Monday, March 28, 2011

Making Pizza

My youngest daughter, Littlest, and I, love to make pizza together. When she was younger, her job was to decorate the pies after I made and rolled out the dough.  Now that she is older, she makes the dough herself; even starting the yeast from scratch.

If you have baked using yeast, you are well aware of what it takes to get yeast to work properly. Sometimes it seems as if it requires a bit of magic. When I first started making my own pizza dough, I did not do such a good job. As Eldest would say, “Fail...EPIC fail.” She has such an encouraging spirit.

I went to one of the best chefs in the world for advice. Mom gave me some words of wisdom, make sure the water you put the yeast in is “just the right” temperature. I cannot tell you how many stores I went to, looking for a thermometer that listed “just the right temperature.” I still have not found one, and I have been looking since the invention of classical music.

She also told me to put a little sugar into the yeast to “prove it.”

“Prove what?” I asked her.

She explained that yeast is a fun guy, adding sugar not only makes it a sweet fun guy, it proves that it really is a fun guy. Now Littlest has a ritual when she starts the yeast to growing. She looks into the bowl of yeast and water and asks, “Are you a fun guy?” Then she dramatically throws sugar into the bowl, when it begins to foam and smell as yeast should smell, she declares boldly, “Behold the mold, it is a fun guy!”

When she does this, I am always a bit saddened. My Littlest is growing up and interested in other males, besides her father. It is no comfort that her newest fun guy is a slimy wet puddle of fermenting gunk in the bottom of a small bowl. I ask her, “What about your father? Aren’t I a fun guy?”

“Are you a fun guy?” she asks me.

Then she throws a handful of sugar at me and announces brightly, “Nope, you are not a fun guy.” As I growl and brush the sugar out of my thick mane of hair.

I make two contributions to cooking pizza. I help prepare some of the toppings; Littlest lets me fry sausage and cut up broccoli. I also am allowed to roll out the dough. Notice I roll the dough, I do not throw it in the air and twirl it around. I tried that once with disastrous consequences. I think I am still trying to get all of the sticky dough out of my hair!

In our house we have a variety of preferences when it comes to pizza toppings. One person only likes pepperoni, one prefers Italian sausage, another healthy individual wants broccoli on her pizza. In the effort to please everyone’s palates, by the time Littlest gets to the last pizza we have a little bit of all the toppings left. They go on the last pizza, along with some onion and jalapeno pepper. This pizza is christened the garbage pizza and the only two people who like eating it are Littlest and myself. This is a good thing; we do not have to worry about any leftover pieces disappearing in the middle of the night.

As we put the pizzas in the oven, Littlest remarks, “I love making pizza, it is so much fun.”

“You should,” I reply, “It is in your blood.”
“What do you mean?”  she asks.

“My dad’s uncle, who would be my great uncle, and I suppose then your terrific uncle, owned a pizzeria.”

“Why did he do that?” she asks.

“Well, he had a family to support and needed the dough.”

Friday, March 18, 2011

The real story behind Daylight Savings Time

                Today the sun shines. If you live anywhere else besides Rochester, this may not be amazing news. For those of us who live in the cloud belt it is miraculous. In fact, after a long winter of cloudy bleakness, when the sun reappears from behind the perpetual cloudbank, many residents take their small children outside to explain what that big yellow-orange ball hanging in the sky is. Children often wake up on days like today, see the clouds are gone, break into panic, and start to cry. It is almost as if some horrible person has taken away their comforting blanket.

                The only people who find no comfort in the appearance of the spring sun and the warming temperatures are, to be gentle, flakes—if you get my drift. Therefore, now we concern ourselves with spring and summer things like gardens, lawn care, and sunburn. Soon I shall be out in the yard, sweating, swatting mosquitoes, and wishing for cooler weather.

                One of the unfortunate problems with spring is the switch to Daylight Savings Time, which is the invention of lawmakers. As history tells it, one day a group of lawmakers were hanging around with nothing in particular to do. Now if ordinary citizens are hanging around with nothing to do, it is called an unruly mob. When politicians hang around together with nothing to do, it is called a committee. This committee was discussing the fact that during winter the days get shorter, and after a long day of sitting around, making laws, and wandering around town in committees wreaking havoc and causing general chaos, there was not enough daylight left to go home and accomplish anything worthwhile.

                Thus, the committee contrived a way to save daylight, or as we now know it, Daylight Savings Time. Delighted with themselves they went home and immediately bragged to their wives about the wonderful shiny, new law they had made. Their wives told them it would not work, since it was obvious there were only a certain number of hours the sun shines every day; changing clocks may make the sun set later, but it would not shine any longer. The lawmakers explained to their wives that they could not understand the process of lawmaking and saving daylight. These things were important law-stuff. It took unruly hordes, or rather committees, to properly investigate these sensitive issues, generate large important looking reports, and to make the important laws necessary to save daylight.

                The wives scowled at their husbands, told them to wash the children’s hands, and help them set the table. And things were fine— until the first day of Daylight Savings Time. When the lawmakers wives had to call their husbands hundreds of times, “Are you going to get up?!  You have to be to work in less than half-an-hour!” The lawmakers, looking at their clocks and realizing what time it was, rushed out of bed, griping at anyone who would listen about how late they were, how they had to get to work and make laws, and how important they were.

                While in lawmaking session, lawmakers sat and listened to each other talk about all the problems in their constituencies (which is a fancy word for the people who elected them). When they drifted off to sleep, other lawmakers would nudge them with heavy law books to keep them awake or someone would bang a wooden mallet on the desk to startle the offending snoozer (they used a wooden mallet because no one trusted them with a real hammer). Finally, after a long day of trying to make up laws, but being too tired to really think of anything to law about, they went home. The lawmakers strolled up the walks to their houses feeling good and self-important; since the sun was still shining, because they had saved it.

                He said to his wife, “I am sorry I am late, there were many accidents on the road today, but look dear, the sun is still shining at this late hour, and it is because of the law my committee wrote. The wife simply shook her head. Our intrepid lawmaker fell asleep sitting on the couch, content in his self-satisfaction in saving daylight. Wholly oblivious to the mayhem on the highway and the mayhem in his living room, as his grumpy kids fought and argued. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Research shows...

Research has shown that 90% of research is unnecessary, or in other words, that only 10% can have real- world application. Even then, sometimes it takes a creative genius, such as myself, to discover those applications.

Take, for instance, the well-known statistical research that 90% of accidents happen within 10 miles of home.  This, on the surface, may seem like most people only travel within 10 miles of their own houses, when in actuality, there is a statistical personal ring-of-death that extends 10 miles from each person’s home. The actual reasons behind this are too mystical and complicated to examine here. The more important question is “what do I do about it?”, or “what is the real world application?”

First, I took a map and drew a circle representing a 10-mile radius around my house-- my personal ring-of-death. Next, I asked my wife if I could use the scissors. one should always use scissors with adult supervision! When she was able to supervise, I cut that circle right out of the map.

Then I went to the phone book and found a place to store my car, outside that 10-mile circle. When I need to drive somewhere, outside of my ring-of-death, I walk a block, get on the bus and ride to my car. Once I am safely outside that 10-mile radius, I get in my car and drive to my destination. Provided, of course, the destination is outside my death ring. This has brought great peace of mind, knowing that this simple change in my behavior has resulted in a 9-fold reduction in the possibility of my dying in a horrible fiery wreck. Thank you research!

The next item for consideration is glasses. Not the ones you drink from, but, more correctly, corrective lenses. Research shows that people who wear glasses are perceived as being more intelligent than those without spectacles. I also have applied this to my everyday life. I have a pair of glasses that I usually keep perched on top of my head and when someone asks me a difficult question, I slide them off the top of my head and perch them on my nose. Now there is something in that very act that makes me feel more intelligent and it seems to shock and awe innocent bystanders as they are bedazzled and bewildered by my brilliance.

Just the other day I was shopping at Wegmans, with my corrective lenses smartly perched on my lush head of hair, when an unsuspecting shopper was caught in the glare of my obvious brilliance. She handed me a package and asked if the item was worth buying. I slid the glasses to my nose, almost causing the entire population of that row to swoon in wonder, and read that it contained bromated bromesium, apopleptic arsenic, seizium citrate, red dye #3, yellow dye #4, and love potion #9. I responded to the fellow shopper that it would be better to go to the produce aisle and buy some fruits and vegetables for the following reasons. First, they only have one ingredient per package, i.e. apple or banana, or yellow squash. B, the packages are much easier to open, I had opened one of the items she had in her cart, and the package split open, spilling the entire contents all over the kitchen, dining room, and much of the Yucatan Peninsula. The packaging on produce is much easier to open, and in some cases, such as apples, is edible. Finally, I insisted that the produce tasted much better than the item she was considering buying. The now wise and well-informed shopper put her box of dishwasher detergent back and the shelf and hurried to the produce aisle. Research yet again saves the day!

The last item of research to be considered is new research that shows that technology actually keeps people awake. This has something to do with the wavelengths of light coming from computer monitors causing the body to not produce the appropriate amount of melatonin to make people feel drowsy and fall asleep. This has the potential to be one of the most lifesaving pieces of research in recent memory.

Most lawmakers generally wear contacts, which greatly dulls their intellect. However, they have been smart enough to notice that a driver staring at his or her lap trying to spell words out on a tiny one- inch by one-inch screen tends not to notice traffic conditions around them and have been known to bump into other drivers, signposts, and even wayward jet airplanes, all with great violence. Thus the lawmakers, whose entire existence is wrapped up in making laws, made it illegal to text and drive.  They then sat back to watch the number of car accidents decrease and the number of happy-to-be-alive voters increase . These happy-to-be-alive voters would, of course, vote for them. The increase has been only slight. Why? Because the emissions from the screens of phones were keeping drivers awake, so now they are bumping into things because they are falling asleep. 

Friday, March 4, 2011

The dead carcass.

Thursday middlest girl and I worked on the dead car residing under the carport. It would not start, and I was sure the death was due to a dead battery. Since I was on a lifting restriction of 20 pounds, I needed help lifting the battery and middlest was kind and gracious enough to help, with only the slightest roll of her eyes. 

We had to work on the car Thursday, because Friday a snowstorm was expected. This being western New York in the dead of winter, we usually expect snow. Upon hearing we were supposed to have a storm, middlest announced, “Why do we get all the snowstorms when we are off school?  I think the teachers and the weathermen get together and conspire about this.” I assured her there was no conspiracy as we drove to the auto parts store.

Upon arriving at the store, the Sales Associate asked if I was sure the battery was dead. Not once commenting on why my 13-year-old daughter was lugging around the bazillion pound battery instead of her muscular, and quite good looking, father. Since I had measured the voltage with a voltmeter and it read 6 volts when it should have read over 12 volts, I said I was 99.999% sure it was dead. I paid the king’s ransom for the new battery, and lugged it out to the van. Well, middlest lugged it out, and still no comment from the dignified Sales Associate. 

Arriving home we, I mean she, put the battery into its new home. I tightened it in and went to start the car….nothing. Dead. Ugh. Immediately I suspected the battery. Yes, it was new, but when in doubt, I always suspect the battery. Primarily since it is the easiest thing for me to identify under the hood. Voltmeter in hand, I checked the battery. 6 volts?! It should be 12 volts. Now that was suspicious; it was brand new.  I checked a few other batteries, and a 12 volt power supply, and the meter read 6 volts for all of them. I deduced I had a problem with the voltmeter; no worry, I have two other voltmeters. Of course, I know one does not work and I do not know where either is.

Middlest asks, “What shall we do now?”  I reply, as any wise father would, “Have lunch.” She had cold pizza, and I had a peanut butter and banana sandwich.  While eating I tried to remember the last place I saw my other volt meters. I could not remember, they were lost—and my wife was not home to ask. Wives and mothers, my wife is both, have that amazing knack of knowing exactly where lost items are. The other day we lost power at our house; I started to mumble something about checking the battery. My wife rolled her eyes. Shortly after that, the power came back on. I am sure my wife found that too.

Without help, all alone, I started to look for the missing voltmeter. While looking, I kept talking with myself about it being easier to fix the broken one, but reassuring myself I would need one to figure out the problem with the other, I kept looking. While looking, I found a bunch of other stuff I forgot I had lost. Neat stuff. Shiny stuff. Stuff that distracted me for hours, until eventually I completely forgot about looking for the other voltmeter and about the dead hulking shell of a car under the carport.

That is until middlest asked me, “Whatcha gunna do about the car Dad?” Car? What was she talking about? Until after a few minutes of staring at her blankly, she said, “We left the hood open, shouldn’t we close it?” Finally, I remembered what I had been looking for and why. I mumbled something about calling the garage to have them fix it. She said, “Don’t forget to close the hood.” Me? Forget? I have a mind like a steel trap. I gazed around the porch, wondering what I was doing out here and what all these neat shiny things were in all of the boxes.

On Friday I was looking for my cordless drill and found the two other voltmeters. I was so ecstatic I totally forgot about the drill for a couple of hours. That is until I found the charger for the drill’s batteries in my room as I was looking for something else (I do not remember what I was looking for).  I got the drill out, and put the batteries in to charge. With any luck, I will not forget to bring the drill with me when I visit my brother, which is why I was looking for that in the first place. The car is at the garage, they haven’t called me yet, I hope they haven’t forgotten.