Thursday, April 30, 2009
In the last day or so we've had 3 confirmed cases crop up in the Bay Area and at least 2 schools have closed down in San Jose. This Google/Flu mash up has been interesting to watch as new cases are confirmed.
Although serious, Newsweek has 5 reasons why we shouldn't panic about the Swine Flu. Speaking of panicking, hospitals close to the confirmed cases in the Bay Area are having to set up tents outside as triage units to handle the huge influx of what they're calling the Worried Well—otherwise healthy individuals at very low risk for infection nonetheless fearing they're infected and clogging up the ER.
Though if cases continue being confirmed close to home, I may have to get me one of these, or something similar. Maybe sans mustache.
Then again, someone will probably take me for a bank robber or something else and y'all might have to bail me out of jail.
Completely unrelated to swine, this video made me laugh. I remember watching Adam West as Batman growing up. Syndicated. At least I think it was syndicated.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
So on Saturday I mentioned I was experimenting with a new crockpot recipe. This is the first time I've "invented" a crock recipe and it wasn't half bad. The paprika made the whole dish kind of pink and the chicken breasts seemed a bit dry. If I make it again I may add a ½ cup more liquid or try thighs instead of breasts. I also started with frozen meat, which may have had something to do with the dryness. Anyhow, here it is.
Creamy Crockpot Chicken and Wild Rice
Cooking time: 5 - 10 hours
Prep time: 10 minutes
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1 cup brown rice (I used a long grain brown jasmine rice)
- ½ cup wild rice
- 1 10½oz can condensed cream of mushroom soup
- 1 10½oz can condensed cream of celery soup
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- chicken broth
- Place brown rice, wild rice, and chicken in the crock.
- In a bowl, mix cream or mushroom and cream of celery soups with the paprika and Worcestershire, then pour over chicken and rice.
- Add broth until the chicken is covered.
- Cook on low for 8 - 10 hours, or on high for 4 - 5 hours.
About an hour or so after I started the crock, I ran across this article which includes tips for making your own Cream of "__" soups at home. Seeing as how we're always watching sodium in the Wayward house, even though I did choose the low sodium varieties at the store, it might be worth giving this method a whirl. If any of you try it before I do, I'd love to hear about it.
Monday, April 27, 2009
Apparently the St. Petersburg Times ran an article back in February asking their readers for ideas on how to fix the economy and this idea submitted by a reader actually seems feasible; certainly as feasible as continuing to shovel money at the businesses/people that got us all into this mess.
Patriotic retirement: There are about 40 million people over 50 in the work force … pay them $1 million apiece severance with stipulations.
1. They leave their jobs.
Forty million job openings — unemployment fixed.
2. They buy new American cars.
Forty million cars ordered — auto industry fixed.
3. They either buy a house or pay off their mortgage — housing crisis fixed.
When I read this to Scoob, he really liked the idea, then again, he's over 50. He did wonder how the stipulations would be enforced and I was thinking that it wouldn't be any more difficult that trying to reign in Wall Street and the banks. It actually might be more doable since the government would be working with actual people rather than corporations that have innumerable legal loopholes at their disposal.
I might be inclined to adjust that first stipulation though because after buying a new car and buying or paying off your house, especially in markets where even a modest house runs $300,000 - 500,000, you're really not going to have enough left to fund retirement.
Maybe require them to leave their jobs and not actively seek a new job for a minimum of 5 years, with an exception made for starting your own business. This would still have the immediate impact of opening up positions to curb unemployment, and would allow for people to reenter the workforce if needed, and would also foster small business growth, which has the potential to create additional jobs.
What do you think?
Sunday, April 26, 2009
We recently started a staff blog on the website at work. I had advocated for this addition to the site not realizing how it would impact my own writing here. I'm still posting 3 to 4 times a week, it's just that not all my posts are here now. So, I'll be trying to increase my post frequency here to what it once was.
I've been waiting for the exciting news of the arrival of my cousin's first child. He and his girlfriend know it's a girl, and she's due any second now. My cousin is the first of the 5 of us in our generation of the family (Mom's side) to have a child. He's the oldest, by 3 months, and we're both fast approaching 40. I'm not sure why none of us has had children up to now. I don't think it was conscious decision.
I kind of think that we (people in general, not just my family members) spend so much effort trying to not get pregnant in our 20's that the behavior becomes habit. Flash forward 15 years and we're still trying to avoid pregnancy without really thinking about it until one day you wake up and actually think about it, and wholly crappe, you know? That's the moment you really start to hear the biological clock and then there's all this pressure (real and imagined) to conceive. And heaven forbid you find that you're actually in a relationship with someone less than thrilled at the prospect of children, even though it's something you've discussed at length before now. He wants to wait, until I'm in better physical shape (lose weight), we move, the economy improves, and/or until the timing is better. *cough*
Anyhow (deftly changing the subject), so what about this swine flu? I didn't get too worked up over the avian flu scare a few years ago or west nile virus even though it's an ongoing threat and we live in an area with a high mosquito population, but this swine thing seems pretty scary. Usually these things are most prevalent with the elderly, young, or those already ill (which is still scary), but this swine thing is affecting otherwise healthy individuals.
Maybe I'm scared by this one because it is originating in our neck of the woods so to speak and with the constant flow of people, both legally and illegally, back and forth with Mexico, it will quickly spread here. This morning I read that 100 cases of swine flu have been confirmed in New York from a group of students who had travelled to Mexico for spring break 2 weeks ago. (One of my co-workers just returned from Cancún last Monday.) And up to 81 deaths in Mexico have been linked to it.
I did just read that WHO has declared this a "public health emergency of international concern" and could as such could recommend trade and travel restrictions, and even close down the border. Of course these actions would only thwart the legal exchange of goods and populations across the U.S.-Mexico border. With an estimated "375,000 illegal immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border each year," that's about 1030 people per day that would continue to cross the border even with a formal shut down.
I'm in no way advocating for a wall along the border (completely unrealistic, if you ask me) or increased vigilantism (there's absolutely no reason someone should be shot or beaten for wanting to be in the U.S.), I'm just pondering the situation.
UPDATE: Philip Brewer over at Wisebread posted an interesting article on the economic effcts of pandemic flu in a recession.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
Other than the recipe bit, I seem to be doing everything back-ass-wards, which means I still have bill paying and work to look forward to today. I don't have to do this work from home, so maybe I'll beg off and take a look at it again tomorrow. But the bills do need to be paid. And I really didn't find a recipe that I thought I liked today, so I used three different recipes as a jumping off point to create my own. If it's any good, I'll post it later.
This morning I read the news that Bea Arthur passed away today. Whenever I think of Bea, I think of her character and television series Maude. And whenever I think of Maude, I think of Mom, because she watched the show every week and I watched with her. Even though Mom and I also watched Bea on Golden Girls, Maude is her role that sticks with me.
I don't remember much of the show seeing as how it ran in the 70s while I was still in single-digit age. I do remember that Maude was loud, opinionated, and a lot of the other characters didn't like her or were often at odds with her. It seemed like people on the show were always fighting about something and I couldn't understand why mom liked the show.
I get it now. As I got older I caught a couple reruns of Maude and I began to understand why the show was such a hit, and why it was so controversial. Compared to women today, Maude might actually seem a little bland, but back then she was groundbreaking. I wonder if Maude contributed to some of my opinions about women's rights even if I didn't fully grasp it at the time?
A few years ago, I read Adrienne Barbeau's autobiography There Are Worse Things I Could Do. One of the blurbs ("SEX! DRUGS! ROCK AND ROLL! I'd read this book if she weren't my sister-in-law") on the back jacket made me laugh so I decided to read the book. I hadn't known it when I picked up the book, but Adrienne played Carole, Maude's daughter from her second marriage on the series. I don't tend to read celebrity books, but I was pleasantly surprised by the very candid and humble tone of the book.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Needless to say, I have not been on my elliptical machine for a few days now—partly due to the heat and partly due to the fact I've been getting home later than usual the past couple nights. But it's nice to know the elliptical machine isn't being completely unused.
That's my Dozer girl lazing across the metal axle that you can supposedly use to move the dang thing if you want to risk a hernia or ruptured disk. (I've no idea how we'll take this with us if we ever move.) The metal stays cooler than the surrounding air. Pretty smart kitty.
Monday, April 20, 2009
It was about 90° here today, a dramatic shift from this past Tuesday when forecasters were calling for frost in some areas around the Bay and I put the winter blanket back on the bed. I was even back to running the heat Wednesday and Thursday morning to get the house up to a comfortable 64°.
Anyhow, I slathered on the sunscreen and we hit the flea market for a day of picture taking. Here are a couple of my best shots:
After the flea market, we and our neighbors parted ways and Scoob and I headed to Santana Row, quite possibly the most upscale shopping mall in the South Bay. Scoob made the comment that we had visited both extremes, going from rags to riches in a matter of hours. The statement was more than a little true, and more than a little unsettling.
After Santana Row, we had intended to go to Henry's Hi-Life, but there was a Sharks hockey game tonight and the restaurant is about a block from the Shark Tank and it was next to impossible to navigate around the Tank with various streets closed to traffic. We decided to not even try and find parking and headed elsewhere.
So instead, we took a detour to El Salvador, stopping at Chalateco Restaurant and Pupuseria for dinner. (Mom, remember the Church's Chicken at Alum Rock and King? It's now a Chalateco!) After dinner we headed home. I've got a pounding headache. I think I got a little heat exhaustion today and I'm definitely dehydrated. The warmer weather like today is definitely on its way, so I had better get back into the habit of carrying water.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
I was a little surprised when the guy at the lube shop greeted me by name as I pulled in. Other than being distinctively dirty, my car certainly doesn't stand out—not at all like my beat up Geo Metro or the yellow VW Dasher with the silver hood and front fender did. And it isn't as if I'm a regular, I mean, it has been over 10,000 miles since my last visit.
Maybe it's because I generally understand what he's telling me when we're talking about the car, maybe it's because I don't treat him like he's trying to rip me off. He certainly wasn't flirting. When a guy is flirting he usually won't talk about his wife. Usually.
Anyhow, I got a lot done on the car Saturday, then drove over to the bank to deposit a refund from my auto insurance premium. As part of the ongoing effort to refinance the house, at the very last possible moment, the bank told us we needed to have home owner's insurance covering at least 20% of the loan. So we got a long overdue home owners policy. The financial planner we used to work with had recommended we insure the contents of the house anyway, so I had already had a discussion with my Farmers agent and knew I'd get a discount on my auto insurance.
After stopping at the bank I went over to Target (I needed bags for the vacuum cleaner and new mascara) and met up with Scoob who had ridden his bike. I had picked up a 25% off coupon at work for World Market's Friends and Family sale, so we wandered in that direction. Once we got in the store I overheard (I do that a lot) an older lady talking to the manager about a piece of furniture she wanted to buy.
She was trying to get a discount and the manager told her "Well if you were on the Friends and Family mailing list..." blah blah blah, but she would need to go home and sign up online so she couldn't get the discount that day. Since I had the coupon, I knew it was really just a matter of the manager entering a code at check out. It kinda cheesed me off so I gave the woman my coupon. It didn't apply to food stuffs, which was probably the only thing we would get anyhow seeing as how Scoob was off scoping out the chocolates. He ended up getting chipotle chocolate and pomegranate chocolate.
After that we came home, had dinner, watched (yet another) movie, and generally called it a night.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
I also discovered that most people in my tax bracket earn about 7-times more in interest than I do. So I've resolved to save more this year and have already set up some automatic deductions to make sure this happens. They also make about 15-times more income from personal business. In 2007, the full time job I had while collecting severance was freelance work and it fell on this line of my return. It was the first time I had ever reported personal business income, and it felt pretty good.
In 2008, I still had a bit of income here, but nothing to get excited about. I was actually pretty peeved at myself for not earning more here, but hey, I was working full time, had health insurance and a 401(k), and I really like my day job. Obviously I'm not going to quit my 9-to-5 and go start my own business, but since we're looking at no raises at work for the foreseeable future and Scoob is taking a pay cut, I've been trying to think of ways to absorb the difference.
Lately I've been finding lots of articles about making residual income in your spare time, or from a hobby or interest, or starting your own business. Some things on the list I read today are clearly more involved than spare time projects.
The freelance work I've been doing the last couple years has been minimal, assisting with the escrow of the company I used to work for. Not so much because I was looking for extra income, but because I used to do the work in question and was already familiar with the group of contacts—their personalities, special requirements, and financial history with the company (not to mention the fact that I still work with several of them at my current job). It made no sense to for the employer to hire someone else, so when the work was offered, I accepted.
It quickly became apparent that this was not the type of work I could do in my spare time as banks, lawyers, and accountants were calling during business hours. Luckily, my day job doesn't have to be completed on a 9-to-5 schedule and if my side job cut into my work day, I would either stay late and make up the time missed or take my work home with me. Not an ideal situation, but not inequitable either. The fact that I like my day job helps :)
Ideally, I'd like to find more of a spare time/hobby project that could generate income. I've thought about monetizing this blog, and I'm still open to that idea, but at the moment, I don't feel as though I've hit a stride with tone, content, or frequency of posts, and I don't really think I have enough of an audience to warrant adding ads. But I did take a look at Etsy today.
Etsy is an online marketplace for buying and selling handmade items. Kind of like an online arts and crafts fair. Most things are one-of-a-kind. You'll find everything from glasswork to acrylic painting to furniture making. I've never felt that I'm terribly artistically inclined, but that's probably due more to my lack of self-confidence than anything else. When I look at some of the projects people post on Etsy I think "hey, I could do that," or "dude, I want to learn how to do that."
I know several people who could easily put things up on Etsy—Mom with her psycho bird garden ornaments, flower pressings, and concrete sculptures; Mom and her crocheting; my sister and her painting; and a friend of ours designs purses for her friends and makes some truly amazing cards.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
For the first time ever, I tried my hand at making deviled eggs and I think they turned out pretty well considering I didn't use a recipe (though Mom did talk me through the process last Monday over the phone). I'm roasting chicken (again) for dinner tonight. In other excitement, we had a hawk land on our patio balcony this morning. Quite stunning; but it was gone by the time I had my camera out.
My web surfing today has taken me all over the place. No rhyme or reason or even a unifying theme, but I found most of it interesting nonetheless, which is noteworthy in and of itself because I've come across so little in the past few weeks that I felt compelled to share.
My first "awwwww" moment was when I caught sight of the First Family's new dog Bo. I haven't exactly been on Pooch Patrol waiting for news of the dog, but I do watch the White House Blogroom. I thought it curious that Bo is a purebred when the Obamas clearly stated they wanted to find a rescue dog, and I'm sure some folks will be up in arms over this.
But after reading a more detailed article here, it turns out that Bo wasn't a good fit with his previous family, and the Obamas are giving him a new home. When you get right down to it, finding homes for unwanted animals is what a lot of shelters try to do. The Obamas will still be making a donation to the D.C. Humane Society.
So getting into political news with a little more bite, or not, I read that the Indiana State Senate passed a resolution declaring “sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States over all powers not otherwise enumerated and granted to the federal government by the Constitution of the United States.” Uh-huh.
And someone thought it a good use of legislative time and taxpayer dollars to restate what is already quite clearly spelled out in the constitution? Aside from the fact that this resolution ever made it to vote, the fact that 3 Indiana Senators voted against it is interesting. I don't quite know what to make of that. Did they vote against it because it was an absurd resolution to begin with, or do they really not agree with what's being stated?
It's nearly impossible to talk about politics these days with out also discussing the economy, which in some ways is a good thing. I was amused, though, by this article about Sesame Street laying off the letters Q, X, Z, J, and the semicolon. There are other articles out there along the same vein, but apparently layoffs at Sesame Street are a real thing. The adult side of me understands completely, and even though I was more of an Electric Company fan (sowing the seeds of a life-long admiration for Morgan Freeman), the child in me is terribly upset.
The other day I posted about Mythbusters and sometimes wishing I had studied more science. Today I found this comic about the differences between TV science and real science. (Mythbusters' Jamie and Adam have a frame.)
Lastly, this was funny, and more than a little true, and I need to remember it more often.
With that, I'm off to read more Sor Juana on the elliptical machine and then go hang out some more with my peeps. I'll leave you with the results of this year's peeps diorama contest.
Friday, April 10, 2009
The moon was beautiful last night and Scoob and I passed some time trying to get a good photo of it. Aside from that I watched Mythbusters on the Discovery Channel. Mythbusters is filmed locally and they got a little carried away a couple of weeks ago while trying to see if ones socks could be literally knocked off by igniting 500 pounds of ammonium nitrate.
They always look like they're having such fun crashing, exploding, shooting, dropping, stabbing, or otherwise destroying this week's projects that it kinda makes me wish I'd studied more science and engineering.
Speaking of education, I ran across this video and it really got me thinking about how quickly things have changed, not just over a generation, but even just in the last few years. How do you prepare or train for a job that doesn't even exist? And how do we make sure that kids get the foundation skills they'll need so that they are flexible enough to learn and adapt as the world continues to change?
I keep meaning to take my car in for maintenance. It's been about 10,000 miles since my last oil change and the tires are overdue for rotation as well. I know I need to take care of these things before they become much bigger problems, which made this how to talk to a mechanic comic strip more relevant than I would like.
Lastly, I'll leave you with some amazing animal photography to take a look at. Some of these photos are so amazing they almost look like paintings, especially the ostriches. If you make it down to the fox, that's how my cat Tank likes to lie down on the bed. He gets up near my head and then lays down, and when he squints like that, it's like he thinks he can will me to pet him. Well, maybe he can, because I always end up petting him. The red panda near the end is just too cute. Yes, too cute.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
And dudes, they seriously ought to license people to push shopping carts. I don't know what it is, but every time we go to Joe's on a weekend it seems people are missing most of their manners and brain cells.
But amazingly last weekend very few people were in the store and we did some shopping. (yes, mom, I got some more calcium supplements.) But the big item, the one real thing that brings me to Trader Joe's is the mixed olive bruschetta. If I've got this in my pantry, I can make almost anything palatable and I can create a meal out of thin air. It makes playing the What's for Dinner game so much easier.
So on Sunday, I made a dish I haven't made in a while, Stuffed Mediterranean Chicken.
Stuffed Mediterranean Chicken
Cooking time: 25 minutes
- boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- For each breast you'll want:
- 2 Tbsp olive bruschetta or tapenade
- Tbsp crumbled feta cheese
- extra virgin olive oil
- freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat oven to 375°.
- Cut a 2-inch pocket into the thickest part of the chicken breast.
- In a bowl, combine the olive tapenade and the feta and scoop the mixture into the chicken breasts and season the outside with the pepper.
- Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Cook the chicken for 2 - 3 minutes on each side, or until brown.
- If you're not using an oven-safe skillet, transfer the chicken to a baking dish before moving to the oven. Bake for 18 minutes.
I'd had some other shots of this that showed the stuffed part, but frankly they were looking a little too anatomical to be appetizing.
Saturday, April 4, 2009
I suppose it was peer pressure that got me started. I didn't go out of my way to find Netflix. Really it was Scoob that got me started. He signed us up and he usually picks the flix, I'm just mooching from his stash.
Okay, seriously now. I don't think I can keep that up much longer, but we do love our Netflix and we do actually use it that often. I like that we can browse movies and watch the trailers online, choose what we want and the movie is delivered to us. And the no late fee thing is great. That's what kept us from renting B.N. (Before Netflix); we usually returned movies ontime to Blockbuster, but we still got nailed with late fees half the time. It became such a hassle to argue with them every time that we just stopped renting altogether.
And I can't remember the last movie I saw at a theater. Well, if I stop and think about it I can. It was Dodge Ball. But I only saw it at a theater because I was taking Dad to the movies for Father's Day. So when was that, 2004? We just watched House Bunny the other night, which is a movie I had no interest in seeing at the theater. But it was quite funny and would have been worth a matinee admission. (I made Scoob keep it so I can watch it again before we return it.)
Yeah, I'm one of those people. I can watch a movie repeatedly, even back-to-back, and enjoy it every single time. Oh, and maybe it's an OCD thing, but I also cannot not finish a movie after I've begun watching it. No matter how many times I've seen it, even if I just saw it.
I still don't understand how Netflix makes a profit. I certainly don't think they make much of a profit from us. We pay about $20 each month for unlimited movie rentals and we can have 3 movies checked out at a time. (We rent a mix of regular and Blu-ray movies.) I've read that Netflix pays first-class postage both ways, in which case about half of our monthly fee goes toward postage. But I imagine they probably get a pre-sort bulk mail discount, though I don't know what that discount is.
If you've ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes at Netflix, I ran across this photo essay the other day. I had assumed the sorting centers were much more automated than this. It looks like it takes a lot of labor to run the operation. Which is probably one of the reasons they're raising their rates again (effective April 27th), but only for the Blu-ray customers. It's an incredibly small increase when you think about it.
Thursday, April 2, 2009
During the winter about all I do for pedi-hygiene is trim the nails and maybe get a little lotion on there. So when spring rolls around, I basically need to find a belt sander for the callouses and my heels.
It never ceases to amaze me how much other people look at my hands and feet. I very rarely notice other people's unless there's something noteworthy like fuchsia nail polish or maybe if they're severely in need of some TLC. But immediately after I take care of mine (or treat myself to letting someone else do it), even with a neutral polish, people immediately notice.
In other hoofie news, I bought a toe bra, you know, to conceal that toe cleavage. We just can't have our toes spilling out all over. Seriously though, I mentioned to a co-worker that a certain pair of shoes was rubbing my tender tootsies uncomfortably, and she recommended a toe bra. I'd never heard of it. But last weekend when I was out looking for new trouser socks (because I wore holes through the old ones) I saw them. At $3.00 for 2 pairs, I figured I give them a try.
You can't see it in the photo, but there's a clear plastic strap you slip behind your heel and it is attached to each side of the bra to keep it from bunching up in the toe of your shoe. It's very comfortable and definitely worked wonders with those shoes. I have no idea what these things are really called, but I'll probably call them toe bras until I die.
Much like the current to do over the Freedom Tower not being officially named the Freedom Tower any longer. Dudes, it'll be called whatever you call it regardless of what the name is. Kind of like how people in the Bay Area call the I-80 bridge between San Francisco and the East Bay the Bay Bridge, despite the fact that it's "name" is The James "Sunny Jim" Rolph Bridge.
Now there's a tidbit of useless trivia to file away.
This made me laugh. And the technique would have come on pretty darned handy n numerous occasions.