The horrible very bad no-good week

I meant to catch up on blogging a bit and life got at me, then life really got at me. At the moment I am on the cusp of my first root canal. My adventure began around my birthday, when I started having pain in my capped tooth, the first molar on the lower left. (In dental parlance, #19.)

When I was 18, I saw a dentist who insisted this had a bad cavity although if anything I thought the molar on the other side looked iffy. He drilled, put in a filling, and all was relatively well for years until a corner of the tooth turned gray and eventually cracked off; not long after, the filling popped out. This was about 10 years after the filling went in, and it required a cap. Some years later the cap came partially loose once, but I popped it back down and it troubled me no more, except for the occasional episode of pain every year and a half or so that would last for a few days or a week, then subside. (The cap coming loose was probably what set the ball rolling for troubles to come, but it’s possible it was troubled to begin with.) It became rather sensitive so I avoided putting too much pressure on it, just to be safe.

One of those episodes happened again this November, and it started right before my birthday. Right after my birthday, the pain intensified horrendously and I had major toothaches every night for about two weeks. At one point the cap shifted again, which concerned me because I knew its time was coming to an end. After that settled down, on Christmas day I was chewing something and the cap came partially out; I popped it back in again, but I knew I would have to see a dentist early in the new year. Right after that I began to notice a foul taste in my mouth, presumably from infection and likely from the exact infection that had been bothering me since November. But the pain was basically gone and I just had to be careful with the tooth for a while until I got around to making a dentist appointment.

So it was last Thursday, after the Superbowl when I was finishing up some leftover chicken Parmesan meatballs, that my cap just came clear off. Game over. No more putting off the dentist. Only as it turned out, the dentist I wanted to see was closed Friday; and so was my second choice. I had to wait and call on Monday morning to see when they could get me in, which fortunately turned out to be that same morning; but what an awful weekend that was, wondering what they might find. Turns out there’s no anxiety dream like a teeth anxiety dream, and I did not sleep well. But once I got to the dentist, they discovered my tooth is more intact than I thought, and they think it can be saved and re-capped and that’s actually cheaper than most alternative options; in fact it’s only more expensive than pulling the tooth and leaving a gaping hole.

So that’s why I have a root canal coming up. But it gets worse!

My wife and I knew her car was on the way out. It’s had a very strange slow oil leak going on for years, and to diagnose it the mechanics would have to take apart the engine bit by bit; in other words, not cost effective to fix. The leak however was getting steadily worse and we expected by this summer she’d need a new car.

Wednesday night we were driving to my parents’ house and nearly made it there before, after turning a corner and hitting a small bump, something started scraping beneath the vehicle. It was a strap for the gas tank, which my dad wired up a bit so we could get it to their house and wait for a tow. The next day, and keep in mind this is still less than 168 hours (a full week) after my cap came out, we found out that the frame of the car is basically rusted beyond hope. The chassis is actually structurally sound, but there are no other supports that the gas tank strap could be re-mounted to.

So it was a pretty sucky week. And yet, I still feel incredibly blessed in so many ways, as much as I want to focus on the negative I can’t fail to acknowledge how much worse it could have been. Indeed one of the ways it could have been worse was that we didn’t think my wife would be able to secure a “new” car before my next appointment, requiring me to drive her to work early, but that’s already taken care of now.

I still don’t feel great about facing a root canal, though. And even less great that I probably won’t have a new cap until sometime in March.

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Adam ruins his show / Bacon will not give you cancer, the hat trick

I actually am a fan of Adam Ruins Everything, but from time to time holy crap does he get some stuff amazingly wrong. Often that happens to be on politically charged issues, and this being a non-political blog I will not flog him for those faults here. I will however nail him for crapping on bacon, which he did in his season premiere that I just watched today.

In “Adam Ruins a Plate of Nachos”, Adam Conover discusses that:

  • Drug cartels have infiltrated the Mexican avocado market, although not buying avocados from Mexico might actually be worse for the farmers than buying them. (Weird.)
  • Bacon is mainly so popular today because of a marketing campaign in the ’80s. Also bacon, and indeed all processed meats, causes an increased risk of cancer.
  • Corn is in basically everything and it’s a freaking mess; we should grow less of it and have better crop diversity.

I have no beef with the avocado or corn issues, but I immediately pegged the bacon cancer thing as complete BS because I’ve covered it twice on this blog before.

Yep, Adam’s writers used the same “research” as a source that I’ve shat upon repeatedly for being junk science. Remember, the people pushing this scare say that processed meats are bad for you based solely on comparing health data from different countries and extrapolating ideas based on those countries’ diets. (Also possibly some bogus research about nitrates, but that’s a whole other discussion.)

There is no such thing as a meaningful nutritional study that doesn’t rigorously monitor all participants and account for cheating. Period, full stop, end of discussion. Anything else will give you unreliable data tainted with confounding variables. Comparing what countries eat and what their incidence of given health outcomes are is beyond ridiculous. Comparing even within a country or a group is pretty meaningless as well, unless you have strict controls and have very large sample groups and can account for pretty much all other potential variables.

But you can’t control for any of those variables. People with different eating habits have other different habits as well. Compare people who eat a pound of bacon in six months vs. a pound every two weeks and you’ll undoubtedly see differences in other aspects of their lives; like for instance, one group may exercise more than the other, one might tend to consume more dairy, one might correlate to more dangerous jobs. I’m serious; there are potentially thousands of correlations, if not millions. There’s just no way to handle them all.

Adam’s just a comedian, but the researchers on his show should know these things. This is junk science at its worst and it’s a farce.

Now let’s talk about the bacon craze. According to his show and therefore the sources he used, it all started when the low-fat craze that hit its stride in the ’80s hit pork producers hard. (He did not mention that they started breeding leaner pigs in response to the outcry for lower-fat food, which was a bad thing for pork in general. As Alton Brown has noted, pork chop recipes that used to work well in the ’50s don’t work anymore because the meat is too lean now, so it is less flavorful and cooks differently.) As the story goes, they couldn’t figure out how to sell all that pork belly. A major producer complained to his friend who ran Hardee’s, and they started pushing stuff with bacon. From there the snowball kept rolling to become the bacon mania of today!

Does that sound like BS to you? If it doesn’t, you need professional help. No, I don’t mean to deny that meeting happened or that the pork industry had a problem on its hands with the misguided nutritional “wisdom” of yesteryear. But is that the real reason for bacon becoming an Internet sensation? No.

Look, I knew I liked bacon back before the ’80s were a thing. Bacon was freaking awesome. My family didn’t get fast food out too often, but on occasion we would, and on even rarer occasions I could eat the big bacon burger at Wendy’s. (Gads I miss that. The bacon is better nowadays but the Baconator compares pitifully to the big bacon burger.) I was eating those things in the mid-’80s at least, well before there was any kind of massive push to get people to eat more bacon. And mind you it was ages before McDonald’s offered bacon as a regular menu staple; they’d occasionally have bacon cheeseburgers as a special item only. If the big marketing push Adam spoke of had been successful, why were bacon burgers at McDonald’s a rare event?

It’s patently obvious why bacon blew up in recent years, for one simple reason: memes.

Bacon is delicious. We all know it. It didn’t suddenly become more popular in the ’80s because the pork industry wished it so. They may have actively sought out new ways to get it into our mouths but bacon didn’t suddenly become more awesome because of that; it was already awesome. Enter the Internet era, and especially the social media era, when people got a quick influx of views, and therefore influence and therefore ad dollars, by coming up with catchy memes. Bacon was one of those things a lot of people could quickly agree on. A meme praising bacon, much like a meme praising coffee or wine or motherhood or dogs, was an easy win.

Has bacon mania gone overboard? Sure, I guess. There are plenty of bacon-flavored products out there and a lot of them are ridiculous. (Please allow me a momentary digression to mention J&D’s Bacon Salt. It contains no bacon and does not taste like bacon. It tastes like barbecue seasoning. Screw that. 0/10 would not buy again.) But hey, who does it hurt?

I’m gonna keep watching Adam Ruins Everything; I do enjoy the show, and there’s a lot to learn from it even when he’s wrong. But when the show gets it wrong, hoo boy does it ever. As even the show itself reminds us from time to time, take even what they say with a grain of salt because they’re as imperfect as the rest of us.

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Cube steak experiment post-mortem

[Update below! The first steak’s results have been superseded by the second, and it’s not good.]

I feel like maybe “post-mortem” is the wrong phrase, but I’ve used it so much for cooking experiments I’m gonna stick with it out of consistency until I come up with something better.

My delicious cube steak sandwich came off without a hitch today, so it’s time to evaluate the result of soaking the steak in milk overnight, then rinsing it off and doing a marinade for a little over an hour and a half in teriyaki sauce. (It would have been only a little over an hour, but as it turned out my Wegmans run was thwarted when my regular Wegmans didn’t have 8 oz. packages of mushrooms, only 16, due to some stocking snafu. I had to go to the other Wegmans instead, which has a better produce section and also a better bakery.)

Overall, I’m pleased with how the milk acted on the steak but I feel it could have gone for longer. Maybe a full-day soak would have been appropriate, or possibly the addition of a small amount of lemon juice to mimic a buttermilk soak and up the acidity. I still got a few spots of difficult connective tissue, but I think they were fewer and less pronounced. The steak was definitely a little more tender overall, and I think it took the marinade a little better.

Everything else of course was great as usual. It’s hard to screw up the mushrooms and I’m in such a routine baking bacon that that was straightforward as well.

Briefly last night, I toyed with the idea of doing a fried egg on top of the sandwich. But I think that would be overkill and make the whole thing messier. I do however deeply appreciate a fried egg on a burger, so it’s probably not the last time I’ll toy with the idea. Also, just throwing this out there, I have another cube steak in the freezer because Wegmans sells them two to a package, so the time to experiment with that, and a longer milk soak, might be very soon.

My tooth cap stayed in place, but I avoided chewing on that side very much.

Update: I spoke too soon, because I had my second cube steak from the same package today. It went into milk for longer, and was full of tough connective tissue. What I did differently was just pour milk into the freezer bag the steak was already in, but I felt that was about equivalent to what was in the bowl for the first steak. (Was I wrong? Even if so I have a really hard time believing it’d be enough less milk to make a difference.) The steak was still frozen; I let it thaw in the milk in the fridge, and they stayed there for 24 hours. So it probably had a good 18-hour soak or more once it thawed out. End result: had to do a lot of cutting with my incisors. Also it took a little longer to cook, maybe for the same reason.

So, the milk thing didn’t work that well after all. Crap. Now what?

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Cube steak experiment (results pending)

It’s Christmas night and my stomach is screaming at me for food. I can’t think of anything to fill it with that would be a good idea at this point, but it’s making me think about lunch tomorrow.

I’ve mentioned my favorite sandwich before, that I like to eat at Christmas. To recap, it’s a teriyaki cube steak with sauteed mushrooms (butter, garlic, Worcestershire, pepper), bacon, muenster, and mozzarella all on a soft Kaiser roll. Well I’m having it tomorrow, but first I wanted to come up with a way of making it a little more tender and maybe more receptive to the teriyaki marinade. I’ve tried sous vide in the past and posted about the results, and it wasn’t the magic bullet I had hoped for.

Searches led me to multiple options, but the information I found was highly conflicting. The most promising options appear to come in three distinct forms:

  1. Soak overnight in milk.
  2. Add a small amount of baking soda to the marinade.
  3. Try sous vide again, but for longer.

Let’s start with #3. The problem with “longer” is, I think a 12-hour sous vide would turn a cube steak to mush. One hour is the best time frame for me to work with, but I can only go as high as two. The reason: while I intend to get up a little earlier than my usual night-owl schedule so I can get more out of the day (and get in a whole 4-hour movie before my wife gets home), I don’t intend to get up super early and this lunch will be my first meal of the day. Now I do have to make a Wegmans run for the Kaiser roll, and for the mushrooms which I didn’t buy in advance, but that will only take up so much time. After that I can start bacon baking and that’s normally where I’d start the clock on a one-hour marinade or sous vide.

Doing a sous vide for, say, six hours would probably have involved my wife getting it started, which she might be willing to do but I wasn’t about to ask (and in truth, the idea never occurred to me until just now).

So, #2. Baking soda is a common choice for Chinese restaurants to get super tender pieces of chicken and beef. It works best on thin slices and would probably work well on a cube steak because of the way the meat has been perforated. Problem: Many people have claimed it leaves a nasty alkaline aftertaste, and removing that isn’t necessarily an option. I’ve also heard people suggesting amounts of it from as little as 1/4 tsp. per pound to 1 tsp., the latter sounding rather ridiculous to me. Supposedly if you’re worried about an alkaline taste you can counteract the baking soda with a brief vinegar soak and then wash out the vinegar which is easier to remove; but that would entail following that up with a proper marination for flavor.

The only option left that made any sense to me was #1: soak the sucker in milk overnight. So that’s what I’m trying. Tomorrow morning I’ll wash out the steak and start it marinating in teriyaki sauce, then I’ll make my Wegmans run and start on the bacon. Just after the bacon is out, I plan to drain off the meat and dry it thoroughly, then cook it under the broiler like I’ve done the last two years. Broiling has been a relatively successful cooking method compared to pan fry in terms of being less burny/spattery.

Another reason I want to tenderize the steak more is that I’ve got a capped tooth that’s been causing me trouble. Around my birthday I ended up with a nasty toothache there, and the cap came slightly loose again. Yes I said again; it’s happened before, but like once or twice only. Since then the tooth has calmed down, but one of the times the cap got loose it got really loose, and today—Christmas day—I had it come partway out just while eating soft puffcorn. So yeah, that was pretty disturbing, and it means I have a date with a dentist in my future. But not till January. I pushed the tooth back into place and it hasn’t come loose again, but I’m gonna baby it for sure. Oddly it seems a lot better seated than it has been for the past couple of weeks, so maybe today’s little accident was a Christmas miracle and made an unexpected improvement.

Anyway, I’ll find out soon enough whether the milk trick worked. Wish me luck!

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Rant in verse: The F before Facebook

‘Twas a week before Christmas, and all through my brain,
Is a hatred of Facebook; it’s time to complain.
Their stalking has sparked up a worldwide lament,
But on pettier things is my rant wholly bent.
For I, a programmer, know things they do wrong;

And they know it; ’twas purposely done all along.

When I read my news feed I want it by date,
So I know what my friends have been doing of late.
Does it work? No, not hardly! It’s jumbled past hope.
How is two days much newer than five minutes? NOPE!
Three days is as far back as Most Recent goes—
This from a huge team of ostensible pros.
But why to my wandering eyes won’t appear
At least half of the posts friends are making this year?

Come on, guys, a date sort is easy as frell,
And why am I missing my own posts as well?
I try to report it; they always reply:
“Thanks, we’ll get right on it!” But that’s a poor lie.
If they wanted this cluster-Zuck fixed then it would be.
They want us to live with how they think things should be.

Why is YouTube embedding no longer allowed?
I just want you to fin’ly admit it out loud:
You want your own video ruling the range.
Well it’s crap, always has been. That won’t ever change.

I know that the ads are important, but please,
Can we have a bit better control over these?
Stop letting these companies upload my address;
I’ve never gone near them—they shouldn’t have access!
Every car dealership in the greater US
Seems to think I’m a regular buyer, no less,
And they don’t even care if I live in their state!
This is stupid; you know it. Now set it all straight.

I can live with suggestions for friends I won’t add.
I can simply ignore them; it isn’t so bad.
Though I’m purposely keeping my list of friends small,
And I don’t even know most these people at all.
But for crying out loud, in my notifications?!
And I can’t turn that off? Now they’re active frustrations,
Intrusive and pointless and crappy and dumb.
Kindly shove that idea back up where it came from.

My rant is near over, but bile’s still rising
From billions of others; it’s hardly surprising.
Not everyone wants the whole world in the loop,
Let alone give you license to know when they poop.
A reckoning slouches toward your front door.
(But first will come Twitter—we all hate it more.)
Now I’ll blithely proclaim ere you face the long night:
At least MySpace occasion’ly did some things right!

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In search of: McDonaldland cookies copycat recipe

December has been flying by, so please pardon the lack of updates. To catch you up quickly, I did finish NaNoWriMo a winner but The Pembroke Engine is not finished yet. I’ve actually been struggling hard to move the narrative forward, so while originally I expected to finish up the first draft right around the middle of December, we’re at the middle of December right now; I’m thinking the middle of January is way more likely.

Anyway, it’s cookie season, and this reminded me of my favorite lost cookie I can no longer find anywhere: McDonaldland cookies. These were, of course, sold by McDonald’s, and they were crisp, similar to shortbread but firmer, with a subtle hint of lemon. When I become a supervillain my Ministry of Resurrected Products will bring them back, but for now I’m stuck for alternatives and you can’t find a copycat recipe anywhere.

For a while, Mercer animal crackers filled this void: they were identical in taste and texture to the cookies I used to love. And it seems that Mercer manufactured the off brand available at Aldi, so I could reliably pick up a box of these wonders for under two bucks. Then a few years ago, out of the blue, Mercer animal crackers disappeared and Aldi’s brand changed dramatically for the worse. For a brief and beautiful time the cookies I loved and remembered were back, and then suddenly they were no more. I was pissed. I mentioned it in this space at the time.

So now, I lament. I would gladly try any recipe that promised to reproduce the cookies I have longed for.

As I mentioned, they’re not quite shortbread. When I look at shortbread recipes online they’re all quite crumbly, like butter cookies, and that wasn’t the case here. But they’re quite thin, and the underside had a very shortbread-like texture: spongy, but hard. If you put one of these cookies bottom-side down on your tongue, moisture would wick up into the cookie and dissolve it from the inside out.

But how are they made? Clearly sugar is being creamed into butter as the first step, as with most cookie recipes, because nothing else explains those spongy holes on the bottom. There is no leavening. I imagine, but am not sure, that lemon extract plays a role. Flour too, obviously. Sounds like shortbread so far! Eggs or yolks? No idea. But there seems to be less butter in these cookies than in a typical shortbread, because they bake up firm, and that puzzles me. Maybe I would need more flour than a typical shortbread? Maybe the dough should be chilled before baking? I suspect the McDonald’s bakery that gave them their signature textured shapes did the patterning during pressing, with something that created grooves and dents in the thinly-rolled dough.

I’m not experienced enough at baking to fill in those gaps and I don’t have the time or the kitchen to experiment at length to find out, but I very much need to know.

Has anyone found a copycat recipe out there that lives up to the original?

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Let’s blog a parade! (2018)

Went to bed late, barely slept. But I have my blessed Mountain Dew and a freshly baked (last night) pumpkin muffin. Did I buy the right chocolate chips? No! Did I find out before pouring the minis into the dough? No! But we soldier on and find out later if it worked out. Let’s do this! (Oh, forgot to mention: this is live, so keep refreshing.)

Right from the start we have a weird Broadway-style opening number with a boy that I assume has something to do with an upcoming or ongoing show. It’s not working. It’s like a parody of a Broadway number. Kid has pipes, but… no.

Where’s Matt Lauer? (Hahahaha! Just kidding. My mean streak comes out when I don’t have caffeine yet.)

And now the opening lineup. Kelly Clarkson, Diana Ross, John Legend, Martina McBride (ugh, country), Sugarland (ugh), Leona Lewis (ugh—not country but ugh), Pentatonix… gads this is going too fast. There were more good and bad names on that list. I recognized a surprising number of them. Didn’t recognize a ton as ones I’d go out of my way to see, but that’s just me. The last single I heard from Kelly Clarkson was amazing but mostly because her band blew the roof off the place. Pentatonix is usually pretty good. Also there’s a musical about Donna Summer—the one tolerable part of the disco era, which I suspect will be intolerable in theatre form.

Lego Movie 2 commercial! Huzzah!

Man, I miss when Mandy Moore was a blonde. And a recording artist. I don’t watch This Is Us; I was surprised just now to learn she’s on the show. No that doesn’t change my mind about watching it. But I like this whole Thanksgiving memories segment they’re doing.

Let the musicals begin! Al says we get a classic first, and it’s My Fair Lady. Hey, that is a classic! And I like it! Okay, so this isn’t Audrey Hepburn visiting us via a time machine, but I’m cool with it. Gads, now I want to watch the movie.

Okay, the mini chips worked out okay.

Just caught an ad for Mary Poppins Returns. I saw a poster in a theater a few months back so it didn’t come as a complete surprise but this is the first I’ve seen of it. Will it work? I really want to hope so, but there was a whimsical, carefree magic in those old Disney movies that I don’t know if they can recapture or not. Part of it is the way the generations have changed. Will this have the same heart? If it does, will it capture the love of millennials and their kids?

Next musical is The Prom. I’m not sure what I’m seeing. This is.. weird. The costumes are a little too varied, even accounting for making things larger than life on the stage. Eh.

So we’re into this Summer musical now, and they’re doing the song “Hot Stuff”. It’s not terrible, so it’s meeting expectations. Ah, but this is apparently a medley with different versions of Donna Summer as she ages (I think), and now we’ve got the ultra-disco “Last Dance”, which is terrible. Which also meets expectations. Ah, the accursed era of my birth.

Holy crap, they’re doing a Lego Jurassic World special next week. I’m so in. After that are some local ads. One of them has camping in it. I’m so out!

More Thanksgiving memories; definitely a good segment. I saw Tom Turkey from overhead but no sign of who’s on it. Anyway now it’s Kelly Clarkson time. New song. I can’t hear the horn section of her band and that’s disappointing: “Love So Soft” lived and died by them.

Hobbes has decided it’s lap time. That makes typing very difficult, but I can’t keep him on my lap for long because he has a tendency to fart when he comes up on my lap. I could live with that but sometimes it isn’t a fart. I don’t want to do last-minute laundry.

Commercial for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. I’ve heard good things. I have a list of Netflix and Amazon shows I still need to get to. Also I heard Amazon is doing Ringworld and Snow Crash. Can’t wait.

Ooh. America’s Got Talent is doing a championship edition in early January. Interesting! On the other hand who wants to deal with live TV in January?

I see the parade in motion and approaching Macy’s, with Al Roker in that motorcycle sidecar. The hosts are having a visit with Tina Fey. Time for another musical, which she wrote with her husband and someone else. Oh, it’s a musical adaptation of Mean Girls. Wait, where’s Lindsay Lohan? (Hahahaha. Just kidding. The Mountain Dew isn’t doing enough yet. Also I just looked up Lindsay to verify how to spell her name, and good gads, when did she get so much lip filler? I feel like all her DUIs were less of a mistake.) So this song is called “Fearless”. The singing seems to work; the dancing less so for me. It’s a lot of leg kicks and it’s not far off from what the prom number did earlier, nor the opening number for the whole parade. Broadway is phoning it in.

New polar bears commercial for Coke, with a bird (is it supposed to be a penguin on the wrong pole)? Adorable as always. I miss when they did new ones all the time.

Just got a shot of the Toothless balloon from How to Train Your Dragon. Love that one. But first, here are the Rockettes. Pretty soon the parade proper will begin. I don’t think I like those mustard yellow outfits at all, or the 1920s-style (have to start getting specific on ’20s) things on their heads. They put in some amazing work, as always, for a precise performance. I know one of the secrets behind it is they have an extremely narrow height range. Still this is one tradition I’ll hate to see go away. Frankly I’m astounded the PC mob hasn’t come for them yet.

Google is pushing their new video-screen home hub. Lately Facebook has too, for theirs. I’ll take Tech Giants I Don’t Trust with My Data for $600 billion, Alex. (I do have an Amazon Echo Dot, but… I feel a lot better about Amazon.)

Ah, the Rockettes are forming a human gate (Hoda’s words) in front of the parade instead of the traditional ribbon-cutting. I approve.

Right up front is Tom Turkey, and this year riding it is… aww, no Food Network celebrities? I know Sandra Lee overstayed her welcome but with my culinary hero Alton Brown bringing back Good Eats, I was really hoping to see him there. Pity. Behind Tom is a marching band from Columbus, all brass and percussion from Ohio State—rival to my brother-in-law’s football team.

The first balloon is a puppy called Chase from Paw Patrol. I don’t know a thing about Paw Patrol except that I’d like to keep not knowing a thing about it. Sadly I now know the lead puppy is named Chase. Also sadly, they said Sugarland is coming up so we’re about to break the no-country streak going an hour strong now.

Dodge Ram is literally the platform for Tom Turkey this year and now we have a commercial where they really want us to know it. Also Disney’s The Nutcracker and the Four Realms: I’m not sure what to make of that. I never knew the story of the Nutcracker, and still don’t, so this isn’t pulling any strings for me. I’d like to hope it’s a magical experience, but it’s not one I’ll pay to see in the theater.

They had a fun montage of TV shows and movies mentioning the parade, most of them great and one of them Ghostbusters 2016. And on a similar note of disappointment marring a great event we have our first country song of the day. Which… okay, disappointment isn’t the right word because the little part they did wasn’t so country. It was kinda almost passable.

Here’s the Pillsbury Dough Boy balloon, and the Green Giant float behind him. Wait, aren’t they out of order? You don’t get dessert till after the green beans.

Oh crap, the Green Giant float has another country song, with hardly a breather after the last one. And this is countrier. I like that it has a good melody, but then I’ve always appreciated that about country; I just wish we could bring melody back to pop. For attribution I’ll mention this artist is Carly Pearce.

Grants Pass High School (I think—kinda missed part of it while complaining about the country song) sent a marching band, but that moment of their appearance was super short. Behind them, the Diary of a Wimpy Kid balloon.

GAH! Elf on the Shelf balloon shot! I wasn’t ready! I wasn’t ready!

Wait, what? You pay Facebook for their Portal device? Considering the trust level I have here, shouldn’t they be paying us? I mean we’re the product. You knew that, right?

The Sesame Street float is here. I have no idea who Anika Noni Rose is, but she’s leading the group song. It’s not a memorable song, because it’s a more modern (read: wrong) take on melody that isn’t very melodic. Remember how the old Sesame Street songs could get in your head and kids could actually remember them? And they actually taught us stuff? Yeah, the millennials really missed out on the golden age.

Another balloon just went by. It was a plane from a cartoon I don’t know. Brynn Cartelli, who apparently won The Voice (this year?) is doing a song on top of another float. I missed the name of the float but it says “Universal Kids” on the front. I’m not hating this song, called “Walk My Way”, but I think it’ll play better as a radio single with the music propping it up.

We have a sort of mini-balloon setup with a rainbow and a weird-looking way-too-anime cloud behind/above it. It’s from a contemporary art collective whose name I missed. Not sure I care.

XBox had a great ad with a bunch of kids running to watch another kid about to win a game using a special controller to accommodate a disability. I liked it. Followed by the classic with the little girl giving a college lecture on neurobiology, when she’s really playing with Barbies and Barbie is doing the lecture. Adorable.

John Legend is performing on the Build-A-Bear float. Gotta say he’s never clicked with me, but he really has a nice voice. He’s doing a Christmas classic, and it almost makes me want to buy his Christmas album. He has a TV special coming up next week with his wife. Less sure about that, although she’s hardly unpleasant to look at.

Toothless! And they say a third movie is coming up in February! So is the Lego Movie 2! February is gonna be awesome for movies, and when has anyone ever said that?

Another marching band now, performing “I Got Rhythm”. This is James Madison University and they’re doing a fine job. Not very Christmassy or Thanksgivingish, but it’ll do. Behind them, Entemann’s has a bake shop float, and Pentatonix is performing that song “Where Are You Christmas?” from the live-action Grinch film. Truth bomb: this song sucks. Not their rendition of it; the song itself. I just never liked it.

Commercial from Allstate thanking first responders, especially regarding the most recent California wildfires. My heart goes out to everyone who got caught up in that, again, but gads, if I lived in California and I’d lost a bazillion dollar house to wildfires I’d be leading a pitchfork-wielding mob going after the idiots whose lousy forest management policies keep making that happen. Hey stupid! Most of California is a desert and naturally wants to burn, and you need to prepare for that by clearing the undergrowth. Gah.

Fred Astaire Dance Studios just did a bit of “Puttin’ on the Ritz” in front of Macy’s. Fun stuff. Gads I miss Fred Astaire.

An NHL (I think) float is here now. We have a “singer” called Bazzi—no, dude, I do not accept. You did not earn the one-name treatment. His voice is heavily processed and the song sucks.

At least Ronald McDonald is here now to raise the mood, and so is his balloon. Real talk: the triple breakfast stack McMuffin is amazing. Also real talk: I ordered it five times in the first week after I suddenly saw it on the menu (don’t judge me), and all five times the staff had trouble figuring out what the heck I was asking for. Is training not a thing? Anyway love the sandwich.

They mentioned pop star Rita Ora was coming up, and I was like, “Who?” Well she’s on top of a float now, and the key detail they left out was British pop star. I don’t hate this song either. She can’t lip-sync for crap though. Still I wish she’d displace some of the garbage that’s on the radio.

Al Roker is among a giant bowling ball and bowling pins for some reason. Apparently there’s some group trying to remind us bowling is fun. Which it is, but this didn’t make the case. Behind that, Ashley Tisdale (hey, she’s still a thing!) is on the Kinder float. Also not hating this pop song. Yay! We have actual semi-bubblegum pop for the first time in years!

Good ol’ Charlie Brown has his balloon behind her, but once again I wish it were Snoopy.

HOLY CRAP! The Cicero-North Syracuse high school marching band is behind that. That’s my people! Literally the neighborhood I live in. How cool is that?

We finally have a Grinch commercial that isn’t a commercial for something else. Actually I think there was one earlier but it had a Minion in it, so it didn’t count. I still say that flick looks like hot trash. I wish it didn’t, truly, but it does. Remakes don’t bother me. Remakes with a lot of stupid filler bother me.

How about some sweet Latin sounds? Gah, how about not? Not a Latin music fan. I did like “Despacito”. This Bad Bunny guy on the Sour Patch Kids float is horrific though. It doesn’t help that I don’t understand the lyrics, but there’s no melody or rhythm here at all. His “singing” sounds like “DUH bla duhda ba buh” like he’s trying to sound stupid. No, I’m not making fun of his accent or the Spanish language in general. That is literally what he sounds like. There are amazing Latin singers out there even though I don’t care for most Latin music, and I tell you this man is not one of them. Never thought I’d see a train wreck in the middle of a parade.

I am not an anime fan and I have a hatred of anime that borders on legendary, but I do love the Pikachu balloon. And also that Detective Pikachu film with Ryan Reynolds looks hilarious.

Behind Pikachu, the TMNT float. All modern iterations of the Turtles are crap. I said it. This one from Neckelodeon looks worse than many of the others. Duo Jack & Jack (I think) are singing the Jonas Blue song “Rise”, a tale of obnoxious millennial angst that makes me want to slap a 20-year-old.

There’s a Dragonball balloon. I think it’s Gohan. Did I mention I hate anime?

Johnny Orlando & Mackenzie Ziegler are on a float singing a song called “What If?” More I’m-not-sure-it’s-good-enough-to-be-bubblegum pop. But hey, I’ll take it. It’s not country and it’s not more of Bad Bunny’s DERP DERP DUH DERP. Yes I’m going to keep complaining about that.

Spirit of America Cheer is performing in front of Macy’s now. That’s a lot of hot pink and neon green. They did a good job, but I’d like to have a word with someone about color coordination.

On the Shimmer & Shine float, Ally Brooke (formerly of Fifth Harmony) is singing Last Christmas. I don’t mind her vocals on this, but the weird shrieky thing they’re doing with the background vocals is really annoying.

We have a Trolls balloon, and they tell us a TV special is coming up. I missed the movie. On purpose.

And now we have Macy’s Great American Marching Band, performing a tribute to Aretha Franklin. Approved! Still not holiday themed, but long live the Queen.

Wow, it’s after 11 already. This next float is from the Girl Scouts. On it is one of the youngest country stars, they say: Tegan Marie. Ouch. This is the countriest country song yet. My poor allergies. But the actual songiness of these songs is compelling; why can’t pop have that anymore? Why?!

Ah yes, it’s perfume commercial season. This one that I’ve been seeing everywhere is for Dior, and it features the song “She’s A Rainbow” by the Rolling Stones that’s in like nine other commercials too. To say I’m sick of this song would be an understatement so great, my sleep-deprived brain can’t think of a good enough analogy to compare. But after that they showed a commercial for a Netflix movie where Kurt Russell plays Santa Claus. I’m down with that. If he played Jack Burton playing Santa Claus, I’d be foaming at the mouth with excitement.

This Kalahari float is interesting. British “phenom” (hosts’ words) Ella Mai is singing on the deck. I just heard feedback so I think she might actually be singing live, so props to her. But I’m really hating this song. I think I’ve heard it on the radio too, and I didn’t like it any better there. Still better than Bad Bunny.

Another band is performing in front of Macy’s, and darn it I missed the name. Oh, it’s Marching Tigers. Thanks, hosts! The Spongebob balloon is right behind them, and he’s always worth a smile.

King’s Hawaiian has a Hawaii-themed float (naturally) with the Barenaked Ladies on top. I thought they broke up. No matter. They’re performing “One Week”, and I love it. That song’s more than 20 years old now, and that I love rather less. I feel old.

Baby dinosaurs are in front of a dinosaur balloon from Sinclair Oil. It’s cute. The South Dakota Department of Tourism has a float for their only landmark (you know the one), and country singer (ugh!) Kane Brown is singing on it. This one doesn’t have a sense of rolling flow to it like the ones before, but boy is it country. In other words, this is deeply painful.

Behind that, here’s the red Mighty Morphin’ Power Ranger. They said it’s one of the most watched and longest-running kids’ programs, but they came after my time and even trying to take an open-minded look I can’t see the point.

Hee hee. Bank of America is trying hard to convince us they’re all about solving problems and making the world better. Baaahahaha!

There’s an Elf on the Shelf float, and apparently now there’s an animated special where they enlarged the creepy cast to include creepy pets. And of course here’s the creepy balloon. At least this time I was ready. But good gads. I hate this guy. Hate.

Leona Lewis comes next. She’s doing a Christmas song, so that’s a nice change. I think this is the song I heard from her last year on the radio that I liked. Yep, same song. I was genuinely surprised because I didn’t think I could like a Leona Lewis song. She’s all about the riffs and reaching for the big notes instead of holding up the song directly; that style has always bugged me.

Woodland Heights Marching Band is in front of the store now, performing “Ode to Joy”. Now after I watch My Fair Lady I also want to watch Die Hard. Fun fact: that’s gonna be on the big screen at the Movie Tavern, and I’ve never seen it on the big screen. Less fun fact: not till after Christmas.

Aflac! They really hit it out of the park with that mascot.

There’s a Peanuts float next, with Snoopy, Linus, and Lucy in mascot-type costumes. Still would rather Snoopy was the balloon and Charlie Brown was on the float.

And here’s a commercial for Ralph Breaks the Internet. I’m totally on board, right after I see the next Fantastic Beasts movie. Maybe even literally right after, if I can talk my wife into a double feature.

The Today hosts are doing a tribute to Jean McFadden who led the parade for many years and passed away this year. That was sweet.

Keller High School Marching Band (did I get the name right?) is in front of Macy’s now. Loving those flags with the big snowflake designs. Olaf’s balloon sees them off, chasing them down with warm hugs. They’re telling us there’s a Frozen musical coming to Broadway next year. Hope I get to see a performance from that in next year’s parade.

Man I love this Balsam Hill float. Martina McBride is aboard, but thankfully she’s singing Christmas music. She’s doing a straight (which is to say not country) rendition of “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”. I’m relieved.

Netflix has balloons this year, and they’re elves from that movie with Kurt Russell.

It was my wife who pointed this out, but I can’t un-think it now: That Ford commercial where they talk about how they meticulously design their trucks unlike how Santa’s presents magically appear, then talk about how elves have nothing on them. You can’t have it both ways, guys. Either you go with the non-canonical explanation where the elves do nothing, or they’re hard workers who make a great product. Pick one.

Another marching band with awesome flags. That blue and white with the swirls is amazing. Lafayette High School, I think they said.

Next is the Nutcracker balloon. I’m surprised Disney didn’t jump all over that with their movie coming up.

Wow, we are closing in on noon fast. The Hallmark Channel has a float. Weirdly Lacey Chabert is not aboard. Diana Ross is, though, performing “Simply Having a Wonderful Christmastime”. Hey, I like this version! I don’t mind the original either, but let’s not pretend there wasn’t room for improvement.

The Grinch balloon follows that up, and it’s the new Grinch from the upcoming movie, not the classic Grinch, because we can’t have nice things. I still can’t believe Benedict Cumberbatch voices him. Not from the previews I’ve seen.

And behind that, the Macy’s Christmas Tree float which is a multi-layer tree like a wedding cake made of tree, but with singers on it. They’re doing a rather pretty choral song. I wouldn’t mind hearing this on the radio. Will I? No, but I’ll definitely hear Band Aid’s execrable “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” 400 times before December is out. Not 400 times all the way through of course, because I can change the channel. Replace it with this song and I’ll be very happy.

This Macy’s commercial with the astronaut video-chatting with her family at Christmas is heartwarming, but boy is it stupid. Ain’t no way NASA would be on board with letting loose a bunch of foam pellets like snow all over the space station. Can you imagine what would happen once the static electricity built up on all those things? It’d stick to every panel, everywhere, forever. The only thing worse would be glitter.

Spirit of America Dance Stars is performing in front of Macy’s, and I swear this confuses the crap out of me every single year. Why are there two different groups called Spirit of America? Just pick one. They’re doing a jazzed-up version of “Winter Wonderland”. I like the silver-blue-on-fuzzy-white costumes.

Oh man, is it time for Santa already? It’s three minutes to noon!

Here the big guy is, with lots of paper streamers subbing for snow and a jingly, bouncy song. No sign of the kid from the beginning. It’s a Christmas miracle! They say this is the record coldest parade ever, which doesn’t sound right. Is it really? It doesn’t look that cold out there.

But the hosts are signing off and so will I. As always, incredible gratitude and warmest wishes to our troops who are away from their families today. We appreciate everything you do. And thanks too to all the emergency workers who staff the hospitals, police stations, fire houses, ambulance corps, and so on to keep us safe. Hope you all have a great Thanksgiving too.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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