Friday, March 23, 2018

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

Sometimes a collaborator brings out the best in an artist. Such is the case with the late 80s pairing of Paul McCartney and Elvis Costello. Costello's single from that collaboration, "Veronica," is an emotive masterpiece.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... The Cramps.

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Friday, February 23, 2018

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

Because I love you all, here are the Cramps with "Creature from the Black Leather Lagoon." You're welcome.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Crowded House.

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Sailing Venus: Glitch in the matrix

So, the past few days I've lost a few thousand words, gained a few thousand words then lost a few thousand words, all without writing a single thing. I do not recommend it.

Follow: My pre-teen son like the idea of reading and writing books, but he has somewhat severe ADHD, and isn't terribly successful with either. He's aware I've been writing Sailing Venus is already talking about the Hollywood premiere for when it is inevitably adapted into a motion picture. The other day, he said he was so looking forward to reading it when it was published that he couldn't hardly wait. "You don't need to wait," I said. "You can read the first draft now, if you want. But it's not polished or edited." This got him excited, and I promised I'd print out a copy of chapter 1. Actually, I was busy trying to install a new motor for our swimming pool pump, but he pestered me so much I gave up on that and tried to print a chapter out.

At this point I discovered my novel's the master file had suffered some sort of corruption. The final quarter of chapter one was missing, as was the first two-thirds of chapter two. One sentence just ran straight into the other. Uh oh. My backups showed the same glitch. Not good. I hadn't been saving the novel chapter-by-chapter, I've just been writing it as one long, continuous file. After some desperate hunting, I found copies of those original files in my email from when I'd sent them out to my writing group. Thankfully, problem solved. I restored the missing copy, and saw my word count jump by thousands. Yay! But then, as I was scrolling through to set up printing, I ran across this:

Page after page of random numbers. Where the hell did that come from? Despite my initial alarm, the numerical gibberish did not replace actual text--it just appeared in addition to said text, right in the middle of the chapter. I fixed that, but found weird formatting changes scattered throughout, stuff like random paragraphs aligned center, random words and phrases underlined, odd line breaks, etc. Some of it's been fixed, some I'm just ignoring for now. I don't think this is the result of malware, and my software is generally up to date, so I'm kind of stumped on the causes. I just noticed recently, so I don't know how long this has been the case. Obviously, I'm going to keep a close eye on it going forward, to see if any more glitchy stuff shows up.

Fortunately, at the end of the day I ended up recovering more words than I lost, so that is good, although, all things being equal, I'd rather add and retain words in a more traditional manner.

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There are no easy answers

So, the pitchfork-and-torches brigade is vilifying the armed officer in Florida never confronted the shooter. I'm not defending the guy. He's going to have to live with that inaction the rest of his life. It's going to be brutal.

But consider, for a moment, that this guy is human. School guard is not normally a high-stress position. You break up occasional fights. Watch to make sure visitors have checked in properly with the office. Maybe patrol the parking lot to make sure students aren't doing some extracurricular study of biology and anatomy. When push comes to shove, he failed to rise to the challenge. Was he too afraid to act? Maybe. That's the human element.

The mere presence of an armed guard is often viewed as sufficient deterrence in and of itself. Had he received ALERRT training, or something similar? That allows conditioning and training to kick in, otherwise the first responder has to think about what's happening, maybe over-think. There are a lot of unknowns. Paralysis leading to inaction can result out of the fear of making the wrong decision. Training's not cheap, and it can't be completed in a 30 minute online course. This isn't like television and the movies. [Edited to add that most officers who have not had active shooter response training are, per policy, taught to wait for backup. So it's entirely possible he was doing exactly what he was supposed to in that situation.]

Consider now, that this is the "solution" the NRA and many members of Congress have for school shootings (which doesn't bother to address mass shootings at concerts or churches or shopping malls or anywhere else). Arming teachers and janitors and administrators with even less training and less experience isn't a solution. If the money existed for comprehensive training for all of them, teachers would be getting a decent salary already and Governor Abbott and his allies in the legislature wouldn't have gutted the healthcare benefits of retired teachers.

That armed officer who failed to confront the killer? He's not a bug in the system. He's a baked-in feature.

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Sunday, February 18, 2018

What's Jayme drinking? (Hint: It's a Coatimundi!)

Last week I shared a new cocktail I have created, called the Jaguarundi. In that writeup, I explained that it actually came about as I was trying to perfect another cocktail. At the time, I promised to share that one in the future. The future is now: Behold, the Coatimundi!

Okay, I'll admit that's a little dramatic, but this one's a fruit bomb I'm proud of. Again, this all started with my attempt to infuse rum with the distinctive tropical flavor of jackfruit. That accomplished, I next had to come up with cocktails in which to use it. My initial effort was based on highlighting that fruity jackfruit flavor, and this drink is influenced by the fruit-forward flavor profile of the Chief Lapu Lapu. There's also some Brazilian batida in there. Curiously, the Coatimundi tastes sweeter than the Jaguarundi, although there's actually less sugar in the former than in the latter. Here's the recipe:

by Jayme Blaschke
1 oz. Jackfruit-infused rum
1 oz. Demerara rum (I used El Dorado 8)
1 oz. Lime juice
1 oz. Coconut milk
.5 oz. Passionfruit juice (Passionfruit syrup will make it too sweet, unless you're into that. I use Sunberry Farms passionfruit juice)
.5 oz. Cinnamon syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine all ingredients in a shaker tin with crushed ice and shake until frost forms on outside of tin. Gated pour into poco grande glass or tiki mug (I normally use a tiki mug, but went with the poco grande this time to show off the drink better) and add crushed ice to fill (I use the ice from the mixing tin). Garnish with a cinnamon stick along with a kumquat wrapped in a loop of lime peel on a cocktail pick.
Like the Chief Lapu Lapu, the Coatimundi is bright and citrusy, very fruit-forward and refreshing. The cinnamon syrup gives it a nudge of background spice to balance the fruit. The tart passionfruit is there mainly to underscore and boost the jackfruit flavor. I think passionfruit does a better job of this than the pineapple juice I used in the Jaguarundi, but they both have their place. The demerara rum plays second fiddle to the fruit, but is distinct enough to not get completely lost amidst the flavors. Again, the coconut milk provides subtle flavor and mouthfeel, although I neglected to let it warm when I pulled it from the bar fridge, and the chilled coconut milk wants to separate rather than blend evenly. I'll make a note of that for next time. As for the garnish, the cinnamon stick is obvious, but I hit upon the kumquat early on--the sweet/tart contrast of the tiny fruit makes a nice topper for the drink. And it's distinctive as well. Kumquats aren't terribly common in the produce section, but I plan on planting a couple of kumquat trees here in the next few weeks, so I'll be able to provide as much garnish as necessary. This is a very nice poolside sipper for hot summer months. It's a little sweet, but the tart elements balance it. I like to think it's a far more interesting drink, flavor wise, than something like a piña colada.

As for the name, Coatimundi, that comes from a close encounter The Wife and some neighbors had last spring, when they witnessed a coatimundi cross the road a couple blocks from our house and disappear into the woods. State wildlife biologists doubted that it was a wild coatimundi, as those are exceedingly rare even in South Texas, but it might be an escaped pet, as those are not terribly rare as far as exotic pets go in Texas. Regardless, it hasn't been see since, but I'd like to think it would enjoy the drink I've crafted in its honor.

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Friday, February 16, 2018

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

I still remember the first time I heard Crowded House's "Don't Dream It's Over." It must've been early January of 1987. I was in my room at night, doing homework or somesuch, and the song came on the radio (we listened to the radio to hear music back in those days, kids). The station was probably KKBQ, because I got terrible reception for KRBE and I hadn't yet gotten into KLOL. Regardless, it was one of those songs where I instantly recognized the hooks and melody, to the point where I was certain it was a remake of maybe a late 60s or early 70s track by some other artist. Of course, it wasn't. I've encountered other new songs that I've found so familiar they were borderline deja vu, but never have I experienced that feeling as strongly as with Crowded House. Fortunately, it was a good song, and still holds up today.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Rupert Holmes.

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Thursday, February 15, 2018

What's Jayme drinking? (Hint: It's a Jaguarundi!)

I haven't done a "What's Jayme drinking?" in a while, but I'm happy to revive this feature for what I'm drinking right now. Those of you playing along at home may recall my efforts at infusing rum with jackfruit. It's easy to infuse liquors with fruit and spice flavors--pineapple, blackberry, peach and other fruits are commonly used. But if I was going to infuse a rum, I wanted it to be something exotic, that one couldn't find easy alternative sources for said flavor. I settled on jackfruit, which has a very strong tropical flavor reputed to be the inspiration for Juicy Fruit gum. To make a long story short, my infusion experiment was a success. Now I have jackfruit rum. The next question became, what do I do with it?

It was clear I needed to create a signature cocktail for the Lagoon of Mystery home tiki bar! I took the jackfruit rum and did what any good mixologist does with a new rum to get it's measure--I made a daiquiri with it. Turns out, that daiquiri was crazy sweet. When I use fruit in homebrew, the yeast converts the fruit sugars into alcohol during fermentation. But when infusing a spirit such as rum, fermentation is long past and the fruit sugars simply linger along with the flavors. That was definitely something I needed take into account when crafting my new recipe. I went back over the various recipes I'd made in the past year that I liked and came up with several elements I liked. There were Brazilian batidas, the super-fruity Chief Lapu Lapu, the spicy and complex 3 Dots and a Dash, the simple yet effective Hurricane. I focused on building upon the fruit bomb that was the jackfruit rum, and I kept coming back to a specific combination that really was a tropical explosion in the mouth. Coconut milk was a constant in many of those variations. Folks who know me know I don't really like coconut, but after my first encounter with coconut water in Jamaica a number of years ago, I've softened my opposition to the big brown nut. Batidas showed me that coconut milk could add interesting body and mouthfeel to drinks, along with a subtle, more nuanced coconut flavor than found in most commercial products. I named that drink the Coatimundi, for reasons I shall go into when I feature that drink here. But today is not that day.

Instead I'm sharing a different drink, son of Coatimundi, so to speak. During my experiments, I tried pairing the jackfruit rum with an agricole rum, which is made from pressed cane juice and has a grassy, vegetal component to it. It can actually be pretty pungent in some agricoles. That particular incarnation didn't work for what I was attempting, but I was intrigued. Once I settled on the final Coatimundi recipe, I came back to this other variation and began playing up the spicy notes and grassy notes in the agricole. What I ended up with is clearly related to the Coatimundi from the recipe notes, but at the same time a significantly different flavor. I've alternated back and forth on which I like better, but really, it comes down to which taste I'm in the mood for. Here, for the first time (drumroll please) I present the new cocktail, the Jaguarundi:

by Jayme Blaschke
1.5 oz. Jackfruit-infused rum
1 oz. Agricole vieux (Rhum Clément V.S.O.P.)
1 oz. Lime juice
1 oz. Coconut milk
.5 oz. Pineapple juice
.5 oz. Ginger syrup
.5 tsp. Grenadine (pomegranate grenadine only, skip that nasty high fructose corn syrup stuff!)
.5 tsp. Falernum
2 dashes Celery bitters (Fee Bros.)
1 dash Angostura bitters

Combine all ingredients in a shaker tin with crushed ice and shake until frost forms on outside of tin. Gated pour into poco grande glass or tiki mug (I normally use a tiki mug, but went with the poco grande this time to show off the drink better) and add crushed ice to fill (I use the ice from the mixing tin). Garnish with a pineapple frond and candied ginger on a cocktail pick. A sprig of mint is okay too, if you're so inclined.
I really like the Jaguarundi because it has multiple layers of flavor, some that almost play hide-and-seek with the palate during the course of the drink. It's a moderately sweet drink, but not as much as expected. The pineapple juice backs up the jackfruit flavors, the coconut milk provides subtle flavor and mouthfeel. The ginger syrup works very will with the agricole, and the celery bitters play up the vegetal notes. I hunted down and bought celery bitters specifically for this drink, despite the fact that I'd never tasted celery bitters before, simply because it felt like something that would work. And it did. The falernum and grenadine work as well, bringing tropical and spice notes, but it's easy to over-do them and throw everything out of whack--half a teaspoon was simply too much of either.

As for the name, Jaguarundi, first off, it's cool, tropical-sounding and not inappropriate for a tiki-inspired drink. Secondly, since I was building this drink around the vegetal, grassy notes of the agricole (as opposed to the jackfruit infusion) it struck me that a rare Texas wildcat that sticks to dense tropical vegetation would not be an inappropriate choice for this particular flavor profile. So there you have it.

If you have access to jackfruit, I highly recommend trying to infuse your own rum. I think a pound of jackfruit per 750ml is a reasonable amount. If you make some jackfruit rum, I invite you to craft your own Jaguarundi and let me know what you think. If you don't, well, make sure to visit the Lagoon of Mystery some time and I'll be happy to make one for you!

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