Tuesday, September 30

Squash Soup: A Pictorial Essay

On Friday, my coworker gave me the last of her summer squash:
It took me awhile to decide what to do with them, but recipe searches convinced me that the best thing to make would be soup since my only other option was casserole. I prefer soup infinitely over casserole. However, what I discovered in my search was that--just as with butternut squash--crazy people tend to make spicy-sweet soups out of summer squash. I will never be able to hang out with sweet soup, so I decided to make a bastardized version of an Epicurious recipe combined with Kelly S's very delicious butternut squash soup.

I chopped the squash into little pieces:
and roasted it with olive oil, salt, pepper, and cumin (cumin is the roasted vegetable's best friend). And about 4-5 cloves of garlic, chopped up and spread around.

In the meantime, I rendered the fat of 1 piece of bacon, removed and ate the bacon (yay!), melted 3 tbsp butter and sauteed a chopped onion for 8 minutes. After that, I added 4 cups of chicken broth and one russet potato, thinly sliced, and simmered for 15 minutes:
I added the roasted summer squash, which had actually been in the refrigerator overnight because I roasted it on Sunday before attending a movie called The Last Mistress--basically a costume drama-cum-soft core porn in which a woman literally turns a man into her fuck stick. Bet you didn't think you'd see that when you started reading this! But seriously, it had many unnecessarily graphic (yet hilarious) sex scenes that did little to further the plot. Anyway, here's how the squash looked after roasting:
and after being added to the soup:
(my kitchen has terrible lighting). I cooked that until the squash was heated and the potatoes were tender, about 10 more minutes. Then I added salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, and the tiniest amount of turmeric--really, I did little more than show the bottle of turmeric to the pot of soup. Then I blended the shit out of it with a hand mixer and added about 1/3 cup of heavy whipping cream:
and ate it with a dollop of pesto (pesto makes everything better!) and garlic loaf:
Muy delicioso!

Sunday, September 14

The squirrels are going to be mad...

Here's what I did today.

I made my storage space go from this:
to this:
and my deck go from this:

to this:

The squirrels will be mad they don't have pots to bury peanuts in and knock over. While cleaning, I found poop that was way too big to be squirrel poop. I'm scared to know what's been hanging around out there; I suspect it's raccoons:

Not So Smart

As anyone knows who has iTunes, every few months a new version of iTunes is available and you must update your iTunes with each new version or else you can't very well sync iTunes with your iPod.

I updated iTunes today to version 8.0 like my computer suggested. Version 8.0 has a new feature called the Genius Sidebar. It claims to "make playlists from songs in your library that go great together." I've only been running it for an hour, so I don't think it's had enough songs run through it to make playlists. What I have noticed about it is this: it puts a link to the iTunes Music Store in your iTunes window. Then it oh-so-helpfully "recommends" songs and albums that you are "missing" from your ultimate playlist, providing a convenient button so you can purchase them without having to take the pesky extra step of clicking on the Music Store icon.

I don't want to sound like the whiny beatnik on Mad Men telling Don Draper that ad men are swine because they create want, but I've had enough with Apple's aggressive marketing. I can't update iTunes unless I download their internet navigation program, Safari, which I don't use.

So, Apple, quit trying to force things on me that I don't need. I don't have a Mac, and all of your aggressive marketing is only turning me off. Oh, yeah, I'm also tired of your Mac vs. PC commercials.

Monday, September 8

Everybody Needs to Read this Book Now!

What are you doing right now? If you answered anything other than reading Learned Optimism, you should maybe reconsider and decide to read it instead of whatever you were doing.

This book is so good that the Department of Health and Welfare should issue a copy of it to every household in America.

Learned Optimism deals with the impact pessimism has on a person's life, especially the influence pessimism has on depression. Dr. Martin Seligman has spent over 40 years studying the link between pessimism and depression, concluding that pessimism negatively reinforces and prolongs depression and causes people to become helpless and inactive in their lives. So, what your mother always told you about thinking positive has been clinically proven to be true.

This all sounds like, "duh" stuff, especially if you are familiar with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, but the book has tests you can take to find out how optimistic/pessimistic you are and how prone to depression you are. Seligman also includes tests he gives to kids to find out how optimistic/pessimistic/prone to depression they are. If you have or work with kids, you should seriously check this out, because Dr. Seligman discusses how easily children (and adults) can change the habit of rationalizing/explaining bad experiences from a pessimistic style to an optimistic style, making it easier to bounce back from hardship or failure and keep trying.

I'm only half way through this book, but I already feel like it's helped me immensely. As Dr. Seligman has found, there are certain people (many of whom are women) who ruminate over and over again on things in their life, which I've also heard of as repetitive destructive thinking. Rumination can be a very destructive force for pessimistic thinkers because it causes you to analyze and re-analyze and reinforce negative thoughts, causing you to become depressed and unable to do...well, anything, really.

I am a ruminator. This is why I had so much trouble working at the call center, because there were many MANY negative encounters at that place--at least half of all conversations or interactions involved complaining, yelling, put-downs, etc. I would end up going over and over them again in my mind until I just didn't want to do anything except think about those things constantly, like women who would scream from the beginning of a phone call to the end that they were going to sue our company or get people fired or kill their delivery driver--all because delivery was running late on some nonessential item like eyeshadow. (Even non-customer interactions at that place were negative. Between the bad feelings caused by negative phone encounters and the bad feelings caused by management-union power struggles, that place was a nightmare. I always felt like I was in prison while I worked there. Let me reiterate how glad I am that I don't work there anymore. I am sorry that place is being closed down because I don't want people to lose their jobs, but I hope they can find somewhere happier to work. I'm pretty sure "Call Center" is one of Dante's nine levels of hell).

I think I see some unfortunate souls with headphones in the bottom third here:

That was quite a digression, but I really want to stress how awful and destructive it is to ruminate over negative thoughts. It is stupid. If you find you think constantly about bad things that have happened or worry about bad things that might happen, you should definitely take a look at Learned Optimism. You also may want to look at the website called MoodGym, which has exercises to help rid you of those negative repetitive thoughts.

Sunday, September 7


Yesterday, I attended a memorial service for the first time in my life. It was very sad and very sweet, and a lot of people showed up to remember Dr. Ryder, including the mayor and several local news crews.

Dr. Ryder's friends shared funny stories about her and there was a slideshow with photos of her in some of the most hideous glasses I have ever seen. There was also a short video of her playing the Jabberwocky song, which I missed in class for some reason.

Several times during the service, a minister got up and spoke to the audience about religious stuff and said some things that seemed sort of out of place to me. She talked for a long time about not being mad at God for causing the freak fire that took Dr. Ryder's life, because God doesn't do that sort of thing. She then said something like "the human body isn't made to withstand smoke and high heat." She then reiterated that God doesn't create freak accidents to kill people.

I think those particular lines made more people uncomfortable than just me , because Mikela asked me later, "What did you think about all that 'don't be mad at God' stuff? I thought she was going to rehash the entire autopsy." Yeah, it was weird. The minister seemed oddly defensive. It reminded me of the time I was at a wedding and the minister started droning on about divorce after the vows and after lecturing about how the man is the master of the household and the wife must obey him...just because someone is a minister, it doesn't mean that he or she is the best orator.

There was music throughout the service, and I don't know how the musicians who sang kept it together, especially at the end, when they asked everyone to do a sing-along to Joni Mitchell's "Circle Game." I couldn't even get through one line, but the woman next to me made up for it by singing very loudly. She had a gorgeous voice, too.

It sucks. Mikela said when we first got there, that it would be different if Dr. Ryder had been some curmudgeon who hated life and was indifferent to her profession and to other people. I'm sorry for all the future students who won't get to be taught Linguistics by Dr. Ryder. I only had her for one 5-week summer course and there are several time per day that I think about things I learned in her class. Someday when I get serious about learning Hungarian or Russian, I'll know how to pronounce the words correctly because she taught me the IPA chart, though I wish I had remembered to ask her how to pronounce the Russian letter Щ.

Dr. Ryder, you will be missed.

Monday, September 1

An Open Letter to Alcohol

Looking back, I never thought it would come to this. However, I think it's time we parted ways. We used to have so much fun together: partying all day and all night, visiting strange after-parties, making out with random guys, annoying the neighbors, breaking laws, trying new drugs, throwing up, sleeping past noon, and all the other rock and roll things I can't think of right now.

But lately--how can I put this--you bore me. A few sips and I just think, "ugh, isn't there something better I could be doing?" Whereas I used to have nasty anxiety about all social interactions, and needed you to help me get through said interactions, I don't feel that way anymore. I still have anxiety, but now you make it worse. I find social hour more enjoyable with zero drinks than I do after having one or two drinks--any more than that and I'm a lost cause, puking in garbage cans and such. All of my current anxiety stems from the fear that others will remember the stupid things I've done whilst drinking. Eliminate the drinking, eliminate the anxiety.

You make me do stupid things such as: obtaining phone numbers for people I have crushes on and sending them obnoxious text messages; mistaking talking for making out and then telling other people about my mistaken perception that so-and-so and so-and-so were making out when they absolutely were not; allowing my friend's stupid "ex" boyfriend to ask me condescending questions such as "But what do you REALLY want to do with your life? But no, what do you REALLY want to do?" and "But what kind of guy DO you like? I mean, what kinds of things do you look for in a guy?" and not punching him; being nice to whiny guys who try to kiss me and then whine at me "but you're beautiful!" when I tell them I'm in love with someone else; allowing married ex-coworkers into my house who are totally disrespectful of my stuff and then hit on me in the most vulgar way imaginable; sleep repeatedly with sleazebags; take twelve years to finish my Bachelor's Degree; act like an idiot or a jerk so as to make me wake up regretting everything I've done the night before and find it miraculous that I still have friends; and let's not forget all the time I've wasted being hung over and the weight I've gained.

That's not to say we didn't have our good times: I made a lot of friends drinking; I danced a lot; you helped me to get laid; and I have memories and stories to last me for many years. But lately all you give me are vague feelings of annoyance and aggression, headache, nausea, and horrific hangovers. And sometimes you just make me sleepy.

You do little to alleviate my existential boredom.

And these are the reasons why we must part ways, Alcohol.

Thank you and fuck you.