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Goodbye to the Crazy Sideburns

I shaved off the insane sideburns that I had been sporting for the last couple of years. They served me well. I enjoyed the attention and compliments that I would get on them, and I did a great Martin Van Buren impersonation (see figures). But, alas, it was time to move on. Also, they were less than comfortable in 100+ degree weather.

Is this the real Martin Van Buren?
Or is this Martin Van Buren?

I’m worried now that no one will recognize me. I wouldn’t.

I have face blindness, aka Prosopagnosia. I didn’t know that there was a name for my condition until very recently. I just thought that I had a bad memory and that there were actually only 3 or 4 actors in the world: Matt Damon, Sandra Bullock, and Lawrence Fishburne, right? Well, when I scored below 50% on this test, I started to suspect that I may have a problem besides forgetfulness.

My chops were about more than just face decoration: they were how I recognized myself. Now that I don’t have them, I feel lighter and cooler, but a bit worried. I rely on extreme features like huge sideburns, beards, unicorn horns, mohawks, and Frank Zappa noses to identify all but my closest friends and family. When these things change, I get confused and uncertain.

If I see someone I’ve previously met, but they’ve changed their hair, or lost weight, or aren’t in the context that I associate with them, I’ll sometimes get a feeling that I’ve seen this person before, but I’ll have no idea who they are. This has happened with people I ought to know quite well…including some relatives and business contacts.

So, just in case you have face blindness like me and you’ve met me within the last few years, here’s the before and after shot. Unlike with the Martin Van Buren pictures, both of these are actually me!

Me, two weeks ago, with chops and long hair.
Me, today, with short hair and no chops.

 

How Writing a Book and Alcatraz Ruined My Health!

Last year, I wrote a book and an online course about mobile web apps. As you know, writing is generally a pretty sedentary activity that happens to go well with booze. Writing is also really hard work (mentally), and so it’s important for a writer to reward himself frequently with ice cream and various other snacks.

In spite of all these factors pulling me towards completely ignoring my health, I did make some attempts to be fit and forty early in the year (oh yeah, I forgot to mention that last year was also the year I turned 40). I registered for a 5k race and for a swim from Alcatraz, both of which helped me to focus on my training so that I wouldn’t die or get eaten by sharks. The problem, however, was that once the races were over, I felt like I didn’t need to exercise ever again. And, so I didn’t.

I think you can see where this is headed–writing and the successful completion of amazing feats of physical endurance have wrecked me! I’ve gained about 30lbs in the last year, and I have way more clothes that don’t fit now than I have that fit.

And so, like so many people with lame excuses for why they’re fat slobs, I’ve decided to start turning it around. I don’t have the guts to post a “before” picture of myself, but I’ll let you use your imagination. I look something like this:

Boss Hogg

And so, here I go! Stay tuned for updates!

Things I’ve Learned About Cooking Recently

I love food and beverage-making challenges. Making things that sound “hard” gives me no end of pleasure. This year, I’ve stepped it up a notch and taken on a number of the big ones, but I’ve also learned quite a bit about cooking some very simple things. Here’s my partial list of things I’ve learned how to make, maybe a short description of how I feel about it, and the thing I consider to be “the key” to success with that thing.

Cassoulette – very tasty, but made me become vegetarian – it’s not easy to find all those meats in the US. Try Asian markets, or find a more Americanized version.

Beer – homemade can be so much better – cleanliness is key.

Cheese – still very new to this – your thermometer is your friend.

Wine – if I could stop doing everything else, I’d just make wine – Best advice I’ve ever gotten came to me 2nd hand from a very famous winemaker: “Get good grapes and don’t fuck em up.”

Pizza dough – easy as pie! – With 3 to 5 ingredients, you kick ass and you’ll be so happy.

Tortillas – I can eat these all day. – With 2 ingredients, you kick ass! A tortilla press is inexpensive and helpful, but I’ve made some of my best tortillas using an empty wine bottle as a rolling pin.

Tamales – if you’re gonna do tamales, do a LOT of them. I make em vegetarian, and I make everything from scratch. Takes me 8-10 hours, but I end up with 70 or so of them. I hear they freeze great, but they never make it to that point here.

Guacamole – I thought I knew how to make guacamole until my Mexican friend taught me her family recipe. Sorry, I can’t say any more.

Crepes – Amazingly versatile and tasty. Just a few ingredients, but the cooking takes practice. Don’t give up! I always have to throw away the first one to get the amount of oil right in the pan.

Souffle – memorize the recipe you’re doing. At certain points, it’s critical that you work fast.

Pretzels – the dough is irritatingly dry. There must be a better way to do them. I have a lot of trouble making long and thin enough ropes of dough. Tasty, though!

Limoncello – I make the best limoncello you’ve never had (well, maybe a couple of you have). Filter the water, filter the alcohol. Wash those lemons. Be patient, it’s worth it!

I’m looking for new challenges. What else is there that a lot of people don’t bother to learn to cook, or that’s considered difficult?