PAgent’s Progress

Words Are My Favorite Toys

October 2nd, 2006

At the Ends of the Earth

This is a great little short by Russian animator Konstantin Bronzit. It was released in 1999, and received nearly 70 awards.

October 1st, 2006

I Love Eggs

It’s my very great pleasure to introduce you to your next earwig.

Courtesy of the Korean site, it’s the I Love Egg Song!!!

By clicking on the above hyperlink, Visitor agrees to hold PAgent harmless for any mental or emotional trauma experienced by Visitor, either as a direct result of viewing the ‘I Love Egg’ video, or as a result of having to watch the ‘I Love Egg’ video repeatedly due to the demands of one or more children.

The aforementioned trauma shall be considered to include, but shall not be limited to, nausea, vomiting, inability to get the ‘I Love Egg’ tune out of Visitor’s head, sudden intense craving for eggs, sudden loss of all desire for eggs, feelings of violence against chickens, and loss of enjoyment of anime.

I mean it.

September 30th, 2006


The woman who cooked for me when I was growing up was raised in Oklahoma. This by itself explains a great deal of how I turned out the way I did, but considering only one characteristic in particular it surely explains my love for cream gravy.

Cream gravy was a standard component of the cuisine of our household. We had it with pork chops and fried potatoes. We had sausage gravy poured over buttermilk biscuits. We had cream gravy with ground beef on bread for an economical dinner. And we had it with sliced dried salted beef on toast. It is not an accident that I love cream gravy. It is an embodiment of home and hearth. It is comfort food at its finest.

So when I was a young man, and realized that a large chunk of the population referred to creamed chipped beef on toast as “S.O.S.”, or “Shit on a Shingle”, I was shocked. I could rationalize that this was surely caused by the treatment of the dish by military commissaries, because industrial cooking can ruin anything, but still…S.O.S.? My beloved cream gravy? Compared to crap?

After all, I still crave it once in a while. My wife is very fond of sausage gravy, so on special occasions I’ll make biscuits and a tureen of sausage gravy for breakfast and we’ll indulge. But I rarely make creamed chipped beef.

The October 2006 issue of Saveur magazine, my favorite cooking periodical, included a recipe for S.O.S. Seeing the recipe, and the full color picture of a plate of creamed chipped beef that went with it, I was struck with a craving I could not deny. I waited until my wife and daughter were going to be out of the house for dinner, and went shopping.

I purchased a jar of dried beef, a quart of 3.8% milk (I don’t care what anyone says - you CANNOT make decent gravy with skim milk), and a loaf of (gasp) white bread. It was from a local artisanal bakery, but it was still white bread. Mea Culpa.

The Saveur recipe is adapted from the 1945 Manual for Navy Cooks, and I cut the amount in half for my own use. It differs from the way Mom used to fix it, in that you stir a paste of flour and oil into hot milk, rather than starting with a roux. This gives it a lighter flavor, a whiter color, and (dare I say it) a more glue-like consistency. “Sticks to your ribs” is more than colorful hyperbole in this case.

While my son ate a hot dog, I prepared a saucepan full of creamy beefy goodness. When it was as thick as mud, I ladled it onto hot toast slices and tucked in.

Bliss. There’s nothing quite like the food of your childhood.

September 30th, 2006

An Open Letter from Crazy Biker Chick

Since I’ve been posting occasionally on my experiences as a cyclist trying to share the road with motorists, I’ve had some fascinating feedback from friends of mine. While my fellow cyclists nod wisely and confirm that they have had a similar experience with angry drivers, non-cyclists tend to look at me dubiously, convinced that I am exxagerating the amount of vitriol that gets directed my way.

Well, I’m really not. And my experiences are based on a history of road riding that goes back to the early eighties. If anything, considering the volume of car traffic I now experience in the city, the average driver is probably more considerate in Portland than in the more rural areas I used to ride in. It may be a cliche, but rednecks in pickup trucks really are some of the worst offenders.

But I continue to be amazed at otherwise reasonable people who sincerely believe that bikes should not be on the streets. I went out for coffee with one of my coworkers the other afternoon, and he made it very clear that he thinks bikes have no place on the road with cars. It’s too dangerous, bikes don’t obey the law, they’re unsafe because cyclists get tired when they ride (apparently impairing their reaction time), and because bicycles don’t pay for the roads and so have no right to use them.

I didn’t bother arguing with him. This is someone who would zealously argue that the government has no right to limit what he does on his own property. Nonetheless, he is arguing that the same government should be able to prevent me from riding my bike on public roads. Frankly, once someone tells you that you shouldn’t be riding on the street because you haven’t paid for it, I think reasonable discussion is over. He, too, believes I wildly exxagerate the hostility faced by cyclists.

Crazy Biker Chick, a cyclist and blogger in Toronto, has written a very thoughtul Open Letter to Motorists Who Dislike Cyclists. I urge you to go read it. Much of what she writes resonates clearly with my own experiences.

In particular, she writes about the well-meaning motorist who does something dangerous in an effort to be kind to a cyclist:

I appreciate your kind attempts to let me have the right-of-way when it is not mine. Being on a bicycle its hard losing your momentum again and again at every stop sign. But most of the time its easier if you just go. If you stop to let me cross mid block the car behind you might get surprised and rear-end you.

This has been driving me crazy lately. It’s hard to get too angry, because these drivers mean well, but honestly, you aren’t doing me any favors by stopping in the middle of traffic, and waving me in. Chances are, you are putting yourself at risk by doing it, not to mention putting ME at risk at the same time. My safety depends on my riding predictably, and what you are doing is the precise diametric opposite of predictable. Plus, a lot of the time some well-meaning driver has stopped and is waving me into another lane where traffic isn’t stopping. In that case, I’m not going to go, no matter how vigorously you wave me over.

Anyway, go read Crazy Biker Chick’s letter. She does a better job of stating the case than I could have.


September 29th, 2006

Music Video Madness

Men at Work edition. Although often referred to as a “One Hit Wonder”, Men At Work actually had several moderately successful songs in the U.S.

Men At Work - Down Under (Popup version)

Men At Work - It’s A Mistake

Men At Work - Dr. Heckyll & Mr. Jive

Men At Work - Overkill

September 29th, 2006


One of the nice things about bicycling is it’s ability to put you in somewhat of a Zen-like state. This is particularly true when you’re riding a route you are very, very familiar with. Your body is cranking away, you are breathing deeply, and while you more or less steer the bike automatically, your mind is free to drift and make connections that you are otherwise too stressed to see.

Just this morning, as I rode in to work, I had a moment of clarity. Like a thunderbolt out of the blue, I was suddenly absolutely sure of at least one thing:

I had forgotten to pack a shirt to change into.

Once again, mental clarity comes about 40 minutes too late to do me any good.

September 28th, 2006

Cassette Generator has a nifty cassette tape graphic generator. You just fill in the band name, the album, and a credit, select the style of the cassette, and it spits out the desired image.

Go check it out. It’s fun!

September 27th, 2006

I’m pretty fussy about how I sleep, too

This clip is completely adorable.

September 26th, 2006

“It’s not fair!”

We had a spectacular meltdown last night. As part of her Laundry Frenzy Mrs. Agent told the girl to get the dirty clothes out of our bathroom. Now, this included articles of our daughter’s clothing, and some towels and other clothes. Mrs. Agent told the girl not once, not twice, but three times to get her clothes and any other clothes out of the bathroom.

Once they were ready for bed, the kids settled down to watch “Brisco County Jr.” on DVD. The wife came in and asked the girl if she had gotten all the clothes out of the bathroom. Zombie-like, the girl barely flickered her gaze from the television screen and said she had.

But, of course, she hadn’t. The girl immediately lost her TV privileges for the night and the next day. The wife took her back and pointed out all the clothes she had missed. Much wailing and gnashing of teeth ensued. Tears were shed. “It’s not FAIR!” she screamed.

We asked her what wasn’t fair. “Mom never told me I had to get the other clothes! She just said I had to get mine!”

I pointed out that this wasn’t true, and that I had heard her mother warning her to make sure she got all the clothes out of the bathroom.

“It’s not FAIR!”

Fairness is an interesting concept. Children have a razor-sharp sense of fairness, and while it is undeniably slanted in the direction of self-interest, it can sometimes be surprisingly abstract. In this case, the girl believed it wasn’t fair for her to be punished when she genuinely hadn’t heard her mother’s instructions. And I can sympathize. Except for the ‘mom told you three times’ part. Clearly, the girl still feels it is our responsibility as parents to make sure she understands what is requested of her, whereas we have moved on to the expectation that she take that responsibility onto herself. It’s a significant difference.

The girl had a consultation with another counselor this week, and there was a discussion as to whether she is getting the proper dose of medication. Would she respond better to a higher dose? Would she respond better if she took a small supplemental dose in the afternoon? These are troubling questions for me.

On the one hand, we will never know if she isn’t getting a fully therapeutic dose unless we bump it up and see what happens. On the other hand, I feel we have to remain vigilent against any tendancy to use medication to change behaviors, rather than changing our daughter’s ability to cope with life. And that’s an important distinction.

If we do decide to change her dosage, it will not be because we don’t want her throwing hissy fits in the evenings, it will be because we want to address the distraction and absent-mindedness that seems to set in after school, that in turn gets her in trouble because she misinterprets (or just completely misses) instructions.

It’s something to think about.


I was riding in this morning, and making good time. I was blazing down Barbur in the bike lane at probably between 25 and 30 mph. As I headed into town, I became aware of something creeping up on my left. I turned my head to see a young lady in the traffic lane, on a scooter that was going maybe 1 mph faster than I was.

And it pissed me off. I am constantly hearing about how reckless and dangerous it is for cars to have to share the road with cyclists. Now, which is more dangerous — me, going 29 mph in my own separate lane, or her, doing 30 on the street with traffic that’s going about 50 (or more)? And yet, you don’t hear much from the anti-Vespa crowd about how we have to get scooters off our roads.

It’s not FAIR.

September 25th, 2006

VR RC Plane

This is the coolest damn thing I’ve seen in ages.

Imagine flying your Radio-controlled airplane, only you’re flying using virtual reality goggles so it actually seems like you are in the plane.

Can you imagine it? Well, this guy built one: