Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Gastronomical molestation

Say that three times. Better yet try to erase those words from your mind.

Let's step back a second while you're cleansing your mind. Every day I swing by the Laake casa to fatten up our little warrior Magnus. Magnus gains about a pound a day in lean muscle mass (well bones too), so squeezing 5-6 meals in is a must (as he poops out 95% of what goes in). While he does his Eukanuba Dyson routine, I scavenge the DVR and channel guide for something ... anything to watch.

Thus we end up watching Hurl! Do I need to describe Hurl!? Well since I suffered through it, let's go into detail. For starters they eat food that looks like barf. Pot Pie innards do the trick. They get measured on quantity consumed, in pounds. The top performers move on to the next round, where they are spun around until one spews. Then more food, more vomit, and lots and lots of slow motion replay. Oh boy! Oh, the title of this blog, that's how G4 promotes this drivel.

What are they competing for? $1000!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

My little Fight Club

For whatever reason, Fight Club, both in it's book and movie forms resonated with me. I'm not sure if it's being stuck in a corporate America morass, a fondness for Ikea, or just a taste for violence. Whatever, it's cool, I'm cool, and I'm doing my part--well if you ignore those first two rules.

Do I show up to work with shiners, spit out needless extra teeth in meetings, or try to pick fights at work? Maybe, but that's beside the point. Fight Club is bigger than Tyler Durden, it was an institution--a way of life. That's what I'm on to. While the soap making has yet to kick into full gear, the ass kicking is alive and well. I guess my fight club started when I had two eager disciples who weren't separated by bars, but bloodlines tended to quash matters more than steel bars. Fresh blood, new blood, hungry blood really livened things up.

Michael Vick really got into a quagmire with his whole operation, but he had it all wrong. Rather than train animals to be aggressive, violent, and hungry, one can just adopt ones who have that potential. Then all you have to do is feed, nurture, and support them. In time it all takes care of itself; all you need is a camera. Leo and Adler (above) sometimes have epic cat fights, but they are nothing compared to the earth shaking chaos that is a Kuma and Stuart bout. Kuma is sorta like an Emo Andre the Giant. Big, strong, but somehow not that menacing. Stuart is rather like X-Pac, little, greasy, and really really really hard to root for. At first Stuart defied logic and all reason, by whipping up on Kuma. Poor Kuma wasn't getting enough calories to have the energy to fight back. A hearty diet, some encouragement, and maybe a little goading, and Kuma the Giant found himself. Stuart was never the same.

Things got worse for Stuart, as little Magnus is fast becoming the Kimbo Slice of Columbus. He's never ran from a fight, and I've never seen fear in his eye. The little warrior tears toys from Kuma's mouth, makes Stuart run like a coward, and has even tried to gnaw his daddy into submission. His training has just began, and he's gaining a pound a day. We may have to bring in Godzilla to give him a good workout or fly him to Spain to run with the bulls. Until then, Kuma and Stuart will have to do. Poor Stuart!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Time to light a cigar

Like most newlyweds, one of our first concerns is family planning. Each of us had several children out of wedlock, and we had a few more while dating. Since there's no greater responsibility than parenthood, we took this seriously (we didn't want to be Madonna and just pick up some orphan on a whim).

At first our new child was just a glimmer in our eyes, but through lots of planning and consideration, we found the perfect addition. It wasn't quick, nor was it easy, and it certainly didn't keep us close to home, but it was well worth it. Cuter than Knut, almost as strong as Tim Tebow, and built like a tank, I give you Magnus.

Magnus was 25lbs and just under 10 weeks when we picked him up for the first time. He's a big boy, with paws and shoulder bigger than most dogs (even bigger than our fat 70lb bassett hound), but he's all puppy on the inside. If his 200lb+ daddy (serrogate--not me) has anythig to do with it, he'll be huge. Heck if I have anything to do with it, he'll be huge too! He's already holding his own with Stuart (the bassett hound), and Kuma (our 174lb St Bernard) will soon have his paws full too.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Putting the cart before the horse (part 4)

Our journey continued when we reached Dingle following the fool hearty trip through Connor Pass. Dingle, a quaint seaside town now brimming with tourists (we saw more tour buses in Dingle than we saw tourists elsewhere), still possess ample charm. Liz came in search of the legendary Murphey's Ice Cream, and I searched for the eponymous berries. At least one of us came away with the prize. Beyond foodstuff, Dingle offers a host of interesting characters, from the sharp witted dude in the ice cream shop to the tour guide turned B&B proprietor, the people were more interesting than the cows and sheep (which says a lot--really).

After strolling through town, and buying some umbrellas (Guinness of course--too bad it wasn't raining Guinness), we made our first journey around the Dingle Peninsula. While I was unsuccessful in my berry quest, we did rind roadside shrines, beehive structures, stone forts, and lots and lots of sheep in our first go round. We didn't stop for too much, as we were killing time (ouch bad pun, you'll see) while our B&B proprietor was attending a funeral. It was unfortunate, as when we met her, we discovered she had quite the attack plan for seeing all there is to see in the peninsula (and saving a few bucks with local knowledge and tricks). We also began our strategy for the next day's mission, the Ring of Kerry.

The Ring of Kerry, is a route around the Iveragh Peninsula, which has a spine of mountains, glorious valleys, and beautiful lakes. Oh, it overlooks the ocean too. We initially decided to follow the advice of the B&B proprietor and bypass the full blown ring, focusing on the Gap of Dunloe and a few other chunks of the ring without going whole hog on the 170 kilometer (105 mile) journey. On our way to the Gap of Dunloe, we saw goats (sadly the only two we saw in all of Ireland) on the roadside and followed signs to a nearby castle. We should have known that having goats lead us to a castle might make the castle a bit more WT than average, and the doublewide trailer, broken cars, and the "Villa Roma" sign indicated either we were in some long lost (very lost) Roman Villa, or in the land of Irish Rednecks with a sense of ironic humor. I'm not sure which would have been the better option.

The Gap of Dunloe is a valley that's composed of grazing land for sheep and a narrow road that's closed to traffic, unless its hoofing it. When we say hoofing it, we mean allowing an animal with a hoof to do the dirty work, in this case a horsee names Beauty. Bueaty was driven by a dude with a heavy Kerry accent, lots of stories to tell, and aparantly a cell phone with awesome coverage. We rode into the valley and back, passing folks who really didn't understand "hoofing it", running into horse traffic, and watching silly Americans develop saddle sores that will make them walk like the survived Deliverance.

After our horsee trek, we had plenty of time left, so we decided to throw caution to the wind and take on the ring. Along the way we had pancakes, visited some forts (being cheapskates and not paying), snapped a lot of pics of sheep, and enjoyed the breathtaking scenery. One of the most vivid moments was watching a bunch of tourists who were congregated in an incredibly windy break in the mountains try to take a picture. It must have been a sustained 50mph+ wind with stronger gusts--it was rather funny. Beside that we saw more trailers, surfers, lots of big ass buses, and more sheep. We made it through the ring in good enough time to make it home to Dingle for dinner, and another journey (remember it stays light until 10:30pm!).

After tapas, you know the traditional Irish dinner, we decided to re-do the Dingle Peninsula. I had the brilliant idea to go the opposite direction that we were given directions in, which likely would have just been novel had the map been more accurate than One-Eyed Willy's treasure map. Despite our wanderings, we visited an oratory that was 1400 years old (ie not built in 1400AD, rather 600AD) and still holding up well, some ruins that were ruined, and caught a glimpse of the Sleeping Giant. By then we were actually seeing the sun set, and it was soon time to retire. Our two days in Dingle, along with our journeys in County Kerry were wonderful. Sadly we only had one more night in Ireland.

Our last night was in Bunratty, which is conveniently (and I doubt not coincidentally) close to the airport. We made decent time, including another visit to Limerick, but alas when we left the charming company of our B&B there, we were too late to visit the local castle. Having already heard Sinead, or gracious host fail to get us a reservation at the castle for dinner, this was a rather crushing disappointment. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and damnit it was our honeymoon. In a land where divorce has been only legalized in my lifetime and where having kids out of wedlock is still tantamount to being shunned, I knew the power of marriage and being on a honeymoon had to have some traction. Fortunately our efforts to fly standy at the catsle paid off, and we were able to feast on soup, ribs, capons, and other medieval fare. Ironically enough, we were seated accross a family from Powell. Before you know it, the night was over, as was our Irish honeymoon. The memories will last forever, and we'll likely find ourselves back in Ireland someday.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Putting the cart before the horse (part 3)

You wanted more? I sure hope so, as here it is:

One thing that was omnipresent from our time in Connemara through the rest of the trip belies visualization, as relies moreso on other senses--notably smell. Ireland has a unique way of fueling fire, almost as creative as Cleveland's use of flaming rivers, they burn the dirt. You read that right, they dig up peat in bogs, slice it into bricks, and dry the lot. The dried bricks of peat can be burned. You can even buy peat briquettes in grocery stores. The sweet smell of peat permeates the landscape, and homesick Irishmen can even buy incense that smells like peat.

So we drove south from Connemara, smelling peat, and enjoying the countryside. Friday was a disappointing day, as everywhere we ventured seemed to be closed, off limits, or a secret place to park and fornicate. We spent an hour looking for the legendary Castle Mattrix, but we were unsuccessful in finding a way there.

Putting Friday's disappointments behind us, we set off from Adare and headed toward Dingle. The last words of the gentleman at the B&B were to warn us to avoid a certain town (Castlegregory) if it was cloudy. It was cloudy--Ireland and all, and we decided to head there. It wasn't that bad--how bad could it be? Well Castlegregory was fine, though the clouds and rain tempered the view quite a bit. We were able to see surf shops, surfing school, and lots of tourists. It was almost like Florida--well not really. Anyway, we had survived Castlegregory. We then set out to get to our final destination, Dingle. We had no idea what we were getting into.

There's only one vaguely direct route between Castlegregory and Dingle--the Donner Connor Pass. The clouds and rain hindered our view of the pass, but we clearly saw the "Turn Back Now" signs--both sets. We trekked on. The road, like most we encountered in Ireland, typically accommodated 1.5 normal sized cars, which is about the size of one US highway lane. Unlike that highway lane, which is meant for one car going one way, the roads in Ireland are meant for two going opposite ways. The road to Connor Pass started as 1.5 cars wide, with occasional moments that allowed for two, but it degenerated to barely accommodating one car passed the second "Turn Back Now" sign. This would be problematic with two way traffic on a cliff side, which was the case, but throw in one more variable, and it became rather crazy: fog. Aha, that's what we were warned about. The fog in the pass made it impossible to see more than feet in front of your car, which together with the blind corners, made it insane. To make a long story short, I f'ed up and backed into the mountain trying to find a way to let 10 cars coming head on pass us. Good thing we had that damage waiver! We finally made it through the worst part, and when we saw the "Turn Back Now" signs in our rear view mirror, we knew we were done with it.

We then made it to Dingle, and were ready for the final days of honeymoon. To be continued...

Friday, July 11, 2008

Putting the cart before the horse (part 2)

I told you there would be more!

In Doolin we noticed a lot of hokey Irish souvenirs playing up the sheep as an iconic symbol of Ireland. They were cute and all, but gosh, we saw 100x more cows than sheep. Maybe after one too many Guinness the sheep and cows start to blur together.

After the two joyful days in Doolin and the surrounding area, we trekked to Connemara. The region is divided by several mountain ranges (yes Liz they're mountains, not hills :p) and dotted, nee blanketed with sheep. Sheep on either side of the rode and on the rode. Fences seem to be more a suggestion of a boundary than a real indifference, and the sheep's brazen attitude toward oncoming traffic made Canadian Geese look timid. Maybe it's the punk rock inspired spray-painted doos? Regardless, they really are the most striking memory of our journey--well that is if you ignore the bizarre inhospitable manor house we stayed in (imagine the hotel from the Shining with a Frenchmen pretending to be Irish running the show).

The Zetland Country House really was in the country, which we found out when the only available lunch offerings was their own (based on their 60 Euro dinner prices and the readily apparent creepiness, we passed). Our wanderings led us on a 10 kilometer trek to a marginally less isolated place which featured a gift shop/pub/restaurant. Given that was our only option, we begrudgingly took them up on their lackluster dining options and watched an Irish soap featuring chlamydia and statutory rape as the main story line. Sadly the TV show was better than the food.

After this lackluster beginning to our Connemara stay (which we drove forever from Doolin to get to), we saddled up our mighty Getzy and drove on. We barely made it to the gorgeous Kylemore Abbey before closing time, but alas the gardens that interested us more than the abbey were already closed. The abbey itself is now home to an exclusive girls school--you know the type that you see in horror movies. We took pictures (and a passer by was kind enough to take our picture) and moved on (to the gift shop).

We also had to pass on the nearby national park. Irishmen take note: if it's daylight until fucking 10:30pm, don't close your outdoor activities at 6pm--that's lunacy! We enjoyed the the rest of our journey by driving through the countryside, taking in the beautiful vistas, and driving on the stunning Sky Road near Clifden. We finished our day by enjoying a delightful dinner on the patio of a pub.

Even more to come ...

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Putting the cart before the horse

Before I start some long rambling blog or series of blogs about our honeymoon, I should write about our beautiful wedding. Well I should, but I won't (not today). Anyway, our honeymoon. I suppose our honeymoon began when we left the reception, but to avoid writing some torrid romance, I'll start with our flight to Ireland. Ireland is surprisingly close to the US, and our flight to New York and our layover there was almost as long as our trip to Ireland. In that layover, Liz and I had the opportunity to see the Ukrainian Special Olympics team. I never met an Olympian, but it likely was best that we didn't ask for autographs or photos. In hindsight, I wish I asked for both. Before long we were on our flight to Shannon, Ireland (no where near Kathy). After a bit of shock at the cost of the more or less required insurance (it will pay off later), we were rewarded when the kind unassuming lady behind the counter blurted out chuckling "drive it like we stole it". If we ever stole a car, it would not be a golden Hyundai Getz.

After whirling through two dozen or so roundabouts (and a few roads not on our Garmin) we arrived weary and jet-lagged in Doolin, a seaside town known for its music scene. A uber power-nap revived us for a trek to the Cliffs of Insanity Moher, which in true Irish fashion was cast in an overcast sky and on-again / off-again drizzle. The cliffs were a sight to behold, and you really need to be there. The fact that they had a suicide hotline # posted was a real clue that nothing good comes from getting too close to the edge. Seeking a better way to get near the salty spray, we went to the docks in Doolin. A quick glance revealed why there were no boats departing, but it sure was a great sight to see, let alone sound to hear. All of this is a whirlwind that was just day one.

I had been not so much persuaded but rather goaded into the Irish Breakfast, which is likely what the wicked witch fed Hansel and Gretal. It's huge, but I suppose you gathered that already, but it's also heart and well ... fatty. Irish folks love bacon (well they call it that, they like our confused friends to the north--and I don't mean Michigan-- call this odd hammy stuff bacon), and they love sausage (bangers in Gaelic) just as much. A few clogged arteries later, and we were off on our journey to the Burren. Ever wonder what the moon would be like with lichen and sheep? Well we were there, and we took pictures. Its really hard to describe, but its really amazing. What's sad is it's really just some giant ad for conservation efforts, as cave men (and cave women--time for you cave gals to stand up and take the blame as well) apparently damned themselves by felling a few too many trees. One thing led to another and everything lighter than boulders blew off into the sunset. Oddly enough conversationalists had to stop yuppies from boosting these rocks for zen gardens.

More to come ...