|random thoughts and thoroughbred selections|
|"All life is 6-5 against" - Damon Runyon|
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Various Emails I've Sent Lately
To a newly married friend of mine who asked me for recipes...
Jules, I don't have recipes, but I've got 20 tips (and five kind-of recipes) I can offer.
1) The most useful thing in my kitchen is my Le Creuset enameled cast iron French oven (same thing as a Dutch oven). It's a little expensive ($235 here), but you can do anything from boiling pasta to frying chicken to braising pork ribs in it. I use mine something like three to five times a week, and wouldn't know what to do without it.
2) An inexpensive rice cooker ($20 at any Target or Meijer) is an awesomely easy way to handle leftover meat and vegetables. I'll put a rice cooker "recipe" down in the "recipe" section, but if I told you that you could put together a tasty meal in five minutes, let it cook for thirty without touching it, and have only one pot (and maybe a cutting board) to clean up, wouldn't you jump at this as an easy solution twice a week?
3) Ziploc bags in quart and gallon size with the sliding lock across the top are essential. I go through a half dozen quart bags and one or two gallon bags a week. More on these in a bit.
4) If you have metal kitchen tools (spatula, whisk, etc), always have a plastic or wooden equivalent to that same tool. Since you shouldn't ever use metal on a non-stick surface, remove temptation and have the right tool at hand for the job.
5) Speaking of non-stick, you can actually get away with a hot water rinse followed by a wipe clean rather than putting them in the dishwasher. Dishwashers can damage teflon and enamel, so always read up on what you're cleaning.
6) The Ziploc bags are huge for me. I use them for everything from freezing raw meat to storing leftovers. They take up a ton less space than a foil-covered plate in the fridge, plus you can just reheat the food right in the bag (which makes your dishes easier to clean after eating the reheated food).
7) Even if you have a dishwasher, if you're going to be dirtying a half dozen dishes or more with your cooking and you're going to be in the kitchen anyway, fill the sink up with hot soapy water and do dishes as you go. Don't save them for later, they're way harder to clean and you'll hate yourself for it anyway.
8) Vegetable peelers are excellent for shaving cheese off a block. You should keep a wedge of Parmagiano-Reggiano around (the awful Americanized version is called "Parmesan," look for real Italian stuff that's still in wedge form), because it makes just about any meat or pasta dish taste 25% better instantly.
9) Find somewhere that sells "plain" couscous in a large-ish container. This stuff takes about six minutes to make, soaks up flavor really nicely, and is about the quickest and easiest starch you can possibly put on your plate.
10) Always have multiple cutting boards handy, and make sure nothing that's touched raw chicken (your hands, the knife, the counter, the cutting board) touches anything else you end up chopping.
11) Buy a small peppermill and use only freshly ground black pepper in your cooking. Makes a ton of difference that you'll notice immediately.
12) Keep at least two different types of oils around. Olive oil is excellent for medium-heat saute and baking, while peanut/canola/vegetable has a higher smokepoint, and won't skunk out at higher temperatures.
13) Always have a few of those small paper cartons of chicken and beef STOCK on hand. Not broth, stock. It tastes a ton better than broth (let alone a bouillion cube), and it's really useful to thin out tomato sauce or to add to your rice cooker.
14) Buy meat in family packs, whatever's on sale. Bag meal/two meal sized portions and freeze. Think far enough in advance to always be pulling a packet of meat out of the freezer every third day or so (to your refrigerator, not the counter), giving it time to thaw and giving you time to use the stuff that's been thawing three days already.
15) Learn the joys of slow-cooking using liquid. Stuff like braising and stewing lets you use much much cheaper cuts of meat (pork "country ribs" or bone-in chicken) and gives you meals that are far more flavorful anyway.
16) In order to get your meat in a stir fry to taste like the stuff you get at Chinese restaurants, dip the cubed raw meat in beaten egg splashed with soy sauce, then coat in corn starch and fry in peanut oil (or any high smokepoint oil) in med-hi to high heat. Take the meat out and reserve on a plate covered with a paper towel while you stirfry the vegetables and sauce. Toss the meat in near the end just to coat with sauce and reheat.
17) For couscous, make a portion as per the back of the box, using chicken stock instead of water. Add salt and pepper to the water before it boils, follow instructions until "done." Add some grated parmesan cheese and garlic powder before you fluff it with a fork and you've got Garlic Parmesan Couscous in six minutes flat.
18) Let's say you've got two half chicken breasts baked and left over from the night before. Chop them up, add them to your rice maker. As per instructions on the rice maker, put in the ingredients for two portions of either white or brown rice (I like brown) substituting chicken stock for the water. Add the same spices to the water that you had put on the chicken (say, rosemary and thyme), along with salt, pepper, and a pat of butter. Add a handful of frozen vegetables right out of the freezer bag, press the button and walk away. 30 minutes later, DINNER.
19) Braised Pork: Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Brown a pound of salted/peppered pork country ribs on all sides in olive oil on med/med-hi heat in a Dutch oven. Remove from pot and set aside. Add a chopped onion, four or five cloves of chopped (never pressed, never minced, always fresh) garlic, salt and pepper, and saute for five min or so. Cut three or four good sized carrots and stalks of celery into big pieces (they're going to essentially cook away, they can be fairly big) and add to the pot, coating with oil and getting them hot for another five min. Keep track of the heat so that you're not browning the onion or garlic. Salt and pepper.
Add two cups of dry red wine. As it's boiling, scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the pot with your wooden spoon or plastic spatula. Give it three minutes of solid boil. Add a big can of tomatoes (crushed or whole, whatever), salt, pepper, oregano, basil, rosemary and thyme. Go easy on the spices, this will cook down some. Break up the tomatoes if whole. Let cook for a few minutes, just to get hot. Return ribs to the pot, cover, put in the oven.
Let it cook for two to four hours, turning every 45 min or so until the meat's fall-apart tender. EAT.
20) Want to impress the family with a dinner that offers an easy cooking job with a high perceived level of difficulty? Use this prime rib recipe:
Go to Gordon Food Service and buy Au Jus concentrate and prepare a nice sized pot to go with this stuff. Now, this prime rib WILL COME OUT OF THE OVEN MEDIUM/MEDIUM RARE. There will invariably be people who are still cavemen or something that want their prime rib well done. What you do is get a frying pan hot, ladle some Au Jus into the frying pan, then add the slice of medium rare prime rib, turning it once or twice until it cooks up to the right temperature.
Point is, don't ruin a perfectly awesome medium rare roast by cooking the whole damn thing all the way through. I've used this recipe personally about four or five times, and it's idiot-proof, I promise.
No offense. ;)
To Human Head, with whom I have a great deal in common politically, but maybe not economically. Here's my uber-simplistic and lazy economic analysis of why manufacturing jobs are going to Mexico and China:
"I'm curious why you think the flight of manufacturing (overseas/Mexico) was inevitable..."
I'm going to give a really lazy answer, simply because I don't have enough depth in the enactments and ramifications of trade policy over the last twenty years or so to really find new ground to tread on this topic.
What I really think about this issue is simple. As the world becomes more connected and access to information spreads, trade becomes easier between countries. Period. I don't think that any despicable shadow cabal is trying to run America's lower class out of the country* or put us on a path to reduce our global stature to the same level as Uzbekistan. I think it's obvious and apparent that if McDonald's can sell McNuggets to China, McDonald's is going to sell McNuggets to China. And India, and Russia, etc...
*Just so we're clear, neither does Jeremiah.
So if it's essentially a given that manufactured products are no longer shipped just cross-country but cross-ocean as well, the marketplace that a specific corporation serves is no longer simply contained in our country's borders. And if that corporation figures out that they can make a million units a month in Taipei and ship 500,000 units back to the US at a cheaper per-unit cost than if they make 500,000 in Taipei and 500,000 in Jackson, Mississippi, chances are good they're going to house production where it's most profitable to do so.
This is an inevitable consequence of being a multi-national company, and I for one subscribe to quite a bit of the Republican platform when it comes to handling big business while considering the future of our economy.
Basically, companies should be encouraged to do what is profitable, so long as they are also encouraged to reinvest in themselves to increase their agility over the long-term. If saving 60% on blue collar labor by opening a plant in Juarez means you're able to plow (some portion of) those 60% savings back into your organization's R&D budget, bringing more engineers aboard who can help keep American corporations on the forefront of industrial development, then I'm all for that.
Now, the counterarguments to this thought are as follows:
-- Won't that essentially disenfranchise the lower class? Yes, unfortunately. But we're probably the only nation on the planet whose lower class do not live in abject squalor (largely). I'd wager a hundred dollars that America's lower class has, on average, access to more than fifty times the number of channels of television than any other country's lower class has. I'm not saying their priorities are messed up by pointing this out, I'm saying that this sort of lifestyle for laborers in any society in a global marketplace is probably not at all sustainable. I don't know how to "fix it" so that our lower class still has Direct TV and money for NASCAR merchandise as manufacturing jobs become more and more scarce, and I don't know if it's a problem that can be fixed anyway.
-- But aren't companies being disingenuous about their profiteering? Oil companies/highest profit declarations of all time, CEO pay is off the charts historically, Enron, etc...? Yes, but perspective is necessary on both sides of this argument. Corporate stewardship is an enormous obligation, and we need our government to either incentivize good behavior or seriously criminalize bad behavior. But ultimately it's a Darwinian environment in the corporate world, and if behavior isn't sustainable or desireable to the shareholders, continuation of such behaviors becomes nearly impossible. That's why these things are happening and why "nothing is being done" about them, despite sensationalist news stories and anti-corporate hand wringing. I truly believe most companies are working hard to understand how the marketplace is evolving and where and how they're going to develop their core competencies to be a successful player in that market. My example in my last email of Big Telecom fits this, in that they've got an enormous infrastructure of wires built, and they have every incentive in the world to keep that infrastructure viable and necessary for the future of communications. Therefore, their behavior is focused to some extent on that, and some extent on how they're going to thrive in a world when the wires come down off the towers. They need to plow a lot of their current profitability back into the company to fund teams of engineers to assess and address these issues. Frankly, it's good for our country if Big Telecom evolves and grows into their roles, so long as they have some focus that doesn't involve keeping an antiquated system alive.
-- Isn't sending manufacturing to third world countries an exploitation of the citizens of those countries? Sure, but they've created the marketplace for it. Look, even if General Motors got China to clear-cut a thousand acres of pristine wilderness to build a plant, even if GM got China to agree on levels of pollution from the plant that wouldn't be acceptable in Detroit, even if GM is paying fourteen year-old Yang forty cents a day to spot weld door frame assemblies, how is any of this stuff we should try to fix? Chinese need cars, at least it's an American company building them. If we're polluting Chinese air, that's their own problem. And Yang? He probably couldn't make a fraction of that forty cents a day to do anything else. This is probably a significant step up for him. It is what it is, we go where the markets give us incentive to go.
I'm not one of those people who believe Big Business is Inherently Evil. I believe, as any reasonable person should, that Big Business exerts undue influence in the political sphere because, simply put, money equals attention in that world. But I generally believe any business just wants to deliver products and/or services in the most profitable and efficient way they can. I believe we all benefit because Jim Perdue runs chicken farms with economies of scale and an eye towards getting fresh product on the shelves as quickly as possible. PETA might not like it, but they're vastly outnumbered by people who don't want to pay nine dollars a pound for chicken breast. Companies can do evil things, and the public needs to know about these things, but as long as we keep voting with our wallets this marketplace is survival of the fittest where there's fierce competition for our money. Now that competition is global. Companies had to respond, and are changing their structures to accommodate.
And that's why I think manufacturing moving to Mexico and overseas was damn near inevitable.
I had a bug up my ass last week about that fake Lincoln quote, so I thought I'd find one outlet online who had used the quote, write that outlet, and get them to issue a retraction:
Regarding your reprint of your Queens Village Eagle article on Democracy Project (http://www.democracy-project.com/archives/003041.html), you have quoted Abraham Lincoln in the following context:
When Lincoln was elected to the presidency, the Southern states seceded and the nation was plunged into Civil War. As Commander-in-Chief he led the divided union through the war and ultimately united the nation based on the just cause of equality for all and emancipation of the slaves. He stood valiantly against any party or foe that would undermine this righteous cause saying: "Congressmen who willfully take actions during wartime that damage morale and undermine the military are saboteurs and should be arrested, exiled, or hanged."
The quote that closes that paragraph is erroneously attributed to President Lincoln. Evidence of such may be found here: http://www.factcheck.org/article415.html
Would you please edit your article or issue a correction to address this error?
Thank you for reading my email.
Best to you and your organization's efforts,
[My Real Name]
[My City and State]
He did issue a retraction on the main page of the blog, although he (unsurprisingly, considering the other content on the site) maintains that he agrees with the sentiment. Also, he did not pull the quote from the article in question, nor did he change the text to note that the quotation is erroneous on that page. So, after he wrote me back to graciously accept my request to correct the quote, I had the following exchange with Human Head:
HH to Me:
Good to see, but I still want to start kicking some stuff as the attitude of "Okay, I was wrong, but I'm still not wrong..." stands out in the retraction, which by all rights should have prompted some sort of thoughtful reevaluation of the shrill blanket treason accusations for everyone not jumping on the terror bandwagon.
Again, NH sir.
Agreed... but I'm thinking the lack of irony they must feel in advocating stuff like this on a website called "The Democracy Project" probably means I'm going to take a little victory rather than feel dirty fighting an unwinnable war.
Monday, February 19, 2007
Buy One, Get One Free
"I think youíve been in a couple of my dreams, but I canít remember what they were about."
"Nachos. I was probably just making nachos. I do that a lot."
I told a friend this week he should have paid money to hate-fuck a hooker. He laughed, yet didn't comment on the quality of my argument.
I think he might have been mulling it over.
What? It wasn't a terrible idea.
It's Monday, and I've already had to refer to someone today as "Mr. Panda." This would be without sarcasm or irony. It is, however, better than having to work with a man with the grotesque last name of "Pusty." It makes me yearn for the days of yore where the tired and weary clerks at Ellis gave a reacharound to one's ethnicity at the door.
Although, I think for comedy's sake they would have left Mr. Panda to his own devices.
Having boarded over fifty individual flights in the last calendar year, I consider myself lucky that my longest delay was less than the run-time of Godfather II. Despite it having been years since I was truly inconvenienced*, with all the talk about a "Passengers' Bill of Rights" here's what I'd want to see in play if I had any sort of legislative authority:
1) If your flight is delayed by more than four hours and you're on the first leg of your trip, you may opt out of your ticket for an unquestioned and full cash refund on the spot.
2) If you pass three hours on the tarmac without taking off or finding a gate, you will be deplaned by the beginning of hour four
3) By the end of 2007 there shall be one AC power adapter for each seat on the plane.
4) All consumer electronics that DO NOT receive or transmit radio waves (e.g., iPods) will have an FCC stamp on the back that can be flashed to any stewardess to let her know she can get off your ass and let you listen to your music while the plane is taxiing around the airport.
5) 50% of all available flights will be off-limits to both carry-on pets and children under 13 years of age.
*First inconvenience was getting stuck in St. Louis with $3 in my pocket and no cigarettes for over eleven hours when I was 19 years old. Apparently, a tornado took out a radar in Kansas City, and the whole midwest corridor shut down. I actually tried to pick up a girl in the airport, but picked a Jesus freak who was thrilled to tell me about the missionary work her church was doing down in El Salvador or some such. The second was a two-hour on-the-tarmac situation out of La Guardia when I was 20. I hadn't showered for a week (filthy fucking accommodations in NYC), and all these hot girls off spring break filled the seats within three rows in any direction. I could smell me, it was that bad. Naturally we get stuck on the runway, ten minutes turns into an hour, and I actually have to threaten to pee myself to get the stewardess to let me hit the can. Fuck.
So I've got a second interview for a job in New Jersey on Wednesday. I'm good at what I do and semi-articulate, so if I don't get an offer it's entirely their loss. I get this feeling though that they're going to play games with me when it comes to money, seeing as I'm currently underpaid by about $15K. I'm not leaving my company for anything under a $17K bump, so we'll see what comes of all of this.
Plus, you know, it's Jersey.
My dog, who is freaked out that my office chair rolls and spins:
Not a great video, just wanted to see how shitty my shitty camera's videos would look via YouTube and Google Video. The answer? Shitty.
Actual Allentown law firm: Fitzpatrick, Lentz and Bubba.
Not-so-veiled blind item: If you were to Google the name (in quotes) of the member of our community whose fame runs probably only second to Wil's in real life, look for the MySpace page on the first page of results. I'm sure it's a minority opinion, I've seen how the counter girls at his local McDonald's swoon firsthand.
I'm enjoying the little pieces here and there I'm seeing where the debate is whether or not Mitt Romney, a Mormon, is a Christian.
From Lizard Breath, via Atrios, a statement with which I wholeheartedly agree:
There are social/political advantages to being a Christian in the US -- it's the normal, ordinary thing to be, and it means you're a traditional, decent person with family values. I think this kind of sucks. I'd like to live in a society without pressure to conform religiously, and so I'm all hardline about the separation of church and state because I don't want any additional pressure to conform religiously to come from the government./end politics for today.
Dumbest thing I saw all weekend: Referees going to the instant replay monitors to see if they got the call in the NBA/WNBA/NBA Legends "Shooting Stars" competition correct.
Saw a couple of clips from that new FoxNews answer to The Daily Show, and wasn't impressed. I know a lot of people are dissecting why TDS works and this effort (after two Internet clips and one or two shows) is seemingly "not," but I think it could get there. Could. Likely won't.
I mean, there's this fake commercial for the ACLU where the actor in the spot talks about how he's responsible for allowing Nazi Aryans to march in Skokie, Illinois.
"They won... WE won. We're the ACLU." He says, referring to their court case.
Why is that funny? I thought protecting the free speech of everyone, no matter how abhorrent their speech was a good thing?
There's a difference between "Don't You Agree With Me" humor and the type of stuff that turns convention on its head. In this case, we have the former. If they can manage to craft thirty minutes a week (I think that's all it runs, I could be wrong) that doesn't construct strawmen or tell half-truths in the interest of fostering a sense of complicit agreement with the intended audience, they may find their stride.
I'm not betting on it though.
This New Jersey job is with a company that's an industry leader in my segment of the market. Oddly, their HR lady said they don't pay relocation. I can't quite figure out how they expect that to work when it comes to finding good talent, but far be it from me to question a supposed leader in the people management industry.
Seen in the breezeway in my building at work: "CAUTION: WET CARPET."
Because nothing is scarier than moistened berber.
Willing to trade: $50 in cash at Full Tilt Poker for your best offer. iTunes store credit/gift certs are a good bargaining chip. Liquor cannot be shipped to Pennsylvania, so keep that in mind. Please comment below or email me with your offer.
Saw Breach this weekend. I give it seven-and-a-half stars. Would have been more enjoyable with wet-blanket wife-of-Ryan-Phillippe as either a counter-intelligence espionage ninja, or possibly naked.
Need an expert opinion though: When Ryan Phillippe, who plays a lapsed Jesuit Catholic in the movie, enters a church for mass, he makes the sign of the cross incorrectly (head / left shoulder / right shoulder / chest). Then again, I'm a former Roman Catholic, and there's assumedly plenty I don't know about Jesuit tradition. Was this a movie mistake, or do Jesuits make the sign differently from Roman Catholics?
Dumbest thing I've seen since waking up this morning: Norv Turner to coach the Chargers.
Because, you know, 49-59-1 with the Redskins sounds like a get-us-to-the-Super-Bowl type of coach to me.
Best text message I've received in the last two weeks (paraphrased, but I got the details correct):
"My sis said that they made her lift her top in the Deal or No Deal audition to make sure she wasn't padding them."
Second best, if only for its lack of sense and logic:
"Tim McGraw's brother is with us. I think you'd get along with him because of that."
Not only have I paid for a haircut for the first time in ten plus years, I actually have to pay for another here shortly. My hair grew in just fine, and I actually kinda like having it around again. Except for the part where I can't wear hats without reprecussions. That part I miss.
How to make your Chinese food taste like restaurant Chinese food:
Cube your meat, wash it in an egg wash with soy sauce, coat in corn starch. Fry. Set aside. Toss in at the end with the vegetables and sauce.
I could have went to the pig stomach dinner the local Lions Club threw on Saturday. Pig stomach is, as you'd expect, pork haggis, and is also known by the German term "siemaage." I thought about going, but refuse to support the Lions Club until Matt Millen is deposed from power.
Also, the German term sounds too much like, "seepage" for me to think appetizing thoughts.
Been on a huge "The Band" kick lately. So much so that Matty (and did you get your Chow Gang merchandise yet?) and I were comparing notes on how many times we've seen The Last Waltz. He thinks it may have passed Lebowski for him, while I'm pretty sure I've still seen She's All That more times than I can count.
Robbie Robertson's a douchebag, by the way. The film bears that out. Still wrote some pretty nifty songs though.
HuffPo headline this afternoon: Deepak Chopra: Why Evolutionary Biology Embraces the Bogus.
Alternate headline: Deepak Chopra: My Bullshit Bite-Sized Spirituality Fits Your Busy Soccer Mom Lifestyle. Please Buy My Books.
That last one wasn't politics, I swear.
I had mentioned before that I was awarded the My-Job-Title Person-Of-The-Year award, but didn't know until last week that I was sharing it with someone else. I was still bitter when my boss called to officially tell me the good news, and when he mentioned that another person was also given the award, I said:
"Well, it must be to her credit then that she was able to keep up with me."
Then, of course, I spent the next fifteen minutes trying to reel that back into my mouth. Fantastic.
From my local paper this week:
Man Missing For Twelve Years Surfaces:
"In the earlier disappearance, he also told his wife he was going for coffee. His abandoned truck was found weeks later in Ohio, and Van Tassel was found 72 days later at a homeless shelter in Iowa.To the one person who ragged on my concept for my aborted NaNo novel, nyah-nyah-nyah nyah NYAH nyah.
Went wine shopping in New Jersey this weekend, where selection and case discounts both exist. Thanks PA State-Run Monopoly! Came out of the weekend with nearly two cases of wine, nearly all of which were at the $10/bottle mark.
Hey, whatever keeps me from buying another box of Delicato Shiraz is money well spent. No kidding.
As soon as I get my thoughts together on the issue, I'm going to write a post for Up For Sports that says the Lions should go WR in the first round of the draft.
No kidding too.
Lastly, I've been seeing a lot of my friends going through turbulent relationship times and some fairly traumatic breakups over the past year. I'm hoping that if there is such a thing as karma, that not only will everyone come out of this alright, but those of my friends in new relationships (those Luckboxes know who they are) will have the balance of positive energy coming their way.
One can only hope.
Take care of yourselves out there.
Bill Simmons @ ESPN
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