Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The Science of Pest Control

A friend of mine asked me how to get rid of aphids in their garden without using chemical pesticides. I'm not the best gardener in the world. I'm not the sort who clucks and pecks over her compost bin like a patient mother hen. Nor do I weed religiously (mainly due to my time and schedule). But I did find some information from one of my favorite gardening sites on pests and a safe version of an insecticide. To be frank we're not growing much in our garden this year because I didn't have a lot of time due to my job during the planting time.


Spider Mites
http://www.yougrowgirl.com/grow/bugs_mites.php

Safe Insecticides
http://www.yougrowgirl.com/garden/pesticiderecipes.php

Summer Borscht and Russian Dumplings

My garden has given forth an abundance of beets. Naturally, I resorted to making borscht. "I guess my taste buds have matured," a friend of ours noted at dinner saying that after years he finally came to the decision after years of adulthood, that he actually liked the stuff. Cold borscht has always been a summer-time favorite of mine. People who love beets usually do so for the same reason that people detest them, the earthiness. I had a friend who once claimed that he'd rather eat a bowl full of dirt than eat a teaspoon of beets. Too each their own.

I found a recipe from epicurious.com which was fairly simple and with some adjustments actually tasted quite good. In accompaniment we made vareniki (also known as pirogies) which are more of a version of Eastern European ravioli. It's not as much work to make these dumplings if you roll the dough with a hand crank pastamaker. P.S. these dumplings also taste wonderful deep fried right after boiling.

Borscht from epicurious
(I used 1 lb of stew meat, lightly browned before boiling and 12 c. of organic beef broth instead of 10 c. I also suggest that you add 1/4 c. cooking sherry, 1/2 c chopped parsley and 2 tsp balsalmic vinegar. Also serve with light sour cream instead of yogurt and garnish with chopped parsley as well as fresh dill). I found that this recipe tastes just as wonderful warm. Serve with warm potato rolls.

Vareniki with Mushrooms

Dough
2 c. flour sifted
2 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 c. water plus more if needed
Additional flour

Filling
2 tbsp grapeseed or olive oil
1 lb cremini mushrooms chopped fine
1 large sweet onion, chopped fine
1 1/2 tbsp chopped fresh sage
1 1/2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
1/4 c. dry sherry
1/4 c. onion broth (chicken works as well)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


Sift the flour and the salt into a large bowl. make a well at the center and crack the eggs into this well. Pour water into well. Combine egg and water carefully. Then gradually fold and stir in flour until a sticky dough forms. You may need to add a few drops more water. Knead until you have a ball of dough. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Cook the filling. Over medium high heat saute the onions in the oil until translucent. Add herbs and mushrooms and saute for a few minutes. Add the liquid ingredients, salt and pepper and saute until liquid is reduced and mushrooms are cooked through. Add additional salt and pepper to taste. Set mixture aside and allow to cool.

Divide the dough into 1/4 portions. Remember you will also knead the scraps from the cuttings and roll through the pasta maker again. If you dont' have a pastamaker as noted, then you've got a lot of rolling to do. The idea is to get the dough to a noodle-like thinness. You don't want it to be paper thin or it will tear. With my pasta machine I crank a rolled piece of dough at least 7 times through, increasing the setting number and therby increasing the thinness with each turn.
From a thin piece of dough cut out as many 4 inch circles as you can. Place about a tablespoon or slightly more of the mushroom filling on one half of the circle. Brush the edges lightly with eggwhite. Fold the circle over and press with a fork. Our biscuit cutter actually doubles as a press with a serated edge, so we usually seal the dumplings with this device. Repeat this process until you have roughly 35-40 large dumplings. Bring salted water (with 1 tbsp cooking oil) to boil in a large pot. Cook the dumplings, a dozen at a time, in boiling water for about 12 minutes. Drain and serve with chopped carmelized onions cooked in butter (see below) and chopped fresh parsley.

Carmelized onions
1 lb finely chopped walla walla onions
1/4 c. butter
Cook onions in butter over medium to medium high heat until onions are browned and carmelized (about 30 minutes).

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Jesus would be embarrassed

Is it me or is this WRONG to preach in the workplace? We get this all the time here... and they are starting to really get on my nerves. Pizza lunches and prayer meetings advertised on the company intranet. Articles in the company newsletter. Why can't they just keep this at home? Why must they 'share' it with others? Though I have this theory about born missionaries... they are usually so insecure in their own faith and belief that they must force it upon others... no they alone cannot be the saved one they must force their religion upon others.


Search results:

Jesus @ Work-
While Jesus himself never had to balance a budget or file a weekend report, those who follow him consider him the acme of managerial acumen. "Jesus was like, in my mind, the ultimate manager and leader and business visionary," gushes Nancy Matheson-Burns, president and CEO of specialty food distributor Dole & Bailey. "I'm a shepherd of a flock. I'm responsible for them and how their jobs affect their family and affect their lives."
http://www.bostonmagazine.com/ArticleDisplay.php?id=593

Take God to Work Day-
http://slate.msn.com/id/2120789/

Faith at work-
http://www.tdn.com/articles/2005/05/28/this_day/news01.txt

Culture War or Crusade? -
http://www.rossde.com/editorials/edtl_crusade.html

Other links of note:
All-American indignation-
http://www.cavalierdaily.com/CVArticle.asp?ID=23529&pid=1302
Society of Mutual Autopsy or SOMA.

Take back what?

http://www.simpleliving.net/timeday/book-appendix-a.asp

This seems a little pathetic... people making a big to do about having a day to themselves or some time to themselves outside of their work or jobs. Shouldn't that time be yours to begin with? Though I admire this group in a way, I don't think that they're doing enough to address the overall impact of this lack of time in American's lives. I'm not a huge fan of unions and I'd probably get fired for even mentioning organized labor for salaried individuals (oxymoron that that may be), but the more they push the more it may go this way. You talk to a lot of people who work in a corporate environment and they continue to feel powerless and there's one big ugly reason why: the legal department. My legalese may be a bit off and I promise to research more into how this works, but although it's illegal to require people to work over a certain amount of time (though I have worked for managers in this company who have stated to their groups that a 12 hour work day is required), any honed and schooled legal employee will tell you that the company has secured your services in accomplishing several tasks or deliverables. You are responsible for these deliverables regardless of the amount of time by day or by week that you are required to get the job done!

Yet this doesn't explain why it's always seemed to me that the people who work in Legal are usually the most unhappy people in a corporation.


At our work we are always encouraged to take ownership of our tasks and time. That's just great... what they don't tell you is that you will be continually plagued by a push to get more things to do on your plate.

Monday, June 20, 2005

What DO you want?

Countless numbers of us deal with the fact that we're working in jobs that we don't really care for. Some of us come to work and switch ourselves 'off' for the good part of the day. We become embroiled in the rituals of our work and we weave in and out of our own space and consciousness in calendared meetings, pivot tables, tabular formulas that there is little time for us to think for ourselves. We tell ourselves that we'll think about changing things as soon as we get some free time, but more often than not that free time is eaten up by familial obligations and personal issues that should have been attended to while we were working overtime.

Honestly, I dont' think there's anything unique about what I'm going through. I'm just yet another overworked American who still believes that she can get what she wants if she thinks long and hard, and works for it. This is an age old formula marketed by countless indivuals who try to sell their testimony to how they escaped the lives of indentured servitude. I spent a great deal of my life following. I only ended up working at Company X by chance. I was burned out of my previous profession and looking for a place to be reborn. Initially, as I wrote earlier, I really loved working here becuase despite the hard work I was working for leadership that I respected, people who knew how to guide and set expectations rather than micro manage or manage via numbers. More, I was encouraged and rewarded for taking risks.


Taking Stock in What You Love

So I've been thinking... in order for me to be able to find a place of work or a profession that I truly enjoy I need to do consider all the things I enjoy doing or some of the subject areas I find myself interested in.

-Cooking, experimenting with foods... obviously
-Knitting/Sewing/ Textile Crafts
-Writing
-Learning
-Talking
-Teaching
-Design
-Philosophy
-Ethics
-Politics
-Creativity

I'm sure there's more, but I really haven't had enough coffee right now to think about it.

What's Right for You?

I took a quick career self assessment quiz. The results noted that I'm more of an ENTP (see the description below). I've been thinking more and more that although I tend to be an introvert, I have evolved over the past few years. I've become an extrovert because of circumstance, that and I tend to swim against the flow like a salmon beating itself against rocky rapids. This environment where I work is made up mainly of introverted folks... and more people here don't question things (at least this is my perception) they tend to go with the flow more often than not.

While the description seems fairly accurate, I'm not incredibly smitten with all of the career possibilities. I've tagged the ones that actually intrigue me. I'm not going to base my career choice decisions on one little quiz from Monster, but I see this as a step to finding out what I really want to do with my life. Didn't Helen Gurley Brown get her start as a copywriter?




ENTP (Extravert, Intuitive, Thinker, Perceiver)
People of this type tend to be friendly, charming and outgoing; quick-witted, energetic and irreverent; ingenious, imaginative and creative; curious, flexible and unpredictable; logical and analytical.

The most important thing to ENTPs is being creative, seeing possibilities and always having new challenges.

Great careers for ENTPs

  • Entrepreneur-->
  • Investment banker Venture capitalist-->
  • Outplacement consultant-->
  • Management / marketing consultant
  • Copywriter
  • Radio / TV talk show host
  • Political manager -->
  • Real estate developer
  • Actor-->
  • Strategic planner
  • University/college president-->
  • Motivational speaker-->
  • Internet marketer
  • Advertising creative director

More Career Quizzes & Resources:

Quitting Time Quiz:

http://tools.monster.com/quizzes/quittingtime/

Is Business Ethics an Oxymoron?

Baaaaaaaa... baaaaaa.... this is the sound that sheep make when they run off a cliff. It's also the sound that high level managers make when they follow trends passed down from on high or laterally amongst their peers. Everyone's seen this in their company and it can take place in the adoption of a new fangled data reporting system or the drive to move all business into eBusiness.

Then there's the outsourcing trend... of course that's old news, but that doesn't mean it still isn't pertinent. I heard stories from individuals who worked overseas. They said that there have been tons of problems with employees pilfering equipment and computers, difficulties getting managers to use company guidelines, and that in India that there is a really big misconception about most people in India being fluent in English. I have always felt that outsourcing is inevitable; however, the rush to get plants and workers overseas overnight just didn't offer enough time to build teams with adequate skills in the new sites and allow the employees in the US the ability to transition to new areas of work, but as we have all seen it's not really about making things correctly it's about getting them done faster and cheaper... not the right way or done to insure lasting benefits. It's always been my opinion that outsourcing will cost this company and the countless others much more money than they estimated. More, there are cultural communication issues that people don't deal with.

On another yet somewhat related note. I've been reading more on Business Ethics. Maybe it's because you don't get rewarded in this environment for raising flags at least not when you don't work in Legal. Maybe it's just because I'm tired of the "Yes-Yes" culture we're living in at this company. The downright culture of denial that makes it possible for upper management to capriciously toss jobs overseas as well as sanction projects which 'unofficially' require their employees to work ridiculously extended hours. I wanted to be able to read about companies that actually practice open door policy. I wanted to witness evidence that people might actually be heard when they raised concerns or offered proposals for change. At one time, I do believe that that happened within this company, but outsourcing and the change in leadership shut the true 'open door' practice in our faces.

In the Bush Era of Business, employee empowerment has become a memory fading from the 90s dot com boom. But as one of the discussion notes from the Business Ethics site referenced below notes that American business don't really use long term empowerment strategies because American business focuses more on the short-term rather than the long term. Sad but true. Look at the Outsourcing example.

Is it me? Or are there others out there who are hoping for a change? Or are we all going to continue to wallow in denial?


5 Reasons Why Offshoring Fails:
http://www.itworld.com/Man/2701/050622gartnerbust/

Is Outsourcing to India as Cheap as the Executives Figured?
http://www.ohio.com/mld/beaconjournal/business/11964063.htm

Council for Ethics in Economics:
http://www.businessethics.org/

Outsourced Call Center Employees Steal Client Bank Information:
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-1667310,00.html

Ethikos:
http://www.singerpubs.com/ethikos/

Social Investor, Consumer and Business Directory:
http://www.goodmoney.com/directry.htm

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Update to Exodus Plan 2005

I'm outlining my plan to leave or find new work. I've decided that just sending resumes and cover letters isn't going to cut it.

Some things I've decided to do


  • Consider what else I want to do
  • Evaluate other possible areas of work which I could be qualified in outside of my current job role (i.e. Human Factors Engineer) - limit to three target areas
  • Research training necessary for other positions
  • Consider taking a sizable cut in pay (at first)
  • Research specific companies and industries (secure at least 1 informational interview with an individual in a different company a week or as time and schedule allows)
  • Draft cover letters with persuasive arguments in each target area
  • Coordinate resume information for each target area
  • Start collecting lists of names/contacts in each job industry
  • Set a goal for application submission and track my progress
  • Make sure to keep feedback from interviews that are not successful and review my application, resumes, cover letter content to make sure that this feedback is applied where appropriate

In the meantime I've decided that I will record my observations and comments during this process of finding a new job and new path. I want to spend some time exploring the impact of the notion that our worth is based wholly and primarily on monetary value whether the measurement for this value is based on the lowest competitive salary our position or a quantifiable number of tasks or products per hour. My intuition tells me that there is a threshold for quantifiability or quantification driven by the profit driven culture. My gut feeling tells me that there is a great deal of denial enforced when it comes to setting realistic goals and expectations for employee success criteria. Also, there are models of healthy work environments and dysfunctional ones. I want to figure out and define what exactly a healthy environment looks like. Will I find this ideal working utopia? I honestly doubt it, but I believe that the first step for achieving any ideal state is to visualize it.

Also, I want to know, I want to hear what other people in my situation are experiencing and how they are dealing with or working to influence change in their workplace or their own lives. Why am I doing this? Because I feel that there's a got to be a better way of doing things. I may not understand all the tools (god, there's that word again) or ways of doing them, but I would like to learn. At the very least I can try my best to avoid having to work at a job I hate for a company or organization which I don't respect.

Resources/Articles:

10 Signs that your should leave your job:

http://change.monster.com/articles/keep/

Getting a grip on what you WANT (from work):

http://www.ncvo-vol.org.uk/asp/search/ncvo/main.aspx?siteID=1&sID=20&subSID=119&documentID=2206

How to find a job while your still doing one:

http://www.careerbuilder.com/JobSeeker/CareerBytes/0505highpayingjob.htm?cbRecursionCnt=1&cbsid=fe2c2d814409496e86614e90edb97363-172607927-xl-2

Tech industry and changing goals for IT organizations:

http://cio.co.nz/cio.nsf/0/57F4AB8521D09B53CC256F34005D7F15?OpenDocument

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Carnitas

Oy... forgot to post this.

Sorry it's not Kosher, but I found a way to cook Carnitas or cooked pork that is so tender and tasty. My first experience with Carnitas was at a Mexican Taqueria in the Pilsen neighborhood in Chicago. I remember ordering at least four or five tacos in succession. I was suprised to find that the making of carnitas was relatively easy. I'd done some research of various methods and finally came up with my own version. If you're not a big fan of cumin, you can leave it out of the spice bag or bouqet garni.

Spice bag (with a drawstring) that includes the following:
12-14 black peppercorns
1 1/2 tbsp Mexican oregano
2 tsp cumin seeds
4 bay leaves

3-4 lbs pork shoulder strips with some fat
1 1/2 tsp sea salt (more to taste if needed)
3 c. chicken broth
3 cans of cheap beer (like PBR)

Add all ingredients in a large thick bottomed pot. If the meat isn't covered with liquid add more beer or water. Bring to a boil and boil constantly for at least 3 hours or until meat is tender. Make sure to add water as needed during the cooking process. Note, the broth tastes delicious and is great for flavoring tamale dough or for cooking beans.

Note you can cook this in a crockpot as well. Just leave the ingredients in the pot all day long, and by supper time you'll have the main course ready for eating.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Strawberries

We went strawberry picking yesterday and gathered about 16 lbs of berries for preserves, ice cream, baking and eating. Perhaps I overstepped my bounds because even after fixing the preserves there is an incredible surplus of berries which sit on my counter near ready to turn. The preserves tasted absolutely wonderful on top of our homemade frozen custard.

For the most part the berries were small, but as I've discovered with strawberries bigger does nto necessarily mean better. Irregularly shaped sometimes in forms that varied from globular clusters to icicles these berries are not the fairest of the bunch, but each small package had such a wonderfully delicious and fragrant flavor so unlike the pithy and bland monsters that you find in plastic packages at the chain grocers. I found that the strawberries with brigh red and glossy tops were the tastiest. Biting down on one would put you in a strawberry infused heaven.

Strawberry Preserves

4 1/2 quarts of small ripe and firm strawberries, hulled
14 c of sugar
the juice from 4 lemons

Wash and hull strawberries. Combine berries with sugar in a large stainless steel pan; let stand for 3 to 4 hours. Bring strawberries to a boil slowly, stirring occasionally. Add lemon juice. Cook rapidly untilstrawberry mixture is clear and syrup is thick,about 15 minutes.
Pour mixture into a shallow pan and let stand,uncovered, for 12 hours. Ladle strawberry mixture into hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Process for 20 minutes in a boiling water bath. Makes fifteen 8-ounce jars.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Stage Left - Scripting the exit interview

Countdown to 50 Reasons why I need to leave this job: 33

HR Representative: As part of normal company procedure, I'd like to ask you why you've decided to leave our family?
Me: You're asking me why I no longer want to work here? How long do we have?
HR Representative: As long as you'd like
Me: Well, okay....

  1. I no longer want to have to justify my existence or praise of other with a list of percentages, how many hours saved, how many meetings attended, pie charts, or ROI (Return on Investment) estimates
  2. I am wary of this culture which seems to be in denial half the time of reality as a result people tend to over-extend themselves mainly out of fear that they will loose their job (remember Rutger Hauer's line in Blade Runner: Do you know what it's like to live in fear? That's what it's like to be a slave. I may be misquoting)
  3. I don't trust a company that does not consider the moral, ethical and scientific implications of some of their health related technology
  4. I am tired of the dominant Christo-facist culture that is growing around me (how people can shamelessly bring their religion into the workplace and openly proselytize and influence others*)
  5. I am tired of being punished or chided (urged to "disagree and commit"**) for questioning why we're doing things the way we're doing them.
  6. I am tired of berated for taking the time to make something work 'right' or look 'right' because the time spent is not justified in a GANTT or ROI worksheet
  7. I am tired of jumping to satisfy the whim of upper management who decides to follow a direction in management/indicators without considering (the long-term impact on the staff or even the success of the business)
  8. While I appreciate the importance of managing one's business with metrics and benchmarking, I don't believe that we need to take up the bulk of our time doing these activities.
  9. I don't feel that the environment here fosters a healthy atmosphere of constructive self-criticism. People follow management leadership blindly.
  10. I'm weary of any cycle of change that sprouts up as part of a managment initiative to 're-energize' their staff and business processes (without evaluation of what happened with the last cycle...need I say post-mortem - Oh shit, now I'm talking like them too.

HR Representative: Well, it certainly looks like you've taken some time to think about this. You've come up with an incredibly descriptive and comprehensive list.
Me: But wait, I've just started...

  1. I would like to work in an environment where we are given the time and resources to think of solutions which adequately fit our problems rather than for times' sake try to pound ill-fitting solutions from previously known methods or formulas
  2. I'm tired of working for dorks
  3. I'm tired of listening to hours after hours of biz-U speak (it's starting to sound like duckspeak from 1984)
  4. I don't get why or how people can justify speaking in sentences made up almost entirely out of acronyms
  5. I want to go home at 5.00 PM. I'm tired of working 60 and sometimes 70 hour weeks
  6. I want to see my family for more than 2 hours before I go to bed at night
  7. I don't want to hear the phrase 'flawless execution' in a sentence that does not have to deal with capital punishment
  8. I want to weed my garden
  9. I don't want to wake up with a numbness shrouding every muscle in my body
  10. I want to get rid of the tick I get in my eye
  11. I don't want to get old and fat before my time
  12. I want to be able to have the time to go to the gym
  13. I want to have the same lifestyle of leisure that my parents did in the 60's and 70's
  14. I don't want to cry or break down into tears when my vacation is over
  15. I want to live and regain control over my life
  16. I'm tired of tools, building tools for the sake of populating a list on a brag sheet during review time. I'm tired of hearing the word re-tooling. I'm tired of working with tools who won't get a clue.
  17. I don't understand why projects would not spends some time investigating, testing, designing 'tools' that take usability into consideration. Is it all about speed and time, getting something out as quickly as possible?
  18. I like living my life relatively migraine free.
  19. Because if I continue to live my life thinking that there isn't anything better out there, I will become a prisoner of my own inability to dream and desire more for myself. I will become nothing more than a rung in a caste ladder.
  20. Because I believe that this company has become top heavy with a bunch of B and C level managers (mediocre managers) who continue to hire B and C level people.
  21. Because I believe that I can no longer work in an organization that has become so large that it cannot truly evaluate it and change itself without resorting to conducting layoffs. Because after all, it's easier to get rid of your experienced folks and hire a bunch of green individuals who will require millions of dollars in training and the experience of many failed or mediocre projects to get to the point where they can actually function.
  22. Do we really have a vision anymore? Or is that just the crap that's printed on the ugly posters in the hallways?
  23. and while we're on the topic of the company vision posters... For chrissakes, hire decent graphic artists to design your logos and print for you.

---------------------------------

If I can come up with more than fifty reasons. I will increase my resume submission rate to 5 job apps a day. I'm already at 1 so far. Hell, I'll just pack my one cardboard box, pick up my purse, and walk out the building.

I mentioned earlier that I've been writing my exit interview, at least mentally. The biggest challenge I'm facing right now is not leaking any hints that I'm thinking of defecting.

Do you have any reasons why you want to leave your job? Do you feel guilty because you even have these thoughts?

*Example of publicizing religious organizations - I came into work and found an article on our intranet about a professionial lecture on Business Ethics. Basically the speaker's main point is that corporate leaders need to base their decisions on absolute moral code. While I agree with the basic tenet's of the guy's thought about honesty and corporate behavior (somehow, after witnessing the example of the janus-faced lives of so many public religious figures in this country I really can't see how openly professing one's faith in Jesus is going to convince the world that corporations can do no wrong.

**Normally, I'd like to say in these conversations "I disagree. You should be committed."