Archive for January, 2017

Twitter is just too depressing

January 26, 2017

I think I am going to have to start limiting my twitter reading. Frankly, it’s just too depressing with a constant barrage of news involving more anti-intellectualism, anti-science, anti-humanities, growing racism, growing ethnocentrism… .

I really don’t get the appeal of this world or why people want it. I hear constant talk about how good it “used to be,” but when was this? The rapid growth of the US after WWII was fueled by folks coming home from being abroad and enjoying things like the GI Bill to go to college. While it might sound trite to refer to fighting in the war as an opportunity to travel, it’s something I have heard referenced continually by vets as something that opened their eyes to the world, just the ability to go out and see more of it. And it is still something I hear from people who do a lot of traveling now.

Now…I don’t know. I get this impression of fear and distaste for the other, for education. People don’t trust science because…why? Is it just that they are being told things they don’t want to hear? Do they blame it for losing their job? I don’t get it.

While the bulk of my twitter feed is filled with people wanting/trying to fight these things, it’s still just overwhelming and depressing.

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Hail Chris Kimball! Hail Chris Kimball!

January 23, 2017

well, yesterday I made veggie bibimbap. It’s a Korean dish with rice, a whole bunch of veggies, some pickled veggies as a side, and a soft fried egg – though we went ahead, broke the yolks, and cooked them through. I had very little confidence in pulling this off at all, especially the eggs where my general lack of patience in putting together a meal really just works against me in all sorts of ways.

But apparently I damn near nailed it. Even the kid didn’t hate it, or at least he didn’t mind everything but the pickled veggies (carrots, bean sprouts, and cucumber).

Except I didn’t nail it. Chris Kimball nailed it. The recipe I used comes from America’s Test Kitchen Complete Vegetarian Cookbook. If you’re a vegetarian, or your spouse, or whoever…this is quickly becoming a must have recommendation from me. I have it out of the library right now, and I went through it and bookmarked all of the recipes that seemed interesting, and essentially 3/4 of the book has a slip of paper tucked into it. This has become the first step in deciding what cookbook we want to buy.  Needless to say this is a book that has passed this first step.

But this isn’t so much about the book as about the guy who apparently built this empire of foolproof cooking. The Wife and I were talking about the bibimbap last night, and I had just heard part of the Milk Street Radio Show while picking up some chocolate covered pretzels that we’re selling as part of a parents of toddlers group we’re in, and it became a conversation about the singularity of Chris Kimball.

From what I understand, everything began with Kimball putting together Cook’s Country magazine, which was very…spartan, I guess, when it first came up. Perhaps a better way of explaining it is that it had a honed focus on creating the best recipes it could, and giving people the ability to cook something, and to cook it well, just by following the directions.

Cook’s Country is still around.

Then there is America’s Test Kitchen.

Now there is Milk Street.

These three things encompass many things within their spheres from television shows to radio shows, from podcasts to cookbooks, to a cooking school.

Yes, this man is busy. He’s also exacting, talented, and a true gift to the at home cook. In twenty years, he is someone who should be talked about in the same vein as Julia Childs and Jacque Pepin as chefs who brought the nuts and bolts of cooking into the home, pulled back the curtain, and made it wholly accessible. This is different from people like Mario Batalli and Anthony Bourdain (both of whom I also enjoy). Yeah, they’re chefs, yeah, they talk about food. But they don’t make it accessible. They don’t put the pan in our hands in the same way and make their experience ours.

If you like cooking, and somehow have not drifted into Chris Kimball’s orbit, you need to do yourself a favor and take yourself there.

PBS just takes up too much money…

January 19, 2017

…and other bullshit the Republicans try to pass off as truth. Alyssa Rosenberg has a good article up today about threats by the GOP to use killing off things like the Endowment for the Arts, the Endowment for the Humanities, and funding for public broadcasting in the guise of balancing the budget.

She runs the numbers quite well and is worth looking at just for that in seeing how much money is actually budgeted for those things versus the size of the budget as a whole. What could also be mentioned is the over $500 billion budgeted for the military. For comparison’s sake, China had the second highest budget in the world for their military and it came in at less than $150 billion. Do we really get $350 billion dollars worth of advantage over China? I don’t think so. And the billions that will be added back onto the budget if/when the GOP manages to actually kill the ACA, and maybe try to replace it with whatever cocked up scheme they can that will really just be another way of sending thousands of people to an early grave since they can no longer afford insurance to cover their health costs.

The point is the same as Rosenberg’s. There are many places where actual budget savings can be had, pork that could be cut if they were really interested in doing it, priorities shifted that would maybe spend our tax dollars better. The money saved by going after these programs has nothing to do with the budget.

Me Need Sleep!

January 18, 2017

Little Girl was not a happy camper last night. She woke up in the middle of the night with a wet bed, I couldn’t figure out if she had just drooled a TON or if her diaper had somehow missed its duty. Regardless the bed got changed/wiped down/etc. Little girl was put back to bed.

Then I got back to bed. Then the cat started mewling. He had food. He had water. The litterbox was clean. He was just an evil cat in the middle of the night.

Then I went back to bed.

Two hours later someone was up again. I went up, nothing was wrong. Little Girl needed a hug. She got a hug. She got snuggled back down in her crib. Her music was turned on. She drifted back off to sleep, or at least I assume she did because she didn’t cry the rest of the night.

Then I went back to bed. At around 4:30 this morning. I’m exhausted. I’ve already ploughed through a moderately caffeinated pot of coffee and have brewed a new decaf pot. I’m trying not to just eat my way through the cupboards as a way of organizing them.

I’m just trying to survive the day at this point.

Well, they buried the lead here

January 16, 2017

Alright, I got this stupid tweet in my twitter feed a few minutes ago insinuating that there was a link between GM’s recent announcement of investing in the US and Trump being a jackass on twitter. And there might have been something to it, considering how companies that Trump has targeted have seen their stocks fall in the immediate aftermath as Wall St. acts like total bleeping idiots thinking people are really going to care. It’s like the people who thought folks would actually boycott Rogue One: A Star Wars Story because some Trumpers got all upset by what they thought might possibly be in it if you looked for it.

Except here’s the article from The Detroit News on GM’s plans.

Did anyone else catch the important parts? Hint: they weren’t in the title or in the first half (or even 3/4) of the article. Here:

GM’s announcement of new U.S. jobs and investment has been previously scheduled and was not in response to Trump, according to a source familiar with the company’s planning.

Oh, look. It had nothing to do with Trump. Oh, and look at this:

GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra and Trump talked following the tweet, and Barra told reporters on Jan. 8 that GM did not plan to change its production with the Cruze hatchback.

Want to know how Trump figured/thought GM would be “following suit” with Ford/Chrysler? I’ll take a wild guess that GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra told him it was happening 8 days ago.

And what else was buried at the bottom of the article, other than what explained the timing of Trump’s tweets and this phony bullcrap connection the supposedly liberal media cooked up? Just a list of the thousands of jobs GM is/has been cutting.

What makes this all worse is that the twitter links that are popping up are selling this as some sort of shakedown by Trump forcing GM to give us some gosh darn jobs, and newspapers having all of the dots but refusing to go through the work of at least attempting to connect them.

Commitment Issues to Nintendo

January 16, 2017

I’ve been fighting this blog post for a few days now, at least partially because I had been looking forward to this thing and that our U and Wii have seen better days and have gotten to the point where being replaced wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. We use our U to watch Netflix, occasionally surf the web, and to keep the kids out of trouble for stretches of time when we’re doing minor things like trying to clean the house or make dinner. Our game console gets a lot of wear and tear.

But there was something about this reveal that just let me down in a vague, unidentifiable way.  The price was a minor let down, especially for a system that is still clearly a step slower than its rivals. It hasn’t showcased much actual third party support yet. And it doesn’t have a lot of first party titles immediately out to make it a must buy. On top of that Nintendo is changing course and is going to start charging for online play. Which is essentially a Splatoon tax, considering how much their games have utilized online play.

I think what really hurts is that this is a company I grew up with. Yeah, my first system was an old Atari 2600, but I then had an NES and an SNES (and a Genesis, but we won’t tell anyone). They were worn out from my playing them. I loved them. I still remember games from them, and playing with the neighbor kid. Games like Gun.Smoke, DoubleDragon, Tecmo Bowl, Punch Out, and Mario Bros. are touchstones of my youth.

I am really unsure I’ll be getting the Switch, though. Part of it is cost, clearly. Part of it is that the ability to take the thing on the go, or to the john, just doesn’t sell itself for me. If I leave the house, I’m driving and I’m keeping an eye on a  two year old. I’m not playing video games.

At the same time, I have a two year old. Video games are something she is just a bit young for. My 13 yr old is an avid gamer, but he spends more time on his tablet lately than on a console. And if/when we can afford a new cell phone,he’ll probably be glued to that. So, there probably won’t be this hard push from the young ones for this system, either.

I hope the Switch does well. I like Nintendo, and I don’t mind the idea of it being around when my Little Girl is old enough to be interested in Mario Bros. and Kirby. But the longer I go w/o buying a system, the harder I think it will be to get me back in the loop.

Long Week

January 11, 2017

This is going to be a short one as I just try to get on track for this week. I’m not sure why this week has went by so fast, but it has. And I’m still not catching up. The living room is a mess from Hurricane Little Girl, have had some academic dustups with The Boy, and we momentarily lost a library book of The Wife’s (we found it today, yay).

A consistent bright spot has been supper.

Yesterday we had a potato/sweet potato gratin that used heavy cream to give it its gooeyness. The Boy wasn’t a fan of the sweet potatoes, apparently the target of his random food dislike for the month, but even he liked the dish as a whole. The Recipe was pulled from The Swedish Table by Helene Henderson. It’s a good recipe book as a whole, if only for its potato recipes.

Today it was lasagna day. With over a pound of assorted mushrooms (I used shitake, crimini, oyster, and good ol’ fashioned white mushrooms because they were cheap) and two packages of frozen spinach, it was filling. What made it great was the bechamel sauce.

Being largely a vegetarian household, I have a difficult time with lasagna because I really miss my mom’s. Which was not vegetarian. Now, I had found a work around with those fake meat crumbles that companies like Boca put out. Mix it up like you would any meat sauce and it isn’t a bad substitute.

What I didn’t have any experience with is a lasagna without a red sauce entirely, so I was more than a little leery of this. It was incredible, though. It was gooey and thick and may have turned me around a bit on how I’m putting together future lasagnas. I’m wondering how a red sauce would go with a becamel sauce, which would hopefully allow me to cut back slightly on the amount of cheese used throughout the recipe.

Anyway. Off to bed for me.

I’m too old for this

January 6, 2017

Alright, I’m a hockey fan, been following the Wings since 1987. Since getting married, getting kids, etc., time to watch games has kind of tightened a bit over the years. I fit in games when I can, occasionally watching them later. With the Wings in the Western Conference for so long I was sort of accustomed to late games, as the Wings swung out west playing games in Colorado, Dallas, Arizona, Alberta, California, etc. It was something you lived with.

I’m not accustomed to it any more.

Making it worse is that the Wings have had a lousy year, most games seeming uninspired drubbings. Last night they actually showed up to play and it was entertaining. The game also started at 103o.

I made it through two and a half periods. The Wings were up 4-0 at that point, it seemed pretty in hand, and I was dead to the world at that point. So I went to bed.

And then I was up again at 6 this morning to get The Boy ready for school. Then Little Girl was up. Then my day was off and running.

I was not running to keep up. I felt like hell, felt like hell for most of the day, probably looked like it. Still, I managed to get the meals on the table, kept the kids from seriously harming themselves or eachother and I think I did a decent job of things.

But I can’t do this any more. I just can’t do the physical turn around of a few hours sleep and trying to be functional. All day I felt miserable. I was constantly snacking on junk foods and feeling like crap because it was junk food. Now it’s 11pm, I’m feeling drained, a little sick, been sucking on a zinc cough drop. It feels like I’ve been trying to desperately mend holes and throw patches over worn out patches all day.

Days like today make me realize the real cost of adulthood is just the cold hard reality of getting older, and having to accommodate for that.

small things help

January 4, 2017

My wife has been telling me that we need to start making menus for our dinners, so that we could focus our grocery buying and have some idea what we’re doing when we go grocery shopping.

And she was right. I’ve started making a menu for the first two weeks of the new year. I’ve had to go grocery shopping once and it was instantly easier. I didn’t need much, but I knew what I needed. It was great. The trip was shorter than normal, it was more direct, it was less of a hassle. It was nice.

But that hasn’t been the biggest positive of the menu here in the first week of having some clue what I’m cooking for dinner every night. Not even close. What has been the biggest positive?

No stress.

It’s funny how stressful it can be just trying to figure out what I’m cooking for supper.The time spent looking through the kitchen cabinets, looking through the refrigerator, getting the ingredients together, etc. On the best days it was a minor stress. On the worst days it was a torture that dragged me down into a pit that sucked away my time and motivations. I hated and loathed it, which made me want to do it even less.

Which, of course, didn’t help. It just meant that I started looking later, trying to throw something together in short order to make sure there was something on the table that night. What should have been a simple act was coming to blow up my days.

Tonight, I am making butternut squash ravioli from butternut squash leftover from the butternut squash and black bean tacos that we had for dinner last night. A premade ball of pasta is sitting in the fridge waiting to be rolled out and put through the pasta maker. Dinner is not going to be overly easy or lacking in stress, but it’s a manageable stress, a planned stress. I know what’s happening and I’m ready for it. It’s an entirely different beast.

It’s a small thing, but it adds up. It removes a little bit of stress, frees up a little bit of time, offers a little bit of structure to the world. It helps. Small things can add up. Small things can lead to bigger things.

last day of break for the kid

January 2, 2017

Well, today was officially the last day of winter break. The Wife went back to work today, The Boy goes back to school tomorrow, and then it will be back to just me and Little Girl for the bulk of the day. I’m sort of looking forward to it if for nothing else than the simplification that will come with it. I won’t have to worry about an extra lunch to fix, or have the two kids pestering each other, or having to share the TV/living room/whatever.

Also, I’m hoping for the opportunity to try working around the house again. It’s hard with a two year under foot, and having to do the grocery shopping tomorrow (break ends for all of us I guess), but the added freedom with no one else around will hopefully manifest itself in some added productivity, if for no other reason than less noise around the house.

I don’t know how The Wife does it. She can seemingly tune out anything and motor along at whatever it is she wants to work on. I just can’t. I try to drown out the unwanted noise with noise of my own but I’m not 25 any more. More noise is just more noise. The Boy being between bouts of video game playing and putting Sesame Street on for Little Girl amounted to the biggest break I got on the day noise wise.