NaBloPoMo wrap-up

November ends today, bringing NaBloPoMo to a merciful end. I know Elli found it a trial, and I’m a little bushed myself. November is always a rough month in the academic world, which is why I gave up NaNoWriMo some years ago. NaBloPoMo is easy by comparison… but only by comparison.
Elli and I both made it! I’m particularly chuffed to have met my goal during a month which also held:
– two six-page papers on Renaissance poetry
– one in-class exam, and another one this week
– five hours in the library bent over the Oxford English Dictionary
– one fifteen-page thesis first draft on Colonial foodways
– course reading, between 150 and 300 pages weekly
– fifty or so off-syllabus texts for research purposes, to say nothing of the time mining the library stacks and catalogs to find them
– two, count ’em, two family Thanksgivings
– two bouts of near immobility due to back pain
To Elli, and to any other NaBloPoMo participants within earshot (blogshot?), a hearty congratulations and a no less hearty PHEW!
Expect me to drop off the face of the blog for a wee little while; all my projects come due in one terrifying lump next week.


Can I eat this, NaBloPoMo 2008 edition

Once again, it’s time to visit the odd, unofficial category of questions that forms my favorite subset of the Ask Metafilter archives. Yes, it’s the “Can I eat this?” category! (Previously on macbebekin.) In this round, we see such subjects as:

cheese, a perennial favorite in Can I eat this? territory
– “[T]his particular block of Swiss cheese… has been in my fridge for 2 years. Yes, 2 years. It was a joke that’s not funny anymore. Anyways, is the cheese safe to eat? The visible discoloration is worrisome.” Mmmmm, worrisome!
– “I left my blue cheese in the fridge for a month – will eating it kill me? It’s moldy already, right?”
– “… a mozzarella block, loosely wrapped in plastic with an exposed end, a block of parmesean (same wrap situation), and a tub of fresh mozzarella in olivine. It was left out for approxamately 20 hours. Is any of it recoverable for tonight’s pizza?”

– “…instead of tasty yellow artichoke hearts, I have thorny stuff and furry stuff.”
– “There is a small pile of garden zucchini that has been sitting on the kitchen counter for about two months, right between the sink and an always-open window (to let in the Cleveland summer). Should I eat it?”

– “Can severely freezer-burned chicken be ‘rescued’?”
– “How long can chicken be frozen and remain good (as in not dangerous) to eat?”
– “So I know you aren’t supposed to brine a butterball turkey, but I’ve already bought the turkey and all the brining stuff, what’s the worst that can happen?”
“Has my turkey expired? Should i not deep fry this bird?”
– “Would it still be safe to make a soup today from Christmas turkey leftovers?” It boggles me how many people think suspect leftovers are rendered safe in a soup, as if boiling the hell out of spoiled meat destroys the toxins. PSA: It does not. Typically, the toxins in spoiled food are a by-product of bacteria, and not vulnerable (as bacteria is) to heat.
– Happily, the responders to this question knew that. The poster describes how he made a pot of chicken stock on Monday, then “forgot about it. Yesterday (tuesday) came and went, and it is still sitting on the stove. Today is Wednesday. If I boil it again for a bit of time, will it be ok to eat?” The overwhelming response? Oh my sweet lord, no, and one poster kindly linked to the wikipedia entry on heat-stable enterotoxins, which survive up to 100 degrees Celsius.

smelly pork
– “Bad pork or just a bad smell? Opening the bag, the pork smells horrible, sorta like rotten eggs. Rinsing it off reduced but did not eliminate the smell.”

– “For how long does fatty pig skin stay good in the fridge?”
– “How long will an opened tin of goose fat last in my fridge, assuming that I cover it with cling film and treat it with the respect that it so richly deserves?”

sauces and savories
– “How does pesto go bad? Will it silently kill me?… Will I just get some gas? Hallucinations? Or should I put on my coat and start walking to the mortuary while I can still get there on my own?”
– “[T]he label on the olive salad recommended that the jars be kept refrigerated even before opening them. [But] I didn’t have a refrigerator in my hotel room for my 7 day stay in Vegas.”
– “BotulismFilter: Should I eat this? I put some sun dried tomatoes in a jar and covered them with olive oil… My friends suggested that it might be a bad idea to eat them because they’ve been sitting in a jar in my pantry for six months. I think that the olive oil makes them safe. Somehow.”

luxury foods
– “Is there anyway that I can refridgerate [this $40 appetizer of pastry-wrapped baked brie with truffled crabmeat] and re-cook it tomorrow and still have it be awesome?… Is there any chance for bacteria build up from the crab if i do try to reheat it?

sweets and snacks
– “Does anybody know the shelf life of altoids? I have a container thats probably several years old, if not older.”
– “Okay. I just finished this box of Pocky and there was this little prize in the box. I ate it. What the hell was it? … Was it incense? Candy? A bouillon cube?”
– “What is this black, salty, bug-eggy powder that I find in about 1 of 10 peanuts when I crack them open?” I’m just guessing here that a) the “black, salty, bug-eggy powder” is, y’know, bug eggs, and b) you shouldn’t eat enough to know it’s salty.
– “I just ate a few bites of trail mix before noticing that the bag was infested with weevils. WILL I DIE??”
– “What’s with the white spots on these Medjool Dates? … Being adventurous, I’ve eaten a few and they haven’t made me sick or killed me – they actually taste perfect. But I’m still curious what these dots are (and if they’ll kill me a few weeks from now).”
– “Is it safe to cook with over-ripe strawberries?”
– “I’m making raspberry preserves. I want to use half-pint jars instead of the pint jars the recipe specifies. However, I’m a little paranoid.”

“How long will deviled eggs keep in the fridge before they go bad?”
– “I completely forgot, and left a sealed box of Egg Beaters on my counter for about 5 or so hours. Are they still safe to use?”

– “Do dried lentils go bad? I have a bag of red lentils in an airtight container and they have been there for a while. What’s weird is that they are no longer red.
“What is going on with my beans?!”

misc. dinners
– “[The package of stuffed pasta shells with egg and prosciutto] does say on the packaging ‘Keep Refrigerated’ (before cooking, I assume) but what it DOESN’T say is, ‘If you were drunk last night and left it on the kitchen counter because you forgot to put it in the fridge, don’t eat it because it will already have spoiled even if you cook it.’
– “Bonehead left his chinese food out… Pork fried rice. Hot and Sour soup (with beef). My kitchen is likely to hit the mid-to-high 80’s for several hours today. Has my lunch grown enough microbes to make me sick? Even after reheating?”

– “Should I filter my well water? [… It] leaves a blue tint in the tub and shower.”
– “omg I drank charcoal! my brita filter leaves little bits of charcoal in the filtered water. are these harmful in any way?”
– “I know the water is great in NYC, but after the city cleaned some pipes near me, the water has been coming out darker.”
– “Will using ice that melts and is then refrozen over a couple of weeks (thru a portable icemaker) make me sick?… Is there a risk of getting sick from some bacteria growth or legionnaires disease or something?”

– “I have an 8.45 ounce bottle of Sam Adams Triple Bock, ca. 1994… Safe to drink? Keep aging? Bury in a landfill?”
– “Assuming there are no signs of spoilage, is it safe to drink 10 year old grape juice that I canned myself?”
“Is congealed milk solids the norm for glass-bottle milk?”
– “What are the metallic looking spots that float on top of my iced tea?”
– “I made a jug of iced tea from juice crystals about 2 weeks ago and it has been sitting in the fridge (uncovered, if that matters) ever since. Is it safe to drink?”

kitchen equipment
– “What has been indelibly burned into my skillet? Should I go to the emergency room now or should I save time and just start start organizing my affairs?”
– “Is it safe to clean the loose dirt off mushrooms using canned air?”


Today, I can little afford the time necessary to jot down a blog entry, and even less can I afford to spend the morning grappling with technical mishaps.
Accordingly, today is the day that the blog locked me out. Some javascript thing went kerflooey, and I found myself in blog limbo: able to log in, to open a new entry or a draft, but tantilizingly unable to place the cursor in the entry body.
I could open and title as many entries as I liked, but not #^@&ing write any of them.
Now, I’m no expert, but… wouldn’t NaBloPoMo get a lot harder a lot quicker if I couldn’t, y’know, write?
Harder, but not impossible. I thought up a variety of makeshift publication methods:
– write my entries as emails to Elli (who mysteriously retained the ability to post) and get her to post them for me;
– post on my all-but-abandoned MySpace profile;
– post in the comments section;
– write a series of titles to form an entry. This was my favorite solution, with its absurd flavor and the suggestion of the rococo title pages found in old novels: Chapter X: In Which Passepart Is Only Too Glad To Get Off With The Loss Of His Shoes.
And then [anti-climax alert!] Elli fixed the problem, or I fixed the problem, or the problem automagically fixed itself, and I can post again. In the flutter, whatever I planned to write about today got jettisoned from my head. And you get this. You’re welcome!
NaBloPoMo ho!

News flash

I don’t like schedules or deadlines. What else is new? This nablopomo, not so fun. Nanowrimo either. I do have 5,000 words, but it’s no cause for celebration. I’ve been to 10,000 before, this is nothing.
Holy crap, I can’t seem to write two things at once. I took my photos for the day which consisted of a boring self-portrait and my lunch. My focus is limited, so it seems I can only write about how hard it is to write. There’s got to be something else…
Maybe tomorrow.

Bring it on

NaBloPoMo Elli: 1/30
NaNoWriMo: 2,630 words and counting
Going for the glory this year, the first year I will finish writing a 50,000-word novel at NaNoWriMo. (Click the link and if you’re writing too, make me a buddy.) As usual I’m being thrown for a loop. The past two years I was travelling around Oz without daily internet opportunities so I couldn’t post at all, but congratulations to Elsa who, I think, made it through NaBloPoMo. I didn’t count, but let’s say she did. Woot! Now I finally get the chance, except we’re moving over the course of the next few weeks. Fortunately I have a handy little wireless device so at least I’ll have dial-up wherever I may go. Take that, November. I’m also 2,630 words into my novel and still writing. Yes, day one is promising. I’ll be at it all weekend, because I’m pretty sure that come Wednesday morning here in Australia, which is Tuesday evening in the States, I’ll be watching election coverage non-stop and unable to tear myself away to write anything other than a excited tweet.
Sentence of the day:
“She quivered at the thought of going anywhere near the place, not because of the snow covered roads, but because of the people who lived there–the ‘happy people’ she called them.”

pop rocks

For Halloween, The Fella’s boss set out a big plastic cauldron of goodies for customers. That’s how, for the first time since I was 15, I ended up with a hissing, bubbling mouth full of Pop Rocks.
I poured them in a lttile too enthusiastically in my hasty quest to cheer up A., whose lactose allergy constrained him from trying them. I cannot recommend exceeding capacity in this manner.
I’d forgotten everything about Pop Rocks except the fizzle, and it turns out there’s a good reason for that: Pop Rocks have very few attributes beyond the fizzle. A., looking at the Halloween-themed packaging, asked “Are they — ew — pumpkin-flavored?”
They were not. They were nothing-flavored. Maybe sugar-flavored. They were sweet, and hard, and they hissed and jostled around in my mouth like an unhappy concert crowd.
I kept refreshing the layers of candy on my tongue to the amusement of The Fella and his colleagues, all of whom were too smart to join me. I found that I could alter the tenor of the hissing; with my mouth open, it sounded like a high electrical sizzle, but when I closed my mouth and closed in the sound, it became much deeper and more resonant, like an ominous hum rising from my sternum, my jawbone, my sinuses. Every so often a rogue rock would work its way around to my gumline and explode there, giving me an unwelcome frisson of dental fear.
It was weird.
I am participating in NaBloPoMo.


displayOn my sister gaoo’s recommendation, The Fella picked up a big bottle of J.K. Scrumpy hard cider for me to sample. I’m a well-known lightweight, given to wide-eyed staring and whispered pronouncements of “I’m a teeny bit drunk!” after a drink or two, so I tried to persuade him to split the big bottle with me, but no go. I think it’s just possible he likes to get me sauced.

Bravely soldiering on, I guzzled the whole lot down on my own, smacking my lips the whole time. Nuanced online reviews of peppery backnotes and smooth finish notwithstanding, I have this to say about Scrumpy: it tastes like non-alcoholic sparkling cider, but, uh, not non-alcoholic. It’s crisp but quite sweet with a boozy little kick, and ridiculously drinkable.

I drank it with a supper of rumbledethumps* with spicy salsa, and it suited that humble dish down to the ground, complementing the earthy flavors while its round, fruity smack balanced the sting of the chiles. I think it might go even better with something slightly sweet and fatty, like a squash pizza. On this first tasting, I found it uncomplicated, but be assured that I’ll endure many, many future tastings to be sure.

Incidentally, to scrump = to steal apples.

Also, “scrumpy” is a perfect word to giggle over when you’re lolling about on the sofa after two drinks.

*Around here, that’s potatoes, cheese, and broccoli, not cabbage.
I am participating in NaBloPoMo. Still!