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Totally tubular

Potato, po-tah-to; any way you slice it, this week's Friday Five went up too late for me to post yesterday. Here, a day late, are the starchy questions and my responses:

1. What's your favorite dish in which potatoes are a supporting ingredient (and not the star)?
Shepherd's Pie. That said, I know it's possible to top a Shepherd's Pie with enough spuds to reverse the prominence of them and the meat. This was a favorite trick of my erstwhile spouse, and, for all I know, that's how it was routinely done back in the day when meat was harder to come by.

2. What is your favorite type of french fry?
Wedges, aka seasoned potato wedges, aka Western fries, preferably either from KFC or Royal Farms. Though we often refer to them as "Western" fries here in Maryland, I've heard people say that they're an East-Coast thing (what? No KFCs out West?). Anyhow, we're talking potatoes cut into wedges, then coated in a thin, seasoned batter, and then usually deep-fried. The Internet abounds with copy-cat recipes.

3. How did you last use a potato in your cooking?
I have not cooked a potato in forever (so, three years?). I was on Weight Watchers for over a year and a half and never found potatoes to be worth the "points" they cost, so I kinda dropped them from my diet. And even though I'm not doing the program anymore, I haven't re-incorporated potatoes into my home kitchen.

4. What's your favorite potato chip?
Salt and vinegar kettle chips. These are good. That said, if I'm going to be dipping them, plain Ruffles are fine.

5. What's a word you pronounce differently from the way most people around you pronounce it?
"News." I say "nyooz"; everyone I know says "nooz." It's only an issue when I'm directing a choir and I have to instruct them to do it my way so that we (1) all sound the same, (2) all sound correct.


I'm three days late on this, so no one will see it, but here are my responses to the most recent Friday Five:

1. What actor or actress would you like to see in a film genre he or she has never attempted?
I like it when comedians go serious, but I don't have a specific per--- Wait! Has Neil Patrick Harris played a straight-up dramatic lead in a film or on TV? It seems to me he's mostly been about the comedy, exaggerated character parts, self-parody, music, and the stage-y stuff. His out-sized, inherently ironic style seems particularly suited to the stage, so perhaps he's already gone serious there? Anyhow, I'd like to see him try it on film.

2. When did you recently see something beautiful in an unexpected place?
One should expect beauty everywhere, because that's the surest way to find it, right? That said, I sometimes get wowed by street art that comes out of nowhere when I'm walking in NY, but that's not a very specific answer. Hmm ... I'll get back to you.

3. In what way is someone you really admire flawed?
How about Michael Moore? I love his documentaries and his POV, but he can come across as a crackpot, and (based on the Q-and-A from the time I saw him in person) I don't think it's all "antic disposition."

Also, I have hero-worshiped a couple of authors, plus one actor, who I later found out cheated on their respective wives, which is a super-trigger for me. But I don't like to name them here, because they were all from a time when you didn't necessarily become famous for this (but I just happen to know about it, due to too much research).

And now there's Neil deGrasse Tyson. For a smart guy, he's not been so bright about women (and how to act around them so you aren't super-creepy/super-creepy-seeming -- whichever one it is).

4. In what situation did you recently find yourself utterly out of your element?
Before I saw the word "recently," I was going to say, "At my first job out of college, the cubicle one working for the Army. It was the worst, and I was the worst at it." But that was 35 years ago, so, in the words of the great Emily Litella, "Never mind."

But hmm ... recently? I currently have three jobs, and it feels like 90% of my waking time is divided among them, so I would have to have been doing something rogue during the other 10% in order to get myself into an unfamiliar (& therefore uncomfortable) sort of situation...

ETA: Okay, thought of something. Last weekend I played the piano for a Handel's Messiah sing-along. I was asked to do it by my old chorus, and frankly I figured it was because they were too poor to afford someone good. Now, don't get me wrong: I'm a decent general musician and an okay hack pianist, and I don't undervalue those skills in myself, but it takes something a little more to do justice to those stupid orchestral-reduction accompaniments. I expressed my reservations and was assured I was just what they wanted, so I said "yes." And the whole thing was fun and went all right, but I was correct: doing actual justice to it was beyond my hack skills.

I didn't name this at first because a Messiah sing-along really *is* my element, if any context is! However, musically, I was in over my head, and I only didn't feel super-bad about it because I'd discussed it ahead of time and am confident that I went in a known quantity to the group, whose director enthusiastically expressed her satisfaction with the concert immediately afterward.

5. What implement do you use in a manner unintended by its designer?
I've hemmed a skirt with duct tape, which may be one of the intended uses of the tape, but probably violates the intentions of clothing manufacturers everywhere. And I have used half of the long pointy things I own, including scissors and knives, as emergency back-scratchers.

The game's afoot (but not that way)

Given my Sherlockian proclivities, there's no way I'm not going to respond to a Friday Five prompt called "The Game's Afoot," even though it is mostly about walking (and I'm not much about any kind of physical exertion).

1. Where's a nice place to take a walk?
New York City, by which I generally mean Manhattan. Some of my favorite walks taken there in the past five years have included

2. What do your everyday shoes look like nowadays?
My work/church shoes are a pair of practical, squarish, black Clarks loafers that go with either a skirt or trousers (but which, alas, look like army boots when paired with a dressy dress). At any given time, I own two identical pairs, so it takes twice as long till they start looking shabby. They are comfortable and give great support (unfortunately, I can't marry them).

However, when I know I'm going to be doing serious walking, I don't wear my everyday shoes. Instead, the current walking shoes are a pair of Skechers "Shape-Ups" cross-trainers (the ones with the turned-up, "rocking" heel -- which, yes, I know doesn't *really* give your glutes the automatic work-out the ads promise). They *are* looking a little shabby, though, so it might be time to replace.

3. What separates a good pedicure from a bad one?
It's the quality of the calf & foot massage. The grooming part is gravy; the massage is the reason to go out and pay a stranger to touch your feet.

4. When did you last go for a hike?
Hahahahahahahaha. Unless you call my Manhattan treks hiking (and sometimes they feel that way), then I genuinely can't recall. 1991?

5. What's a good song with the word "walk" in its title?
Well, gosh. I *was* going to pick The Pretenders' weirdly ingratiating "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)," because, until I just now looked it up, I actually thought its title was "I Would Walk 500 Miles." Okay, then, others I like that *do* meet the qualification include

  • "You'll Never Walk Alone" (Rodgers & Hamerstein) -- This one's hard to sing well, IMO, and I'm frankly amazed at the number of recording artists who've taken a stab at it!
  • "Just a Closer Walk With Thee" (gospel hymn) -- A strong sentimental favorite (my grandfather loved it), but even when I listen "objectively," I'm in.
  • "Baby Elephant Walk" (Henry Mancini) -- Is it cheating to choose one without lyrics? I've loved this novelty instrumental since I played an E-Z version in piano lessons as a kid.
  • "Let's Take an Old-Fashioned Walk" (Irving Berlin) -- The break-out hit from from the ill-fated Miss Liberty, it's fun to listen to from the cast album because it shows what a good singer Eddie Albert was in his prime.
  • "I'm Walkin'" (Fats Domino) -- Do I need a reason? Some things are just insanely catchy.

What's that you say? You think those choices seem deliberately -- nay, perversely -- retro? Well, respond I, just whose blog did you think you were reading? ;-)

Up in the air

Today's Friday Five ask about my in-flight experiences. They are few and dull, but here goes:

1. How do you feel about passengers riding in front of you reclining their seats?
I don't love it, but I don't have long legs, so it doesn't ruin my flight or anything.

2. What single aspect of airplane flight do you dislike the most?
Duh. It's the knowing that you are up in the sky in a hunk of metal that gravity would just love to get its hands on.

3. What was your longest flight on an airplane?
My longest flights have all been standard transatlantic hops from some northeastern U.S. airport straight to London (the most recent of which was made in 1998). Oh, yeah, and back. Now, I'd've guessed they each lasted six hours at most, but when I just now looked it up, the Internet said that a flight to London comprises about eight hours in the air when you start in Washington, and seven & a half hours out of NYC. What's more, you're in the air a half-hour longer for the return journey!

That makes my longest flight, presuming that conditions were similar in 1985, about eight hours.

4. What's your favorite way to pass the time on a long flight?
Reading. Barring that, sleeping. In a pinch, conversation. Last choice would be a movie, since they usually aren't very good. (Remember, my last long flight was in '98. Back in the day, one film was shown to everyone; there were no individual selections or screens. I've heard it's spiffier now.)

5. What are the best and worst things you've eaten on a plane or in an airport?
Best: a SwissAir (London to D.C.) in-flight meal of salmon with hollandaise sauce & steamed veggies. Worst? Gosh, I don't remember ever hating an airline meal. Then again, I think I've only flown, like, about 20 times, and not all were flights with meals. And I don't tend to eat in airports -- too expensive.

Excuses, excuses

This week's Friday Five are all about excuses. My excuse for not putting up my answers on Friday is that the questions were not posted by the question-master until very late in the day. :-) Ready?

1. What was your excuse the last time you had to miss a social gathering?
Conflict with work, where in this case "work" is church, where I am the organist. I only get two Sundays off per year, so when an out-of-town (generally NYC) meeting or social (generally Sherlockian) that I would otherwise attend is scheduled for Sunday noon, I usually have to miss it. It has just happened this month, and it stings because we're talking about the semi-annual luncheon of the group I most enjoy meeting with.

2. What was your excuse the last time you arrived late to something?
The "something" was work, where in this case "work" is school, and I was late because of traffic. Thanks to smart phones, one can usually post something to Blackboard compelling the class to wait, and I did that.

3. What was someone else's excuse for recently inconveniencing you?
The new "third man" on my pub trivia team (aka my brother) forgot* to tell me he'd be out of town and couldn't play last week, so I didn't learn it until I happened to text him from the car (I wasn't driving) a half-hour before the game. Had I known sooner, I'd've looked for a sub, since Number Three Son hates to play as a duo. Luckily, we found a someone we knew at the pub, and our trio finished a respectable second. But I had to put up with an earful from Three.
* So, I guess "forgot" was the excuse. Or "too busy making travel arrangements to remember."

4. What’s a true explanation you wish you could have given (but didn’t) when you unintentionally inconvenienced someone else?
I got nothing. It's almost always traffic that messes me up, and if it's not, then the truer explanation is that I was too lazy or disorganized to leave my house on time. Why would I wish to confess that, ever?

5. What's something you wish you could be excused from right now?
I am posting this right before I leave for church, and, as I often feel on Sunday mornings, I wish I were financially secure enough not to need to be employed by my place of worship. I'm not saying that I don't want to provide music for worship on this particular day (I did it week after week as a volunteer for 30 years at my old church, so it's obviously something I like doing), but there are also a congregational meeting *and* a Christmas pageant rehearsal* scheduled for right after today's service that will eat my afternoon, and as an employee I'm not sure how it would be perceived if I just excused myself from those two things. Nevertheless, I have an adolescent kid still at home who will want lunch, a mile-high stack of papers that I ought to grade, and even a little housework that needs seeing to, so I am going to try.
* that I am not in charge of

"After ‘Im"

This week, I get the pun in the title of the latest Friday Five question set. Do you?

1. What improbable feat did you pull off this week?
I cleaned my kitchen, including clearing off my kitchen counter. It was a gargantuan task, and long overdue.

2. What will you do immediately following your completion of this post?
I will grade some papers in front of the TV and probably fall asleep.

3. In what way is your life lately imbalanced?
I simply have too much *in* it, and too much of the too much is connected to work (as in my jobs). To clean my kitchen the other day, I neglected some paper-grading, which put me so far behind that I couldn't whole-heartedly enjoy my newly sparkling kitchen.

4. What recent impulse purchases have you made?
I'm trying to do less of this, because my house is still too stuffed with stuff. That said, on a whim I went to eBay a couple weeks ago and searched on "Guareschi" (a long-time favorite author and the reason for many past impulse purchases). Turns out that while I wasn't paying attention in 2008, there was a postage stamp released (in Italy) to celebrate the centenary of his birth. Then, earlier this year, another was released in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of his death. I bought a birth stamp, and I'm sure I will go back for the other.

5. What immature behavior have you displayed recently?
I cried at some bad news. Not "death in the family"-level bad news; just "things didn't go my way" bad news. Baby.

Social capital

This week's Friday Five say they're about "Social Capital." I'm not sure I quite get that theme (or that I see any link between the questions)*, but that won't stop me from answering. Ready?

* Okay, now I know. Key words in bold/red.   
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In case you're curious

This week's Friday Five is a miscellaneous group of things the question-master would like to know. Read on to see whether you do, as well.

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A garbage heap of questions

Today's Friday Five invites one to coin some collective nouns. Without peeking at anyone else's first, here are my lame attempts:

1. What should be the collective name for accountants?
A balance of accountants.

2. What should be the collective name for cafe baristas?
A pull of baristas

3. What should be the collective name for tattoo artists?
A sleeve of tattoo artists.

4. What should be the collective name for people who vape?
A rudeness of vapers.

5. What should be the collective name for people in your profession or hobby?
A dialectic of philosophers. Or, better, an absurdity of philosophers.

The Distracted Woman's Daybook (52)

Here's what's up with me.

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"Poetry and Hums aren't things which you get, they're things which get you. And all you can do is go where they can find you." -- Winnie the Pooh (A.A. Milne)

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