Loose Change

I’ve been stealing from myself. This isn’t a good sign, even if it’s less cannibalization or recycling, in my mind, than pulling words out of a (public) notebook. I use stuff I post here in columns all the time, for example; sometimes this is the first draft.

And I’ve mined my own columns for new columns, although this is rare and usually a sentence or two that I think, yeah, that deserves an encore. You can make a case for self-plagiarism, which is a thing and which has gotten writers in trouble before, but not at my level of writing. I don’t have a big enough audience, and my newspaper readers are, as far as I can tell, uninterested in reading me on social media or at this here blog. Once again, I’m pretty sure I could write the same 52 columns every year, with minor changes.

But. Of course. However. I need to modify or qualify here.

Yanking a phrase or graf out of an old blog post or column for a new piece doesn’t keep me up at night. Doing it because I can’t write the same way anymore is another matter, and more of an issue. Although I still sleep pretty well.

I used to jumpstart myself by reading more, finding a voice I liked and just letting it wash over me. Even if it felt artificial sometimes, as if I were just imitating rhythm and tone, I was still grateful for the boost and satisfied with the end result.

Now I can’t even do that, and I spend my time scouring archives, trying to find my mojo. Doesn’t seem to be working, either.

I’m not complaining. None of this odd, barely-a-career public writing was planned or anticipated by me. If it seems logical in retrospect, well, duh. Everything looks deterministic with hindsight. Had to happen that way because it did happen that way, etc.

But so will the end. I don’t feel fatalistic but I sure feel realistic. And optimistic, even, as bizarre as that sounds. I don’t feel done. I might be done with a readership, though.

There are reasons I feel muted. As much as I’d like it to be otherwise, I don’t seem to be a writer who disconnects from his life. And my life is complicated right now, at least in a sense. There are things on my mind I can’t write about, because I don’t want to add to a situation and there are other people involved.

And now I’ve written almost 500 words about not writing. There’s a room in Writers Hell with my name on it.

My daughter and her family are moving this week, something that makes me ache. It’s great news, really, and fits neatly into the plan; Austin is expensive and she always talked about moving further into a rural direction, which mostly meant closer to San Antonio. Which is what they’ve done, renting a house southeast of Austin, more in hill country and on a lake, actually. The house appears nicer than any I’ve ever lived in, which is part of the aching.

Meaning, I’ve barely moved since marriage. Two apartments in the first year, a rented condo for the next three, and then we bought this house in the fifth and that was it. So as much as I do believe in change or die, and this is pretty much a win for them, I still miss their first house in Austin. I seem to be desperately searching for consistency, and forcing Emerson to rattle around in his grave (foolish consistency and all). I imagine I’ll get over it.

I’ve been back in the HBO saddle lately, since I like a couple of series very much. Silicon Valley is a joy, goofy and profane and comedy gold. I like VEEP a little less, but not by much. And it’s even more raunchy.

But I saw the latest episode, in which Hugh Laurie reprised a role from his arc over the past couple of seasons. Always nice to see Laurie, and in fact when I shaved my beard a couple of months ago I got a couple of comments about a resemblance between us. I don’t see it, but I’ll take it. But then I have to take this:

Talk about foreshadowing. This hair loss pattern is very familiar to me, and Laurie is my age. His may be a bit more advanced, but I’ll get there. And it won’t be pretty.

The comfort here, of course, is that vanity isn’t really an issue anymore. These ego blows are glancing, easily shrugged off by someone sprinting toward 60. And I don’t look at the back of my head.

But vanity intersects at this age with health in some ways, so sometimes I look at other things. I’ve slowly dropped some pounds this winter and spring, not a lot but then. I’m wary, let’s say, although given my state of flab I wonder. Not that much.

After I got back home from Arizona, though, I was in the nip-this-in-the-bud mood, so I went for my go-to and ate ice cream. This depresses me, resorting to sugar to keep from thinning out, but it’s easy and fun and I ain’t gonna live forever.

It’s not like I’m clueless. I knew a long time ago that if I ever reached a point where my desire for something sweet ebbed enough that I’d be uninterested, I’d drop a lot of weight without really trying. Which is exactly what happened, and why it continues to happen.

I don’t have to be this way. A little discipline and I could fill my plate with good stuff, plenty of food to keep my mind off the scale. I just seem to lose interest, not a good sign.

On the other hand, apparently I can still get compulsive. My inner overeater is still alive and well, and I’m like everybody else: Food can be comfort, and sometimes comfort is necessary. Combine that with a big ice cream sale at Safeway, where I could score some favorites for less than $2, and c’mon. It just makes sense.

And it helped solidify a theory I have, and other people (many other peoples) have, which is about One Food. My son decided to cut way back on the soda, that’s all, just soda. He was tipping past 270 pounds a year ago, and now is in the upper 220s. For a guy heading toward 6’3, that’s almost normal. And it was just that One Food.

And mine is ice cream, obviously. Two weeks ago I weighed 164. Yesterday my scale said 176, even though the calories in and out suggest I might have gained a pound. There is no alarm here, the result of years of obsession with the scale. I can’t gain a pound a day.

I can’t. You can’t either, probably. No matter what the scale says, it’s unlikely that someone who eats fairly normally (i.e., not pathologically), even if that tends to be too much, could eat enough on a daily basis. From an energy perspective, for most of us that’s getting close to 6000 calories. It can be done, although you’d probably have to snack constantly, and snack on sugar and nuts, calorie-dense foods that don’t fill us up. Hard to do for any length of time, I’d think.

I recently read an article by some person who decided to weigh herself multiple times during the day. Meh. Done it, lots of times. No surprises, either: Her weight seemed to fluctuate 8-9 pounds, and I’ve seen a 10-pound range the times I’ve tried the same thing.

Everything weighs something. My two cups of coffee in the morning weigh almost two pounds. Step on a scale after and not before, and it might be ugly. So this persistent cold goodness has upped the amount of food I’m carrying around in my body. Probably. Or else it’s just one of those metabolic mysteries. At any rate, I was 172 this morning, and if I skip ice cream for the next few days that should settle down to something more accurate, around 165 or so.

None of this matters to me, of course, except to show me that it wouldn’t be hard to pack on 50 pounds if I got in a mood. After 10 years, I don’t see that happening, and I’m not sure I care that much. It’s just weird, and sort of fascinating, which I think means I need to get out more. Or something. Maybe move to a new house. It’s an idea.


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Once And Future

I’ve been reluctant to post here for a while. I just realized this.

It’s all housekeeping, although I haven’t felt particularly inspired anyway. But I’m going to move my domain to a new host soon, or I think I am, and it’s possible I’m starting over from scratch. This appeals to me for several reasons.

I have 10 years of blog posts, though. Right here. You can go back and read posts from May 2007, if that’s your idea of a good time. And while slate-cleaning sounds nice, I note that I wrote 58 posts in that month a decade ago. It’s hard to consign that stuff to the WayBack Machine.

Still, it may come to that. My current host is a friend’s server, offered up a dozen years ago or so. It’s like getting free rent but without recourse, or not much recourse. There appears to be some sort of minor backdoor bug in my backup file, which would explain some hijacking people have complained about when they click on a link to my blog on a mobile device. My virus software will not even permit the download, so unless I can figure out how to fix that I’m not going to be migrating anytime soon.

And before you ask, not that you would, tech support for this server is strong but, of course, I can’t really ask people to divert their attention to my little site from paying customers.

So, you see, whatever I write today may be essentially gone by next week. I’m really comfortable with the ephemeral nature of what I do, but that doesn’t mean I’m happy to toss it away. And I won’t, even if I have to manually scrape it for anything worth saving.

The empiricism intrigues me. Does a blog post exist if no one reads it anymore?

This is what’s on my mind today, at any rate. Along with a bunch of other stuff, none of which I feel inspired to write about at the moment, which is probably the key to all of this anyway.

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Time Traveling

I get easily disoriented, which I’m thinking is a result of working from home for all these years (and it being the same home, ditto the years).I love traveling, and (aside from a little packing anxiety) it’s usually fun and actually invigorating. It just takes me a few days to reset my daily schedule once I get back home, which I imagine happens to a lot of us.

I’m just saying that I’ve been traveling a lot in the past month, and I feel a little off balance. A routine spring trip to see my daughter and grandson in Austin was followed by the news that my mother was having some health issues, so I hopped back on a plane to spend some time with her, helping out as I could while she recovers.

Here I am, then. I stepped back into a busy schedule and haven’t really had a chance to catch my breath, which doesn’t help the acclimation process. Nor does my personal climate change, whipping back and forth between warm temperatures and plenty of sun to what we have here in the Northwest. Which is basically a Northwest weather caricature of rain and clouds, nothing momentous but GOOD GRIEF. Our normal rainfall in May is 1.97 inches total; Tuesday the area got 1.9 inches. We’ve moved way past having a healthy reservoir of water for the summer into stupid territory. Nobody needs this much wet.

So it throws me, as the sun we’re about to experience—for a longer stretch than we’ve seen since September, or maybe August—will also throw me.

My Arizona trip last week was pretty unremarkable, aside from sun. My mom needed rest, and she’s a blur on her slow days, always active and energetic, so my mission was to poise at the edge of my seat, looking for any hint that she was about to pop off the couch and do something dumb, something she didn’t need to do and wouldn’t enjoy considering her current shortness of breath. I cooked and cleaned a little, but mostly I hung out, playing visiting nurse.

I also walked the dog, and then just walked myself, taking advantage of the weather to soak up some vitamin D the organic way. And once again, I satisfied myself that even with my erratic exercise over the past couple of years, I show no signs of becoming deconditioned yet. I even ran a bit with this dog, not particularly fast but faster than a jog, for maybe a quarter-mile each time. Considering I was doing this at about 5000 feet above sea level, I have no complaints.

The most significant thing about this trip, though, has to be a new appreciation of my mom’s relentless search, in her retirement, through the wonderful world of genealogy. I’ve never been interested, my opinion being that exploring personal ancestry is an overblown exercise in vanity. I could document a direct line between my family and George Washington, and intellectually I’d still know it was meaningless. My great-great-great-grandfather and I share about as much genetic material as random strangers, or at least that’s what I’ve been led to believe (even basic math shows a bit more than 3%; even if it were George, way back when, he’d add another couple of iterations and we’d be looking at less than 1%).

But, as I wrote this week,  my inner history nerd got a little interested when I rummaged through her work. My great-great-great-grandfather was Lewis Sigars, born in 1807 in New Jersey (I got this wrong in the column), and just having a name and a date gave me a reference point to the beginnings of my country. I surprised myself by my interest.

And yesterday I found this.


I posted it online, sort of pleased with myself, although the obvious connection with Nixon and our current executive branch wasn’t on my mind. I was mostly thinking about newspapers, once I found my stash from the 1970s and 80s. Connecting the dots, I realized that we’re soon going to lose a pretty dramatic memory tool. We’ve got new ones, and the lack of physical, dead-tree newspapers won’t mean, I think, any less information on the past. It’s just interesting to hold the yellow pages and remember.

I’ve also got the paper from 1980 when John Lennon was murdered, as well as the July 4, 1976 edition (and a few later ones, including from when the Soviet Union self-destructed and the Nisqually earthquake 16 years ago). I have no idea what to do with these or how to preserve them, but I bet I can find out.

That said, I can’t help but see the Watergate comparisons that are floating around these days. It seems logical, but history can fool you. And more importantly, I realize that I’m an eyewitness, having solid memories of that time and my fascination with what was going on. Toss in a lot of books on the subject, and I could give you a good sense of what went on. And why the historical parallels aren’t all that historic, or parallel for that matter.

In fact, the comparison of these two presidents, Nixon and Trump, does a disservice to both (but mostly Nixon). Two different men, two different eras, two very different situations. President Trump appears to be lurching from bad news to worse; Nixon had a big brain and had been in the politics game a long time. I don’t see it.

I do see what’s going on, though, and I know that my concern for our damaged civics is outweighed by my curiosity. I have no idea what’s going to happen, and I can imagine all sorts of moves before the history can begin to be written. I’ll be watching, and at some point, if something actually historic happens, I’m going to save a newspaper, you betcha.

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Knowing What I Know

Anybody know what this is?

Or who this is? Maybe that’s easier. I honestly have no idea if it’s obvious or murky.

It’s just history. My history, anyway. This is a still from Two-Lane Blacktop, a 1971 film that popped up on this Top 250 Films list by Sight & Sound. I remember the film vaguely but I can place the night I saw it, a drive-in theater somewhere in a sketchy part of town, at least to a 14-year-old. I’m assuming I was 14 or so; I’m pretty sure one of the neighbor guys drove.

The three people in the picture are Warren Oates (foreground), Dennis Wilson of The Beach Boys, and James Taylor. I probably went because of James, seeing as Sweet Baby James was an album I wore some extra grooves in.

It was a good list, I think. There’s a quiz involved (of course) if you want, checking your personal viewing history against cinema historians. And let me stop you there.

I’m trying to imagine a person who doesn’t watch movies. I’m sure they’re out there, even limiting it to only those in the western world. I just can’t quite see it.

For the rest of us, though, we don’t need a list to know what we like. It’s more of a convenience and maybe inspiration. If you’ve never seen 8-1/2, Tokyo Story, or for that matter Two-Lane Blacktop, maybe you’ll see about checking them out. I was lucky, when I was a teenager and slightly older, to have time and access to a couple of nice repertory film houses, where I saw a lot of these movies just because.

I was just thinking about reactions I’ve seen in the past to things like this. There’s been a lot of ink spilled regarding our collective disinterest in expert opinions, although I think it goes deeper. I think there’s a distinct push-back in some quarters on opinion itself.

I’ve seen it personally, but of course. I offer my opinion up once a week. These days it’s not likely to be a controversial opinion, although you might be surprised. People object to all sorts of things.

It just surprises me that there’s so much hostility to opinion, and it’s been building for longer than you might think. People seem disinterested in disagreeing with an opinion on its merits or for whatever reason; they just want the opinionated person to shut up. That’s essentially the response. Shut up.

I was in the office of one of my newspapers six months ago, just after I’d received an email (also sent to the paper) taking me to task for suggesting that people who felt the election of Donald Trump freed them up to commit assault and battery or worse on people who didn’t resemble them, and particularly people who wore clothes or had skin color that suggested they didn’t spring from somewhere in Europe.

It was a bullshit response to my column, sort of a petulant, whiny email about broaching a subject that didn’t involve grandparenthood or my lawn. I told the writer that he should do himself a favor and stop reading, which didn’t help matters: He seemed insulted that I didn’t roll over, apologize for my insensitivity to whatever and promise never to do it again.

We talked about this in the office a little, this strange letter and my reaction to it, which is honest and pretty much always my reaction. I don’t care. I acknowledge, but I don’t care. I’m comfortable with having an opinion, with understanding that it’s by definition subjective and mine. I’m aware that people might disagree.

I just don’t know what it means anymore.

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The Grass Is Greener

I’m sure it’s fascinating for weather geeks and meteorologists to observe the Pacific Northwest. The mountains and water come together to produce unique weather.

It’s just sort of dull. Yesterday the entire region was waiting breathlessly for an aberration, a very unusual (for this time of year, but really any time) pattern of warm and unstable air, creating convection and some remarkable clouds, but leading to the inevitable, which is what everyone was all aflutter about.

This would be thunderstorms. Unusual up here for certain; it’s just not normally in the cards. We’re almost never muggy the way we were yesterday. It was a huge story, with Twitter going crazy and updates coming constantly.

For thunderstorms. A little lightning. It lasted about 10 minutes up here. Woohoo.

But speaking of which, we’re pretty soggy here. Saturated, really. The past nine months wouldn’t surprise anyone who’s ever experienced Seattle seasons that didn’t include August: Gray and wet, alert the media. It’s just the cumulative effect, though, of day after day without much in the way of a break We got wet and stayed wet.

This created a sense of lawn-mowing urgency, at least in me. I mean, since I’m wallowing in trivial matters here. Might as well indulge.

I can’t mow my lawn in the rain; no one should, but people do. I just have an electric lawnmower, which rules out wet, so it’s a constant dance of timing. I took advantage this week of some sun to get out there and mow it a couple of times, but I can’t relax yet. That grass is thick and lush, nice to see but totally useless to me and a pain to cut after a few days of growing.

My son would do it, but here’s where my father lives in me. I’m not willing to turn over my lawn to someone who’s never mowed it, as strange as that sounds, until it’s manageable. I know this yard like I know my own face in the mirror when I shave.

I’m going to Arizona soon, to see my mother and help out as she prepares to sell her house and move, and just to be a presence as she’s having some health issues at the moment. I always enjoying visiting and spending time with her, and I’m glad I can help. I just haven’t figured out how to get the grass to stop growing for a week. Suggestions welcome.

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Civil Discourse

A Facebook friend posted the other day about trying to watch Better Call Saul, the AMC prequel to Breaking Bad. He mentioned that he was trying, but found it pretty slow.

I started watching BB from the beginning, or maybe a couple of episodes in, so I’m pretty comfortable with the pace, the slow, Southwestern crawl under blue skies and stunning scenery. It feels normal, and I’m not sure if that’s just style or a reflection of New Mexico lifestyle; it just feels right to this Southwest émigré.

I watched the first season, 10 episodes, of Saul when it premiered, although it fell into the pit of downtime that we should be used to with cable and premium channel series. I like this format, the short seasons and the long wait for the next one, but sometimes outta sight, outta mind, y’know?

I’m all caught up on Saul now, and I’ve noticed something. There’s a fair amount of conversation in this series about civilians, just ordinary people who aren’t connected to a drug cartel or involved in any criminal activities. “Civilian” isn’t an unusual construct (I’m thinking it’s used in The Godfather, but I’m not interested in that particular rabbit hole at the moment), but it struck me as a great synonym. I want to use it more often.

I want to use civilian mostly because it helps tamp down my annoyance with people who aren’t interested in the same things I am. People who consistently misspell “you’re” or scatter stray apostrophes willy-nilly don’t jump out so much, and why should they? A lot of us grew up in a world where reading something meant that somebody wrote it, someone interested in making sure his or her point was taken and so took care (or someone took care) that it was grammatically correct and hopefully without much in the way of spelling errors.

Everyone writes these days, though, and labeling someone as illiterate or unschooled makes about as much sense as scanning their shopping lists for typos. It’s a different animal, and those folks who seem confused by contractions are just busy, I suspect, and casual about the whole thing. Civilians, in my words. Move on, people.

Same for politics. I listen to a Pod Save America, a political podcast by some former Obama people, young guys who came onboard in their 20s, and I noticed a while back that one of the guys is fond of saying, “D-trip.” As in, “Go to the D-trip site,” or “Over at the D-trip…” It took me a while to notice it because I got it.

“D-trip” is shorthand for “D triple C,” which is shorthand for Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Not a mystery to me, because I’m not a civilian. I like this stuff. I wouldn’t expect random people to like it also, even if I think we’d be better off as a people to brush up a bit on our civics. This is inside baseball stuff and has nothing to do with intelligence or awareness or responsibility.

The more I think along these lines, the more I like civilian. Don’t care about baseball? Civilian. Don’t know anything about the canon of Joss Whedon? Civilian. Don’t like Stephen Sondheim? Civilian. Maybe uncivilized, but civilian.

I’m pretty sure it’s in The Godfather. The sensibility is, anyway. Don’t let civilians become collateral damage; that’s a line not to be crossed, and when it’s inevitably crossed it won’t end well. I take this seriously, then. Don’t get me started on baseball.

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So this happened.  Paine Field is a couple of miles from my house, and I’ve seen hundreds or more of these small planes fly over my head, not to mention the Boeing big boys. I’ve seen Air Force One, in fact, a couple of times. You think we don’t imagine this happening all the time? No one hurt, so we’ll just be thankful and wonder about the odds. And we’ll look at those planes a little differently from now on.

And this is neither here nor there, but I finally saw Arrival

It’s funny; I wrote about going to the movies last week. How I don’t go anymore, really, and Arrival is a good example. It sounded interesting when it came out, and I nagged my family a bit about going with me, but it never happened. Then, after it was released on home video, I repeated above nagging with no serious takers. It’s just hard to find the time, as fun as it might be.

It struck a nerve with my daughter, though. The combination of thought-provoking science fiction and motherhood guaranteed it, and while I might have just rented the film myself and watched eventually, I waited until my trip to Austin to catch it.

For someone who grew up with Slaughterhouse-5, the theme was familiar, which didn’t matter a bit; I thought it was pitch-perfect and original to boot. I was mostly amazed to see a female protagonist, and such a meaty role. I’ve always been a fan of Amy Adams, and I imagine she wanted this one badly. She isn’t anywhere close to having a slowdown in her career, but I can’t help thinking this was the role of a lifetime.

I’ve never stopped paying attention to what’s going in the world; I’ve been this way since I can remember. It probably was a reaction to tumultuous times when I was a kid, and then just a quirk or whatever of my personal psychology.

I just rarely engage the news these days. Some of that was just shock that Mr. Trump won the election in November, and my need to detach for a bit so I didn’t freak out. That changed eventually to curiosity, but I’ve never felt the need to toss in my pennies.

I’m also pretty comfortable with having my fingers on the cultural pulse, with plenty of caveats. I knew about sous-vide, for example, even if I had no particular interest or desire to check it out. I had to eat the result first.

So I’m aware of the 5:2 Diet, or whatever it’s called. Read an article this morning about it. I’m not interested in a diet, or losing weight, as weird as that feels, but I kept nodding my head anyway. It sounds like it’s not any more effective than anything else, and that motivation is really, always, the key. If I’ve got this program right, a couple of times a week with this plan you’re supposed to fast, or at least eat a fraction of a normal intake. The idea is that for some people, it might be easier to just restrict your diet severely for a day, then eat normally for three days, then another fast, and so on.

It’s all psychological, which is why I was nodding. The analogies create themselves. If you spend about 20 bucks a day, every day, and you want to save $35 a week, you could spend $15 a day and get there. Or you could spend your $20 five times a week and spend $2.50 on the other two days. Whatever floats your boat.

Studies show that this diet doesn’t work any better than others, which makes sense because they all work. We’re the ones who don’t.

I’ve been watching the scale for 40 years. What started out, when I was still a teenager, as vanity and an awareness that I could easily put on the pounds kept me coming back to those creeping numbers. It didn’t stop me from getting pretty fat, and I’m hesitant to call it obsession, only because that’s a clinical term and it can be horribly debilitating for some people.

And now, when vanity has cooled down to just a vague wish to be presentable and not embarrass myself, I’m in this weird, bizarro situation in which I still worry a little about weight but for exactly the opposite reason. A few pounds have gone away since January, not all that troubling and mostly because I was in an awkward place in terms of clothes. I’m around 165 pounds, down from 170, which is really, statistically, an ideal spot to end up, but I don’t care for my reflection that much. I look frail, to my eyes, or at least skinny. That’s vanity, too, but I’m not 20 years old and there are now other things to worry about. I don’t have wiggle room if I get sick and my appetite diminishes. I think about that a lot.

Just not as much as I think about planes. At least for the moment..

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I Sous-vide, Therefore I Eat

My daughter asked for my opinion a few weeks ago, a rare event just by itself. She was mulling over a birthday present for her husband, and she wondered if this was a great idea or maybe not:

If this doesn’t ring a bell, I understand. This is a sous-vide precision cooker, with the added bonus of having Bluetooth and wifi capabilities if that’s what rings your bell.

I’ve been aware of sous-vide as a sort of faddish cooking method, or that’s the way I saw it. I enjoy cooking, or at least a little, although recently it’s consisted mostly of me drumming up some sort of meal for my wife on long days. We’ve all become scavengers in this household, with our own schedules and preferences, which is fine but hardly efficient and certainly more expensive. I could do better, but I wasn’t much interested in new ways of doing it.

Sous-vide isn’t a fad, though. And it’s not new: Slow cooking is an old technique, and sous-vide is by definition slow cooking. And it’s a technique that was rediscovered half a century ago, now pretty widely in use by restaurants and caterers. You can read more about it if you’re interested, but the short version is pretty simple: Put your food in vacuum-sealed bags (or remove as much air as possible; this doesn’t affect the cooking so much as prevents spoilage if you’re making a bunch and planning on freezing or refrigerating), heat water to the temperature you want the food cooked to, maintain that temperature for a certain period of time, and end up with food that is perfect.

I imagine anyone who needs to cook for more than one knows about slow cooking; the crockpot has been around awhile. I also imagine most of us have at one time or another poached an egg or something else. Sous-vide is similar. The results aren’t.

The results made me a convert. I spent last week in Austin with my daughter, and she used that baby every day. Inexpensive beef became the best steak I’ve ever eaten. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts, so tempting at the store and so unsatisfactory when I get around to actually cooking them (aside from battering and frying, which is fantastic, of course), were amazing.

But it’s not poaching, not really, and not all that slow. This fancy device heats the water and circulates it, keeping the temperature exactly the same. Preheat the water to the desired temperature (say, 129 degrees F. for perfectly medium-rare steak), clip the plastic bags with the food onto the side of a stockpot, and walk away. The food won’t overcook, and the cooker will even send you an alert on your phone when it’s ready (about an hour for those perfect steaks). Give the meat a quick sear for a minute on the stovetop if you want that nice crunch and you’re ready to go.

And it’s spectacular, honestly. The food gets cooked to the same temperature all the way through, edge to edge. Vegetables, desserts, eggs: You can pretty much cook anything. Call this an endorsement.

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