do some radical revision of the recipe, I taste-tested the mixture even before adding ice (and stirring, not shaking — sorry, Savoy, we’re more civilized now).


It was delicious.

I was shocked. I chilled it, poured it, added a lemon twist to it. It was still delicious, bright and clear and tasty.

I offered it to my Lovely First Wife, who despises gin and boozy cocktails in general. She liked it.

How could this be? It should have been a boozy slug, yet here was this stupid recipe knocking it out of the ballpark.

I attempted a variation with a darker rum and Empress 1908 gin, but it was not better. (I shall continue exploring gin/rum combos, though.)

Next time I will try using the absinthe as a rinse so as to lower its bully quotient, but otherwise this one goes in my bar book.

Point to Savoy!


  • Savoy: 3
  • Dale: 2
  • Sink: 3


The National Assessment of Educational Progress [NAEP] is often called the “nation’s report card,” and I have thoughts about that to begin with, but today we are looking at the handwringing that has begun over the release of the most recent scores.

You will be shocked to learn that SCORES HAVE DIPPED, KENNETH, after two years of chaos in our schools. Did I call it or what?

So now all the editorial boards and educational poobahs and conservative anti-public-school vampires have started the weeping and the wailing over the LEARNING LOSS KENNETH and how we as a nation are on the precipice.

We’ve seen all of this before, in 1983, with the panic over A Nation at Risk: our schools were FAILING KENNETH and nothing would do but we must TOUGHEN THE STANDARDS and TEST THE CHILDREN UNTIL THEIR EARS BLEED. Nation at Risk led eventually to No Child Left Behind (NCLB, or as we called it in my school, Every Child Dragged Along), which imposed draconian “goals” on our schools and punished us as “failing schools” if we didn’t meet them by 2014.

(At the faculty meeting where we went over the new law, teachers were freaking out over the “goals.” I calmly pointed out that this would only last until the law had to be reauthorized (i.e., re-funded) in 2007.)

So did we achieve all those goals? Pfft. NCLB did nothing to actually solve the problems the law “identified.” Every child reading by 3rd grade? We could have done it, but we didn’t, because NO ONE ASKED US HOW TO EFFECT THAT CHANGE. If what we were already doing was sufficient, wouldn’t every 3rd grader already be reading? But we changed nothing, nor were we allowed to change anything.

No, the nation never actually committed to any of the “goals,” and 2014 came and went without our having met any of them. The only thing NCLB accomplished was to cement the role of standardized tests in assessing student “achievement” and “school success.” It was all “research-based,” you see. (What’s that you say? Standardized tests are a scam to suction off tax dollars for testing corporations? Wherever did you get that idea?)

Sidenote: At Newnan Crossing, we were doing actual research on whether our year-round calendar — 45 days on, 15 days off —was benefiting our Title I students. I was charged with aggregating the test scores for the cohort of students who had been with us since kindergarten, and the only thing the data actually showed was that if kids had a teacher who was not very good, their test scores would go down. Having a good teacher was not a predictor of improved test scores; those were essentially random. Test scores = “achievement”? Pfft.

So here we are, panicking about LEARNING LOSS after two years of predictable “learning loss” and reaching for the smelling salts once again.

The solution? The children must LEARN FASTER AND HARDER. To “catch up.” Once again.

Here’s the deal: Teachers have always dealt with students who were not where they were “spozed to be,” and now is no different other than we have an entire school population who are not where they’re spozed to be. It’s not a “crisis,” just time to roll up our sleeves and start teaching again. (Even so, schools are not back to what passes for normal, nor will they be for the foreseeable future.)

My advice? Take any moneys appropriated for this CRISIS KENNETH and spend it on teachers: salaries, supplies, smaller classrooms. Do not spend it on packaged CURRICULUM SOLUTIONS KENNETH. Do not spend it on suddenly available TECHNOLOGICAL SOLUTIONS. Do not allow LEGISLATORS TO HAVE ANY SAY on how we do our jobs.

Finally, acknowledge the drop in test scores as an inevitable record of the chaos, and then BY CTHULHU CELEBRATE THE GAINS OVER THE NEXT FIVE YEARS.

Dishevelment Update, 10/02/2022

It’s been a year since I’ve posted about my dishevelment, mostly because once you get past a certain point, it’s just pictures of my messy hair.

But here I am in 2022:

Do not be deceived: this photo was taken after wearing my hair up in a bun all day, so that when I finally loose it it falls in glorious tumbles of luscious locks.

But lest we forget, this is where we started:

I was originally thinking about getting it cut after Alchemy this year, but then the guys at The Longhairs announced their support of and participation in The Great Cut 2024, and I thought, you know, we’ve never been to San Diego. That could be fun.

So I bought the t-shirt and will be uncutting my hair for another year and a half. Then we’ll take a vote on how we want me to look.

GUVCH: Salers

Last spring, as I played with the Savoy Cocktail variations, I used the Savoy’s Fernet Branca Cocktail as the starting point. It’s simple recipe: 1.5 oz gin, .75 oz each of Fernet Branca and sweet vermouth.

It was, as I expected, not at all to my taste, but it spawned a whole new zone of experimentation, which I am calling the Grand Unified Vecchio Cocktail Theory, in which you use the proportions of the recipe for the Fernet Branca cocktail and substitute another amaro.

Here’s where it got interesting:

Gin— Even if we ignore the subtle differences in different brands of gin, differences that I am too lazy to learn to distinguish with any refinement, we still have the different types of gin that we can play with:

  • London dry gin
  • old tom gin
  • Genever
  • botanical gin
  • barrel-aged gin

These different types involve dryness/sweetness, more or less juniper, added flavorings. Within those categories, of course, are scads of different brands of gin, of which I have about 30.

Sweet vermouth— Lots of these available, but I decided on three:

  • Carpano Antica
  • Cocchi di Torino
  • Punt e Mes

Again, the differences are in the herbals used.

Amari— Where do we begin? Whole books have been written about this category of herbal distillations. Suffice it to say that I have more than two dozen amari and have barely scratched the surface.

If we do the math, we have 5 [kinds] of gin x 3 vermouths x ≈24 amari, which gives us 360 possible combinations. The gin-loving soul thrills to the very idea.

I’ve had a blast testing out my Grand Unified Vecchio Cocktail Hypothesis [GUVCH], and the results are very promising. Here’s my most recent one.

Salers Cocktail

Salers is an aperitif, gentian-based, bitter and vegetal, with some citrus notes. I bought it recently because it was mentioned in a couple of recipes, and I decided to plug it into the GUVCH. The results were quite pleasing.

a cocktail coupe with a drink in it, backed by the bottles of the ingredients used: Salers Aperitif, Cocchi di Torino vermouth, and Hayman's Old Tom ginSalers is unusual for the GUVCH since it is a clear aperitif, while most amari that I have are darker.

  • 1.5 oz gin, in this case an Old Tom gin
  • .75 oz Cocchi di Torino vermouth
  • .75 oz Salers Aperitif

Stir with ice, strain into a coupe. Garnish with lemon zest.

It is light and refreshing. You’ll want more than one.

The Pencil Lesson

Let’s see if I can still write.

Decades ago I had an idea for a classroom research/writing lesson, probably upper elementary in nature but very adaptable to middle and high school grades. I called it The Pencil Lesson, and its ulterior instructional goal was to make students aware of jobs/careers other than “astronaut” or “marine biologist” or “NFL quarterback.”

Overview: After examining an ordinary No. 2 pencil for its component parts, students are guided through the research into how each part ends up in the pencil. As they do that, students should become aware of the employment opportunities at each step of the way. (N.B., the point is not to interest students in these specific careers but to make them more aware of the multiplicity of jobs represented in our everyday surroundings.)

Engagement: Create a TikTok-like video showing how pencil erasers are planted like seeds to grow the new crop of pencils. (N.B., I’ve done lessons like this where a class absolutely fails to detect the bullcrap. Be prepared.)

After the video, allow students to yuk on it, then ask the Essential Question: Where do pencils come from?

In small groups, have students “analyze” a No. 2 pencil. What are the constituent parts?

  • wood
  • graphite
  • paint
  • ferrule
  • eraser
  • stamped lettering
  • glue (to hold the two halves of the wood together!)
  • other?

After whole-group discussion, assign each group one of the components. Have them brainstorm/imagine the path that component must take before it ends up in the pencil. (It’s probably most effective for them to work backwards from pencil to source.) Emphasize that not knowing specific steps is to be expected; just put a big ??? in the chart and keep going.

From there, each group researches their putative process, filling in the ??? segments and fine-tuning the segments they thought they knew.

At this point, you might ask each team to present their findings to the class so that everyone is up to speed on how we get pencils.

For upper elementary, this much of the lesson might be enough. If so, make sure that you promote discussion of the jobs involved in each step. For middle and high school students, you can push that aspect of the lesson by having them list the workers that are required to produce the component at each stage, and if you’re really dedicated, have each student pick one job and head to the federal Occupational Outlook Handbook and prepare a short report on the job’s requirements/training/salaries/prospects.

And there you have it: a massive research/writing lesson that could easily take a couple of weeks in your class.

Followup: Let a few months elapse, then ask if students have been looking at objects around them and imagining what it takes to bring those objects into existence. Classroom discussion/sharing, etc.

A rant about gin

I wish to make a complaint.

Prohibition ended in 1933. So why is it illegal for me to buy this gin?

Sure, if I walk into the General Store at Grand Canyon, I can buy it there, but I certainly can’t buy it at Kroger here, nor at any Kroger in the state of Georgia.

Not only that, even though Coweta County finally repealed Prohibition last year — 90 years late — and we are starting to get our first liquor stores now, I can’t buy it there either, nor at any liquor store that I know of.

Why is that?

I’ll tell you why: the Georgia Alcohol Dealers Association. Go read their page. They control what the liquor stores in Georgia can and can not sell. If Thumb Butte Western Sage Gin is not on their list, stores can’t sell it and you can’t buy it.

Not only that, but GADA is determined that you can’t buy it directly from the distillery either. (Go read their page!) The very idea of grocery stores having a liquor section gives them the fantods. PROTECT OUR PACKAGE STORES is their entire raison d’être — consumers be damned.

Why is this? These bottles are filled with legal substances. Why is it illegal for me to buy them? I need answers.

(I must give a tip of the hat to Rep. Matt Brass, who is otherwise a rightwing dinglehopper, for introducing multiple pieces of legislation to free us from all this nonsense.)