th4 150x150 How to look like a grownup.I’ve discovered the secret to maturity, or at least to the appearance of maturity. This wasn’t what I expected to learn at the Financial Blogger Conference.

Yesterday I had breakfast with the other FinCon14 volunteers. (Fun fact: We’re called “Finions.”) We ate at a place called Café Beignet, because while in New Orleans it’s not just a good idea to eat beignets – it’s the law.

Incidentally, let’s take a moment to call the beignet what it really is: a square funnel cake. Really delicious, but not the doughnut-y sort of pastry I’d expected. Besides, “funnel cake” is easier to say. Whenever I try to pronounce any French word I sound like an idiot.


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th2 300x300 On the road to nowhere in particular. Last week DF and I took a four-day driving trip around rural Alaska, aka “1,200 miles’ worth of postcard views.”

Now that summer is pretty much gone, we decided to treat ourselves to the sights of our too-brief autumn. While we don’t have the scarlets and oranges of New England, the changing colors were still pretty heart-stopping.

Brilliant yellow birch and rich gold willows glimpsed against backdrops of spruce so dark they looked black. Here and there some in-between leaves that gleamed chartreuse in the nearly nonstop sun.

Splashes of red fireweed and redder berry bushes alongside the highway and also carpeting the hillsides. Mountains festooned with blindingly white new snow as well as the more somber ivory of alpine glaciers.

September is a well-kept secret in southcentral Alaska. Most of the tourists have gone home, although we did see some at Denali National Park. Buttoned up to their necks, they were, and seeming disappointed that they didn’t get to see all of Mt. McKinley (which we call “Denali” or just “The Mountain”) due to partly cloudy skies.

At least they got to see the first 10,000 feet of it. Denali is like a stripper who generally doesn’t show you all the good stuff at the same time.


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How spam is made.

th How spam is made. Apparently there’s a spam template floating around the Internetz. Anyone who blogs has likely seen its spawn, i.e., would-be “comments” that sound a lot like other “comments” you received that day. Or the previous week, or year.

That’s because they’re not comments at all. They’re camel noses.

Folks promoting their websites or who are being paid to promote other people’s websites cut and paste chunks of these templates and mass-mail them to every blog extant. Approve them once and they can get into your tent any time they want in the future.

Or, rather, their spam-mails can. If you’re new to blogging, be really wary about which comments you approve. Should the English seem very clunky or the comment off-topic (or a blatant non sequitur), check the return e-mail address/web page attached to the e-mail. You’ll almost certainly see something like “cheap retro Jordan size 8” or “teeth whitening” or “cheap FIF coins.”

Today I got an e-mail from a really clueless spammer who cut-and-pasted the entire freaking template: 2,828 words. Taken together they look like an English-as-a-second-language version of Mad Libs.


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th6 Junk food: Sometimes it just tastes good.It’s National Junk Food Day, apparently. And me without a single Moon Pie in the house.

In fact, I’ve eaten quite well today. Breakfast was oatmeal made with half yogurt whey and half water and flaxseed, plus half of the last banana in the bunch (shared with DF, because I’m kind like that).

For lunch I had rice topped with roasted vegetables – carrots, broccoli, Walla Walla onions and home-grown turnip, plus a dish of homemade yogurt mixed with a spoon of homemade orange marmalade and more of that flaxseed.

If only I’d known about the holiday. I might have gone to McDonald’s for breakfast and Burger King for lunch. Nothing says “bad for you” like a single meal that holds all calories needed for the entire day (with way too many in the form of grease).

On the other hand, I did eat white rice instead of brown. So am I junking out sufficient to the day?


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th9 The call of the Koolickle.Recently DF came into possession of a special report from the University of Mississippi’s Meek School of Journalism and New Media. “Land of plenty: Will food save the Delta or be its death?” is beautifully photographed and contains fascinating articles about the foods commonly consumed in the Mississippi Delta.

These range from the expected (barbecue, greens, fried chicken) to the surprising (tamales, kibbeh, Italian, Asian, haute cuisine). A supermarket is the only one in the Kroger chain that grinds its own meat, because the kibbeh consumers demand fresh grind of a specific quality.

This isn’t just a travelogue, mind you. The writers focused on nutrition issues, food deserts and health problems. We also learn about prawn farming, soul food, family-run eateries, blues music, restaurants that turned dying cities into Saturday-night destinations.

And we learn about Koolickles, a Delta delicacy also known as Pickoolas: dill pickles marinated in brine, sugar and double-strength Kool-Aid.

This is the home of the fried pickle, so it’s no surprise that gherkins might receive unusual treatment. But Kool-Aid pickles struck me as both horrifying and fascinating. Try as I might, I couldn’t get the idea out of my head.

Reader, I made some.


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