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.

Now Playing: Electric Light Orchestra Secret Messages
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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.

Now Playing: Various artist The Caribbean Calypsonians
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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.

Now Playing: Various artists Simply Calypso
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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.

Now Playing: Martin Denny Exotica vol. 2
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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.

Now Playing: Dire Straits Alchemy
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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!

Now Playing: Clouseaux Clouseaux
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Monday, February 12, 2018

Give 'em hell, Bill!

The world is a less kind place tonight. Bill Crider, author of no small talent, passed away today after a drawn-out battle with cancer. He entered hospice in December, and his passing comes as no surprise, but that doesn't make it hurt any less. Bill was a Good Guy, a term that gets applied to too many people who aren't and not enough people who are. I do not remember the first time I met him, and it seems like I've never not known him. He was a regular at AggieCon and ArmadilloCon and lord, but I remember so many late-night bull sessions with Bill and Joe Lansdale and any number of authors and fans who have come and gone over the years. One of Bill's trademark abilities (other than having read pretty much any obscure writer mentioned in passing, or knowing the life history of any beautiful, golden age Hollywood actress) was referencing "James Fenimore Cooper" in almost any conversation and having it seem a natural progression.

Bill's one of the few people I believe had read almost everything I've published, and looked forward to anything new by me. He was friendly and kind to me way before I had anything published, and I never saw him treat anyone as anything other than a friend, even if he'd never met them before.

He found out about his cancer 18 months or so, give or take. At first, his doctors thought it was kidney failure. He missed Armadillocon in 2016 for the first time in years, if not decades, because of the uncertainty. It was a brutal diagnosis, because just a few years earlier he'd lost his wife, Judy, to cancer. Naturally, we all missed him and hoped he'd be one of the lucky ones to lick his disease and live a much longer life. I rounded up a bunch of Bill's friends to make some videos to boost his spirits. That part, at least, seems to have worked. The recovery and remission part, unfortunately, did not.

Give 'em hell, Bill.

Now Playing: Various Artists The Best of Bond
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Friday, February 09, 2018

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

It occurs to me that "yacht rock" is essentially the equivalent of "smooth jazz" for the singer-songwriter era. Some people love it, but there's almost always a heavy dose of irony involved. Rupert Holmes' "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)" is the poster child for this particular sub-genre. This song always amuses me because in real life, the guy's girlfriend/wife wouldn't chuckle and say, "Golly, isn't hilarious how we both tried to cheat on each other but got caught out?" No, there'd be screaming, accusations and, quite possibly, bloodshed in a very public arena. I expect police would become involved, and divorce papers served shortly after. Despite all that, I think the real tragedy is that this song popularized the Pina Colada, which really isn't a very good cocktail at all, unless you happen to like alcoholic sugar bombs that might aw well come from a 7-Eleven Slurpee machine.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Frankie Goes to Hollywood.

Now Playing: St. Louis Symphony Billy the Kid/Rodeo
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Friday, February 02, 2018

Firday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

Looking at today's news, I can't help but think of the old Frankie Goes to Hollywood song, "Two Tribes." It's kinda depressing, for all the wrong reasons. Looks like Russia won the Cold War, after all.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Bay City Rollers.

Now Playing: Dire Straits Brothers in Arms
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Thursday, February 01, 2018

Chicken Ranch anniversary: Happy birthday, Aunt Jessie!

On this date in 1885, Fay Stewart was born in Waco. She would've been 133 years old today. Stewart would later adopt the alias of Jessie Williams and operate a small brothel in Austin's Guy Town district before moving to La Grange in 1913. In 1915, she bought 11 acres of land outside of city limits and opened what would eventually become known as the Chicken Ranch. Known locally as Aunt Jessie, she ran the brothel until selling it to Edna Milton in 1961.

Fay Stewart’s parents came from Georgia, moving to Waco well before she was born. The family lived for years on Franklin Street, but struggled after Stewart’s father died unexpectedly in 1886. While it is entirely possible that Stewart learned the ropes of prostitution in Waco's infamous Two Street vice district, there’s scant evidence she was successful enough to own her own brothel there.

Curiously enough, despite the fact Aunt Jessie spent nearly three decades in La Grange and was as well-known a civic benefactor as anyone in Fayette County, I have found no photographs of her. Zero. Nada. Which is strange, since I know photos of her exist somewhere. So in lieu of Aunt Jessie's photo, we'll have to settle from the 1958 edition of the La Grange phone book. Think that cover art is coincidental? Or was someone with the Yellow Pages making a not-so-subtle joke? In any event, here's to Aunt Jessie, the woman who turned a number of shoddy prostitution operations into the brothel known today as the Chicken Ranch.

Now Playing: Dire Straits On the Night
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Sailing Venus: A sorry state of affairs

When last I reported in, prior to World Fantasy, I had this silly notion that I would maintain or even increase my word production.

Fat chance.

Life threw me some curve balls following a positive World Fantasy. Mentally, my head just wasn't in a good place to write, as the trendy kids say. I spent a significant amount of time staring at a blank screen before realizing that wasn't doing me or the novel any good, and got up to occupy myself in other ways. Thus, December and most of January passed with little writing done at all. That's two months. Even at my notoriously slow rate of writing, I'd be damn near finished with the book. Had I, you know, actually done writing during that period. sigh

On the bright side, my writing group has started up again, lighting a fire under me to produce more pages lest the shame of not having anything to critique blight my otherwise sterling reputation. And guess what? Chapter 13, which gave me all manner of fits during its writing, prompting several rewrites and despair of ever getting beyond it, was met with universal approval. Sure, there were specific, discrete issues scattered here and there that need fixing, but one person said, "This chapter is Sailing Venus. This is everything the book is about." It probably helped that I made some architectural changes between Chapters 12 and 13 that helped focus the narrative and better define some character moments, but still. Pretty heady stuff for a writer constantly battling Imposter Syndrome.

The downside to having a great workshop meeting is the fact that I have to follow it up. And Chapter 14 is proving to be far, far more obstinate than 13 ever dreamed of being. It's very clunky. I have to get from Point A at the beginning to Point B at the end, but the narrative wants to wander off down all manner of blind alleys. I'm rewriting more than I'd like. I'm spending an hour coaxing out a single sentence. I'm not convinced it's working. At all. Still, amidst all the dross, there are a few bits that give me hope. We're finally getting Sigfried back up to speed, sort of, and his particular voice adds a certain kind of pep to every scene he's in. A sample from last night:

Sigfried puffed up. "All domestic cat model lines are Class 3A, except for Maine Coons, and those're discontinued. Now me, I'm Class 4C, which, I don't have to tell you, is clearly superior. Now, 38-centimeter beagles are Class 4B, but that's just a reflection of mass, not quality--"

"Do you remember Monkey C. Doo?"

Sigfried grimaced. "Not if I can help it."

"What's he?"

"I'm not sure. Four-something."

Erica raised an eyebrow.

"He's 4B. Class 4B. Are you happy? And that's not a reflection of quality, it's a reflection of mass. That's all, nothing more."
Now Playing: Dire Straits Alchemy
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