Sunday, September 30, 2012

9-30-12 how much you have always loved to swim

9-30-12 Mengeaille Vilian

I've decided I need to be one of those cooks that makes food for the blind. Maybe I can become one of those cutting edge "Dark Dining" chefs, although I'm guessing Great Balls of Fire isn't on any of their menus... yet.

Not familiar with the trend? 



Dans Le Noir

I'm thinking my restaurant should be a bit more realistic in its name. With a nod to the cajun cuisine I managed to mangle this evening, I'm going with Mengeaille Vilian (Ugly Food)

You know that Fiber One Cereal commercial where the lady keeps saying, "No way, right? There's no way, right?" (Oh, no? Well, here.)

This is what I kept saying to myself as I was following the recipe exactly and looking at the texture of the mix. "There's no way this work, right? No way, right?" but I soldiered on and "rolled" the mixture into balls (no way this is turning into a ball, no way, right?) And I popped them into the fridge to "set" (no way, right?) for half an hour, and then "dredged" them through the egg and milk and into the bread crumbs and into the oil, all the while knowing it wasn't going to work.

Hope fading...

Here's what they are supposed to look like.

Here's my reality. (I've found the evening light makes them less hideous to gaze upon.)
This was the first half of the batch. The second fared no better.

So with a batch of crab dip and a spoon, I will say both of these recipes taste exactly like their counterparts in Joe's Crab Shack, but you'd have to be dining in the dark not to laugh at the appearance of my Great Oozing Blobs of Fire.

I have got to learn this language. It would make fussing in the kitchen so much more fun.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

9-29-12 the fan girl train rolls on

I still have 50 days to front row seats, but the Richard Marx shirt collection is coming along, nicely, even now:

9-29-12 Stained Glass Window Film

How pretty, right?

This is the view out one of our windows that I've hated since we moved here.

I'm not sure why it took me five years to think about finding a film, but in it occurred to me last Saturday and within a week, voila! No more window unit view!

morning sun

afternoon sun

Why did this take me five years to think of?

Next up, Sam's basement windows!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

9-27-12 cooking the funk away

On the 270th day of the year, I am fighting the feeling of being conquered.

On this day in
1066 William the Conquerer set out on his Norman Conquest
1529 Suleiman I begins the Siege of Vienna
1669 the Ottomans finished their Siege of Candia, conquering the Venetians
1822 Champollion deciphers the Rosetta stone
1854 the SS Arctic sinks, killing 300
1905 E=mc²as a published theory begins
1937 The Balinese tiger is extinct
1959 the Honshu typhoon kills 5000
1993 The Sukhumi massacre happens
1997 The Mars Pathfinder disappears
1998 Google is born (okay, that last one is pretty good)

so, all in all, my today wasn't all that bad. Mom and Dad came by on their way home from their vacation tour of the aspens around the state and took Sam and I out for lunch.

But I did get dumped by one of my stores with the "but we love you and you're great" which is nice to hear, but is going to be a good hit in the paycheck until I can pick something else up and "it's not you it's me" still means you weren't good enough for them.

Plus I had to go the dentist and, although everything looked fine, I got the speech about the total body health related to better flossing and was only able to cut my dentist short by saying, "Doc, I'm not discounting the science. I just don't frikking remember." He laughed and left me alone after that. 

But at the end of the work day, I was in a funk.

- You know what I love about cooking?
- What's that?  
- I love that after a day when nothing is sure,and when I say "nothing" I mean nothing,  you can come home and absolutely know that if you add egg yolks to chocolate and sugar and milk, it will get thick. 
It's such a comfort. (Julie and Julia)

So I tackled the recipe for 7-Up Bread. This probably wasn't the best idea after last night's debacle of cinnamon flop cake. I managed to ruin a cookie sheet and an 8x8 pan with that one. But I was undeterred.

7Up bread requires butter, sour cream, bisquick, and, well, you know...

So I mixed the ingredients and patted it out onto the board and realized my recipe was pretty vague.

It was this picture that got me:

But pat out? How thick? She'd ended up with 9 in a 9x9 pan. So that's what I aimed for. At least, until I realized I didn't have a 9x9 pan. And I'd ruined my 8x8 last night. So surveying the options, I had a round pyrex that had a 9" radius and I had a 13x9. 

So my first inclination was to go with them closer together so I melted the butter and cut the dough into squares. I ended up with more than nine...

And managed to get less than half of them fit in. I never got along very well with geometry.

So then I tranplanted them over into the 13x9. And there still wasn't room. Which is when I began to imagine that the dough shouldn't be this thin. 

So I finally compromised and double layered them into what looks a little like a 9x9 space and hoped for the best.

Wait, check the tape: theirs:

And mine:

However, what they lack in good looks they definitely made up for in flavor. They were perfectly moist and fluffy and, when I cut them into smaller squares, they started to look more like Red Lobster biscuits. 

(The last one left tonight has my name on it this evening with some cinammon and honey.)

While those were cooking, I also made up the copy cat recipe of the Joe's Crab Shack Crab Dip.

What can I say? I was in a funk and I was feeling brave.

Note: the crab has liners at the bottom of the can, which you should probably to try not to beat into the mixture.

But other than that...

not much of that left tonight, either. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

9-26-12 Movie Thunder

We are having movie thunder tonight!

which got to me to thinking about my top five movie thunderstorm scenes:

(skip to 3:00 for the best lightning!)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

9-25-12 leaving facebook: the one week break-up report

Today marks one week of being facebook-free.

I was on the way into the office last Tuesday to work, after spending all Monday waiting for Century Link to repair the internet outage that stranded me and put me terribly behind. I've been sorting through quite a lot of personal emotional baggage over... gosh... years, but most critically in the past months, which was coming to head at home.  And in the car, I just felt this absolute gut-churning necessity.

The first thing I did when I got online at work was to pull the plug on my facebook account.

I didn't post any goodbye message or state my intentions or get people to talk me out of it.  I just quit, immediately and almost without thinking.

I just needed to feel... unburdened is the only word I can come up with... of at least one factor in my life.

And Facebook had become much more of a burden than it was an enjoyment lately.

There was no noble outrage behind my decision, no fear of privacy infringement, or of wasted time (although I discovered later this is a huge incentive that should have motivated me).

I just wanted out.

In fairness, I feel like I ought to say Facebook has also brought me quite a lot of joy in our four year run together. I've been able to reconnect with a number of people that I would have lost touch with completely and get to know others who'd only been on the periphery of my awareness. But, with a week away, I have to ask whether much of that sentiment is just so many different variations of smoke and mirrors. What does "reconnect" mean, anyway?

(By the way, many thanks to Facebook for setting up the "guilt" page before you can deactivate: "But, your friends will miss you!" it says, with pictures of the people you've most often interacted with smiling back at you.)

Want to know the total of people I usually communicate with on facebook who've reached out to me after I left?


And two of them live in the same house as I do.

Apart from Bob, who called almost immediately because he saw he was no longer married (deactivation will do that) and Sam, who didn't notice until she went to see the homecoming pictures I normally would have had posted before she saw I was gone, only Deana texted me to touch base.

This has given me pause.

I certainly didn't leave to have people miss me. But the fact that it feels like almost no one does is a little eye-opening. What kind of relationships am I talking about when no one even knows you're gone?

So, what started out as a "just not now" deactivation has, in the space of a week, become closer to "probably not ever."

The little bits of time I'd spent cruising the newsfeed had become excruciating, as the election nears, and people get so much nastier towards one another. Status updates are so often Twitter-world sarcasm and not much else.  Getting de-friended without a word by people I'd once thought really were friends had left me wondering what I'd done. I'd caught myself week ago realizing I was reading nothing that really interested me apart from some external links.  I'm subscribed to my friends' blogs, and I have the links to favorite things, like Open Culture and Big Think. I don't need a facebook feed to provide their content.

Bob is still coming to terms with my absence. He went to check in when we were out to eat and realized he could not tag me. A lot of the pictures of both him and Sam that were from my account are gone. I do feel badly that I'd set up a reunion page recently in the hopes of getting the word out about next summer's 25th and now it will be adminstrator-less. The Almeda Mall page has been orphaned. And apparently everyone in my family expected me to forever provide the picture service that they'd relied on.

But somehow, I think everyone will survive.

Will I miss keeping up with some people? Sure. But maybe they'll seek me out and we'll continue our conversations elsewhere. And if not, that's okay, too.

In this new space, there is often silence, or reflection, or writing, or music, or books. All much better, more real things than whatever it was that Facebook was supposedly offering.


9-25-12 Let the Rain

Tuesday's Anthem

tuesday's child is full of grace

And guess who was born on a Tuesday ;)

Monday, September 24, 2012

9-24-12 News from Georgetown

Many thanks to Lisa, friend of Bob, who sent last week's copy of the Georgetown Sun for us to enjoy!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

9-22-12 Homecoming

Homecoming Dance for Sammi tonight!

9-22-12 Saturday!!

and I'm not working!!!
Friday, September 21, 2012

9-21-12 Sprinter Serenity Now

Here's just a quick snapshot of one of those moments when I simultaneously imagine throwing myself out of a very tall building, driving my car over the side of the mountain, or just joining the circus scooping elephant poop and sleeping in the hay of a freight car instead of dealing with this shite.

I don't usually complain about work in blog form, but today I just have to vent on my lunch hour. It's a little like being on a shrink's couch talking to the ceiling, but better because I can pound on the keyboard while I do it.

Here's the scene: I've been at work for almost two hours and I have yet to finish the single ticket I started with, the ticket I stand to net about $1.00 on when it finally pays. Is my sanity worth more than a buck? Apparently not.

I'm all, "It's Friday! Going to kick butt and get everything wrapped up before 9:00 tonight if it kills me!"

AHAHAAHAinsanecacklingHAHAHAHAHHA. (Don't ever think things like this. It never ends well.)

Here's the story.

At 8:00, I've pulled a list of claims that need to be booked for my Mercedes dealer to close out this morning. I find two Sprinter claims in the mix and decide to do those first because they such pains. If I wait until I'm busy with fourteen other things, I won't have the focus required to do them. And we're kicking butt today, so we're tackling those first, dagnabit.

Sprinter vans are those big boxy cargo things with a Benz badge on the front. Whenever I see one, I secretly wish it would spontaneously combust (without anyone inside, of course) into the physical manifestation of the blaze of hatred I feel for it. The regular passenger car system is so ass-backwards (as are all car manufacturers' systems) it takes a ridiculous amount of time to get them correctly coded and submitted and paid. But Sprinters are special.

They follow none of the same rules, require ten different very slow moving windows to navigate, and still don't get accepted when you finally are able to submit them. Nothing is called the same thing as what you are reading in the story, which tends to make it triply frustrating, but this first one should be easy. It's a 10K maintenance. Simple, right?

I'm hunting around for the Sprinter information about pre-paid maintenance on the first ticket when Jenn calls to ask me if I could please do that as quickly as possible, because their dealer management system (Reynolds and Reynolds) is not allowing her to open a new ticket on that VIN because this one is still open. The car has come back from yesterday with a check engine light on, so they need to get going on figuring out what is wrong and they can't until a repair order is generated in the system.

She also mentions, if I could, please email her since her emails to me are bouncing. More on that later.

Sounds innocent enough. I haven't had a Sprinter maintenance claim before, but surely there is a similar document with the list of labor operations and times for each part of the work like there is for the passenger vehicles. I find the excel spreadsheet that should provide the pertinent information only to discover that the new computer upgrade they provided on the computer at the dealership (which randomly shuts down a couple of times a day, typically whenever I'm in the middle of something I can't save) does not have Excel installed so I cannot open the document.

I do have an option to save it, so I do, and then spend the next 10 minutes trying to get Internet Explorer (the only browser on the thing) to open and go to yahoo mail in order for me to send myself the file to open it on my computer, which does have Excel.

Once I receive the file, I realize whatever file type it saved itself as was something no one in the Western hemisphere can open with any program known to mankind. Apparently because the machine doesn't have excel, it also can't save an excel file.

The clock, of course, has been ticking and I am having visions of Jenn cursing my name.

I email a couple of people for help with step  by step instructions on how to access the document from a computer equipped with excel in order to send it to me. One of the email recipients calls the other to tell her to call me and help, which she does, except that Trish is not even at a computer, so she really can't help at all.

So I email Jenn the same instructions, when it occurs to me, she might not be getting them. Remember the email problem?

So I call and try to walk her through it. She follows my instructions, tries to attach the email to send to me and discovers the Germans have somehow set up the file as a password protected thing, because national security might be at stake if you were able to randomly access Sprinter maintenance labor operation numbers from just any old computer.

By this time Trish has arrived at Jenn's station and has the brilliant idea of copying and pasting the stupid document directly from the cells in Excel into the body of the email, which does work.

All set, right?

Not even close.

Now I have three labor operations listed for the 10K, but the document only tells me the numbers, not the amount of time allotted to each of those numbers in order for me to book and pay the technician the amount of time that I can get the dealership reimbursed on the claim.

That requires another set of windows. And once I get into it, only one of the three appear to be valid operations with a time given. The other two just... don't exist.

So I call Warranty Services Group (WSG), get on hold, wait through Kenny G music, and talk to Sharon.

Sharon has to put me on hold three times during our conversation. This does not bode well.

Here's the general order of fabulous discoveries I get, one hold after another:

1. The missing labor operations just haven't been added to the matrix.

2. No, no one can tell me what the allowable times might possibly be.

3. I should use the amount of punch time on the technician's record, send it through as what they call "non-time" (which I love. It is truly time which does not exist.)

4. When those non-time labor operations  won't be accepted in the submission system, because you can't use non-time on a maintenance, I can call them back and see what, if anything, they can do from there.

5. If the time I guess at, using his punch is wrong (although they can't tell me what's right), they'll change it, pay it short, and we'll have to adjust the amount paid to the tech and the dealership in fifteen different accounting programs in order to balance the books.

6. I should submit an "omission form" through Sprinter Tech Info to alert Germany to this problem.

7. Germany will take months before they even look at this form.

8. The form doesn't exist for Sprinter.

9. Wait, this needs another number to appreciate. The omission form. The form I have to have in order to fix the system so this doesn't happen every time the vehicle comes in. That form. Is. Omitted.

9. Well, so the form you have to use that will pretty much get ignored for the next year doesn't exist, but you should still go into the passenger system (which has nothing to do with Sprinter) and fill one out there. On a VIN the system won't accept, because it's a Sprinter.

So I get off of the phone, we'll skip the expletives, and I book the stupid thing out and head into the warranty screen where I code it to transfer over to the system where it won't pay and I can then call them back and sit on hold some more.

Only, this is one of the Sprinter VINs that doesn't have a warranty submission screen.

It has to be hand entered, all 17 digits of the VIN, the dates, the miles in and out, the service adviser number, the technician number, the ops, the times, every single part, the cost of every single part, the quantities, the story, all of it that would normally go automatically now has to be hand entered.

I am half way through the tedious process, a process in which you cannot save the information you've entered until it is complete . . .

when the computer shuts down.

(this space left intentionally blank.)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

9-20-12 Revelation

But so with all, from babes that play
  At hide-and-seek to God afar,        
So all who hide too well away
  Must speak and tell us where they are.

~Robert Frost's "Revelation" 
Wednesday, September 19, 2012

9-19-12 Marina

By T.S. Eliot
Quis hic locus, quae regio, quae mundi plaga? 

What seas what shores what grey rocks and what islands
What water lapping the bow
And scent of pine and the woodthrush singing through the fog
What images return
O my daughter.

Those who sharpen the tooth of the dog, meaning
Those who glitter with the glory of the hummingbird, meaning
Those who sit in the sty of contentment, meaning
Those who suffer the ecstasy of the animals, meaning

Are become insubstantial, reduced by a wind,
A breath of pine, and the woodsong fog
By this grace dissolved in place

What is this face, less clear and clearer
The pulse in the arm, less strong and stronger—
Given or lent? more distant than stars and nearer than the eye
Whispers and small laughter between leaves and hurrying feet
Under sleep, where all the waters meet.

Bowsprit cracked with ice and paint cracked with heat.
I made this, I have forgotten
And remember.
The rigging weak and the canvas rotten
Between one June and another September.
Made this unknowing, half conscious, unknown, my own.
The garboard strake leaks, the seams need caulking.
This form, this face, this life
Living to live in a world of time beyond me; let me
Resign my life for this life, my speech for that unspoken,
The awakened, lips parted, the hope, the new ships.

What seas what shores what granite islands towards my timbers
And woodthrush calling through the fog
My daughter.
Sunday, September 16, 2012

9-15-12 The Visitor

Mom and Dad definitely need a high-definition wildlife camera on the back of the house. The security cameras around the house record all movement, so they catch a variety of critters triggering the motion detectors but they aren't high quality. Yesterday, while we were up in the mountains, one of the larger critters came for his Saturday bath around 9:40 in the morning. I guess the cool morning air is invigorating enough for him to decide it was time to take the plunge and get pretty.

Big boy you see above, captured at about the exact spot I stand waiting on Evan and Katy to do their business, had already made the backyard pool/pond at the end of the fountain stream his spa. The video shows him sauntering up from the front yard and plunking himself in the deep end, sitting, turning, and generally enjoying emptying the whole thing of water before he wandered past the camera you see here.

While Dad was out there yesterday evening making sure the pump hadn't burned up because of the lack of water, here came Mrs. Skunk. It's a regular Mutual of Omaha show out there!

9-15-12 The 2012 Colorado Aspens

Part 1 is the trip up to Leadville and the train ride.

Part 2 is the circuitous route we took back from Leadville, through Breckenridge and over Boreas Pass. This is a ten minute video, in hi-def. It took from 10:32 a.m. to 4:06 p.m. to upload.  There has got to be a better way.

We left the house at 5:30 a.m. and got back at 6:00 p.m.. Twelve and a half hours of aspen drives, by train and by car, was a little excessive, I will admit. But this was the weekend for it. I had heard about the stuffed bears at the Hungry Bear Diner in Woodland Park, but I'd thought this meant, you know, taxonomy stuff, heads and full dead bear bodies everywhere. As you can see from the video, not so much. It's a funky little place, to be sure. The mugs are mostly ones you can pick up at garage sales for a nickel a piece, and between the bears, there are lots of those hanging on the walls, too. Mom got one with flowers on it. Dad got some financial planner's advertisement. Serendipitously, of the three mugs I was handed the thick diner one with "The Hungry Bear" printed on it, (along with six local business ads). I went home with one for $3, too. After fueling up, we ran through some really cool fog, past buffalo, pronghorn, and hot air balloons fueling up, too, before arriving at Leadville, the highest city in North America, to ride the rails along the old line that runs above the Arkansas River Valley to see the aspens from above. The open rail car,  in the warm sunshine, and the crisp air made for a lovely trip. We arrived back at 12:30 and hit the road for Breckenridge, which is, one of those  "scenic routes" that doubles the time it takes to get back where you started. A whole lot of other people had the same idea, which on the pass road means you back up to let the other side get through in a number of places. It also means you are up close and personal with the aspen groves that do so well in the thin air.

Aspens are amazing trees. Their colonies spring from a single seed that grows its root system deep underground, so deeply that they are not killed by forest fires. The trunks of the trees spring up from this system and spread a few feet each year. When you see the sides of mountains turn golden, you know you are looking at a stand that has been here far, far longer than any human, gazing over these beautiful mountainsides. The oldest colony is thought to have survived 80,000 years.

A few favorite pictures from the day:

At the train station