Saturday, April 28, 2012

Good Times, May Edition ...

The May cookie installment for the angelo:HOME blog (a few days early) features Portlandia Cookies. Because, well, why not?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Whither Value? ...

I was chagrined – seriously – to read Michael Miner's piece about Tribune inking a deal with Journatic.

"What is Journatic," you ask? Aside from a company with a stupid "tech" name?

Journatic is a "Chicago-based media content provider" that "aggregates data," according to the Tribune and Miner's piece.

It is also part of the end of journalism as we know it.

TribLocal, "founded in 2007 to provide suburban communities with hyperlocal online news and a weekly print edition," according to Miner, provides valuable information. Consider this gem (thanks to the commenter on Miner's piece who called this out):

10 50 Police Department vehicles reported in Merrionette Park

"The Cook County Sheriff reported an instance of 10 50 Police Department vehicles (7756) on Jan. 28. The incident occurred in the 11700 block of S. Kedzie Ave. in Merrionette Park."

Well, now, don't you feel, um ... something?

But Journatic will (somehow) vastly improve upon such crack reporting.

Miner writes: "Data is collected and processed in the Philippines, but the writing, of necessity, goes on back home."

That's right, the data that will make up the stories about what's going on in your hometown will be collected and proceed in the Philippines, but the writing will be local.

Good, right? Reporters will retain their jobs!

No.

Journatic is currently hiring freelancers and will pay per piece.

Good, right? With a decent per-word rate, writers can earn a decent wage!

No.

Journatic pays a flat rate per piece, in tiers, including $4 stories and $2 stories.

Do not adjust your screen.

Yes, $4 stories and $2 stories.

TWO-DOLLAR STORIES.

TWO. DOLLARS.

TWO.

Now, there may be some who think that two bucks to convert data into a nonsensical item about police-department vehicles is a pretty good deal, but a) a nonsensical item about police-department vehicles is nonsensical and therefore meaningless, and 2) there very well may be something happening in your town that you may actually need to know about which you will likely not know about because who is going to let you know about it? A data-aggregating computer in the Philippines?

Here's the thing about content:

Content worth publishing costs money to produce.

And I'm not talking two dollars.

Journalists and writers of other stripes possess a skill, a skill you do not possess, even though you think you do.

Yes, most folks can string together words to form a sentence. Or something resembling a sentence.

But most people can do basic addition and subtraction.

That does not make them accountants.

I expect to see absurd postings on craigslist.

Here's a recent gem:


You can click on it to see a larger image, but these are the key bits:

- "Need a writer for blog posts"
- "Looking for someone who can write, my writing is horrible. Someone who is versed in concerts and is able to describe your concert experiences."
- "Compensation: no pay"

Yes, the gist of this posting is "I want/have a blog but I'm a horrible writer so write my blog for me for free."

Um, bub? Here's a thought, for free, even:

IF YOU'RE A HORRIBLE WRITER, DON'T BLOG.

And here's another:


Again, you can click on it for a larger image, but here are the key bits:

- "Make your Mother proud, write for us!"
- "Looking for Good Writers and Photographers"
- "Email for more application directions."
- "Compensation: no pay"

Ah, yes, what mother wouldn't be proud to know that she raised a child who is a good writer or a good photographer (or both) who is willing to work for free, and – even better – who is expected to apply for the privilege!

And since I doled out a free bit of advice for the previous poster, allow me to be as generous here:

"Gimme" is shorthand for "give me," therefore, in this instance, "gimmie" is shorthand for "give mie," and "mie" is not a word. You're welcome.

But I hoped – naively, it seems – that a paper such as the Tribune would still value those who report the news.

I understand that the Internet has led many people to believe that information should be free. But it's not.

There's a reason that you can't walk into a bookstore, grab any books or magazines that interest you, and walk out the door. There's a reason you're expected to pay for them.

Yes, we live in a world of information overload. But all information is not created equal.

Some of it is important. Some of it is engaging. Much of it is not.

And those who have the skill and talent to bring the important and engaging information to light have bills to pay just like you.

Do not expect them to work for free. Or two dollars.

Because you get what you pay for.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Puppies And Rainbows ...

Earlier today, I put out the call for some puppies and rainbows, stat.

Friends quickly obliged.

So, in the spirit of paying it forward, I wanted to create a post that might pop up in a search when other folks find themselves in need of such therapy.

So then, puppies:


And rainbows:



See, now? Don't you feel better? I thought so.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Home Ec Redux ...

My mom used to sew.

Her mom really used to sew.

Me? I don't sew so much.

I've made a few items of clothing over the years, but mostly, I sew curtains. Hems. Straight seams. Yup, that's about my speed. Occasionally, I make a pillow cover. But only when my sewing machine decides to behave.

Last year, it was giving me grief. Something was wrong. Thread was bunching. The needle was jamming. Clearly, it needed service. So I put it away and wrote "Tune up sewing machine" on my whiteboard. And that was the end of that.

Until a couple of days ago when I was looking up where I could take my sewing machine for service and spied, in the search results, someone asking if they could tune up their own machine.

Huh. Well, that never occurred to me. Yes, I suppose I could do it myself. Try, anyway. I probably couldn't muck up anything too badly, right?

But sewing-machine oil. I'd need sewing-machine oil. Perhaps I had some in my stash of sewing accoutrement from a departed aunt.

I hauled the machine out and set it on the counter. And there, in the handy-dandy compartment in which the extra bobbins live, was a bottle of sewing-machine oil.

Well, OK then. And I remembered a paintbrush I bought a long time ago that I never did use, perfect for brushing out the bobbin area and the feed dog. I brought my vacuum along for the fun. And my toolbox. (I needed a real screwdriver.) With the help of the instruction manual, I oiled all the appropriate places, put everything back together, threaded the machine, and proceeded to attempt to sew the pillow cover I'd begun last year.

And it sewed like a dream.

Well, that was easy. And it took me about 15 minutes. Well, you know, about a year and 15 minutes.

I was pleased as could be with my finished pillow cover, which was made from a $2 discontinued fabric sample and some material I had left over from my living-room panels. I extracted a pillow form from another pillow, stuffed it inside the new cover, smooshed the fill into the corners, and voila!

Eager to keep sewing, I washed and dried fabric that I bought last year for a project that never happened because I was too clueless to realize I could tend to my own machine. And then I headed to not one but two fabric stores to find more material for more pillow covers. I have five I want to make.

Between the two locations, I probably looked at 500 bolts of fabric. And found nothing I wanted to buy. A couple of contenders, but nothing that made me fall in love. Though this guy is kind of interesting:

I'm not a fan of marigolds in real life, but I like them on this fabric. Or are they supposed to be chrysanthemums?

I roamed the aisles. Nothing was off limits. I would have considered flannel if it came in an interesting pattern, but I wasn't in the market for plaid.

Eventually, my eyes landed on this fleece:

The owl made me think of my niece. The squirrel made me think of Angelo.

I took a close-up for him:

And sent it along with a note that mentioned that I am unsure if this is a baby girl squirrel or a not-so-subtle squirrel homage to "A Clockwork Orange." I also told him that while I wanted to, I didn't buy it.

He replied to tell me that I should.

I replied to tell him that if I did, he was getting a pillow.

I am amused at the notion of it being a travel pillow. Or perhaps I could make a travel throw for him. He would be the envy of all his fellow passengers, I'm sure.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Leave It To A Woman ...

Doreen and I discussed the Hungry-Man.

She suggested that I investigate Stouffer's or give Marie Callender's a try.

I nixed the Stouffer's idea. I recently tried the macaroni and cheese, as one of my aunts gave it her blessing years ago, and she was the poster child for food snobs. If she deemed it edible, I figured, it must be worthwhile.

Nope. Perhaps she'd been desperate. Macaroni and cheese desperation. You know how it is.

But Marie Callender's. Hmm. I had a pot pie once, long ago. At Doreen's suggestion, I believe. OK, then. Sure.

On my way home from scouting – unsuccessfully – for fabric (I probably looked at 500 bolts and didn't find one worth buying), I swung by the store to replenish my Greek yogurt supply. And as long as I was in the aisle with frozen dinners, I took a gander.

I scoffed at Hungry-Man as I walked by, and made my way to Marie.

The picture held more promise than that of my previous foray. The turkey, for example, looked like turkey. Like, from a turkey, as opposed to Hungry-Man's too-uniform slices. (Honestly, I almost never eat frozen prepared food. This spate is an anomaly. Trust me.)

"340 Calories," read the front of the box, with a caret between "340" and "Calories" inserting the word "Delicious."

Hungry-Man didn't promise that his calories would be delicious. No, he was too busy boasting about his "1 LB OF FOOD." Oaf. (Marie weighs in at a more dainty 14 ounces.)

And in tiny, modest type: "Just like home."

Aw.

So, I came home and read the instructions and was struck by Step 4: "Check that product is cooked thoroughly. Internal temperature needs to reach 165°F as measured by a food thermometer in several spots."

Well, Marie, I presume this turkey isn't coming to me in a raw state, but thanks for your vigilance.

I nuked as directed and then stuck a thermometer in. If the thermometer was to be believed, my food wasn't cooked through. So I put it back in the microwave for another 90 seconds. I tested it again. Far be it from me to ignore such an instruction. I decided that a reading of 162 probably wasn't going to be my undoing, so I ate.

The turkey was indeed turkey as from a turkey. Sliced thickly, not like it came from a deli. The stuffing was about what you'd expect. Ditto the mashed potatoes.

But on balance, Marie kicks Hungry-Man's culinary ass.

I shan't be making such meals a regular part of my diet, but it's nice to know that when I find myself with a taste for Thanksgiving, there's a reasonable fix in my grocer's freezer.

Thanks, Doreen! Thanks, Marie!

Hungry-Man, take a hike.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Hungry-Who? ...

I'm kind of hopeless when it comes to food.

I love it, don't misunderstand. I admire chefs, though I'm very glad I never became one. I wish Allen Sternweiler would reopen my beloved Allen's, if only for a night, so I could have his mushroom ragout one more time.

I love a great Chicago hot dog and pizza and haricot verts. From frumpy to fancy, I love it all. Well, most of it. May cilantro never touch my palate again. And guava can stay the hell away from me, too.

But when dinner time rolls around, I am often stumped. Nothing appeals to me. I run through every fast food option and most of the time I discard them all. Occasionally, I'll go get a salad. Which hardly counts as fast food. I don't eat fast-food burgers anymore and there are only so many chicken sandwiches a girl can stomach but the chicken isn't really good for me anyway. Poor chickens.

So, last night, as I sat at my computer, scrolling through Twitter, clicking through to various news stories, none of which were helping me decide what to eat, my brain finally settled on ... Thanksgiving.

That's what I wanted, I decided. Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and gravy.

Humph.

Why the hell hasn't someone created a franchise for Thanksgiving fare?

"Boston Market!", some friends offered, helpfully.

Nope, not nearby. (There seem to be far fewer Boston Markets in the world than there used to be.)

So I continued to sit and mull.

And then my brain informed me that surely – surely – someone in the world of frozen dinners offers turkey.

So I headed off to the store.

And last night, for the first time in my existence, I bought a Hungry-Man dinner.


And last night, for the first time in my existence, I asked myself, upon returning home and opening the box, "What hungry man is this supposed to feed? An Ooompa-Loompa?"

Have you ever seen a Hungry-Man dinner?

It's pathetic.

The idea of a Hungry-Man dinner makes me think of a burly guy, just home from a hard day on a construction site, or a ranch hand who's spent the day building a split-rail fence. He comes home, all grimy, showers up, and tucks into a Hungry-Man dinner to sate his man-sized hunger.

Yeah, that's not real. But that's advertising for you.

The black plastic compartmentalized tray contained a turkey-stuffing-mashed-potato-and-gravy compartment, a mixed-vegetable compartment, and a cranberry-ish-something-or-other compartment. (That one, turned out, was "dessert.")

The slices of turkey were perfect half circles, about 5 inches wide at what would be their diameters, and maybe an eighth of an inch thick. Maybe. There were four such slices. I've seen more meat on a meager sandwich from Subway.

But I followed the instructions (to nuke the thing; no, I wasn't about to put it in the oven for 40 minutes) and 10 minutes later, I was no closer to the Thanksgiving dinner I wanted than I was before I went to the store.

Was it edible? Yes. Did my body reject it? No. Would I buy it again? Only if my options were a bowl of shiitake-cilantro-guava goo or that. Well, or bugs. Maybe if my options were a pile of bugs or that. Then, yes, I'd opt for that.

I love that the box offers "SIMPLY COOK & SERVE."

What the hell else would I do with it?

Take it on a trip?

Introduce it to my parents?

Also, note that the photo is "ENLARGED TO SHOW QUALITY."

My hearty congratulations to the food stylist for creating a plate that looks a lot like what I wanted to have for dinner last night.

I can't wait for November.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Makes Beth Happy, April 17 ...

The Makes-Beth-Happy Word of the Day is:

Puddle!
I'm also fond of its sibling, "cuddle." But not so much "muddle." Even if drinks are involved.

The Makes-Beth-Happy Recipe of the Day is:

Feta Baked with Tomato & Oregano

I saw a recipe for baked feta last night that seemed tasty enough (not a big fan of capers of the edible variety) but I did a little more baked-feta surfing and found this beauty.

And the Makes-Beth-Happy Objet of the Day is:

Kent Storage Ottoman in Black and Cream Shoreline Tile

Speaking of beautiful things that are Greek, this ottoman is one of Angelo's latest. I flipped when I first saw it. I'm not drawn to such graphic patterns typically, but I have two chairs in a similar fabric (smaller scale and reversed – more black than white) and they're awesome.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Wherefore Art Thou, Sky Money? ...

sky money [skeye mon-ee]
noun

1. A big bag of money that falls from the sky.
2. Duh.

O sky money, sky money. Wherefore art thou sky money?

The sky money, it eludes me. Alas.

But oh, the things I would do with it.

I would give giant fistfuls of it away, for starters. That's just good karma. Sharing is good. Greed is bad.

I would hire folks to put a porch on my house. Oh, how I covet a porch. I can see it in my mind. Reading for hours on a lazy summer day, sipping lemonade, greeting passersby and inviting them to sit for a while, to share some lemonade and treats. Or curling up in blanket during a heavy rain, feeling the mist on my face. Yep, a porch.

I would bake, perhaps here, perhaps in a bakery café I would open, a charming space – with a fireplace – where people could gather with old friends and meet new friends and chat and nosh. On the order of Meryl Streep's café in "It's Complicated," but cozier, slightly. There would be lamps, the warm glow of lamps.

I would buy a beautiful apartment somewhere beautiful, with beautiful herringbone floors. Oh, how I covet beautiful herringbone floors. I suppose I could have them installed in my house, but it would be nice to have a beautiful apartment somewhere beautiful where I could be when I wanted to be, and that I could offer to family and friends when they were in town and I was not. New York, perhaps? Boston? Paris? London? Who knows.

I would spend long stretches of time in Big Sur, sitting on the rocks, watching the waves, marveling at the quality of the light, walking, reading, writing, sleeping. Being. I adore Big Sur. Nature is extraordinary.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Good Times, April Edition ...


The April cookie installment for the angelo:HOME blog features Cinnamon-Sugar Croutons and Cheesecake Fondue. You may be saying, "Neither of those things are cookies." And you'd be right, but that's not important right now. There's bread and melty cheese to be had!

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Spring ...


The Easter Bunny, looking suspiciously like my mom, came by yesterday with flowers.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Makes Beth Happy, April 6 ...

The Makes-Beth-Happy Word of the Day is:

Dozy!
Drowzy and lazy's offspring!

The Makes-Beth-Happy Recipe of the Day is:

Egg and Cheese Strata

I'm not a fan of straight-on eggs, but eggs paired with bread and cheese and prosciutto and asparagus? Hello!

And the Makes-Beth-Happy Objet of the Day is:

Veneer Spheres

I've been looking for something small and round and wooden. No, really. (Maybe I should find a croquet ball.) The smaller of these is still too big for what I want, but that's probably for the best. As my mom would say, "Who wants to dust that?"

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Free Space ...


I was thinking the other day about "the list" that everyone has of five celebrities they'd sleep with if they had the chance, and I decided that George Clooney should be like the Free space on a bingo card, because, honestly, male or female, straight or gay, who doesn't include this guy?

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Senior Citizen In Training ...

Monday, I got up at 3:54 a.m.

I didn't plan it that way. I had set my alarm for 5:40. Well, not set my alarm so much as moved the switch to "On." The time was already set. I didn't bother to change it.

But whenever I know that I have to get up earlier than usual – if I'm traveling, say – I always wake up early. My brain must worry that I'm going to oversleep, so it overcompensates and wakes me at absurd hours instead.

I had looked at the clock (I keep it covered because even the dim setting is too bright) and said, "Beth, you don't have to get up yet," and then I proceeded to lie there and think about all the stuff I wanted to get done, which wasn't doing much to lull me back to sleep. So instead of lying there and thinking about it, I just got up and did it.

Good thing, too, as I got out of the house just about the time I had hoped to, so if I had stayed in bed for another hour and a half? The morning would have been much more stressful.

And so I went about my day, finishing a project, loading up the car, delivering said project, and then having lunch with friends who, conveniently, live very near where the delivery was made. I hadn't seen them in far too long. I brought cookies. They served chicken salad. It was delicious. It was also from Costco. I had no idea Costco sold small vats of chicken salad. But they do. So now I shall buy some. Because I make fantastic chicken salad but sometimes, I am lazy.

I drove home with all good intentions of accomplishing lots of things. I had a lot of things to accomplish, but I made the very big mistake of sitting down when I got home. In my comfy chair. I stared at the tape gun that I had, for some reason, set on my trunk-cum-coffee table in the living room. I pondered whether I had enough energy to put it away.

Turned out, I did. I put away several things, all related to tape: packing tape, painters' tape, a tape measure.

But my good intentions were fading fast, as was I. I went to the store and picked up a few things for dinner. I came home, I ate, and in relatively short order fell asleep on the couch. I woke up and told myself to go to bed.

It was 9 p.m.

So I crawled into bed at 9 p.m., having already been asleep, and fell asleep rather quickly.

And then I woke up at 4:30 a.m.

Because I had gone to bed at 9 p.m. and had already been asleep before that, so I had gotten more than seven and a half hours of sleep, which is perfectly normal.

Except that I was now awake at 4:30 a.m., which is not.

Not for me, anyway.

But I got up and made coffee and clacked around on the computer and waited for, you know, the sun.

And thought about what I needed to accomplish, a list that still contained most of the good intentions from the day before.

So I headed into the kitchen to make an omelette. And toast.

I really must remember that I don't really like eggs. Even when filled with cheese.

Fueled, though not entirely satisfied, I set about reclaiming my dining room and kitchen. The project, which I'd completed the day before, had been in the works for a few weeks and I had many boxes piled up and many things to put away. Boxes were broken down, dishes were done, counters were cleaned. My house looked like my house again. Errands were run. A phone call was returned which resulted in compiling clips and links and sending them off with my resumé.

But outside, the grass loomed.

March was ridiculously warm this year, mid-80s some days. My grass was happy. I was not. I like seasons. I'd prefer to experience all four, not just two. But the project took precedence. The grass was not going away. It would still be there for me, waiting.

I told myself that I would cut it tomorrow. Tomorrow being today. The mowing and the bagging and the schlepping. Who had the energy? Not me.

I looked at the boxes, waiting to go out to recycling. I took them outside.

It was cool. Breezy. Windy, even. Overcast. My long-sleeve T-shirt wasn't enough to keep me warm. But I decided to mow. At least the front yard. At least where people could see. My neighbors on either side had tended to their lawns, so I was now officially the slacker neighbor with the unseemly grass.

Humph.

I wondered if I had any gas. Crap. Any inclination to follow through with this chore would be sapped by having to run to the gas station. And P.S., have you seen the price of gas these days?

I shook the gas can. Just enough, maybe?

I filled the mower. Yup, just enough for one little tank. I'd see how far that'd get me.

I mowed the front yard, picking up twigs as I went. My back was not pleased.

I mowed the back yard, which took longer than the front. The grass was higher back there. Why, I have no idea.

I uncovered the air conditioner. I stashed things in the garage.

I came inside and changed out of my gasoline-smelling clothes.

And realized that I had nothing for dinner.

So I headed out to my car to go to the store.

And laughed as I practically staggered to the garage.

You know you're tired when you can't really walk in a straight line.

I wandered around the store and grabbed a ridiculous assortment of crap.

I should not shop when I am tired.

Barbecue potato chips and gummi Life Savers? Sure.

Ketchup? Gotta have that. I almost never eat ketchup, but what if a ketchup-eating guest stops by?

A 20-oz. Pepsi from the checkout lane? Yup. I just felt like some Pepsi.

I did get some chicken, so as to have something to consume that represented actual food.

Of course, it was fried.

I came home and ate and talked on the phone, which I don't do very much anymore.

And fell asleep on the couch later. And then headed to bed.

But at 1 a.m. this time.

And I woke up at 6, because the garbage man likes to come down my street at that hour.

Perhaps tonight, I'll eat a proper meal and go to bed at a proper time.

It could happen.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

I, Proofreader ...


A post about proofreading?

No, this is not an April Fool's joke.

(Tangent: Really? People still play April Fool's jokes? What's up with that? Some traditions are quaint. Some things, I'm glad to see. I'm glad that parents still take their kids to get their pictures taken with Santa and the Easter Bunny. I'm glad that technology hasn't become such that parents can just plop their kids in front of their giant TVs, set the channel to a programmed green screen, snap a shot, and superimpose kids onto Santa's lap, or a bunny's. Though, really, can that be far behind? Also, I like that kids still learn to ride two-wheelers, because surely the day will come when they'll sit on a device in their homes and project themselves into some virtual world instead of riding around town. P.S. God, I'm old.)

But as I was typing: proofreading.

I'm sitting in my living room on a dim Sunday morning, the rain having just moved through, trying to sip enough coffee to eradicate my caffeine-deficiency headache from yesterday, and thinking that I really should write something. This blog has been suffering from a bit of neglect lately, and I don't like to be virtually inhospitable. My brain wandered over to thinking about this post from Angelo, about how his life has unfolded in unexpected ways. (I love that when he found himself in the enviable position of having landed two pilots, he chose to proceed with the show he thought wouldn't last.)

He didn't have a plan. He didn't set out expressly to do what he does. His career – we both dislike the word "career" – evolved, as many "not careers" do.

But this is not a post about my "not career." I can't bear to write another one. So I know that you can't bear to read another one. I share your sighs of relief.

So, my brain, in its morning meanderings, started thinking about proofreading, which I do for money sometimes, but most of the time I do whether there's a check waiting for me at the end of it or not. I spot imperfection. It's what I do. Friday, I was proofreading some content for a client and was marking up instances where the kerning needed to be adjusted. (I have a crazy aptitude for all things spatial. Enjoy, please, my very wordy treatise about my experience with The Johnson O'Connor Research Foundation to find out more. C'mon, you know you want to!)

My point in all of this – yes, I have one, thankyouverymuch – is that I was contemplating proofreading this morning as a means to fix what is fixable, to control what is controllable, to make perfect what is imperfect.

Geez, I have issues.

I might not be able to control everything that happens in the course of my life, but dammit, I can point out that the proper acronym is HIPAA, not HIPPA. (It comes up more often than you'd think.) And while we're on the subject: M-I-L-L-E-N-N-I-U-M, kids, two Ls, two Ns. Thanks. And two Ms and two Is, for that matter, but most people give short shrift to the Ls or the Ns.

And now my brain has decided that it's done with this idea, this post. No great revelations here. Yep, I'm a perfectionist. Yep, proofreading suits me that way. Yep, people should run stuff by me on their way to the printer. But then again, no. The world keeps turning in spite of typos and the occasional extra space.

Big picture, Beth. Big picture. Focus on that.