Thursday, January 29, 2009

Rejoining the ranks of the unemployed…

Well, here I am again.

I got laid off today.

Not much to say but plenty I need to do. At least you won’t be hearing any more about my employer, which I guess shows there’s an upside to everything, huh?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Yummy yummy soup...

I told you I'd get around to it, didn't I?

So, here's what happened. Vicky did such a wonderful job making dinner on Thanksgiving that I told her I wanted her to take it easy at Christmas. To that end, we ordered a HoneyBaked Ham. As it turned out, she still cooked up a storm because Vicky is just like her mother, with the martyr gene deep down. Oh well.

When we'd finished the ham, there was actually plenty of ham remaining. They stop their spiral cut at a certain point and you're left with a bone and a big hunka meat.

What to do?

"Freeze it," I said to Vicky. "I'll make soup."

Really? I thought. You'll make soup?

Sure. Of course.

You've never made soup.

Me and my big mouth.

Janurary came in with a heat wave... a tropical heatwave... and soup was out of the question. But last weekend was perfect. Cold and drizzly. Dark and stormy. The perfect weather for soup.

Here's what I wanted. I wanted a soup with ham and beans or maybe pasta with lots of veggies and... couldn't find it. Seriously. I scoured the Internet for a recipe I thought sounded tasty. None of them did.

Fuck it. I'll make my own.

So, what you see below you is an original... of sorts. Basically, I took parts from a bunch of recipes I thought sounded good and put them together to make one recipe that sounded good. Enjoy!

Ken's Pork, Bean & Kale Soup

Yield: 6 servings (Ken Servings)

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound pork tenderloin cut into 1-inch pieces or the hambone you saved to make soup
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 medium onion, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
4 teaspoons paprika, preferably smoked
A shitload of crushed red peppers, or to taste (optional)
1 cup white wine
16 oz tomatoes
6 cups chicken broth
1 bunch kale, ribs removed, chopped (about 8 cups lightly packed)
1 lb beans, rinsed


Make your shopping easy. Buy a bunch of kale, a can of diced tomatoes (these are usually 15 oz, which is just fine), and a bag of beans. (I used Great Northern Beans but you could also use red or black to suit your mood.) If you have the frozen end of a ham, with about a pound of meat left on it, use that. If not, go for the tenderloin or use chops. I like to soak my beans overnight, too, though some cooks skip this step.

Boiling your hambone. If you're going the hambone route, thaw it overnight, then take half of your chicken broth with a cup of water and bring to a boil in your soup pot. Then, (carefully) toss your ham bone in, cover the pot and let it simmer for hours and hours, until the meat is falling off. If you need to, add more water. The ham doesn't need to be submerged, you can let the steam do some work, but you'll want to keep enough liquid in there to do its job. After, let the ham bone cool. Don't toss what you've got in that pan as it's full of chickeny, hammy goodness. You can use that in your soup! Once the ham bone is cool enough to work with, peel off the meat and cut it into bite-sized pieces.

If you're going with the loin or chip: Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add pork with your olive oil, sprinkle with salt and cook, stirring once or twice, until no longer pink on the outside, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate with tongs, leaving juices in the pan.

Use this dripping pan (or if you're using your ham bone, just start up a new one with some olive oil). Add onion to the pan and cook, stirring often, until just beginning to brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Add garlic, paprika and crushed red pepper and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add wine and tomatoes, increase heat to high and stir to scrape up any browned bits.

If you've got your soup pot started, with your ham bone, add this to your soup pot. If working out of one pot, which you'll probably do if going with the loin or chop, just add your broth and bring to a boil. Toss in your ham/pork along with your beans.

At this point, you should have thrown in just about everything but the kale. Now, I hope you gave yourself plenty of time because soups, stews, and sauces always taste better with time. I cooked this on a Saturday afternoon so I wasn't rushed. Just put it on a low heat and let it simmer for a few hours. I gave it five.

Once it looks like meal time is coming, add your kale and stir just until it wilts. Reduce heat to maintain a lively simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the kale is just tender, about 15 minutes.

Serve with a nice crusty bread or crackers. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Still love your HFCS?...

The day you listen to Con-Agra give you advice is the day you might as well just give up.

Listen: They're admitting to giving you mercury poisoning.

That's right. They're poisoning you.

Turns out, High Fructose Corn Syrup contains mercury.

Now, they say you'll never eat enough for it to harm you - you're fine - just like you were fine when they put lead in your food, remember that? How'd that work out for you?

If you're not going to stop eating food with HFCS simply because HFCS is poison. You might want to think about stopping now that you know they're poisoning you with mercury, too.

(I know I said I'd post the soup recipe today... make it tomorrow!)

Monday, January 26, 2009

An entire weekend...

I just had one of the nicest weekends in a long time. I say I had one because Vicky started hers working... so I'm sure she can think of nicer ways to spend a weekend.

But as she was working, I was making soup. Don't worry. I plan to post the recipe tomorrow. It was the perfect weather for soup, a bit chilly and drizzly, and I was ready for it. I had it in mind after Christmas, when we froze the remaining ham and hambone off our HoneyBaked Ham. I bought some beans and some kale and got to work. I started by boiling the hambone in some chicken stock and water, removing the meat, and letting it simmer, simmer, simmer. All day long, our home was filled with that perfect smell of soup cooking.

I was in the garage at my computer, playing WoW. It was my last free weekend before school starts so I wanted to get as much WoW in as possible. I'd play for 15 minutes, stir the soup, play, stir, play, stir. All day long. It was great.

And when Vicky got home, we had some great soup, watched some great TV (okay, it was crap - Desperate Housewives & My Name is Earl - but we like it), had a little wine... good stuff.

We started our Sunday at IHOP. My pancake addiction comes as no surprise to anyone and, while IHOP's are far from the best (far from mediocre) pancakes, Vicky had heard about IHOP's ALL YOU CAN EAT PANCAKE SPECIAL!!!... so... We had pancakes. Actually, Vicky ate healthy. I had pancakes. I had 10 pancakes. Mmmmmmm....

From there, we hit the road, heading out to Tom's Farm in Corona. Driving up the 91, we saw a lot of the devastation from our recent fires. It was horrible. But the thing that really caught my attention was the word EVADE, because I saw it tagged onto buildings and billboards - three times on Sunday. Very strange. I don't know what the deal is but it is a strange word to use in graffiti.

Our plan at Tom's Farm was to load up on some healthy, yummy stuff. Our schedule won't allow us to start hitting a local Farmer's Market until February so we thought we'd enjoy Tom's Farm this time, instead. We bought some chard and some mushrooms for tonight, to saute with a little onion and garlic. We also purchased a small ton of other veggies, went home and made a huge salad for dinner (with more bad TV: Burn Notice and Psych!). Yum!

But while we were out in Corona, Vicky saw a sign for a Bank Owned Home for sale. We'd taken a bit of a detour. Vicky wanted to see it so, following the signs with some difficulty, we went into the house. It was a beautiful home and I would have bought it in a heartbeat. Five bedrooms, three or four baths - it was immense. And being sold by the bank, I expected the price to be... What? Just short of insane. And the folks who left, took every fixture, every feature, every everything that wasn't nailed down. This house would need a lot of work! I feel bad that I can't afford to give Vicky better things but, with school and my writing, I'm trying. Thankfully, Vicky agreed with me about the house... and we kept going...

On our way home, I started telling Vicky about this idea I have for a play. And it's a good idea. It could be funny. But there's one wrinkle that I didn't mention that struck me this morning on the way in to work. The play centers on a person's decision to take his life, which is something I'm familiar with, but an epiphany this morning made me realize that it may be too late for me to write this one. You see, once upon a time, suicide was easy for me to write about... because, after all, I'd been there. The problem, though, is that the time I'd been there was a very long time ago. So, when I think about suicide now, I can't think of many reasons to do it - and you have to be able to think of every wrinkle to be able to write about it. When I think of this character killing himself, I think, "Why would he?" and then I realize I don't know. I can't think of a reason that I understand well enough to actually write about. Of course, I could write about a guy losing his wife - but haven't we been down that road enough times? This isn't to say I won't write the play; I probably will. It just means that there's more thinking that needs to be done before I'm ready to step up to the edge of the Grand Canyon once again.

And that was my weekend. Nothing monumental. Nothing extreme. Just a nice time with the woman I love doing the things I love.

You can't beat that.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Our new sponsor (or, What Happens When I Get Bored)...

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You may think you're drinking Cola, but it's not!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Blog...

Is it just me or wasn't it a wonderful irony that Cheney resembled Mr. Potter from "It's a Wonderful Life"...

Monday, January 19, 2009

Bike big ouchie...

Saturday afternoon in southern California was warm and sunny and serene. It was ideal weather for a bike ride. Vicky was out so I thought, "What better time than now to get back on the trail?"

And, off I went fortified, I thought, by plenty of stationary bike riding at the gym. My tires were flat. My iPod's needed charging. I forgot how to reset my odometer. But, before too long, I was out there in the sunshine with a cool breeze, just pedaling like it was nothing up the Santa Ana River Trail. I passed joggers and other cyclists - ah, it felt great. But then, after a couple of blocks, that all ended. I was towing a fat, fat ass that hadn't ridden in three months but I told myself I would just take the short ride I used to take every morning. That wouldn't be too bad. After all, I used to take it every morning... right?

As other cyclists passed me, I thought, "Well, you know Ken, it has been a while. You're out of practice. Don't judge yourself too harshly." As casual bikers passed me, I thought, "Don't worry. You'll soon be back to that place where nobody passes you and you're just zipping along and -" Then, children passed me... but, fortunately, I was almost at the turning back point, a rest stop in Yorba Linda. Getting there required going uphilll a bit, embarrassingly small hills... not even hills, really, just inclines... but I put my nose to the handlebars (cause I was too tired to pick my head up) and kept pushing until I got to the rest stop.

Whew! Tired! Out of breath! Exhausted! And only halfway there, I still had to go back! But I took a break and tried to relax - that didn't last long because that cool breeze was turning ice cold and making my sweat feel like ice packs, which I had to lug around on top of my immensity. Dammit.

Back, I went. Sweating, freezing, wheezing, panting, and pedaling. It was a beautiful day... too bad I was too beat to pay any attention...

When I got home, I realized I had only covered 15 miles. 15 miles.

My last ride, back on Thanksgiving weekend, had been 65 miles.

Son of a bitch. Winter can really fuck with you.

And the worst part is winter isn't over. It'll get cold again and I'll still have to wait before I can start riding regularly... and I'm hoping I keep this in mind...

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Expecting Expectations...

I heard it again. Goddammit. I heard it again.

"I thought it was a good movie, as long as you went in without expectations."

I want to address this meme about not having expectations. It's bloody annoying.

I used to know this guy, Essex, who excelled at this, by the way. He lived his entire life without expectations. And he found that he enjoyed every movie, every meal, every video game, everything... because he didn't have any expectations.

Only, after a while, you began to notice how he enjoyed the most horrible crap, the most worthless garbage. His taste was bottom of the barrel, just horrible. And whenever you brought it up, he'd say it was just fine, because he didn't have any expectations.

Well, fuck that! What's wrong with expecting something to be decent? Expecting some competency? Expecting something worthwhile? Nothing! That's what! Nothing!

"It was good as long as you don't have any expectations" means "It was crap." That's all. Crap. So, don't see the movie. Don't take the advice. Don't listen to that person.

And don't expect them to understand.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Forecast: bleak...

Some of you might have heard me mention my employer. You might have heard me talk about or write about how poorly things are run and how the place is being driving right into the ground. The most irritating thing about all this is that I've been around long enough to see their mistakes and know how to avoid them - but I work for a guy who equates my working for him as knowing less than him... and he's a moron.

So, I sit at my desk every day, day after day, and watch them fail to perform market research, watch them build products nobody wants and that they'll never bring to market, watch them follow inefficient procedures because "that's the way things are done"... the thing I've been watching lately is the headlight in the tunnel bringing my impending layoff. It makes me hate having enough experience to know better.

But the signs are all there. They've stopped assigning me work. The people I work with are quiet about pending products and revisions. My boss won't even say Good Morning to me - he even runs away when it looks like I want to talk. I say, "Hey, Sonny, you got anything I can help you with?" and he gets up and leaves. I am the pariah that is the doomed man. And it doesn't need to be this way. After all, two other people hold the same position as I, do the same work, and I have more experience, more training, more skills, more education, more savvy, and more presence (I'm there more often) than they... why me? Well, Vicky's kind of helped me with this. Odds are, I make more - the kiss of death. But also, as my boss is a really old-school sexist pig, the girl with the tits has assets I'll never have. And the new guy appeals to his ego - my boss hates people knowing more than he does. He hates anyone who challenges him or shows him up... cough...

This Friday is a payday, a double-whammy for possible layoffs. Until then, I sit at my desk with nothing to do... and I wait... and I blog... and I hate life...

(Of course, with this work environment, you never can tell…)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Expectations versus Pressure...

This is what I get for reading an old email.

I was cleaning out my inbox and found and email where I talked about my first days at Allied. The folks at Allied had great expectations for me. They put me charge of all sorts of things and had the faith that I'd do them; and I mostly did! I was mentioning in this email the difference between expectations and pressure. There was never any real pressure put on me at Allied. They never gave me deadlines because they were confident I'd get the job done. The never looked over my shoulder or hounded me.

Of course, I'm no longer at Allied. Where I work now, there are no expectations because there's no plan. Nobody is providing any vision of what we should be doing so, consequently, we just have to keep scurrying to look productive. And this creates a lot of pressure. We have to do a lot even when there's not a lot to do.

It's sad, really.

So, I can't help but think that I want to find a job where there are expectations, because I think people that believe in you are less likely to feel they have to force you.

Maybe that's just me. I hope not.

The difference between life and death is a tenth of a mile...

This morning, I hit the gym and started with my warmup jog.

Recently, I've been doing 4.0 miles per hour. This morning, I decided - "What the heck!" - to increase my speed to 4.1 miles per hour.

Listen, I'll admit it. I'm a fat, greasy, middle-aged man. I know four miles an hour isn't fast. I'm just happy my lard-laden form can manage it!

But when I upped it to 4.1... I thought I was going to die!!

Damn, I'm a wimp.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

New for '09...

The NYT has this great article today about outting the old and inning the new, and I'm all for it! Just check out some of the stuff they covered:

I've made my own croutons before and they really are better than all get-out. Give this one a shot.

I may still stick with my cartons of stock cause, hey, it's easy and I'm lazy.

Vicky changed over to olive oil in a hand pump and it's terrific. Try this!

Gotta start making my own salad dressing. I think this is a great idea!

Lemons! Yes! Fresh!

Now buying fresh spices (or fresh-er spices, at least) is always a good idea but it's also a pricey one. Hmmmm...

They also mention using dried beans. Oddly enough, I'll use these whenever I make a special dinner, like a big pot of chili, but I used canned beans the rest of the time. Why is that?

That said, I'm not buying fresh vanilla beans. Dude, that costs!

They had me on the real cheese until the whole "scrape the mold" line... next!

Frozen veggies - yep. Vicky and I have made that switch. Better to go fresh, of course.

I'd love to find tomato paste in a tube. Anyone?

No comment on the pie crust because, seriously, we'll just buy the pie. (Did I mention I'm lazy?)

Sherry vinegar? Hmmm... must try...

Real rice. Seriously, folks. Real rice.

As good as natural maple syrup might be, my sweet tooth craves that crap at IHOP.

They list quite a few other things, too. Worth a gander.

Now, I need someone to do the science...

Let me go on record with this, because it could be big.

Everyone's so interested in moving from fossil fuels to biofuels these days and moving into hydrogen and solar... but we have something else in our energy grid that's hopelessly outdated that nobody's even started talking about. It's 18th century technology and yet we still use it day after day after day... and I'm thinking it has to stop.

It's electricity. That's right. Electricity.

Electricity is archaic. It's wasteful. It's inefficient. It's crude.

You don't think they use electricity on the Starship Enterprise, do you? (Yes, I know it doesn't exist but the principle is the same.) No, because at some point somebody is going to come along and say "Why are you using a power source that bleeds out and loses energy and isn't efficient when you could use THIS?"

... now, I don't know what THIS is. Hey, I'm just the philosopher/writer/actor/guy.

But I'm telling you, somebody should look into this because it's time we moved out of the days of horses and buggies and pre-cotton-gin technology. It's just about time.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

This one's for Vicky...

Be the change, folks.

School Days. School Days. Dear old holy shit...

Seven books.

Seven books for two classes.

Seven books for two classes smack in the middle of my week.

Seven books for two classes smack in the middle of my week with the job I got.

This semester is going to be a bitch.

I'll be finishing up my general education requirements with a Kinesiology class: Physical Activity & Well Being. I saw this and thought, "Ah, an easy class!" I had images of having to swim laps and shit, you know?

... No. The course description reads "An integration of physiological, psychological and sociological understandings of the human being in relationship to physical activity as a lifelong pursuit. Topics include physical fitness, nutrition, stress reduction, socialization, and individual differences in human behavior." There's a book. There's gonna be lectures. Tests. Oh god...

Because it just gets worse. My philosophy course this semester is Kant & The 19th Century. This course requires SIX books: One on Hegel, Two on Nietzsche, Two on Kant, and another one I have no clue about!! After last semester, I was really hoping for some time off, you know? Something easy, maybe? I forget exactly what that is - something easy - but it would be nice to run into it again, even by accident!

... maybe summer... maybe fall...


Monday, January 05, 2009

Respecting the Resolutions...

I made plenty of resolutions this year (still can't smoke, dammit!) but there were two biggies:

1) Buy more produce from Farmer's Markets, at least once every other week.
2) Grow my own... um, produce, I mean.

I can't start on the second resolution until winter ends but I can begin working on the first part right away.

I found this great website called Local Harvest, which makes it really easy to find markets in your area. I came up with quite a few for myself in no time. And I've got quite a few restrictions. For instance, I work during the day, so that's out. Also, I have to work around my school schedule... whenever that is. So, I need options.

1) Downtown Fullerton, Thursdays from 4-8:30pm! Vicky and I have been here before so we know it's a good one.

2) The Road Less Traveled. Not a Farmer's Market but as close as you'll get in Santa Ana. It looks like an alternative Vicky and I need to check out.

3) Corona Del Mar, every Saturday from 9-1pm. That would make a nice morning out. What'dya think, Vic?

4) Or the other side of the county: Cerritos, Saturdays from 8-noon!

Of course, there's also the USDA.

They turned me on to:

1) Brea, Tuesdays 4-8pm

2) Irvine, Saturdays 9-1pm

Another great site is from the Southland Farmer's Market Association and I'm sure there are plenty of other sites out there as well.

I'm looking forward to finding great, healthy food for Vicky and me (and maybe a little 2009 bambino/a) to eat!

The play's the thing - first of 2009...

If you would have come up to me one year ago and asked me how many plays I would write in 2008, I would have said "Zero"... turned out it was two!

If you would have then asked how I thought I'd begin 2009, I certainly would never have answered with "My first dramatic play" because, well, you know, that's crazy talk.

Looks like 2009 is going to be a crazy year. Because of a play I'm presently calling "Meaning" - which is a very temporary name, cause, I mean seriously it sucks - my first drama. This is why I never rule out anything!

One brother says to another, "Tell me the meaning of life or I'll kill myself", only the brother who has to answer is crazy and would rather see the guy who asked him dead dead dead... Normally, I'd follow that all up with "And it's a comedy" but this time... this time... I wondered what it would be like to talk about suicide without winking.

And I've done it.

Now, I'm going to work on a children's book.

... seriously...

Thursday, January 01, 2009

A One-Second Holiday...

Vicky says that New Year's Eve is a "One-Second Holiday" and I tend to agree.

I'd say I'm getting too old to party but this year was hampered by Vicky's root canal. so I can blame her.

In the meantime, Happy New Year folks!