…the world is seldom logical, and almost always dangerous.

Nemo had an entertaining holiday season, which included getting blown around a golf course like a stray sheet of wrapping paper by winds of unseemly force, but injury was avoided, as was anything resembling a golf swing.  Part of our poor play was certainly attributable to the Aoelean excess, but we confess that our concentration was disturbed by a strong suspicion that danger lurked in our Christmas presents.

(Switching narrative case to more appropriate first person singular; getting too confusing with all these plurals marching around.)  My family insists that I already have everything anyone should have, and therefore I am a hard man to find presents for.  This excuse absolves them from any reasonable attempt to surface from the endless swamp of shops, malls and websites they frequent with anything that I would buy myself.  Their efforts in my direction therefore tend to generate arcane and puzzling results.

This year’s booty included a lemon squeezer with impressive engineering; there can be no doubt that if it is your desire to mash every last molecule of juice from a half a lemon, this

Could juice a tennis ball

is the tool for the task.  It is yellow, which seems fitting.  It is unclear whether the gearing at the top serves any real purpose, but it certainly lends an air of authority to the design, and can persuade even the most skeptical lemon that it is doomed to an arid death.

The juicer was was accompanied by another device from the same maker which was also of interesting design — the latest in a long series of machines we have seen over the years aimed at  making a simple task complicated, otherwise known a a garlic press.

"Garlic to Tranquility Base..."

This was actually not a press at all, but a clear plastic  wheeled sphere with a little hatch, looking for all the world like a minature moon rover.  For devotees of the chef’s knife smackdown school of chopping garlic, this device might seem a little over the top, but the mechanism is ingenious and amusing.  The little blades are reminiscent of the John Cleese architect sketch (“The residents are carried along the moving walkway past Mediterranean frescoes into the rotating knives…”).  The whole thing seems like a lot to bring to a couple of garlic cloves, but, mindful of the maker’s clear hostility towards lemons, one supposes that they had no difficulty extending it to garlic.

I also got some socks and handkerchiefs.  I am not uploading any pictures of these.

The general theme of the larger presents wandered into the literary.  I received no fewer than four books, ranging from an Italian cookbook of normal dimension to two enormous volumes devoted to a couple of items of riveting interest to me — nude motion photography and typography.

The motion photography was actually pretty interesting, comprising hundreds of strips of eight-photo black-and-white sequences of a nude man engaged in various mundane tasks — walking up stairs, lifting a weight, flailing a porcupine and so forth.  Further investigation discovered that the second four hundred pages of photographs depicted a nude woman doing many of the same things, so that I could amuse myself with studies of how the movements of men and women differ when it comes to opening a door.

It was the photo book that persuaded me to mail these items home instead of packing them.  I did not want to explain to a TSA agent alarmed by my garlic weapon what I was doing with a ponderous tome of what appeared to be vintage pornography of a decidedly kinky bent, and I had no idea how to justify the last book, which was dedicated purely to the typography of the legendary Bodoni, with complete sets of all his fonts in every conceivable alphabet — Roman, Russian, Greek, Hebrew, what have you.  It is actually a very beautiful book, but again, not something one would wish to  take on a plane flight for light reading.

How does all this translate into getting blown up?  Ah — because the best is yet to come:  The Astounding SodaStream Home Carbonating Device.

Not for the faint-at-heart

My wife, long disgusted by my occasional purchases of syrupy bottles of Sunkist orange soda and Dr. Brown’s Black Cherry, saw the SodaStream as a way to satisfy my craving for bubbly fruit drinks in a more acceptable fashion, announcing that this dangerous-looking contraption would allow me to carbonate natural fruit juices and wean me from my recurring relapses into high-fructose corn syrups.

See those sinister-looking metal canisters on the left?  Not your ordinary CO2 cartridges there.  These babies stand about a foot tall, and look like they could power an automobile.  Well, I was intrigued, if frightened.  Frankly, I didn’t much care for standing next to a highly-pressurized bottle of gas for any reason, and the idea of being actively involved in the act of attempting to inject it into a plastic bottle of dubious integrity seemed foolhardy, given my predisposition to industrial accidents.

The directions were quite clear.  Screw the bottle,  filled with chilled water, into the socket at the top of the machine.  Depress plunger three times, holding it each time until a “buzzz” was heard.  Unscrew and add the syrup of your choice, a package of samples having been included with the machine.  Enjoy.

But we were not looking merely to replicate some nasty soda pop, but rather, to create a tasty and nutritious natural beverage that would make us the envy of soft drinkers everywhere.

The first candidate for this alchemy was a bottle of raspberry/apple juice purchased specifically for this purpose.  I duly filled the approved bottle.  I screwed it into the device.  I depressed the plunger until I heard the buzz.  So far, so good.  I depressed the plunger a second time.  The bottle seemed to become a hornet’s nest.  Reluctantly, I hit the plunger a third time.

The hornets got really angry.

It obtains that mixing compressed CO2 with various fruity acids is singularly frowned upon by Mother Nature.  The CO2 reacts with the acid in much the same way that plutonium reacts to very high compression, with a similar fondness for an explosive conclusion.

To be fair, a careful reading of the instructions did reveal that the specified liquid for carbonation was “water,” but, perhaps because the folks at SodaStream have a quirky sense of humor, the usual bold-faced warnings (DO NOT ATTEMPT WITH ANY OTHER LIQUIDS UNLESS YOU PLAN TO REPAINT YOUR KITCHEN) were absent.  In a world where a simple string of Christmas tree lights contains no fewer than three warning labels, it is impossible to understand how a thermonuclear soda machine can get past the legions of tort lawyers without at the very least including flashing red lights and screeching sirens, but the world is seldom logical, and almost always dangerous.

The SodaStream’s bottle connection began to emit a fine mist of apple cranberry traveling at something near lightspeed.  I immediately tried to reduce the pressure by unscrewing the bottle slightly.  The idea was to let the compressed gas escape slowly.  As ideas go, this  was a very bad one, even by my standards.  The gas did indeed escape, but rather more rapidly than desired, and brought along with it a fair portion of the juice, which distributed itself with admirable efficiency onto every surface within its range, which was considerable.

I will not bother to describe the cleanup.   Raspberry apple juice is very sticky stuff to begin with, but aspirate it with a few jolts of compressed CO2, and it acquires an adhesive character that a barnacle would envy.

I spent the remainder of the day shying at the slightest noise.  I wondered if Homeland Security considered the SodaStream an  Improvised Explosive Device.  My interest in fizzy sodas declined to equal my affection for habanero pepper popsicles, as has my enthusiasm for devices that employ aqualung-sized canisters of compressed gas.  This was as close a brush with the possibility of a humiliating death as I ever need.

I retain the SodaStream, however, which does indeed work brilliantly with plain water.  Now I just add the sticky high-fructose syrup with artificial flavoring and coloring, and I can have any kind of soda I want.  So far, my taste is running to orange/cola mixtures, with the grape/lemon-lime/ginger ale a close second.  My wife and kids won’t touch it.