Wednesday, June 10 2020

new phones, mussels, and spicy drink

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Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone. I hope this Wednesday finds you well, and that you've weathered through the gusty winds and vigorous rain that accompanied this tropical storm that somehow managed to crawl it's way into the midwest. For how much we Midwesterners tease other states for being unprepared for snow fall, I sure hope we can back up the trash talk when it comes to absorbing the shock of the outer rim of a hurricane.

Yesterday, our new phone's arrived in the mail, and they've persisted as a dominating distraction. I have to be honest, I was excited taking them out of the box. They're bigger, brighter, and faster. They're also a relentless time sink.

"I've been setting up my phone all day, and I still feel like I'm only a third of the way done," I griped.

"Oh I know," chimed in Marissa. "I've been just carrying both my old phone and my new phone around with me. And when I'm blocked by something, I just switch over to the new phone."

Installing apps. Sign ins. Migrating 2-Factor. Approvals. Permissions. Alarm clocks. Resetting passwords. It's been an endless dance - just one grotesque technology riddle after another.

"Have you figured out how to switch between apps?" I asked Marissa, squinting at my phone.

"Yeah, it was in that tutorial you skipped," she laughed. You swipe up from the bottom and to the left."

Being a millenial steeped in this kind of technology from the beginning, fumbling over a new smart phone with a confused, furrow brow is a bad look for me. It appears I'm no longer a great representative for a generation that quickly adapts to new technology, and it was smart phones did me in.

"Why did they move all this stuff around?" I complained. "It was fine how it was! What happened to if it ain't broke, don't fix it." Just give me a narrow pair of reading glasses, some grey hair, and drop me in a long line in front of the Geek Squad counter at Best Buy - and the transformation will be complete.

The camera on these things is easily a highlight. Yesterday, Marissa found out our phones can stitch together images to make these giant ultra-wide panorama pictures. And on Google Photos, you can even full screen the image and click and drag on the image to "look around".

wide dining room shot

Feel free to slap on a pair of VR glasses if you have them. You can experience what my cluttered dining room is like from the comfort of your own cluttered dining room.

And there is also a portrait mode, which does something to the focus and lighting that makes the image look so much more dramatic and distinguished. Just look at how distinguished our dog Ollie looks.

ollie portrait

Our dog Ollie, but those who know him might call him 'The Big Cheese'.

Not to mention our beautiful princess, Ziggy. Internet - eat your heart out.

ziggy portrait

Don't be fooled - she's only evolved to look this beautiful so she can steal the buttered bread out of your hand.

What's that? You'd like to see a high definition selfie? Are you sure? OK, since you asked nicely.

quarantine portrait

My usual quarantine look - on days when I don't plan on having my picture taken by a high resolution camera.

And for those of you who were annoyed with how difficult it was to see our new blood fire shrimp Bruno in yesterday's post, you'll be pleased to learn that this camera is so powerful, Marissa was able to capture a pair of antennas and a few legs.

little more bruno

Maybe tomorrow, you'll get to see an eyeball. If you're lucky.

Sip. But enough phone talk. Yesterday was a great day. After some leftover fried rice, Rodney and I went to Hy-Vee. Yesterday, seafood was on the menu, and while Rodney gawked at the single sad lobster puttering around the Hy-Vee live tank, I ordered some fish from the counter.

"Yeah, I'm getting a few things today, but let's do a pound of mussels first," I said.

The butcher donned a pair of gloves, and meticulously counted out a pound of mussels, setting a portion of the shells to be discarded. After a minute, he hesitated, then emptied out the bag.

"Something wrong with those?" I asked.

"Yeah," he said turning to me and leaning against the counter. "Most of them were alive, but too many of them were open, and you know these things - you just look at 'em wrong and suddenly they crack open on you."

The butcher returned from the back room with a fresh, unopened box.

"Thanks, I really appreciate that," I said.

"Are you eating these tonight?" he asked. "Those guys won't like the plastic bag." He had a look of genuine concern in his eyes.

"You betcha - they're practically going right in the stew when we get home," I said.

Back at home, Rodney and I got to preparing dinner. We were using the mussels to make my favorite meal - Fisherman's Stew. The mussels would be scrubbed, then quickly boiled in a stock made with garlic, fennel root, blended tomatoes, clam juice, and white wine - along with some various cubed up white fish. It's a fun recipe to shop for, because you can use off-cuts and smaller pieces of higher end seafood without blowing up the evening dinner budget.

I began peeling the garlic. Rodney scooted the kitchen step ladder beside me, joining me at the cutting board with his choice kitchen tool - our garlic press. His tiny hand swiped a clove from my work station. He grunted, trying to force the unpeeled clove through the metal teeth.

"Oh nah, dude, you gotta peel it first," I said.

"Sorry dad," said Rodney, with an almost knee-jerk apology.

"Dude," I laughed. "You don't have to say sorry for stuff you didn't know about. Here, just peel it, and try again."

I pretended to continue working, but I took a break to observe Rodney. He was muttering under his breath, rifling through plastic spoons and forks.

"Then just squeeze," he quietly narrated. "And we grab a cup. And scrape it."

We set aside the garlic, moving on to the stock. I opened a can of San Marzano tomatoes, swiping the top of the can with my finger and taking a quick taste of the tomato juice. I offered Rodney some, and he reached his entire arm into the can, plucking out an entire tomato and taking a bite. "Delicious!" he said, dropping the tomato back in.

I added a few shakes of red pepper flakes to the blender. Rodney took the shaker and added some to his crushed garlic concoction. From the corner of my eye, I could see him bringing the plastic cup to his mouth for a taste.

"Oh no dude don't drink that -"

But it was too late. Rodney's face twisted with pain as the crushed garlic and red pepper flakes slid down his throat. I quickly handed him a cold bottle of water from the fridge.

"OK, dude, drink some and swish it around in your mouth," I said. "How does it taste?"

Rodney took a big gulp of water. "Spicy," he said with hot garlic breath. "Ima take a little break now."

"OK - keep drinking water," I said, helping him off the step ladder. I hope your mouth feels a little better."

We ate seafood stew around the dinner table. Along with the mussels, the stew had cod and halibut. We ate it with a fresh loaf of sourdough bread.

"Rodney, did you want some more spicy drink with your stew?" we teased.

fishermans stew

Thanks for stopping by today. I hope you have a great Wednesday.