Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Yummy.

Today for lunch I'm having shredded canned meat, mixed with chopped fungus, roots and other plant matter and held together with a sauce of oil and raw egg. I will eat this on a platform of pulverized and heat-treated seeds, accompanied by more roots and some sugary pulp I removed from an oversized seed pod.

If you guessed "tuna salad sandwich with carrots, radishes and grapefruit pieces", you win the Internets. This has been Everything Is Weird If You Think About It Theatre.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Question for the masses:

Is there a guy out there who doesn't indulge in pornography in some form?

If so, would the universe please see that he gets my phone number, and the message that I'm available?

Sunday Night Recipe: Slivered Stir Fry

This week's recipe is a bit low-key, but that's because I haven't been cooking anything ambitious lately. It's been a little warm for hot meals.

Slivered Stir Fry

To begin, cook 1/2 c. white rice according to the instructions on the package. While the rice cooks, saute (in olive oil) thin-sliced beef (your choice of cut; I used whatever it was I had on hand) with thin-sliced onion and thin-sliced garlic (there's a bit of a theme here). Once the meat is well and truly browned, add asparagus cut thusly: First into one-inch pieces, then those pieces cut in half the long way (quarters, even, for the pieces at the thick end). After about two minutes on medium heat, add equal parts soy sauce and white wine vinegar (your call on the amount; about three splashes should do it); sprinkle in sesame seeds if you have them. Stir vigorously, add some cold water so nothing burns and stir some more. If you've timed it right, the rice should be just about finished. Move the rice out of its pot and into the skillet, stir to coat with sauce and, as a last touch, add roma tomatoes cut the long way into fourths and the short way into thirds. Stir them into the rice just until they get warmed through, then remove the whole thing from the heat and dish up immediately. Serves four. Enjoy!

Friday, June 25, 2010

I did not mean to go five days without posting.

And I'm still firmly attached to the surface of the earth, in case you were wondering.

I've had outrage fatigue for a while now, to the point where I see something unbelieveable on/in the news and all I can do is shrug and say, "Yeah, what else is new?" It set in some time around March of last year, and it's only gotten worse since then. I'm pretty well bogged down in acceptance, and have been for a while.

Luckily, acceptance can lead to determination, which is what I needed when I read that Congress, having solved all our other problems so well, is gearing up for a "sweeping financial overhaul". Whatever. Fine. This is nothing new. But this quote got me as closed to riled up as I've been for a long time:

"It's a great moment. I'm proud to have been here," said a teary-eyed Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.), who as chairman of the Senate Banking Committee led the effort in the Senate. "No one will know until this is actually in place how it works. But we believe we've done something that has been needed for a long time. It took a crisis to bring us to the point where we could actually get this job done."
They don't know how it's going to work, but they know it needed to be done? Can he hear himself? (Answer: No.) Years of government meddling brought about a crash of epic proportions, so the solution, obviously (obviously!) is to do it again, harder. This is the sign of a ruling class (and they are a class unto themselves) so out of touch with reality that they treat it like a game, or like a book they're writing. People aren't actually people, they're elements in the grand plan. Politicians have thought like this for millennia, of course -- but whenever this thinking outgrows the boundaries set by better men, it inevitably leads to upheaval.

The average person doesn't like being told that he can only move one space at a time and that he can only capture on the forward diagonal. Of course, if he works really hard and makes it allllll the way across, he can do whatever he wants! But he'll probably have to sacrifice himself at some point for the betterment of the game. (I know I'm stretching the metaphor. I don't play a lot of chess. Sue me.) The point is that when politicians act like chessmasters, arranging the board to suit their whims, they never count on the pieces getting fed up and refusing to take orders. And please note that I am not, in any way, espousing armed revolution or anything of the sort. Armed revolution is inevitably a very nasty business, and it's the last thing I want to see happen here. But sooner or later, we might just stop doing what we're told. We might stop listening. And when that day comes, things will get very, very interesting.

In the meantime, though, I have one word of advice for our politicians:

Don't just do something! Stand there!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Friday, June 18, 2010

Everyone needs more cake.

One of my coworkers is leaving for another job so someone brought in a cake today, and it wasn't a wreck but an actual real cake, where you can't taste chemicals and the sugar in the icing doesn't crunch between your teeth. I had two pieces. It's not even nine o'clock. Let the sugar crash begin!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Whack-a-Mole

Yesterday I came home to find a nice, fat envelope from the IRS, telling me I made a rookie mistake on my 2008 tax return, please to be paying about one month's salary, refer to the enclosed form to set up an installment plan. I did the math and there's nothing hinky on their end; like I said, it was a rookie mistake, fairly straightforward, no arguments from me. (It was my first year doing my own taxes. I had NO idea what I was doing.) And, since they do allow installments, I can deal with the expense.

But said expense is now taking the place, one week to the day, of a monthly expense I just finished paying off. And that's what galls me; I get one thing taken care of, and another pops up. It's like an arcade game - Spin the Wheel of Suck, let's say - and the prize is that I pay them money so they don't kick me in the shin. And I do appreciate the bigger picture -- had this come up earlier, it would have been a disaster instead of an (albeit fairly major) inconvenience. So thanks be to God for arranging the timing, and you won't hear complaints on that count. And that's where I choose to leave the matter. It does no good to rant and rave and bake myself a pity cake; all that gets me is tired and hoarse and full of cake, and cake is great but it goes straight to my hips and I don't want to have to buy new pants. I pouted for a little while (fifteen seconds; I timed it) and now I'm done. Moving on. Tally ho. One foot in front, eyes on the prize, et cetera.

I am gonna get my shin guards, though.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A thousand times yes.

Randall of XKCD sums up the way I'd like to live.

I actually went to college with the intent of becoming a storm chaser.

I'm still not quite sure what went wrong.

The geek! It burns! It burns so good ...

Shermlock brings the WANT: an old-timey typewriter that hooks into your computer thingy. And I especially want one because my current typey machine has gone toes-up again, and I think I'm going to have to take it apart and have a look. If something's just slipped out of place, I may be able to whack it back into working order again. If not ... Well, it doesn't owe anyone anything.

Of course, what I really want is a true manual machine. Typey's great (when he's working), but if the power goes out I'm still just as stuck as if I used a computer -- more, even, because my laptop has a few hours of battery backup. And I've been on such a roll lately ... *pouts, stomps feet* I may have to go completely old-school and start using pen and paper. Oh, the trials of the suffering arteest. Quick, Robin! To the BatCraigslist!

UPDATE: Took off the case last night, and found a wheel what wasn't turning and should have been. Gave it a poke and it started right up; I'm leaving the case open so I can poke said wheel at will. It's a little kludgy, but it works. Ta da!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sunday Night Recipe: Soft Pretzels

Recipe shamelessly stolen and adapted from Alton Brown, who is awesome and a genius. This recipe is good for pretzel rolls, too.

Soft Pretzels

In a medium-sized bowl, combine

1 T. sugar
2 t. kosher salt
1 T. yeast
1 1/2 c. warm water (heat to about 110-115 degrees; don't go higher than 125 or you'll kill the yeast)

Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes, then add

4 1/2 c. sifted flour
4 T. butter, melted

Mix until well combined, then turn out and knead on a floured board for five to ten minutes. Return to bowl, coat with olive oil, cover with a damp towel and let rise in a warm place for about an hour.

After rising, preheat oven to 450 degrees, grease two baking sheets and set a pot of water (10 cups' worth) and 2/3 c. baking soda (dissolved) on the stove to boil. While the water heats, divide the dough into eight equal pieces. For traditional pretzels, roll into 24-inch ropes and shape appropriately; for nuggets, cut the ropes into one-inch pieces. For rolls, shape each piece into rounds by turning the sides under and in until the desired shape is achieved. Put the pretzels into the boiling water, one at a time (10 at a time for nuggets), for 30 seconds. Remove using a tool that won't disturb the shape of the pretzels (use your own best judgment here) and place on the sheet pan. Brush tops with

1 egg yolk, beaten with
1 T. water

and sprinkle with kosher or pretzel salt. Nuggets can be tossed in a bowl instead of brushed for easier coverage. Bake for 12-14 minutes, then cool on a wire rack. Good with yellow mustard, melted cheese or all by their salty lonesome. Enjoy!

Poke it, see if it twitches.

Shermlock asks an important question: Is we blogmeeting this month? Personally, I'm up for anything, although I'd prefer the 27th as opposed to the 20th. Thoughts?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Two bags of groceries, and a pallet of assumptions in the bottom of the cart.

Today after work, I go to the store to buy fresh vegetables, spicy turkey sausage, nail polish (and nail polish remover) and a 10-pound bag of cat food. (And I do all this in high heels, because I am awesome.) Also peanut butter. Hooray for the money fairy, who gives me the means to purchase staple foods!

I think there should be a Web site where people can log in and list the most unusual groups of items they've purchased at one time. I'm talking about combinations that get you reported to the government by the next person in line, or at least looked at funny when the cashier rings you up. My entry would be a shotgun cleaning kit, 25 feet of clothesline and a tube of waterproof mascara. The funniest part was that the cashier didn't even blink, just commented that she'd had an ex like that, too. I honestly wasn't sure which one of us belonged more on the "approach with caution" list.

What's the weirdest combination you've ever put together?

I LOL'd.

From this post on CakeWrecks:

Using "text speak" to celebrate an educational accomplishment is like celebrating your SCUBA certification by drowning puppies. STOP IT.
Also, a word to the wise: Cake-heavy blogs aren't good reading material when you're already hungry. I'm just sayin'.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

At this point, I wouldn't be surprised by a meteor strike.

Went out at lunch and bought myself a dark chocolate muffin with a cream cheese-flavored center and big honkin' chocko chips throughout. It was either that or a poke with the Pity Stick, and I'm just not in a poking mood.

I'm currently developing a recipe for an official Pity Cake; so far it's a sponge cake (to absorb your tears) covered with bittersweet chocolate, weeping meringue and a cherry on top. Comes with optional violin accompaniment and someone to remind you that we allllllll got problems.

It can also be a Revenge Cake, but you have to chill it first.

Legal bleg

So here's the fun part: The collections call I received yesterday was for a doctor's bill from when I was unemployed last year. The last bill I received shows a due date of Aug. 13, 2009. My notes and my bank statement from September 2009 show that I sent a check on Aug. 16, 2009 -- I admit it was late, and I take full responsibility for that.

Said bank statement also shows that the check was cashed Aug. 20, 2009. A call to the hospital's billing office reveals that said check was posted to the next latest date of service, instead of the date of service in question, because the account had already gone to collections. Problem is, they sent it to collections on Aug. 10, 2009, three days before the due date.

I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV, but shouldn't they be obligated to wait until the due date has passed before turning the account over? And why did it take nine months for me to hear anything? Change of address notwithstanding, they had my phone number. One call -- IN SEPTEMBER -- would have cleared this whole thing up. I made a good-faith effort to pay the bill; I received no indication that the payment had not been applied to the bill in question; I received no indication that the bill had been placed in collections until three quarters of a year later. And, for the record, said collections call was more akin to a mugging than a civil business transaction. Do I have any recourse here? And more importantly, do I need a lawyer?

UPDATE: If the check was late and didn't get processed to the right account, then that's my fault and I should swallow my pride and pay the fee. It would have been late, regardless of when they sent it to collections, so that's what I'm going to do. But let it be known that IMC Credit Services in Indianapolis, Indiana, does business by bullying young women into giving out their bank information without attempting to confirm the facts of the case beforehand.

Frankly, I'm just too tired to fight it.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Bring on the meteors, why don't you!

So far today I've: Made an embarrassing phone call; received a collections call for a bill I thought I paid A YEAR AGO (and I'm still double-checking that bastard when I get home); spent 15 minutes in the bathroom crying because of said collections call; made a phone call about a bill in repayment and got the same figure I was quoted in APRIL, despite paying quite a lot towards the total since then (they'll call me back); and had a certain, er, monthly friend show up for her usual visit. All this within about, oh, four hours. Oh, and I'm not going to D.C. after all because I just don't have the scratch (see items two and four above).

Can I go home now?

MAJOR UPDATE: Heard back from the guy in item four, and I'm all paid up. Done. Finished. Scratch that one off the list. Very nice people. Hope I never speak to them again.

MAJOR UPDATE NUMBER TWO: I did pay that bill, and I've got the bank statement and cashed check to prove it. Angry yet impeccably civil phone calls are in the offing. I am not in the mood for this!

So between the flash crash a few days ago, the slow crash going on now, and the latest cheery news about the debt and the GDP (namely, the former is overtaking the latter), I once again turn to the unmitigated genius of Dave Kellet for answers to all life's persistent questions: Namely, what to do when a storm's a-comin'.

(And if you're not reading Drive each and every Saturday, you're not doing yourself any favors. I'm just sayin'.)

I'm with stupid, and there's no one else here.

You ever sign up for something before you were ready or able because you wanted to help out a friend, and then you had to go back and undo it because, well, you weren't ready or able to fulfill the obligation?

*puts on shame hat, quietly slinks away*

Yeah.

I hate it when I drag other people into my learning experiences.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Sunday Night Recipe: Sauted Spaghetti Florentine

Threw parts of this together on a "what can I make with what I've got" evening, and it turned into a "must try again, with more stuff this time" meal. Very quick, simple and delicious.

Sauted Spaghetti Florentine

Boil a pot of water and add

two ounces of spaghetti (all portions for one serving; scale up to suit)

I recommend you salt the water; there's no sauce so it adds flavor. While the spaghetti cooks, saute in a large skillet

2/3 c. sauteed baby bella mushrooms
1/4 c. sauteed vidalia onion

When the spaghetti has about a minute left, scrape the mushrooms, onion and juices into the pasta pot, so that when drained the oils will coat the pasta. While the spaghetti finishes, line the bottom of the skillet with

turky pepperoni or turkey bacon, torn into 1" pieces -- use enough to loosely cover the bottom of the pan (that's about 20 pieces pepperoni, or two or three slices of bacon)
six cherry tomatoes, cut in half
a big whopping handful of fresh baby spinach, rinsed and dried

Keep the heat on medium-low. Drain the spaghetti in a colander, then dump it immediately into the skillet so that the tomatoes and spinach are covered by the pasta, onions and mushrooms. Let this sit for three to five minutes, or however long it takes for the pepperoni/bacon to cook without burning. Return the whole shebang to the colander, toss well, then add

1-2 T. grated parmesan, romano or asiago cheese
2 T. sliced black olives
Red pepper flakes (to taste)

Toss again, just until the cheese starts to melt, then transfer to a plate or wide bowl and chow down immediately. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 03, 2010

What we know that ain't so.

When it comes to lying, there are four basic ways it can go:

1) They don't believe it, but they think/hope you believe it.

2) They believe it, and they think you believe it.

3) They believe it, and they think you don't believe it.

4) They don't believe it, and they know you don't believe it either.

For our purposes, "lie" is defined as "a demonstratable falsehood, not necessarily malicious", e.g., "The sky is pink and made of cheese."

Option one is, in my experience, the most basic and most common type of lie: "No Mom, I didn't break the cookie jar." Option two is classic self-delusion: The liar lies to himself as well as to his audience, usually in order to rationalize or justify something he knows is wrong or incorrect. Gollum's "The Ring was a birthday present" is a good example.

Option three is a subset of self-delusion, where the liar (lying to himself) believes the other person is the deluded party -- just about any cult you care to name functions on this principle.

Finally, there's option four, also known as the brazen or bald-faced lie. Of the four options, I find this one most preferable. I would rather not be lied to at all, of course, but at least both the liar and I know the score. I bring this up because Richard Fernandez at the Belmont Club has put his finger on why things have felt so ... off lately:

[N]othing is more paramount either to the establishment nor to the politically correct sections of the media than the maintenance of a lie. For the lie is in the service of the greater good. High reasons of policy will be invoked to explain why the truth should not be so. But the extreme reliance on fantasy by parts of the Western establishment goes well beyond surrounding a kernel of the truth with a “bodyguard of lies.” Instead it is the lie itself which is guarded by even more falsehoods. Gradually and inexorably, an entire political class has staked its existence on continuation of falsehood. The greater good is the fiction. Deception has become a necessity in itself.
His examples include the "plight" of the Palestinians (including the true nature of the "peace activists" on that flotilla); the presentation of Islamic terrorism as a series of "man-made disasters"; and China's refusal to acknowledge that North Korea sank South Korea's ship. The list could go on and on, and not just on the international stage -- "jobs saved or created", anyone?

I was never much of a TV news watcher, being an Internet junkie pretty much from day one. I am even less of one now; I'll check the weather, and I'll watch the crawl for a few minutes to see if something happened in the last five minutes, but that's about it. Tuning in to the mainstream media (on any platform) has gone from "let's see what happened today" to "let's see what they're saying happened today". There's no guarantee that what we're told is what's true. This, in and of itself, is nothing new -- do a little reading on the role of yellow journalism at the turn of the 20th century, and you'll see what I mean. But at least then they were operating on options one and four: They didn't believe it, but they hoped you would -- and if you didn't, well, wink-wink nudge-nudge, they gave it a go, what? Can't blame a man for trying.

Now? Now it's all options two and three. Journalism is a sacred calling, reporters are workers in the service of the greater good, and nothing can get in the way of that -- not even facts. And there is no "Now wait a second, what about ... ?" because it simply won't compute. There will be no "All right, fair enough, you caught me." There is only, cue kettledrums and fanfare, THE TRUTH. And anyone who disagrees with THE TRUTH must certainly be wrong. They might even be mentally ill! But there's certainly no way they could ever be, you know, right.

In The Screwtape Letters, Lewis mentions that once upon a time, men knew when a thing was proved and changed their lives accordingly. Option one and option four fit into this: The liar has the ability to acknowledge the lie, once confronted. But we live in an option two and three world, where truth is relative and reality is subject to interpretation, and therefore the liar does not have to accept being proved wrong. All the counterarguments in all the world will not budge a person who believes he's right, especially if he believes in something bigger than himself. But if that bigger something is founded on a lie ...

We live in interesting times. I wonder how long it will take before reality elbows its way in and demands a seat at the global table.

Once the light goes on, they scatter.

Courtesy of my grumpy bear of an uncle in Oklahoma, I received a copy of this column in my morning inbox. It concerns Obama's address to the 2010 graduates at West Point, and the, shall we say, "muted" response he receieved. The gist of it:

Fifty-five years ago President Eisenhower, Class of 1915 and World War II hero, addressed my class. Nobody then doubted that the man offering words of encouragement in the pursuit of peace was worthy of our attention and applause. It was not so with Obama.

I thought Obama spoke without conviction while the audience listened without trust. It was more a presidential photo-op than a class's right of passage to the Long Grey Line. It was definitely a square peg in a round hole event.

[snip]

Once, when Obama paused for applause with raised chin, pursed lips and condescending look, I thought I saw Italy's El Duce Mussolini, a socialist turned fascist with visions of grandeur, enjoying a brief moment of fame before a captive audience.

Lacking was resounding applause.
Unca Bear also noted the similarities to Mussolini, and expressed hope that our Dear Leader will soon be steered into more productive pursuits, like basketweaving. I fervently agree; the sooner this profoundly unqualified joker is out of office, the better. In the meantime, however, we'll have to put up with more "bask in my awesomeness" posing.

The fun part is that, at a basic level, Obama probably finds the comparison to Mussolini flattering. M. was a successful, charismatic leader, something O. truly believes himself to be. The difference is that Mussolini answered to no one but himself -- when he was removed from the picture (note that I do NOT approve of the method by which he was removed, nor do I wish it to happen here), his regime was over. Period.

Obama, on the other hand, is a meat puppet. He is manipulated by powers and string-pullers, doubtless to a degree far greater than he believes possible -- which is how it always goes with movement figureheads. He no doubt believes that the masses following -- or opposing -- him do so because of him and him alone, and a good chunk of those same masses believe the same. But the nature of the beast is different this time. Il Duce was a snake -- when the head was removed, the body died. But Obama is a cockroach. Sweep him out of the kitchen, and another, bigger bug will crawl out from under the fridge to take his place. The colony, the true source of the infestation, is in the walls, unseen in the light of day. If we're going to get rid of it, we need to make the environment so inhospitable that the colony will have no choice but to find greener pastures. Unfortunately, getting rid of bugs takes work, and work is hard, and wouldn't it be easier to just let it go and watch American Idol instead?

Just don't complain to me when you find the bugs have gotten in everywhere.