Tuesday, August 31, 2010

I! AM! WOMAN!

Hear me perform minor household repairs!

My current interwebs connection consists of a lonnnnnnng ethernet cable running up out of the wall, through the attic and over into the other side of the house, where it connects to my godmother's modem. It works well, except that my cat got hold of one end of the cable and started chewing holes in it (cf. two of the four cell phone chargers I've owned). Add to this that the tab came off the little plastic plug, and suddenly my connectivity went from "fast and reliable" to "looks a mess, and I keep having to hold the plug into the jack when I want a consistent signal". So I thought to myself, "Self," I thought, "perhaps there's something you can do."

A quick trip to Google said there was: A little snipping, a little stripping, a fistful of electrical tape, and all would be well. I had a couple ethernet cables I wasn't using, and they were a little too short to be of much use anywhere else, so I cut the end off one of them, cut off the damaged part of the main cord, spliced those suckers together and BAM! Interwebs! And I think it's even a tad faster than before, probably because I don't have to hold the ruddy plug in while I surf.

I'm quite proud of myself.

Monday, August 30, 2010

I Am Not A Fast Cook: Super Awesome Grilled Cheese

What's better than a grilled cheese sandwich? A super awesome grilled cheese sandwich, that's what.

First, get some artisan bread, like one of those chewy country loaves that's all full of threads and air pockets. Find two pieces without too many holes and butter those suckers (one side each) for all they're worth. Lay the first piece in a cast iron skillet (butter side down) and layer as follows: One slice Trader Joe's organic American cheese slices (good and good for you!); minced or julienned onion; another slice of cheese. Top with the other slice of bread (butter side up) and cook on medium heat until the bread on bottom is browned to your preference. Turn and repeat, and enjoy immediately.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Storytime: Rock

[I figured out how to do jump breaks, so I'm going to post my monthly stories on this blog instead of creating yet another new space. My Blogger account is getting cluttered. -- ed.]

“MUD!”

The mud matched the flat grey of the desert plain so well that we were half a dozen steps into it before Lee shouted. It closed around our ankles and slid over the tops of our boots, tepid and clinging as we scrambled back to solid ground. Horace got out first and stood like an anchor, giving us each a hand out of the suction that threatened to pull us under.

Lee was the first one in and the last one out. The second his feet touched the cracked earth again he dropped his pack and fell flat on his back. “I hate this planet,” he muttered, his chest heaving from the narrow escape. “I mean it. All it’s done for five days is give us the finger.”

Mack leaned over with her hands on the knees of her grubby, tan flight suit. “I’m not complaining yet,” she muttered. “We got out of the ship in one piece, didn’t we?”

Monday, August 23, 2010

I Am Not A Fast Cook: Couscous Primavera

Blogging will be light this week (see the post below), but I wanted to get my regular features in. (I do it because I care.) So, the recipe for my super-deluxe couscous primavera.

(I don't know exactly what "primavera" means. I assume it means "lots of brightly colored vegetables".)

First, bring one cup of water, half a teaspoon of kosher salt and 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a boil, then remove from heat and add one cup couscous*. Stir to combine and let sit for five minutes. While it sits, prepare one cup sliced mushrooms (I use baby bellas), one diced tomato (fairly large), one chopped green pepper, 2/3 cup black olives (sliced the long way into thirds) and four scallions sliced into chunks on the bias. Combine in a large bowl, add the couscous and toss with two tablespoons of lemon juice Serve immediately, or chill for best results. Serves four to six people. Enjoy!

*A word of warning: Couscous is delicious, but in its prepared state it sticks to everything. And I do mean everything.

Ouch, part II

Oy.

Vey.

Last night I tripped and sprained my left ankle. The left, for those keeping score at home, was the "good" ankle. The right was already out of commission. And now there's no walking on either one.

My upcoming two weeks off work has just turned into four, because I am now housebound. No driving, no crutching; I'm literally walking everywhere on my knees like a penitent, and it's due to my own clumsiness.

Also my cat chewed through the cord on my cell phone charger.

Luckily I went to the grocery store and stocked up before it happened (the fall, not the charger-chewing), so I don't have to go anywhere or do much of anything. (I did have to reschedule a routine dental appointment.) I also have someone nearby who's willing to drive me places I need to go (she was taking me to my surgery anyway), and I found a charger for sale on Amazon on super sale for like $5, so I'm pretty well set.

Now if I could just stop sitting in the middle of the floor screaming like a frustrated toddler, I could get somewhere.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Ouch.

Have you ever noticed that high-strung and immature women tend to speak in very high voices? I don't mean that they sing soprano; I mean that they never learned to speak like an adult. I'm talking about sing-song, cutesy, little-girl voices coming out of grown women, and any upset sends them from "a little shrill" to "nearby dogs cringe and cover their ears."

My supervisor could shatter glass when she gets excited.

*headdesk*

Your Mileage May Vary: Mr. Dewey, Mr. Carnegie, you have a call on line one.

[Ed. note: This is the first installment in my second (of two) weekly features, Your Mileage May Vary. Basically I get to rant and ramble for about 1,000 words on the topic of my choice.]

If this anecdote doesn't make you foam at the mouth, then I'm not sure I want to know you:

I just completed courses to become a library director. In these courses we were strongly encouraged to "weed" out all books and materials that had older publication dates than 2000. We were told not to worry about not having any of the "classics" on hand because patrons could always use the inter-library loan system to borrow them from somewhere else.
Recently, I have had quite a few patrons requesting different books such as "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "The Screwtape Letters" and other classics and I was unable to fulfill their request because libraries either do not have them or are unwilling to loan them out anymore.

argle bargle RAWR rawr rawr.

One thing that makes us humans different from the animals is our ability to understand, record and store abstract data. We don't just care about finding food and mates, the whos, whens, wheres and hows; we care about the whys. We are, to put it bluntly, privy to a dimension that exists above the purely physical; we are a combination of the temporal and eternal. To quote C.S. Lewis, it's incorrect to say that we have souls. We are souls; we have bodies. Forgetting or ignoring that fact is a step down a very dangerous, very dark path. What does this have to do with the upkeep of the local public library? Frankly, everything.

Knowledge is power; the pen is mightier than the sword; we’ve all heard these cliches, but they’re overused and worn out for a reason: They’re absolutely true. There is a reason our Founders enshrined freedom of speech as a right protected from government intrusion; namely, the free exchange of ideas is essential to a prosperous and healthy society. But more important than that is training the minds of the population to use those ideas, to understand what is being spoken. Without this skill, there’s no point to storing information – why keep a product on the shelves if no one wants it?

The hard part, of course, is to get the population into a state of intellectual laziness without them realizing what’s happening. You can’t come at it headlong, telling people outright that they’re not allowed to think. People are stubborn. (Nothing says “Come on in!” quite like a “Keep Out” sign.) But if you can trick the population; if you can convince them to come along because it was their idea; well, then you’re cooking.

Ray Bradbury’s “Farenheit 451” is often held up as an example of the dangers of censorship, but in reality it’s about the dangers of complacency and cheap, easy entertainment. Beatty’s monologue early in the book, where he explains the history of book burning to Montag, makes this plain: Books cause problems because they give people ideas. Ideas bring about disagreements and wars. Everything goes much more smoothly when ideas aren’t in the picture, so the powers that be removed the books and replaced them with television and radio, a constant stream of images and sounds that eliminate the need for all that pesky thinking. “Brave New World” has similar themes, as does “1984” and pretty much any other distopic work you’d care to name.

These works have, however, a shared problem: They portray the process as overt, the deliberate work of human hands and minds, a conspiracy of powerful men in back rooms and pressed suits who are fully aware of what they’re doing and why.

I think that misses the mark.

I believe in God; therefore I believe in Satan. I believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ; I believe in the ultimate struggle for every human soul. And I believe that the conspiracy outlined above is real; but it is not of human work. If we humans are a mix of the profane and the divine; if we are a cross between dust and spirit; if we have the capacity to rise above our mortal flesh; then what better way to destroy us than to convince us that mortal flesh is all there is? What better way to send a soul to hell than to tempt it there with promises of easy life? And what better way to do that than to keep that soul forever a child, forever immature, forever lapping up the sugared gruel set before it instead of going out and hunting meat? And what better way to do that, I ask you, than to keep it from thinking?

A sure sign, played out throughout history, of a society’s decline is that it willingly ignores the past. Note that I don’t say forget; it’s vaguely aware of its history and that of its neighbors. It just doesn’t think that history is worth any attention. And when history is ignored, so are its lessons; so are the ideas, the Whys, the things that set us apart from all the other animals. Sure, we still have our ingenuity, our capacity for abstract thought, our intelligence – but they either go unused or used for infernal purposes.

My concern about the state of our libraries is not, at its root, for the libraries themselves. It is for what they and their state represent. A well-kept library represents the desire of a community to better itself, to attain knowledge, to learn from the past. The library’s contents show that community’s interests and areas of study. Therefore, culling older materials is an alarming sign, not just because of the loss of available knowledge but because it shows, and I mean this without hyperbole, a point lost on the cosmic scoreboard. Keep the human creature an undeveloped infant, and there’s no telling what can be done while it’s occupied with some mindless diversion. Keep the general population in Condition White, and they’ll hum merrily down the path to their own demise, none the wiser until their iPod batteries run out and they look around and ask, “What happened?”

What didn’t happen; that would be the better question.

Anyway, that’s what I think. Your mileage may vary.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Hokay.

Got the call this morning: Surgery is set for Sept. 02 at 11:30 a.m., two weeks from today exactly. I have to be there at 10 a.m., mostly for prep and such and also so I can sign all the paperwork before they start the IV ("She signed it 'Tabitha Twitchit'*? Que?"). I have a ride to and from the hospital; I'm in the process of setting up my living space for maximum comfort and minimum movement. Convalescence should be easy.

In the meantime, however, I get two weeks of going ABSO-BONKIN-LUTELY STIR CRAZY on these crutches before I get painkillers (the good kind) to soothe me. I'm used to taking at least two 10-minute walks per day (often in heels, which is a big part of why I'm in this mess in the first place, but still). And when I get antsy, particularly when I'm already in pain, I get grumpy and insomniac and REALLY REALLY BORED and also snacky, which is NOT GOOD for my waistline. (Also I get really complainy, but as I said on Twitter, this is The Week Of Pouts, and I will be better in a few days.) Meantime, I'm whiney.

Also did I mention I'm kind of freaking out over the whole surgery thing? It's not scary, per se; this is hardly my first rodeo. But it's still ... let's say "unsettling". That's it; consider me officialy "unsettled" until next month when I'm back at work and back to something like normal. At least Burn Notice wraps up before my surgery and Fringe starts up after my recovery. I wouldn't want to try to watch either one stoned.


*Bonus points if you get the reference.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Question (now updated with links!)

Who would you rather spend a day with: River Tam or River Song? I only ask because their names are similar and no one else seems to have made the connection yet. (No one I could find on Google, anyway.)

FOLLOW-UP: Who would win in a fight? Assume they both have access to their usual tools/weapons and compatriots. (My money's on Dr. Song -- she's got age, experience and The Doctor.)

It's not "doing what you love" if you don't love doing it.

Third drafting last year's NaNo novel has stopped being fun. It was getting to the point where I would rather do housework than write another page (despite having one of these to writetype on!) (found it at an antique store over the July 4th weekend and HAD TO HAVE IT). The whole "not fun" thing is largely due to the complete overhaul of chapters one through six, and the high-level polishing I have planned for the remaining, oh, twenty. It's a surprisingly taxing task.

Of course, once I admit this fact and stop avoiding it, the whole thing becomes much more manageable. I had wanted to finish this draft by Oct. 14 (my drop-dead deadline where everything stops and I focus all my energy on NaNo), but since that likely won't happen I've decided to accept reality and stop beating myself up over it. If anything, I can use it to give myself a break from rewriting this year's NaNo. I also gave myself permission to work on other projects at the same time, which was my other big stumbling block: I have lots of ideas and half-completed drafts of various lengths swimming around in my brain and on my hard drive, and I want to work on them without feeling like I'm shirking my duties.

The first fruits of this new outlook -- a short story called "Rock" -- will be published on Aug. 27. As with my previous self-publishing efforts, the story will be featured on a sister site so as not to eat up the front page here.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Ow.

For some strange reason, being able to visualize my deformed bones grating on each other isn't doing much to make me feel better when things get twingey.

Monday, August 16, 2010

I Am Not A Fast Cook: Onion Mushroom Soup

I love soup. I especially love Asian soup. Asian soups pack a huge amount of taste into their hot liquid goodness, and they don't shy away from flavor extremes. Western soups are polite and decorous -- delicious, but generally mellow and predictable. ("Comfortable" might be a better word.) Asian soups, on the other hand, vary between delicate, clear flavors that dance across the tongue (like spring onion soup) and a smack upside the head that says "Hey! Hey you! Guess what? You're eating soup!" (Hot and sour soup, for instance, does this to me every time.)

Anyhoo, I found myself one evening in need of dinner and stuck with making a meal out of whatever was in the fridge. What I had was extra-firm tofu, scallions and some baby bella mushrooms.

I didn't set out to make soup; I decided to start by sauteing the mushrooms and onions with butter in a 10-inch iron skillet, then frying up the tofu with that. Once they were nearly done, I had a brainwave -- I poured two cups of cold water into the skillet, added some beef base, soy sauce, white wine vinegar, kosher salt, black pepper and asian spice/garlic powder mix (I'm not sure what all's in it; I think it's mostly ginger) and let it boil for between five and ten minutes. I added some sesame seeds about halfway through (in retrospect, I would saute those with the mushrooms), then dished it up and topped it with garlic butter croutons.

IT WAS DELICIOUS.

I tried it the next week with diced potatoes cooked in, but it wasn't the same. (I think the croutons are what really made the dish.) The best part was the balance of flavors -- it was strong without being heavy, and the tang of the ginger and soy sauce was pulled out by the onion. Overall, it was a rousing success, and one that lends itself well to experimentation. (I'm very excited about that.) Enjoy!

I'm going to draw flames on my crutches so I look like I'm going faster.

So it turns out that all those years of spraining and twisting and breaking and chipping and generally injuring my ankle have resulted in bone spurs. Not the kind on the bottom of the foot that lots of people get, but the kind that grow inside joints when the ligaments have been pulled away one too many times. And those spurs are between the end of my fibula (the knobby bit on the outside of the ankle) and whatever tarsal bone the fibula butts up against. The spurs rub on each other, and I'm in pain.

So, in a few weeks I'll go in on a lovely Thursday morning and take a nice nap, and while I'm napping the doc will cut open my foot and go in and file those darn spurs right off. He'll also strengthen up some ligaments while he's at it. There are options other than surgery, of course, but they're "let's make it livable" measures at best. Surgery is the only actual fix, and I want this fixed. So, fun times. At least I'm insured.

Meantime, I keep hob, hob, hobblin' along. It'll be six weeks at the minimum (counting from Aug. 6, when this whole thing started) before I'm off the Crutchinator 3000s. And as handy as I am on them (I can even push a shopping cart), it's still not fun.

On the plus side, I'll get pain pills. Whee.

If you say so ...

Subject line on my latest inbox clogger from Victoria's Secret: "Fall is here! Dress accordingly!"

*checks Weather Underground*

*checks calendar*

*checks current outfit*

*checks out the window for good measure*

Whatever you say, chief.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Life imitates ... well, I wouldn't call it art ...

Does anybody remember the episode of "The Office" where the boss makes a huge, immature fuss about his birthday (with his minion's help), but no one cares because they're waiting to see if one of the guys has skin cancer? And then he gets all put out and pouty when someone explains that fact to him?

I think we're dealing with President Michael Scott.

Adventures!

I've decided that I want to save up my money and start a homestead and raise goats.

Sometimes the biggest adventures are the ones that happen inside your head. When I took this site on hiatus I intended to close it down and start a new website, telling myself that six years was long enough and it was time for something new. Fact of the matter: I was running away.

I'm terrified of standing my ground; in my previous experience, disagreement resulted in a withdrawal of favor. If I disagreed, if I shared a different opinion, I was seen as rejecting the person disagreed with. I was then rejected by them, and the circle was complete. So even if I was in a safe environment, even if I was with people who wouldn't reject me, and who would welcome my opinions no matter what they were, I was too scared to venture forward. It was Just Too Scary.

NO MORE.

Starting next week, I'm debuting some changes. Monday sees the debut of my new recipe feature, I Am Not A Fast Cook (from a poem on a decorative plate in my grandmother's kitchen: "I am not a fast cook/I am not a slow cook/I am a half-fast cook." I was fifteen before I got the joke. There will likely be a massive fight over who gets that plate when Grandma finally Goes Home.) IANAFC will be replacing the Sunday Night Recipe feature, mostly because posting on Monday morning is easier than posting on Sunday afternoon.

On a more serious note, Friday will be the debut of a weekly column feature (as yet unnamed) dealing with current events and topics of note. I've been wanting to do a column again for a long time, and I figure now's as good a time as any. And (tying it all in with the previous paragraphs) I'm not going to censor myself because I'm worried about being beaten down for saying something someone else disagrees with. One doesn't get tougher by avoiding hardship. I'm almost 27. It is HIGH TIME I started developing some callouses.

Also, once a month, I hope to post new short story, minimum 3,000 words. These will be posted at the end of the month (exact date to be deterimined) starting this month! Can't you just feel the excitement? (The exception will be November, which is NaNoWriMo and will feature updates every day because I am awesome.) This is also an exercise in facing my fears because if I really put myself into a story, I have to talk about strong emotions and unpleasant things, and that's a terrifically scary thing for me. Nice people just don't talk about such things, you see. It's impolite and upsetting. (And to that I say, "Feh.")

The rest of the time will be your regularly scheduled programming -- caffiene-fueled rants and stream-of-consciousness rambling about My Awesome Awesome Life. So that's my plan. (And speaking of MAAL, I'm back on crutches because my ankle injury from last winter that I never had x-rayed is acting up again, so I'm getting it x-rayed this time, and I'll let you all know the results by Tuesday at the latest.)

Also I'm totally serious about the homestead/raising goats thing. If I have to spend the rest of my life in an office doing someone else's paperwork, I am going to be very upset.