Wednesday, March 31, 2010

social contract

So, let's just get this out of the way right now before we go any further. I'm pretty much Hobbesian in my view of man and society, even though I'd like to ascribe to be more Locke-ian. The basic argument between the two (for the purposes of this post, and not, say, an exhaustive compare/contrast research paper on the two) is that Hobbes believed that without the social contract man would exist in a state of nature that was "nasty, brutish, and short" whereas Locke believed that "human nature is characterized by reason and tolerance."

Traditional views of the social contract posit that we give up certain liberties and freedoms in order to live in civilized society.... Basically, you give up the right to murder people and take their bacon with the understanding that other people won't murder you and take your bacon.

Anyways. That's all fine well and good, but in today's society, I think, (I swear I'm getting to the funny bit, just stick with me) we're not really in danger of people murdering us to steal our bacon, for the most part. I mean, most people will go to the grocery store and buy their own bacon without having to deal with the messy murder part.

Personally, I think there's a new social contract theory that's operating. It's the one that says something along the lines of "I will not point out how utterly pointless my daily tasks are. I will not get irritated when my coworkers use buzz words. I will attend meetings that suck my soul out through powerpoint presentations. And I will do all of this in exchange for my paycheck, which, while not what I am worth, still allows me to buy bacon."

Because today the concern is less that I will be attacked by Indians who wish to do me harm, than it is I will be nagged into apathy and suddenly snap one day when they take my stapler.

They really oughta put this sort of thing in the employee manual, or at the very least, make you sign it when you're doing all the hiring paperwork. I think it would really drive home what you're getting into before it's too late.

shout out

So, blog shout out to: Burghilicious for not only catching the reference with my blog handle, but for potentially venturing out to sample one of my favorite restaurants.

I think I'd like to start doing "other blog" shout-outs from time to time on local blogs that I think deserve a read. And since Pittsburgh is in the title of mine, yes, local blogs. 'Cause Pittsburgh is awesome, n'at.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

drive-through coffee hut

Normally Mr. Snark makes the coffee in Snarkville...every morning...french press, freshly ground beans in a burr grinder, water just below boiling. It's life altering. It turns you into one of those people who are ... you know... kind of irritating with their coffee habit.

Don't get me wrong. Any port in a storm will usually suffice when it comes to the morning cup. But if I get my preference, it's to be at home, drinking the nectar of the gods that is the snarvillian coffee.

This morning, however, was one of those mornings where I'm left to fend for myself in the way of acquiring my daily fix. I have attempted to fix this problem in a multitude of ways. First, there was the "Oh, I'll just get it at that coffee shop down the street" solution which was $1.98 each day.

Then there was the "Oh, I'll just drink the office coffee and save up for one of those pod coffee makers with the money I save." Which was $0.35 a day, and led to one of those pod coffee makers that would make a cup of coffee exactly big enough to whet my appetite but not stave off the dreaded headache.

The last solution involves this adorable little single cup brewer thingie that I got from the discount cart at the grocery store, requires size #2 filters, and ground coffee, and a little more dish washing then I'm usually willing to sign up for on any given work morning. (Sometimes the work kitchen smells like... err. Stuff that smells bad.)

So, this morning, I hit the drive-through coffee hut. (How lazy am I?) $1.89 and I get a chocolate covered espresso bean. The only draw-back is that sometimes you get stuck behind someone who needs a complicated latte, which is fine, because sometimes I need a complicated latte.

Later in the day, I learned that my eat-n-park is building a drive-through pick-up window for people who order take-out and don't want to get out of their cars to pick it up.

I'd like to say I'm embarrassed or something, but for someone who has spent over $150 and several months trying to solve the coffee problem because she doesn't want to wash the french press and take the 10 minutes it would take to make coffee, I really don't feel as if I'm in a position to judge.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

never judge a blog by its cover

Point of fact: Coffee is in my title, bacon is not. I'm fairly certain I mention bacon here more often than I mention coffee.

Is this false advertising?
My face hurts and I am whiney. I went to the dentist yesterday to get a filling ... um. Hrm. Repaired isn't the right word because I didn't break it. Replaced? Yes, let's go with replaced.

See, back in September, I went to the Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival and was eating some bacon brittle, and I thought a piece of bacon got stuck in my tooth, but when I picked it out it turned out it was... tooth parts. So I chipped a tooth on something I shouldn't have been eating anyways, and had to go to the dentist.

I have this thing about the dentist. I brush. I floss. I use Listerine. I do all those things. And yet, I still have dental issues. Like, I have one tooth where the gum is receding because I brush too hard apparently. And now the tooth chippy thing.

So I go get it fixed in September, and whatever he does, he leaves a little pothole in there so that when I eat, it's like... I dunno... some sort of olympic sport to try and avoid that particular pothole, or to immediately go floss to get out whatever's fallen in there (I am suddenly struck by how profoundly TMI this all is.)

Anyways. Yesterday I go back to have him properly do the thing and now I'm all ouchey because of the giant needle they use for the novocaine. Oh, and my knees hurt because I started working out again. I think my basic point here is "damned if you do, damned if you don't."

Bacon may somehow be to blame for all of this.

Friday, March 12, 2010

how I keep humble

I have a friend who refers to me as the "dumbest smart girl he knows" when I tell him the stories of how I've gone and done something retarded again. I prefer to think of it as keeping humble, and/or as paying the awesome tax.

There has to be some sort of offset for all the awesomeness that is normally my existence, and I figure this comes in the form of the "awesome tax." It generally occurs when I park where I shouldn't, drive like a jerk in proximity to a police officer, or accidentally drink too much while out with friends and feel so good I pick up the whole tab. Oy.

As far as keeping humble, this is when I do something that should be easy, and somehow manage to foul it up really badly. A good example is when I somehow screw up boiling water. Not that I've ever done that. More than once in a week.

My latest adventure of keeping humble involves coffee. I had to meet someone on campus to sign some paperwork because I am El Presidente of a campus group and the campus group required paperwork and my signature. So I had the secretary of the group fill out the paperwork, and then she needed my signature, so I met her on campus to give it to her.

Sweet girl really. The little sister of one of my high school boyfriends, embarrassingly enough (that's another story for another time.) I think I somehow conned her into being secretary after I was conned into being El Presidente (yet another story for another time.)

Anyways. After signing the paper, I was feeling rather Presidential and Important and thus decided I should reward my awesomeness with a $5 soy caramel macchiato.

Which I then promptly spilled all over the floor of my class while getting my binder out of my bag.

In front of a room full of students.

On a floor that doesn't have a bathroom, or easily retrievable paper towels.

I made a rather lovely mess trying to clean this up, and eventually gave up, figuring that part of my tuition went to the janitors who would have to deal with my mess. When the instructor showed up and asked what happened, I simply replied "I was feeling a little too good about myself."

So between the "Episodes Wherein the Heroine will Be Knocked Down So as to Prove that She is Still in Touch with the Little People" and the Awesome Tax, I would like to think that I'm being kept in check very nicely.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

that guy, you know the one, in class

In addition to all my other super hero duties, I am also a part time student at a local university. I often share a class with 'that guy' in class. You know the one. He smokes, but only because it helps him look disaffected. He wears a hat that looks like a Kangol, but it's not a Kangol, because he's all "down with the corporations."

And when he talks, it's with purpose. Slowly. Deliberately. With great pauses. His questions are well formed, he uses lots of words, he is showing you the benefit of his liberal arts education in every extraneous word and phrase.

And he makes me crazy. When he raises his hand I weep inwardly for the next few minutes of my life. Lost forever to his... purposeful... diatribe... of... meaningful...exploration... and... clarification... of... the... very... subject... at... hand.

When we have guest speakers, I want to apologize to them for his presence. What I really want, however, is for him to get to the point. Please, dear god, and all that's holy (mostly bacon), if he could just ask questions that were actual questions and not attempts to show us how intelligent he is, I'd be forever grateful.


I'm a sneezy kind of person. I sneeze in the morning when I sit down at my desk. I sneeze in the afternoon when I have a cuppa. I sneeze in sunlight. I sneeze when I clean. I'm allergic to dust mites, so they say, or rather, dust mite excrement. (Mr. Snark finds it horribly adorable that I'm allergic to poop.)

So, after I've sneezed, I like to blow my nose. There tend to be tissues in all the various places I might exist in the world, which, up until recently, included my desk at work.

The pattern went something like this - I buy tissues, I use the tissues, the tissues tend to disappear faster than I am using them - I buy more tissues - repeat. It then occurred to me that I was providing a company perk with my discretionary income. So I switched to company-provided toilet paper.

Yes. There is a roll of toilet paper on my desk. No, I don't think that makes me too terribly odd. Yes, I realize it makes me a little odd. I sometimes wonder if some of my proclivities push me closer to Melvin, and I have to further wonder how close I can get and still take myself seriously.

Truth be told, the toilet paper cannot possibly look out of place amongst all the other stuff that's here. Ticket stubs from various events, drawings by my child, drawings by mr. snark, xkcd comics, random photographs, little trinkets from across the world, and family photos.

Who knows tho, what my chapter in the "book about work" would sound like? (Hasn't everyone thought they should write a book about work at one point in time?)

adventure dining

Normally my week is pretty full of...stuff. So our dinners generally consist of quick prep foods and a rather boring rotation of hamburger helper, encor frozen stuff, some type of soup, some type of chicken, some type of pasta, and then leftovers. I'm only home two nights a week during the week, so that's generally when the adventures happen, but they still aren't real adventurous.

This week, however, I had nothing going on during the week, so declared it to be "international week" at the casa de snark, and we've had a rather lovely parade of ethnic cuisines ranging from pastas to braised meats and back to soup. Some of the recipes have been rather flop-like, but some others have actually produced a rather orgasmic look from the other folks who live with me.

So, in addition to all the fabulous things that I do here... rant about sandwich rings and pittsburgh politicians, we're going to talk about food I've eaten that was yummy. So there.

Sunday we had ethiopian, Misr wat, a red lentil dish that was underwhelming. I've had it at Abay in East Liberty and it's amazing there. My home creation left a good deal to be desired.

Monday was Mexican Bean Soup, using a bag of Goya 16 beans and a packet of Goya ham concentrate. (Ham concentrate?) The soup was prepared just as the package said and it was... terrible. So, save yourself some time and divert from the back of the bag recipe.

Tuesday was Greek night, and I made Chicken Souvlaki, or Chicken with Cumin Yogurt, and a greek pasta salad. The pasta salad was really my own creation, so I can't guarantee that it was authentic, but it was yummy enough, so I'm posting the recipe below.

Wednesday was Middle Eastern night and we had Lebanese Kibbe and Afghani Qaubili Pilau. The kibbe was really good, but could have done with less onion (there were like 4 cups of onion in the dish), so I modified the recipe. The second is a rice dish that uses braised lamb and a sweet spice combination along with some carrots and raisins and almonds. It was absolutely to die for, so the recipe is again below.

Tonight is asian night, but I'm just making a salmon stir fry. Friday I'm making Italian Brassato with glazed root vegetables, and Saturday I'm making Irish Shepherd's pie along with soda bread. If those go well, maybe I'll share them too.

Anyways, my point here is that I think it's good to break out of your comfort zone in the dinner hour every now and again. At the very least I have a 13 year old who's not afraid to try new things and knows for a fact that he likes a few different, and pretty exotic, dishes.

Not bad for someone who sometimes pushes on pull doors...

Qaubili Pilau

½ cup vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 lb lamb, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 cups water
1 tsp salt
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp cardamom
2 carrots, cut into matchsticks
another ½ cup vegetable oil
1 TB sugar
1 cup dark, seedless raisins
couple tablespoons blanched almonds
2 cups long grain rice
1 ½ tsp salt
1/8 tsp saffron

1. Heat 1/2 cup vegetable fat in a Dutch oven or pressure cooker, add 1 medium onion, diced, and fry until lightly browned. Add 1 lb. of beef or lamb, cut in 1 inch cubes, and brown. Add 2 cups water, 1 tsp. salt and 1 1/2 tsp. mixed spices (equal parts of cinnamon, cloves, cumin and cardamom, ground). Cover and simmer, or cook under pressure until the meat is tender.(275 degree oven for 2 hours in dutch oven-vw) Remove the meat and set aside - save the juice for cooking the rice.

2. Cut 2 carrots into toothpick size pieces. Heat 1/2 cup vegetable fat in a saucepan. Add 1 tbsp. sugar and the cut up carrots and simmer until tender. Remove carrots from fat, add 1 cup dark, seedless raisins, and cook until they swell up. (You may also brown a couple of tablespoons of blanched almonds.) Remove each and set aside.

3. To cook the rice, boil the meat juice and add 2 cups long grain rice, 1 1/2 tsp. salt, and sufficient water to bring the liquid 2 inches above the rice. Add the oil in which the carrots were cooked and 1/8 tsp. saffron (optional) to the cooked rice. (in the dutch oven this takes about 15-20 minutes, but check it early and often, about every 5 minutes –vw)

4. Put meat and rice in a large casserole, cover and set in a 300 degree oven for 20-30 minutes. Place meat in the center of a large platter. Mound the rice over the top and sprinkle with carrots, raisins, and almonds. Serves 6-8. (I’ve never baked it again after it was done, but it might add something. –vw)

Greek Pasta Salad:
This is a creation of mine that may or may not resemble something you'd eat in Greece.
8 oz orzo pasta
1 small can sliced black olives
8 oz feta cheese
1/2 cup diced red onion
1 cup quartered cherry tomatoes
1 package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed of excess liquid
1 tsp dried mint flakes
2 Tb lemon juice
Salt & pepper to taste. Watch the salt, the feta is salty already.

1. Cook the Orzo per package directions. Drain the pasta. Leave the pasta to drain and cool in the strainer while you mix everything else in the pasta pot.

2. Put the spinach in the pot, and cook it around a bit to warm it and get the rest of the ice off, since you forgot to pull out the spinach until the pasta was already in the water. After it's warm, add the rest of the ingredients back into the pot, including the pasta, and stir around to incorporate.

3. This is served more towards the lukewarm side of things so the feta doesn't melt, but it's probably good piping hot as well. The mint and lemon really make it pop.

Friday, March 5, 2010

mistakes have been made

So over the last two weeks, I've been suffering with half-assed bronchitis. It wasn't a full-assed, three-days-in-bed, I can't move, I can't breathe, I can't talk bronchitis. It was just sort of a "meh" and three days on the couch with some Buffy the vampire slayer bronchitis.

So after languishing for about a week, I finally up and went to the doctor. Who gave me some prescriptions for medications, one of which was supposed to make me feel better (yay penicillin!), one of which was supposed to make me feel less stuffy, and one of which was supposed to help me sleep at night. (Read: Make sure Mr. Snark can sleep at night) (yay codeine!)

The unstuffing medication shall remain nameless, but for whatever reason, it made me bipolar. One minute, I want to strangle people for being retarded (PS. I have an intolerance to smart people behaving in ways which would indicate that they are incapable of helping themselves) the next minute, I'm crying over an email from a client.

Good times indeed. Anyways, after making my poor coworkers suffer through my fits of mania, I decided that being congested was far more advisable than being fired or chased out of the building by people wielding torches and pitchforks. After finally feeling like myself for a few days, I felt the need to apologize or something, and of course, my first line would always be "mistakes have been made."

I love that line. It's a complete load of crap and an utter cop-out, and, for fancy's sake, a judicious use of the passive voice. (See, I have a liberal arts education too.) You hear it in the public sector all the time. They won't say exactly who didn't have enough snow plowing equipment, or who failed to make sure we were adequately staffed, but they will say that "mistakes have been made" by "people" of whom may or may not be affiliated with this office and may or may not have had the original authority to make those decisions to begin with.

So, in the spirit of snowpocalypse (and the potential floodapalooza) I will simply state that mistakes have been made in the consumption, prescription, and subsequent application of said medications which may or may not have had the original effect of ameliorating the aforementioned issue at hand with or potentially, without, debilitating and unexpected side effects.

happy friday!