Saturday, February 27, 2010

I'll Have the Stew, Hold the Squirrel

I realize I missed "Friday Food," yesterday. It was a mostly quiet night at home, though, and I really didn't have my computer on. Which, in some ways, was a good thing -- especially for this blog.

You see, I got a new editing assignment at work. This one is for a cookbook that -- I believe -- is being put together as a fund raiser for a school. Or at least I hope that's what it is. Because if it's a "real" cookbook... well... let's just say it's not going to propel anyone onto the Food Network any time soon.

I started working on it today, and got most of the way through it. Most of the recipes are pretty basic. There are some salads and some salsas and some desserts. Many of which have been made "healthy" by such revolutionary things as substituting whole wheat flour in place of all-purpose flour, and leaving everything else the same. Okay. I might give them "healthier" but not "healthy" on that.

And -- although I don't know where the school is from, I'm guessing that it is Midwestern, but also fairly multi-cultural. There was a recipe for California rolls, and a couple for dips to have with tortilla chips, and lots of stir-fried stuff to serve over rice. But each time "chilis" were mentioned there was a note in the recipe saying to be careful because it would be really hot. (One of my favorite recipes was for "Vegetarian Fried Rice" -- in which you could use pork, beef, or chicken.)


As I worked my way through the book, I found a recipe for Venison jerky (looked good enough), and two for fish which called for whole fish (the cook is supposed to cut the fish down the middle and "remove the insides" in one step). And there is the recipe for octopus -- but that also gives an option of other kinds of meat. So I was doing okay until... yeah... I got to the two recipes that called for squirrel.

One of them called for a "furless" squirrel, and the other called for the squirrel to be dressed. I know what that means, but reading it I felt bad for the squirrel who had "dressed for dinner" only to find out he was the main course. They both call for the meat to be cooked until it "just about falls off the bone." (shudder)

I don't know about you, but I think I might have to pass on those "dressed squirrel" recipes. The tiny little top hat and bowtie on the side of the plate would make it way too hard to eat.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Baffling Bathrooms

I've been meaning, for a while, to write about the bathrooms in the building where I work. They're not anything special, but they have a few quirks.

First of all, there are actually two (maybe three) "shower rooms" in the hallway on my floor. No. Not emergency showers or anything, but actual "I've had my yoga class, now I need to rinse off" showers. When I started working here, I thought those were simply handicapped bathrooms (they have the "accessible" logo on the doors), so I walked into one one afternoon. What I found was a bathroom-sized room with a bench on one side and a curtained-off shower on the other. Nothing else. Some days, on my way down the hallway to the office, I hear the water running as I go by. It unnerves me just a little for no apparent reason.

In the actual bathrooms, the building is trying to be all environmentally and public-health conscious. They've got "no touch" paper towel dispensers. They've got (on some floors, not all floors) hands-free faucets. And they've got the kind of hand sanitizer dispensers that you don't have to touch to get squirted. I understand all of those things. I even understand their latest upgrade: Automatic lights.

But I also have a problem with the Automatic lights.

You see, for them to record motion throughout the bathrooms, the sensors have to be put where they can register the whole room. This means that -- at least in the men's rooms -- the sensors are all the way at the back of the room away from the door. That's not a real issue when you're in the room, but if you walk in and the lights are off, it can be a problem.

If the lights are off (they're timed, so they shut off after so many minutes), you have to walk into the dark room and kind of take a leap of faith that you're not going to trip over anything as you wait for the sensor to trigger. The one on our floor isn't too bad. If you walk in and wave your arms in front of you before the door closes, you're pretty much good to go. The one on the next floor up can be a problem, though. Up there, the bathroom is long and narrow, and the sensor is all the way at the back. If you walk in just far enough to wave your hands around, nothing happens. You have to let go of the door and walk about 3 more feet before the sensor finds you.

Now, I'm happy to say that the bathrooms in this building are pretty clean. But, really, who wants to walk that far into any dark room?

Let's just hope they don't put timed sensors in the shower rooms. I would not want to be the person who is plunged into naked darkness just because he needed to rinse a little longer.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Some Things You Can't Make Up

For many years I have been amused by the names some people are stuck with as they go through life. Some of them have names foisted upon them by their parents. Some have married into and, thus -- to some degree at least -- chosen their bizarre names.

I'm not talking things like all of the "color" names out there (you know, like the person with the last name of "Black" whose parents called her "Ebony"). I'm not even talking about the people who are not-so-subtly named after stars (like "Vanna Wright" or "Rhett Coutler"). I'm just talking about the names which are too ridiculous to be real.

When I lived in Baltimore, I worked in a box office with a broad range of names that came and went. There was the little tiny woman whose name was bigger than she was (Mrs. Walter Winkenwerder). Or the woman whose name really should have been part of a super hero novel (Lois Lee Speed -- don't you just know she'd be married to someone like The Flash?).

In my current job one of my tasks is to put together a bunch of documents to send off to the distributor. Most of the time, I just bundle them up with the first word of the book as the tag. So I get to email off things like "Battle Covers" or "Beginning Documents" or, one of my recent favorites, "Wretched Marketing Plan."

But, today, as I was working on those files, I got the best of both worlds. I got to write an email saying "I need a Marketing Plan for DeKok." Yes. I know it's juvenile and silly, but it made me laugh.

Oh. And have I mentioned that the first name of that author is Joy?

Yeah. You can't make some things up.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Lansbury. Zeta-Jones. Night Music. What a Dream for a Travel Tuesday.

What would you do if you found out that someone you knew was going to have the chance to see one of your icons on Broadway? Well, last fall, when I found out that a friend of mine in New York was going to be seeing Angela Lansbury on Broadway in A Little Night Music, I started by whining a little, and then just settled in to some moderate jealousy.

Okay. Maybe I even started stalking their website just a little so that I could listen to snippets of the music and daydream about being able to get to New York for the show.

Somewhere along the way, I even started trying to figure out how to make a trip work -- even though I knew it couldn't ever happen. Of course, you know that I have a vivid imagination, right? Let's see how your imagination compares to mine...

Start by imagining that, as you were opening Christmas presents, you found out that Christopher (or your version of Christopher, since this is about you, not me) had gotten in touch with your family and arranged for plane tickets to New York and tickets to see... well... just for the sake of argument... Angela Lansbury and Catherine Zeta-Jones in A Little Night Music. On Broadway. With Christopher (or... again... your version of Christopher).

Remembering, of course, that this is all just supposition, suppose that, about a month later, you find yourself in seats in the first row of the balcony of Broadway's Walter Kerr theater, just off the aisle to the left of center -- probably about 20 feet from the stage. And you get to sit back, snuggle just a little, stretch your legs out into the aisle, and let the Night Music flow over you.

Photo from

You've got one of the icons of American stage and screen just feet away from you, in one of the iconic roles in the Sondheim pantheon (Lansbury is playing the role of Madame Arnfeldt - the matriarch who made her money the old fashioned way: by having all the right dalliances), while one of the current leading ladies of screen (and stage) plays her saucy, sexy, sassy daughter (yep - that'd be Zeta-Jones).

So you're there. And you're watching and listening. You're soaking it all in and wishing it would never end, even though you know the show well enough to know that the end is coming. So when the strains of "Send in the Clowns" start, you tear up. And as the night sky smiles its three smiles, you're both thrilled and amazed. Overwhelmed, overjoyed, mildly overstimulated. And, above all, you're thankful to be there. To have been there.

Photo from

Oh. And while you're imagining a trip to NYC, you might as well throw in a couple of good meals with phenomenal friends, some amazing hot chocolate, gorgeous clear views from the "Top of the Rock," a quick walk through Times Square, and memories that will last a lifetime.

Of course, for any of this to happen, you'd have to do it all over a weekend. Because if you missed any work you'd never be able to talk about the trip in the presence of anyone from your office.

Which is why it's better that it was a marvelous dream. After all, I know I'd never be able to keep a trip like that a secret. Would you?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Valentine's Day (the movie)

Alright. Let me start by saying that I will not be talking about much of the plot of the movie, because I know some people who want to see it who haven't seen it, yet. That being said, there's really not all that much plot to talk about.

Valentine's Day takes place, basically, within 24 hours. Coincidentally, these happen to be the 24 hours of Valentine's Day. And, as you might guess, it's pretty much all about love -- the ins and outs and ups and downs of it.

** Career Goal Sidenote ** One of the main aspects of the movie is the business owned by Ashton Kutcher's character. It's a flower shop and coffee shop that he runs. I've been thinking about that ever since I saw the movie. If you know of one of those up for sale, let me know. ** End Career Goal Sidenote **

As you may have heard, it takes a page (or two) from the Love, Actually playbook as it interweaves a whole bunch of storylines and you find yourself watching the movie putting together the pieces to see how the characters are all going to fit together. No, it doesn't do it as well as Love, Actually (or Crash -- which does it masterfully in the midst of a much more dramatic movie), but it does it well enough.

And, no, none of the characters are going to win Oscars, although watching Shirley MacLaine acting on screen while she is also being projected in the background (in scenes from 1958s Hot Spell), was amazing. And... wow... the chemistry between the characters was palpable in a few of the scenes. Anne Hathaway and Topher Grace - totally believable in their weird situation. Ashton Kutcher and George Lopez as best buddies - I completely got that. And the pairing of Taylor Swift and Taylor Lautner as the lovestruck highschoolers - HI-larious. The soundtrack was amazing, too.

But (You knew there was going to be a "but," right?) I had a few issues. Above all:

Pretty much every woman in the movie needed to gain some weight. Shirley MacLaine (in either time period) had onscreen curves. But as much as I liked seeing Jennifer Garner and Anne Hathaway and Julia Roberts, I just kept thinking that they needed to have a few heart-shaped cookies or the guys they were kissing would get cuts from their cheekbones. On the other hand, I really don't know when Ashton Kutcher and Topher Grace put on weight in all the right places (both of whom are in their 30s, so I don't have to feel like a dirty old man). Wow.

So... What did I really think?

Grade: B+. I loved the Garry Marshall touches. The small moments that made the rest of the movie worthwhile. And the end credits were a fun short all by themselves. But I kept hoping for more. I wanted that moment at the end of Love, Actually, where you feel like the world is going to be okay. (Yes. I know that's totally subjective. Did you expect love to be otherwise?)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sunday Night

Ah, yes. We've come to the end of another way-too-short weekend.

I've spent time on the phone with the cable company complaining about the quality of our current TV reception.

We went out to a very nice dinner on Friday night, and we went to a really fun party at some friends' house on Saturday night.

I spent about 10 hours editing, interrupted from time to time by various procrastination techniques (cleaning, breaking the ice blocks from the street so the water could drain, doing laundry).

And, tonight, Christopher and I had dinner followed by some TV time (on channels that weren't pixelated).

Tomorrow brings the new work week. Yippee.

Who ever thought that it would be a good idea for the work week to be five days and the weekend to only be two?

And why didn't I get a vote?

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Branding Folks Will Scream

Ahh... Fridays at work. The day of tranquility and peace -- if you ignore the huge list of things that people suddenly realize have to be done before the weekend.

Luckily, if you need to send something from point A to point B really quickly, you can always use one of a number of carriers who specialize in such things.

For instance, when a customer needed to send me a check in a hurry, here is what he told me he would do, today:

I'll cut the check right away and mail it FedEx.

Yep. The Postal Service and FedEx marketing folks have got to be proud that their branding is still holding strong.

Now where's that weekend...?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Careful of the Pointy Bits

Because my desk at work is in the middle of a decent amount of traffic flow -- as well as being the closest desk to the kitchen/ copier room -- I learned early on that the office supplies on my desk were not mine, but simply on my desk.

When I started in the office, I had a different desk, and the person who had my current desk always seemed to have things strewn all over the place. Not a really great look for the desk which is the closest thing to a reception desk that the office has.

I moved into that desk after she left -- in large part due to the fact that I am tall. And the height of the desk makes it a really good thing to have a tall person behind it. On the plus side, it's also a larger-than-average desk in the office, so I have plenty of space -- a good thing for the various pieces of information I have to keep organized. And I thought it would be good to keep it organized, so that it looks good to outsiders.

About a week after I took over the desk, I realized that there may have been a reason the last occupant kept things messy. Within just a few days, I realized there was no real way to guarantee that I would have the same pen on my desk two days in a row. Nor could I hope to keep the tape dispenser or stapler in the same place for more than about an hour.

I think one of the biggest surprises was the day that someone walked up, took my scissors, clipped a cigarette filter in half, set the scissors down, and walked away. I had no idea whether the filter was used or not. I don't know why it bothered me so much. I just found it to be a bit odd.

So I've gotten used to the stapler moving all over the place. I've gotten good at simply reaching over and handing pens to people when they start hovering near my desk. And I've gotten over having people walk around behind me to get things out of my files. Through all of it, the one thing on my desk which almost never moves is the letter opener.

You see, I am the one who goes downstairs and gets the mail and sorts it. And, sometimes, that means opening pieces so that they can be sorted. So I have a letter opener on my desk.

I realized, today, that the letter opener, on the desk right in the middle of all of the other constantly-fluctuating office supplies, is always pointing outward.

On the one hand, I think that I probably have it pointed that way so that the handle is pointing toward me, and it's easier to pick up from my chair. But, since I usually pick it up while I'm coming back from getting the mail, that seems like it might be pointing the wrong way.

On the other hand, it dawned on me today that it might be pointing -- not away from me -- but toward the office. Possibly it's a subtle subconscious warning to the other people in my office to stay away from the rest of the things on my desk.

Or, possibly, depending on my mood, maybe it's a just-slightly-dangerous combination of the two.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Evening the Odds

Yesterday morning was a bit strange.

I was running late, and as I backed out of the driveway I glanced over and saw someone driving out of the alley just a little way away. But, as I drove past her, I realized that she hadn't moved. I pulled up to the corner and looked in the rearview mirror. Still no movement, but I could see her front tires spinning. Since I was already running late, it wasn't even a debate.

I turned around and pulled off to the side of the road. As I walked up to her car, the woman rolled down her window and said "Is winter over, yet?" I just laughed as I walked to the back of her car and started to push. About 30 seconds later -- after a quick rock back and then forward again -- she was on her way. And I was just a hair later to work, but with a much better story.

I headed in to work and, only a couple of minutes late, walked into the building. I think I've mentioned in the past that the stairs are narrow and you have to wait for people to pass on the landings. Well, there was someone coming down as I was going up. I waited for her to pass -- we even exchanged pleasantries, believe it or not -- then made my way up. And then I heard one of those strange noises that you recognize as soon as you hear it. I looked over to see her pretty much lying on her back on the next flight of stairs down from me.

Without even thinking, I turned back and asked if she was okay. Of course, she seemed a little embarrassed, but -- happily -- she sat up and said "Yeah. Fine. I didn't hit my head." So I'm guessing a bruised tuchus was probably the worst of it.

Happily, that was the end of my commute to work, and I got in just about 5 minutes late -- but with a couple of good stories to tell.

I told some folks about my morning and got really nice comments about how I was being a good Samaritan. I didn't have the heart to tell them that I was really just happy to have a couple of "cover stories" for my tardy arrival at work.

Oh. And there was one friend of mine who -- when she heard that my morning had been "odd" -- commented that maybe the morning was odd so that the rest of the day could come out even. Gee. You'd never know she was teaching elementary school math, would you...?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Olympic Pride, of sorts

As this is Travel Tuesday, and since I've gone on about my home town in the recent days, I thought I'd at least mentally head for Vancouver for a little while.

Like so many other people last Friday, I settled in on the couch to watch the Opening Ceremonies of the XXIst (yes. I know that's the wrong way to write that) Winter Games. While I pretty much always enjoy them, and tend to get the strange swellings of pride and excitement as they go on, I found myself a little surprised by my pride in my homeland.

No. Sorry. Not my American pride. And, I guess what I'm talking about is really "my homeland, once removed."

You see, although most times that I'm asked for my heritage, I say "half German, quarter French, quarter English," in all honestly, I really ought to say "half German, half Canadian." Or something like that. I fully admit that it gets kind of confusing, since really my family tree only goes back, at most, a couple of generations in the States -- but my French ancestors have been in Canada for a few hundred years.

Be all that as it may, it was really cool to sit and watch the Opening Ceremonies and hear and see everything being said about Canada. I mean... I'd probably have had the waves of emotion just watching the show, so being able to connect to it a little more was pretty intense. I can't imagine what I'd have felt like if my mom's citizenship was still Canadian instead of American. (And could someone explain to me how so many athletes have dual citizenship? Since when is that possible?)

And, yes, it makes me want to go visit the relatives on that side of the border even more. From Quebec to Saskatchewan and all sorts of point in between. And... hey... they have legalized gay marriage up there. Family ties and family ties. Hmm... Could be nice.

Monday, February 15, 2010

When In Sherlock Romes

In the past week I've seen two different movies. One of which I went into with no expectations (usually a good thing) and one of which I went into with a number of expectations (usually a bad thing). So much for expectations.

The first of the movies was "When In Rome" which was kind of promoted as a silly romantic comedy. And, beyond that, I knew pretty much nothing about it. Basically, a woman goes to Rome for her sister's wedding and, while there, out of spite removes 5 coins from a mystical fountain. She finds out, back in New York, that taking a man's coin out of the fountain means that he will be obsessed with her until she returns the coin to either the fountain or the man. Of course, since it's a romantic comedy, we find that one of the coins belongs to the guy she's just fallen for at the wedding. Will their love last once he gets his coin back? What ever will they do?

The second movie was the latest incarnation of "Sherlock Holmes." This one stars Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law, and was directed by Guy Ritchie. Now, I'm not a huge fan of Downey, but I like Law. And I tend to enjoy Ritchie films -- except for the higher-than-average amount of violence there can be. I knew that it was a new imagining of the Holmes mythology, where Holmes is a modified action hero, and there's explosions and the whole bit. I was obviously expecting to have to get over a few hurdles to be able to enjoy it.

And here's the thing: I ended up enjoying the main characters in both of them, and the plots were perfectly fine (for the universes they inhabited, at least). The make or break point in each movie was the secondary characters.

In "Sherlock," the women in the main characters' lives were fully-rounded women with lives and opinions of their own. You watched them on the screen and knew that they had lives off the screen, as well. And you wanted to learn more about them -- and to see more of them. The members of the police force seemed like real people. Even the bad guy (and wow is he bad) has a backstory that you understand and can work with.

On the other hand, in "Rome," aside from the main character's family, the rest of the secondary characters were just caricatures. They were all played for stereotypes and laughs (which they didn't always get). And, unfortunately, a few of them were even played for laughs based in completely different movies (it's equally as confusing in the movie as it is in those sentences). I found myself wishing that the movie had been much less heavy-handed, and had actually taken itself seriously. In fact, I spent much of the movie recasting those secondary characters in my head. That's never a good sign.

So... Ratings...

"Sherlock Holmes": A-. Definitely a fun movie. Not happy with some of the re-imaginings of it that seemed to mess with the legend just for the heck of it, but the women made me want to see more.

"When in Rome": C-. It had such good potential. The two main characters were great. I wanted to see so much more of them -- and so much less of the other characters.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Dogsitting on Valentine's Day

This weekend Christopher and I have been dogsitting for a miniature Schnauzer named Fred who belongs to some friends of ours. He's a very nice dog -- incredibly low maintenance, really quite sweet. But he can be just a little needy, which kind of makes sense since he's stuck with strangers (or at least acquaintances) for the weekend.

Even though he's been here in the past for long weekends, I have to admit that it's kind of odd having him around the house. And, well, especially on Valentine's weekend.

Now, before I go any further, I want to say that I am totally in favor of us having him here. I was when the idea came up, and I still am. Mostly. You see, his "parents" are in Milwaukee this weekend, and there was simply no way for him to go along in the car for all of those hours. And Christopher absolutely loves having a dog around in the house. And we like him and his parents, so why not have him here?

For me, though, I guess I'm never going to totally be a dog person. I grew up with cats. Christopher is allergic to cats, though, and so after we started dating I adjusted to having a dog around instead of cats. And I know that there will be more dogs in our future together. But... well... there are just some things that dogs do that I don't know that I'll ever be used to.

For instance... What's with the whole "licking your hand" thing? I don't get that. And don't even get me started on the dogs who try to lick your face. No. Uh-uh. Not even when it's a dog I know. That just is not going to happen.

And I'm good with the whole "throw a toy, fetch a toy" game. That's good for me. I can throw, the dog can go get, and then bring it back for another round. But... well... Fred does a version of this where he fetches what you've thrown and then takes it away and puts it somewhere else. Yeah. That's not exactly a game.

Overall, though, he's really easy to have around. In fact, right now he's simply curled up in his "bed" on the living room floor, napping.

But I've mentioned, right, that Christopher really likes having a dog around? They've been hanging out on the computer, and on the couch, and Fred even got "pride of place" in the middle of the bed last night. And... Well... I have to admit that I'm a little jealous of the amount of attention going Fred-ward this weekend. After all, it IS Valentine's weekend, and I was kind of thinking that maybe Christopher and I would share a few more canine-free moments alone.

Oh, well. Fred will go home later this afternoon (he's been here since Thursday night) and I'm sure the house will seem a little emptier. And, eventually, we'll have our own four-legged addition to the family -- who just might have to go stay with friends next Valentine's Day.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Donate a Dollar -- Without Dropping a Dime

My home town of Scotland, South Dakota, is a great little place. (And, yes, I mean little. Instead of the metropolis of 1,100 people it was when I was growing up, it's now down to about 900.)

It's basically just like any other small town in the middle of the country. There's a main street. There's a K-12 school. There's a park and a library and a yearly rodeo. There's even a hospital and a nursing home. Sure. It sounds just like any other small town, right?

Except, you see, it's NOT like any other small town. For one thing, many of the small towns around where I grew up have lost their schools over time. They don't have libraries. There's really only one hospital about every 20 to 30 miles in most areas (and that's being generous as you go to some of the more remote areas of the middle of the country).

But Scotland has a lot of heart. I've known that ever since I was a little kid growing up there. I had relatives and family friends all over the place, so my family would travel to visit them in California, or Washington (DC), or Montreal, or wherever we could drive. And we would come home to find that Scotland was still waiting for us -- along with the mail and the groceries and everything else.

These days, I love that I can go home to visit my parents for a long weekend (it's about 5.5 hours from here), and take Christopher and show him the great place I grew up. These days there aren't quite as many businesses on Main Street, but a couple of them have been replaced by more interesting things.

There's a "store" which is actually a kind of trading post for donations of household goods. If someone moves into town and doesn't have a bed (or chair, or kitchen table, or cookware), they can contact the "Good Stuff" and someone will show up and let them choose from the available donated items. There's no cost. There's no judgment. There's just help for someone who needs it and a soft ask for that person to pass the good stuff on when they no longer need it.

But... To the point of this rapidly-becoming-long posting: There is also a Youth Center on Main Street in Scotland. It's in an old storefront, and it supplies after school care (including homework help, snacks, and the basic "someone to talk to" after school). They opened their doors in 2008 with the help of a pretty decent state grant, and they've been raising money to stay afloat any way they can for the past couple of years. This is not a simple task, considering their barebones operating budget, as they help out 12-18 elementary and junior high kids every day after school.

And, well, this is our chance to make their job a little bit easier. There is an ethanol-advocacy group called GrowthForce which has started a program called "Growth Force Now" which is donating $1 for each person who signs up on their newsletter. Okay. Yes. This means that you'll be getting their newsletter (until you contact them to opt out), but I think the website says you'll also get a "complimentary gift pack" AND -- most importantly -- it also means that, with a few quick keystrokes, you can donate a dollar to a really worthy cause.

All you have to do is enter this Plant ID number: 7046 on this page where you sign up.

So, why not take a minute of your day and donate a buck?

Some really great people will really appreciate it. And good Karma... well... good Karma is worth a minute of your time, isn't it?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Welcome Tiz and Kit!

I feel like, since I welcomed follower #4, earlier, I should also welcome blog followers #5 and #6 - Tiz (of the blog "Tiz and Ass") and Kit.

Oh, and also followers #2 ("Najmania" of the eponymous blog) and #3 (Sstriking), of course!

And, if you've been paying attention, I also admit that putting the names of the latest two to declare their "followship" in the headline might get me a spike of readers from some faraway lands in the next little while. You never know.

Speaking of such things, in case you haven't looked at it, lately, here is my relatively-current listing of visitors by country: (I'll meet you down below...)

United States (US) - 1,447

United Kingdom (GB) - 53

Canada (CA) - 10

New Zealand (NZ) - 5

Russian Federation (RU) - 4

Germany (DE) - 3

India (IN) - 3

France (FR) - 3

Australia (AU) - 3

Italy (IT) - 3

Sweden (SE) - 3

Spain (ES) - 2

Ukraine (UA) - 1

Europe (EU) - 1

Ireland (IE) - 1

Finland (FI) - 1

Korea, Republic of (KR) - 1

Indonesia (ID) - 1

Brazil (BR) - 1

Argentina (AR) - 1

Trinidad and Tobago (TT) - 1

Vietnam (VN) - 1

Japan (JP) - 1

Saudi Arabia (SA) - 1

Philippines (PH) - 1

Greece (GR) - 1

Now, I'm not surprised that most of my hits have been from the US, UK, and Canada. After all, I know people in each of those places. (And, by the way, those of you in the UK and Canada really need to check in more often!)

But what's with the hits in all of those other places? How cool is it that -- at least once -- someone has read my blog from Trinidad and (or?) Tobago? and Greece? and even three hits from Australia? It's kind of humbling -- and inspiring -- to think that people have at least stumbled across my blog half-way 'round the world!

So I'll keep putting pen to paper -- or at least pixels to screen -- and hope that you keep coming back.

Here's to adding followers #7, #13, and #265!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

And Then There was Light!

A month or two ago I got into my car, turned it on, and realized that I couldn't see my gas gauge or temperature gauge in my instrument panel.

I asked about it when I took my car in, but was told that to replace the light the entire dash would probably have to be taken out. Being not made of money, and having a perfectly nicely functioning dome light, I decided I really didn't need to have it fixed.

So I've been driving around with no light behind those two gauges on the far left of the panel for the past while. It's mostly okay -- although I frequently seem to want to check my gas level when it's dark out. And... Well... In the winter it does seem wise to be able to tell whether the car has warmed up.

And then, tonight, after spending half an hour or so re-clearing the driveway after the plows had filled it in, again, I hopped in my car to go to a movie.

The sun was down by this point, and I needed to get moving. I turned on the car. Started it up. Popped it into drive. And checked to see that I had just over a half tank of gas.

It was about half a block before I realized that I could see the gauge. Just as bright as any other lights in the dash. And I could see it!

Driving home from the movie tonight, I probably looked at those two no-longer-dark gauges about every half block. It's amazing how much of a change just a little light can make.

Monday, February 8, 2010

When Food Goes... Good?

Christopher and I had some people over on Saturday night. We planned for a while what to have, and I was all set to use some dip mix that I had in pantry. But, well, I wasn't sure if it was perfectly good, and I didn't want to send a bunch of our friends to the hospital. So on Saturday we afternoon we decided to try a different dip.

My mom does a dip that is a blend of hot pepper jelly and cream cheese. That sounded like it would great with the rest of the food -- as well as being able to work with the chips we had on hand -- so we reached into the pantry for the pepper jelly to go with the block of cream cheese in the fridge. Problem. We have pesto. We have aioli. We have jam. We even have a wine jelly. But no pepper jelly.

Back at the drawing board, Christopher noticed a jar of mild banana pepper rings (the pickled vinegary kind) on the shelf. Now, in my family, those are normally kept aside to become the titular ingredient in a Banana Pepper Casserole (which also includes cheese and stuffing). Because I always have that casserole in mind when I look at the peppers, I hadn't thought of them. But, with Christopher's suggestion, I started to ponder.

I grabbed the food processor, the jar of peppers, and the cream cheese, and headed for the counter. I started by chopping (okay... pulverizing) about 2/3 of the 16oz jar of pepper rings. Then I dropped in the 8oz block of cream cheese and mashed the heck out of it. It was a good start, but not quite right.

I added a couple of tablespoonsful of the juice from the pepper jar, and whirled it around for a while longer. It was a much better consistency. Tangy from the vinegar and peppers, but creamy. It needed some heat, though, so I shook in about a teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes and pushed the button one more time.

Okay. So it came out looking a little like egg salad (yellow and white with just a few pepper flakes), but it also came out really tasty. No. Really. It was probably one of the fastest disappearing items of the evening.

I have about a quarter cup of it left in the fridge and I'm debating what to do with it. It was suggested that it would be good on a turkey sandwich. Or on more chips. Or, in a pinch, simply by the spoon.

Now I just need a name for it. Ideas?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

One Step Closer - a Lot Further to Go

I heard today, from Blake Hayes (well, indirectly, at least) that the Air Force Sergeant -- who has now admitted to verbally and physically attacking Blake and his friends Alec and Danny last September in New York -- has been disciplined by the Air Force where he is stationed in London.

**If you need a reminder about what I'm talking about, my original posting about this hate crime can be found here (from last September), and a recent update is here (from last month).**

I don't have a lot of information on it, and what I do have all comes second-hand from The New York Daily News. It seems that Staff Sergeant Benjamin Ford -- a bronze star recipient who diffuses bombs -- has been stripped of his rank and "disciplined by the military." He took that punishment in lieu of a court-martial.

According to Blake's update, Ford also wrote apology letters to each of the three victims. Blake commented that the letter he received seemed honestly contrite. So, who knows? Maybe something was learned in all of this.

I wish I could say that I'm really happy about this outcome. But, although I'm pleased to know that some level of justice has come about, I'm still more than a little sad that it happened at all and that three young men had to go through all of this in the 21st century.

And I'm frustrated that, in this day and age, a lot of people have to deal with discrimination and harassment and abuse every day without even the hope of justice -- just for being who they are.

So, although the story of this one hate crime is playing itself out, I still ask that you talk to some people you know about it. Tell them that you think that everyone is created equal -- no exceptions. And tell them that you think everyone deserves the same respect and dignity.

After all, if someone had spoken to Sergeant Ford last August, possibly nothing would have happened last September.

That's worth a conversation, isn't it?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Welcome, Judy!

I feel a bit remiss in not saying this sooner. You see, as of a week or so ago, I have a new person in that "following" section on the left side of my blog!

The connections that happen on blogs are kind of amazing. I was sitting with the proprietors of the "Tiz and Ass" and "Blake Hayes's Blog" blogs in Manhattan last weekend, and we were talking about how strange it is to know that people all over the world are reading things that we're writing.

Now, I must admit that I found out during the discussion that, in some languages, apparently "Tiz" is a bad word -- and not simply a nickname for the author. No surprise, in the parts of the world where that language is spoken, she has quite the following. Or, at least, a lot of one-time hits on her blog -- there's no way to know whether they come back when they find out it's not a soft-porn blog. Even so, though, her "where they're from" map is crazy-covered with dots from all over the world.

On the other hand, Blake's blog doesn't have a map on it yet (but we're working on talking him into it), but each time he posts an update about the hate crime he was involved in last fall in New York, he gets comments from all over the world. Can you imagine anyone hearing about that attack half-way around the world back in the pre-internet days? Or can you imagine a pre-internet world somehow opening up dialogue with people around the globe?

Of course, for most of the first year of my blog, I knew pretty much everyone who was reading it. Sure. I drop John Barrowman's name into the header from time to time and get huge spikes in my readership. And I sometimes send out my info to other people via networking sites resulting in jumps in readership numbers for a day or two. But even after almost 18 months, I know that I'm never going to have a readership as big as "Tiz and Ass" or "NajMania" or any of the food blogs I salivate over pretty much daily.

And, yet, in the past few weeks I've had a semi-anonymous comment or two left on here. And I even have a new "follower" named Judy (her photo is down on the left side), who showed up recently.

So, everyone, please join me in welcoming Judy to my/our world. I hope you enjoy your stay. Feel free to fill out a comment card (or the comment box, at least), and I may or may not respond. But, well, if you've been reading me for any length of time, you probably know that, already.

**And, if you like to read this blog, and want to show me that you enjoy it, why not set up your own little "following" tag so you can be in that column, too? That way you don't have to comment, but I'll still know you're there. Thanks!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Feeling Blogked

I sat down at the keyboard with a list of ideas of things to write about. I started writing three or four of them. And after about five lines of each of them I got stuck and deleted it all. So here I am, about an hour later, with no real idea of what I should blog about today.

I could mention that the predicted one inch of snow from yesterday became about five inches by the time I was home to shovel the walks tonight. Yet, happily, it was warm enough to shovel the walks -- in the dark -- without being too cold.

I could mention that, on my way home after a few errands, I stopped at McDonald's to try the new "Mac Snack Wrap" that has been all over the TV ads. It's not the same as a Big Mac, but for about half the price (and less than half the calories), it does pretty well to cut the cravings without killing the budget. (And, yes, I thought of Libby while having my Snack Wrap, but that's a whole different story.) (Hi, Libby!)

I could mention that part of my lunch today was a pack of Reese's "Big" Peanut Butter Cups purchased at the Hershey's store in Times Square, New York, but that would require a whole lot of backstory which I haven't had the time to put together, yet.

I could mention that I found out, this past weekend, that it is possible to move your Delta plane tickets three hours before a flight for a flat $50 fee.

And, finally, I could once again mention that hanging out with good friends has a way to make even the most completely amazing weekends just that much better.

Or, I could just decide not to blog tonight.

What do you think?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Groundhog Day Eve

Yes. It's Groundhog Day Eve.

And, in honor of the day when we find out whether or not there are to be six more weeks of winter, Mother Nature has tossed a bunch more snow at us.

What's weird about this is that the snow isn't what bothered me so much tonight. What bothered me was the fact that driving to Costco tonight after work took about four times longer than it should have taken. Why? Because people didn't seem to be able to figure out how to move through intersections in downtown because of the snow.

Sure. The roads were a little slick. The snow was coming down. I understand all of that. But why did it take 15 minutes for us to drive 3 blocks through 2 intersections?

The only other time I've been in traffic this bad in Minneapolis was another snowy late afternoon when I was stuck on one block of Washington Avenue for almost a full hour 2 winters ago. I called a friend of mine and we had a full half-hour conversation while I crept past a restaurant. Had I been smart, I would have called that place and had them deliver dinner to my car...

Tonight we just headed to Costco and shopped -- in nearly-deserted aisles -- and headed out once the roads were a little more clear.

^sigh^ Only another 2 or 3 months until spring.

Here's to the groundhog. May he get a good night's sleep before his morning in the spotlight.