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Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


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Like my brownhouse:
   Albany Avenue strip Italian
Tuesday, April 12 2011
This evening Gretchen and I had to pick up and sign our taxes at our accountant's office in Uptown, Kingston. So we thought we'd make a night of it and go out for dinner afterwards. We brought our dogs, which Gretchen likes to set loose in whatever non-food business she patronizes (she even brings them with her into the dentist's office). I don't share her idealized vision of their behavior, so I tend to be much more cautious. Sally, for example, has in recent years developed habit of spraying a little territorial urine in new places, particularly on furniture and carpets frequented by other non-human critters. So the whole time we were in the accountant's office, I found myself either running after or physically restraining Sally. Otherwise she had her face in the trash or a box of Wheat Thins. And that worn industrial carpet looked exactly like the sort of place where she would dribble some pee pee.
Once that mission was taken care of, we went to La Florentina, a convincingly-Italian restaurant in a dreary Albany Avenue strip mall. Since going completely vegan, I've been leery of Italian food, as pizza was the last cheese-containing food I abandoned and the one I miss the most. But subsequently I've found myself able to enjoy vegan Italian food, particularly (amusingly enough) at the Olive Garden. Put enough olive oil and garlic on bread, and who needs cheese? I've even found myself liking completely cheeseless pizzas (the kind that don't even have vegan cheese on them). My bad old non-vegan self used to consider such food either "dreary" or "sad," but at this point my cheese addiction is completely broken and I really can enjoy cheeseless versions of the cheesy foods I used to love.
Today was my alcohol-free Tuesday, but since we were eating out, I juggled things and allowed myself to drink wine. Under my amended rules of alcohol consumption, I was permitted to drink today, but only in a social context, and tomorrow would have to be completely alcohol free. (I've been good at obeying such modest self-imposed restrictions on a behavior that can otherwise gradually get out of control.)
I've been reading a book entitled The Information: a Flood, an encyclopedic and highly-readable tome covering the history and emergence of information theory. It starts with the emergence of alphabets and then spends considerable time comparing and contrasting the methods of thinking used by literate and pre-literate peoples (it turns out that even simple logical frameworks have no meaning to the preliterate). It then discusses something that had intrigued since Alex Haley's Roots: the talking drums of Africa. How could that possibly work? It turns out that West African languages are tonal, and just by sending the sequence of those tones, any listener conversant in those languages can puzzle out the meaning if provided enough context. So that context is provided in long poetic phrases. Instead of "elephant," you say something like, "the elephant, the clumsy beast of the great plain at the edge of the swampy forest."

I was so excited by the talking drums that the subject was featured heavily in the early part of our dinner conversation. Later, after Gretchen had identified a distinctly "middle eastern" quality in the red cabbage calzone she'd ordered, we discussed the ebbs and flows of empires in the Mediterranean. I wasn't clear on when exactly Greek hegemony was replaced by the Roman variety, but I was aware that Arabs had ruled Sicily in Medieval times.
Gretchen had ordered a pizza, a salad, and that calzone (with a view to taking a lot home with us). I'd ordered a penne pasta dish featuring eggplant, sundried tomatoes and mushrooms. It was very greasy and fairly good, though nothing special. The huge pita bread brought to our table was exceptional. It was freshly cooked and filled to bursting with steam. [As for that calzone, I didn't have any until the next day, when it was cold. It was incredible! And I agree with Gretchen, it tasted more Middle Eastern than Italian.]

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