Archive for the 'Random' Category

Computers

I hate computers.

I used to love computers. I used to want to study computer science and write computer programs.  I taught myself HTML back when it was new and the only thing to use to write web pages, and designed web pages and choose-your-own-adventure games.  I was one of four girls at computer camp in 7th grade.

I don’t know what happened. Something inside me snapped, or I came to my senses, or something. But I hate computers.

This is why I use a Mac.  See, you hardly even realize that you’re operating a computer. You don’t have to do anything to make it work properly.  It knows what to do when you want to open a PDF or a photo editing program.  It already recognizes the file extensions you work with without you having to program them all in. No command prompts or run file lines or function this- or- that. Nope. All there.  It just works, all by itself.

Until it doesn’t.  Your Mac mysteriously stops working, and it is reduced from a beautiful, easy to operate, high functioning machine– nay, it is practically a personal assistant, that’s how little you thought about “using” it… it just does its job–  into a useless hunk of plastic who’s production is destroying the atmosphere and precious metals that were probably mined by child slaves. I’m not kidding about the child slaves.

And then you’re screwed, because the vast majority of people who operate Macs have no idea how to actually use them. And so when it breaks, it is catastrophic. Unless you paid the extra $100/year to ensure that a Mac expert (ahem. a “Genius.” those cheeky bastards.) is standing by in case your Mac decides to self-destruct.

But nooooooo.  Macs are so effing reliable. They never break.  Why would I need to buy Apple Care?

$%&#*@.

PC owners, particularly those with Linux-based machines, on the other hand, know how to use computers, because they are constantly having to do things in order to make the PC function properly. Installing drivers (what the hell is a driver anyway? I have never had to install a driver on a Mac), running commands (I don’t even know where the Mac command function is, or what I would use it for), configuring networks (my Mac just “found” my wireless network without my having to instruct it): these are all things I have had to do or wished I knew how to do  in the two or so days that I’ve been trying to operate a PC.  You have to know how to use an effing computer in order to operate a PC.

And I hate computers.

Pig Bug and Motivation

Well, I am currently sitting in the restaurant of my hotel in Huehuetenango, enjoying a second cup of hot chocolate. Yep. Second.

Two nights ago, when I arrived, I was curled up in my bed watching English-language movies while oscillating between feeling way to hot and feeling freezing cold, and wondering if my backache might indicate that I had something terrible like meningitis.  Feeling supremely sorry for myself, I thought, “It would really suck to die of swine flu after how much I’ve laughed at all this ‘pandemic’ media hype.”

Don’t worry, I’m pretty sure I don’t have swine flu now.  I woke up the next morning with my nose having turned into a faucet, but otherwise feeling a whole lot better than the night before.  Damned rainy season cold.

However, I am now using this as my excuse for dawdling on getting my butt to my fieldsite, where I promise you there is no English-language TV, very likely no hot water, and certainly no free internet access. All of which my classy (that’s the word the guide book uses) hotel in Huehue has in abundance.

You see, swine flu (or “gripe A” as it’s called here) has been on the front pages of both major national papers for the past week and a half, as well as on the radios.  The health department is warning everyone to stay away from anyone with a runny nose or cough (however, they do not explain what to do if you happen to have a runny nose or cough. how helpful.). The hotel staff is already looking at me sideways, so I’d rather not repel potential contacts at my fieldsite with my plauge.

I’m hoping, in the meantime, that I will find the motivation to walk through the rain to the bus terminal to inquire about the schedule of buses to Sipakapa in this second cup of chocolate con leche.  If not, then maybe in the third.

RIP Macytosh.

Okay, okay, ONE more feeling-sorry-for-myself thing.

My computer died. Officially. It’s gone. The machine turns on, but it just sticks at the Apple logo. I probably need to reinstall the system software, but no one in this city uses Macintosh.  And, obvio, I left my discs at home.

(Amusing note: searching for a place that worked on Macs, we passed several stores with the Apple logo on their signs. Upon entering and asking if they could repair my computer, they looked at me like I was completely loca. No, of course they don’t work on Macs.)

I’m waiting on some less-than-legal discs from a place called “Discolandia” that may or may not be a temporary fix. Otherwise, I now have a 4 lb. paperweight in my bag.

I think I’m going to buy a PC when I get home. Apple has disappointed me.  Someone talk me out of that.

Now I’m over it. For realz.

Word, redux.

What a fantastic word!!!

palimpsest |ˈpalimpˌsest|
noun
a manuscript or piece of writing material on which the original writing has been effaced to make room for later writing but of which traces remain.
• figurative something reused or altered but still bearing visible traces of its earlier form : Sutton Place is a palimpsest of the taste of successive owners.
DERIVATIVES
palimpsestic |ˌpalimpˈsestik| adjective
ORIGIN mid 17th cent.: via Latin from Greek palimpsēstos, from palin ‘again’ + psēstos ‘rubbed smooth.’

…maybe having caffeine today was a bad idea.

Pine Nuts: A Proposal

Abstract
This paper recognizes the inherent deliciousness and nutritiousness of pine nuts. Their deliciousness and nutritiousness is recognized both by the flavor they impart in dishes, and by their nutritional profile. Acknowledging these two qualities, I will seek to incorporate pine nuts into every feasible dish, until my supply runs out. I then propose to purchase more of them.

Background

When I visited my mom up north earlier this month (or at the end of January, to be more correct), we made scrumptious butternut squash, goat cheese, and sage ravioli (whole wheat pasta).  In my previously successful ravioli-making endeavors, I served such ravioli with a garlicy tomato sauce; I found the flavors of the tomatoes to be an interesting complement to the flavor of the squash.  My mother doubted this combination, however, and suggested we find another sauce to use.

Flipping through Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, I came accross a recipe for a “rustic pine nut sauce.”  Pine nuts are mild in flavor, with a slight buttery texture.  I often toast them and put them with pasta or on top of pizza.  Nevertheless, I had yet to make a sauce out of them.

My variation on the sauce involved roughly chopping one cup of pine nuts, toasting them in olive oil and garlic with an equal portion of bread crumbs, adding spinach, a half a cup of dry white wine, and a touch of water. I then simmered all this until the liquid had been absorbed; finally, I sprinkled a very liberal amount of parmesan cheese over the top.

The sauce was delicious. It went nicely with the scrumptious ravioli, but in fact, we found that it was scrum-diddly-umptious all on its own.  I finished the leftovers.  I was lucky that the pine nut has such an impressive nutritional profile, through which I was able to glean an astounding number of vital nutrients, including Lucine.

Proposal

Following the success of my rustic pine nut sauce adaptation, I propose to add pine nuts to every feasible dish.  By the term “feasible dish” I mean including, but not limited to: pasta, pizza, omelets, ice cream, granola, soup, bread, cupcakes, cookies, sandwhiches, chili, casseroles, rice and beans, enchiladas, Trader Joe’s Frozen Burritos*, sautéed vegetables, dried fruit, GORP, oatmeal, crackers and cheese, tuna, roast chicken, pancakes, and french toast.  In short, anything edible.

I predict that, with the addition of pine nuts, the flavor and nutritional value of each of these dishes will be vastly improved.  The exceptions to this prediction, that will prove the rule, are Trader Joe’s Frozen Burritos (whose perfection cannot be improved upon) and french toast (commonly held by all to be the Best Breakfast in the Universe).  These dishes, however, already far surpass any other food in deliciousness and nutritiousness; thus, I find them to be the rare cases in which adding pine nuts would serve no benefit.

Methods

I will chop, grind, smush, and smash pine nuts in order to incorporate them into my proposed dishes.  I will toast them occasionally, and sometimes I will throw them in whole and raw.  By utilizing a range of methods I will provide dishes with a variety of textures and aesthetic qualities.  It is further predicted that the method might influence the overall appeal of the final dish; thus, I may find it necessary to adjust my methods as time progresses, based on cumulating results.

When my supply of pine nuts is diminished or eliminated, I will refresh them with new supplies purchased at the grocery store.

Conclusion

In conclusion, this proposal seeks to incorporate pine nuts into every feasible dish.  Their deliciousness and nutritiousness will improve the flavor and health quality of any dish to which they are an addition.  The exceptions here are dishes whose perfection cannot be improved upon; thus, pine nuts will not be added.  It is based on my history of delicious pine nut dishes that I make such predictions, and it is this background that makes me most suitable to continue such an experiment.

The End.

Flake

Friday morning, I needed to run some errands. First, I had to go buy some cat food and lotion and tomato paste (they’re cheaper at the chi-chi store up the street than at the co-op). Well, actually, I’ve needed to buy cat food for about a week. Poor kitties have been eating the stuff they don’t like, that I had leftover from a while ago.

Anyway…

Then, I had to go rent snowshoes for the evening excursion with some friends out at Pinckney.

Since I was at the (fancier) store anyway, I decided to treat myself to some (decaf) coffee from their coffee bar. Then I grabbed a cart and went to get my items.

I became preoccupied by the lotion section. I set the coffee in my cart so I could better focus on the lotion bottles, and hold one in each hand for side-by-side comparison. Usually, I buy the “organic” stuff, except it’s about $10.50 and I didn’t want to spend that much. I took a second look at the ingredients, and realized that the only “organic” part of it was in fact the scent (lavender). And maybe the water? They put organic lavender in it, so they can call it organic. Sorry, not worth $10.

Looking at a few other brands, I tried to figure out if *any* of them did not use petroleum products. Then I realized that they were all in plastic bottles…

I compromised and bought the “natural” oatmeal lotion that also happened to be the cheapest. The ingredients on the back looked pretty typical, with the last half having names I could not pronounce. Oh, well.

Grabbed the cart and wandered over to the cat food.

I was caught off-guard by this guy standing at a little table in the middle of the aisle. “Ma’am, would you like to see our specials today? Lots of free stuff! Step right up!” He was really loud. And he called me “ma’am.” I veered around him and muttered a “no, thanks.” I didn’t think stores like this let those people set up shop in here…?

I found the tomato paste I was looking for (in a resealable tube!), but, when I went to place it in my cart, I realized something terrible had happened.

My coffee mug, neglected in the basket while I considered lotions, had turned on its side and spilled its contents. All over the cat food, and my reusable shopping bag. My mug was now half-full.

As I retraced my path with my eyes, I realized that it had in fact overturned some time ago. I had left a coffee-dribble-trail around half the store, forming puddles where I had paused.

I sheepishly ducked into the next aisle. No one had seen me.

I found the checkout counter with the shortest line. The cat food left a puddle of coffee on the conveyor belt. “I, uh, spilled some coffee over there…” I explained to the checkout guy. “Where?” He asked.

“Oh, um, in that aisle there,” I said, gesturing vaguely behind me.

Remembering my coupon for the cat food (another reason for coming to this store), I fumbled with my wallet. There was a handful of change caught up in the folded coupon, which I then proceeded to drop all over the conveyor belt. Nervous laugh.

I’m sure the checkout guy thought I was giggling because of him (he was about my age). I assure you, I was not. I was giggling like an idiot because I had just dribbled half the contents of my coffee mug around the store. The contents being my one cup of (decaf) coffee this week, and not the cheap variety either. I am a flake.

Aside from the aforementioned Coffee Incident, and then later losing one of my hubcaps at some point in my errand-running (damned $50-piece of plastic!), the day actually improved. How could it not? 😛

Variations on a Theme

I was two dollars over my food budget this week (mostly because it was my turn to buy olive oil and dish soap for the house), and I couldn’t stop beating myself up for it. Oh well.

I managed to keep everything else pretty simple, though. The key ingredients this week were beans (pinto and red were leftover in my pantry, black and white that I bought) and canned tomatoes. I made both three-bean chili and marinara sauce, which ended up having almost exactly the same ingredients in each; the spices were what made them different. Amazingly, aside from the tomatoes and fresh veggies that went into these, I was able to use mostly pantry staples. Hooray! I love not having to buy a big bottle of [insert ingredient here] every time I go to the store– it’s nice to have commonly used non-perishables well-stocked.

Three Bean Chili (roughly based on the recipe from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian):
about a pound of mixed beans, soaked
one medium onion, chopped
three or four smallish carrots, chopped
three stalks of celery, chopped
three or four (or five) cloves of garlic, smushed
one 28 oz can of fire-roasted tomatoes, crushed
one 28 oz can of water (heh, a good way to get the last of the tomato out!)
chili powder to taste (I ground up three dried chiles de árbol)
three tablespoons of molasses
2 oz or so of chopped chocolate (60% dark or higher)
one cinnamon stick
salt and pepper to taste

1. Sautée the vegetables (less the tomatoes) until the onions are translucent and just starting to brown. Quite honestly, I just throw ’em all in together, and they seem to come out fine (though cookbooks will tell you to *first* brown the onions, *then* add the garlic, *then* add the carrots and celery). Add the chili powder (you can always add more later), molasses, and chocolate.
2. Add can of tomatoes and another can-full of water. Add cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil; add beans and reduce to a simmer. Let simmer until the beans are soft (about 45 min- 1 hour or so, depending on how long you soaked them and how old they were to begin with).
3. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with shredded cheddar cheese (or not, if you’re vegan).

•••

Marinara sauce (which I served with polenta and white beans and chard. Mmm.):
about a pound of white beans, soaked
1 cup coarsely ground cornmeal
one bunch of chopped chard, kale, or collard greens

one medium onion, chopped
three or four smallish carrots, chopped
three stalks of celery, chopped
three or four (or five) cloves of garlic, smushed
one 28 oz can of tomatoes, crushed
1 tbs dried sweet basil
1/2 tbs dried thyme
1/2 tbs oregano
salt and pepper to taste

1. Boil water. Add beans. Cook until soft. (45 min.)
2. Sautée the vegetables (less the tomatoes) until the onions are translucent and just starting to brown. Quite honestly, I just throw ’em all in together, and they seem to come out fine (though cookbooks will tell you to *first* brown the onions, *then* add the garlic, *then* add the carrots and celery) –> hmm, this looks familiar.
3. Add can of tomatoes, and maybe a tiny, tiny bit of water (depending on how thick you like your sauce) and the herbs. Simmer on super-duper low (barely even on) heat.
4. While the the previous two things are simmering, sautée up the chard with some olive oil. (5 min, tops).
5. Boil 2 cups of water and 1/4 cup of milk for every cup of polenta (cornmeal) you’re going to use. Add cornmeal to water/milk while stirring briskly with a wisk. Simmer gently until thick (5 min, tops).
6. To assemble: put a little of each (polenta, beans, chard, sauce) in a bowl. Shred lots of parmesan or asiago cheese over the top. Stir. Mmm.

Note: you can also use garbanzo bean flour instead of polenta, for a slightly creamier base. I just tried it– it’s pretty tasty.

•••

In other news:

I made some delicious granola bars. They’re a tad crumbly, though (I think I needed more coconut oil, molasses, and maple syrup. Next time).

Still no caffeine. Boo-ya. 🙂

If you want to follow my new (ahem) “training”, you can check out the motivational genius that is Dailymile, complete with colorful graphs!
View my training on dailymile.com

There was something else I wanted to say, but now I forget.