Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Squid Eats: Parkway Diner

As discussed many times before, we love diners.  And yet, 22 years into the Vermont chapter of our lives, we hadn't visited one of our area's oldest establishments, Parkway Diner in South Burlington, until this month.  Now we've been twice in the past few weeks, once for breakfast, once for lunch.  It's quite a popular place, especially with young couples it seems - a popular morning after spot, perhaps?  We sat at the counter both times, all of the booths already taken.

The first visit was breakfast: waffle with a side of ham for me, 

breakfast sandwich for the child 

and eggs over easy for my wife.  

All was perfectly acceptable.  

However, the really exciting discovery was the patty melt on the lunch menu.  My wife, an Indiana native, has long bemoaned the lack of patty melts in New England.  So, we knew we'd be back.

Lunch: Parkway Club for me, 

the eagerly anticipated patty melt for my wife.  

My club was quite nice.  The Parkway includes both ham and turkey and the slices are thick.  The patty melt, unfortunately, was a disappointment.  It's not the diner's fault, really.  My wife said if she'd looked at the menu more closely - she was too excited for details - she'd have seen the problem and ordered something else.  Thousand island dressing was the trouble.

We'll undoubtedly go again.

Friday, January 26, 2024

Star Trek: The Search, Part II

Episode: "The Search, Part II"
Series: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Season 3, Episode 2
Original Air Date: October 3, 1994

via Memory Alpha

Garack episode!

In this second part of the story begun last week (though in a sense, the third part of a story begun with the Season 2 finale), Odo gets acquainted with his fellow changelings on his home world, as well as the full range of his own shapeshifting abilities.  Meanwhile, the gang back at the station comes to terms with the implications of a negotiated "peace" with the Dominion.  Kira is stuck in limbo, on Odo's world with him yet unwelcome herself and also struggling to establish communication so she can get away.

There's an "it was all just a dream" reveal at the end of the episode which, unfortunately, undercuts the entire narrative on the station including the Garak part of the story.  But Odo's adventure is deeply meaningful.  We see what he has lost and gained being away from his people for so long (for centuries, he's told).  We feel his pain in the difficult decision he must make in the end between protecting his discovered family on DS9 and regaining the deep sense of belonging he has found with the Changelings.  Odo's thread from here on out hinges on making this same choice over and over again.  For now, he makes the choice we would want.  Heartbreak is coming.

In the broader scope, the stage is set for a standoff between the Changelings/Founders and the Federation.  The Female Changeling leader (Salome Jens) makes it clear that there is a limit to the Founders' patience.  They will "create order" in the Alpha Quadrant.  It's just a question of when.

A cold war begins.

Acting Notes

via Wikipedia

Dennis Christopher plays the role of Borath, a Vorta official.  The Vorta serve as the Dominion's diplomatic/administrative arm while the Jem'Hadar fulfill military functions.  Christopher was born Dennis Carrelli in Philadelphia, December 2, 1950.  He attended Temple University but dropped out.  He went to Rome where he had a chance encounter with Federico Fellini, one of the most important directors in the history of cinema.  Fellini put Christopher in a movie, uncredited, and an unlikely success story began.

Christopher's breakthrough came when he scored the lead in one of my family's favorite movies: Breaking Away, for which he won a BAFTA.  I can't see the actor on screen without "Buon giorno, Papa!" ringing in my ear.  Other films include Fade to Black, Chariots of Fire and Django Unchained.  Television work has included recurring roles on Profiler, Angel and Deadwood.

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Squid Mixes: Silver King Cocktail

A Silver King Cocktail combines gin, lemon juice, sugar syrup, egg white and Angostura bitters.  I got my recipe from The New York Bartender's Guide.  It's not as sweet as some of the other egg white drinks we've tried - pleasant change of pace.  The bitters - just a dash - brings a welcome bite of spice, too.

Friday, January 19, 2024

Star Trek: The Search, Part I

Episode: "The Search, Part I"
Series: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Season 3, Episode 1
Original Air Date: September 26, 1994

Our heroes have a new weapon: the USS Defiant.  With the new threat of the Dominion looming, Commander Sisko has scored a warship.  It also gives our heroes long-range exploration capability, expanding narrative possibilities for the series as well.  Sisko wastes no time putting his new toy to good use, launching a mission to the Gamma Quadrant to find the Dominion.

"The Search" lays important groundwork not just for Season 3 but for the rest of DS9's run.  The Dominion will be the primary adversary henceforth.  As noted above, thanks to the Defiant, our friends are no longer limited to a guardian role.  They can be explorers, too.  Best of all, Odo's story takes off.  Among the DS9 principals, Odo's character thread is the most rewarding.  Up to this point, Kira and even Dax were still in the running but with "The Search," the constable's tale takes the lead for good.  On the station-front, there's a challenge to his authority when Starfleet brings in their own security officer, Michael Eddington (Kenneth Marshall).  Once in the Gamma Quadrant, Odo finds himself drawn to the Omarian Nebula.  He steals a shuttle and essentially kidnaps Kira to come with him to check it out.  They reach a rogue M-class planet.  On the surface, they meet Odo's people who welcome him home.

Now, there's a cliffhanger!

For Season 2, the producers challenged the writers to separate the new series from The Next Generation.  The charge for Season 3 was to build a sense of family.  It starts early in "The Search" as Jake and Ben discuss how they've come to see the station as home.  Later, Ben expresses a deeper love for Bajor than we've seen before as he states how determined he is to protect them, not the Federation, from the Dominion.  Finally, we see genuine warmth between Commander Sisko and Quark before they part on the Defiant, honestly concerned for each other's well-being.

Is Odo's discovery a threat to this sense of family?  We shall soon see.  Part II is next week.

Acting Notes

Salome Jens plays the Female Changeling who greets Odo on his home world.  Jens was born in Milwaukee, May 8, 1935.  She majored in drama at the University of Wisconsin and also studied dance with Martha Graham.  This is her second of many Trek appearances.  She was the ancient humanoid in "The Chase."

She made her film debut in Terror from the Year 5000 which later had the dubious honor of being featured in Mystery Science Theater 3000.  Other films include Angel Baby, The Fool Killer and Seconds.  Soap operas were good to her.  She had a 500-episode run on Love Is a Many Splendored Thing and a recurring role on the satirical Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.  She was Martha Kent on Superboy and also had recurring roles on L.A. Law and Melrose Place.

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Squid Mixes: Prado

A Prado combines silver tequila, lime juice, maraschino liqueur, grenadine and egg white with a lime slice to garnish.  I got my recipe from The New York Bartender's GuidePrado means grassy meadow or field in Spanish.

The result is very nice.  The grenadine brings the pink but the drink doesn't taste pink.  With the tequila and lime flavors dominating, the Prado is essentially a pink, foamy margarita.  

Friday, January 12, 2024

Star Trek: The Jem'Hadar

Episode: "The Jem'Hadar"
Series: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Season 2, Episode 26
Original Air Date: June 12, 1994

via Memory Alpha

As he sets out on a camping trip in the Gamma Quadrant with Jake, Nog and Quark, Benjamin Sisko's greatest worry is how he's going to endure the bartender's company for the duration.  Little does he know the journey will lead to an encounter with the Jem'Hadar, the soldiers of the Dominion.  While the Deep Space Nine gang has only heard general allusions to the Dominion, the Jem'Hadar know plenty about Starfleet.  

"The Jem'Hadar" is the season finale and it sets the table for many stories to come.  The Dominion, not the Cardassians, are the primary adversary for Deep Space Nine and they provide much of the narrative drive for the next five seasons.  The full implications of this initial encounter, especially in regards to Odo, are not yet apparent.  In truth, the total concept wasn't fully formed by the writing staff at this point.  

The Jem'Hadar demonstrate clearly that they are not to be taken lightly.  Their attack upon (and destruction of) the USS Odyssey was intended to demonstrate to the viewers that our dear Enterprise could provide no significant challenge for the new enemy.  In fact, there was talk of the Enterprise itself being destroyed in what would certainly have been a memorable crossover.  Goodness, how the future of the franchise might have played out differently from there!

Thoughts on Season Two

General Impressions

The producers told the writers that their job for Season 2 of Deep Space Nine was to set the new series apart from The Next Generation.  I feel they did a wonderful job.  DS9 brings quite a lot to the Star Trek party.  Sitting in the stew with one planet is new ground allowing for deeper understanding of the politics and culture of a single world.  Developing the characters of Odo and Dax provide new windows as well.  Most importantly, DS9 allows for greater moral ambiguity among the principals than we ever saw on NextGen.  Even more than the universe expansion, giving everyone more elbow room provides a much broader scope for storytelling.

Favorite Episode: "Necessary Evil"

Case in point, this story quite simply never would have been written for NextGen.  "Necessary Evil" is a flashback tale, a glimpse of Tarak Nor, the Cardassian name for Deep Space 9 before the Federation took control.  It's a noir mystery with Odo in the lead, a better one than any of Picard's adventures on the holodeck.  The ending, in particular, is decidedly new territory.  There is real damage between Kira and Odo with no promise of repair.  That never would have been allowed on the Enterprise.

Least Favorite Episode: "Rivals"

Chris Sarandon guest starring definitely seems promising.  Quark is conned by a conman who is then conned himself - sure, why not?  Unfortunately, Sarandon isn't charming enough to sell it.  There is a better secondary plot developing the Julian/Miles bromance.

Favorite Recurring Character: Garak

No one else is in the running.  I won't pretend otherwise.  In "Cardassians," Garak delivers the best line of the series so far: "I never tell the truth because I don't believe there is such a thing."

Wow.  Just, wow.

Favorite Blast from the Past: Three Klingon Warriors

In "Blood Oath," three Klingons from the original series return.  Kor, Koloth and Kang are out for vengeance.  Apart from some good Dax development, "Blood Oath" isn't the strongest episode.  But the basic fact of the reunion is fun.  Plus, Kor will be back.

Favorite Guest Actor, One-Shot: Cress Williams

via Memory Alpha

I admire an actor who can do a lot with a little.  In "The Jem'Hadar," Cress Williams plays the role of Talak'talan, the leader of the soldiers who capture Sisko and company.  He doesn't get much material but he makes the most of it.  His contempt for Sisko is palpable and natural.  Of course, it doesn't hurt that he's the rare actor, at 6' 5", who can make Avery Brooks look short.  And he moves beautifully.  The moment on Deep Space 9 when he steps out of the containment field as if it's not even there is downright badass.

via Living Single Wiki


Once again, the best is yet to come.

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Squid Perks: Lavender Coffee

In early October, I got a very exciting text thread from our child asking about lavender bitters.  

"Does it exist?" they asked.  "I've found I like lavender in coffee."

"Wow, are you ever my kid," I responded.

The Purple Penguin is now 20 years old.  They don't drink alcohol (beyond a few curious sips - or so they assure us) nor am I inclined to encourage them to do so before they're of legal age.  But as that is coming soon, I give a lot of thought to their general flavor preferences so I can offer a tailored celebratory beverage when the moment arrives.  As such, this exchange provided valuable information.

Yes, lavender bitters exist and no, I've never tried it.  Bitters are typically alcohol-based but syrups do not present such an obstacle.  So, there's no reason we can't start experimenting with lavender syrup now.  I picked up a bottle of Floral Elixir Co.'s product for our purposes.

So far, I have tried 25 ml, the Internet's recommended shot size, in coffee both with milk and without.  Lavender coffee recipes online are usually for lattes so while my general preference at home is black coffee (no fuss), it seemed reasonable to try it with milk any way.  In both cases, the result was pleasant - nothing overwhelming but pleasant.  I half-expected a soapy flavor due to early childhood lavender associations but there wasn't any.  

Despite the fact that they're the one who started the conversation, PP hasn't been overly eager to try it.  After they'd been home for a few days, I had to set the syrup bottle right next to the coffeemaker so they'd notice.  Kids...  Nonetheless, they did try and weren't overly thrilled with the result.  Too sweet.  However, they weren't averse to trying again sometime, with a lesser dose.

To date, this second attempt has not happened.

Oh well.  I certainly don't mind having a new flavor choice available and I'm grateful for a glimpse of their preferences.  I may yet seek out a bottle of lavender bitters in time for their birthday.

Friday, January 5, 2024

Star Trek: Tribunal

Episode: "Tribunal"
Series: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Season 2, Episode 25
Original Air Date: June 5, 1994

via Memory Beta

The O'Briens are going on vacation.  Unfortunately, en route, they are stopped by a Cardassian patrol.  Miles is arrested, charges unknown, and brought to Cardassia Prime.  As we know from earlier stories, criminal trials are mere formalities for the Cardassians, the accused already deemed guilty in advance.  In time, we learn that Miles is being charged with smuggling photon torpedoes to the Maquis.  His friends back at the station have to work quickly to prove he's been framed.

"Tribunal" provides our first meaningful visit to the Cardassian homeworld.  The repressive society is inspired by George Orwell's 1984.  As expected, the trial (based on Franz Kafka's The Trial) is a sham.  Truth and justice are irrelevant.  Instead, the exercise, broadcast to the masses, is orchestrated to bolster pride in the state.  Miles's Public Conservator (attorney) is not expected to prove anything.  Instead, he coaches his client through the theatrics: when to cry, when to beg for mercy, etc.  Thankfully, Odo elbows his way into the proceedings to provide what one would expect for a defense - or at least to stall long enough to make it to the Perry Mason-esque reveal that saves the day in the end.

Worthy of note: one quite reasonably expects that once Odo is on the scene, he'll use his shapeshifting abilities to help Miles escape but that's not how it pans out.  Of course, the Cardassian authorities would know of Odo's particular talents already so they might not provide the advantage they would under other circumstances.

The episode has a lot to recommend it.  There's meaningful development for Miles, Keiko and Odo.  The glimpse of Cardassia Prime is important.  Colm Meany gets to flex his thespian muscles.  The guest actors are strong.  It's also the DS9 directorial debut for Avery Brooks.

Acting Notes

via Wikipedia

Fritz Weaver played the role of Kovat, the Public Conservator.  Weaver was born in Pittsburgh, January 19, 1926.  He was a conscientious objector during World War II, working in the Civilian Public Service.  He started acting in the '50s.  

Weaver was especially successful on stage, winning a Tony in 1970 for his performance in Child's Play.  He also got a Tony nomination for The Chalk Garden in 1956.  In 2010, he was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame - I didn't even know there was one.  

Weaver's television career spanned four decades, particularly in science fiction.  Beyond Trek, he made guest appearances in The Twilight Zone (in both the '60s and the '80s), Night Gallery and The X-Files.  He was nominated for an Emmy for his performance in the miniseries Holocaust in 1978.  Films include Fail Safe, Marathon Man and The Thomas Crown Affair (1999).

Fritz Weaver was married twice.  He had two children from his first marriage.  He passed away in 2016 at the age of 90.

Thursday, January 4, 2024

On the Coffee Table: Frederick Douglass

Title: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
Author: Frederick Douglass

via Amazon

Frederick Douglass was born into slavery in either 1817 or 1818, official birth record non-existent.  More confirmable is the fact that he escaped to the North in 1838 and eventually became the most important writer and orator in the abolitionist movement.  Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass is one of three autobiographies he wrote and an essential vehicle for his long-term legacy, often assigned reading in American high schools.  

Douglass published the work in 1845 in response to white abolitionists who doubted his claims to a modest, self-educated past.  He pulled no punches in describing the horrors of slavery, including particularly graphic accounts of whippings he suffered and witnessed.  He deliberately left out details of his escape, not wanting to compromise the opportunities for other slaves to free themselves from bondage.

I first learned about Douglass in the second grade as part of our Maryland history unit which included several famous Black historical figures born in the state.  The only other two I'm sure were on the list were Harriett Tubman and Benjamin Banneker, though I can't imagine Thurgood Marshall wasn't included.  Medical pioneer Charles R. Drew was claimed though technically he was born in DC.  40 years on, I'm now struck by the fact that the two most famous escaped slaves - Douglass and Tubman - were both born on Maryland plantations.  Maryland - or at least Montgomery County, where I grew up - lives in denial of the fact that it is part of the American South.  Undeniably, it was both a slave state and a Jim Crow state.  So at least in terms of racial history, Maryland qualifies as southern.

With the American radical right eager to whitewash our nation's deeply racist history, it's more important than ever that books like Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass are read, especially in schools.

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

On the Coffee Table: Lisa Moore Ramée

Title: A Good Kind of Trouble
Author: Lisa Moore Ramée

via Amazon

Shayla Willows is starting the seventh grade at Emerson Junior High in southern California.  She manages all of the usual struggles of adolescence: awkward physical changes, evolving friendships, family dynamics, academics (though that part seems to come easily to her), etc.  She also struggles to find her racial identity, some peers telling her she's not Black enough.  Meanwhile, in the broader world, Black people are getting shot by police officers.  As a result, the Black Lives Matter movement becomes an important part of Shayla's journey.

A Good Kind of Trouble is rated "middle grade."  While it deals with heavy subjects like racism, murder and injustice, the material isn't graphic enough to require a move to the YA shelves.  It's not an obvious book choice for a middle-aged man but I enjoyed it.  It's a quick read.  I breezed through all 358 pages in under 24 hours.  I'm grateful for the honest and challenging perspective of a young person of color.  As both educator and world citizen, I need more of that.  

It's a hopeful story.  Shayla's struggles are painful but there are plenty of successes along the way.  She makes new friends and manages to keep the old (one is silver and the other...).  She discovers unexpected talent and grit when she joins the track team.  She finds both a place in her new community and a voice for protest and social change.  

Ramée alludes to, but never directly addresses, homosexuality and homophobia.  It is strongly implied that both a favorite teacher and Shayla's older sister Hana are gay, though the text never says so explicitly.  In fact, it's pretty clear Shayla doesn't see it in either case - more of a wink and a nod to the reader.  It's a tricky topic in today's publishing world, especially in youth literature.

Overall, it's a strong book, both readable and relatable.

Tuesday, January 2, 2024

Squid Mixes: Love Cocktail

A Love Cocktail combines sloe gin, lemon juice, raspberry syrup and egg white.  I got my recipe from The New York Bartender's Guide.

Initially, my wife found the drink a bit cough-syrupy.  Is it possible I forgot to add the lemon juice?  Sometimes, I measure things out and forget to add them and it's particularly likely with squeezed juice.  In this case, I stirred some in after the first tasting and it definitely helped.  So if I make it again, I either need to make doubly sure I add the lemon juice and maybe increase the proportion.

Monday, January 1, 2024

On the Coffee Table: Clouds of Witness

Title: Clouds of Witness
Author: Dorothy L. Sayers

Aristocratic amateur sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey is back.  This time, his own brother Gerald, the Duke of Denver, is suspected of murder.  Denis Cathcart, fiancé of their sister, Mary, has been found shot to death outside the family's hunting lodge in Yorkshire.  Gerald is discovered with the body and can't - or won't - provide a convincing alibi for where he was at the time of the shooting.  Lord Peter's investigations take him all the way to New York and back, unraveling several twisted tales of love and betrayal.  

In this, my third Wimsey book, I'm starting to piece together the essential differences between Dorothy L. Sayers's approach to mystery and that of the authors with which she's most frequently compared, namely Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie.  Unlike the others, Sayers didn't go in for the sensational, even occasionally contrived, solutions.  If anything, the whodunnit aspects of her stories are predictable and/or pedestrian.  She was more fascinated by legal process - coroner inquests, court trials and the like - than detective craft.  Social satire of England in the early 1920s drives her style and the sensational aspects of her books are presented more in this topical light: trans-Atlantic flight, the well-to-do dabbling in communism and opportunistic journalists and photographers fawning over Peter's celebrity.  

And brilliant as he is, Lord Peter's leading characteristic is still goofy.

There are some fun food elements, particular regarding the niche interests of this blogger.  19th century vintage wines are discussed, particularly an 1875 port that has gone off.  Peter has a charmingly cheeky view of cocktails:
"Well, well," said Mr. Murbles, beaming mildly, "let's make a start.  I fear, my dear young people, I am old-fashioned enough not to have adopted the modern practice of cocktail-drinking."

"Quite right too," said Wimsey emphatically.  "Ruins the palate and spoils the digestion.  Not an English custom -- rank sacrilege in this old Inn.  Came from America -- result, Prohibition.  That's what happens to people, who don't know how to drink," 

Unnatural Death is next in the series.