Before sound, color, pictures, mice and broadband OR Uli is not a serial killer

I found this video languishing in a draft post (no text) and am wondering why I never posted it.

The video is dated 1993. By 1993, I had more than 4 years of hanging out on the net.

By 1993, my family and friends were heartily sick of hearing about my Imaginary Friendsand said so. I quipped they were not imaginary, just invisible. I was hanging out long before any graphic other than an ASCII drawing was possible.

The only color was provided by the eerie green screen and the only sound the bump and grind of the modem.  No mouse, just a keyboard.  Hard drives thousands times smaller than flash drives given away as promotional items.

I’ve been a relatively early-adopter of most technologies. I held out on the cell phone (and sometimes wonder if I shouldn’t be still holding out) and was “late” to Twitter even though when I began using it while most folks still didn’t know what it was.

I resisted Facebook for a long time. Meeting folks I didn’t know and, under normal circumstances, would never know was the charm of this new frontier.  Why do I want to talk on the net to people I see regularly?  The very term, seemingly already passe, Web 2.0 irked me.

I met some wonderful folks – many who are still part of my life and some I’ve lost track of.  When Usenet (the first social network sharing site) exploded, I became an addict.  Usenet died as Web 1.0 grew.  I embraced the new, because it really was new.  It really was improved.  Until it wasn’t.

Commensurate with the rapid changes of the Internet were rapid changes to hardware and software. I kept up, for years and years and years.

I’m weary of learning curves. Very weary. Exhausted, in fact. I’m tired of new versions of software that don’t do anything of interest to me that the old version didn’t do. In fact, it seems to me that much of new software is about as new as “new” editions of college textbooks. In short, it’s all just a bunch of switching stuff around to make it look new and reap some more profit.

Contrary to my expectations, I have met folks on Facebook that I couldn’t possibly have met otherwise and I treasure some of those relationships, but Facebook has gotten on one of my last nerves. [If you’ve been reading any of my whining, you know I don’t have a lot of nerves left.]

This nonsense of “improving” the “user interface” has reached critical mass. As mentioned, I resisted Facebook for a long time. I’m an uneasy user as it is. Facebook has all but killed a listserv I love.  If they continue to change things for the sake of change, my log-in is going to get dusty.

According to something I read years ago, nostalgia sets in at about 20-30 years at which time “retro” interest kindles. Disco had a short revival early in the millennium. 80s music is (apparently) experiencing a small revival. Fashions I wore in my misspent youth are appearing on runways.

I’m advocating for a retro-net – a place where nobody knows your name and you’re judged on your ability to communicate and defend an opinion.

Yes, yes, I’m waxing nostalgic. There were assholes in the Wild West of Cyberia. “Flame Wars” were routine. Misinformation was rampant – $250 cookie recipe anyone?

But I miss it in ways I don’t miss my youth. While I took some delight in being part of a new technology that the very idea of confounded most folks, the human connection delighted me. The ideas knocked me out. Introductions to new and fascinating topics of conversation rocked my world.  At lunch with friends, I would find myself saying, “Uli was just telling me. . .”  Who’s Uli?, they would ask.  “My friend in Sweden.”  How’d you meet?  My answer would, of course, lead to shocked expressions and tales of serial killers. If you knew Uli like I know Uli, you would smile at the idea of Uli and serial killers.

I remember the amazement when it became possible to share photos – being careful to resize them.  Even with the blazing speed of a 9600 baud modem, downloading a photo could take an hour.  [My first modem was 300 baud and my first PC, by no means state of the art, was $3300 and loaded with nothing but a dos operating system.]

On Facebook, I’m more apt to get an invitation to play a stupid game before I’m offered a well-written opinion that causes me to rethink my own. Or to defend mine.

I’m offered cute pet photos, but no shaggy dog stories. I’m offered links to others’ opinions which presumably I’m to guess is shared by sharer. I’m bombarded by advertising and “friends” I only hear from when they’ve embarked on yet another MLM scheme.

Who decided 240 characters (or whatever it is) is all I need to describe my status? I sometimes need that much for a title.

While this blog gives me some of the leeway with words that I miss, it’s essentially a one-way communication. Oh how I would love to see my comment section light up with “you’re wrong and this is why” comments. Of course, that would necessitate I post something resembling an opinion that I’m prepared to defend.

Along with many of us oldtimers, I’ve gotten lazy about what I release to the wild. Perhaps because the wild has gotten too tame. Perhaps, because I have.

In any event, I miss it.

And, yes, this post is sans-graphics other than the video. Intentionally. Words rule.

The Things That Go Together

Chef Boy ‘R Mine left today to return to his life in Charlotte. We had a nice, low-keyed visit. For once, he got out of here without having to cook for me. I served him a bad breakfast (unintentional), but one that involved champagne. I also had a dozen, fresh Jolly Pirate donuts on hand and some homemade bread, so I don’t think he felt unloved.

The Boy can wax poetic about Jolly Pirate donuts.

While I’m slowly returning to a past hobby of cooking, I spent this holiday largely outside the kitchen. But as last night was The Boy’s last night in town, I rummaged around in the cabinets and freezer and collected food for a late night repast. A wonderful one.

Last Christmas, Chef Boy ‘R Mine rolled into town bearing my gift. It was a gift of labor, love, food and luxury. It was a gift from Super Foodie to Regular Foodie. It was sublime.

It was a torchon of foie gras with the appropriate accoutrements – port, kumquats and maple syrup.

Foie gras is very controversial.  I loved it before I knew how it was made. (In fact, while not the same thing at all, by any means, I loved Armor potted meat as a child. People think that’s gross and, what can I say, apparently I love spreadable organ meats.)

Foie gras is the super fatty liver of a force-fed goose. It’s the texture of soft butter and just melts in your mouth oozing the most astounding flavor considering we’re talking liver. It’s sweet with a hint of salty. It doesn’t taste like meat. It doesn’t taste like anything else on the planet. Wittgenstein might as well have said, “Describe the taste of foie gras” instead of “Describe the aroma of coffee.”

As a visual aid in explaining the process of making the torchon, my son showed me a video by Swedish Chef Francois Xavier which is a hoot and a holler and said video also pretty well sums up my feeling on the foie gras controversy, to wit:

If you are a person who does eat meat, a person who does wear leather shoes for your feet, or perhaps have a leather wallet, in that case, I think, before judging people who eat foie gras you might visit your local slaughter house to see how the other animals you are eating are treated. I think you are in for a very bad surprise.

[I had a hard time capturing all of his words, if the quote is not exact, well then, piffle. I’ve captured the spirit of his thought, if not his quirky, musical voice.]

Watch the video, but bear in mind, he’s making a terrine, not a torchon.

Another blogger has detailed 70 steps to a torchon.  Seventy steps might be an exaggeration.

In the United States, it’s more difficult to buy foie gras. That which is available either comes from the Sonoma Valley or the Hudson Valley. Chef Boy ‘R Mine maintains that the Sonoma liver is far superior. Of course, he chose the Sonoma for his mama’s gift.

Over the course of days, he deveined the liver, soaked it in milk, cured it with salt and sugar overnight, rolled it into a cylinder, poached it, re-wrapped it and hung it to dry for 3 days. He then individually packaged it in vacuum sealing gifting me with enough to last a year.

So, last night I pulled out the last little torchon. I pulled out the bottle of Krupps Brothers Black Bart Syrah Port (2007) which is a more than respectable port. I pulled out the Blis Maple Syrup which is big deal and not something you drown Hungry Jack pancakes in. [

Per Se and The French Laundry drizzle this stuff on tasty little morsels they charge huge money for.  Part of the cost is for the syrup.  This stuff comes from old-growth forests and sold in numbered bottles.  I keep it hidden in the back of the fridge lest HMOKeefe accidentally drowns a Bisquik biscuit with it.]

I had a boule of crusty bread, which wasn’t ideal but it was fresh out of the oven. To perfectly complement a torchon of foie gras, a sweet-ish bread such as a brioche is best.

[I had a brain freeze for a minute and couldn’t summon the word brioche. I was astounded and tickled to find that Wikipedia has a list of breads. Go look at it – it’s wonderful! With pictures! Don’t go hungry.]

HMO’Keefe has not partaken of the foie gras before and, like I was the first time, taken aback by the thought of drizzling maple syrup on liver and washing it down with port. I believe he liked it, but I couldn’t much catch him with his mouth empty to get an exact quote.

After scarfing it all down, we settled into a bottle of a nice Zin and talked. It was a nice end to a nice visit together.  HMO’Keefe remarked on how charming my son is.  Well, duh.  The kid takes after his mom.

I’m not sure if my son’s foodie gifts to me explain my return to the kitchen, but after not cooking as a hobby for a long time, I find myself in the kitchen more and more.

I’ve been dabbling with Thai and Indian here lately and thus gifted by Mr. Charm with a beautiful French curry powder and other spices as well as some kick-ass plates to serve the finished product on.

But HMO’Keefe loves Mexican cuisine as do I. So I’ve been fooling around with a pozole recipe for two days as well as playing with the new tortilla press and the 5 lb. bag of masa harina. Tonight’s Pork and Pozole Stew was lick-the-bowl good and handmade corn tortillas are a gift from a loving deity. The stew changed direction three times and what ended up in the bowl was not what was intended, but what was intended proved to be uninteresting. So after adding this and that, a bottle of beer, and some buttermilk masa dumplings, culinary satisfaction was achieved. Damn good stew.

Other than wandering into the kitchen to dump something else into the stew pot periodically, I’ve done nothing but sit on this couch and watch thoughts bobble in the sludgy creek of my mind.

So. Today was a good day to be me. A few more days like this in a row and my creek might run clear. I haven’t thought of a catchy phrase for 2012. Maybe after I get the sludge out of there.