Saturday, February 28, 2009

A tangled web

I was emailing today with a friend who has found someone who makes them very happy. It made me very happy, too, and one of the things they wrote really struck me. It was about how their someone doesn't play games and doesn't lie.

I wrote back that one of the things that always royally pissed me off when I was single was when someone distrusted me or didn't believe that what I was saying was true, because of past experiences with women. I realize that people get burned in relationships, and almost everyone has encountered that evil partner who thinks that the only way to live life is by lying, cheating, and stealing. Their modus operandi is manipulation, and they will do whatever they need to do to get their way.

I have no patience for drama queens, of either gender, and manipulators. They give everyone a bad name, and it was always extremely frustrating to have my motives questioned. This happens in other arenas besides romantic relationships--years ago, I heard that some of my coworkers thought that I had some sort of plan, or hidden agenda. I actually laughed when I heard that, because believe me, I'm no Dr. Evil. I don't sit up at night and plot the next step in my great scheme to take over the world. Who wants to rule the world, anyway? The benefits are lousy, and the hours are worse. And the health care plan sucks.

It's not uncommon for manipulators to get their least for a while. But it's been my experience that deception really is a very tangled web, and the deeper you get, the harder it is to find your way out. Such behavior almost always comes back to bite you on the ass, and with each untruth there will eventually be a consequence. We may not be able to control the manipulator, but we can certainly control our response to them. Don't be drawn into their crazy little universe, where carrots are dangled and sticks are brandished. That is not the way of rational human beings, and if someone is treating you in such a manner, I advise you to run the other way and leave them to their idle threats and their misery.

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Have-Nots

I talk to my folks at least once a week, just to find out how they're doing, family news, etc. Of course, we usually end up talking about current affairs, and yesterday was no exception. When I was talking with Dad, after the requisite Notre Dame hoops discussion and a little talk of the "Octo-Mom" (Why does that always make me think of Doc Oc?) and her freaky lips, we ended up on the economy.

A lot of things with the economy and some of the criticisms of our new administration have been weighing on my mind lately, and it's always good to talk with Dad. There are some things that I don't think we'll ever agree on, and I usually end up saying, "You know I don't agree with you on that" and we move on. It's cool. In what was a major coup for me, yesterday Dad had to admit that President Clinton did some good things with welfare reform. *gasp* I know!

In watching the coverage of the C-PAC and various news stories, as well as things I've been reading on the Interwebs, what strikes me the most about the GOP and the conservative right is how incredibly cynical they've become. Whether it's that gasbag Limbaugh saying that he hopes Obama fails (and cut the spin, said it, and you meant it), Palin calling the Defenders of Wildlife a "fringe" group, or the continued denial of any culpability on their part for our current situation, the GOP seems like a bunch of grumpy old men.

I'm not unrealistic. As Dad and I were discussing yesterday, I realize that there will always be greed, and people who try to play the system. Even Dad agrees that a completely unfettered market is part of what got us into this mess and that there has to be some government oversight going forward. But while so many on the right seem to think the worst of humanity, I have always tried hard to see the best. It's not always easy, and there are times that I really have to work at it...but for the most part, I believe that if you raise the bar people will rise to meet and exceed it. I believe that the majority of people want to work; I believe that the majority of people love their country and want her to succeed; and I believe that the majority of people are willing to help their fellow citizens in a time of hardship.

Why is it so hard to believe that there are people out there that might have the greater good in mind and be willing to do their part, and more? And I believe they should. When Ken and I heard Mike Huckabee speak last fall, he spoke of his belief that a flat tax is what our country needs. That seems like a decent idea in theory, but it doesn't hold up because it ignores proportion. Look at it this way...say there's a flat tax of 25%. (I don't know the exact number that Huckabee proposes.) Someone making $2 million a year is going to have $1.5 million after taxes. The person making $20,000 a year will be left with $15,000. I don't know about you, but I could sure support a family a lot easier with one and a half mil than I could with $15 grand. The millionaire should pay more. That's not being penalized for working hard and being successful--it's realizing that you're in a better position than most and being willing to help your fellow citizens who are less fortunate. And for God's sake, you've still got one and half million in your bank account!

We have a long history of philanthropy in our country. Philanthropy doesn't need to be the domain of billionaires like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. We can all recognize that we are in dire straits in our country and if we are in the position to do so, we can do our part, even if it's a small one.

One final thing. Is it really necessary to ridicule President Obama's heritage and name by calling him things like Nobama and Obamessiah? Isn't that a tad bit junior high? Even as President Bush showed himself to be increasingly incompetent and dragged us all down into the quicksand with him, I still referred to him as President. (Although I have to admit that one of the funniest nicknames for him that I saw was The Evil Shrub.) Sorry, but if you keep calling our President "Obamalamadingdong" and continue to reference the "street monkeys" who voted for him, you've lost your non-racist cred with me.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Paging Kenneth!

Thanks to Jim at Skelligrants for the heads-up. As a fan of "30 Rock," I find this absolutely priceless!

Or how about the other way around?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A quickie

Rejected panhandler beats Gary woman with crucifix

Associated Press Report

GARY — Police say a Gary panhandler pulled out a crucifix and beat a woman passing by after she said she had no money to give.The passerby, 50-year-old Pamela Johnson of Gary, was treated at a hospital for a deep cut on her forehead.

Gary Police Cmdr. Richard Allen says Johnson told officers that she was walking to her car about 10 p.m. Saturday when an unidentified woman approached her. When Johnson told the panhandler she had no money, the woman produced a foot-long crucifix made of stone and started hitting Johnson over the head.

So far, no one has been arrested and the weapon has not been recovered.


First of all, I'm glad the woman is okay and wasn't seriously injured.

But all I could think of when I read this story was this:

The Power of Christ compels you! [whack]
The Power of Christ compels you! [whack]

A gold star to whoever knows what movie that is from. :)


Just a few odds and ends today.

A big thanks to Hollie over at Life in a Small Town for this award. Does anyone know Spanish? Maybe I shouldn't be thanking her! Ha ha! No, apparently it's the Look How Cool Blog Award, and I thank you very much, Hollie. As with other awards, I balk at choosing just a few on which to bestow this, so if I read you, I pass it on to you!

Ken and I have tickets for the Notre Dame game tonight (I think they're playing Rutgers), so let's see if they can win for us this time!

Over on Facebook, I mentioned seeing 47 turkeys in our back yard yesterday. I've seen a larger number at other times, but it's always fun to see a big flock like that. I saw at least 7 toms, so I'm sure we'll have some babies around here this spring and summer! Here is a portion of them--they filed off through the marsh after stopping for a drink at the pond. They are amazingly large birds! (Click the picture to enlarge. The picture, not the birds.)

Did everyone watch the speech last night? I thought President Obama did a good job, walking the fine line between optimism and scaring everyone to death. I think everyone needs to understand that a turnaround isn't going to happen overnight. I hate to say it, but I don't think we've hit bottom yet. Around here, it seems like every day brings an announcement of another place closing down, 50 more workers out of a job, etc. However, I agree with our President that we are not quitters. I believe there will be a recovery, and if we can all ride out this storm together--and help each other along the way--we'll be stronger and smarter. Or at least we'd better be smarter.

Wow, Bobby Jindal is getting slammed big time for his Republican response, from some of his fellow Republicans. (I'm watching CNN as I type.) As they just said on CNN, I don't think Jindal is in any position to be slamming the Democrats for running up the debt. What did your President do for the past 8 years, Governor?

Did you see Raaaaaahm afterwards? Lookin' good, Rahm!

I made jambalaya Monday night, using Harry Connick, Jr's recipe. It turned out great! I almost left out the ham, but I had some in the freezer, and followed the recipe pretty much as written. With the andouille, it had just enough spice for me (the cayenne pepper and Creole seasoning helped, too), although Ken added some Tabasco. And could someone please tell me why it's almost impossible to find andouille around here? The grocery store I go to used to have Aidell's (I had some in the freezer), but they don't have it now. I suppose you could use regular sausage, or maybe even chorizo, but it's just not the same. I love that smoky, spicy flavor. I need to find a new dealer source for andouille.

Harry Connick, Jr's Jambalaya

4 T butter (I used a combo of butter and olive oil)
1 1/2 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1 large green pepper, chopped
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs (I used turkey thighs), cut into 1/2-inch chunks
3 Tbs minced garlic
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp Creole seasoning
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 pound andouille sausage, sliced
2 15-ounce cans diced tomatoes
28 ounces chicken broth
2 1/2 cups long grain rice
1 cup chopped ham

In 6-quart Dutch oven (mine is a 5-quart, and it all fit), melt butter. Add onion, celery, and green pepper; cook till soft (about 6 minutes). Add chicken, garlic, and seasonings; cook 2 minutes. Add tomato paste, then sausage. Cook 2 minutes longer.

Add tomatoes with their juice, broth, rice, and ham. Heat to boiling on high. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook 20-30 minutes or till liquid is absorbed. This makes quite a bit, definitely enough for 2 meals for me and Ken, and maybe a lunch or two for him.

Very tasty! Thanks, Harry!

Speaking of food, as well as our local grocery store, they had some fish on sale that I investigated. It's called swai, or basa, and it's sort of an Asian catfish. I consulted my handy dandy fish guide that Kim and Steve sent from the Monterey Aquarium. It lists sustainable fish and recommends the best, some good alternatives, and ones to avoid because they aren't harvested in a sustainable manner. I was happy to see that farmed basa was on the good alternative list, so I picked up a couple of packages. Since I read that it was similar to catfish, I dipped it in some Zatarain's Fish Fry and fried it in a little oil. Very good, mild fish flavor. And like I do with fried catfish, I put a little Tabasco on mine, which really surprised Ken because I'm not usually a spice girl. (Ha!) I have no idea why I do that--I think it must be something I picked up in Florida from my relatives when we used to have fish frys all the time.

I hadn't been buying fish for a while, because it seemed like almost everything I looked at was on the "avoid" list. I was happy to find a good fish to buy besides tilapia (US farmed), and I might go back and pick up some more. I think next time I'll just fry it sans Fish Fry coating, in a little butter. I really would like us to eat more fish.

And why sustainable, you ask? If you didn't ask, I'll tell you anyway. It's the whole environmental, planning-for-the-future thing. You can't just fish a species into extinction; you have to protect the ecosystem and preserve all species in order to maintain a healthy ecosystem, as well as protecting the fishing industry and those who make their living in that way. Visit the Aquarium's Seafood Watch site, and click on "Seafood Guides" to find information about various types of fish. You can also print a pocket guide like Kim and Steve sent to us--I carry mine in my purse. Fish is good for you--let's be good to the fish, too.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Don't make me come over there!

Melissa over at Just Another Day In Paradise wrote an entry today about the show "What Would You Do?"

While I'm not familiar with that show, I've seen similar segments on some news show ("Dateline" maybe?). The premise is that they stage scenarios involving sticky situations--a couple fighting, people vandalizing others' property, racist behavior--and see what passersby do. Do they ignore the situation, or do they get involved, and if so, how far do they go to stop the bad behavior?

It's a fascinating study, and very thought-provoking. I remember when Ken and I watched the news show, we had a good discussion about it, and I hope the show that Melissa referenced is making people think about how they would react when faced with such a situation.

Like Melissa, I dislike confrontation. I will always try to find a peaceful way to deal with things, and if that sometimes means walking away, I will do so, at least when it comes to personal confrontations. If you want to get in my face and scream at me, you're wasting your time, because that doesn't accomplish anything, and I will walk away and leave you to your own anger. I won't be drawn into it. This fish ain't bitin'.

However, I dislike bullying and injustice even more when it is done to others, and I can't sit back and watch it done to someone. As a single woman, I wasn't always like that, and although I don't recall any situations where I could have or should have stepped in, I would have been very hesitant to do so. At 5 feet nothing, I'm not exactly an imposing figure, and I was very self-protective. Getting together with Ken changed all that. Not only does he never hesitate to step in if needed, he's a pretty big guy and I know he'll have my back if I step in first.

It's a fine line. We all have to be careful, and we don't want to end up as casualties of a situation that quickly becomes volatile. But if we see something that strikes us wrong, shouldn't we speak up? Whether it's a parent harming a child, a guy roughing up his girlfriend or wife, someone shouting racial epithets, or a proprietor telling someone wearing a head scarf to get out of their store because they look like terrorists, it is up to us as ordinary citizens to step up and say, "This has to stop." Ordinary citizens can sometimes be everyday heroes, and it's within our power to call people out on their behavior. If we feel it's too dangerous to get involved, call the police. We can make a difference. I believe that change begins with us as individuals.

And just to let you know, don't let Ken and I catch you if you're up to no good. The Nutwood Justice League is en garde.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Spoiled rotten

Ken and I aren't really into watching the Academy Awards, although I did enjoy looking at some of the pictures of the dresses this morning. There were some that were beautiful and worn very well, but just as many that were a train wreck. The lesson we can learn from this is that being an actor is no guarantee of sartorial good sense! And bravo to Sean Penn for his comments about protesters outside the theater holding anti-gay signs:

"I'd tell them to turn in their hate card and find their better self," Penn said. "I think that these are largely taught limitations and ignorances, this kind of thing. It's really sad in a way, because it's a demonstration of such cowardice, emotional cowardice, to be so afraid of extending the same rights to your fellow man as you'd want for yourself."

Nicely said, Sean.

Anyhoo, instead of watching the show, we settled in to watch a movie, one from the stacks. We generally lean towards sheer entertainment, whether horror, action, or comedy. We went serious this time, and watched "Blood Diamond" with Leonardo DiCaprio. Yes, it's from 2006, and yes, we get really behind on our movies. We hope to watch "Slumdog Millionaire" by 2011!

Wow, I loved it, and thought it was very well done. But it was so disturbing and made me so angry to see the killings and horror that take place every day in our world. We complain about our politicians, the economy, our jobs, the weather, the price of gasoline and groceries. These are not invalid, because this is our world as we know it, and it's becoming a struggle for way too many. But most of us have a roof over our heads, and we're not starving. We also don't have to deal with armed soldiers coming into our towns and raping the women and girls, then shooting everyone down in the street. We don't watch as grenades are thrown at our Main Street businesses, or as missiles are launched at apartment buildings. We generally don't have to worry about being shot in the head as we go about our daily business, or wonder if we'll be able to drive to the next town over without being accosted by soldiers. And we don't have to sit back, helpless, as soldiers tear our families apart and take our children to be brainwashed and indoctrinated into a life of murder and bloodshed.

A few years ago at the lab, one of our students was from Rwanda. I liked Eugene immediately, and he was one of my favorite students. As he began to understand the workup of cultures, the pathway we take to identify organisms, I could tell that he was really excited about it. I'll never forget his big smile as he said to me, "I am learning! I am really learning!" (Those were the moments I loved.) Eugene went on to become an employee, and he is one of the kindest, gentlest, sweetest people I've ever known. (If any of my former coworkers are reading this, please give Eugene a hug from me, okay?) When I learned that much of Eugene's family was slaughtered in the Rwanda genocide, it hit me so was this great guy who had the most beautiful smile, and used it often, despite the horrors he had gone through.

As a society in general, we are very spoiled. We bitch because we can't afford our daily latte, or because we can't swing our usual movie night because it costs $50 to load up on all that yummy movie theater junk food. I'm not intending to come across as holier-than-thou, because I'm as big a consumer as anyone else. But I do try to remember how fortunate I am that I was born where I was and to have had the opportunities that I've been given.

There are obviously those in our society who we are letting fall through the cracks, and it has to stop. Everyone deserves a chance. Eugene was able to come here and get his degree, and he and his wife are raising their boys here. Who knows what he would have faced if he'd stayed in Rwanda? People want to come here for a reason. There is hope here, a knowledge that we can do whatever we set out to do. Or at least there used to be. We seemed to have lost it for a while, but maybe we're getting a little bit of it back. After all, the son of an African immigrant can become President. It's true!

If anyone thinks that we should become more isolationist and focus on our own problems rather than anyone else's, I can understand why you might feel that way. After all, we've got plenty of work to do in our own country. However, I disagree. We definitely need to TCB here at home, but President Obama spoke of America once again being a beacon of hope to those around the world, and I believe we need to get back to that. The last resort of intervention should be military force; our greatest achievements in diplomacy can come with humanitarian aid. Many people think nothing of paying $4 for a coffee or a few bucks for a big fat apple fritter (that one was for you, Marty!). Why is it so hard to give $10 for a mosquito net that could save an African family from succumbing to malaria? I believe it is our moral obligation as human beings to help our fellow man, whether it's here at home or halfway around the world.

I feel like I'm all over the place with this entry, but I hope I'm making at least a little bit of sense. It's so easy to sit here in our complacency and forget about what is happening in other places. We cannot afford to become an isolationist country. While I don't want us to become the world's police force, either, we do have a duty to lead and provide aid along with our friends and allies. We are the haves. We should help the have-nots. Seems pretty simple to me.

I know this is getting long, but one of the things that really got to me in "Blood Diamond" was the young boy that was taken away from his father, brainwashed (including the use of drugs), and forced to fight. It made me think of Sting's song "Children's Crusade." While that song is about WWI, I think it works for anyone who is appalled to see young people cut down in the bloom of youth, sacrificing themselves for war. Lyrics first, then video.

Children's Crusade

Young men, soldiers, Nineteen Fourteen
Marching through countries they'd never seen
Virgins with rifles, a game of charades
All for a Children's Crusade

Pawns in the game are not victims of chance
Strewn on the fields of Belgium and France
Poppies for young men, death's bitter trade
All of those young lives betrayed

The children of England would never be slaves
They're trapped on the wire and dying in waves
The flower of England face down in the mud
And stained in the blood of a whole generation

Corpulent generals safe behind lines
History's lessons drowned in red wine
Poppies for young men, death's bitter trade
All of those young lives betrayed
All for a Children's Crusade

The children of England would never be slaves
They're trapped on the wire and dying in waves
The flower of England face down in the mud
And stained in the blood of a whole generation

Midnight in Soho, Nineteen Eighty-four
Fixing in doorways, opium slaves
Poppies for young men, such bitter trade
All of those young lives betrayed
All for a Children's Crusade

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Necessity is the mother of invention

At least that's what I hear Frank Zappa always said.

We're being sort of healthy here tonight and having a big salad with tuna on it. When we eat this, I like French dressing on it. Wouldn't you know it, I had no French dressing downstairs in the pantry! Professor Precise Arrow leapt into action and quickly found a recipe for homemade dressing online.

French Salad Dressing

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil (I used peanut oil)
1 cup ketchup
3/4 cup sugar (I used 1/2 cup, because most people commented that it was a little overly sweet)
1/2 cup vinegar (I used cider vinegar)
1 small onion, chopped (Mellow Beth didn't feel like chopping, so she used 1 tsp onion powder)
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp salt (I omitted this...jeez, how much salt does ketchup have in it??)

Blend in food processor or blender.

My whisk and a little elbow grease worked just fine, and I have to say, this is some mighty tasty stuff! Ken liked it, too. As I whisked it together, it got nice and thick, and it's chillin' in the fridge. I've always meant to make some French dressing from scratch, and I'm glad I was forced into it tonight. I think I just might have to start making more dressing from scratch, because the flavor is very good.

Mellow me

Last night this morning I stayed up until 5 AM. I knew that Ken and I would both be sleeping late today, and once I got my second wind, I probably could have stayed up until he got home. But I really was getting sleepy by that time, and headed off to bed. I suppose I got about 6 hours of sleep, so I know I'll sleep well tonight! If I can manage to get to bed before I hit my second wind, that is....

Believe it or not, I don't feel very wordy today. *gasp* I know! Nothing has pissed me off, no one has gotten under my skin, and it just seems a little too cold and snowy to get all "het up" about much of anything today. Tomorrow may be another day, but for now I'll just enjoy my mellow-to-the-point-of-coma state.

For those of you that read my Facebook stuff, I was finally able to get decent results with burning a couple of CDs, after getting quite irritated. This is the cover of the CD I made for me and Shane. I found the picture on the Godfathers website, and I added the text. I like it! In doing a little more online research for programs, I find that the preinstalled program on the desktop downstairs (NTI, I think) is supposed to be a very good one, so I think I need to give that one another try.

I doubt if we'll watch much of the Academy Awards tonight. I can't remember the last time I watched the whole thing. I'll read about the winners tomorrow, and I'm sure there will be plenty of pictures online of the dresses. That'll be good enough for me.

Man, I'm almost too mellow. Kind of scary, isn't it? Like waiting for the other shoe to fall. I need to find myself some righteous indignation tomorrow. But not tonight.

Reasons I love "Road House"

Let me count the ways:

1) The guy from "Emergency" is in it (Kevin Tighe, not Randolph Mantooth).
B) The name of the club is the Double Deuce, a really cool name.
3) The Double Deuce is frequented by over-the-top, booze-swillin' rednecks and slutty babes who dance on the tables.
4) Dalton has no other name...just Dalton.
F) He has a degree in Philosophy but works as a cooler.
8) The line "It's my way or the highway."
C) Dalton is kind of a pacifist and fights only when provoked.
E) He gets provoked a lot in this movie.
'Leventy-'leven) The pretty blonde doctor staples his chest, hoping that hers will be stapled to it later.
$) She gets her wish, in a big way.
~) Even though everyone keeps telling Dalton "I thought you'd be bigger."
12) Ben Gazzara plays Brad, the bad guy, who turns out to be not just bad, but psychotic.
Ö) A grizzled Sam Elliott plays Wade, a legendary cooler, a rough-looking biker dude with a heart of gold.
¿) When Wade first arrives at the club, he calls it the Double Douche.
Æ) The look in Dalton's eyes when...well, what happens to Wade happens.
£) Jeff Healey (R.I.P.)
¶) Dalton doing Tai chi in nothing but a pair of sweat pants.
§) Brad's slutty girlfriend does a striptease. Dalton gets her off the stage and tells Brad, "If you're gonna have a pet, keep it on a leash."
µ) The great fight scene between Dalton and the main henchman. Roundhouse kicks! Five finger death punch!
Ø) The final showdown between Dalton and Brad and his gang. Knives are thrown! Spears are chucked! Polar bears are toppled!
¥) Dalton and the townspeople prevail; Dalton and the doc go skinnydipping.
Ü) And last but not least, Patrick Swayze ass. (Is it real, or body double ass? I think it's real.)