Friday, August 27, 2004

Cheeviest

As I ate my breakfast this morning (a hard roll and cup of black coffee), I watched this documentary on the period of Art Nouveau. I used to find some of the art of this period maudlin and tiresome, mainly because I associated too much of it with fairies and hobbits (sorry to all you Tolkien fans). But then I was reminded of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House which always reminded me of a geo spaceship-boat. And the fabulous street posters and fanciful wrought iron features on buildings and metro stops that came from this period. I thought that it would be exciting to have lived at the turn of that century. People could actually challenge the old styles and order, or at least be under the illusion that they were actually rebelling.

Maybe I’m waxing nostalgic for more idealistic era just because I’m so weary of the one I live in. I have to think about all the wonderful things we have or care about now that contribute to our creativity and the development of new art forms.

-file sharing (supposedly)
-ipods
-the internet
-blogs
-electronic and digital art forms
-graffitti (though this has been around for some time)

Maybe I’m just so Miniver Cheevey (from the E. A. Robinson Poem) that I tend to think that things were always simpler, better in the past. The past is always better and safer of course because we’ve seen it, but we forget that progress did make things better. Whenever I have the urge to go back in time I think of things like small-pox, plague, lack of sanitation, a world without roads or telephones and yes, television.

Miniver Cheevy, child of scorn,
Grew lean while he assailed the seasons;
He wept that he was ever born,
And he had reasons.
Miniver loved the days of old
When swords were bright and steeds were prancing;
The vision of a warrior bold...


Wednesday, August 25, 2004

For me, insanity is super sanity. The normal is psychotic.

Normal means lack of imagination, lack of creativity.

So says Jean Dubuffet. I don't feel so bad about droning through the days work anymore after having read that.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

I think that one of my greatest failings has been that I always assume that logic rules the order of things.
  • People are only good at what they do because they practice.
  • Olympic atheletes must have a set plan in order to get where they want to be.
  • In order to be successful in life, you need to do this and this…
  • If you want to be ahead in your field you should have started when you were very young.


These thoughts run through my head during my most rheumatic moments or moments where I feel the pressure and constriction of fitting in to this strange world where I work. I’m sure that these thoughts promote the twinges of pain that prick at my fingers when they feel fatigued from typing. These are the thoughts that make my knees swell uncomfortably with viscous fluid and my wrists ache (that and repetitive mouse motion).

Recently, I have realized that this sort of thinking can set one in a paralytic stasis or encourage the act of wallowing in an alcoholic haze. I'm not getting any younger, and the drinking thing doesn't seem as cool and sophisticated as it once was. I have also realized that I’m wired to be critical and cautious and although this sort of behavior can be helpful in surviving in certain situations, it can also be debilitating when life requires you to take risks outside of the ‘normal’ path of life. Still, I can see how these critical thinking skills landed me a job in this place.

I have always feared that if I stay in the corporate working environment of Company X I will loose my desire, spirit and ability to perceive the world in both broad and delicate strokes. I will no longer be able to find joy in the acts I once relished: writing, thinking, laughing. The other day after coming home from work, I found it extremely difficult to loosen up, play and just start writing. I couldn’t even get myself to a reflective state as I was so rectally wound up from a day of project planning. I will become a eunuch empowered only with the ability to organize file systems and build database structures or understand the complexities of efficient project planning.

Don’t laugh, but I have decided that I must employ the same sort of survival strategies used by prisoners or victims of torture. I have to do so otherwise I will continue to engage in unhealthy activities to unwind after work (namely drinking). I have to walk into work and tell myself that I am here for a reason. I’m here to get my job done, learn a few skills that I might find useful in my next life. More, I’m going to need to draw out my plans for a new life a little better… or at least allow myself to dream of them without doubt or fear.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Is it me?

Or is the American announcer for the women's marathon a little patronizing...

I'm sure the historical importance of the starting point of this Marathon (the town of Marathon) is unknown to many of the women at this race today...

...She's just 4' 11" and 86 pounds.. all these tiny delicate women have V8 engines...

Maybe it's just me, but this guy reminds me of the kids soccer coach who refers to you as 'little missy' and wonders why your parents bothered to enroll their 8 year old girl in boys soccer. NBC should toast that announcer's ass over warm coals.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Epilogue on the Village People Project

If you have not been following the recent events in my life. I was asked to participate in a ‘creative’ project at work where we recreated the the Village People’s YMCA on video to promote the rolling out of a new data tool. However, the popular acronym was replaced with D-A-T-A. How clever. I really spent most of this time torn between hating being there and then feeling like a heel because the other people seemed to be so excited about what was going on (except for the Irish guy, Finance Guy and Passive Aggressive Guy, who seemed just as embarrased as me). Please note the dialogue below is not based on real people or events except for the author herself.

Happy Marketing dude: Come one everyone, aren’t you all excited to be here?
Finance guy: You know we’re wasting valuable time here. Time-Money-Time-MONEY-MONEY-MONEY!
Imogene: (thinking) Hey, didn’t Billy Idol sing that?
Irish guy: (thinking) You all are a bunch of tossers
Passive Aggressive guy: (silence)
Imogene: I wish I were high... wait, did I say that out loud?

And, No, they didn’t have the Indian there (because that would be politically incorrect now wouldn’t it?). And believe me they repeated this fact over and over again throughout the process of the shoot… I know that the Car Alarms are Sensitive girl (Julia) would counter me here, but (whispering) White suburban people sort of freak me out. Here's a prefect example: the video production guy had two tattoes (one on each calf). One of a sun and another of a whale. What can be cooler than that? (How about a unicorn humping a dolphin?)

So I just went along with everything. I played the good little girl and danced trying desperately not to release a pained grimace all the while ... I constantly moved along the sidelines hoping that I would not be seen or captured on film, but of course you know I was in every single blasted shot. I did think it was rather ironic though that here I was with 5 very (supposedly) heterosexual men (half of whom did not know where the Village is) paying homage to the biggest gay icons on the planet.

Vive la femme, Everyone!

If you document your job into step by step procedures, your ass is grass

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/economy/july-dec04/jobs_8-16.html

Apparently, someone finally picked up on this idea. However, there's a problem with this sort of thinking and basically it's this:

It fosters among the PARANOID and short-sighted a desire to hoard information and data about their jobs which may make other people's jobs easier to learn or do.

Unfortunately, this was the route taken by a branch of management from my old group. Therefore, they felt that it was necessary to maintain a large swelling brain blob creature of tribal knowledge packed into one monster project of a database (but of course this is only my perception - I know nothing!)

And you've most likely in your own experience with employment encountered groups which keep their gangly and unsightly procedures unkempt and undocumented so that they have that coveted job security. Working for these groups is like working as a node in the Ministry of Love.

The Harvard dudes interviewed in that Lerher interview in the above link may have a point about the ease of shipping out jobs that are easy to script or automate to India and China. They also observe that the jobs that require 'softer' and more 'complex' skills are safe here in the US. Unfortunately our education system is ill-equipped at teaching people to... uh, think... so basically, we're fucked.

They all said fuck liberal arts education, I believe.

Anarchy! Anarchy will rule.

(I'm a little dehydrated today - that's it).

Monday, August 16, 2004

Back on the road again (to fitness)

On Friday in the training seminar the conversation outside of class turned to first time home ownership. One of the younger techs had just bought a house and lamented the impact the stress of closing took on his diet.
“I’ve gained 30 pounds since,” he shook his head.
My mouth dropped and I put my hand to my breast.
“Oh – My – God! Me too!”

So, yes, this is my way of admitting that my fitness habits have slipped in the past few months. No one ever warned me that home ownership would cause the size of my ass to inflate. I don’t think that I’ve actually ballooned back to my former weight; however, I will say that I can bearly fit into those size 6 jeans I bought early last year. The past few months, if you haven’t been reading, I dedicated myself to week after week of culinary debauchery. I possessed no fear of carbs or cholesterol and I modeled my lifestyle after a hedonistic Roman, except the Romans in my idea of history would have delighted in the butter and bacon drenched cuisine of the South.

After deciding that I was getting a little plump last week, I decided to get back to my old routine of going to the gym. I spent most of Sunday morning in the downtown branch which is always harder because the people there are already incredibly thin and fit. These people are the ones who religiously particpate in the downtown Marathons or bicycle races. They are the Hood to Coasts warriors who get a high off of fitness. So in the midst of these would be Olympian gods… I must toil on the tread mill and huff and puff as I attempt to re learn the mat exercises I’d mastered last year. Shame, shame, shame pulses through my veins. I move forward, with my face to the floor or treadmill belt. I can’t play that comparison game in here.

Her arms jiggle more than mine
My ass is smaller than hers
No, way… I’m not that big


Of course when you play this fat scale game you always think of yourself when you were at your thinnest.

Since, last Monday, I’ve been to the gym a total of 5 times. Slowly getting back into my regular cycle. I may seem to be slipping into that overly zealous fitness mindset…or worse allowing myself the get back on the roller-coaster of weight loss, but I have discovered that I feel less like biting anyone elses head off if I’ve done at least 20 minutes of heavy cardio every day.

And diet? Never fear… I will not totally discount the value of cooking with bacon grease or realizing that dumplings and biscuits are an integral part of loving life. However, I will spend more energy on my repetoire of tofu recipes. Please, note I am not a fan of soy milk… as I discovered that I experienced some torrents of hormonal mood swings after a daily in-take of 2-3 c of the stuff per day.

Baked tofu sticks (based on Moosewood New Classics recipe)

1 16 oz block of tofu cut into strips (3 inches long)
1 large egg white beaten slightly

Marinade
3 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp red chili sauce (you know the kind in the squeezy bottle)
½ tsp salt
1 tsp sesame oil
2 cloves of garlic minced

Mix the above ingredients and pour over the tofu. Make sure all the slices are coated evenly. Allow to sit for at least 20 minutes. Pour the egg white into a small dish and coat each stick. Roll the sticks generously in the breading below.

Breading
1 ½ c unseasoned bread crumbs
1 tbsp black sesame seeds
1 tbsp white sesame seeds

Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees. Serve with the following sauce.

Dipping sauce
3 tbsps light soy sauce
3 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp sugar
2 green onions chopped fine
2 tbsp cilantro chopped

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Apple Pie

The tree in our back yard produced a scant dozen apples. So I decided to do the natural thing with them. While I was slicing the apples, I cut one open and noticed a small hollowed out section towards the core. An angry little worm reared it's tiny yellow head at me. I screamed and dropped the apple half on the floor. The rest of the apples were fine.

7 large sour apples cored, peeled and sliced
1 c sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 c flour
2 tbsp cold butter (diced)

Same pastry used for the peach cobbler. Divide into two balls and allow to chill for at least 1 hour.

Mix all of the filling ingredients except for the butter and set aside. Roll the first ball into a circle and cover a 10 inch pie shell. Fill the pie. Dot the filling with bits of butter. Cover with a rolled circle of the remaining dough. Leave 1/2 inch over hang along the the rim of the pie. Pinch the dough shut in an alternating pattern. Cut decorative slits at the top of the pie. Before baking in a 425 degree oven for 50-60 minutes, brush the pie crust will a mixture of 1 tbsp water, 1 egg yolk & 1/2 tsp vinegar.

Remove from oven when done. Allow to cool. Serve with ice cream (or for those who like... serve each piece heated with a slice of cheddar on top).


Get Off My Ass Peach Cobbler

It's so hot and sticky, and I feel thick and lazy. I just finished wiping down the cabinets and mopping the kitchen floor, and I don't want to talk to anyone, even hear the bare ass rantings from the television. I'm sorry I haven't been adding too much commentary lately to these recipes. If I had more time I'd probably do more research on the history of the foods, but then again I'm no MFK Fisher. I will say that last week I purchased my very first food processor. I cannot tell you how incredibly delighted I am. There was a time when I did enjoy the methodical rhythym of chopping and slicing. However, working daily on a keyboard (even an ergonomic one) has rendered my hands and wrists reluctant to particpate in this once calming activity. I have to admit that the older I get, the less tolerant I am of spending far too much time an energy on things when I can cut down what's expended by paying a few more dollars on cool gadgets. After all, I'm not some 19th century woman who had her entire day and possibly an Irish servant to get all of her household tasks done. No offense to the Irish.

This cobbler is fairly easy to make as most cobblers should be. Using the food process or to mix the crust was more successful than I would have thought. Though this is just plain old cobbler crust. I wouldn't use this for an actual pie which deserves a flakier and lighter textured crust. The candied ginger adds a nice little spicy accent.

Gang of Peach Cobbler
filling
16 firm ripe peaches blanched (see instructions below)
3 c. sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 1/4 c candied ginger (not crystalized ginger)
1/4 c. flour
1/4 c. cornstarch
1 stick of butter melted

Crust
3 c. flour
1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. shortening
1 tsp. salt
1 egg beaten
1 tbsp. vinegar

Preparing the crust
Cut the shortening and butter into the flour and salt until you have a good meal. Combine the vinegar with the beaten egg yolk. Sprinkle and combine evenly with shortening and flour meal. While stirring add a few tablespoons of ice cold water. Enough to hold the dough together in a ball. Cut in half and cover each portion with saran wrap. Chill in the refirgerator for at least an hour.

How to blanche peaches
Many people today have no idea how to prepare peaches for canning. Who actually cans foods these days? As a young child I remember seeing parafin and mason jars readily available in super market aisles along with other canning suppies. Now WinCo is one of the few places I've seen them. This method of blanching works best if you have someone else on hand to immediately peel the peaches after they've been dipped in the cold water. Clean and fill your sink with ice water. In an extremely large pot boil enough water to cover all of your peaches. Carefully drop all of the peaches in the water and allow to boil for 2-3 minutes or until the skins appear to rub off with a wooden spoon. Remove the pot from the heat and with a slotted spoon carefully lift the peaches out of the water and into the icy water. Peel, halve, pit and slice your peaches immediately into eighths.

Mixing the filling
Take your peaches and mix in the sugar, spices, salt, butter, cornstarch and flour. Take a large (3 quart) rectangular pyrex baking dish and grease lightly. Pour the filling into the baking dish and dot evenly with the candied ginger.

Laying the lattice
Roll out the chilled pie dough and cut 1 1/2 inch strips long enough to span the width of the baking dish. Create a woven pattern on top of the filling very similar to one of those construction paper mats you made in kindergarten. Carefully leave a few loose holes between strips.

Bake in a 400 degree oven for at least 45 minutes. Carefully check the crust to make sure it doesn't scorch or burn. Cover the entire cobbler with foil if the cobbler is in danger of burning.

Serve warm with cold whipped cream or french vanilla ice cream.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Dilbert Opiate

Dilbert really bothers me on some levels, but I've discovered recently the real reason why I can't stand the cartoon (even though I've found myself laugh my head off after reading a few of them... even considering taping one of them on the corner of my monitor screen).

I see many people enjoying Dilbert because Scott Adams so accurately paints the daily frustrations of existing in a corporate world... but none of these people attempt to adjust their behavior or even challenge the system of assinine rules (all beit I'll admit that in many cases the rules are there for a reason) that Dilbert ridicules. How many people actually have the balls to confront the Pointy Haired Boss... and call him on is convoluted ideas or misdirected policies? Or even suggest alternate courses of action? How many of us actually spend some time trying to restructure processes or policies so they fit employees needs without sacrificing the needs of the company? How many people actually question things? The corporate world is a place that encourages complacency. I suspect that the problem with this company's culture is that we have successfully imposed a culture of compliance among the loyal subjects, so much so that the spirit of innovation as well as the willingness to question processes and strategy has been squelched out of the working population. This doesn't mean that people here still don't feel frustrated. Dilbert allows us to voice our disenchantment with the corpu-borg culture in the most passive aggressive manner.

Dilbert makes the bitter pill of life in a cubicle environment easier to swallow... because it makes us laugh and and we get to express our disdain with the oppressive nature of corporate life by posting strip after strip on the walls outside our cubicles.

More BBQ fodder

Jerk Marinade
This is an adaptation of a recipe I found on line (dianaskitchen.com). I added the molasses for sweetness and I played around with the ratio/amounts of spices. Please note that it's extremely important in this case to make sure you have the finest quality spices. If you like it hotter add an additional habenero, but beware!

2 habenero peppers chopped fine
2 jalepeno peppers chopped fine
4 Shallots chopped (1 large yellow onion will do in a pinch)
6 green onion stalks chopped
half a head of garlic pressed and chopped
4 tbsp of all spice
4 tbsp dried thyme (8 tbsp fresh) chopped
3 tbsp cinnamon
2 tbsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cardamon
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 tsp salt
1 c. soy sauce
1 c. white vinegar
1/2 c. olive oil
1/2 c. dark molasses
1 c. orange juice
the juice and zest from two limes

Mix all of the ingredients well. Pour into ziploc freezer bags and add the meat (chicken and pork work well) into the bags. Seal and make sure that the marinade is distributed evenly. Refrigerate for several hours. Turn the marinade packet over and knead again. Refrigerate again overnight. Cook the meat over a barbeque grill.

Mango & Peach Salsa

4 large peaches & one large mango cut into small cubes
3 medium sized very ripe tomatoes chopped
1 large vidallia or other sweet onion chopped
4 large cloves of garlic chopped fine
1-2 large fresh jalepenos chopped
1 c fresh cilantro chopped
1 small can (4 oz) chopped canned jalepenos with juice
4 tbsp white vinegar
1 tsp sea salt
juice of 2 large limes
freshly ground pepper

You know the drill add every thing together in a large bowl and chill for several hours. Serve with tortilla chips or on top of grilled fish with blackened seasoning.


Monday, August 09, 2004

Another successful soiree

I had a blast on Saturday night. We had a large group of people over for barbeque and cocktails. I'll be posting more of the recipes we had when I have the time.

I had my pinata full of Mexican candy, and then someone was cool enough to bring one in the shape of a clown's head and it was filled with adult goodies (not what you're thinking) mainly plastic bottles of booze and 7-11 fare (corn nuts, trident gum, etc.). I love taking a swing at the pinata. It was a good chance to get some aggression out. Though someone did break the broomstick on the liquor pinata.

Why me?

I am supposed to be the construction worker… great, make me represent the underpaid and overworked. I think that this is their shot at pushing the diversity token and taking a rather lame shot at shattering a stereotype of construction workers as traditionally being male. Though it’s really quite ironic that they would try to do this as the Village People gimmick is based on the stereotype icons of maleness for obvious reasons. Maybe if I injure myself during the video I can call on the god of compensation.

How should I act? What should I do? Should I feign stupidity or even have some sort of phobic reaction on the set? (which most likely consists of an empty conference room and someone’s digital camera). Maybe the lighting will be super crappy so no one can see our faces and be able to recognize us from the video. I forgot my sunglasses and wig. This whole situation feels like it comes out of a Dilbert cartoon. I resent Scott Adams for making so much money at ripping on the humiliation and denegration we must undergo each day as denizens of corporate society.

Friday, August 06, 2004

More food for a summer picnic/barbeque

Frozen Lemon Bars
I got this recipe from a box of graham crackers I doubled the ingredients as hungry, hot friends usually make these disappear quickly. Don't do this on an extremely hot day and if so, make this dessert over at a friend's who has air conditioning. This is so quick and easy and you can actually boast that you brought a frozen dessert.

1/2 gallon vanilla frozen yogurt
1 can of frozen lemonade
24 graham crackers ground into fine crumbs
1/2 c. unsalted butter melted
1/4 c. sugar
2 9 inch square baking dishes

Preheat the oven to 350. Combine the crumbs, sugar and butter to make the crust. Divide into equal portions and spread on the bottom of the baking dishes. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove and allow to cool completely.

With the yogurt partially softened, combine the yogurt and lemonade in a large bowl until well mixed. Do not allow the yogurt to melt or soften completely. Spread the lemon yogurt mixture over the cracker crusts and sprinkle with spare cracker crumbs. Let the dishes sit in the freezer overnight.

Cut into squares and serve immediately.

Imogene’s Pasta Salad

This is a simple salad a good accompaniment to Sunset magaziny barbeque food.

1 16 oz box of pasta boiled al dente and drained(penne rigate works best)
1 1/2 c. sun dried tomatoes in oil (chopped, and reserve oil for the salad)
1 c. roasted red peppers chopped
½ c. fresh basil chopped
3 tbsp. fresh oregano chopped
½ c. capers
½ c. black olives
½ c. high grade virgin olive oil
½ c. pecorino romano grated
1 tsp sea salt
3-4 large cloves of garlic.
Freshly ground black pepper

Combine the olive oil, tomato oil and salt. Toss all of the ingredients together in a large bowl. Chill overnight.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Village People at Work!?

I really like my new job so far…

But there’s a group here at my new job (by group I’m actually referring to one overly zealous employee) who has decided to promote a new process and by creating a promotional video with a skit done to the Village People song, YMCA. And, yes, somehow I have been recruited to participate in this. While I don’t mind role playing… I drew the line when they were asking me to play the role of “Construction Worker.” Was I wrong? I suppose I could feel guilty for not being a team player, but somehow I think that the whole concept is…. lame. More, I don’t feel that it’s right to ask me, someone who is very new to take part in an endeavor which I had little to with in the planning… and of course if I had something to do with this… I would not have had anything to do with the choice of music or genre.

Plus it’s just… lame.

Not that I’m down on the Village People. They certainly have their place in pop culture history, but they also have their place in the hearts of the frat-boyish mentality (ironically) that pervades corporate lamoid culture and I want no part in that. Am I wrong?

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Love/Sex Sells

Sex, desire, search for love… cherchez la femme…ou la homme.

It all sells,
It’s a drive that can result in product explosion and profit:

Examples:
- Diet plans
- On line dating
- Cosmetics
- Cosmetic Surgery
- Romantic flicks
- Pornography
- Restaurants and Bars


I need a man ->On-line dating->Faster dial-up->Internet provider
I need a man ->On-line dating->Faster computer
I need a woman->Remove fat tire->Gym membership

I need to look pretty->Plastic surgery

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Note to self: Cost Savings Caveat

I just saw this in someone’s e-mail signature today:

“There is Always a Better, Cheaper, Faster way of doing things.”

What the quote doesn’t mention is that there is always a threshold for pain (or cost or deprivation) for any of the parties who use the process that the better, cheaper, faster method is applied to. I think what’s missing from these equations and goals set by financially driven objectives is a forward looking definition and analysis of impacts of these costs.

Hmmmm…