Monday, April 26, 2010

Beurre au Citron: Okay, THAT was ridiculously good!

The wee little John/Julia experiment continued this evening, with beurre au citron, a member of the "Hot Butter Sauces" family. To make beurre au citron, you reduce 1/4-cup of lemon juice, slowly whisk in a stick of cold butter one tablespoon at a time, and then beat in a bit of hot fish or vegetable stock at the end.

I had thought that sort of a lemon-butter sauce might go nicely over a nice slab of salmon, perhaps some pork cutlets, or maybe even some grilled tuna steaks. But we didn't have any of those things. I had a can of clams and some leftover asparagus that had been kicking around in the fridge for a few days. But I reckoned I could sautée the asparagus with an onion and some canned mushrooms, the clam juice could fill the "fish stock" role at the end of the beurre au citron recipe, we could serve the whole kit and kaboodle over some pasta, and we could call it dinner. And that way, I'd have given beurre au citron a whirl, and we could figure out what to do with it on another night, once we knew what we had.

It turns out that beurre au citron doesn't really need much more than an old can o'clams to be delicious.

Yeah, it was yummy. I mean, I expected it to be good, but it was really delicious. The sauce was creamy and tart, the sautéed veggies mixed in nicely, the flavors were light and complex, and ... frankly, the whole thing was just ridiculously good. And easy.

Oh yes, we're going to do beurre au citron again. Oh yes we will.

And if you're wondering, yes, Katie the Beagle does find clams with beurre au citron to be an acceptable post-dinner treat.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

No poem today, just a paragraph.

Whew. I don't have anything really blog-worthy to post here, but I want to say that after a long, long week, on a drizzly Sunday evening it's awfully nice to have a cute beagle to pet, and a lovely wife who is cooking a delicious casserole.

Not necessarily in that order.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Petalstorm

A line of rain squalls popped up unexpectedly
On that sunny April afternoon.
The squall line blew a stiff wind before it.
Then, as the sky turned dark,
The wind swirled down and into
The tall flowering pear trees
That form a line of their own
Outside our cubicle windows.

We walked to the windows
To watch the approaching storm
As the wind and the pear blossoms
Met outside.

The white petals of the trees
Lifted free,
Swirled up, then around,
Spinning and twirling,
Round and down and all about,
Tossing, turning,
Blowing before us in great clouds --
Vast churning clouds of white pear petals
That obscured the other suburban office buildings
That obscured the black pavement of the parking lots
That obscured the four-lane highway
Filled with commuters
Rushing to get home before the storm.

The petals swirled up and around.
The petals blocked all of that.
We stood at windows
Filled with wonder and delight
At the whirlpool of white
Dancing among new green leaves

Then, just as suddenly as the wind had blown in,
The wind stopped. The storm arrived.

The rain fell in sheets
That knocked the dancing petals to the ground
Where they gathered in puddles,
Swirled atop rivulets of stormwater,
Then rode tiny rushing streams
Along the parking lot's curbs,
And down the storm drains.

We looked out the window
At the grey rain that fell
Across the pavement,
Across the office buildings,
Across the four-lane highway
Across the commuters still rushing home,
Their windshield wipers flapping full speed.

Then we returned to our cubes.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Book Review: Julie & Julia by Julie Powell

As mentioned upstream, on the heels of watching the movie Julie & Julia, I came across a copy of the book Julie & Julia by Julie Powell at the annual used book sale at work. So I picked it up and gave it a read -- not just because I enjoy reading about horribly fattening foods, but also because I pretty much expected it to be a handy printout of the blog entries from her Julie/Julia Project.

The surprising thing for me was that it was much less a reprint of a year's worth of blogging about cooking all the recipes from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking than it was a personal memoir about the experience of blogging and cooking for a year. In that way, I suspect it made for a better read as a book ... less disjointed. Of course, it also made it a bit less immediate than a blog. We already know that she carries through with this whacky experiment, whereas her blog readers really had no idea.

The book itself was a quick, light read. Julie -- and you do feel you're on a first-name basis with her by the end -- does a good job of drawing you into the daily grind that made her try this crazy little experiment in the first place. And that makes it fun.

It also got me thinking about this wee little blog, which in its year-plus of existence has not developed thousands of followers, resulted in a flood of book advances, or inspired a movie. I do, however, have 27 fierce followers and I've already cornered the world Internet market on beagle haiku -- though I must admit that a near-monopoly on the world's supply of beagle haiku hasn't yet proven as lucrative as I hoped.

Frankly, that 27 of you have become regular followers is about 25 more than I expected. I kinda figured that Monique and my Mom would read it on occasion, and that I might acquire another reader or two for a post here or there. Now, if I post with any regularity I seem to get upwards of 50 or 60 hits a day, and there was a stretch there when I hit over 100 per day for a while.

To all of you I say this: click on the ads, will ya, people? Criminy, I blew the boat fund on the mortgage this Winter. I don't expect a movie with Meryl Streep, but there are Patio Boat repairs to be done. Help a brother out!

Oh, wait, did I type that into the blog and reveal my mercenary soul? ... Ah, the dangers of being a rather random stream-of-consciousness blogger. No matter, we press on. What I really meant to say was that I was thinking about was the different types of blogs there are out there. The Julie/Julia Project was a pretty good "stunt blog." It was a day-by-day recounting of a specific project with a goal and a timeline. In that way it kind of reminds me of another classic of the early days of blogging, The FAT Project: Who Can Gain 30 Pounds in 30 Days? from the, back in 2000 when it was a fun read. (i.e. Before Barnes & Noble bought it.)

In fact, when I look at all the truly traffic-drawing blogs, they tend to have a genuine focus of some sort, whether it's food, politics, or even the cast of characters you can find over at the Gettysburg Family. (As long as I'm being bossy, go click on some of Susan's ads, too. Raising four kids is almost as expensive as having a decrepit old pontoon boat.)

And so, I thought I'd take a look back at the last fifteen months of blogs here, to see what this blog is about. And you know what? When I go back and sample the 364 posts here, they have a genuinely astonishing erratic lack of focus. Heck, even beagle haiku only account for a mere 18.4% of the total!

Ladies and gentlemen, what we have here is obviously the erratic output of an erratic mind.

And so be it. I started this little thing up to do a better job of updating my friends & family about what I've been up to here in Michigan. And I think it's worked out pretty well in that regard. I also thought it might be good to get me back in the habit of daily ... well, near-daily writing. And its done that, too, despite a few dry spells. I'm pleased with how it's worked out for me.

But I do sometimes wonder ... how is this working for you, my readers?

Let me know if there's something you'd like to see more of. Or less of. Or whatever. I probably won't change or improve a thing. But I am kinda curious.

(Oh, and since this was really meant to be a book review, let's wrap it up as such.)

Summary: A fun read, whether you're interested in blogging, French cooking, or just tales of life in New York City.

Amazon: Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen (Hardcover); Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously (Paperback). (I read the paperback, which has a bit of an update at the end.)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Review Ragout -- Catching up on a few recently completed books

Well, heck, I meant to give these all their own reviews, but I'm falling behind in everything lately. So here are a few short summaries:

Blackout by Connie Willis -- Time-travelling historians travel back to cover World War II in England, and are accidentally trapped in the London Blitz, the Dunkirk Evacuation, and the V-2 attacks. I meant to write this up as a companion review to my review of On the Natural History of Destruction by W.G. Sebald, since this is explicitly a work whose setting includes the air raids, and I might yet do that. But in the meantime, rest assured that this is another good Connie Willis time-travel tale. It's also part one of two; the second novel doesn't come out until later this year.

Death in the Clouds by Agatha Christie -- A good, solid Poirot mystery with a nicely perplexing murder set in a 1935 flight from Paris to London. In addition to being a fun mystery, it's a good look at pre-World War II airline flights.

The Black Diamond Detective Agency by Eddie Campbell -- A graphic novel set around a train-bombing and robbery in 1899 with Pinkertons and gangsters. It was cool and evocative in spots, but a bit hard to follow in others. Not a great read, but kinda fun.

Kull: The Shadow Kingdom by Arvid Nelson and Will Conrad -- A graphic novel that collected up a Kull miniseries. Robert E. Howard's King Kull is the barbarian king who rose to the throne of Atlantis. He was Howard's pre-Conan barbarian hero, and Kull tales always seem to make an interesting comparison point with the adventure of the more famous Cimmerian. This Kull tale is a good, satisfying sword & sorcery read with a nice mystery, convoluted court intrigue, and sharp art by the always reliable Will Conrad.

Death Times Three by Rex Stout -- An interesting threesome of Nero Wolfe novellas that came to light after Rex Stout's death, and that hadn't been previously published in book form. A couple of them were rewrites of Wolfe stories that appeared with a greatly different plot. I believe I read this one long ago, but it was a bit hard to be sure, since I was familiar with the other versions of the rewritten stories. That made this an especially fun read for me.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling -- Fun! Fun! Fun! A collection of five short tales from J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter world. Here's a short review I wrote of the first tale, "The Wizard and the Hopping Pot” over on Dwarf Planet Press's web site. I'll try to catch up with reviews of the other tales there, too.

John & Julia Project Update

Day 2 -- Worry not, hollandaise sauce fans, not all the leftover hollandaise went to Katie the Beagle. Most of it went into the refrigerator, and we took good care of it today. For today's brunch I warmed up the sauce, added a bit of hot curry, and spread it on more poached eggs, tomato, and English muffins.

Unfortunately, in the midst of poaching and toasting, I slacked off the stirring and the hollandaise began to separate. So the hollandaise curry was a bit lumpy and a bit greasy.

Hey, gaining "a thorough familiarity with the vagaries of egg yolks under all conditions" ain't for sissies. And it was yummy, anyway!

P.S. In regard to Michelle's question about what culinary adventures would be underway if we'd seen "Ratatouille", even rat tastes good when it's smothered in hollandaise sauce!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The John & Julia Project

So, you might ask, "Why is Katie the Beagle enjoying hollandaise sauce and eggs for lunch today?:

It's all part of a brand new project here at Patio Boat central: The John & Julia Project.

You see, after the movie Julie & Julia inspired the scrambled-egg fest earlier this week, discussion of more yummy French food hasn't been far from the fore in these parts. And, in a bit of culinary synchronicity, I saw a copy of the book Julie & Julia at our annual used book sale at work, and picked it up. So, yummy French food has been both a discussion topic and a reading topic this week.

Naturally, all of this led to a new copy of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking making its way home with me last night. Of course, where aspiring blogger Julie Powell set an ambitious 365-day target for making it all the way through all 500+ recipes in the book, I reckon it'll take me about 20 or 30 years. We do have something in common, though. Where Julie was inspired to take the plunge by the angst created by a series of dead-end jobs and the approach of her 30th birthday, a rather embarrassing personal problem inspired me to take my mini-plunge.

I'd hate for this to get out in public -- this is just between you and me, gentle reader, right? -- you see, I have a personal issue that has created some angst for me over the years. It's just that ... well ... it's sort of shameful to admit, but ... um ... here it is:

Sauces have always been a bit problematic.

Mind you, it's not spaghetti sauces or chili sauces or that sort of thing. It's just that although I can put together a nice white cheese sauce or a gravy when I follow a recipe, my other cream sauces or reductions have a bit of a random quality to them. Usually they're yummy enough in the flavoring, but their texture is pretty random. And nobody -- especially me -- can ever predict their consistency.

This can not stand.

After watching the movie last week, I picked up a copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking at the book store, started leafing through it, and was immediately impressed by what a good teaching book it seemed to be, especially in terms of its mixture of theory and practical advice. Over the week, the memory of its easy-to-follow tutoring preyed upon the secret shame of my sauces until I was forced to buy it yesterday.

I don't really intend to master the full and entire art of French cooking. I just darn well intend to improve my sauce improvisation skills. And so -- armed with a goal and a tome first published in 1961 -- I decided to tackle the hollandaise family first, starting with today's brunch:

Book, tools, and ingredients in hand, I was ready to start.

Now here's the sort of thing that I'm talking about, in terms of the teaching nature of this book. This is from the first paragraph under the section on The Hollandaise Family:

It is extremely easy and almost foolproof to make (Hollandaise sauce) in the electric blender, and we give the recipe on page 81. But we feel it is of great importance that you learn how to make hollandaise by hand, for part of every good cook's general knowledge is a thorough familiarity with the vagaries of egg yolks under all conditions.

Okay, Julia. I eschew the easy-peasy blender hollandaise. I shall learn the vagaries of egg yolks.

The result? Poached eggs with hollandaise on English muffins. (I was originally aiming for Eggs Benedict, but I forgot to pick up any ham or Canadian bacon when I stopped by the store last night. Oh, how we suffer.)

It was yummy!

There was lots and lots of leftover hollandaise, plus some leftover egg whites, so we moved on to scrambled egg whites, tomato, and hollandaise sauce on English muffins:

More yumminess!

Then it was time to clean up, and Katie the Beagle came to make a suggestion.

Leftover egg-white crisps scraped from the frying pan, with hollandaise. (Perhaps we should call it Blancs d'Oeufs Frites, avec Hollandaise, to class it up a little bit.)

The Result? The most spoiled beagle in the world.

Alas, there's more work yet to be done with the hollandaise family before we can declare victory and move on to other sauces. We still have Hollandaise avec Herbes, Hollandaise avec Purees ou Minces, Hollandaise avec Blanc d'Oeufs, Sauce Mousseline, Sauce Chantilly, Sauce Maltaise, Sauce Vin Blanc, Sauce Mousseline Sabayon, Sauce Bearnaise, Sauce Choron, and Sauce Colbert to go.

Work, work, work. Hey, mastering the vagaries of egg yolks under all conditions doesn't come easy.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Take Me Out to the Ol' Ball Game

It felt a bit like playing hookie today. Monique accidentally bought tickets for today's Tuesday afternoon Royals at Tigers baseball game because she thought it was a night game. I had originally scheduled both Monday and Tuesday morning off from work for a couple of village meetings. My Monday morning meeting got out unexpectedly early, plus I had a couple of errands I needed to run downtown, so I took the 1/2 day I had planned to take Monday morning, moved it to Tuesday afternoon, and Monique and I planned to head down to the ol' ball game.

The thing that made it feel like playing hookie was that my village finance meeting for this morning was canceled. I'm sure I wouldn't have scheduled the day off just to go to the ball game. But I was pretty happy to have done so when my alarm clock went off this morning.

And what a morning greeted us. It was rainy, blustery, and in every way totally unsuitable for baseball. So, we were a bit uncertain if there would even be a game. But the forecast predicted that the rain would end by noon with the clouds clearing out a couple of hours later, the game started right on time, and soon we were eating a hot dog lunch at the ballpark. To make a long game short, Dontrelle Willis pitched about as badly as we've come to expect, but then after he left the game the Kansas City bullpen pitched even worse. Fast-forward to a 9th-inning save by Jose "The Big Potato" Valverde, and the Tigers had won a very exciting come-from-behind 6-5 victory.

How did Monique feel about it? She was dancin' in the stands!

Monday, April 12, 2010

My pores are oozing butter and cream ... and chorizo

Monique and I finally caught up with Julie and Julia last night. As expected, it was a very fun movie featuring acres and acres of lovely food. For those who don't know, the movie features two stories, the story of Julia Child (Meryl Streep) learning to cook French food and then writing The Art of French Cooking, and the story of a woman named Julie (Amy Adams) who sets out to cook every recipe in the book in the year, while blogging about it.

Let's face it, you can't watch a movie that features two hours of delicious French cooking without breaking out a bit more butter the next time you cook. And maybe a little cream. And possibly some extra cheese.

And so it was that tonight when I had some chorizo and huevos rancheros burritos in mind -- yeah, that's not French, but butter is universal -- I decided to adapt a wee scrambled egg recipe shown in one of the bonus features on the Blu-Ray disc. It's pretty simple: you melt some butter in a frying pan, toss in a few eggs, scramble, stir in some 1/2 and 1/2, and then grate in a bit of cheese at the end. Well, in a burst of Julia-Child-inspired enthusiasm I melted a lot of butter, stirred in a lot of 1/2 and 1/2, and grated in a lot of our favorite sharp Irish cheddar.

A lot.

It was entirely delicious, and the eggs plus some chorizo and some fried onion and green pepper made for a delightful burrito.

However, in retrospect I can see that the book The Art of French Cooking is a subversive tome every bit as dangerous as The Anarchist's Cookbook. Our house looks like a casualty ward right now. Monique is slumped in a butter-induced coma on the couch, too logy to press the buttons on the TV remote. Katie the Beagle enjoyed just a smidgeon of the leftovers, but is now curled on her perch as her snores make her now-bulbous beagle belly rise and fall.

And I, your humble correspondent, am sitting here, my pores literally oozing butter and cream ... and chorizo. That Julia Child was one dangerous, dangerous lady.

IMDB: Julie and Julia.
Netflix: Julie and Julia.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Signs of Spring

Easter baskets!


Katie the Beagle gets so warm basking in the Sun that she moves to the shade!

Trip Report: Detroit, Glens Falls, Boston, Glens Falls, Pottersville, Clifton Park, Glens Falls, Detroit.

Okay, a quick update on the rest of my road trip, with perhaps a few photos thrown in for good effect.

I drove out to Glens Falls on a Friday, and arrived around 10 pm or so. In addition to the lovely 40+ mpg mileage, the Honda Civic Hybrid has another great feature for long road trips, a stereo with XM Radio and a connection for my iPod.

On Saturday I had a nice visit with my Mom and my stepfather Dick. I made a successful delivery of some yummy chocolate-chip cookies that Monique cooked up, as well as a much belated birthday present for Dick: a very interesting book called The Big Burn, which is about a huge forest fire in 1910 that led to the creation of the National Forest Service.
Dick reading The Big Burn.

It was a nice, relaxing day. My sister Katrina stopped by for a while, and my Mom and I went to the Glens Falls Farmer's Market at the Methodist Church, then went to a display of American Impressionists at the Hyde Museum.

I have no photos of the Farmers' Market or the art display, but here's a link to the Northeast Corner Herb Farm in Fort Ann, NY. I bought a jar of their Ginger-Rhubarb soft-set jam, and it made an entirely and completely delicious glaze for the pork roast that Monique and I cooked the next weekend for Easter Dinner.

Saturday night I resisted the extreme temptation to go out drinkin' with Vernon Fuss (who had noticed I was in GF from my Facebook update) and had a nice, quiet evening at home because I had to get up early and drive off to Boston. Sunday was taken up with the drive to-and-from Boston for our fantasy baseball draft, plus the draft itself.

On Monday I drove up to Pottersville and visited my Dad for a few hours. Unfortunately, his wife Elena had to zip off to work shortly after I got there, but she left behind a delicious pot of bear borscht. However, left to our own devices Dad, Ariel (the visiting daughter of one of my Dad's friends) and I dug into the large pot of bear borscht with much glee.

I feel I should take a moment to explain to my non-Adirondack readers that the "bear" in "bear borscht" is not a metaphor or a clever recipe title. The recipe for bear borscht starts like this:

Step 1) Kill a bear.

There are lots and lots of steps afterwards, but the result is a delicious and savory stew that tastes just right when topped with a dollop of sour cream on a blustery March afternoon.

We also went out to cut a bit more firewood. My Dad has a clever firewood storage facility. He calls it, "the trees out back."

Here, we finally have a few more photos:

Ariel proves to be camera shy, while my Dad gets the chain saw ready.

The stream behind my Dad's house.

Adirondack loggers. Okay, one genuine Adirondack logger. The junior member of this woodcutting firm is strictly an Adirondack occasional firewooder.

And with a haze of blue smoke, we're ready to cut!

John Henry may have been a mighty rail-driving man, but I'd put my old man up against him any day in a woodsplitting competition.

After leaving my Dad's I took the scenic route and drove back to Glens Falls by way of Hague and Lake George:

The view back up the Schroon River valley.

Fog sweeps in across a frozen pond.

A dark, cloudy March day on Lake George.

... and that was pretty much the end of the blog-worthy parts of my visitation. On Tuesday I went down to my company's Clifton Park office and worked a day, then drove back to GF and drafted up my second fantasy baseball team. Wednesday I drove home.

So, it was just a quick visit, but I'm glad I made it. Monique and I didn't get out to Glens Falls for Thanksgiving or Christmas this year, which meant that it had been since last Summer that I had visited my folks in New York. Ideally, I would've liked a longer visit that gave me a chance to see a lot more folks. But since my original plan was to drive to Glens Falls on Saturday, drive to Boston and back on Sunday, drive down to Clifton Park for a 1/2-day of work on Monday morning, and drive back to Detroit on Monday night, I'm glad I took a couple days off work to at least do what visiting I could do.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Post That My Sister Susan Demanded!

Hello, blogosphere.

Did you miss me?

As noted by my snarky sister, things have been a bit quiet on the ol' Patio Boat the last couple of weeks. The blame can be set squarely on a combo platter of work, village business, travel, springlike weather, and a brief bout of illness -- with a side-order of two fantasy baseball drafts.

But are these feeble excuses good cause to deny you your (almost) daily dose of ... well, whatever it is that I dose you with? Eh, they'll have to do.

In any case, I'll try to catch back up with events of the last couple of weeks and get back to some more regular posting.

But first, it's the annual post that I know Susan has been anxiously awaiting: the unveiling of the rosters for my two fantasy baseball teams.

Let's start with your 2010 Adirondack Black Dogs. This is the keeper-league team that my brother Mike and I have co-owned for quite a few years in the New England Pine Tar League. The league is one that was started by the pharmacists in the Boston hospital in which he worked before he and Cathy moved out to Wyoming. That move has presented us with a logistical challenge for the last few years because you're supposed to attend the annual player auction in person.

Since there was no way Mike was going to make it to Boston from Wyoming to do our draft this year, I drove out to the draft from Detroit.

Yes, I drove all the way from Detroit to Boston to select players for an imaginary team. My geekiness knows no bounds. (I also took advantage of it as an excuse to swing by Glens Falls for a quick visit, but that's a story for a future post.) Alas, that didn't even win me the award for "travelled furthest to get to the draft" because one guy flew in from California.

Can I prove that I drove out to Boston for this thing? How can you the skeptical Patio Boat reader be assured that I'm not making all of this up, since any sane person born after 1875 or so would've just called in on the telephone?

I present you with photographic evidence, straight from the Dockside Bar in Wakefield, MA. (Curiously, the Dockside Bar isn't located anywhere near a dock, as near as I can tell.)

Indeed, we did have the Tennessee-Michigan State NCAA tournament game on a TV right in the middle of the rosters. As the only Detroiter in the room, I'm sure this was a conspiracy aimed directly at me.

Who says that fantasy baseball's a game for nerdy middle-aged men?

Your faithful bidder. I wore the "Approved by the Comics Code Authority" t-shirt, so that nobody would think I was too nerdy.

Equipped with laptop, cheat sheets, wifi access for the iPod Touch, I rostered ... um, some baseball players. Mike and I spent all of last year rebuilding this team after a 2008 disaster, so we expect to compete for the title this year. Here are the fine gentlemen who will be representing all things Adirondacky or Black Doggish in 2010 (at least until I trade them away for shiny trinkets and beads.)

Ladies and Gentlemen, your 2010 Adirondack Black Dogs:

C Napoli, Mike (LAA) - A power-hitting catcher.
C Shoppach, Kelly (TAM) - Another power-hitting catcher. A trend emerges at our catcher position. The discerning analyst will note that "a catcher who actually plays" isn't included in either description.
1B Cabrera, Miguel (DET) - Supposedly sober this year. I'm not sure if that will turn out to be a good thing.
3B Kouzmanoff, Kevin (OAK) - The alliteration of his name is probably better than his hitting.
1B/3B Wigginton, Ty (BAL) - Eh, we didn't pay much for him.
2B Izturis, Maicer (LAA) - If anybody knows how to pronounce "Maicer", please send us a note.
SS Pennington, Cliff (OAK) - Marginally faster than Cliff Claven.
MI Sizemore, Scott (DET) - A Detroit rookie that I paid too much for. This is why I couldn't afford any Red Sox for Mike. If he doesn't like it, he can stop using lame-ass excuses like "working 60 hours a week while completing his PharmD degree and taking care of a new baby," and haul his butt out to the next draft!
OF Crawford, Carl (TAM) - He's really, really fast.
OF Podsednik, Scott (KC) - Also really, really fast. Alas, that we usually only see his speed when he's running back to the dugout in shame after yet another strikeout.
OF Cruz, Nelson (TEX) - He's not really, really fast, but he is powerful.
OF DeJesus, David (KC) - He's not fast, but he makes up for it with a lack of power.
OF Sweeney, Ryan (OAK) - Like a slower, weaker David DeJesus.
OF Pie, Felix (BAL) - Mmmn ... pie.

P Baker, Scott (MIN) - A team with Pie needs a Baker.
P Hughes, Phil (NYY) - An utter failure as a starter in 2009. I had to find out if he could do that twice.
P Hochevar, Luke (KC) - Was even worse than Phil Hughes in 2009. Maybe that means he'll be better than Hughes in 2010.
P Price, David (TAM) - The Price was right!
P Porcello, Rick (DET) - A really good Tiger pitcher.
P Bonderman, Jeremy (DET) - Um ... also a Tiger pitcher.
P Gregg, Kevin (TOR) - I didn't really mean to get him, but ended up with him because I accidentally bid too much. Naturally, he's been our best pitcher so far this season.
P Valverde, Jose (DET) - Has already had his first blown save for the Tigers this year. The first of many, I'm sure. Man, I wish blown saves were a category in our league.
P Bailey, Andrew (OAK) - Within 12 hours of getting him, we found out that he had "tennis elbow." This guy is so bad that he's getting injured for the wrong sports!

We also pick some minor-league reserves in that league, too. So here's a list of six guys that you've never heard of:

1B Smoak, Justin (TEX)(R)
SS Beckham, Tim (TB)(R)
SS Triunfel, Carlos (SEA)(R)
C Tyler Flowers (ChW)(R)
LHP Mike Montgomery (KC)(R)
OF Ben Revere (Min)(R)

How is this motley crew doing so far? Five days into the season they're in first place by more than 25 points. This can only be seen as ironclad evidence of my superlative genius. Anybody who claims it's just an early season statistical anomaly is entirely and completely wrong.

But yes, dear reader, you noted that I said I had two fantasy baseball drafts, and no doubt you're anxious to know about the second team. The second team is in a league called the Baseball HQ Forum Masters league, which is made up of an assortment of guys who post on the forum boards at the Baseball HQ web site. What are we masters of? Mostly fast typing. But the other owners are pretty sharp rotisserie baseball players, and the league includes a few guys who have even been paid to write about fantasy baseball. That makes it about as close to an "experts league" as I'll likely ever get, so I'm inordinately proud to have won this league once and to have finished in the top-three in three of the four years that I've been in the league.

The draft itself is an online draft, so I could've done this one anywhere. I extended my wee visit in Glens Falls by another day, broke out my trusty laptop, and drafted from the dining room table at my folks house -- not ten feet from the porch in which we drafted teams for my very first fantasy baseball league back in 1991.

So, without further adieu, I present your 2010 Mirthful Mergansers

C Martinez, Victor (BOS) - Really, Mike should co-own this team not the Black Dogs, since I at least managed to draft a member of the Boston Red Sox for the Mergansers. By the way, if you're wondering how Mike views my failed attempts to secure a Red Sox for the Black Dogs? He has already classified my efforts in that league's auction as "an utter and complete failure" ... "a pox upon fantasy baseball and Red Sox Nation" and "a disgrace to all things Adirondacky or Black Doggish."
C Mauer, Joe (MIN) - My #1 pick. An injury-prone catcher. Oh sure, I could've gotten somebody healthy. But what fun is that?
1B Helton, Todd (COL) - First base is traditionally a power-hitter's position. Let's call this an untraditional pick. He makes me yearn for a return of the Steroid Era.
3B Rolen, Scott (CIN) - Kinda like an older and weaker Todd Helton.
3B Kouzmanoff, Kevin (OAK) - It's true. I loves me some alliteration at the hot corner.
3B Glaus, Troy (ATL) - Hasn't played a big-league game since 2008. I like to think he's well rested.
2B Roberts, Brian (BAL) - Is already injured after four games. That certainly reduces the stress I expected to feel this year while I waited for his inevitable injury.
SS/3B Tejada, Miguel (BAL) - Yes, my middle infield consists of two old Baltimore Orioles. This can't possibly work out well for me ... or for Baltimore.
SS/3B Peralta, Jhonny 3B (CLE) - Every team needs the son of dyslexic parents.
OF Lind, Adam (TOR) - May actually be good. Obviously has no place on this roster.
OF Victorino, Shane (PHI) - I thought "Victorino" would evince thoughts of "victory". Then after I picked him I found out it means "little victory." Maybe this means we should aspire for third place.
OF Damon, Johnny (DET) - Well, he used to be good when he was younger.
OF Jackson, Austin (DET) - I figured I had already taken one Yankee cast-off with Damon, so why not go for two?
OF Hunter, Torii (ANA) - I thought this pick meant I had drafted several players named "Torus". It turns out I just got an injury-prone Anaheim Angel.

SP Baker, Scott (MIN) - That's right, his frequent pitching meltdowns are going to cause me double indigestion because he's on both teams.
SP Duchscherer, Justin (OAK) - Best known for having a name that is very difficult to spell. Usually Duchscherer's frequent injuries leave his fantasy owners depressed. Last year he was so injured that he got depressed, too, and so missed the second half of the year with clinical depression. We have a word for that sort of pitcher on our team. We call him our "ace."
SP Halladay, Roy (PHI) - Is actually good. I must have pressed the wrong button.
SP Hughes, Phil (NYY) - Another pitcher on both of my teams. The Yankees decided to keep him active, but to not let him pitch for the first two weeks of the season. This may be a good thing because it limits the damage he can do to my statistics.
SP Kennedy, Ian (ARI) - Joining my Yankee castoff batters, a Yankee castoff pitcher.
SP Pavano, Carl (MIN) - Not so much another Yankee castoff pitcher as he is a "Yankee upchucked and violently ejected with the vomitous sounds" pitcher.
SP Wilson, C.J. (TEX) - Has yet to pitch well enough in the major leagues to earn a name, so he has to make do with initials until he does better.
RP Frasor, Jason (TOR) - The winner of the "closer most likely to get traded to some other team, where he will get demoted to a setup role" competition. When I found that out I thought, "I just have to have THAT guy."
RP Bailey, Andrew (OAK) - Yes, the same injured pitcher that I have on the other team. After I picked him for THIS team it was revealed that he had microfracture surgery and artificial cartillage injections over the Winter. The only reason that I can think of for picking him on both teams is that I must have great faith in Obama's health care reform.

These other guys probably won't play much, but I thought I'd comment on their stinkiness, anyway.

1B Branyan, Russell 1B (CLE) - Hit 31 HRs last year, and then got hurt. He's starting this year hurt, so I figure the principles of reflectivity mean that he'll hit 31 HRs after he comes back.
3B Gordon, Alex 3B (KC) - Look, another pre-injured corner infielder!
DH Thome, Jim DH (MIN) - The guy who isn't injured. He also isn't playing very much. But at least he isn't injured.
SS Pennington, Cliff (OAK) - Having him on both teams means that it'll hurt twice as much when he gets sent back down to the minors.
SP Kawakami, Kenshin (ATL) - Has so far proven that he's a bad pitcher in Japan and in the United States.
SP Liriano, Francisco (MIN) - Was really good back in 2006. I mean, he was really, really good back in 2006 ... before the elbow surgery.

How is this motley crew doing so far? Five days into the season they're in seventh place. This can only be seen as an early season statistical anomaly.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

One little dog thinks that Schulz had the right animal for Easter

Katie the Beagle
Objects to holiday. Why?
The Easter Bunny.