Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Crazy That Lies Beneath

I think one of the advantages of being ridiculously wealthy (conjecture, I assure you as I am not) is that you get to a point where you can lose your mind publicly and it doesn't matter. It's what devoted partner refers to as FU money. Tom Cruise went absolutely retarded on national TV and we've all sort of just let it go now. Richard Branson routinely does crazy shit like piloting a rowboat from London to New Zealand and we just sort of shrug it off. If you watched The Colbert Report this week, you may have noticed a little tidbit on Ted Turner. If you didn't, I'll wait while you watch it.

Ok. Yes. Crazy. On the face of it. And yet so intensely brilliant. When you or I suggest that we buy the right to have babies from the poor, we sound insane, deeply unpleasant, and others ignore us. When Ted Turner says it, it sounds MASSIVELY CRAZY, and yet, this guy is a highly successful businessman, so you sort of assume he's thought about it. Which, in turn, leads you to think about it. Or about things like it.

As I am of the belief that we are merely a hop, skip, and jump from dystopia, I gave this more than casual thought, and discovered that, in theory, I wasn't completely opposed to the idea. And yet, much like the privatization of social security, it's just not practical right now.

Let me explain: let's say we allow all people to manage their own retirements. What percentage of those people, freed from the burden of forced savings, do you imagine will not save at all and end up at 70 without any money? 5%? 10%? I'll bet it would be higher. And then what? We're not really prepared to let people starve to death on the side of the road, so then the government would step in to take care of the people who need it; this, in turn, would cost money angering the very people who want to privatize social security. Similarly, the free marketers might see sense in the selling of reproductive rights. After all, if it's a saleable commodity, have at it. Oooooh, except, I'm not sure how they would feel about either a) government sterilization or b) arresting illegally pregnant women and terminating their pregnancies. We just don't do that sort of thing.

But I can definitely see a future where this sort of thing isn't frowned upon, and while I might not like to live there, it sounds like a fascinating place to visit. And I'll bet I run into Ted Turner there because this is a crazy man who is definitely going to be cryogenically frozen until they find a cure for being old. Maybe we'll grab drinks.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Xmas Dinner, Take 1

Despite the years of hebrew school and zionist summer camp, there once was a time when our family celebrated Christmas. In grandma and grandpa's brick house on the corner lot. With a tree and lights and seasonally colored Hershey's Kisses in glass container's and carolers outside and chocolate mousse pie and aunts and an uncle and cousins. While my dates may be spotty, I think we did this yearly until a year or two after my grandfather died. We have pictures to prove it including one I wish I had to share of me in a pink cashmere sweater, pink and grey tartan skirt, with a pink wand - I was 6ish. Yes, our family also brought a menorah when the holidays overlapped and we were certainly not chomping down on bacon in the morning, but there was Christmas and I liked it.

Then there were the non-Christmas years. The stay in New York and see a movie on Christmas day years.

Then there were the in-law years. I went to church. Two years ago I fell asleep in church. After that I chose not to go to church (jewish folks: church is a lot like synagogue except in English and there's slightly less getting up and sitting back down).

But Christmas never recaptured those early years for me. Perhaps it's that devoted partner's family wasn't my family. And there are no small children which, though I despair of spending time with them in general, do add to the Christmaseyness of Christmas.

So this year, now that our families are soon to be joined officially, I requested that we host the Christmas meal. And by requested, I think I said something like, "that's it - I want US to do Christmas this year." But, you know, nicely. Not like some crazed shrew harpy. Honest.

And that brought me to the next obvious question: what to cook? But not really. I've known what I want to cook for Christmas dinner since 2005 when, in the john at Ed's house I paged through the December issue of Food and Wine magazine. There it was: the perfect Christmas dinner. My mouth watered reading about it. So when we started planning, the Food and Wine website was the first stop. Here, in fact. Do you not want to start eating this immediately?!?

I cut back on some of the three million dishes both for expediency and the simple fact that our Christmas dinner will be serving 8 (9? Stupid Kate), not 20. Also, my dad won't be eating a lot of this because of his dietary restrictions. I've ordered my roast and I know it will not be cheap, so we didn't want to leave its preparation to chance. Also, while I'm confident I can whip sweet potatoes on the fly, I was less confident with creamed carrots. So last night I made a single rib and some creamed vegetables. And I'm so glad I did.

My meat was delicious but decidedly medium - and we're a rare to medium rare kind of group. So now I can adjust cooking times. The vegetables were good, but our tastes run to the more intense, so I'll be adding more ginger and more horseradish and, in a nod to having something without heavy cream, I think we're going to saute the mushrooms in sherry vinegar instead. It was also useful from a timing perspective. Anyone who was at our inaugural Passover dinner may remember that we ate in the round because the meat took way longer than expected and I spent most of the meal in the kitchen with The Boy finishing the lamb on the stovetop. Now I know what can be made ahead of time (all initial vegetable cooking for example - if they get finished with the cream sauce, they will heat up again, and that cream sauce need not be made a la minute). And I just bought a chafing dish which will help immensely since I despise serving lukewarm food.

I'll give credit where credit is due, though, and the credit belongs to devoted partner. I absolutely tend to wing it on cooking, figuring stuff will be good enough, and it drives devoted partner crazy because sometimes I fail. Mightily. And while for some dinners, I think the pre-cooking is unnecessary, for this, our first Christmas meal, it made a lot of sense and I think it will prevent me from overcooking 200 dollars worth of cow.

Now if only he'd tell me what time his family is showing up, we'd be golden!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Bachelorette

or While the Cat is Away, the Mouse Will Build a Pillow Fort in the Living Room

Devoted partner and I are separated by a continent for the week and I have been using this time to really get in touch with my 21-year-old self. The 21-year-old who routinely forgot to go to class, ate doritos in a chemise while watching the next-door neighbors play Goldeneye, and considered a trip to Cumberland Farms worthy of the word 'trip.' The reversion began on Saturday when, while in Whole Foods I remembered I was cooking for one this week, I bought several different kinds of frozen hors d'ouvres and some pre-made chili. And let me tell you, eating chicken taquitos as dinner with no one around to wonder why is the t!ts.

And when there's no one around to judge your television watching, it is oh so easy to end up watching something truly vile. Picture the scene: 11pm, last night, me in yoga pants and a should-have-been-thrown-out-years-ago petit bateau t-shirt beneath my Dive Dahab hooded sweatshirt, and my shearling moccasins (blogger, I'm positive shearling is a word - that you think it isn't is troubling); I am eating ramen noodles - the actual ramen noodles we ate in college; and I am watching, for the first time, Bridezillas.

I know that my reluctance to experience the same pop culture as everyone else is troubling, but I assure you, I had never flipped to this show before. Because its very title is repugnant. I have also not seen any of the housewives for the same reason. Reality TV, in general, leaves me cold simply because of its caricaturish nature and utter lack of originality. Case in point: the last time I got really into a relationshippy reality show - and by really into I mean Jamie and I watched every episode maniacally giggling and drinking beer - was a one-season-only juggernaut of disaster called, I believe, Paradise Island. In short a number of married or nearly-married couples (6, 8, who remembers?) were invited to a sultry resort some place warm and promptly separated from one another. In come an equal number of, respectively, Hot Topic and Frederick's of Hollywood-type people who, for the remainder of the show, will attempt to hook up with members of the couples in an effort to see whose relationship is strongest and can withstand the promise of VERY MANY STRINGS ATTACHED sex with completely waxed strangers. It was the best piece of Rome is Burning television I have ever been privileged enough to watch. Nothing else comes close. Which is why I don't want it. That show was mean-spirited and end-of-days-y from the get go; the others try to have points and morals and tidy endings.

Much as I would like to say that my first viewing of Bridezillas won't be my last, I think, sadly, it's just not evil enough. I mean, yes, there's the evil aspect of knowing that none of the marriages will last, but that's just not evil enough. And yes, there is some small enjoyment that can be derived by watching women disintegrate before your eyes over trivial things, except that none of the women I saw last night was stable to begin with. Following a spoiled brat as she becomes more spoiled is hardly entertaining. Following a previously sane person as she spirals into chocolate fountain insanity? That I might watch.

On deck this evening in the Pillow Fort? A classic. I'll be viewing Airplane and snacking on either grape leaves or something unique from Trader Joe's.

Come home soon, baby. I'm obviously unable to care for myself in your absence.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The New Computer

I think I've written before about how difficult I find it to part with a large sum of money; in fact I think it was in reference to the new computer I desperately needed.

Depending on how you define desperately.

And that was part of the problem: the computer worked, just slowly.

After much agonizing and way too many hours comparing things like bus speeds and pci slots, I bit the bullet before Thanksgiving and the parts started trickling in. Devoted partner spared me the effort of assembling the computer (though I did install my own dvd drive and OS which makes me not at all badass) and the disparate parts and their gigaherzes cohered into something that looks like your average Dell.

Then it was time to boot up and dive in.

First impressions: I do not love Windows 7, purely from a UI perspective. I don't like icons and shading and a computer telling me how I want things displayed. I want to tell it how to display things. Now we're early on in our relationship and I might be able to achieve the level of customization I'm looking for as time goes on, but as it stands, there's some work to be done.

The same cannot be said for the speed issue. I knew my old computer was slow. After all, it was a 5-year old motherboard maxed out on ram and a petrie dish of various active and removed virii, malware, and the like (now since eradicated with a wipe of everything so that Julie, its inheritor, need only experience slowness, not disease). The new computer is fast. Really fast.

The greatest example I can give is of the Adobe Lightroom functionality. Lightroom is a photo manipulation software package that LITERALLY took 1 minute per photo on the old machine just to import. Think about that when you think about the 300 pictures you took of your nephew's birthday party. As a result I didn't work on my photos much because I just didn't have the requisite 3 days I would need to get through them. New computer loads a folder full of photos in under 60 seconds. As a result, should you be so interested in the evidence of our least successful vacation ever, the Nicaragua pictures are now up. Amy says I should take down the one of myself at the end, but I think it's important that people realize just how sick I was on vacation. But it is not a pretty picture. At all.

Black plague photos aside, I now have a machine that works for what I need. I'm doing some things differently, though. I'm a great devotee of google docs and, as such, have not installed my MS Office (hopelessly outdated I'm sure). I'm also going to attempt to live without photoshop (but I know in my deepest of hearts that this will not last and I will be asking my soon-to-be sister-in-law to get me an educational copy ere long). I also didn't bother reinstalling many of my games. In fact I only installed one to test the graphics capabilities of my bangin' new graphics card. Instead, I'm merely reveling in the next 6 months of non-obsolescence and hoping that I don't have to buy another computer for another 7 years.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Far be it from me to give Carly Simon any more airtime, but she seems to have cornered the meme-o-sphere on this word, and sadly, the word is apt.

Gift giving is tough in our family. Not because we don't want things, more because we don't want things that fall within the gift giving budget. My mental wish list has several sub $20 things - that new nail polish color, 12" circular knitting needles - and expensive things - furniture, electronics, trips to Thailand. In the middle there's not much.

So we've gotten in the habit of pooling financial gifts to come up with the thing we wanted - even when that means, like this year, my brother and I will be exchanging envelopes with the exact same amount of cash in them. And, in the spirit of making sure the thing I wanted wasn't sold out, I pre-ordered it and picked it up last night.

And now, like the adult I am, will stare at it in its packaging, until we open gifts on Christmas (the day we'll also be celebrating a very late Chanukah). Which will be very very difficult to do and draw on the reserve of willpower I am currently using to not eat.

Because the gift is a colornook.

That I want to open and play with and customize and mess with like the gearnerd I am.

But I will not, for I has adulthood. And I will spend the next (oh my god) month thinking about how much fun I will have with it in January. But if you have spent any time in a Barnes & Noble recently playing with the nook, you will know how much fun it is RIGHT NOW. My salesperson, Erika, helped me a great deal by refusing to open the packaging to put my anti-glare plastic thingy on the screen, saying that once the box was open, temptation would prove to great, but then she put the whole kit and kaboodle in a bag with photographs of the colornook in action on the outside.

So now I have a very compelling bagvertisement in my house that contains the very item the bag is bagvertising.

Fine. I'm going back to thinking about food and how much I'd like to eat some that isn't composed of finn crsips and chicken breast.