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Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance August 30, 2009

Posted by pcorcoran in Books, Personal, Technology.
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I am re-reading Robert Pursig’s “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” almost exactly 20 years after I first read it. I’m finding it just as profound and transcendental now as I remember it being then. (I can say this about very few things which moved me deeply 20 years ago). There are passages in the book where I feel like they were written *just for me* to discover.

It was written in 1974. But even though he opines greatly on the effects that rapid technological changes have upon modern society, I don’t feel like the essence of his message is in any way anachronistic. Amazing.

There are so many great passages, so many brilliant quotes that if I sent them all to each of the people who I feel most needs to hear them, I’d end up quoting about half the book. Maybe I’ll just end up quoting a few here and there every now and then….


The Summer of Braising March 25, 2007

Posted by pcorcoran in Braising, Cooking, Personal.
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I have decreed this summer to be The Summer of Braising. Which means much braising will be done at 1100 Everett Ave.

Yes, it’s not summer yet. And yes, hardly anybody braises during the summer months, at least not in the Northern Hemisphere. But I feel a strong need to master this particular side of cooking. Hence, TSOB.

Last night I braised chicken with onions, leeks, and wild mushrooms, in white wine. (Recipe to follow.) It was tasty, and I have solid ideas for improving it to something transcendent.

Portrait, by Connor February 21, 2007

Posted by pcorcoran in Connor, Family, Personal, Photo.
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Patrick and Susanna

Continuing in the theme of Connor taking pictures, this is his first attempt at a serious portrait. Not bad for 4 yrs. old.

Plays with Camera February 11, 2007

Posted by pcorcoran in Connor, Family, Personal, Photo.
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Connor self-portrait (Connor Corcoran)

I let Connor play with my digital camera yesterday. I think he enjoyed himself.

Connor self-portrait (Connor Corcoran)

1:30am Drama January 29, 2007

Posted by pcorcoran in Connor, Family, Parenting, Personal.

Last night’s middle-of-the-night drama was a doozy. Susanna woke me up because Connor was crying, and I went into his room to check up on him. It was dark, and I whispered. “What’s wrong?”

“I barfed,” he cried.

I told him to cover his eyes, and I turned on the light. The poor little guy had vomit on his face and all over his pillow and bedding. There was evidence of peas from his dinner and even pinto beans from his lunch yesterday.

Susanna and I cleaned it all up. She wiped him down with a warm, wet towel while I was spraying the solid stuff off into the kitchen sink and putting a bundle together for a 2am load of laundry. By the time I got back from the laundry room downstairs he was already back asleep on his fresh bedding.

He woke up one more time needing to vomit. He threw up everything until there was nothing left. I held him as he hurled into the toilet. It was impossible not to feel his pain.

That seemed to be the end of it. After spending 45 minutes or so in our bed for comfort, he was carried back into his room by Susanna. This morning he claimed not to remember any of it, but there was a little glimmer of a fib in his eye as he said it.

There is really nothing in life which compares to parenting when it comes to being put into completely unforeseen situations. Kids are magnificent little engines of entropy.

Me, at Grandma’s funeral January 22, 2007

Posted by pcorcoran in Family, Personal, Photo.
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Me at Grandma’s Funeral (Elizabeth Corcoran - all rights reserved)

Connor quote January 21, 2007

Posted by pcorcoran in Connor, Family, Personal.
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C: Daddy, one day can we get a bunk bed for me?

P: Yeah, one day we will.

C: Just get it from online. It’s easy.

Henckels 7″ Santoku January 21, 2007

Posted by pcorcoran in Connor, Cooking, Personal, Photo.
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Henckels 7″ Hollow Edge Santoku knife

I was at Target with Connor today and upgraded my main chopping knife. Got a 7″ Henckels Santoku hollow edge. (It was $39 as a set with a 3″ sushi-style paring knife.)

Apparently Henckels makes no fewer than six different grades of this knife. Mine, the Forged Synergy, is the lowest quality. The higher end ones are almost $200 per blade. But even at the low end it’s a beauty. The blade runs through and over the handle, as a solid piece of steel. It’s also dishwasher safe, which I appreciate because I’m cruel to my knives.

Cutting with it is a dream. I can cut through the skin side of a ripe tomato without even holding the tomato. I was making a basil chiffonade, and all I had to do was drag the point of the knife across the basil using only the weight of the knife and it made perfect slices of basil. The hollow edge makes the knife thinner along the blade, allowing for narrower slices and for less “grabbing” when cutting through dense stuff. Slicing through a large onion was noticeably smoother with the slimmer blade.

It’s a poor workman who blames his tools. But it’s also a poor workman who has poor tools.

(BTW, I didn’t go into Target to buy a knife. It was an impulse, a consolation prize. I really wanted to score a food mill, because I’m making a creamy tomato soup for dinner. A food mill would be ideal for mashing everything up nicely while also pulling out the seeds and skins. But I must have been dreaming to think Target would have such a patrician device. I was also there to get Connor a new booster seat, and I scored him a beaut. It has comfy pads, an ergonomic headrest, suede paneling, and twin reading lamps, one over each shoulder. I kid you not. He doesn’t know about the reading lamps yet, but one day when he least expects it I’ll pop some batteries in there and rock his mini-world. I didn’t plan to get the super-deluxe, but the other dad who had arrived just before us in the booster isle grabbed the last one of the model I had my eye on — basically the same seat, minus the suede and the reading lamps. Connor wins, unknown kid loses.)

Buzkashi January 20, 2007

Posted by pcorcoran in Connor, Flickr, Link, Parenting, Personal, Photo.
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Buzkashi players, Afghanistan (Po Lo - Used without permission)

For some reason, Connor and I got onto the subject of Buzkashi. (These are risks when you’re trolling photography web sites with a 4-year-old in tow.)

Buzkashi… what to say? Perhaps the only sport whose rules can be conveyed in a single sentence:

Drag the headless carcass of a goat to your team’s goal before the other team does likewise, and don’t break any laws doing it.

Connor became interested in this when I told him it was dangerous. How to explain? It’s dangerous because the competitive spirit of humanity can only somewhat barely be constrained by rules and laws? Because the will to win is stronger than the instinct to avoid hurting others? Because the real golden rule is “me first”?

But as with everything else, all you have to do to change the subject at his age is change the subject. I pulled up a photo of one insect battling another, and all was well.

Please tell me you have kids and weird situations happen to you too….

Music Reviewers January 19, 2007

Posted by pcorcoran in Blog, Music, Personal.
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The thing about music reviewers is that, more so than any other type of reviewer, their tastes are way out of line with those of their reader.

You can have an average appreciation for good food, decide to splurge for a posh meal recommended by a restaurant reviewer, and there’s a good chance you’ll walk out having had a great dining experience, even if perhaps not appreciated to the same extent as the reviewer did. The same holds true for book reviewers, movie reviewers, and car reviewers, to name three. And nowhere is there more satisfaction for the everyman than when following the advice of product reviewers such as Consumer Reports.

But music reviewers… they like (and listen to) some of the weirdest crap around. Maybe it’s something to do with music, where the more you are exposed to, the more jaded you become. After hearing, say, 350 female pop singers, you’re going to want to hear something more challenging. Stuff like XTC, or TV on the Radio, or Laurie Anderson — anything but more female pop singing, right?

The thing is, music reviewers tastes get so out there that it’s very rare (for me) to follow their recommendations and feel satisfied with my discovery. Maybe it’s just me?

(That said, I still read their reviews. I just have to respond with auto-skepticism until I’ve vetted the rec for myself.)