Thursday, January 29, 2009


One of the best things about living alone is the ability to make what-the-heck-ever you want for dinner. I'm still getting over that. Granted, I eat a lot of oatmeal, and not all of my real meals are exactly palatable (kids, never take your parents' cooking for granted), but if I want a meal of boiled beets and fried sardines, well, I'll have one.

Tonight, I made beef stew. I realize there's little point to posting a recipe for stew, but I'm excited to have made a meal that actually tasted good enough for seconds.

Start with beef. When I went to the store, I asked the man behind the counter for a "handful or so" of chopped stew meat, then "a little more". I ended up with a bit over 1/2 lb. I browned said beef in a large pan with olive oil, but I forgot that beef tends to have plenty of fat by itself. I probably didn't need the oil.

While the beef is cooking, prepare the stew stuff. I had five or six of those baby red potatoes, a bunch of baby carrots, a few leaves of cabbage, half a yellow onion chopped into medium-ish pieces, and a handful of mushrooms. I also cut up three pieces of garlic and a bunch of thyme for seasoning.

After the beef is fully cooked, pour in a regular-sized can of beef broth and the same-sized can of water. I used the "low sodium" beef broth because it tastes pretty much the same and has 45% less heart attack, but I doubt it would really matter.

Dump in the previously prepared goodies. I had about a dinner bowl's worth, and it ended up working out pretty well. Add the garlic and thyme and a good bunch of ground black pepper. By "ground" pepper, I mean actual ground black peppercorns. That black snowy stuff from the condiment factory is not pepper.

Turn up the heat and boil. Once it's at a good boil, turn the heat down to where it'll settle down to tiny bubbles. Cover it, and leave it for an hour. Check occasionally for fire and stir while you're there.

.59 lb of meat plus a dinner bowl of prepared plant material plus a can of broth and a can of water looks like it would probably feed three people comfortably or two very hungry people. I "served" it with the standard whole wheat bread because a soup isn't really a soup if you don't have any bread to soak up the liquid with.

Hoo-ray. I'll have lunch tomorrow, too.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Drowned Rat

I had a strange dream in which the rat was swimming. She'd be underwater most of the time, as she actually lived in a tank of water. I remember wondering how long she had been living there and thinking it was a bit weird for a rat to live in an aquarium.

I had to keep a close eye on her. She would swim around near the bottom of the tank, and when she needed a breath, she would swim to the surface. Unfortunately, she didn't always make it to the surface in time. When she opened her mouth to take a breath underwater, I would have to fish her out and squeeze her to squirt the water out. She would reinflate with air, at which point I would breathe a sigh of relief and put her back in her tank.

When I took her out this afternoon, she kept chasing my feet and biting my toes. I think she was upset about the "wet habitat" thing, even though I was dreaming and didn't know any better.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Old Man Ranting

Our culture, thanks to a relatively recent obsession with self-esteem, feelings, and an “everybody’s a unique snowflake” attitude, is tainted with self-centeredness and a firm belief in one’s entitlement to whatever they very well please to have. If you remember your parents saying things like, “You can be anything you want, dear,” and, “You’re special just because you’re you,” you’re probably in the affected generations. As time passes, the number of self-important centers-of-the-world will increase. How old are the oldest, now? Thirty? Thirty-five? By the time they fill out the higher age brackets, there’ll be nobody left to say, “Why, back in my day…” and remind us we’re actually not the center of the universe. A society ruled by the principles of selfishness and hedonism will grow from the ashes of one formed from a spirit of cooperation and community.

Our level of consumer debt indicates not only a strong desire to consume, but a desire to consume things for free. A person who racks up thousands of dollars in debt on a credit card should not be allowed to declare bankruptcy and keep even a shred of clothing; he is, in fact, not entitled to a thing he hasn’t earned. To him, of course, he is, but bankruptcy, originally, was not intended as a purchasing mechanism for irresponsible, greedy consumers. [RESEARCH NEEDED]. What happens when more people decide they can’t pay back what they’ve borrowed? When the bankruptcy rate climbs to 5% or 10%, what’ll happen to the legitimate borrower? My sense of community goes a long way, but it does not go as far as paying off some lazy, jobless twit’s loan.

If you’ve worked in the service industry, you know well the sorts of nasty behavior today’s entitlement attitude leads to; an adult throwing a temper tantrum is a terrible thing to witness, indeed:

“I’m sorry, ma’am, all of our technicians are currently assisting other customers.”

“That’s correct. Our service orders are processed in the order they’re received.”

“No, ma’am. Unless you have a service-level agreement, we cannot prioritize your case over others.”

“I understand you run a business from your home. Most of our customers, in the midst of their tantrums, also run business from their homes.”

“Ma’am, listen. Wait. Your. Bloody. Turn. You were the screaming child at the supermarket I wished would earn a smack from her inattentive mother before I walked over and thumped you myself, weren’t you? If I didn’t send a truck (say, for example, they all exploded), you would have an outright stroke!”


“I know there’s a ‘Delete Ticket’ key here somewhere…”

Perhaps the last couple of lines were internal dialogue, but to overhear such a conversation is completely commonplace in a callcenter. Many people simply refuse to accept they’re no more important than anybody else. It’s denial, if it’s anything. Then, it’s anger. Finally, when they meet Saint Peter at the gates, well. They may be too late for acceptance at that point.

With all that said, some people are, indeed, more important than others. Some are cleverer, some are less apt to stumble over their shoestrings, and some contribute a great deal more to society than their peers. I am more important – more snowflakey – than some. Some, likewise, are more important than me. Most, though, are just as inconsequentially, mundanely average as I am. The mental gymnastics it takes to reach this conclusion are not as impossible as it’d seem. In Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood, I am perfectly unique, special in every way, and exemplary just for being me. In our neighborhood, the same holds true, but I realize in addition that being me takes a bit more than exchanging oxygen for carbon dioxide and carbohydrates for amino acids.

The person you are is defined by the work you do, the standard of ethics you maintain, and your attitude toward others. If you work at a mediocre job abiding by mediocre ethics and carrying a mediocre attitude, there’s nothing about you (save superficial things that don’t matter anyway, regardless of how much our culture tries to convince us otherwise) that makes you unique. This also means you’re entitled to nothing more or less than you earn, and as such, you’ll probably not gain anything – material or otherwise – that’s very far outside the definition of mediocre. There’s nothing wrong with you, mind. You’re just not particularly special. On the other hand, if you work to enrich your mind and better your community (which, I should specify, goes well beyond your “day job”), remain spotlessly ethical, and treat the folks around you well, you’ll be well on your way to greatness. You’ll be entitled to great things equal to the work you’ve put into your life.

Instead of, “You can be anything you want, dear,” and, “You’re special just because you’re you,” we need to adopt a more realistic vision. To my child, if he’s exemplary, I’ll say, “You can achieve any dream you work hard to follow.” If he’s not, I’ll say, “You have the capacity to be a very special person.” Those statements mean something. Instead of patting a kid on the head for simply having a head, those statements are akin to looking him in the eye and saying, “I’m glad you’re around.” It’s too late for the thirty-somethings, but for the kids we have, let’s raise them to be real people, shall we?