Friday, January 29, 2010

And it works every time!

If you've been on the Internet at all in the last few months, chances are you've seen one of those sidebar ads that says something like "I lost 30 lbs. of belly fat with this one old trick!" or "One rule for a slimmer stomach: OBEY." I saw one just now that said "I ate all my favorite foods every day and still lost weight with this one old trick!" These ads make me laugh, because without even clicking through, I can tell you what the real trick is:

Put less food in your face hole.

Thatisall.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Seat of the Underwear

I believe it's my duty as an informed citizen to watch the State of the Union address every year. As unpleasant as I may sometimes find the task, it's important to me that I at least make the effort.

I got through about 10 minutes before I turned off that preening pathological narcissist and went to bed. I promised myself I would watch at least until the first provable lie; that turned out to be a vague and imprecise goal.

I did get a good laugh a few minutes in when Obama talked about the horrible state of the economy. The camera cut to Geithner, who looked like he was trying to pass a kidney stone. That was fun -- although it's the same "fun" as watching the car that ran you off the road hit a telephone pole at the next corner.

Good LORD I miss Bush.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Rock Bottom

UPDATE: This post is about someone who will, for now, go unnamed. I'm not in trouble myself. I am, however, speaking from experience.

There are maybe two people who will understand why I'm posting this, and I doubt the addressee is even reading -- but I don't care. I think it needs to be said.

Rock bottom isn't a place, it's a decision. It's not something that happens to you, it's the moment when you decide to stop trying to fix your life and just let it be broken.

That is when the healing starts.

That is when the corner gets turned.

That is when God says "Okay, you've got your hands out of the way; now I can work."

That's what rock bottom is. You'll go however far down it takes to get you there, and for your sake I hope it isn't much farther. But -- and this is from my own hard experience -- the only real deciding factor for how far down you go is you. You'll make the decision and rest on the rock, or you'll keep trying to climb back up on your own until you can't hold on any longer and the only thing holding you up is Jesus. That's rock bottom. It's a good place to be.

I love you.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sunday Night Recipe: Swedish Rye Bread

I made this bread for my dad for Christmas because of the spices involved; he and I are the only ones in the family who like anything remotely licorice-y. I should note that while it's time-intensive and some of the ingredients are a tad expensive, it's well worth it. The recipe is a slightly modified version of one in Joy of Cooking, 1964 edition (which I use almost EVERY DAY and would try to save in a fire).

Swedish Rye Bread

Put 2 T. yeast in 1.5 c. water (about 110-115 degrees) and let rest for 10 minutes. Add

1/4 c. molasses
1/3 c. sugar
1 T. salt
2 T. grated orange rind
1 T. fennel seed
1 T. anise seed

Mix well, then stir in

2.5 c. sifted rye flour
2 T. softened butter

Beat until smooth, then add

2.5 to 3 c. sifted all-purpose flour

Mix well, then turn out on a floured board and cover with the inverted bowl. Let rest 15 minutes, then knead for at least 10 minutes, adding flour to keep the dough from sticking. Place dough in a large, oiled bowl, cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until it's doubled in size and holds an impression when poked. Knead again for 3 to 5 minutes, then cut in half and shape into two slightly flattened ovals with three or four diagonal slashes across the top of each. Place on a cookie sheet dusted with cornmeal or cream of rice cereal, then cover with a damp cloth and let rise, again until doubled. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 30 to 35 minutes. Tap the bottom to test; if they're done, the loaves will sound hollow. Cool on wire racks for at least 15 minutes, then slice and eat. Excellent plain or with cold butter. Freezes well. Enjoy!

Friday, January 22, 2010

47 degrees? Hey-o, heatwave!

Plans for tomorrow: 12-mile bike ride to my parents' house; they have some things for me and I want to take advantage of the weather. Nice lovely bike trails the whole way, too. I think it's the longest ride I'll have ever done (24 miles round trip), but if I take it easy it should be fine. Plus a significant chunk of the return is downhill, so that helps. I'll let you know how it goes.

Thoughts Friday Random

Syntax is for suckers.

My back hurts today, not in the "ow call a doctor" sense but in the "mmm I've been exercising" sense. I like muscle aches if they come from hard work or prolonged exertion; they mean I'll sleep well and that I've accomplished something useful.

If you make a batch of cookies inspired by a friend's recipe and find yourself in danger of overindulging, just bring them to work. Office full of women + chocolate = locusts, so you don't get (as) fat.

I seriously want to try baking Irish soda bread over coals in a dutch oven. I've got no real reason to do it except to see if I can, but that's enough for me. Immediate downside: I don't own a dutch oven.

Just once, I would like my job explained to me by someone who actually knows how to do it. Just once. Is that too much to ask?

I would much rather work with a quiet slacker than a productive whiner, mostly because management has a built-in reason to get rid of the former if it gets too bad.

All my shows are coming back on at the same time, and all but one are past my bedtime. Thank God for Hulu.

Go Colts? I haven't really been paying attention. I don't even know what round this is. Are we winning? Did Manning hit a home run?

That's all I got. Happy Birthday Tam!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Beatings, morale, some assembly required.

Whiny Coworker (the movie spoiler, incidentally) is complaining to Menopausal Hair Trigger Boss about some new software thing they're pushing through, because GOD FORBID she should EVER have to do something A DIFFERENT WAY than what she's doing now. The NERVE of these people, expecting her to do her JOB. Of course, this is the same girl who gets all attitudinal about how the company should be glad to have her, and she's doing them a favor by working there, and good luck getting someone to fill her job if she decides to quit. (Ha.) I admit to harboring fantasies about the various ways I could tell her to shut up, quit complaining and just do her job, we've all got problems.

I'm in a very toxic environment.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

In your neighbor's zombie plan, you're bait.

Derived from my comment on a post at Tam's:

As a life-long Hoosier, I've been through three earthquakes, and only noticed two of them. The latest woke me up before my alarm, and I sat up, waited for the shaking to stop, said "Eh" when nothing fell in on me and went back to sleep.

To be perfectly honest, I'm not too worried about The Big One hitting New Madrid -- not in the sense that I don't think it'll happen, but in the sense that you can only do so much to prepare for contingencies, and everything after that is up to you. I'm very much a play-it-by-ear type -- a "Wingin' It Commando", as we used to say in marching band. Most of this mindset is predicated on one basic principle:

Everyone assumes they'll be a survivor.

If you don't believe me, go back and read the title of this post. I don't have in-depth studies or anything to back up my claim, but it stands to reason: No one plans on dying in the first or second wave. On one level, that's what preparation is all about; it's a preventative measure should the unthinkable happen. But all the canned goods and generators in the world won't do you any good if your house collapses on you, or you have a heart attack in your bunker and can't get to the asprin. Heck, what if the bunker itself collapses before you're in it? What then?

Suppose everything does go pear-shaped, and in a big way -- The End Of The World As We Know It. Suppose it happens tomorrow. For myself, I'd think a lot more about adaptation than I would about preparation: less "do I have plans in place", more "can I change those plans at a moment's notice". I don't plan on being comfortable come the apocalypse. Comfortable is too high up in Maslow's Thingummy of Needs to be a concern for me. If I can keep body and soul together without having to sell said body, that's good enough for me. People have gotten through worse for most of human history, and yet we all still ended up with a man on the moon.

The last time I had a major upheaval (job loss and subsequent months of unemployment), I coped poorly. One reason was that my identity had been defined by outside forces: I was my job, I was my apartment, I was my hobbies. Letting go of those things meant letting go of Me, and when things finally conspired to force my hand I was lucky that I moved up and out of that mindset. I no longer have any problem with cutting ties and walking away at a moment's notice. This doesn't mean I wouldn't be upset about it, because I probably would. But it does mean I'm trying to be adaptable. (Of course, the idea of a higher power that values and watches over me and is more in control than I am does a lot for that whole "core identity" issue, too.) The same goes for disaster planning: Don't get so hung up on one idea of what you'll do that you're not willing to abandon it if/when it becomes impractical or impossible to use. You've got 20 cases of purified water in the basement? Great. Glad to hear it. Be willing to leave it behind. In the end, the only thing that has to make it through is you.

Wobal gorming ...

They're predicting freezing fog for the next few days, but that's okay with me -- anything's better than that face-peelingly cold Arctic air mass we had a couple weeks ago.

I don't really have a point for this post, except that I wanted to use "face-peelingly cold" in a sentence and couldn't think of a better vehicle.

As you were.

UPDATE: The forecast says a high of 47 on Saturday. If that holds, I will definitely be out on my bike again. Woohoo!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Go ye and read, for it is good.

Ian Frazier's "Laws Concerning Food and Drink; Household Principles; Lamentations of the Father".

Via Marko

Poo.

One of the wings broke off the little gargoyle-bat-thing on my angry pen*. Now I'm sad.




*The pen has a twisty, clearish purple body with a fuzzy pom-pom on top, and a little monster on a spring coming out of that. I use it to keep from getting angry at work; hence the name. And now it's broken. *pout*

This is why I'm writing a novel. To get out of here.

It's one thing to have a movie spoiled by reading about it on a Web site; I chose to go there and I chose to read the spoilers.

It's quite another thing to have a movie spoiled because a coworker can't be bothered to walk five feet to the other girl's cubicle. And it's yet another thing when she gives me the "ugh, whatever" look when I call her on it. It's the second time I've spoken up like this with her.

They should call it the "Sixth Sense" rule of office ettiquette: If you're discussing the twist ending of a recently released movie or TV show, for God's sake, keep your voice down!

Sunday Night Recipe: Irish Soda Bread

This bread is delicious with bean soup, or as hot buttered toast in the morning. (As opposed to cold buttered toast, I suppose, but who wants that?)

Irish Soda Bread

Measure 1 T. lemon juice into a one-cup container and fill it the rest of the way with 2% milk; stir and let stand for 10 minutes. In a medium bowl, mix

2 1/2 c. flour
1/2 t. salt
3/4 t. baking soda

and stir well. Add milk and lemon juice mixture and stir until thoroughly incorporated, then turn out on a well-floured board and form into a disk, being sure to coat it with flour on all sides. Place in a cast-iron skillet dusted with flour and bake in a PREHEATED 400-degree oven for 30 minutes or until done. Slice and eat. For a more crumbly texture, reduce flour to 2 cups and baking soda to 1/2 t. It'll be more batter than dough, so scrape it directly into a VERY WELL FLOURED skillet and cut into wedges to serve. Ees muy delicioso. Enjoy!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Oh weekend, I await your sweet embrace.

It's warm enough that I'm going to try riding my bike tomorrow, and I just had my "don't have to get up in the morning" Friday moment. Oh, life is so good.

I also admit with some chagrin that I made Irish soda bread for the first time last night, and it was so good I ate half the loaf before I quite realized what I was doing. It was warm and I put butter on it! I cannot help myself!

Question.

Supposing global warming was an incontestable, proveable fact, and various cities, coastal lowlands and low-lying islands would indeed be swamped within a matter of years ...

... why not throw all our efforts into adaptive technologies to help us deal with the coming changes, instead of trying to stop it by grinding the developed world to a screeching halt? If there's a barrier ahead that you have to get through, doesn't it make more sense to pour on the gas than to stomp the brake?

I have to wonder about people who react to change (at any level) with "AUGH NO IT HAS TO STAY THE WAY IT IS RIGHT NOW FOREVER!" Grow up, weenies. Change is what makes us different from the rocks.

Sometimes it's broke and you still shouldn't fix it.

There's an ad on Drudge right now that says "Help Rebuild Haiti."

All I could think was "Why?"

I mean it: Why rebuild? Move the people out, get them settled somewhere that isn't so corrupt and impoverished (which, let's face it, is just about anywhere, up to and including North Korea) and let nature reclaim the land. It's not like there's much to be rebuilt in the first place. For instance, I once saw an aerial photo of the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The east side (the DR) was lush and covered with dense, green, healthy forest. The west side (Haiti) was nothing but bare dirt. The trees went up to a certain point, and then they just ... stopped. Like someone had gone in, drawn a line and clearcut the area -- except clearcutting at least leaves some sticks and stumps and things behind. There was just nothing.

I do not believe God was punishing the people of Haiti; I do not believe He was smiting them for their wickedness or anything like that. But I do think that sometimes, if things get bad enough for long enough, something will happen that makes it impossible to keep going. It's not divine punishment; it's more like a cosmic arm sweeping the mess off the table so things can start fresh. And it doesn't have to be a natural disaster; revolutions tend to serve the same purpose (although half the time those just go from bad to worse, so YMMV).

For all the efforts to rebuild New Orleans (which I helped with), there are tens of thousands -- probably hundreds of thousands -- of people who left and simply didn't come back. I think the same thing will happen in Haiti, but for different reasons: Why bother rebuilding when all you're replacing is a corrugated steel shanty with a leaky roof and no clean water? Why bother putting something back together when it didn't break, it just got broken worse? It wouldn't be rebuilding, it would be building from the ground up -- and that's not something we can do for them. The Red Cross is not equipped to restructure an entire society. I'm not saying we shouldn't do our utmost to help the people of Haiti. By all means, get them food, water and medicine. But I am saying that we should give serious thought to the end goal of our efforts before we start spouting off the usual lines about "recovery" and "getting back to normal". Normal, for these people, was literally hell on earth. They ate dirt, for God's sake. The average per capita income is $1,300 U.S. per year. They've had leaders driven from office because of credible threats that their opponents would kill and eat them. This doesn't strike me as a place that ought to be rebuilt. It strikes me as a place that needs to spend about six months in an autoclave, until the only thing left is the bones of the earth and the opportunity to start fresh. Don't put it back together. People talk all the time about ending poverty; well, here's a perfect chance to try. Don't pick up the pieces and start over, just wait for the dust to settle, sweep the debris out the door and let it rest.

And for the record: I wish Pat Robertson would shut up and go away. He makes the rest of us Christians look like idiots.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Throwing out a line into the ether ...

I make my own bread; partly because it's cheaper than buying it, mostly because it's something I enjoy. However, while the flour and what-not is very cheap, yeast is kind of expensive (and all that rising and proofing is darn time-consuming if you want to do it right). Therefore, I'm looking to branch out into alternate leavenings, such as baking soda. I already found a recipe that I'm going to try tonight (seriously, it should take like 15 minutes to mix and 15 to bake -- this is HUGE), but I thought I'd ask my readers for suggestions as well. You're all so clever and pretty; I'm sure I can count on you!

Yay bread!

Birds in their little nest agree.

Let's say that someone who used to work for you wrote an e-mail. In that e-mail, they used a word that rhymes with another word that could possibly offend someone associated with the e-mail. That someone wasn't offended, and certainly wouldn't have blamed you if they were. However, a third person noted the connection and it's potential for offense.

In England, this means that the police come to your house on Sunday afternoon, arrest you in front of your wife and child, confiscate your computers, hold you for four hours and take a DNA sample, which will be kept indefinitely on file, and insist they followed satisfactory procedure in tracking down the e-mail's author (which was never you in the first place).

Sometimes I think Orwell was too optimistic. What's next? Kids turning in their parents because teacher says it isn't fair for Mommy and Daddy to use that kind of light bulb?

I don't get angry about this sort of thing anymore. I just get more determined to live my life the way I see fit. Whether the powers that be "allow" me to do so is immaterial; I'm not going to comprimise my beliefs so I can have things easy. It's worth the hassle to be able to face myself in the mirror.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I'm very proud of myself

I cleaned out my book collection, which was mostly stuff I kept for sentimental reasons, on Sunday. I took two full grocery sacks to Half Price Books, collected my $12 (yay! groceries!) and walked out without buying anything. This is huge. I also pared down my collection to a little less than two boxes' worth of books, not counting reference materials (that's more a work than a pleasure thing, and even some of those could go), and I'll probably get rid of a few that I kept this go 'round, too. It's very liberating. Next up, the CD collection. I'll do the same to all the crap in my storage unit once the weather warms up. Goodwill's gonna love me.

I draw the line at paring down my kitchen supplies. That stuff all gets used.

Fair warning

I'm having one of those days where the only thing keeping me from running screaming out of this office is the fact that I need the paycheck.

I'm also in one of those periods where I'm keenly aware of the support columns of my life as I'm forced to kick them away, one by one. The trouble with opening oneself to being complete dependent on God is that eventually, He's going to demand that you rely on Him, or nothing at all. And it's holding on to that -- with the knowledge that He's got an unbreakable hold on me -- that lets me get up in the morning and keep going. I can't go back; I can't stay put. The only option is to follow Him forward.

"You do not want to leave too, do you?" Jesus asked the Twelve.

Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God." -- John 6:67-69

Monday, January 11, 2010

Sunday Night Recipe: Herb and Cheese Focaccia

Like its predecessor, this recipe was also shamelessly hoarked from AllRecipes.com -- although I did make a few tweaks this time, so it's not straight-up stealing. I made this bread for my mom for Christmas; she described it as "like eating a spaghetti dinner in bread form."

Herb and Cheese Focaccia

In a large bowl, mix

2 3/4 c. flour
1 t. salt
1 t. sugar
1 T. yeast
1 t. each garlic powder, oregano and thyme
1/2 t. basil
pinch black pepper
1 T. olive oil
1 c. warm water (120-130 degrees F.)

Mix into a dough and knead for about 10 minutes on a floured board. Cover and let rise for 20 minutes (if your house is cold, I recommend turning the oven to 150 for a minute or two and putting the dough on the center rack). After rising, preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Punch down dough and pat into a 1/2"-thick rectangle on a greased baking sheet. Brush with olive oil and cover with grated mozzarella and romano cheese, then bake for about 15 minutes. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 09, 2010

An unhappy grandmother captain??

If you're not reading Drive, the Saturday-only sci-fi strip by Dave Kellet (otherwise known for Sheldon), you should be. The quote at the top of the page ("I'ma skip a step and launch my escape pod now") is from last week's strip. You can find links to all the strips (so far) here.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Savages.

Lunches are being stolen from the breakroom fridges at work, to the point where they've put up signs about it.

I don't get that.

The way I was raised, you simply do not touch other people's food (or anything else, for that matter) without permission. Heck, all I had to do as a child was write "MINE" or "NOT YOURS" on something in big block letters for it to be left alone. But it's not just the personal boundaries thing; it also means that someone in our office is a thief, and a petty one at that. How desperate do you have to be to stoop to that level? Or rather, how low do you have to be already for it not to be a big deal? They say stolen food tastes sweeter, but I imagine the subsequent antacids and sleep-aids kind of bring down the high.

Ahhhhhhhhhh.

I just had my weekly "don't have to be at work tomorrow" moment that I get every Friday. Sure, I have to run errands tomorrow morning (including the BMV -- pray for me, brethren), but the roads aren't too horrible and I'm looking forward to getting out and getting things done. Plus there's only so much sit-at-home that I can stand in a month, and I used up my quota over the holidays (consecutive four-day weekends get a little old once the novelty wears off). I do have to make bread this weekend, though, so that'll give me something to do. Maybe I'll hit up Half Price Books with my Christmas money. I could use some new reading material. Any suggestions?

Thursday, January 07, 2010

And I have to run errands this weekend. Joy.

So I had to brush all kinds of global warming off my car this morning, and then I slid all over the road on my way to work because my tires don't grip global warming very well, and I had to take some personal time because the global warming meant I came in late. And when I get home (which will probably take three times as long as usual), I'll have to shovel a whole bunch of global warming off the nice, long, wide driveway before I can turn in for the evening. Yay, global warming!

On a side note -- to everyone in a white or grey vehicle: Your car is the same color as the global warming. Turn on your freakin' headlights!

I think for tonight I make beefy onion potato soup and eat it with some homemade bread. I have focaccia in the fridge. Mmm, cheesy chewy herb bread. I have such useful hobbies.

UPDATE: My landlady called; apparently the neighbor and his kid already did the driveway, so all I have to do is take the trash cans to the street. Yay for that! I think I'm gonna make dinner, get straight into my jams and watch TV in bed all evening. Ah, the vast empty expanse of a Thursday evening with nothing to do.

It's really boring.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Wednesday Free-Form Poetry Corner

Woot woot it's Wednesday

and Mythbusters won't be on because they're doing a stupid Monday schedule thing that conflicts with Good Eats.

Also we might get six inches of snow by Friday morning

which means I could miss work but I'd have to use vacation time, and only if I can't get out of my driveway.

My life would be woe and torment, but I have soup for lunch

and my government-issued unicorn is off my lawn, having sought out warmer climes.

I think he went to Peru.

Ha.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Resolutions (for right now -- things change)

I'm not making a New Year's resolution because for me, New Year's is in the endish bit of September, for a variety of reasons. On the other hand, this is still a "back to the old grind" time of year, and therefore a good time to get things in motion. So:

#1: I finally fit into a size 6. I will be hitting the gym at least twice a week to stay there. Exercise at home on the off-days.

#2: Goes along with #1. No more than 1300 calories -- preferably fewer -- at least six days out of seven. Fridays, all bets are off.

#3: Write, which is a surprisingly unpleasant and taxing activity, which means creating and sticking to a schedule. (Why do I do it? Because I'd die if I didn't. It keeps me from slitting my wrists at work.)

#4: Haul out Wally the Steel-Framed Wonder Bike and ride it (weather permitting) at least once a week, both for exercise and for poops and giggles.

#5: Cull and sell the excess from my book and music collection.

I think that's a good start. I'll save "conquering Latvia" and "entering low-earth orbit" for the six-month evaluation.

Electric blanket + cat = toasty warm

Current headlines on Drudge:

Temps Plunge to Record as Cold Snap Freezes North, East States...
CHILL MAP...
Vermont sets 'all-time record for one snowstorm'...
Iowa temps 'a solid 30 degrees below normal'...
Peru's mountain people 'face extinction because of cold conditions'...
Beijing -- coldest in 40 years...
World copes with Arctic weather...

Current temp at my undisclosed location: 14 degrees Farenheit above zero. Quote of the day, from the article about Peru:

In a world growing ever hotter, Huancavelica is an anomaly. These communities, living at the edge of what is possible, face extinction because of increasingly cold conditions in their own microclimate, which may have been altered by the rapid melting of the glaciers.

It amazes me how strong a person's hold can be on their beliefs, especially when those beliefs can be increasingly proved to be based on fantasy, conjecture and outright falsehoods. Ah, reality: Hurts, don't it?

Fun fact: Research shows that ice ages come on in a matter of years. Not decades or centuries. Years. Make of that what you will.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Sunday Night Recipe: Olive Bread

I made this for my sister for Christmas. It's good with butter, or drizzled with olive oil. (Worth noting is that I found the recipe through a Google search that took me to All Recipes.com.)

Olive Bread

In a large bowl, mix

3 c. flour
2 t. yeast
2 T. sugar
1 t. salt
1/2 c. chopped black olives
3 T. olive oil
1 1/4 c. water, heated to 110 degrees Farenheit

Turn out and knead on a floured board for 10 minutes, adding flour as necessary to keep from sticking. Set aside and let rise for 45 minutes, then repeat kneading and let rise for 30 minutes or until it doubles in size. Round the dough, flour a towel and place the dough inside the towel inside a bowl and let rise one more time. Place a pan of water on the bottom of the oven (or on the bottommost rack) and preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Turn out the dough on a sheet pan that has been lightly oiled and dusted with cornmeal (I used Cream of Rice because I don't get along well with corn). Bake for 15 minutes, then turn the oven down to 375 and continue baking for 30 minutes. Slice and serve warm with butter, olive oil or a Very Fine Cheese. Enjoy!