Chiang Mai

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Dog Signage

German Village is dog territory.  It seems like 90 percent of the residents here have dogs, and whenever you go out for a walk, you’re likely to encounter every variety of canine, every form of terrier and shepherd and retriever, from mutt to pure-bred, out strolling our brick-lined streets.

And you’re also likely to encounter signs warning dogs and their owners to avoid answering the call of nature in the yards and flower beds of the non-dog owners among us.  Some signs are more polite than others, some use “please” and some just say “No!,” but the message is ultimately the same.

What, exactly, is the purpose of those signs?  If it is to encourage dog owners to be responsible in performing their poop scoop obligations, the signs seem . . . unnecessary.  Most dog owners accept the need to stoop and scoop as part of the price that must be paid for having a four-legged friend in the house.  And f a dog owner is inclined to ignore his/her general obligations in a civilized society, a mere sign doesn’t seem likely to change their approach.  So I’ve concluded that the signs really are just another example of the prevalent NIMBY phenomenon at work.  The people with signs know the dogs are going to do what dogs do — which is to produce dog doo — and what they really want is for dog owners to yank their canine friends away from the sign owner’s property so that they find their target in the neighbor’s patch of ground instead.

The signers are really saying that their property deserves special treatment.  It’s not a very neighborly thing to do, when you think about it.

Columbus — A “Place To Go”

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Every once in a while the New York Times Travel section publishes an article that tells people “where to go.”   The 52 Places to Go in 2019 article came out this week and our city — Columbus, Ohio — actually made the list.  It’s number 47, right there between Houston, Texas and Plovdiv, Bulgaria.  The article notes Columbus’ innovation, food scene, and cool districts and neighborhoods, including our own stomping grounds of German Village.

The article poses the following question about Columbus:  “Is this the American city of the future?”  The honest answer is:  “Who knows?”  But Columbus is definitely a good place to live — as well as a “place to go” — and it’s nice to see it getting a little bit of recognition.

(In case you’re interested, Plovdiv is described as “a city ready for the spotlight.”)

QB U

Many people think that all football players are knuckle-dragging dimwits.  That may have been the case back in the leather helmet days, but it hasn’t been true for a long while — and it’s particularly not true these days, with the complicated offensive and defensive schemes found in college and professional football alike.

If you don’t believe me, watch the Big Ten Network segment above, in which former coach and BTN commentator Gerry DiNardo sits down with Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins to break down a few plays from this year’s Ohio State-Michigan game.  You can’t help but be impressed by how Haskins analyzes defensive coverage, sets offensive blocking schemes, and evaluates his various “reads” — and then explains it all in a coherent, step-by-step fashion using the special vocabulary of football.

Ohio State used to be called Football U.  That’s never been true, not really, but even if it were it’s clear that Football U. does in fact involve a lot of teaching, and a lot of learning.

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2018 (II)

Every would-be cookie baker needs a taster — that person who will sample your fare and tell you whether the batch is brilliant . . . or a bust.  I’m blessed to have the greatest taster of all under our roof, so when Kish sent along some holiday cookie recipes from the New York Times I had to pick one to try this year.  I like coconut, so this was my choice.

Toasted Coconut Shortbread

merlin_146903328_7ae9fcfc-36b5-47f1-b4da-ae60eb1a466d-articlelargeIngredients:  2 1/4 sticks cold salted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces; 1/2 cup granulated sugar; 1/4 cup light brown sugar; 1 teaspoon vanilla extract; 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour; 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (plus more for rolling); 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon; 1 large egg, well beaten; sanding sugar

Using an electric mixer and medium bowl, beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla on medium-high speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until light and fluffy.  Use a spatula to scrape down sides of bowl, then put mixer on low speed and slowly add flour, followed by 1/2 cup coconut and beat until blended.

Divide dough in half and place each half on a piece of plastic wrap.  Sprinkle each piece of dough with half of the cinnamon, then fold plastic over to cover dough and use your hands to form dough into a log shape about 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter.  Chill logs in the refrigerator for 1 1/2 hours, until they are firm.

Heat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheet with parchment paper.  Brush outside of logs with egg wash, then roll logs in unsweetened coconut.  Slice each log into 1/4-inch rounds.  Dip each round on one side into sanding sugar and arrange on backing sheet, sugar side up, 1 inch apart.  Bake cookies 10-12 minutes, until edges are just beginning to brown.

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2018

Conference Room Music

Yesterday I was at a conference at one of those ginormous conference centers you find across America.  That means that, during breaks and when waiting for the meetings to start, I’ve been exposed to conference room music.

wasgn_meetings_breakout01There’s a spectrum of music played in public places in America.  At one end of the spectrum — and unfortunately, very rare in my experience — are actual, recognizable songs, whether it’s classical pieces, or rock music performed by the artists who made the songs a hit, or jazz from John Coltrane or Dave Brubeck.  As you move away from that end of the spectrum, generic elements are introduced — for example, by having a song that you know covered by some unknown band whose rendition sucks the life out of the tune and renders it inert, so that it takes a while before you recognize what you’re hearing as a dim, distant version of Foreigner’s Hot Blooded.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is elevator music and telephone hold music — music that is specifically calculated to do nothing except provide soft and low background noise while you are unfortunately waiting to move on to your day.  Conference room music is a notch up from elevator music.  It’s never a recognizable song from a recognizable artist, because the music may have to cut off at any minute when the meeting starts, and they don’t want the meeting participants to be disappointed that they didn’t get to hear the guitar solo on Pink Floyd’s Mother.  So it’s inevitably some random piece, usually jazzy in nature with keyboard and horns, but more upbeat than elevator or hold music.  It’s designed to keep you awake and alert while you sip your generic coffee and glance around at the generic conference room fixtures and decorations, but leave no lasting impression whatsoever.

No one leaves a conference room humming a few bars of conference room music or asking the concierge what was playing before the meetings started.  You’ve utterly forgotten the music the instant the meeting begins, just like you immediately and irretrievably forget the wisps of the dream you were having when you wake up in the morning.

When you think about it, there’s some talent involved in being able to create music that is so consciously bland.  You have to wonder:  do musicians deliberately set out to write conference room music, and do they think with satisfaction that their creation will be the perfect complement to the metal coffee urn, the spread of breakfast pastries, and the always uncomfortable conference room chairs?

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2018

The calendar — and, unfortunately, the too-early winter weather — confirm that it is indeed December.  In fact, it’s December 5.  December 5!!  That means it’s high time to start collecting the Christmas cookie recipes that I’ll be baking this year.

If you like Christmas cookie recipes, the internet is truly a mixed blessing.  It’s great in that there are countless cookie recipes that can be called up by running a simple Google search for “Christmas cookie recipes,” which will give you awesome variety and concoctions that you’ve never even thought were possible.  It’s bad, however, because at many websites Christmas cookie recipes are classic clickbait, and you need to click through multiple pages to finally get to the recipes.  If you hate the constant clicking, as I do, because you believe the website is treating you like a pawn in an advertising game whose time is of no value, I recommend the iambaker.net website, which allows you to get directly to the recipes like the one below.

Peppermint Meltaway Cookies

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Ingredients:  For the cookies — 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature; 3/4 cup cornstarch; 3/4 cup confectioners sugar; 1 tsp. McCormick pure peppermint extract; 1 cup all-purpose flour 
For the glaze — 2 cups confectioners sugar divided; 6 -8 teaspoons whole milk divided; 1/4 -1 teaspoon of McCormick pure peppermint extract; McCormick green food color optional
Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Mix the butter and cornstarch until well combined and lighter in color, then turn the mixer off and add in confectioners sugar.  With the mixer on low, add the peppermint extract and mix until ingredients are fully incorporated.  Turn mixer off again and add flour, then with the mixer on low to medium-low, mix until the dough comes together and pulls away from sides of the bowl.

Using a 1 tablespoon cookie scoop or a tablespoon measuring spoon, remove about a tablespoon of dough. Place on parchment lined cookie sheet at least 2 inches apart. Once the cookie sheet is full, gently roll each scoop of dough between your hands until it is a smooth ball.  Bake 9 minutes at 350 degrees.  Right out of the oven take a glass with a flat bottom (that is smaller than the cookie) and gently press into the cookie.  Allow cookies to cool for about 5 minutes and then move to a cooling rack. Make sure cookies are completely cool before adding glaze.

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