SUI GENERIS punk rock bike shop home-brew art/craft love

On blog fiction

I started writing my fictional blog today. Of course, for the experiment to work, I can't tell anybody how to find it, but I can talk about it. Turns out blogs are a good format for fiction after all. A talented blog writer will post about the highlights of her day, interesting events, or pressing matters on her mind. In the same way, a good novel sticks to the story, moving from plot point to plot point, not getting mired in the minutiae of daily life.

As an aside, I missed On Beauty for this month's book club. I tried reserving it from my library but there were too many holds on it, so a week ago I requested the large print edition. It only just came yesterday. I finished the first three chapters (about 100 pages in my copy of the book) and it reminded me of The Corrections, another book that I did not enjoy. Since the book club unanimously hated On Beauty, I'm glad to see I won't be missing anything by quitting while I'm ahead.

So! My secret fictional blog. It should be good practice for developing novel-writing skills. I'm making up friends, events, and places of course. Most challenging of all is writing a first-person narrator who is not me, which is a skill I desperately need to learn since currently all my male characters are thinly-veiled clones of myself. Leave aside for now the fact that all my female leads are independent, tattooed, anarcho-hipster-punk cyclists. I don't need to change that, because it's awesome.

I love giving stuff away!

J and I started our spring cleaning early this year by junking some small furniture and clothes and paper trash, and reorganizing our kitchen. Ah, so much better. The owner of the house installed a new oven in our kitchen that works and it's a nice white color that inspires cleanliness instead of the old black antique. It's starting to feel good to be in our house again. It's the best rental I've ever lived in. I can only imagine the joy of owning our walls so we can paint and hang and decorate. I love this stuff. Before-and-after photos of interior design are like porn. I'm honestly not gay, though.


Oh, the places you'll go!

Yes, this is how I spent my morning: MyMaps at

It's a map of places in the Twin Cities where I like to go or want to check out. Sort of a to-do atlas. It's color coded! More or less.

Green: food marts & restaurants
Red: wine, beer & liquor stores
Brown: brewpubs, wine bars, coffee shops, breweries
Black: tattoos & music
Yellow: bikes
White: church/charity, other groups
Blue: art & other

Technology has failed me again!

I bought the parts for my new computer on NewEgg. They're a pretty good site with nice prices and fast shipping. The best feature they offer is user reviews, and they've got a large enough customer base that most products have a representative variety of opinions.

I went cheap as possible but I bought quality parts, with the exception of my case. I mean, it's just a plastic shell... not worth breaking the bank on, right? Except the case includes one crucial part: the power supply. And this particular case had a few reviews warning about the power supply breaking down. "Pssh," I thought, "what are the chances?" And it worked just fine... for about a month. Suddenly last week, I tried to turn it on and nothing happened. Sure enough, the power supply was fried.

Luckily everything else looks okay and my local geek squad (little brother) is installing a new supply for me. No such trouble with the typewriter. In fact, the sticky "u" key seems to have un-stuck with use and rarely gives me trouble any more. I miss having a computer, but I told my brother there's no hurry. As long as I get it back before Spore comes out.

On the Wagon

I like to drink alcohol. For those of you who are new here, it's the truth, drinking is a hobby of mine. I like drinking anything really--before I turned 21 I went through phases with pop, tea, juice, what have you--but with alcohol (and wine in particular) I have become a bona fide enthusiast. This enjoyment goes beyond the actual imbibing, of course, and extends to researching, collecting, visiting vineyards & wineries, &c.

But it all comes back down to the crux of the matter: actually drinking the stuff. Just between you and me, internet, this is my favorite part. As much I enjoy turning over bottles in pleasant wine shops, learning new information online, and writing in my little wine journal, none of that really compares to the pleasure of a good glass of booze (wine, beer, rum or otherwise).

So I drink a lot. Not a lot a lot, but enough that sometimes I wonder whether I'm in danger of developing addiction (this fear is founded solely on a family history with alcoholism and not any behavior on my part). So sometimes, I stop. I quit drinking for a week or two. I figure that if this is a problem, then my drinking is a problem. It has never been a problem. But it is kind of lame, since I like drinking, and it sucks to stop doing something that I like. At least my self-imposed prohibition allows me to focus on my other hobbies: I finally started work on my second sock!


Nail biting

My wife and I have a sizeable amount of money sunk into the St. Paul Craftstravaganza, an event for which the vendor applications are due in less than two weeks. We need around fifty vendors to support our basic marketing budget, but we're hoping to host around seventy in total. We're doing well, since we have received some applications and I didn't think we'd see any until around now. Still, it's impossible to tell how many we will get in our mailbox between now and the cutoff date. I admit it, I'm nervous.

Once this part is out of the way, the rest of the planning is cake. Sure, in a few months I'll start to worry about drawing a crowd of shoppers to the event but at least by then I'll know we have an event to attract people to. It's all up in the air right now.

Realistically? Yes, I think we will be fine. We've done a ton of marketing online and on the streets to let artists know what we're up to. I'm optimistic. I know logically that there's nothing to fear. But just between you and me? I'm a bit of a wreck. It's like waiting for law school acceptance letters all over again. And we all know how that turned out. (I can't believe I was still waiting to hear back from schools last August...worst mistake of my life!)

No winter shall abate this spring’s increase.

I love relaxing reading on the bus ride to work while the sun rises and someone else does the hard work of driving for me. I love how the coffee on my tongue makes original Pringles taste like barbeque chips. I love watching trains roll overhead and wondering where the graffiti was drawn, and what the weather was like there, and how long it will last till it's erased and a new artist steps up to decorate the blank slate. I love the anticipation of hot tea, hot chocolate, hot baths during my walk home--an anticipation that is often more pleasant than the thing itself. I love the way Lola (my Pug) freaks out and runs up to greet me when I get home. I love the cozy feeling of stepping into warm slippers. I love cuddling with my wife.

I'm actually fed up with winter in Minnesota, and I hate this cold. But who wants to read about that?


LOL search query that found my site

i wanna go home. I dont wanna be in this school anymore.

I like to imagine that it is a broken law student who got here this way, but as the grammar suggests, it was actually a student, from Marist High School in Chicago. Does your teacher know what you're doing during school time, young man/lady? Whoever you are, I hope I helped you get through your day while you viewed my blog for zero seconds. With that, I'm out for the week! Peace!

Eat Me Twin Cities

(in which Sui Generis recommends restaurants in Minneapolis & St. Paul)

Coming off nearly a week of nothing but wine posts, I needed something to boost me out of the rut. Luckily, Nathan handed me a line! In the comments, he requests my suggestions for good food close to here. I'm not the best person to ask, for three reasons. A limited budget means I'd rather cook for myself at home; I always make a point to eat out while traveling, but otherwise do it rarely; and my wife and I don't agree on food which makes us even less likely to try new restaurants. Of course, you should read the Surly Vegan for occasional restaurant reviews from a vegan POV, but since you asked me...

  • Sakura: I've mentioned before how they are the only restaurant in Minnesota to serve my favorite drink (Calpis), although it's on the secret menu and you have to request it. They also make the best vegetarian gyoza, ever. A bit pricey but a good place to bring our out-of-town friends.
  • I haven't been in a while but I enjoyed Pizza Luce the last time we ate there, at the Uptown location. My wife and I sat outside for lunch and then made out in the car. The first time I visited a Pizza Luce, it was the Warehouse District location. A man asked for our leftovers as soon as we stepped outside and then my dinner companions went to Sex World.
  • My favorite sub is a Jimmy John's #6 but that might be partially due to pleasant memories from my first visit to this establishment, which was during Spring Break (woo!) 2003.
  • For Thai food the prize goes to King and I even though I only went there once and I ordered the food too spicy. I've been aching for another taste of their mock dock ever since.
  • During our honeymoon I meant to take J to Cafe Brenda. But they were closed, so instead we went to Harvey's Bar & Grill across the street. Minneapolis' Finest were having lunch at Harvey's that day and again when we came back. Cops know where the good food is. Harvey's serves an incredible grilled cheese and a good grilled veggie sandwich too.
  • French Meadow Bakery: This planned honeymoon stop was actually open, and it's difficult to resist a visit whenever we're in the area, even if it's just for a scone and some water. The egg salad sandwich on hemp bread is tasty.
  • I have to admit that I'm crazy about the broccoli cheese soup at Panera Bread. Now served daily! Strict vegetarians take note, however: the bastards cook it in a "chicken base (chicken meat including natural chicken juices)". I choose to ignore this fact and instead focus on smearing delicious soup all over myself.
  • Best vegetarian restaurant that no longer exists: Mud Pie.
  • Finally, I hear the Hard Times Cafe is good and they're at the top of my list for restaurants to check out next. If only I can talk J into making the trip!

Some thoughts on a wine tasting

(After today I will probably stop talking about wine for a while, so stay with me--it feels like I've practically got a wine blog at this point.) I used my Christmas money this year to buy the most expensive wine I have ever purchased, a bottle of Argyle Reserve Pinot Noir 2003. Saturday night at our friends' place seemed an ideal occasion to uncork it--except that to my surprise, it was sealed by a screwcap instead! I was robbed of the fun of popping a cork, but both enclosures have their advantages and I was not put off in any way by the discovery.

The wine certainly spoke for itself. I thought I detected some chocolate and indeed, it paired very well with home-baked brownies! Clearly, it was a good wine. But I won't be drinking it again any time soon. To my unrefined palate, I'm not convinced it was worth the price. At our budget I'd rather have decent wines every other week than an excellent wine every other month. (And there are some very decent wines available at bargain prices... I refer you once more to the invaluable Dr. Vino.)

As a counterpoint to the Pinot Noir, we opened an extravagantly foul bottle of '95 Merlot that was dumped down the drain after one sip. Chalk it up as a learning experience: now we know what wine tastes like when it goes bad. Remember kids, it's basically only reds that improve with age and even then it's only premium wine, stored properly, that will be worth saving. Don't even try aging that bottle of Yellowtail Shiraz. It's good if you drink it now, but in a few years it'll turn to shite.


Cedar Creek Winery Vidal

Say hello to the Sui Generis February Wine of the Month, Cedar Creek's Vidal. It's the one on the left of the photo, absolutely encrusted in awards. We tasted it on the cellar tour and I was very impressed. I looked it up in my Oxford Companion to Wine, for reassurance that I was not being misinformed, and verified that Vidal is a real grape. In fact, its hardy nature makes it well-suited to the climate in Wisconsin and it is used for making ice wines in Canada. Somewhat ironic, then, that their grapes are actually grown in New York and then shipped to Wisconsin for production.

Cedar Creek may not grow the grapes, but winemaker Philippe Coquard certainly knows how to use the grapes to make a top-drawer white wine. Back in New York, he was named "Winemaker of the Year!" I first heard of this winery when I drank their Settlement Gold, a slightly effervescent dessert wine that tasted of tropical fruit. We were so impressed with it that we made a three hour round trip to visit the winery and see what else they had to offer!

The Vidal dials down the sweetness of the Settlement Gold and increases the sophistication, making it a great semi-dry table wine. I couldn't identify any of the tastes ("pears and apricots" claims the website), but I did know that there were a lot of crisp, citrusy flavors dancing in my mouth and the overall effect was delicious. At $8.50 a bottle, it's an excellent value... if you can find it. A shining example of what can be done with an unusal grape in an unexpected place. Visit the winery if it's at all possible, but otherwise this wine is worth a little effort to track down.


Milwaukee weekend con't.

After the Milwaukee trip, we returned to Appleton for dinner at Koreana, preceded by Japanese tap beer: we tried both Sapporo and Kirin Ichiban for comparison. Turns out they're pretty similar. I had the Bi Bim Bahb. I was hungry and ate happily but it wasn't fantastic. Our edamame appetizer was tasty, though. Their sushi is supposed to be superb.

We retired to chez Swaagman for the evening. I finally got to watch some Tivo'd episodes of Miami Ink. That got us men jamming about tattoo plans and the women shaking their heads and condemning us. Most of my skin will stay blank and colorless for the rest of my days but I'd invest in a lot more tattoos if I had anything to say about it. As my wife has informed me, however, I have no say in the matter. Get your tattoos before you get married, that's my advice.

The best sandwich in Milwaukee

Riverwest Cooperative's Tempeh Reuben

Milwaukee Weekend

This weekend we left Minnesota to visit our friends and tour the "secret city" of magical Milwaukee, WI. Our first stop was Cedar Creek Winery in Cedarburg. Most of the information that was covered on the winery tour was old shoe to me, but I learned some new things about tartrates and enjoyed the tasting. After the cellar tasting, we headed upstairs to try the rest of their wines. The reds were sub-par, but they make some great sweet white wine, which I'll write about soon in my post for wine of the month.

Appetites whetted with a bellyful of wine, we drove into Milwaukee for lunch at Riverwest Co-op. J ordered a veggie burger, our friends had a black bean burrito, and I got the excellent Tempeh Reuben. The drive from St. Paul to Milwaukee was worth it for this sandwich alone. You can see here the front of the co-op where they sell stuff presumably made by local artists. We stuck a Craftstravaganza flyer up in the window and left some handbills.

We made a quick stop at the Art-o-Mat and then hit our last stop, Paper Boat Boutique. Paper Boat sells independent art and craft work and is co-owned by Kim Kisiolek and Faythe Levine, who also organize the Art vs. Craft show. Kim was in the store so we got to meet her and talk about the Craftstravaganza. She was very nice and let us leave more flyers in the shop. Thanks, Kim! I hope you can make it to the Craftstravaganza!

Happy Meat Day!

Oh, those Japanese and their wacky holidays! What will they come up with next!

Yesterday was February 9th, and since the numbers 2 and 9 can be read niku (which means "meat" in Japanese), butcher shops across Japan have decided to label the day as Meat Day, a special day to celebrate meat in all its many forms.
Actually, meat in Japan was pretty gross. I'm not talking about Kobe beef or anything, because I couldn't afford fancy stuff. I mean what my host mom cooked and what I got in restaurants. McDonalds was okay, but real meat was generally off-putting. I remember excessively fatty, chewy pork--in fact, I was working over a wad of this when I decided to become a vegetarian. Still, the rest of you, enjoy your meat! An animal died just so you can eat, aren't you glad that we're towards the top of the food chain?

rock rock rock

Hey local bikey and party people, what are some good bands that would maybe like to be background music to an arts event? They can't be too rockin' since people will be shoppin' like 10 feet away from the stage and need to be able to hear each other. But I do want some good music all up in there. Obviously, I don't get out much, so I throw myself at your mercy to enlighten me. Suggestions??

Lonely planet

Today I was looking at the GEOS program for teaching in Japan. It looked okay, until I did the math and realized that I would earn about $12,177.59 a year after rent (and that doesn't include airfare, so knock another thousand bucks off the top). Take away food and transportation costs and you're not looking at much in the way of pocket money. But, hey, I would get to live in my favorite country and have fun adventures with my wife! Right? Not so fast:

Both members of a married or unmarried couple is [sic] free to apply to GEOS, but each applicant is reviewed on his or her own merits. Separate applications are required. If both applicants are successful, no guarantees can be made with regards to where in Japan each will be assigned. An effort will be made, however, to place applicants as close together as possible.
So we could both apply, be accepted, and then get assigned to opposite sides of the country? Maybe we could visit each other on the weekends. Awesome.


Miranda that blog just isn't holy any more

I've no doubt a large part of my newfound reticence in posting is due to the gradual loss of anonymity around here. My name is now linked to this page in a dozen different ways by the distance of two, three clicks or less, and I have to watch what I say now. I can't trash talk my job (what? ME? I love my job, obviously) for fear of repercussions in interviews from old posts dredged up by a savvy employer. I can't trash talk other people, not like I made a habit of it in the past, but when everything is going on the record, you can't be too careful...

Blogging was more fun when it was done pseudonymously. I've been tempted more than once to start a new account and a diferent site that's absolutely unconnected to this one or anything else I'm involved with. But, the work of building up a new audience... and the fact that I'd have to keep it under wraps so's not to blow my cover... that doesn't appeal to me at all.

Maybe that's why writing fiction appeals to me, for the distance between myself and my writing, but it's got the same problem: my name's still attached to it. But at least with a novel I can say, 'I made that up.' A journal-style blog is supposed to be true, in general. Or I could go the route of Natural Kinds (a disappeared blog) with a disclaimer that says 'this is a fictional blog.' Of course I'll keep on writing my life--I've come a long way since this blog was set up to talk about applying to law school--I just have to keep redefining what this space is for.

Starting off with a bang

We got our first vendor application today! The St. Paul Craftstravaganza is officially on, folks.

Woke up screaming 4:30

Have you ever had a pinched nerve? It really sucks.

Typewriters for Bloggers programme

Maybe I really should institute an organization for pairing up bloggers with vintage manual typing machines. It started as a joke, but I actually helped to hook up my friend Dr. Vono with a typewriter of his own. It sounds like it needed some repairs, so I emailed him this morning to ask if it was functional yet.

Dr. Vono: The "F" key works really well.
Sui Generis: Now all you need to do is get the "U" key working, and you can write a letter to someone you hate.

Wine Blogging Wednesday: wine shops that feel the love

I jumped at the chance to participate in this month's WBW since this month's theme doesn't require me to write about wine tasting (which I'm not very good at) but rather about wine shopping (which I'm marginally better at). While trying to decide which wine shop to write up, I realized that I'm fortunate to live in a place with so many great retail outlets. 1st Grand Ave. Liquor, Liquor Depot, and Surdyk's are three of my favorites. But for WBW, it seemed fitting to focus on a shop that sells "just wine."

Solo Vino is a gem that keeps garnering praise in the local press (here's the latest from City Pages), and for good reason. It's a cozy little shop with a selection that is less deep than the big guys, but remarkably broad. And the staff knows that wine intimately. In other words, don't go to Solo Vino necessarily if you're looking for a particular wine, but do go if you want an expert recommendation for something new and great.

The relatively small size of Solo Vino and the nice wood racks may trick you into thinking that the wine will be more expensive than average. While they do sell some premium bottles, readers of Dr. Vino (the host of February's WBW) will find something that suits a value wine budget: as the City Pages article says, "the top three sellers at Solo Vino are all $5.99: Protocolo Tinto, Casa Solar Tinto, and Casa Solar Blanco."

In addition to their helpful employees, wide assortment, and nice corner-store atmosphere, Solo Vino hosts frequent classes and wine tastings. I recently attended a tasting with an importer of French wine. Coming on the heels of our Paris vacation, I wanted a wine that would transport me back to Burgundy. Not only did he have just the thing, but he was able to identify the unique flavors that I had been grasping at when trying to describe the wines I enjoyed during our trip.

That's the kind of expertise that Solo Vino delivers. And at home later, when I pour a bottle I bought from Solo Vino, I have memories of a thrilling first tasting and an enlightening discussion about wine--not of saving a buck or two because I tracked it down in a warehouse store. Truth be told, some other local wine shops can do the same, but Solo Vino has it down to an art. Stop in next time you're in the mood for something new.