Monthly Archives: May 2017

Mushroom Risotto: A Cautionary Tale

I’ve been working, in the past few years theoretically and since moving to Ohio in particular, to expand my cooking repertoire.

It is somewhat easier now, since I work in a library, and every couple weeks I go downstairs and check out a new cookbook. And there have been some successes that I’ll be adding to my rotation.

And then there’s mushroom risotto.

It seemed like a good idea at the time. The recipe seemed well within my abilities, and the ingredients seemed to be like they’d taste good together.

The first problem: Risotto is a pain in the ass to make.

There’s a lot of chopping and cooking before the risotto, which is a bit annoying but not the worst thing that’s ever happened. But then you add the risotto, which isn’t actually risotto at this point—just “arborio rice,” which is a polite way to say “petrified Satan’s droppings.”

Then you add a little bit of liquid and stir. For, like two hours.

And then, when that liquid is absorbed, you add more liquid and continue to stir. And you repeat this, and continue repeating it, and then continue repeating it, for a total of about 37 hours.

Seriously. I was watching Netflix on my phone and ran out of Law & Order to binge. I had to turn to The Ranch to avoid going mad from the rhythmic clanging of wooden spoon against pot, after which I yearned for the clanging of metal pot against my skull.

Mushroom Risotto
How delicious does that look? If your answer was, “Not very,” you are right. It looks like something that came out of a cat’s front end and back end simultaneously.

But even things that don’t look good might taste okay. So after two full Netflix series of prep, how does it actually taste?

It tastes like slightly chewy goo, with just a hint of mucilage and a soupcon of mush. The flavor is nothing but texture, and there’s not even much of that. You chew it, and eventually it goes down your throat, but you won’t ever be certain when the transition from “chewing” to “having swallowed” takes place.

It’s also vegan. You could tell that from approximately three hundred miles away.

To sum up: Don’t make mushroom risotto. It will make you sad.

Leave a comment

Filed under Cooking, Funny

OCR Report: Royal Mudman: Race (semi-)Local

Yesterday was my second OCR of the year, and it kind of snuck up on me. I did the Royal Mudman 5K in Charlottesville, Indiana, about an hour and a half from where I now live.

You almost undoubtedly haven’t heard of it. It’s not part of a race series; it’s put on as a fundraiser for the Eastern Hancock Education Foundation, which provides grants to teachers in Hancock County. I don’t have any personal connection to said county, but I’m fundamentally glad that that happens.

Home of the Royals sign.

OK, one connection. The OCR took place at a high school, whose mascot is the Royals, which was also my high school’s mascot, even though I never felt like Queen Elizabeth II was particularly fierce or good at football.

I honestly haven’t been hunting for races, what with the move and such. (That excuse, still!) But I found out about the race because of the move. When I was driving to Ohio before moving to arrange housing, I saw a billboard for the race. It remains the only thing (with the possible exception of Wall Drug) that I’ve ever chosen to take part in because I saw a billboard for it.

About the race itself: I really enjoyed it. As you might expect, the scale of the race was fairly small. That means that there were only a handful of waves—start times spread over only maybe an hour and a half or two hours. Getting in and out was easy, with parking on-site at the high school and no lines at check-in or the bag check. Plus, no lines at obstacles.

Obviously, a local race isn’t going to compete on “epic” obstacles. (A concept that OCR people give way too much play to—but that’s another subject.) There were three up-and-over vertical climbs: One cargo net, one bank of tires (stacked vertically on top of each other so it looks like a bunch of big 8s), and one wooden ladder thing. Also notable was a rope swing over a mud pit and a water-and-soap slip-and-slide (curiously placed as the first obstacle, in case you aren’t fresh and clean before running). The course also made excellent use of a local creek, with one fairly long trip wading through it for some distance and several other times crossing it. (As we’ve had a lot of rain lately, the creek was often about waist-high—probably higher than anticipated.)

The other obstacles had a lot of what you could call clambering. Things like crawling over a series of large logs, through the crotch of a large tree, under a set of giant tires embedded in the ground, or through a mud pit under some wire. Also, due to the rain, the running path was muddy and uneven—though certainly not to the extent of a typical Spartan with miles of single-track muck that is impossible to run through.

Fire jump being constructed.

And a fire jump, because it’s an OCR.

None of the obstacles were extraordinarily difficult. And yet (to get back to the whole “epicness” flaw) I was still pretty exhausted after it. That’s because I was able to run the whole thing, and at a decent clip, even. The race wasn’t officially timed outside of the competitive heats, but there was a clock with a running event time at the start/finish line. If I remembered the start time correctly, and I did the math right, I did the course in about 44 minutes. Physically I was quite pleased with how I ran it.

To sum up: It was a really lovely day—or half-day, really, since I was home by about 1 p.m. It’s not going to compete on having obstacles on a grand scale or that require extraordinary strength. But it’s a great option if you’re in the region and looking for a casual OCR experience or an OCR where you can push the running pace.

Plus, the race had what I’m calling an official cow.

cow

The official cow of the Royal Mudman OCR?

 

Race shirt and medal

One more photo, for the swag hags.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Obstacle Course Racing, OCR Report, Royal Mudman

Photos from Ohio

I feel like I’ve made a reasonably comfortable transition to my new home, for the most part.

But the parts outside of that most part are the funny ones. And fortunately, just for you, I’ve documented many of them. So view these and experience the life that is me:

Tree jailAs part of local initiatives aimed at being “tough on crime,” several miscreant trees have been imprisoned in the past year. This is a community that refuses to allow tree-on-tree crime to take root.

Horrifying bunny cakesThey literally made this cake out of a bunny, which they first compressed into a plastic bunny-shaped mask that stares into your soul, plaintively asking “Why would you do such a thing?”

Drinking vinegar

This is the most disgusting thing I’ve seen here, and I’ve seen a 2-pound, 8-ounce jar of “pickled rope bologna” that had a sticky film and had developed suction sticking it to the shelf. No, seriously.Pickled rope bologna

Pac-Man Skill CraneI could cope if this were just a Pac-Man–themed skill crane machine, even though there’s absolutely nothing in Pac-Man that connects to the skill crane mechanic, or even any attempt at incorporating Pac-Man branding apart from the name panel. But the fact that the prizes are all pastel-colored sheep is really messing with my head. Was “shepherd” Pac-Man’s original career before he quit the rat race to subsist on dots and hunt psychedelic ghosts? Is Pac-Man Scottish? Those are the only possibilities I see.

Corner Cone sign

Yellow Springs is sort of the local hippie enclave outside the big local military base. It’s the kind of place where businesses simultaneously sell ice cream and rent bikes. (The ice cream is good, at least.)

By all accounts, my new bank is really good. But grammar isn’t its jam. (Also, they believe my first name is “First Name,” which is how I’d like to be addressed from here on out.)

Henry David Thorough's shack, or a facsimile.This shack is noteworthy for one of three reasons. It might be Henry David Thoreau’s shack, or it might be a replica of Henry David Thoreau’s shack, or I might have my story completely and utterly wrong.

Karen Knotts show poster

This is the kind of place where you can be famous for being the daughter of Don Knotts. She’s like an extremely rural version of Dannii Minogue.

PizzadillaNo. Just… no.

Leave a comment

Filed under Funny, Photos

OCR Report: 2017 Citi Field Sprint

Last weekend was my annual pilgrimage to New York for a family visit and Spartan Citi Field Sprint run.

The race really isn’t wildly different from year-to-year, so I’ll save my words for things that are actually notable.

First off, the weather. I’ve historically not had great luck with Spartan weather; almost every race has either had rain during the event or enough beforehand to make the mud dramatic. There was no mud for this one, obviously, but there was moderately heavy rain throughout. It was bad enough that the spear literally slipped out of my hand in the spear throw. I mean, the throw looked pathetic—it went maybe halfway to the target.

The race had far less Sisyphian climbing of the stands than last year, which was very nice. I think the race was shorter and easier overall, which was nice, as my brother was dealing with some shoulder issues.

We were hoping that my nephew would be able to do the kid’s race this year. Unfortunately, that didn’t pan out—officially, due to the weather, but as a practical matter due to logistics. (The family had been having varying levels of illness in the week leading up to the race, and getting the kid out to the race while simultaneously caring for the other kid who’s still too young for the race and having care for him in place before and after his race while his dad and me were running turned out to not be feasible. He wound up going to his ninja class instead, which was some consolation.)

The Z-wall made an appearance, which was the first time I’ve seen it at a stadium race. I made a significant goof in that obstacle by not checking it out beforehand. As a result, I didn’t realize that the foothold around the blind corner, was also really, really far. So when I was on the obstacle, I really had no idea where that foothold was.

In better news: I did the rope climb for the first time in a race. Given the rain, that was a big surprise; I think the rope was thicker this year, since I was able to get some grip on my feet.

I’m feeling extremely sore today in weird ways. That’s less due to the race and more due to the fact that yesterday I drove about 800 miles from Long Island to Ohio. Yep, I’m a car owner again, for the first time in 14 years, because I bought my sister-in-law’s old car. I am not in driving shape, apparently, because my gas pedal shin is throbbin’.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Obstacle Course Racing, OCR Report, Spartan Race

Fat Boy Big Wall, Juvenile Offender

One not-terribly-interesting change that I’ve experienced since moving to Ohio involves recycling.

In Chicago, recycling bins were always pretty readily accessible, even though the buildings where I lived didn’t always provide them. Here, they are less so.

However, there is a recycling center that’s not too inconvenient: It’s basically down the street from the good grocery store (there’s another one that’s very close to where I live, but it’s a bit sketchy, and it makes pretty clear that produce is not its jam) so I’m in the area at least once a week.

I went there for the first time last weekend, and it went… well…

It’s the weather’s fault, really. I decided to walk there, rather than bike, because it had been raining all morning and wet roads will get you nicely moist, even if it’s not raining.

There is an attendant at the recycling center, and going there on foot really, really, really messed with his head.

He was obviously suspicious when I came in. That really kicked up when I was finished dropping off my stuff, which is slightly my fault. I had another errand to run, which was across the street from the grocery store. So instead of walking out the typical entrance and exit, I tried to go through the back of the recycling center. I didn’t, as there was both a rather rusty fence blocking the path (which could have been jumped) and a more-significant-than-I-realized highway with no good crossing, except the main one that I already knew about (which led me to turn back.)

This unauthorized exploration was simply too much for the attendant, and he had to confront me.

I explained my slight awkwardness, that I was new in the area and had never been there and wanted to see if it was possible to cut across to the bank (which was my other errand, even though I neglected to mention it earlier. My apologies).

“You can’t go through that way,” he informed me quite needlessly.

“I see that now,” I said.

“You just get out of jail?” he demanded.

Wait, what?

One more bit of local geography you’ll need to fully understand the story: Across the street from the recycling center in the other direction from the bank is the local juvenile detention center.

So, the attendant was very confident that I just gotten out of there. No, not “gotten out of there.” The tone of voice which which he asked if I had just gotten out of jail suggested he thought that I had escaped, and that he was about to score himself a bounty.

Because the first thing a 41-year-old does upon escaping from juvie is take some recycling in.

(Also, to keep it OCR related: I happened to be wearing a Spartan finisher t-shirt from last year’s Citi Field sprint at the time. Perhaps those are as readily available at juvenile hall as they are at Citi Field, which raises some questions about Mets fans that I’m sure Phillies fans would be happy to exploit, if they knew how to read.)

I assured him that I was not actually a criminal, but he wasn’t going to give up on his opportunity for Justice™ that easily. “Then why are you on foot?”

“Because I walked here” was my fairly obvious response. Looking back, I think his inquiry was more high-minded and philosophical—as in, “Why didn’t you drive?” As in, “driving is the only possible way to move between two points.”

Which suggests pretty strongly that, despite working at a recycling center, he hadn’t quite considered the implications of his work in the broader environmentalist context.

He demanded to know where I had walked from. I told him, and he informed me that it wasn’t possible to do so. I reminded him about the off-road trail that brought me nearly halfway, and the ample sidewalks on the other half of the trip.

The attendant did not believe me. But he also wasn’t accustomed to having someone respond to him as if they were saying logical things. It threw him, and he couldn’t come up with any more lines of inquisition, and I was free to go. I mean, that’s what he was thinking, even though we both knew that he had no authority to hold me there, and I was only staying around because it amused me. He didn’t say anything to me, but just sort of shook his head and backed away murmuring about how confusing the whole situation was.

I hope he’s happy… he single-handedly put another junior felon back on the streets

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Funny, OCR Gear, Spartan Race

The Feral Elliptical Machine

I feel like I’ve made a reasonably successful transition to Ohio, but I am still capable of being surprised by many of the things I see.

For example, this:

Feral elliptical machine in the park

What we have here is an elliptical machine in the wild. While wild ellipticals (apparatibus ellipticis ferox) do exist, they are extraordinarily rare outside of their range (primarily along the eastern seaboard from northern Georgia to southern Maine, but particularly common in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Long Island). As a result, I formed the conclusion that it was, in fact, a domestic elliptical (apparatibus ellipticis mansueti) that had escaped or (cruelly) been released by its owner.

My hunch was confirmed when I approached the machine. Wild ellipticals are often hostile, but this specimen welcomed my approach and even nuzzled my face in a friendly manner.

Me approaching the feral elliptical.

Sadly, the elliptical had been wounded, though whether it was the result of an injury suffered in the wild or abuse from its owner, I cannot say for certain.

The elliptical's injury.

However, I like to believe that any injuries were relatively non-traumatic, as the machine exhibited no fear of me. In fact, after a sufficient introduction, the machine even consented to allow me to ride it.

Riding the Feral Elliptical

Sadly, I was not able to provide the forever home that this elliptical deserves, as my apartment has a strict no-pets policy and the local animal control agency refused any responsibility for elliptical machines of this nature.

So I bound its wounds as effectively as I could, gave it a handful of batteries and plugs, and sent it on its way with all the best thoughts I could muster.

The next time I passed that spot, it had left, but I believe it had everything it needed to have a delightful life, as it was in a pleasant park with ready access to forests, fields, water, and electrical outlets. The alternative is simply too horrifying to contemplate, because elliptical prostitutes never live happy lives.

Leave a comment

Filed under Funny

May Goals: What, This Again?

It’s been a while since I’ve set some goals, for reasons that are fairly logical, but now that life is slightly settling it’s time to get back to it. They’re not super-well organized or thought-out, but I’ll use that old “I just moved states and I’m still trying to get everything sorted out” excuse. So with that in mind, here’s my goals for the month:

Weight: 243.428, as a 7-day average. The move, thus far, has been good for this particular metric, due mainly to diet: It takes a bit more of a commitment to eat junk here, and having a traditional office job takes away a fair amount of opportunity. Or maybe, it’s just the novelty of being in a new place that has helped. I hope it’s the former.

Pull-ups: 6. I technically managed this once before—In February, my Chicago gym had a month-long pull-up challenge. I haven’t hit those heights since, but if the weight comes down and I work consistently, I think it’s broadly feasible.

Crow pose: 20 seconds. I haven’t worked on the crow pose consistently in several months, ever since I figured out how to kick-up into a wall handstand. But the crow pose was something that really helped me to do that, so I’m hoping it will also help me to do an unsupported handstand. My previous best was about 15 seconds.

Dips: 8. My new gym does have a quasi-dedicated set of bars for dips. OK, not really; it’s one of those angled things with a foot rest and a cushion for back extensions, but it’s got parallel bars sticking out of it. I’ve only done 4 so far, but it’s early days.

Biking: Bike the county. As I’ve noted, the county that I now live in is criss-crossed by bike paths. Next month, I want to do the whole county: basically, biking to Jamestown, Spring Valley, Fairborn, Yellow Springs, and Cedarville. (And Beavercreek, but as I can’t really get to Fairborn without passing through, we can take that as read.) That may be slightly over-ambitious, as it’s five rides and I’m only in town for three and a half weekends this month. We’ll see.

Running: Two goals here: First off, build up to an 8K long run. I really only started running for the year in April, but I’m doing 5Ks consistently, so I’m ready to build. The second is an 8-minute mile. I have no idea how that will go: I haven’t done a timed mile since about junior high. I have no idea how a mile pace would be different for me from a 5K pace.

Writing: I need to write (outside of my job) daily. I may make an exception for the travel weekend (especially the day when I’ll be driving from Long Island to southwest Ohio) and the other race day I have.

Transition from transitioning to living: Basically, this entails starting to build the connections that humans have when they live in a place. (It’s also been strongly encouraged by my employer, which should help.) I’ve actually started the process of volunteering at a place, although that hasn’t yet gone well; their website has a volunteer application form, but no information about how to turn it in. We shall see how that goes.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under diet, Goals, Running, writing