I had a bit of a forced break from most of the regular things I do. An amazing thing about the world is that doing a job, and hobbies, that mostly involve sitting around and typing at a keyboard can still open you up to severely crippling orthopedic injuries in your hands and wrist area. I have been lucky to mostly avoid issues like this for the last 30 years (knock wood) so of course the thing that took me down ends up being newborn mother’s thumb. I have had this before, and always escaped with just a cortisone shot. But I was not so lucky this time and had to have a “minor” surgery, which took months to recover from.
Note: I guess this can also happen to people who use gamepads too much. But I don’t use gamepads too much … I spread the thousands of hours of Fromsoft addiction over many weeks and months and am careful to play no more than an hour or two at a time. Oh well. Who knows.
What’s important is that the result was me sitting at home unable to type, cook, shower, and lots of other stuff with my right hand. So I was really fun to be with. Here are some thoughts on things I did instead.
I buy too much music from Mosaic Records. I have since the late 80s. The result is that I have a huge number of ripped tracks from various CD collections that they have put out over the years, but I have actually only listened to a fraction (maybe slightly more than half) of all the tracks.
So I made a playlist of unplayed Mosaic tracks and started shuffling my way through it while I sat in my house either rehabbing the hand or trying not to think about how uncomfortable the hand was.
Note: If this ever happens to you, and you end up needing surgery of any kind … sign up for the post-surgery PT and OT before the procedure even happens. Trust me on this. The therapy people know so much more about how shit will go after the surgeon is done it’s not even funny.
Since November I have shuffled through about 2,500 tracks, and I have about 1,000 to go. I have not listened to all of them deeply and seriously, but I have listened enough to know which I like more than others. Their bread and butter has always been the classic Blue Note and more modern material. And IMHO it still is. The more historical stuff from the Swing period is good, but not to the same level.
One interesting side effect of this exercise is that it turned the music listening part of my brain back on. It had been taking a bit of a vacation lately and I had not been really motivated to engage with the huge amount of recorded music in the world. Getting this engagement back has improved my life.
English and World Football
Another thing I engaged in more than I have in the past is soccer, which in this section of the page I will call football since it seems more appropriate.
The beginning of my break landed right on the beginning of the World Cup which happened in the winter this year because it was held in a part of the world where if you played football in the summer you would fall over dead on the field. For more on this look at this set of videos.
So anyway, the World Cup was cool, especially all the Messi brilliance, the entire world making fun of Ronaldo, and that craaayyyyyyzy final game. But the difference this year was that it came right in the middle of all the major English and European professional seasons. So, after a short break the curious could dive immediately into the Premier League rat hole. In the past I had thought about doing this, but it all seemed too complicated. This year I literally had nothing better to do. But it’s still too complicated.
The first thing you notice watching league, or “club” football, as they call it, is that the games are very different from the World Cup. This should not be surprising. The World Cup is a giant high pressure all star game where the happiness of entire nations depends on good performances from teams that have played together for a comparatively short time. So the games tend to be a bit, for lack of a better description, stiff and tight. While it’s an incredible event the quality of the football games is a bit variable. This is me saying what hundreds of millions of people have known for decades.
Premier League is actual teams doing their actual every day jobs, and the games are a lot more fun to watch. Especially the opening minutes of games. The ball goes up and down and back and forth. People run for their lives. There are early scores. Lots of trash talking and drama. It’s great.
Of course the Premier League is, in a literal sense, only the very tip of the top of the iceberg. If you are not careful you will also find yourself diving into the other Euro leagues (Ligue 1, Bundesliga, La Liga, Serie A, etc), the secondary English leagues, FA Cup, League Cup (which for sponsorship reasons is really the Carabao Cup right now), Champions League, Europa League, and who knows what else. One could retire and do nothing but watch English and European football 7 days a week, 10 hours a day, for the rest of one’s life. If I did that for 5 or 10 years I might finally figure out how offside works.
The best thing about these games is the timing. Because of the time zones involved there are no night games that go until midnight. Great! And, the games always finish on time. Wonderful! And, you can play almost two complete English football games in the time it takes to get through a regular season MLB or NFL game … or sometimes two and a half games for a playoff baseball or NFL game. I’m pretty sure if English football had been invented in the U.S. we’d get ad breaks before every corner and free kick. And the free kicks would have a sponsor (and next, the Visa Interest Free Free kick!). Instead we get these weird surreal 3-d cans on the field:
The next best thing about all these games is the songs. After that the best thing is the shirts with collars. But finally the actual best thing is how high variance they are. It seems fairly rare for things to actually go the way people would expect them to, given whatever the current league standings (er, table) are at the time. The bottom of the league will often outplay and destroy the top. Or, some team from the third or fourth tier league will play a team two or three tiers above it to an exciting draw. Exciting draws are not a thing I would have expected to either
But there you go.
Finally, to answer the obvious question: I have not picked a team yet. I’m going to bandwagon the front runners (Arsenal, Man United) this year. And I like the Crystal Palace shirts and team name the best. Wolverhampton Wanderers and Nottingham Forest are also strong contenders in the name contest. Oh, and I like the bubble machines at West Ham.
Izola’s is a buffet style restaurant in Hinesville Georgia. It serves food that is best described as “Classic American Southern”. Early on in the great stupidity they were one of my early finds on TikTok. Every day they would pan a phone camera down the buffet while a friendly voice narrated the menu. Typical items included, say, chicken and rice, chicken and dumplings, fried chicken, baked chicken, panko crusted fried fish, BBQ meatballs, Swedish Meatballs, smothered pork chops, collard greens, green beans, fried cabbage, mashed potatoes, dressing, rice, 2 or 3 kinds of gravy, Mac and Cheese (“scoop that mac”), and so on.
During the pandemic we thought: “when this stupidity is over we should go down there”. Around the time my hand finally started feeling a bit normal we decided that while stupidity in the world would never end, we should go down there for some warmer weather and the food, so we did.
And it was just as glorious as in the videos.
You should go. It’s close to Savannah, which is also a neat place.
Apple Voice Recognition
The voice input stuff in the Apple operating systems is just good enough to be really annoying when it misses, and not really good enough to use on a regular basis if you can actually type at the keyboard. Not surprisingly it’s especially bad with jargon and other domain specific language. I used it a lot when my hand was at its most useless. But now I’ve mostly stopped again.
Finally, once things improved a lot, I made chili for the Super Bowl game (and the two or three Premier League and related games that played before it on Sunday morning and afternoon). I am pretentiously snobby about my chili because I make my own chili powder and use that as a base.
This year I learned I should be using those dried peppers to make a chili pepper sludge, and then make chili out of that. Kenji does it here.
So I did this with most of the peppers. Then used two or three more to also make some powder to spread around in the meat, and kept the rest of my method the same. And it was worked pretty well. The scheme is a bit more variable because you never quite use the same amount of water to make the sludge. I might keep doing this or not, I have not decided.
That’s all I got for now. It’s good to be back. And I’m gonna make that chili again.
Note: whatever you do, don’t use the recent NYT chili recipe. The fact that they would call the result of that recipe “spicy” is an insult to the word spicy.
See you next time. Oh! It’s football time!