On fermentation

I bought a set of 2 one-liter fermentation jars last time I was at the mill shop.
They look more or less like Mason jars, slightly cheaper-looking, with 2 sets of lids – 1 normal, 1 with little rubber valves. I guess they are fermentation jars due to the valve lids and the glass weights you get to keep everything underwater.
Gamma likes the fermented Korean specialty known as 김치. Those partial to the Latin alphabet spell it kimchi, kimchee or gimchi, so to avoid confusion we will use the Korean spelling 김치.
I had been wanting to try fermentation and pickling (2 different processes, I gather) for a long time, since old-timey pre-lockdown times.
I did an Internet search, picked the easiest-looking recipe that still came from an Asian person and we went to work on our 김치.
Chopped up what is known here in Austria as Chinese cabbage, soaked it in a salt brine for a while, added chopped spring peppers and matchstick sized daikon only we didn’t have any daikon so we used Bierrettich which looks the same but is said to be spicier, but this wasn’t very spicy so we’re ok. Made a sauce out of Korean chili pepper flakes, soy sauce, ginger, miso paste, soy paste (I assume the same thing, just marketing? slightly different taste), I might be forgetting something, not sure. Garlic. Maybe something else. Didn’t use carrots due to some people in our target audience being allergic, mixed it all up (after draining the cabbage), put it in the (sterilized) jars, topped it off with brine, put the weights on top, and stashed it downstairs in the basement.
I am not a huge 김치 eater, and a novice fermenter, so it was not clear to me what my cellar would smell like when my project got going.
Nothing happened during the first two days, but when I went down there this morning the jars were standing in a puddle of brine that had leaked out the valves. And my basement smells like a 김치 factory.
Anyway, tonight I switch out the lids, to limit leakage, hopefully, and stick the jars into the downstairs utility fridge, which is used for beer, sourdough starter, photographic film, vegetable overflow, etc. And, now, 김치.

Christmas, day 1 minus 2

So tomorrow being 24 December, which is when we open presents here (stockings on 25 12) we all went in to quarantine 10 days ago so the kids could safely come over for the holidays and I was the lucky one who got to drive to their place and pick them up and drill 2 holes into Gamma’s concrete wall so she could hang a thing on her wall and drive them out to our place, on the way back telling them about my speeding ticket, “right about here where the speed limit changes from 130 (kmh) to 100 and I am always a little late slowing down; there’s no radar box around here so I assume they were right up on the overpass there, where that police car is now with the radar gun sticking out the window…” (checks speedometer, which unsurprisingly reads 120 in the 100 zone) “oh, man…” and then more stories about all the other new radar box traps we have been blundering into lately to the point where we are going to apply for a subscription; meanwhile my wife Alpha has apparently drawn the short straw and has to stay home and deal with making corn bread stuffing for the turkey we postponed from our canceled Thanksgiving (alas, the farmer said, he gained no weight between Thanksgiving, when he got his reprieve, and now — would you, I thought, seeing your friends slaughtered and knowing it was only a matter of time?) and dealing with the water filter man who was coming to sterilize our water filter after all the you-know-what backed up into the room where it is, and maybe touched it, and maybe contaminated all our drinking water pipes or whatever, as well as the rotorooter men who were coming over to investigate what caused the backup. When I got home with the girls the water filter man was practically already gone (he was fully gone when we got back from getting our covid tests (negative) at the doctor), and the rotorooter men were far, far jollier than you would expect rotorooter men to be. Friendly, happy young men.
Apparently someone had been flushing damp wipe cloths? I am translating but that’s what they’re called here? Feuchttücher? Which we don’t flush and rarely use and when we do use them (usually to wipe up cat pee) we certainly don’t flush them, we put them in the garbage and if we did flush them we’d flush them singly, single solitary cloths one by one so they could travel through the pipes easily rather than clumping and stopping everything else to the point that you get the Christmas fireworks we did. Waterworks. Whatever.
Oh and another thing, said the happy rotorooter men, you have a burst pipe too.
The boss rotorooter man is going to come over and see if it needs to be fixed, or if it’s only a minor burst. Apparently there are burst sewer pipes that are a real big deal, and others you can live with.
Is it nice to have the kids over? Just as nice as we expected, and we had high expectations. Presents are wrapped, I’ll make some mashed potatoes for tomorrow later today, and mix up some baking powder biscuits (taking into account the fact that Austrian baking powder is weaker than American baking powder, so you need more if you’re using an American recipe, and I’m using a Betty Crocker recipe) to be baked tomorrow, and getting some sourdough and pre-dough started to sit overnight so I can… watch it rise too long and lose heart and start to sag while the turkey monopolizes the oven, then the biscuits… maybe I should think about this a little… maybe I’ll postpone the sourdough a day…
Happy holidays, anyway, to those who celebrate holidays.

Gobble

As I mentioned already on Facebook, we cancelled Thanksgiving due to the pandemic and will instead eat club sandwiches via skype with the children on Saturday. The turkey we had ordered from the organic farmer down the road got a last minute reprieve and, cynical and disillusioned after having said goodbye to life, is presently hitchhiking somewhere with a beach to smoke French cigarettes and write existentialist poetry. Don’t worry, we ordered another one for Christmas, assuming the lockdown is over by then, and in preparation will all self-quarantine 10 days before getting together bc you can’t be too careful.

Anyway the turkey mailed me his first poem this morning, excerpt attached below.

GOBBLE
I

I saw the best fowl of my generation destroyed by farmers, gorged hysterical cackle,
dragging themselves through the angry yard at dawn looking for a trough of corn
angelfeathered hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,
who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and gobbling sat up clucking in the supernatural darkness of cold-water barns floating across the tops of cities contemplating jazz,
who bared their brains to Heaven on order before the holidays and saw the poultry angels staggering on barnyard roofs illuminated,
who passed through plucking sheds with now dead eyes hallucinating nothing, no more Blake-light tragedy among the scholars of carnivorism,
or those like me expelled from the slaughterhouse by some trick of pandemic and quarantine, left to wander
to cower unplucked in rooms in unfamiliar underwear, burning their poetry in wastebaskets and listening to the Terror through the wall…

II

What sphinx of cement and metal ax bashed off their heads and ate them up with sauce of cranberry and mashed yams?
Thanksgiving! Solitude! Filth! Ugliness! Ashcans and unobtainable dollars! Turkeys screaming under the stairways! Turkeys gobblesobbing in flocks! Old poet turkeys pardoned and weeping in the parks!
Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving! Nightmare of Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving the loveless! Mental Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving the heavy judger of turkeys!
Thanksgiving the incomprehensible prison! Thanksgiving the crossbone soulless jailhouse and kitchen of sorrows! Thanksgiving whose heaping platters are judgment! Thanksgiving the vast stone of war! Thanksgiving the stunned governments!
Thanksgiving whose mind is pure machinery! Thanksgiving whose blood is running money! Thanksgiving whose fingers are ten armies! Thanksgiving whose breast is a cannibal dynamo! Thanksgiving….

The Habits of Five Happy Couples

Have you ever caught yourself staring out the window, maybe your office window, watching someone younger than you get into their car up the street, or unloading groceries from their trunk, wishing for a little more peace, happiness, respect, joy, sex, love, agape, laughs, intimacy, happiness and peace in your relationship? Or perhaps, instead of giving mutual support you find yourself stuck (unstuck) inside a negative feedback loop itself unstuck (stuck) within a chronographic experiential time cycle in which you zoom around your life in circles, or figure eights, back and forth and around and around, experiencing the same pathetic, depressing conflicts over and over.

If that is the case, and for many of us it is, there is a good chance that you sometimes wonder why your relationships, and life in general, suck so bad while other people’s lives and relationships seem so awesome. And, statistically, you have at least three feet of shelf space in your home library devoted to self-help relationship books promising clarity about all the ways relationships fail, but look here’s the problem:

Smoothly functioning, harmonious relationships are only possible if one or more of the participants settle for less than they need, hold back, suffer in silence, give in all the time, or all of the above, or get even through indulging their bad habits.

While popular entertainment, and pretty much everything else about modern capitalist society seems desperate to convince people that people stay in love their whole life long and there’s something wrong with you if you feel differently, real relationships are more complicated than that.

Take John and Rebecca. John listens to 80s hair bands and plays air guitar. Rebecca farts before leaving elevators if she’s riding alone.

Or Max and Peter. Max bites his nails, Peter checks whether the front and back doors are locked about ten times every night before going to bed.

George can’t stop putting empty containers back into the refrigerator, no matter how much Jamie yells at him, while Jamie clips coupons and spends more on gas running to multiple stores to cash in the coupons than the coupons actually save.

Mike has a drinking problem and is addicted to internet porn. Martha is attending group therapy as part of a plea bargain following her arrest for shoplifting.

Home alone while her husband Donald is a coma following an opiate overdose, Gretchen steals packages delivered to her neighbors’ houses and stacks them in the spare bedroom and when it is full she drives them out to the desert and sets them on fire.

Life Hack/No Life Hack

It is November and the weather is dark and depressing. My city just underwent a terrorist attack. Currently, as I write this, Trump is doing “better than expected” (=cheating is going well) in initial counts. My tooth broke off day before yesterday and I spent yesterday morning at the dentist getting the rest ground off and a temporary crown applied and it was, of course, not in my budget. And, finally (?) we are not only in the middle of a pandemic, still, and our second lockdown (so far) — we are quarantined for the second time, waiting for someone to come test us, bc we were exposed to someone who tested positive.

You may ask yourself, why is Mig in such a good mood?
Well, strictly speaking, not a good mood, but maybe, why isn’t Mig in a worse mood?
Why isn’t Mig depressed?
Or, more accurately, why isn’t Mig more depressed? 2020 is being 2020 with a vengeance, he can’t see his friends in person, etc.

Ok you know what, when I started this post that was going to be the joke – there is no life hack, right? Things are terrible and I’m depressed. Except right now it occurs to me I am not really depressed. I am sad, but that’s different. My opinion – and I am not a psychologist – is that if you have a reason it’s sadness, not depression. I am sad bc a young man felt compelled to shoot random strangers. I am sad bc of seasonal grayness. I am sad bc I can’t see my friends who *are* depressed and try to cheer them up. I am sad bc I have to figure out how to pay for a crown on my molar (I have the money don’t worry).

I don’t know. My tent wisdom comes to mind – when I started this post, it sucked that it was raining when I was in a tent. But before I finished the second paragraph, it was great to have a tent when it was raining.

Maybe it’s just my brain’s last desperate attempt to cheer me up before I plunge into despair, but right now I am thinking about everything, and everyone, I love. My family. My friends. Random people I follow without knowing on social media saying decent, or indecent but funny, or kind, things right now. The city of Vienna. The country of Austria. The person who hollered “Schleich di du Oaschloch” at the terrorist. The Viennese personality that phrase is so typical of. The Americans who voted against Trump.

And so on.

I don’t know. Maybe it isn’t enough. We’ll see I guess. Maybe absentee ballots will be so overwhelmingly against Trump something good will come of 2020 after all. Maybe the feeling of unity and kindness in Vienna will last. Maybe my friends and I will cheer up. I am already thankful for a lot of things – my breadbox is full of bread, my wife and I are getting along, my small cats like me and the big one doesn’t bite me much. My transmission is making a funny noise but I only have to drive to the train station, usually. My children and my wife and I are all safe and healthy, except maybe for coronavirus. I don’t know, it’s a balancing act.

It always is, for someone, I guess right now we’re getting a taste of it, in case we didn’t realize before.

Now excuse me, I have to go into the cellar and write, Gamma is my new writing partner and we’re doing Nanowrimo this year. <3

Like a boss

I was buying yarn, no wait, I had finished buying yarn (oh, you’re a busy knitter, said the yarn lady, I like to see that) and was paying the lady at the dry cleaners… no wait, I was at the dry cleaners, but had not yet been to the yarn store, after which I returned to the dry cleaners to pay because I forgot the first time, nor had I been to the bank yet — so this was the first visit to the dry cleaners, before I went to the bank and to the yarn store, and before I returned to the dry cleaners to pay, my phone rang and I answered it and my mother in law said, hi mig, we have a big problem (invoking images in my mind of things leaking and smoldering etc.), the nurse’s outside door won’t close.
At this point let me interject for clarity that it’s one of those doors I first encountered in Austria, which you can open normally, in a door-like way, or if you turn (a) different handle(s) just tilt in, like if you want to air out the room.
Ah, I said, did she tilt and open at the same time?
I think so, said my mother in law.
So I finished my errands, going to the bank and the yarn store and the catfood store (because I got them food the day before yesterday, when I was at the hardware store getting light bulbs for my inlaws and super glue to fix a camera filter I had dropped, causing it to pop out of its mount but not break, but the hardware store didn’t have the food they like and they hated the food the hardware store did have so much that only one ate it and another ignored it and the third meowed at me plantively), where it took me forever to find cat milk, then went home and unloaded and gathered tools I thought might help (screwdrivers, a length of pipe to use as a fulcrum, and a big rubber hammer as comic relief) and drove over to fix their door.
But first I had to fix my car engine, which made a funny noise when I started it. I fixed it by turning my car off and back on again.
Noise was gone. Success!
Yeah so I drove over with my mask on and my mother in law and the nurse (who was cooking lunch, because my mother in law treats her more as someone to help with everything than someone to look after her husband) were both happy to see me. My father in law, a former mechanic who built the house, was watching TV and I sort of snuck around because I didn’t need him helping. I looked at the door, and my mother in law looked at me looking at the door, while the nurse made lunch, and then I looked at a healthy door to figure out how it was supposed to work, and went back and forth a couple times.
Then I went downstairs where we quietly got another tool (big chisel, to use as a lever because the door was too heavy for my screwdrivers) out of the furnace room, quietly because father in law thinks they lost the key to that room because we don’t want him in there fixing anything. Then I went back up and mother in law, father in law and nurse watched me trying to fix the door. We figured out what had to be done (metal hinge thing had to go back into metal hinge thing receptacle) so I asked the nurse to stick it back in when I lifted the door, which I did by sort of grabbing the door with one hand on the inside and one hand on the outside because my original lever/fulcrum idea wasn’t working, and manhandled it up and she stuck it in and boom, fixed, like a boss.
They were all happy, and I explained to the nurse, tilt or open but never both at the same time and drove home and took cardboard to the dump. Leaving the dump again, a guy with an SUV pulling a horse trailer (full of garbage I assume) couldn’t get in the in gate as I was getting out the out gate, I suppose because he had forgotten his key card, and got out of his truck and walked back to the car behind him, totally in my way and not even checking to see if, like, there was an oncoming car he might be blocking, and finally turned around and saw me and gave me a dirty look and I gave him a dirty look back, then he walked over to the other car, I suppose to ask to borrow that person’s key card (good thing for him he didn’t ask to borrow mine, I would have said no and felt good about it) and as soon as there was space I drove past, thinking, use the right tool for the job, moron who takes garbage to the dump in a horse trailer, ignoring my attempt to fix a door (like a boss, let me reiterate) with a chisel, a pipe and two screwdrivers.
Now if you’ll excuse me gotta bake some bread (which has been rising way too long cause of unexpected errands).

How nice

Wake up.
It’s later than you think.
You have home office.
Wife has let you sleep.
How nice!
Check whether phone has charged over night or just sat there on the end of its charger cable like a horse led to water but not drinking.
100%
How nice!
You have to bake bread. When will you do that?
Think about when.
Start thinking about the nature of time.
Other job sends you 14 texts to correct.
Correct for a while.
Take a shower.
Make schnitzel.
Eat lunch.
Go to in-laws to arrange pills for the coming week.
Set up bird feeder while you’re there.
Then fetch two more bird feeders from the attic and set them up.
No not there on that bush, they should be on the other bush.
No the first bush after all. Are they too high?
Should they be lower?
Maybe that’s okay.
Go home and work some more while wife gets fall grave decorations for the grave.
Start bread.
Wife comes home and wants pumpkin pie.
Isn’t bread enough?
Bread isn’t enough.
Look up various pumpkin pie recipes to confirm your theory that you lack ingredients while wife is picking pumpkin in back yard.
Wife refutes theory.
Bake pie.
Bread is photogenic, post picture to Instagram.
Pie crust shrinks a little, wrong flour maybe. No Instagram for you.
Write blog post.
Go to bed. Soon. Soonish. As soon as the purring cat gets off your face.