Not Really Turkey

My vegetarian children are about to arrive for our usual non-traditional ethnic celebration of Thanksgiving which will, in the words of Gov. William Bradford include “no small comforte and rejoicing.” There are a few guys out on the driving range, either banished from the kitchen or avoiding clean-up detail, and Sue Ten is gearing up for the football crowd over at the Swing Barn.

I made holiday pies most of the night, selling them out the back door to those few folks who had the good sense to bring me their heirloom pie pans in advance so Aunt Martha can be happy to see the old filigreed BakeLite back in action for one more season. I don’t mind helping to spread the cheer.

Since both twins have pretty much stopped eating any kind of flesh or food that has a face or had a mother, we’ll be creative with our feast. I’ll still have a turkey breast with gravy, stuffing, and cranberry sauce. Cranberries are a vegetable, yes? Just to be on the safe side, I’ll have a large glass of Bloody Mary mix. You might call it a Virgin Mary. I call it a Bloody Shame.

And for dessert, maybe something sprung from a Quiggle mold. (Quiggle also makes some wonderful molds of body parts and alien babies, but you may not be in the mood for that.)

According to the Quiggle catalog: “The Turkey mold is perfect for Thanksgiving. The Turkey mold is the size of a Rock Cornish game hen-because it was cast from an actual game hen. This mold makes gelatin turkey molds that show every bump, line and fold of the actual bird.”

Seems to me, if the mold is based on a Rock Cornish Game Hen, what we got here is a Rock Cornish Game Hen mold, not a turkey mold, but who am I to quibble with quiggle.

I do encourage you to see what can be done with a Quiggle ‘turkey’ mold, though, by checking out this website which showcases the winners of the prestigious Turkey-shaped Jell-O® Mold: 2008 Competition.

My personal favorite is the Turkey Twinkie Pumpkin Pie. The description says, “In this unerring portrait of the recent financial crisis, the Turkey Twinkie Pumpkin Pie enacts the specter of unregulated appetite.” This may well be dessert for the twins and me, once we’ve had our fill of dinner and had a chance to relax in the rockers on the porch of my turquoise conch cottage, down at the end of the lane.

Third Place Winner [by popular election] for “Best Overall Turkey”
By Rachel E.

And, I’ve got to say, I really like the S’Morkey a lot, too:

Kumbaya, my turkey, kumbaya
Kumbaya, my turkey, kumbaya
Kumbaya, my turkey, kumbaya
O turkey, kumbaya

Winner, Campiest Turkey
By Jeremiah & Heather

But on to other turkeys that aren’t really turkeys, how about this paper one?

Make your own turkey - out of paper.

Make your own turkey - out of paper.

Again, I am sad to report that is is actually a chicken — not a turkey — but I’m not going to take our friends at Make Magazine’s blog to task on that issue. Enough of their commenters have already done that — which is the only reason that **I** know it’s not a turkey.

If you want to build your own, instructions are right here. Just print out the pattern, and have at it. And be sure to let me know how that works out for you.

So, if you, too, are having a tofu sort of holiday, but still like the idea of having a bird on the table, I hope you’ll take some cheer from Quiggle and Make. There are plenty of ways to meet that goal.

Pie Hats

For those of you living in cooler climes, these pie hats may be just the thing to keep your lovely heads warm out on the driving range in the early morning. I would wear one here in SoFLA just for fun, and I think Su Ten might like one, too. Hint, hint.

Posted in the Monster Crochet blog

Monday, November 24, 2008

Holiday Pie-rets

I have been infused with some serious crochet mojo combined with a touch of holiday spirit for the past few weeks. Now, you all know what that means…Oh yes, that definitely portends a bit of twist in my yarn!

Introducing Holiday Pie-rets!

These crocheted versions of round flaky goodness are just in time for Turkey Day! And yes, you can be sure I will be wearing pie to my family’s Thanksgiving feast. So, let’s take a look at my crusty choices shall we?

There is the always popular seasonal delight, Pumpkin Pie-ret…

Topped with a dollop of cream…

Thanks to Ellen for modeling!

OR how about a touch of dark and rich Pecan Pie-ret…

Bridget is modeling this lovely headgear!

And my personal fave, the Cranberry Orange Pie-ret with lattice crust!

Modeled by my girl, Jenna!

It’s a tough choice to be sure.

Onto the crochet stats…

The Pecan and Cranberry Pie-rets were crocheted with an F hook and some of my Cascade 220 stash. An F hook combined with this light worsted yarn creates a very tight fabric. This is exactly the effect I was attempting to achieve as I was aiming for structure, not drape. My challenge during the design process for both of these Pie-rets was creating a perfectly shaped circle while using a popcorn stitch pattern. Needless to say, frogging ensued before I came up the correct increase to stitch ratio. I am happy with the results.

The Pumpkin Pie-ret was also crocheted with an F hook. However, I chose to use Lamb’s Pride worsted for this one. Don’t think I would choose this yarn again for this type of project. The FO ended up being too heavy for my taste. I will use Cascade 220 going forward should I ever decide to crochet another dessert-themed hat!

Needless to say, one of these hats combined with Turkeyzilla the Tote Bag accessorizing my holiday outfit will surely embarrass my daughter to the core. It just doesn’t get much better than that! Muhahahaha!

Copyright 2008 Regina Rioux Gonzalez. All rights reserved.

Cinderella’s Pumpkin Pie

Consistently friendly and untempermental,
Cinderella never asked for much.

She told me her life too often was filled
with flavorless spice
and not that honest pumpkin flavor
that only princes recognize.

So, she learned how to sweeten the pie
without masking the taste
of fields full of orange
and fall festivals held on old village greens.

The secret she told me is in the milk,
sweetened, condensed,
ready to go
into a filling
both intense and sweet —
yet never high in fat.

Two whole eggs, two yolks,
the least grainy filling,
silky smooth,
served best in a glass slipper.

“But, my dear,” I asked,
“with the pumpkin pureed for your pie,
how will you get to the ball?”

“I’d rather stay honest,” she said,
“and be who I am.

“Besides,” she continued,
“the pumpkin aroma will be quite enough,
to bring him my way,
and then I will serve up
ambrosia for him,
a dessert plate for me,
and always a slice left for you.”


A lot has happened since we last spoke. The big news is that both Sue Ten and your second-cousin Darnell tell me that they have seen The Morning Guy out on what appears to be a date. I find this news to be both appalling and beguiling at the same time.

As you may recall, one of the guests at our Hollywood Halloween party was dressed as a Stepford Wife, and she caught our hero’s eye when none of the rest of us even knew he was there. Surprisingly, we now learn, her costume and demeanor were no ruse at all since she is a throw-back to the Mirabel Morgan Total Woman days, and she has had years (some might say decades) in which to practice her craft. Her real costume was the addition of a Stepford Husband, whom we now know was actually her cousin Henry from Ann Arbor.

I still don’t have all the details of this new development, but apparently The Morning Guy was so smitten that he actually spoke to her, obtained her name and phone number, and within days had called her for a date. This information, too, may explain why he was so upset the night he lost his cell phone since he had trusted that wily technology to keep the two of them in touch while he was out of town on his vacation.

According to Sue Ten, the happy couple has now had several meals together at The Swing Barn, and Sue observes that Steppie always orders her pastrami sandwich and fries with extra coleslaw. Then she eats half the sandwich and the coleslaw, leaving the rest of the sandwich and the fries for The Morning Guy. He smiles. She smiles. He talks. She listens. We are all quite anxious to see how this romance will progress.

Last seen, Steppie was dressed as a cheerleader for The Morning Guy’s favorite college football team, and they were tossing back Yinglings and pickled eggs with no concern about gastric after affects, but she never lost track of the score, and she apparently has an encyclopedic knowledge of the game.

Meanwhile, I have been thinking a lot lately about the whole concept of matchmaking and matches in general. I do love my life here at the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range, especially my freedom to be as frivolous or as serious as I want to be, but from time to time, I do think it might be nice to go dancing with a willing partner on a Friday night.

When Nurse Crotchett was on site for our Flu Shot Clinic, she encouraged me to try out an Internet dating service, eHarmony. “It’s free this weekend,” she said.


“Oh, yes,” she said, so I gave it a try, passing a few hours of insomnia answering pages and pages about myself, my attitudes, my preferences, and so on. On each page, I read the disclaimer that there were no wrong answers.

“Of course not,” I thought. “Besides, I certainly feel that I am giving out the right answers.”

Finally, I got to the end, and told the machine to begin searching for my match.

“Geographical area?” it asked.

“Why limit it,” I thought, and went for this option: “Anywhere in the World!”

An additional question asked me “How important is this geographical area,” and I said, “Very.” I may be open minded but I’m not sure I’m ready to date extra-terrestrials, at least not just yet.

The screen assured me that the eHarmony system was searching, searching, searching its 85,000-member database. Finally I received my results: “Our matching system was not able to find any matches for you.”

Hello? No matches anywhere in the world?

Sue Ten, on hearing this news, just shook her head. “I can only imagine what foolishness you put down on that form. Next time, you should let me fill it out for you.”

Both my kids assured me that eHarmoney was funded by the religious right and was no place for a good Unitarian-Univesalist Taoist Pagan such as myself to be looking for a date for the New Years Eve festivities at The Swing Barn.

Perhaps I am just matchless. Or maybe it takes someone very special, like you, to appreciate me and my little quirks. Perhaps Sue Ten is right, and I should not list Fight Club as my favorite movie, or Hedwig and the Angry Inch as my favorite musical.

But that would not be authentic.

I do love Hedwig. My life is so easy compared to hers, and The Origin of Love moves me, so would I really want to spend New Years Eve with someone who cared not for her, or for Tyler Durden, for that matter? Get real.

Or watch it yourself, here, and tell me what you think.

Perhaps also I should not mention insomnia, pie, or how many golf balls I hit in the course of any single week or single night. And perhaps I should have mentioned that I do love to wear high heels and lingerie, but I didn’t really see any place where I would include that detail. Ah, well.

The language of love is never easy to learn. Take, for example, this note that I found in a copy of “Leslie Nielsen’s Stupid Little Golf Book,” which I bought at Goodwill for 99 cents the other day:

Note from Buddy to Lillian

Note from Buddy to Lillian

I wonder what became of Buddy and Lillian, especially considering that the book — and the note — ended up in the local Goodwill. I have the impression that he is faking his interest in golf. He did show his interest in her, but that’s often not enough or else it leads to something akin to stalking, and that’s no good either.

As for the book, I’ll add it to the Pie Shop bookshelves, and maybe I’ll leave the note tucked in as a bookmark, too. I hate to break up a set.

Stupid Little Golf Book

Stupid Little Golf Book

Too Bad I Just Bought New Book Shelves

Besides, this figure-eight set would take up the whole pie shop, but I do love the idea as well as the concept that books, and shelving, can be infinite. As a former librarian, I can also tell you that shelving books is also infinite, but pie is a fleeting pleasure, and you should get some while you can. Remember, at the Slice of Heaven Pie Shop and Driving Range, we are open 24-hours a day.

NOTE: The following is excerpted from the Book Patrol blog, and was posted by Michael Lieberman:

Dutch conceptual artist Job Koelewijn‘s new work Sanctuary includes this life-size gas station made entirely from the covers of books.

Is it a telling omen that in the future both gas stations and books will be extinct? A homage to the divergent sacredness of books and gasoline. Books and gasoline, two essential elements of Western Civilization, joined to form a sort of surreal 22nd century filling station where one can go and pump the world’s creative output into their vehicle of choice, whether it be a computer, e-reader, i-pod or quite possibly by then directly into our own bodies!

In 2005 Koelewijn produced another major book work. He created a bookshelf in the form of a lemniscate, or figure 8, symbolizing the infinite nature of knowledge and the infinite power of books.

Untitled (lemniscaat)

Wood, books
125 x 780 x 240 cm.

From the introduction to the 2006 exhibition Continuing Performances at Galerie Fons Welters.

“In the beginning was the word, the written word is unto eternity. A bookcase in the form of a lemniscate (the mathematical sign for infinity), full of books, words, shows the cycle of art. The way in which artworks endure, sometimes concealed, sometimes at eye level, close enough to touch, then forgotten for years, pushed away behind other books. The eternal performance of art. The public constantly changes in age and era. The words remain the same, and yet what is read changes from one age to the next.”

New Beer Dispenser at the Swing Barn

I know Sue Ten and many of her bar-stool jockeys will be excited about this new gizmo:

Scotsman turns the beverage world upside down

Published date: 14 November 2008 |

Scotsman Trufill soft drinks

Pure theatre. Pure innovation. Self-filling dispense – from the bottom up. Scotsmans’ Trufill turns the beverage world on its head.

Putting a whole new twist on the traditional “bottoms up” toast, Scotsman Beverage Systems literally turned the beverage world upside down at the Brau Beviale exhibition in Nuremberg this November.

Bill Bruce reports…

Targeting the event and stadium beverage dispensing market where the challenge is to maximise yield in a short time frame, Scotsman’s truly innovative Trufill concept can serve 10 pints of beer in 10 seconds with less manpower than traditional methods and no spillage. The system incredibly fills cups from the bottom. Yes, I am not joking. You have to see it to believe it.

The soft drinks beverage dispenser adds ice from the top but fills from the bottom. Pure theatre. Pure innovation.

“The challenge at events and in stadiums has always been to pour faster to sell more. This has always been expensive in terms of labour and refrigeration,” commented Scotsman Beverage Systems’ Simon Miller. “This self filling process enables a single operator to deliver 10 drinks in 10 seconds. We estimate labour saving of between 75 and 80%.”

True innovation

Bill Bruce comments: “While the beer dispenser might be destined for high consumption event and stadium outlets and is jaw-droppingly attention grabbing, while at the same time practical, the ‘magic’ of the soft drinks unit could transform a brand or deliver a truly unique theatrical aspect to energy drinks in the on-trade.

“Self serve, self fill . . . this takes the old fashioned world of dispense into the vending arena with a mix of Star Trek meets Harry Potter. I tour most of the major trade shows and it’s rare to see true innovation. ‘Bottoms up Scotsman’, you’ve made my Brau. We can’t wait to follow this story as it unfolds.”

To see movies of the system in action and to follow the development of this revolution in dispense technology, as well as an interview with Simon Miller, revisit next week – and tell your colleagues.


I haven’t had any particular song stuck in my head for a while, but tonight I found myself repeating lyrics from Bob Dylan’s Mississippi out on the driving range. I can’t say that it helped or hurt me, but when I got back inside I did stop to listen to a few different versions.  The lines that kept rolling around tonight were:

I was raised in the country, I been workin’ in the town
I been in trouble ever since I set my suitcase down

I don’t really know why those surfaced, except that this past week, I do feel like I’ve been in a bit of trouble, and haven’t really understood why. As far as I know, all I did was to set my suitcase down. Well, sometimes that happens to us all. I’m saddened by the folks who have gone on the defensive around me. I suspect this is the sad effect of that waning gibbous moon that I keep warning you about.

Anyway, here’s a video of Bob Dylan. If you stop in at the Pie Shop, you’ll see we have the Dixie Chicks version on the jukebox, but this is the one I’m hearing tonight. I’d forgotten about another line, “I’m going to look at you until my eyes goes blind.” Ah, yes. Once I felt that way about my ex-husband Pretty Boy Boyd, but that was a long time ago.

As I look at the lyrics to this song, I’ve got to say, I love them all: “Stick with me baby, stick with me anyhow. Things should start to get interesting right about now.”


Every step of the way we walk the line
Your days are numbered, so are mine
Time is pilin’ up, we struggle and we scrape
We’re all boxed in, nowhere to escape

City’s just a jungle, more games to play
Trapped in the heart of it, trying to get away
I was raised in the country, I been workin’ in the town
I been in trouble ever since I set my suitcase down

Got nothing for you, I had nothing before
Don’t even have anything for myself anymore
Sky full of fire, pain pourin’ down
Nothing you can sell me, I’ll see you around

All my powers of expression and thoughts so sublime
Could never do you justice in reason or rhyme
Only one thing I did wrong
Stayed in Mississippi a day too long

Well, the devil’s in the alley, mule’s in the stall
Say anything you wanna, I have heard it all
I was thinkin’ about the things that Rosie said
I was dreaming I was sleeping in Rosie’s bed

Walking through the leaves, falling from the trees
Feeling like a stranger nobody sees
So many things that we never will undo
I know you’re sorry, I’m sorry too

Some people will offer you their hand and some won’t
Last night I knew you, tonight I don’t
I need somethin’ strong to distract my mind
I’m gonna look at you ’til my eyes go blind

Well I got here following the southern star
I crossed that river just to be where you are
Only one thing I did wrong
Stayed in Mississippi a day too long

Well my ship’s been split to splinters and it’s sinking fast
I’m drownin’ in the poison, got no future, got no past
But my heart is not weary, it’s light and it’s free
I’ve got nothin’ but affection for all those who’ve sailed with me

Everybody movin’ if they ain’t already there
Everybody got to move somewhere
Stick with me baby, stick with me anyhow
Things should start to get interesting right about now

My clothes are wet, tight on my skin
Not as tight as the corner that I painted myself in
I know that fortune is waitin’ to be kind
So give me your hand and say you’ll be mine

Well, the emptiness is endless, cold as the clay
You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way
Only one thing I did wrong
Stayed in Mississippi a day too long

Copyright ©1997 Special Rider Music

Night Golf Flu Shot Clinic

I think sometimes more people would understand the mystical nature of golf if the game were less accessible. I mean really, drive down any given road in SoFLA, and before you know it, you’ll find yourself passing a golf course, or two, or three. Some are behind high hedges, but for the most part they are right there, waiting to lure you in.

At least here at the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range, we are so far off the beaten path that when you come to us, you bring along a sense of deliberation and destination, and I like that about our visitors. Except, of course, for my ex-husband Pretty Boy Boyd, they tend not to do much by accident.

It always bothered me when Boyd would arrive home lit up like one of those impossible-to-blow-out candles that are so funny to everyone except for the birthday boy or girl. Boyd liked to say, by way of apology for whatever distress he was about to bestow on me, “I didn’t mean to get so drunk.” What did he think was going to happen once he started pouring pints of Guinness down his throat? It was hardly worth discussing. Boyd, as far as I can tell, just likes to go through life in a state of chronic surprise.

Even now, I can see the look of mystification on his face as he finds himself parked outside The Swing Barn in my old Toyota. Pretty soon, though, he’ll remember his recent encounter with our resident feral green iguana, and he’ll leave again. That iguana has proven to be much more effective than a more traditional restraining order.

Most people, like you, come here by choice or obligation, rarely by chance, and that holds true for Nurse Crotchett, too. I hadn’t seen her since the Hollywood Halloween party, and tonight I was surprised to discover that she really is a nurse. For the party, she’d worn a snug white uniform complete with cap, white stockings, and shoes, but now she is in lavender scrubs with matching eye shadow, and she is carrying a clipboard as well as a medical bag.

“Where do you want me to set up?” she asks.

Quick as ever, all I can say is, “What?”

“For your flu-shot clinic,” she says, handing me a typed memo, on my letterhead, recommending that we participate in the county’s “Alternate Hours” flu-shot program.

“Oh, yes,” I say, noting The Morning Guy’s name on the bottom of the memo,  vaguely remembering seeing a green Post-it note that said “Flu Shots Tuesday Night” stuck to my computer monitor.

Crotchett efficiently commandeered one of the pie shop tables, and I took her some coffee and a piece of blackberry-raisen pie. Within minutes, your second-cousin Darnell was there, filling out paperwork, handing over eight dollars, and rolling up his sleeve for his shot.

I saw more cars pulling up, and called Joe Sparkle Junior in from the driving range to help with the influx of customers, considerably more than we normally have rolling in at 11:00 p.m.

During one of the lulls, Crotchett told me that all-night flu-shot clinics were definitely unusual in this part of the world, but a recent New York Times article had given The Morning Guy the idea to run one here, and her boss at the county public health office wanted to be seen as an innovator, so we were the test case.

I will say, it was actually quite pleasant to have so many people around, and most of them did stay on well after the pinch of the Crotchett’s needle had passed. We went through more than a dozen servings of blackberry-raisen, 20 of banana cream, 7 of midnight chocolate, and two of pumpkin-cheesecake.

Because we were so busy inside the pie shop, I didn’t notice that the driving range lights were acting up again. Someone finally came in and said, “Just turn them off. The strobing is giving Darnell flashbacks.” I pulled the switch and came back inside, leaving a note for The Morning Guy to check on the problem, and thinking the range would empty out.

I was wrong. There were still a dozen golfers out there in the dim glow of the pie shop lights, hitting balls as well as usual, if not better. In fact, freed from seeing the arc or the final distance, all they could do was concentrate on the swing, and that seemed to be to their advantage.

I joined them, closing my eyes since there was really nothing to see except the distant glow of the porch light down at my little turqoise conch cottage. Like the rest of the line, I hit the ball anyway, telling by the sound whether the hit was good or not. All in all, I found it to be a most satisfying experience.

Throughout the rest of the night, people continued to make the deliberate drive out to the edge of the ‘glades for flu shots, pie, and mystical golf in the dark.

Finally, I saw the light in the east, and I went inside to say good-night to Crotchett, but she was already gone. I glanced out the front door and saw The Morning Guy just pulling in on his motorcycle, counting the cars, as he strolled around to the side door to begin his day, as I ended my night.

I picked up a piece of quiche, nodded to Sparkle, and headed down the lane to my cottage, satisfied, happy, and pleased that I would not have to go into town for my flu shot this year.

Full Moon Ramble

Some of us went to the beach for a full moon picnic last night, and I’ve got to say, it was an exceptionally pleasant time, away from the bright lights of the driving range, the muted noise of the dancers and drinkers at The Swing Barn, and the endless to-do list at the Slice of Heaven Pie Shop.

Looking up at that wonderful bright moon, I thought of the nights that I’ve watched it come up over the driving range, rising above the trees. One night in particular, it was fascinating because as the moon came up, the raccoons came out, and a number of the guys had a little fun in shooting their golf balls at the furry moving targets, who responded by moving just a little bit faster.

I’ve never been a big fan of raccoons, so I did enjoy watching the target practice.  The twins probably still remember when our kitchen in Maine was taken over by raccoons, who seemed quite angry that we were up in the night trying to make them move out.  Eventually, they lumbered up the stairs and out a third-floor window, but for a while, it was really touch and go.

Then, in Missouri, in our little house by the big lake, we watched a whole family of raccoons, plus their realtor, check out a big old dead tree within sight of our porch, but once they saw us, they decided the neighborhood did not meet their standards, and they moved along. Snubbed by raccoons! Oh, man, that hurt.

Of course, the full moon does provide another excuse for me to talk about golf, pie, and the universe. As you recall, NASA once did have a plan to put the first apple pie on the moon, and Alan Shepard was the first man to play golf on the moon, so by now it must all be coming together for you.  Add to this, a lovely sentiment expressed by Carl Sagan, “‘If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe.”

Now, you could take that to mean that only God can create a pie, but I’ll interpret it in broader terms to remind myself that golf, pie, the moon, and Alan Shepard are all part of the same grand plan. My question of late has been what type of apples to use in my Alan Shepard Pie, so I checked out the harvest list for an orchard near Shepard’s old home town of Derry, New Hampshire.

I was delighted to see so many choices: Jerseymac, Tydeman, Paulared, Burgundy, Gingergold, Jonamac, McIntosh, Gala, Cortland, Empire, Honeycrisp, Macoun, Re Delicious, Jonagold, Golden Delicious, and Mutsu. I tell you, the sky’s the limit. Just reading the list of apples sounds like poetry to me, and more and more, I suspect that poetry will be the form that Alan Shepard Pie takes, once I finally create it as something to be consumed under the full moon on the golf course of your choosing.

One likely place may be McInnis Park, just 20 minutes from the Golden Gate Bridge. Two nights ago the Golf Center there hosted night golf with special guest Michael Murphy, author of the Shivas Irons books, which are my particular favorites. I came across this news while browsing through the Shivas Irons Society website, which I recommend to you because Shivas Irons fans do so completely understand the metaphor of golf.

I was especially taken by this essay called “Detachment,” written by Dave Korba:

It was a clear November day, warmer than normal. The sun was bright, casting harsh shadows. My face was warm in the sun and my hands cool in the mild breeze. As I walked the course alone, I was drawn to the sight of a red flag shouting in the breeze.   The course was empty as I walked in a sea of green along the rolling contours and slopes of the changing landscape. The leaves were gone from the trees and the mountainside was a backdrop of dappled gray. There was something about that red flag…

I like to play golf as a way to escape from the daily grind. When played with a different perspective, golf can also teach us valuable lessons about how to live life more fully.

I was unknowingly about to receive such a lesson on this day. I met Art as I made the turn onto the inward nine. I didn’t know him but could tell he played the game with a different perspective. His demeanor was calm and relaxed and a sense of inner confidence underscored his walk and swing. His personality was warm and the conversation was easy. We talked about the inner game as we walked the back nine.

The conversation turned to philosophy and the concept of non-attachment and how it applies to golf. We spoke of Golf In The Kingdom and how Shivas Irons assures Murphy, in his Scottish brogue, “Dona’ worry about the score so much. It’s not the important thing.”   We discussed our own efforts in detaching from the score and how we viewed the results of our shots while remaining in the witness mode. We offered mutual support as we executed shots, gauging and measuring our own level of attachment to the results with each effort.

We got to the sixteenth hole, a downhill par three, 157 yards over the water. The harsh sun was now nearing the horizon. The shadows were long and the breeze was getting cooler. Art was nonchalant as he teed up his ball and said “I’ve noticed that when I let go of my attachment to the outcome, I feel more freedom in my swing.”

He spoke as he set up to the ball, “It’s not an easy thing to do, especially for most golfers.”

He talked right through his set up and started his swing upon uttering his final word. As soon as the ball took flight he leaned over and pulled his tee from the ground and continued, “Most golfers I know are so attached to the result of every shot and to their score, that their game is filled with nothing but frustration.”

The shot was a high, floating seven-iron with a mild draw, right at the pin. After he picked up his tee he turned his back to the hole and faced me, talking, as I stood watching the ball in flight.

He continued, “Once I learned to let go of, or at least minimize my attachment to the result, my game changed dramatically. Not only did I have more fun, I also improved my level of play.”

The ball hung in the air an incredibly long time. I stood and watched as it arced toward the hole; oblivious to the words he was speaking. I was totally attached to his shot and the impending result. He stood calmly looking at me as I leaned my body English to the left to get the ball over to the hole. With a muffled sound the ball struck the unfurled flag and then the pin and dropped to within two feet of the cup. He finally turned, saw the result, then looked back at me and grinned a large grin.

As we walked to the green he continued to explain how he felt that golf is a great teacher of life’s lessons.   “This game gives me opportunities to learn about myself. It’s a journey of self-reflection. It brings me face to face with frustrations, fears and the demons within. I experience some fleeting happiness, but more often it’s self-criticism, harsh self-judgment and judgment of others. Not only is it similar to life, in that regard, it actually helps facilitate the learning I’m here to accomplish. For me, golf is a game within a game. I don’t take it too seriously, but I use it as a mirror to reflect back to me the inner thoughts, emotions and feelings that come up as learning opportunities.”

Art made his birdie and celebrated with upraised hands and a huge smile. As we walked off the green, the red flag snapped in the wind as if acknowledging the shot. We continued on and finished an enjoyable round. It is one that I will reflect upon and remember for a long time.

That’s all for now, my dear.I hope we can talk again soon. Don’t forget to send me your golf tips, and I’ll keep a pie on the windowsill just for you.

Farewell Transmission from Mars

Please join with me in saying farewell to the Phoenix Mars Lander, and all the brave little robots who have gone on before. Are there pie shops or driving ranges on Mars? Now we may never know.

This post, written by the Phoenix Mars Lander, appeared first on

This is My Farewell Transmission From Mars

If you are reading this, then my mission is probably over.

This final entry is one that I asked be posted after my mission team announces they’ve lost contact with me. Today is that day and I must say good-bye, but I do it in triumph and not in grief.

As I’ve said before, there’s no other place I’d rather be than here. My mission lasted five months instead of three, and I’m content knowing that I worked hard and accomplished great things during that time. My work here is done, but I leave behind a legacy of images and data.

In that sense, you haven’t heard the end of me. Scientists will be releasing findings based on my data for months, possibly years, to come and today’s children will read of my discoveries in their textbooks. Engineers will use my experience during landing and surface operations to aid in designing future robotic missions.

But for now, it’s time for me to hunker down and brave what will be a long and cold autumn and winter. Temperatures should reach -199F (-128C) and a polar cap of carbon dioxide ice will envelop me in an icy tomb.

Seasons on Mars last about twice as long as seasons on Earth, so if you’re wondering when the next Martian spring in the northern hemisphere begins, it’s one Earth-year away—October 27, 2009. The next Martian summer solstice, when maximum sunlight would hit my solar arrays, falls on May 13, 2010.

That’s a long time away. And it’s one of the reasons there isn’t much hope that I’ll ever contact home again.

For my mission teams on Earth, I bid a special farewell and thank you. For the thousands of you who joined me on this journey with your correspondence, I will miss you dearly. I hope you’ll look to my kindred robotic explorers as they seek to further humankind’s quest to learn and understand our place in the universe. The rovers, Spirit and Opportunity (@MarsRovers), are still operating in their sun belt locations closer to the Martian equator; Cassini (@CassiniSaturn) is sailing around Saturn and its rings; and the Mars Science Laboratory (@MarsScienceLab)—the biggest rover ever built for launch to another planet—is being carefully pieced together for launch next year.

My mission team has promised to update my Twitter feed as more of my science discoveries are announced. If I’m lucky, perhaps one of the orbiters will snap a photo of me when spring comes around.

So long Earth. I’ll be here to greet the next explorers to arrive, be they robot or human.

It’s been a great pleasure to have Mars Phoenix guest blogging for us, reminiscing back on a successful mission via its personality conjurer, the great Veronica McGregor at JPL—maintainer of Phoenix’s famous Twitter feed. Just as Doug McCuistion from NASA said on the news conference today, it’s certainly more of an Irish wake than a funeral today. We’re drinking to you tonight, little buddy. You can see all of Phoenix’s previous entries and the official press release announcing the end of Phoenix’s mission.

Past entries:
Phoenix Mars Lander Looks Back on its Re-Birth
This is What Landing On Mars Feels Like
Martian Ice Is Why I’m Alive and Why I’m Dying

Creeping Bentgrass L-93: A poem

Creeping Bentgrass L-93: For golf greens in Zone 4

L-93 will regulate the thatch

And maximize the growth you seek today

Enhancing speed across the green to flag

Providing more consistent roll of balls

and dropping strokes from every card you play.

Your creeping bentgrass needs less care than you

might think: a mowing once or twice a day

and routine use of inhibition meant

to stop the flow of gibberellic blood

or acid, put in less poetic terms.

In just two years your newly seeded green

will keep its pledge, but you must do the same

and never lapse in taking care of thatch

and never fail in mowing, grooming, or

remembering the nitrogen, not once.

Your creeping bentgrass needs the best in fert-

ilizer, wetting agents, moistest soil.

Do not ignore hydrophobicity

when caring for your bentgrass putting green,

and it will care for you for years to come.

100 Percent Belgian

I don’t know that I’ve ever seen this phrase “100 percent Belgian” used as a selling point before, except for chocolate, but that’s a big part of the pitch for these interesting table-chairs from swiTCh. I think they might work out really well for the porch of the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and driving range, especially if I can order the balls to be white and dimpled.
Switch Table Chair
Here’s a little bit more from the brochure, too:
Time stands still for no man. Time is ever changing and, in turn, it demands we change. It is time to find the space you need, the growth you desire, the harmony you deserve. It is time to swiTCh.”

The conceptSwiTCh is a new concept in design. It is a chair and a table, a relaxing seat and a small working place in one. It switches instantly and effortlessly.

User instructions SwiTCh is multifunctional and easily adapts from a comfortable chair to a small working place.

Details Each SwiTCh is handmade and has a unique number on the backside.

Information SwiTCh, a 100% Belgian design, is made out of massive oak and fine leather with a filled ball.

Projects Do not hesitate to contact us if you want a business project to be realized. We are sure we will find a solution to match the opportunity to place the swiTCh Table-Chair at his best.

Another small step toward Alan Shepard Pie

Artwork excerpted from James Stevenson’s “Pastry in Motion: A rich history, revealed through art and archaeology,” published in the New Yorker (Sept. 4, 1971).

Looks to me like Alan Shepard Pie needs to be apple, not lamb and mashed potato after all. This is good to know.

For more info, check out our post on Lunar Golf.

NASA plans to put a pie in space.

NASA plans to put a pie in space.

Could this be Alan Shepard pie at last?

Could this be Alan Shepard pie at last?

Chocolate-Laced Lemon Chiffon Pie

First, prepare a chocolate cookie pie crust, and set it aside

Assemble your ingredients:
1/4 oz unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 C sugar
6T water
6 eggs
dash salt
3/4 C fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 t grated lemon peel
2 oz semi-sweet chocolate
1 1/2 T butter
1 1/2 C whipping cream

Dissolve the gelatin and 3/4 C sugar in hot water in the top of a double boiler or in a microwave-safe bowl.

When ingredients are fully dissolved, wait for mixture to cool before continuing.

Separate the eggs and beat the yolks into the cooled gelatin mixture.

Add salt and lemon juice.

Simmer for five minutes, stirring repeatedly, until mixture becomes thick.

Add lemon peel, then chill. Take your time. No hurry, no worry.

Meanwhile, whip up the egg whites, adding 3/4C sugar, until the whites form peaks.

Whip the cream, too.

Fold the egg whites, the cream, and the gelatin mixture in together, and go back to chilling until it all reaches a nice level of firmness.

Melt the butter and semi-sweet chocolate.

Bring out the pie crust and start scooping the filling into it, alternating the filling with drizzled chocolate. Do this three times, ending with a lacy drizzled pattern over the top. If you run out of chocolate drizzle, just make some more.

Have fun.

Will Work for Pie

I’m sorry to say that I have not been able to keep up with Pie Shop chores as well as I expected with The Morning Guy gone on his vacation, although vacation might not be the right word for it. Let’s just say “during his absence.” So, I was understandably relieved then when I saw a guy out the the I-95 access ramp, holding a sign that said, “Will work for pie.”

Now, some may say it’s risky business to bring a stranger in to one’s place of business, but I say, “Damn, man. He’s willing to work for pie.” Even The Morning Guy wants pie, ice cream, coffee, and free golf. This new guy is a bargain. I will, however, take your warnings under consideration, but first let’s see how much pie he can eat.

My son Chandler and I have both had odd experiences with panhandlers in the past. I still remember being asked for money for food by a young denizen of the streets in Denver.

I was hesitant to talk to him since I could see my bus approaching, but I decided to open my heart and I reached into my capacious bag and pulled out my lunch to share, remembering how one of my undergrad profs had done that for me on more than one occasion.

I handed over my tuna fish sandwich, but to my surprise, the scruffy young man did not thank me. No, he held the skimpy lightweight baggie up to the light, as if expecting to see something revelatory on the bread, perhaps the image of Lord Vader. I don’t know.

“What’s in this?” he asked.

“Tuna, mayo, a little relish.”


“Yes. Relish. Are you hungry or not? If you don’t want the sandwich, I’ll take it back.”

He thought it over and kept the sandwich, by which time I had missed my bus. I watched him scuffle off, still sniffing the baggie, and poking his finger into the pristine white bread.

I waited to climb on the next bus. Starting to feel a little hungry myself, I got on, sat down, and discovered that someone had left his or her lunch on the seat. Sure enough, it was a tuna fish sandwich, plus a second baggie with six Oreo cookies in it. Score! I came out ahead on that one.

My son Chandler, one of the twins, told me once that he had been in process of moving and had a lot of cupboard-cleanout stuff in his car, and decided to hand those groceries over to a guy who regularly camped out by the side of the road. This camper was not an especially good beggar, but a persistent one, and probably by the end of the day, he would have collected enough coinage and low-end swag to get him through the night.

When Chandler arrived at his new digs, however, he discovered that he still had the bag of groceries in his car, so what had he given the panhandler? An extensive collection of cookie cutters and pastry tools. He drove back to the highway, somewhat relieved that our man was still there, and made a swap, not without being soundly scolded for improper gifting. Apparently, cookie cutters, not matter how festive or celebratory, are not what most panhandlers are seeking.

We are both now a little more cautious and careful now about what we hand out to strangers on the road, or on the sidewalk. Still, I have a weakness for someone who will work for pie, and when my new friend and I reached the pie shop, I got out my to do list while he had some quiche lorraine and coffee for breakfast.

Sparkle told me that Sue Ten was on the phone, so I stopped to speak to her for a few minutes, during which the new guy moved on to a plate of deep-dish apple pie with cheese. I told Sue Ten I would talk to her later, and said, “I’m getting the cabinet doors fixed,” to which she replied “It’s about time.”

She had an unfortunate experience in my conch cottage one day. I was in my rocker out on the porch and heard her yelp of surprise when one of my cabinet doors came off right in her hand, because the screws in the hinges were missing.

“Oh,” I said. “That one. I never use that one. The screws in the hinges are missing. What were you looking for?”

She said she was looking for cake plates — like I have those! — and ended up just bringing her whole cake, delicious as usual, out to the porch with two forks, a quart of milk, and a Mason jars.

“You should get that cabinet fixed. It’s just a couple of screws.”

“I know.”

“You need to call a plumber about the faucet in your bathroom, too.”

“I know.”

“The broken mini-blinds in your bedroom are atrocious.”

“I know.”

“How do you like the cake?”

“It’s wonderful.”

And it was: Lemon cake with chocolate fudge frosting, my birthday dish of choice for many years. Remember that combination of flavors, I started flipping through my recipe file looking for a lemon chiffon recipe with chocolate-cookie crumb crust, when I noticed that the new guy’s plate was empty. I wasn’t really ready to tackle the cabinets yet, so I slid over a piece of chocolate-pecan-bourbon pie, and looked at my list again.

Maybe this guy could help me bring some more books up from the cottage and put them on the new pie-shop shelves. Joe Sparkle Junior had already restocked the soda machine and was  out on the E-Z Cart slowly, meticulously scooping up golf balls. While I was reviewing the list, I noticed that someone had left an unfinished crossword puzzle on the counter, so I started to ink in a few entries.

The new guy finished off another cup of coffee, and smiled. I gave him a piece of banana cream pie with extra whipped cream and he went right to work on that, while I finished the puzzle and looked over my latest crop of Post-It notes, realizing that each one was a project in the making, not something to be tampered with by rank amateurs, such as the new guy and me.

He finished his pie, and I said, “I think we’re good. One for the road?”

He nodded, and I wrapped up a slice of blueberry cheesecake for him, then we headed out to the highway again. I dropped him off where I found him, and gave him $20 for his time.

When I got back, I parked at the Pie Shop and walked down the lane to my cottage, where I noticed that Sue Ten’s bike was on my porch and the light was on in the kitchen. I approached quietly to peek in the window, but she wouldn’t have heard me anyway over the whirring sound of the cordless screwdriver as she patiently replaced the missing screws.

I walked back up the lane, and started fixing some steak and mushroom pie for her supper. I don’t know what I would do without her: Not that many people are willing to work for pie.

The Caddy

Most of the guys who hang out at the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range know that I don’t take direction well, and they are happy to let me take my golf lessons from Sandra, safely off the premises, and to let me wrestle my golf tips out of The Morning Guy, when he feels like sharing.

Anyone new on the scene also usually can tell within minutes that I am better left alone, determined student of the swing that I am.

Last night, we were surprisingly low on customers, but the weather was slightly cool and damp, and perhaps a few people were still out celebrating the results of the recent presidential election. I know that Sandra was, and Sue Ten was still cranking out red-white-and-blue cupcakes for customers over at The Swing Barn.

I didn’t mind having the extra space to myself, and I nodded to people as they came through the pie shop door to sit at the picnic tables with their pumpkin pie and hot coffee before loading up their buckets and starting to play.

I was doing pretty well, and was fairly pleased, so I didn’t fully notice that someone was teeing up in the space just behind me. Suddenly, the tide changed, and my next shot went completely backward, just a few inches off the ground, and abruptly knocked the other player’s ball right off the tee.

He jumped away in surprise, and soon commenced to announce that he had never seen such a shot in his life, not after teaching golf for two and a half decades, not after playing in innumerable tournaments, not after a lifetime in which golf was pretty much the primary focus.

“My god!” he said. “You couldn’t do that again in a million years.” I begged to differ. My shots have a fiercely wild variety, but he was convinced that he had already seen me in a nice rhythm, hitting balls with no trouble.

“Yes,” he said. “I came out and wondered where I should play. I looked around and saw you were doing your thing, and I thought, ‘That’s fine. That lady is hitting some nice shots, so she won’t need any advice and I can just get in my practice with no problem.'”

After that pronouncement, he proceeded to watch me, which made both of us and a couple of other people nervous as well. Finally, neither he nor the next guy in the line could stand to see me send one more ball scuttling down the grass, and they both commenced to give me more tips in 10 minutes than The Morning Guy had given me all year, only their tips were not written down in perfect block lettering on post-it notes for me to refer to later.

By then, they could see that I was taking on that deer-in-the-headlights look, and they backed off, but not for long. Try this! Try that! It made me think of Thing One and Thing Two in the Cat in the Hat books. Sparkle was so fascinated by the scene that he came out on the pretense of picking up buckets so he would smirk at close range. Knowing I was distracted, he told several people to go ahead and re-shoot any balls were lying close by. Why not?

I’ll have to admit, that ploy did soon disperse the crowd although I don’t know why. They can shoot all the balls they want, anyway, but I guess there seemed to be some bargain-basement mentality at work there.

Soon I was left with only one critic, and he was a bit of a bulldog about the whole thing. He picked up the wood that I usually lay on the ground just to help me keep some sense of alignment and said, “This club is getting all dirty, this is no good. Why don’t you like this club? It’s a nice one.”

I said it was too big, and besides that I like my nine iron and don’t really need another club right now. For some reason, this concept always reminds me of my mother teaching herself to knit using Christmas string. I don’t fully know why.

He shook his head. “Go ahead,” he said. “Try this one,” and he handed me the wood.

I tried, I failed, and he proceeded to offer corrections, including the usual Keep Your Head Down, which I thought I had been doing. Apparently not. I may never lift my head again after last night, though.

Then I hit a few more, and did all right, but still hit too high up on the ball. This has never been a concern for me since I have never been in any rush to learn the game. After all, I live here. The meter is not running, and I have an endless bucket of balls.

For the next hour, this guy — who turns out to be a professional caddy — continued to advise, tweak, talk, demonstrate, cajole, and advise again, taking the occasional breath to comment that he just couldn’t seem to stop himself since I was so close to hitting a really fine shot. Then the Caddy also told me to stop doing some girlie stuff. Excuse me?

Next The Caddy starting pulling clubs out of his bag to see if I could do better with one of them, until he completely lost all sense of judgment and turned his shiny blue featherweight driver over to me. I swear, I felt like Christopher, one of the the mini-Tiger-Woods kids who runs around here with a club bigger than he is, but I loved it. I backed away, I swung, and I heard that satisfying metallic clink, and I did not look up . . . at least not until the ball was well on its way.

I did look at The Caddy and said, “Thanks. I do believe I owe you a piece of pie,” and I headed inside.

Oddly enough, The Caddy, this guy who had talked non-stop by then for almost two hours, became strangely quiet without a golf club in his hands. And that was fine, too. We both needed a break.

I just can’t wait now for my next official lesson with Sandra so I can find out if I retained any new skills, or if I just went into sensory overload.

I should probably take her some pie, too.

Michel Ten

Your second-cousin Darnell has been talking about starting a horse-and-buggy tour of the neighborhood as a way to “support the community,” he says. Or a way to boondoogle the few tourists that we get out here so close the the ‘glades, I say.

“Just what will you cover on this tour?” I want to know. “Once you’ve gone by the Pie Shop, The Driving Range, The Swing Park, and Pancho Villas, what’s left? The bonsai forest?”

Darnell seemed a little puzzled by my lack of enthusiasm, which was tempered by the knowledge that he did not have a horse nor a buggy, and he sauntered off to The Swing Barn to see if he might have better luck with Sue Ten. I suspect that she probably gave him comments very similar to mine, with perhaps a bit less diplomacy and tact, two qualities which I am seriously trying to develop.

I do actually like the idea of the buggy ride, but I think there has to be an audience for it first, not unlike the Village Players recent production of The Mikado, in which Sue Ten had a staring role. Sadly, most of the people who were interested in hearing Gilbert and Sullivan were already in the cast, so that left but few of us to fill the seats. Still, we all had a good time, especially during Sue Ten’s encore, during which she sang the song Frank Mills, from Hair. The fact that she was still in her geisha costume made it all the more endearing, since her outfit gave the song more of a Teeny-Bopper Butterfly flavor.

Speaking of horse-and-buggy rides, Sue and I have been trying to figure out if Michel Ten, whom I met in Havana, could possibly be a relative, but we weren’t able to find a family line from here to there, so chances are that the similarity in names was either a coincidence or a misunderstanding.

Little Peach and I met Michel on our second day in Havana as we strolled past the horse-cabs. We were besieged by the drivers, a fairly raucous and noisy crew of men in crisp pastel-plaid cotton shirts and jeans. They are all cheery and optimistic that we would take them up on their tour offers, but we had already signed up for our bus tour, so we continued our stroll down the Prado.

Michel, bless his heart, proceeded to stroll with us, spewing his spiel, still, about how great his buggy tour would be. Little Peach took him aside for a moment and explained that we were in Havana without luggage or a change of clothing, and what we really wanted to know was where we could pick up a little dress or two, cheap. We also wanted such niceties as deodorant and shampoo.

None of that really stumped him, but we learned from him that most if not all the retail shops in Cuba were closed for Liberation Day, so with or without him, we would not be able to do too much shopping. We continued our walk, without Michel Ten, and admired the buildings along the Prado, and the young skateboarders operating mainly with lengths of wood and old roller-skate wheels.

Before we parted company, though, Michel Ten did warn us, “Those bus tours aren’t any good. You should come with me. If you change your mind, just ask for Michel Ten. That’s me.”

We asked his price, shook our heads, and said good-bye. When we returned to our hotel a few hours later, Michel was still out in the square, working his work, as charming as ever. That afternoon, we did go on the bus tour, where we met the Philosopher Detective and did have a pleasant afternoon and evening, but we both had to admit we could not always understand our tour guide, and Little Peach did not have an opportunity to ask the detailed questions for which she is so well known, and perhaps a little feared by tour guides everywhere.

The next morning, I told her, “I think we should go talk to Michel Ten and see if we can get him to come down on his price.”

We had a wonderful full breakfast in the elegant old dining room of the Hotel Inglaterra, admiring the tile work from days gone by and the contemporary painting of Cuba today. We chatted with the staff, sipped our juices and coffees, and smiled at the thought of where we really were, with luggage or without. Then, we went out to find Michel Ten.

Of course, he was not there, and several other horse-cab drivers claimed to be him. We said, “No, no, no.” Then they started to call from one to the other, “Michel! Michel Ten!” until suddenly he appeared, a great smile on his face. We proceeded to make our offer for a cheaper ride, but he looked said and said it could not be done.

“You see that man over there? That is my boss. I must give him the price.”

Little Peach and I suggested a shorter ride. He said no. And, great negotiators that we are, we said, “Okay, let’s go.”

I had forgotten that at some point I had tried to teach one of the other drivers how to sing “Una Paloma Blanca,” and as we began to pull away in our cab drawn by Michel Ten’s little horse Mulatta, that driver jumped up on the side of the cab and sang for us, getting the first line out perfectly, and then faking it after that, just as I had earlier. Michel shooed him away, and we took off on our slow, relaxing tour, with Little Peach asking every question that came into her mind, and Michel Ten doing his best to answer them in his almost-perfect English.

One word that he did have trouble with, though, was “horse,” which he pronounced as “whore.” We ignored that at first, until he got into an explanation of memorial statues of soldiers on horseback, and what it means if “the whore has all four feet on the ground” as opposed to “the whore has two feet on the ground.”

“I think you mean to say ‘horse’ said Little Peach, emphasizing the “s” at the end.

“Oh!” said Michel. “So what does ‘whore’ mean?”

I said “puta” and Little Peach said “prostitute” and then we all laughed, and continued our journey past Morro Castle, the open-air market, the booksellers, the museums, the Spanish Embassy, and more until we reached the bar where Michel promised us the best mojitos in Cuba. We each had one, at 11:00 a.m., and then with cups in hand, continued our tour, which ended up lasting at least 90 minutes of main attractions, side streets, and vignettes of daily life in Havana.

And was it better than the bus tour? Absolutely.

Was drinking mojitos before noon a good idea? Perhaps not, especially since we continued to drink Bucanero at lunch and through the afternoon, until the time that we decided to ride on the top of the double-decker hop-on-hop-off bus, our cans of beer neatly tucked into the drink holders. As the bus sped past the horse-cab area, we stood up and yelled, “Michel! Michel Ten!” but I do not know if he heard us.

If you ever go to Havana, please look up Michel 10. I have his phone number, and I’m sure he’d love to hear from you. Tell him that Una Paloma Blanca sent you.

Mark Your Calendar

National Pie Day is January 23, 2009

  • Created by the American Pie Council®, National Pie Day is dedicated to the celebration of pie. As part of our American heritage, this day is a perfect opportunity to pass on the love and enjoyment of pie eating and pie making to future generations.
  • Each year the American Pie Council® sponsors the National Pie Championships® where some of the best pie makers in the United States and Canada enter their pies to compete for the “American Pie Council’s® Best Pie in America” award. For more information on who has the best pies in America, Click here.
  • To celebrate National Pie Day share the warmth of the ultimate “comfort food” by giving the gift of pie to a friend or neighbor. Your generosity will be long remembered.
  • If pie making is not in your schedule, stop by your favorite pie shop or grocery store and bring home a gift of love and enjoyment for the whole family. The coldest of January days will be warmed by a special pie dessert.
  • Watch for winning recipes on our web site or first hand in our newsletter, Pie Times by joining the American Pie Council®.
  • To get tips on getting media coverage for your company on NPD, Click here. (Downloadable PDF).

Four and Twenty Blackbirds

Life has been pretty hectic this week at the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range. I am still catching up after taking some time off to go to a yoga retreat in Costa Rica. Ideally, the balance skills and core strength that I am learning in my yoga practice will ultimately pay off for me in a better golf game, or at least in balance and core strength. Period.

Now I’m having to fill in for The Morning Guy while he is on vacation, and that means actually getting up in the morning. I’ll admit that I’ve been very spoiled in that regard, but I’ll be fine. I have some excellent notes here about how to restock the soda machine, notes which I will immediately pass on to Sparkle Junior and your second-cousin Darnell.

Personally, I’ll be busy working on plans for the Pie Museum, and I know you are looking forward to the day when that opens, although you might well wish we’d get to work on the putting green first.

Perhaps we will.

I already hit a snag in trying to find out about that “Four and Twenty Blackbirds Baked in a Pie” nursery rhyme. It seems that there are a number of stories about what the words really mean, if anything at all. As I read through the possibilities, I definitely found myself leaning toward the Blackbeard the Pirate version, because it is entertaining if nothing else.

Sadly, the idea that “Four and Twenty Blackbirds” was some kind of pirate code was actually concocted by the folks at as an example of “False Authority Syndrome,” in which they pretty nicely prove that we are all fairly gullible folk.

I was disappointed, because I like pretty much any combination of pirates and pie (or golf and pie), and I had hoped the story was true. In fact, I’d already pictured one helluva nice display for the museum, including a signed copy of Tim Powers’ fantastic book On Stranger Tides, which should definitely be on the pie shop bookshelves by now.  If you haven’t read it yet, I’ll consider lending one of my copies to you, but plan on paying a hefty deposit before you take the book out of my sight.

I did, though, find some other references to the four-and-twenty which were interesting, although a bit of a downturn after the pirate possibility, but how do you like this? A 1549 Italian cookbook does, in fact, contains a recipe “to make pies so that birds may be alive in them and flie out when it is cut up.”

Or am I just falling victim to False Authority Syndrome again?

If you know any more about this particular historical pie, do let me know. Check your copy of The Annotated Mother Goose and let me know what you learn.

While you do that, here’s a nice Tom Waits song that recycles some of the nursery rhyme — the “sing a song of six pence” part — in a whole nuther way.

Mixtape from waits midnight lullaby

Eating Humble Pie

Ever since I took up golf, people have been telling me what a “humbling” sport it is, but I find most of life to be humbling, in one way or another.

Just when I think I’m doing a good deed, and flying rapturously into your imaginary embrace of gratitude, I discover that I am totally off-course, perhaps even in free fall, and I remember that no good deed goes unpunished.

Take, for example, the sad case of the lost-and-found cellphone.

In my not unusual insomniac state the other night, I gave up on sleep, pulled on some clothes, left my turquoise conch cottage around 2:00 a.m., and wandered up the lane to the driving range. A couple of my fellow night-golfers were already there, as usual, and we nodded as we do. No need to talk, just hit a few balls and give sleep another try.

This, as you may understand, is one of the reasons why I am so very glad I have The Morning Guy around, since morning is pretty much foreign territory to me. Ah, but from 2:00 to 4:00 a.m., I know each shadow on the wall by name.

To my delight, I was soon in the zone, hitting with ease and grace, thinking that maybe one of these days I’ll try out something besides a nine iron, but no rush. I was doing so well, in fact, that I made an error in judgment and sent a gloating text message to The Morning Guy, knowing full well that his phone would be safely turned off, wherever he might be enjoying his vacation.

To my surprise, just a few minutes later a response came in from his phone. That alone was enough to rattle me, but the kicker was that the message — judging by spelling, length, and content — was from a person or persons unknown.

Having lost my place in the zone, I immersed myself into the problem at hand, and deduced that The Morning Guy’s phone had been lost and found, and I quickly cast myself into the fantasy that I was now the heroine who could save the day, and the cell phone, by pulling the strings needed to reunite man and machinery.

Oh, yes. I was giddy with anticipation, delighted to think how happy The Morning Guy would be with me; so happy, in fact, that he might even give me that long-promised up-close-and-personal golf lesson.

Unfortunately, by the time I did make contact with him, I was not only wildly tired, but also a bit light-headed from living so comfortably in the future, and I’d totally discounted how upset he might possibly be about the lost phone.

In the real world, all I had to do was say, “Someone found your phone. Here’s the number to call,” and I would have been good to go. But I was so damn busy giving myself a really nice, shiny medal for tracking him down out of town and far away — which was certainly far from easy — that when it came time to deliver the news, my words were sadly both sarcastic and silly, thereby canceling out both my effort and my intent.

His somber response was to inform me that my fun at his expense was not fun to him.

Ay yi yi!

I fell to earth in a heap, and I have been banging my head against the pie-shop wall ever since.

All I can do now is to eat the mandatory slice of humble pie, the traditional meal of those who must learn through experience how to act submissively and apologetically, especially when admitting to an error.

I don’t mind the metaphor of humble pie, and it seems fine and appropriate, but I’m not too wild about the real origin of the phrase.

In England in the 1500s, the name used for deer entails, liver, and heart was numbles, or possibly noumbles, nomblys, or even noubles; a hundred years later the term had morphed to a more uniform “umbles,” which were in fact a common pie ingredient. Even Samuel Pepys, a notorious blogger, was known to enjoy a bit of umble pie, as stated in his blog on July 5, 1662: “I having some venison given me a day or two ago, and so I had a shoulder roasted, another baked, and the umbles baked in a pie, and all very well done.”

At the same time, the word humble came into play, meaning “of lowly rank” or “having a low estimate of oneself,” and before long the two terms merged, giving us the current concept of behind the phrase “eating humble pie.”

Interestingly, if you are a fan of pie history as am I, humble pie has followed the path of mince pie and turned itself from a simple meat dish into a tasty and sweet fruit dish. Now, if I were one to stretch metaphors even more than I do already, you might already be seeing a happy ending to this story, and I hope you are.

Time will tell if I have survived this particular meal, but meanwhile, here’s a recipe to put us both on the right path:

Humble Pie

Prepare an unbaked pie shell

Prepare a filling made from:

3 large sweet apples, peeled and cut into small pieces
1 1/2 C of fresh cranberries
1 C light brown sugar

Place filling into pie shell.

Mix up following ingredients and sprinkle on top of the apple-cranberry filling.

3/4 C finely chopped walnuts
1/4 C light brown sugar
1/4 C flour
3 T softened butter
Cinnamon, nutmeg & ginger to taste
Pinch of salt

Bake in a 425-degree oven for 20 minutes.

Cover pie with foil and turn oven down to 350 degrees and bake another 30 minutes.

Serve with excessive humility, apologizing as much as necessary to make yourself feel better. I’ll tell you when you can stop.

Design by Lord Vader

You probably already know I am a big fan of Lord Vader’s domestic design work, especially of those large kitchen appliances in black or dark-gray that were so popular in the late 1980s.

Nothing screams 1988 as well as a black refrigerator with matching dishwasher and range.

Last summer, by the way, I saw Lord Vader’s yacht in transit in the Mediterranean, and it looked absolutely gorgeous, set against the blue sea of Cannes.

Who wouldn’t feel perfectly safe and joyous traveling aboard such a lovely vessel?

Big gray boat

Big gray boat

Now I’m very pleased to see that Lord Vader has branched out into more readily accessible products, such as the toaster below.

I already have a scan toaster on order for the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range, but I don’t think it would hurt at all to have this one as a back-up.

Darth Vader, Dark Lord of the Burnt Toast

dv-toaster.jpgAmongst a certain subset of religious attention seekers (not to mention, this Star Wars toaster should be all the pareidolic proof required to conclude, once and for all, that Darth Vader is not only the Dark Lord of the Sith, but out Dark Messiah as well.

To order your own Lord Vader toaster, click here:Star Wars Toaster

And if you didn’t have time to look up the meaning of pareidolic, here’s some help:

pareidolia (payr.eye.DOH.lee.uh)

n. The erroneous or fanciful perception of a pattern or meaning in something that is actually ambiguous or random.
pareidolic adj.

Your Second-Cousin Darnell and the Goat

The other day, I saw this photo of a scapegoat, and it reminded me of your second-cousin Darnell and his pet goat Jonathan.

It’s not surprising that Darnell would have a goat as a pet, although I think at first it was more of a business proposition.

Darnell seemed to think that the goat would be a zero-energy lawnmowing system for him, but he forgot about the residue that the goat would leave behind, not to mention the plain orneriness of goats in general. You can dress them up with big sunglasses, Hawaiian shirts, and hats, but down deep they are still goats.

We all got a good laugh out of it the first time that Darnell brought the goat by the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range, thinking I might want to pay for the Jonathan’s lawn-chewing services, but I did not want the goat anywhere near my turf.

Sue Ten felt much the same way, although she did fall prey to the unfortunate idea that Jonathan could work as a bouncer for payday parties. Unfortunately, the goat did not have a lot of discretion about who to bounce and who to retain, so that idea was short-lived but memorable.

Jonathan pretty much stays home these days, in his little shed under the big ficus by Darnell’s doublewide off Highway 441. I know Darnell would like to move to Pancho Villas closer to us, but they have a pretty well enforced no-goats rule, made all the stronger by the property manager who was one of the fools who picked up Darnell and Jonathan when they were hitchhiking to work at The Swing Barn.

Most reasonable people would not stop to pick up a man and a goat walking by the side of the road unless they were driving a pick-up truck or maybe an animal-control van. At least, I hope they would not stop, especially once they saw that the man in question was indeed your second-cousin Darnell.

I think you were away when this happened, so you may not know why so many people now will not pick up Darnell under any circumstances.

Typically, the scenario went like this. A friend of Darnell’s would see him and Jonathan strolling down the side of the road, and would roll to a stop to shout out “Hey.” Darnell would lean over to chat through the open window, being just as charming and pleasant as ever, talking about everything and anything except where he was going or why he had a goat with him.

Eventually, the driver would make the standard error in judgment and ask where they were headed. “Oh, just down to The Swing Barn,” Darnell would say. “Oh, look at the time. We’re a little late and Sue Ten will be really ticked off. Jonathan’s her new bouncer.”

The driver would take the bait, no matter that Sue Ten had already told Darnell in no uncertain terms that Jonathan was goat-non-grata, and Darnell would open the back door to let Jonathan clamber in.

“Now that goat’s not going to do anything, is he?” asked the driver.

“Oh, no,” said Darnell.

The merry crew would take off, and within a matter of seconds, Jonathan would put his horns up and back through the headliner, take a bite out of the driver’s padded neck rest, and/or discharge an impressive supply of pungent pellets and more on the back seat.

Come with me now as we listen for the sound of squealing brakes as the driver evicts his passengers and then flees the scene.

Of course, Darnell by then is all the closer to his destination, and it’s a rare driver who will file a claim for goat damage when he has to admit he was the fool who let the goat into the car in the first place.

My favorite story about Darnell and Jonathan though took place when Darnell was partying in the old Parker place, an abandoned two-story house that had long since lost its paint, windows, and doors, replacing all with moss and spiderwebs.

One rainy day, Darnell had decided that it was too wet outside for Jonathan, so he took the goat upstairs and tied his lead to an old bedstead, the kind that the Mummy might have used for afternoon naps, and Darnell headed over here for a pie of strawberry-rhubarb pie and a vanilla milkshake. Before long, he got into a gin rummy game, and then decided to hit a few balls, and he was coasting along pretty well before someone asked about Jonathan, the way most people might say, “How’s the wife and kids?”

Darnell jumped up and headed back down the road to the house. He told me later that he could hear Jonathan bleating long before he could see the goat, hanging out of the second-story window, “holding on by his tippy-toes,” as Darnell put it.

I do wish someone had been there with a camera. I know none of us have ever seen Darnell move as fast as he did that day, swooping up the stairs to Jonathan’s rescue. I don’t know about you, but I do not want to even think about their joyous reunion.

Needless to say, Jonathan is now a first-floor only sort of goat, his hitchhiking days are over, and he does not even have a job. But does Darnell still love him? You bet. Loyalty is one of your second-cousin Darnell’s strong points, as much as it scares us all, just a little bit.

Hollywood Halloween

I still need to scrape the glitter off my face after last night’s Hollywood Halloween. Yes, I know that yesterday was really All Soul’s Day, but we’re talking Hollywood, and we had to take into account the writers’ strike and other details that might conceivably caused a slight delay in our participation in festivities here at the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range. I’m pretty sure, too, that we weren’t the only ones running a day late, or even a dollar short.

I’d thought that everyone would have been pretty much costumed out, especially after Sue Ten’s usual high-tone event over at The Swing Barn on Friday night, but you know how it is once people get into too much sugar and dressing-up. They just want more, more, more.

We had the first arrivals walk in to The Pie Shop around 8:00 p.m., and we served up some of that nice Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake that the India Night girls are always craving. Just for fun, I wore a pink and white waitress costume, modeled on the one in the movie Waitress. I had also pulled on my blonde French-twist wig and applied the blue eye-shadow and glitter liberally. I wanted to chew gum, too, but I’m one of those people without the gum-chewing gene and it prevents me from doing anything else very well.

Joe Sparkle Junior dressed as The Morning Guy, which I thought was especially funny, and Sue Ten came in for a while in full geisha girl regalia. She didn’t stay for long, since it turned out she was really on her way to a dress rehearsal for a local production of The Mikado. She did drop off one of her wonderful pumpkin and potato casseroles seasoned with ginger and allspice, though. Delicious.

As always, we offered our “all the golf balls you can hit” rate of $10, but gave free balls to everyone who brought in some reasonably edible food to share, and before long, we had quite a line-up out on the range, under the lights which were unmercifully bright as we watched the sliver of a moon come up in the sky. People wandered in and out, balancing their paper plates full of chocolate brains, spicy guacamole dip, buffalo wings, organic celery, and watermelon jell-o shots.

One of the girls came in a clown costume that was quite cheery and sweet at the beginning of the night, but grew increasingly frightening until by midnight the melting make-up made her look more and more like the Joker in the last Batman movie. Plus, after three or four margaritas that she’d smuggled over from The Swing Barn, she had developed the disconcerting habit of going up to people, just after they’d set up their shots, and she would leer at them and say, “Why so serious?” Then she’d launch into a chilling and maniacal laugh.

I had to ask her husband, Bob “He No Dead” Marley, to steer The Clown over the the picnic tables so people could work their drivers without a look of terror creeping over their faces. We soon discovered that feeding her chocolate-cinnamon mousse pie did nothing to calm her down, but deep-dish apple was a fairly reasonable antidote.

Earlier in the evening though, when The Clown was still pretty docile, I noticed that one of The Stepford Wives was blissfully welcoming her to the neighborhood and suggesting that she might want to join some of the other wives in their exercise and make-up classes.

“Really, my dear,” said The Wife to The Clown, “you certainly do have a way with make-up and color, but you are in Stepford now, and you might want to tone down that look just a teeny little notch or two, and of course I am telling you this as a friend because I know we are going to be very, very good friends now, aren’t we?”

The Clown continued to smile and nod, and The Wife continued to preach the virtues of living in Stepford, all the while smiling up at her handsome Stepford Husband as she repeatedly replaced the drink in his hand, the ball on his tee, and the cigarette in his mouth. Several of the regulars stood by and watched in amazement at this particular duo in their award-winning performance, which probably ended the minute they got into their SUV to drive home.

Another interesting couple was Joan Crawford and a Philadelphia Flyers hockey player. Joan was scolding him about using wire hangers, but he didn’t seem to mind, and changed to topic to Philadelphia baseball, little knowing that Joan was a die-hard Red Sox fan.

“Once the Red Sox are out, who cares?” said Mommie Dearest.

“You’re a Red Sox fan?” he asked suspiciously.

“Oh, yes,” she said.

“I’m from New York,” he said. “We are enemies.”

Then he pivoted on his skates and stomped away. Thank god he was still in the pie shop and not out ruining my turf. Mommie Dearest just muttered “Spawn of Satan” and went on to wave her wire hanger at someone else.

Nearby, Wednesday from The Addams Family was giving some excellent golf tips to Nurse Mildred Rached from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, but then Rached was called away to administer medication to a tottering Amy Winehouse. Neither Amy nor Rached got in a single golf shot, but at least Amy didn’t hurt anyone too badly when she fell down, again and again and again.

By the end of her visit to the driving range, though, Nurse Rached had transformed into Nurse Crotchett, and her performance had become increasingly X-rated. We all stopped to smoke a cigarette once she passed out beside Amy and lay quietly in the grass for the next hour or so.

Meanwhile, Mommie Dearest pointed out to me that the comatose Amy’s bra strap had slipped own over her tattoo, and the strap was decidedly orange, not unlike the color of my formerly favorite bra, the one that did not return from the BahamasAir luggage system.

This prompted Wednesday Addams to give us a sweet little soliloquy about her days working at Victoria’s Secret, and told us she had always been “the nice one” and never interrupted couples who were having sex in the changing rooms. Note to self: Always look for the most innocent clerk in sight when planning assignations at V.S., even in my mind.

I also noticed a number of James Bond lookalikes passing though, covering five decades of spy movies; one Terminator; two Incredible Hulks; numerous U.S. Presidents and presidential candidates; a dozen or so golfers ranging from The Shark to Spiderman to Happy Gilmore; Jason Varitek; several of The Baldwin Brothers, although they did not seem to know each other; and Joe the Plumber, who confessed that he was not even registered to vote.

Back in The Pie Shop, the cast of Grease took over the sound system and began singing “You’re the one that I want ooh ooh ooh” until I pulled the plug on them and sent them over to The Swing Barn where the acoustics are better, or so I told them. Sue Ten will probably be calling me about that later on. We did keep Sonny and Cher to ourselves, though, and set them up at a table where they could sign autographs and feed each other excessively gooey lemon-meringue pie. They were so cute, back in the early days. I’m sure you remember.

Around 10:00, we had a lull until a crew of Fem-Bot Pirates arrived stark, raving sober, and in search of Georgia Peach Pie and coffee ice cream. When they’d had their fill of pie-booty and black coffee, they went out to the range and offered an astounding exhibition of synchronized golfing. Perhaps they were German pirates, I’m not sure. They were certainly efficient, and knew how to take the minimum amount of fabric to create the maximum amount of costume. Their ability to hit golf balls while wearing high-heeled boots was quite stunning, too.

This morning, as I said, we have a fair amount of clean-up to do, starting with my face. I may even break my no-caffeine rule and have a cup of Joe, the plain-Jane variety that I know you like so well. Remember, we do not serve lattes or mochachinos or frappacoffee or half-fat or low-fat or any other variation other than black or regular. You can put in your own sugar or Sweet N Low, and I really don’t care how much or how little you use, as long as you remember to leave Sparkle a tip. He works hard at not spilling, and that should be rewarded. It’s not as easy as it looks.

We hope you had a good weekend, too. Remember the time change, if you are somewhere where that happens. I’d forgotten, myself, but the clock in the kitchen has shifted, so I know The Morning Guy must have slipped in at some point in the night to make the fix. Now that I think of it, one of those James Bond boys did look strangely familiar.

Halloween Music

I’m feeling just a little bad that I was out of town and missed Halloween at The Swing Barn last night. I had a call from Sue Ten this morning, but she was somewhat vague about exactly what had taken place over there. I’m guessing movies on the side of the wall, orange beer, and a lot of fake blood for Sparkle Junior to clean up yet. Possibly some real blood, too.

The Morning Guy left me a note to say he’ll be gone on vacation for a couple of days, too, so I won’t be able to get much information out of him, but what else is new?  A few of the regulars — including yours truly — had a pool going, betting on whether or not he’d hang in here for the whole week.

I won, but just barely. I said he’d make it until 6:30 on Friday night, and I drove in at 6:35, just in time to see the taillight of his motorcycle as he headed home. I didn’t even have the chance to tell him that I’d found a replacement for my orange bra that disappeared from my luggage, somewhere between Florida and Havana.

All that aside, I do have one nice piece of fun to share with you. Take a look at some time when you’re on the search for an elusive tune or performer, and try your luck.

I just typed in “halloween” and came up with this whole list, good to go and ready to play: A few tunes for Halloween.


The Philosopher Detective

Little Peach stopped in at the Pie Shop the other day to show me some of the photos she took on our trip to Havana, and to reminisce a bit, especially about our dinner with The Philosopher Detective.  I wish we had a good shot of the him to show you. I know you probably think we made him up, but really he was our companion for an afternoon and evening, and quite a remarkable one at that.

We met him on our bi-lingual bus tour, the one during which I gave away my pink hat, as you may recall. By the way, I did look at a possible pink-hat replacement when I was in Costa Rica, but it still was not the same; nor was the one that I found today at the local thrift shop with “Vail’ embroidered on it. Perhaps next spring I’ll buy a Red Sox one after all.

To continue, as we all toured the Morro Castle, the Philosopher Detective and I began to chat, and then we compared our purchases back on the bus. He’d bought rum and cigars for friends, and I’d bought a single dark-rum nip for myself. Until that point, he may well have been one of the people who thought I was a Cuban. (In my memory now, as you can imagine, most people did.) I told him I’d only bought the nip to drink on the bus since I couldn’t take any of the lovely stuff home. “I’m an American,” I said, and he replied “I suppose someone has to be. Might as well be you.” He won me over immediately.

By the time we reached the walking tour part of our program, Little Peach knew much of his life history, including his long relationship with the marvelous Maggie, who was off on her own holiday with friends from way back when. By the time we all three decided to drop the tour and go off by ourselves for dinner, we were fast friends, at least for the one evening.

First, though, our tour guide did what tour guides tend to do: He led us into an establishment undoubtedly run by friends of his. We caught on to that when we noticed that the bartender already had an icy mojito waiting for our guide the minute that we walked in the door.  The place — a faux Irish pub complete with regulation mariachi band — was touted as yet another Hemingway waterhole. I think it’s safe to say that there was no drinking establishment in Havana where Hemingway did not knock back a pop or two.

We settled in upstairs, where we were pretty much a captive audience, for “a break” and shelled out a bit of cash for mojitos and beer, applauding on cue for the band. I could see that both the Philosopher Detective and Little Peach were getting a little antsy, but I wasn’t sure why until we were out on the pavement again, and TPD burst out saying, “It was all I could do to keep from leaping over the table to free that poor bird from its cage.”

Yes, a man of passion, and that’s when he won Little Peach, too. Allow me to insert a little background note here: If you were to arrive at Little Peach’s house with your car windshield smashed and cracked beyond belief, and perhaps even a shard or two of glass wedged into your forehead, she would help you mop up the blood, but she would first want you to go back and check on the health of the bird that you’d hit. (Yes, that’s one of the many reason we love her, isn’t it?)

TPD was cut of the same cloth, and we were delighted to discover that he knew of a charming rooftop restaurant where we would continue our conversation at leisure. The lower level of the place was a jazz bar, and the music was dead on perfect. We passed by the mahogany bar and beckoning chairs and entered the tiny grill-worked elevator that took us to the roof, where we were treated to a view of Morro Castle, the harbor, and the sea at dusk.

To our surprise, our waiter was reluctant to offer recommendations for dinner, but he explained that it was his first day on the job and he could not yet personally vouch for the quality of the food. I thought that was an interesting perspective, rather than telling us  “It’s all good.”

Once we had ordered at our own risk, TPD told us about his career in London, conducting investigations and interrogations, and we learned that the most valuable weapon in his considerable arsenal was silence. “Yes,” he said, “more often than not, you’ll find out what you want to know if you can just out wait the poor fool you’re questioning.”

I’ve understood that myself, by intuition, but I’ve never been able to put it into practice. I always crack first and spit out another question. What about you? Let’s try it sometime.

We also talked about humor and writing and learning to live a new life. I’ve done that as you know, as so has TPD, when his career as a working detective suddenly ended as his body collapsed and he found himself in a hospital bed, rather than at the scene of the next crime.

His dark world, in which he well knew the difference between the living, the just-dead, and the long-dead, rapidly shifted into one in which he knew he had to find a new better way to live and to cope and to communicate.

An introspective man, he shared his regrets and joys, with an self-questioning aspect that we enjoyed tremendously, as he played both the interrogator and subject in his own story. Part of the tale included a period in which he gained so much weight that he had become whale-like in proportion, but then took extreme measures to drop back down to “normal” size.

“What a pleasure it is,” he said, “just to go into a shop and buy clothes ready made. What a joy, just to walk down the street next to my Maggie, not lagging behind so people would not know I was with her.”

“I wondered about that,” I surprised myself by saying, “because you walk like a fat man, but you really are not fat at all.”

Yes, he did have that slow deliberate step, as if the ground might crumble beneath him, and he knew it.  I know what it is like to lose 35 pounds, but he’d lost 140!

As the evening danced on, we listened to the rooftop band play traditional Cuban music, heard the canon at the Castle fire, watched the sunlight fade, and saw the full moon rise among the dark tumbling clouds.

We talked of families, lovers, friends, travel, books, The Wind in the Willows, and everything else that touched our hearts at that particular moment in time, and we topped it off with some ice cream that the waiter could not identify.

“It’s tiramisu,” I told him, after a taste or two or three. TPD and Little Peach nodded in agreement. Yes. Tiramisu ice cream for dessert, on a rooftop in Havana.

Before we pushed back our chairs and headed to the elevator, I asked TPD how many people he thought were sitting behind him.  The terrace restaurant had been pretty much empty when we arrived.

“Six,” he guessed.

“Turn around,” I said. There were 18 people seated at one long table, just getting up to fill their plates at a buffet.

When I see people come into the Pie Shop and become so engrossed in conversation that they don’t even see the other people in the room, I’m always a bit jealous. Tthen again, I feel that pleasant isolation so often myself when you and I have the chance to talk the way that we do, connecting on so many levels. Let’s do it again real soon.

Make Your Own Universe Kit

I know you are not surprised to see this heading here, after all, isn’t making your own universe what life is all about, especially here at the Slice of Heaven 24-hour Pie Shop and Driving Range?

My own universe, as you may have noticed, seems to focus primarily on pie and golf, but maybe you have other ideas for your personal copyrighted piece of reality. I certainly hope so, and I’d love for you to tell me all about it, perhaps in private, at a later date over a nice piece of virtual-reality pie.

Anyway, I love the idea of a “make your own universe kit” and I hope you will remember this item as the holidays approach, now that my birthday is finally over, and National Novel Writing Month is starting to kick in.

Some of you, though, will immediately recognize this entry as just another foil that I am using to let Schrodinger’s Cat of of the box, dead and alive. Get over it.

By the way, I included the comments section to this purloined New Science blog entry because they just cracked me up, which is not that hard, as you know. For even more examples of the fine art of commenting, take a look at the responses that poured in when Boing Boing ran its own blog entry on this item, too.

Heading - Short Sharp Science

A science news blog from  Heading - NewScientist Blogs

October 31, 2008 2:01 PM

Multiverse machine.jpgThinking about the perfect Christmas present for your egocentric friends? What about a make-your-own-universe kit which will allow them to play God and create an unlimited number of new worlds. The kit goes on sale next month for $20.
The kit, created by Jonathon Keats – a conceptual artist from San Francisco – relies on the multiverse theory of the universe that arises from quantum mechanics.

If two events are possible, quantum theory assumes that both occur simultaneously – until an observer determines the outcome. For example, in Schrödinger’s famous thought experiment, in which his cat may have been killed with a 50 per cent probability, the cat is both alive and dead until someone checks. When the observation is made, the universe splits into two, one for each possible outcome. For example, Schrödinger’s cat would be alive in one universe and dead in the other universe.

According to the theory, any kind of measurement causes the universe to split and this is the basis of Keats’ new device. His universe creator uses a piece of uranium-doped glass to create a steam of alpha particles, which are then detected using a thin sliver of scintillating crystal. Each detection causes the creation of a new universe.

Given the rate at which Uranium decays, Keats’ claims this should allow users to create literally trillions of universes. The device will go on sale at the Modernism Gallery in San Francisco on 20 November.

David Robson
New Scientist intern

Categories: Physics & Maths


All comments should respect the New Scientist House Rules. If you think a particular comment breaks these rules then please let us know, quoting the comment in question.

The outer glass blocks alphas. UR DOIN

Look up spinthariscope, this is 100+ years

The scintillator will catch gammas occasionally

i’m in ur universe, pwning yur species

could you not just put a cat in a box and leave it there a while to achieve the same results?

Ah. More badly worded, misleading tripe. Shouldn’t anyone writing for New Scientist really, you know, know a bit about science?

By Andy Baker on November 1, 2008 11:02 AM
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