Monday, May 31, 2010

A Matter of Proportion

We recently discovered an infestation of mice in our downstairs storage area (here, "infestation" is defined mathematically as "a number of mice greater than or equal to 1"). Those of you who know this family will wonder how that can be possible, given that we have been associated with so very many cats in the past. But the fact is that we are down a few cats from, say, last year at this time, since two have passed on to that big easy chair in the sky, one has apparently wandered off as suddenly as he wandered in, and a fourth has been reclassified as an "outdoor" cat for reasons that good taste preclude a complete description of (i.e., I can't say he peed on things). So, that leaves us with one actual indoor cat.

Ming, also known occasionally as "Catness," and "Ouch! You little snot!"

(I will add two comments here unrelated to the real story: First, as I type this, Ming has assumed her usual position lying between the keyboard and the monitor, this time with her twitchy little tail covering the keys from the I to the Backspace. Every time I have to backspace, it pulls her tail hair a little. Eventually she will bite me. Second, as with a fourth or fifth child, I find that I can find fewer pictures of this fourth or fifth or sixth cat than of the first two or three.)

Now Ming is pretty much an indoor cat, and so you'd think we could maintain a fairly mouse-free environment. But that would be assuming that Ming is a useful cat, whereas in truth she is largely decorative. Also, she is no dummy. She has figured out the rudiments of multiplicative mathematical structures, and has at least this basic picture in mind:

"Hmmm. I wonder which one has the most bacon?"

Now I can't honestly say that Ming is waiting for a pig to appear in the downstairs food storage room, thinking that she'll save her energy for that moment and then eat for a year. But I do know she turns up her nose at fresh fish, but positively dances on her hind legs for bacon. She is not a maritime cat, more like a cat from America's heartland, say Iowa, where pork is king and there's plenty of it. Just sayin'.

So, until a herd of wild boars runs through our basement, Ming will remain largely decorative, and we will have to deal with the mice ourselves. Time to lay in more peanut butter.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Doin' Jack

It's a little embarrassing that my personal hero is not a religious figure, great person in history, or famous academic. Respectable LDS academics should try to choose their personal heroes wisely, but I have not. And don't get me started on my favorite books, movies, or TV shows. Ugh.

But the fact of the matter is, my personal hero is Adam Richman. He hosts Man vs Food on the Travel Channel and has what is unquestionably the best job in the known universe, which is eating for a living. For the uninitiated, Man vs Food has Adam visiting a different city each episode, eating in some great pig-out places, and then undertaking one selected restaurant's food challenge, which he often wins (especially if it involves very hot food) but sometimes loses (mostly in cases that involve sheer volume of food).

Of course, being a member of the Fraternity of the Crossed Forks (Motto: "Cardiologist? What's a Cardiologist?") I would love to visit those same places and eat those same wonderful things. Maybe more slowly, but still. So when I went to Denver a couple of weeks ago and had a chance to go to Jack-n-Grill, scene of the Denver episode's "Seven pound burrito challenge," well, you know I had to go, dragging my unwitting travel companions along if necessary.

Of course, the need to go there was particularly acute because my son had actually gone there last May during a road trip involving a Decemberists concert. His adventure is documented in his own blog post, which I will let you find if you care enough, but won't provide a link for because I think Colin Maloy sings like a goat and don't want to encourage him (my son, not Colin). However, the relevant pictures are these:

Left, my son about to do battle. Below, the battle being waged with the help of friend Tucker. Notice that, despite three refills of Mt. Dew, Tucker still appears to be falling asleep.

Anyway, my son had been-there-done-that so I saw this as a chance to bond a little, long distance, using food, which is my usual method of bonding with pretty much everyone. This one's for you, son.

We arrived at the Jack-n-Grill full of expectations, and after a 45 minute wait for a table, I found myself sitting in what I now know was the same spot my son's party occupied -- right by the glass door. Indeed, I was sitting right where Tucker sat.

Apparently there is something about that particular seat that makes you sleepy, despite three refills of Diet Coke.

We detected a theme in the decor. A certain Jack-iness, including but not limited to: Nicholson, Sparrow, Hungry, One-Eyed, Links, Broken Crowned, and Nimble.

No, I did not order the burrito. A man needs to know his limits, an old man even more so. I settled for a couple of smothered chimichangas, of which I only ate one.

The Divine Ms B, however, was the hero of the day. She ordered a Juarez Burger.

In case like me you have old eyes and can't read that, it says:

A full 10 oz. patty of fresh ground chuck, ham, hot-dog, fresh green chile, cheese, guacamole, mayo.
And so it was.

I consider it a work of art, sort of awe-inspiring, but no more so than the Divine Ms B's dedicated assault on it:

And the final result was commendable.

At this point in the meal, the Divine Ms B leaned over to me and said, "I want you to know I could have finished it, but I wanted to save some for later." I believe her. She is an honest person.

The Hero of the Day, in my book.

And to Dan and Roni Jo: thanks, you were good sports.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Just Call Me Homer

Mr Burns:
"Who was that young hellcat, Smithers?"
Smithers: "Homer Simpson, sir."
Mr Burns: "Simpson, eh? I'll remember that name."

Mr Burns: "That man who's getting all the laughs, Smithers ... who is he?"
Smithers: "Homer Simpson, sir, one of the carbon blobs from sector 7-G."

Mr Burns: "Why is that man in pink?"
Smithers: "Oh, that's Homer Simpson, sir. He's one of your boobs from Sector 7-G."

Mr Burns: "Smithers, who is this saucy fellow?"
Smithers: "Homer Simpson, sir. Sector sieben-Grueber, I mean, sector 7-G."

Homer: "Hey Burns! Eat! my! shorts!"
Mr Burns: "Who the Sam Hill was that?"
Smithers: "Why it's Homer Simpson, sir. One of the schmos from sector 7-G."

Mr Burns: "Who is that lavatory linksman, Smithers?"
Smithers: "Homer Simpson, sir. One of the fork and spoon operators from sector 7-G."

Mr Burns: "Who is that firebrand, Smithers?"
Smithers: "That's Homer Simpson."
Mr Burns: "Simpson, eh? New man?"
Smithers: "Actually, sir, he thwarted your campaign for governor, you ran over his son, he saved the plant from meltdown, his wife painted you in the nude..."
Mr Burns: "Doesn't ring a bell."

Mr Burns: "Really Smithers, I'll be fine. I'm sure your replacement will be able to handle everything. Who is he, anyway?"
Smithers: "Uh, Homer Simpson, sir. One of your organ banks from sector 7-G. All the recent events of your life have revolved around him in some way."
Mr Burns: "Simpson, eh?"

Mr Burns: "Who the devil are you?"
Homer: "Homer Simpson!"
Mr Burns: "What?"
Homer: "Homer Simpson!"
Mr Burns: "What are you talking about?"
Homer: "Homer..."
Mr Burns: "You're not making sense, man!"
Homer: "Shut up! Homer Simpson!"
Mr Burns: "I can't understand a word you're saying!"
Homer: "My name is Homer Simpson!"
Mr Burns: "You're just babbling incoherently..."

There's nothing quite like going to a professional meeting to remind me of my place in the universe. So many people who are important in my field, many of whom I've met, some of whom I've spent several days with in various conferences and meetings, broken bread with, and published their papers in a journal I edited. And, as nearly as I can tell, none of whom recognize me or remember my name.

OK, I admit that it's partly my fault. I tend to be sort of retiring, and actually prefer to stay in the background. I don't schmooze well. I certainly don't go out of my way to get noticed. On those few occasions when I've put myself out to meet someone or talk to them, I've usually wondered whether I came off as too eager or presumptuous. But there are a few people who I really think ought to know me, and it stings a little when they don't. Yes, they are well-known in the field, and I'm not so much. Yes, they meet a lot more people than I do. Still, even carbon-blobs like me like to think they are significant to people who are significant to them.

Oh well. There's not much I can do about it, and it really only matters once or twice a year anyway. But there's one case that stands out that I can do something about. One person in my own university. Like me, he's a department chair. We've talked several times. I've introduced myself at least three times. We've spent time at meetings together. There are several different contexts in which we have mutual acquaintances. And when I call him by name, and say hello, he looks at me like I'm a complete stranger. Never laid eyes on me. Like maybe I have broccoli growing out of my ears.

So I'm going to take every possible chance to say hello to him as I pass quickly by, so that he has to keep wondering who I am and why I know him. Eventually, he'll ask his companions, "Who is that bald fella?" And they'll say, "I'm not sure, but he reminds me of someone. Except I think his skin should be more yellow."