Monday, April 05, 2010

Dead Kennedys

Seen on the commute this evening.

Colonel Conk moustache wax: $5.99
Genuine Stetson cowboy hat: $149.95
Audi S4: $45,000
Driving around Massachusetts with a Texas vanity plate that never, ever would have been allowed by the Commonwealth's Registry of Motor Vehicles: Priceless

Mary Jo Kopechne Chappaquiddick Ted Kennedy

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Belting My Kids (into the Land Cruiser)

After our experience last summer with our Utah Land Cruiser, we decided that we liked it so much that we would get rid of our supremely useful Honda Odyssey and replace it with a Land Cruiser. My honey feels that she has better visibility than in the van, and I feel very confident that this is a safe vehicle for my family to be trucked around in (see here). After a lot of research, we settled on the purchasing an FZJ80. You can read lots more elsewhere on the Internet about the intricacies of Toyota Land Cruisers, but I'll say here that many people think that the FZJ80 is the best LC ever. It was the last LC with a solid front axle (and serious off road performance stock), but it also has a reasonably powerful engine and a luxurious leather (not Corinthian, unfortunately) interior. We looked around for a while and found a 1997 LC that was really nice. It had been well taken care of and had been well maintained. The difference between this vehicle and the 1991 FJ80 is remarkable. Although they are very similar, the newer LC feels like a vastly more modern vehicle. Funny what some extra power, leather, and soundproofing can do.

The one shortcoming of the FZJ80 relative to the FJ80 is that the newer truck came with only 7 seat belts rather than the 8 in the FJ. For most people, this is not important, but we seem to use the 8th seatbelt a few times per week hauling kids and friends around. Interestingly, the two vehicles' seats are identical--it's just that Toyota took out the center lap belt in the third row seat in the final years of FZJ production. My understanding is that this was done because the US government began requiring shoulder belts, and this would have required some expensive engineering in the final year of a dying model. After some detective work, I found that the seat frames in the third row are identical to the ones in the older model. So I felt confident that it would be safe to back date our LC's seats, and I ordered a lap belt set from . Unfortunately, there are no brown seat belts available anywhere in the Toyota parts network anymore, so I settled for a grey one. It bolted right in to the third row seat, and now we have a Toyota original third row seat that holds three people.

Here are some photos:

Folded up the rear seats and unscrewed plastic cover on the seat stand.

Here is the Grade 8 bolt that holds the receiver (the part with the buckle) of the left side shoulder belt. I will take out this bolt and use it to hold two receivers--the driver's side shoulder receiver and the new receiver for the middle belt.

Here's my little helper using ratchets and screwdrivers on anything he can find. Nice shoes, kid.

Here are the two seat belts with the one bolt passed through them. I didn't need a longer bolt--Toyota didn't even put in a shorter bolt when they took out the third seat belt.

I did the same thing on the other side, replaced the plastic covers, and Voila! Here's the finished product. It works great:

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Acorn-Fed Free Range Rodent (censored for the squeamish)

In the last few years I have solidified my position as a carnivore. I don't really like steak THAT much, truth be told. I am committed to the IDEA of being a carnivore more than I am actually in love with the taste of red meat. Vegetarianism is great, don't get me wrong. Some of the people I love and admire most are vegetarians. But for me, somehow I feel that it is important for me as a homosapiens to pay a visit periodically to the food chain, if only to show it and my body that I do, in fact, still reside at the top. Doing otherwise would feel like letting down my ancestors who spent millions of years sharpening sticks and bringing down mastodons. Look, I never said I was normal. And the world would be a sad place without In-N-Out burgers, bacon, and chicken tikka masala.

My buddy D sees life the same way, I think. I know that we have both worried that our kids only have a vague idea that their chicken nuggets and Chinese beef and broccoli have their origins in an animal somewhere (not the broccoli, duh), but the connection is not clear. And if you are a regular reader in this space, you know that there is a glut of healthy, acorn-fed squirrels living in the oak trees in my yard. When D's wife H announced that she was hosting a Harry Potter party a few nights ago, D and I thought it would be a great idea to harvest one of the squirrels and serve it to the guests. Here's the documentation.

Before you read on, know that I have replaced the more gruesome photos with a cute book cover from Amazon. If you would like to see the real photo, you can click on the photo and you will see an enlarged photo of the real thing. Viewer beware--some of the photos show the insides of the animal. Also, you should know that the little fella passed on to the big oak tree in the sky quickly and quite painlessly. He lived a happy life right up until the last twenty seconds, when a foreign object traveling about 700 FPS passed through his liver and spine before leaving his body, with a spade handle finishing the job.

On with the show....

Shortly following the death, I put him in a freezer bag and buried it in the snow while I waited for D to come over and start the butchering.

D removing the squirrel from the bag.

The future meal, ready for what comes next.

Little pitch for my sweet knife here. It is a Spyderco Military S30V, a really beautiful and useful knife. Its open design allowed for easy and thorough cleanup after the job documented here. D Made a cut under the tail that didn't get into muscle or the digestive tract.

With that cut made, he stepped on its tail, grabbed it by the hind legs, and pulled. This essentially started to peel the squirrel's shirt up and off.

Shirt almost off...

Shirt off entirely (except for head).

Head and pelt removed and thrown away. We think the wound created a hernia, and in the final seconds some of the digestive tract tried to get out.

Checking the liver for spots. This is very important in assessing the squirrel's health. Spots would be a sign that we need to throw the squirrel away and wash our hands. This guy was very healthy apart from for the aforementioned hole in the liver. Notice the full stomach. It's the greenish balloon.

We cut open the stomach to show young E, who has expressed interest in the surgical arts as a career. Full of acorns and scavenged Iggy's bread. Healthy little dude. He had some fat stores, too.

Two legs ready for the frying pan.

Look closely and you can see the major blood vessels. No angioplasty needed here. Apparently eating acorns and chasing female squirrels around all day is a healthy lifestyle.

Brought the meat in to wash it in the sink. That's not dirt around the claws--it's residual fur. Feet were cut off and discarded.

D with the meat in a bag of ice and salt. Notice curious, curiously untraumatized, 8-year-old looking on.

We made a reduction of Trader Joe's concentrated chicken broth, white cooking wine, a splash of olive oil, and a few drops of Tabasco sauce. (Notice the brownies. They had to wait their turn.)

The legs going in.

Brazed legs on both sides, got nice caramelization from the reduction and meat before the slower cooking started.

Splashed some water, covered, and turned down the heat in order to cook through.

Hind legs took longer to cook through--they are thicker. The meat turned out beautifully. I feel that this cooking job respected the squirrel.

Eager kids(!) lined up for a bite of squirrel.

G's first bite. Squirrel on a toothpick? Who woulda thunk it?

The delectable R holding a leg.

Chewing it. It was very good. Best description is dark turkey meat. The reduction was heavenly, if I do say so myself.

The lovely L getting ready to tuck into a leg, as the Brits say.

Young A, with parents away in San Diego, tried squirrel for the first (and last?) time. And liked it.
G, laughing on the inside as a munches rodent.

G doing his best impression of Morrissey eating squirrel. Meat is Murder, dog!