Wednesday, January 17, 2007

whoever sent me this birthday gift is FIRED!!!

snow sucks. snow on my birthday sucks even more. the only consolation is that at least i work from home now so i don't have to go out in it. oh, and i hear that snow on your birthday is good luck. i really hope that proves to be true.

i totally forgot to pull my plants in at the beginning of this freeze, but last night i decided they couldn't get any MORE frozen than they already were, so i left them out to get snowed on. so now i've got little green icicles growing up from pots in my back yard. poor things, they really deserve better mothering than i give them. the iris will be fine, i know. the palm? maybe not so much.

the OTHER consolation is that my girlfriend is taking me out for dinner tonight in her 4-wheel drive pickup and we're going to celebrate with some yummy food. 4-wheel drive and sensible driving guarantee that we'll get there and back in one piece. my girlfriend's company ensures that i'll have a celebratory evening, in spite of the funk i'm in over this whole frozen-housebound thing.

until then, i return you to your regularly scheduled snow. bleh.

oh, yeah! i forgot my other HappyThing... i finally got my secondary fish tank set up. i have moved my fishes from their big tank downstairs that was getting WAY too much direct sunlight (and was thusly growing big, nasty, slimy mats of algae in places where my algae-eater couldn't go) to their cozier tank upstairs. that took all of MLK day, basically. well, that and some WoW business, cuz i'm a big ol' geek...

anyway, that freed me up to move the big tank across the room - because you don't want to move a fishtank while it's full, and i didn't even have to try it to learn that! in its new spot, it will get a very small amount of indirect sunlight. so i've cleaned all the fish and snail poop out of it and filled it with chlorine-free water. i'm going to hook up the filter and airlines tonight and start cycling it (growing ammonia-eating bacteria) so that i can get some fish in there with my next paycheck. yippee! this is going to be my artsy "concept" tank in which all the fish are black, white, or black-and-white. i may even move some of the zebra danios (bet you can tell from the name what color they are, huh?) from my upstairs tank into the downstairs one so that i can add some more of the colorful tetras upstairs, now that the snail poop is under control. maybe i'll even go get a buddy for joey, the clown.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

all food, all the time!

wow. i'm about to do one of those things that i hate to read in other blogs, so if you're not into food, you can just skip this post. i'm NOT going to give you a boring list of what i've eaten over the last three days, but i AM going to rave about some of the yummy stuff that's passed across my plate.

for one thing, i should preface this by saying that i am (for reasons unknown) experiencing a massive potato craving right now. and by "right now" i mean the last three months. i finally (after talking rose into two orders of large fries at every rest stop between dallas and victoria and college station) bought a bag of taters for the house. so i've cooked 'em at every meal since. roasted with onions and garlic, mashed with sour cream and cheese, simmered in veggie stock and herbs - we've done almost every decent thing you can do with a potato. and the craving is STILL HERE. oh, yeah, you're probably wondering about simple baked potatoes? i made her take me to jason's deli for those.

and here's a funny aside for you about jason's deli. they boast in their menu that they've got 1 lb. baked potatoes. now, to put that in perspective, your average "sack of potatoes" is a 5 lb. sack. so a 1 lb. potato is well nigh as big as yo' head. large. potato. ain't no small potatoes goin' on at jason's. we went there for dinner one wintry evening because i was craving potatoes, duh. and once i got way down in my baked potato entree, i noticed something curious. although it was presented as a single humongous potato topped with broccoli cheese soup, i was actually eating TWO potatoes of lesser size which had been semi-cleverly spliced together by cutting a round socket into the end of one potato so the other would fit into it. i can only imagine the enraged argument that took place between the kitchen manager and the potato supplier when these small potatoes were presented and the kitchen manager was trying to figure out how to meet the demand for the advertised 1 lb. potatoes when he was clearly dealing with 1/2 lb. potatoes in the delivery. the apparent solution stumbled upon by the clever kitchen manager was the jason's deli potato-splice.

potatoes aside, last night we went for a potluck/games night to celebrate lohri (an indian new year's sort of festival, as i understand). we didn't actually do much that was lohri-specific, so i don't know anything more about the holiday than i did yesterday noon. however, we did have a fantastic potluck dinner. the hostess had made some sort of yummy tomato-ey potatoes (yum!!!) and chicken dish to be served over indian rice. i brought (of course) more potatoes! i was in carb-craving heaven all night long. the co-host served a divine (from scratch) chocolate-raspberry cake for which he had cooked ACTUAL RASPBERRIES into a glaze. i was commenting that i don't ordinarily like raspberry-flavored foods, but that i was very much (*wipe crumb from lip*) enjoying this particular dish, when he set me straight on the raspberry-flavored vs. ACTUAL RASPBERRY nature of the cake. that settles it. i LOVE raspberries, i LOATHE artificial raspberry flavoring. those of you who make me desserts - take note! oh, and before i get much older, i need to learn how to make that tomato-ey potatoes and chicken stuff.

we played cranium after dinner which some of you may recognize as my favorite game of all time, evar. and my team won. (yea!) a good time was had by all, but honorable mention performances go to yours truly for an oscar-worthy stage fall (i was attempting to convey through charades the phrase "around-the-world trip" and was apparently quite convincing in the tripping act); my team-mate for almost, but-not-quite, acting out "winnie the pooh"; t for a delightfully-hummed rendition of "It's Rainin' Men!"; and the hostess for asking our dear art-major friend why she was drawing so poorly before recalling that it was one of those odd questions in cranium where you have to draw out a clue for your team WITH YOUR EYES CLOSED.

tonight, i had "jewish soul food" for dinner. i have no idea how to spell "choulnt" in english, but that's my best guess. it's sorta like roast and sorta like stew and is entirely YUMMY! i had seconds, and because it had both potatoes (yea!) AND barley, my carb cravings for the night were satisfied. it was absolutely ideal food, of the sort my dad would describe as "sticks to yer ribs", for this icy/sleety freezing weather we're having.

y'all stay safe and warm. i'm off to heat up a leftover mashed potato. mmmm!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

those who can...

y'know, some people just ARE NOT teachers. and some people are. and some people can manage it but they're not great at it. i think i had a fair number of the latter two as i was going through my primary and secondary education. it wasn't until i got into college that i met people who were totally brilliant within their fields but were utterly incapable of conveying their knowledge to (let alone sharing their brilliant insight with) anyone who didn't already have it.

i was listening to a talk radio program yesterday on my local NPR affiliate yesterday called Think and the host was interviewing the authors of Made to Stick. they were talking about some of the things that make ideas powerful, make them stick to the public consciousness, enable them to be turned into action, and generally inspire results. they used an example of an interesting study to make one of their points about how ideas should be expressed if you want them to stick. the study involved "listeners" and "performers" who were paired up. the performers were given some common tune that should be easily identifiable (like the star-spangled banner or happy birthday) and were instructed to simply tap it out on a desk. the listeners were to guess what tune was being performed. the performers were asked to predict the success of the listeners, which they estimated would be around 1/2. the actual success rate of the listeners was 1/40. the thing is, the performers, while they were tapping, were actually hearing in their heads the fully orchestrated version of the song. the listeners were basically getting morse code. and that's what happens when a manager comes into a meeting and says "i want to motivate you all to improve customer service. go get 'em!". in the manager's mind, they're hearing a fully orchestrated version that clearly conveys "reduce wait times for callers" and "decrease the rate of escalated service requests" and stuff like that. the employees in the meeting are just hearing morse code and they may go back to their desks thinking they're supposed to pass along every call that they're not totally sure of to an escalation tech and spend more time on every call making pleasantries. so, if you want your idea to be correctly interpreted, and also to "stick", one way of helping that happen is to convey it in the form of a story. use concrete examples that are easily related to the situation you're dealing with, even if you have to make them up, because that's how you put your orchestra in your audience's heads.

one of the things that makes a person a good teacher is their ability to narrate a lesson so that it is a story. it's not absolutely essential, i've seen teachers get by without this storytelling skill. however, the best history teachers i ever had turned our history lessons from dry recitations of strategy, tactic, name, date, location into stories with personalities and plot and motivation. it's something i've done instinctively in my teaching all along, but i wonder if it can be taught? can you teach someone how to think about what they know in such a way as to explain it to someone who doesn't know? and if you can, is there some way to make it mandatory training for professors?

Thursday, January 04, 2007

new year, new space

Living Room! i helped in the wall painting, the hardwood flooring, the fireplace cladding, and the art hanging. who knew I was so handy?

I just read a news blurb that says some ridiculously large percentage of blog entries begin with the word "so". as a result, i'm trying to cut down on my use of that opener. it's a tempting opener, though! i typed and erased it for this entry two or three times before deciding to go with this explanation of why i'm avoiding "so" instead.

i moved in with my girlfriend in September. since then, our living and dining rooms have been completely inaccessible. i had enough furniture for a two-bedroom place, and she had enough furniture for a two-bedroom place. between us, this three-bedroom townhouse wasn't big enough for all the STUFF. we had couches cheek-and-jowl with loveseats and futons, chairs willy-nilly through the mix, and tables sitting atop tables being shored up by other tables that were so big they had to come in the door sideways. it was chaotic.

chaotic though it was, i travel for my job a LOT. and we travel for fun a LOT. and we procrastinate a WHOLE LOT MORE than we travel. so it got be thanksgiving, and we still hadn't finished the unpacking. in fact, we'd barely started the unpacking. only the very most essential items had been pulled out of boxes and everything else was still sitting on the floor of our living and dining rooms.

the obvious solution to this problem was to set ourselves a deadline. we'd done this before, however, and it'd fallen flat because we just picked a random day and called it a deadline. this time, we needed consequences! thus the idea of the new year's eve party dawned. after all, we had six whole weeks to get it done!

foolish mortals.

still, we sent out invitations to a party "in the way of motivating our lame asses to open a box or two and paint the damn walls, already" and that provided us a deadline with consequences. we procrastinated for a while, we diddled with a few suitcases, we went and bought some paint for the office. the office, you see, was the key to this entire operation. it was painted in a color that i think of as a rather heinous cross between "yellow baby poop" and "peach" and it had a terrible wallpaper border featuring baby animals that was meant to look like a quilt in classic baby pastel colors, the kind you get when you're too anachronistic to look at the sonogram and figure out whether to buy a pink or blue border. so we had to peel down the border and paint the office before we could put up bookshelves and unpack all the office gear. that was all in the way of the other stuff, so the office walls were the bottleneck in this whole unpacking operation.

we finally managed to paint the office, the weekend before christmas. we spent the next week not unpacking, as you'd expect, but building a dog trailer. yeah, that's for another post.

but the week after christmas, we spent - UNPACKING!!! and preparing for the party, of course. the week leading up to the party was hard work, but nothing phenomenally interesting to write about. i'll spare you the task list, but we had to tidy, clean, declutter, shop, sweep, mop, scrub and move pretty much everything on the first floor of the house. the upstairs got a pretty thorough going-over, too, as it houses the infamous Bottlenecking Office where so much was unloaded. it also happens to house the Guest Room Of Stuffage in which we shoved all the boxes we didn't have time to deal with before the party.

once we got things arranged, however, they looked quite presentable. my girlfriend has a history in the food service industry and is extremely talented at managing herd feeding operations. i contributed one recipe for a brie/raspberry/chipotle hot appetizer and she did ALL the rest of it. that's the picture here, showing our loaded-down kitchen table in our newly becurtained dining room. i'm the one in the spongebob regalia, cradling my drink and preparing to snarf down some food, which pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the party.

as you may have guessed, it was a pajama party. we even dressed our mannequin in pajamas! what?!? you didn't know we had a mannequin? well, we do. she was for sale in a store we happened into because they were clearing everything out for a total renovation. and she went so nicely with the fireplace, we just had to have her. her name is Marie Antoinette, named for the famously fashionable and ultimately headless former queen of france. so here's marie, in her pajamas:
another day, i'll post about the dog trailer...