I am a freelancer in the publishing industry, so words are very important to me. I'm a leftist living in a world gone mad, so politics are very important to me. I'm an environmentalist living in a degrading world, so pick up your damn trash, get rid of your gas guzzlers, and don't touch ANWR, you self-absorbed capitalists!

Do leave comments: let's make this a conversation. If you prefer, you can contact me at friuduric at yahoo dot com.

29 April 2008

Answer Week: Day 1

Split Sister asked, When was the last time you changed all your passwords?

To which I answer: I change all passwords on an alternate-day schedule. It takes about 37 minutes (I've counted) to do it all. I use a randomizer to get me a series of numbers, and a separate one to give me a few capital and lower-case letters. I mix it up together, until it is pleasing to the eye. I keep the current list of passwords in a self-destruct file, which no one but me can access. (Hackers, you have been warned!)

But I have a friend who isn't so anal about it all. Over a couple of beers, she's bemoaned the fact to me that she had come up with a wonderful password, one she was proud of, and she had used it for a select few important sites. Her hubris prompted her to tell her lovely spouse about this great password. Unfortunately, he thought it was as cool as she did, and he started using it, too. (Woe to hubris. Woe! Woe!)

Her consternation (wait, why are you using my cool password, it won't be secure anymore!) was great. She created another password; cool but not teh cool, since that can only happen once in a lifetime, and hers was now street currency, as far as passwords are concerned. He got hold of that second one, too.

She then moved on to a new method: Take a sentence you will remember, then use only the first letter of each word, including a couple of numbers, as you see fit. (OK, I'm sure her spouse, if he was reading here, would argue that he had that idea way back in grad school*, but, whatev' -- in our story, we'll call it her Next Big Thing.) That has been useful for her. She keeps the same password for all her, ahem, slogging sites. (So she doesn't waste more time than she already does on the Internet.)

That family uses the same administrator password for all computers. Can you imagine a different one for each piece of electronic equipment? Good lord. (I know, she's a silly friend, and she's really slacking off in the password department, but sometimes, a friend must simply frown in sympathy, say "hmmmm", and order another round.)

Hmmmmm. Pass me the Guinness.

*He'll also remind her of the day he brought her, his new wedded wife, to the computer center and said, "and the password is [type] [type] [type] [type]" and she said, out loud, "The password is NEBU?" To which he responded by swishing his hands in the typical CANCEL sign, and hissed "DONT SAY IT OUT LOUD!!" with a look of fear on his face. And his newly beloved looked around at all the undergrads clacking away at the Mac lab surrounding them, and had herself a fun little belly laugh. Mostly because of the look on his face.

28 April 2008

Answer Week?

Question week was fun! I learned more than I thought I would (who knew body glide was such an open secret to all but my family??), and am reassured that at least my readership is as normal (or weird) as me on some issues.

I'm feeling a bit uninspired, so I'm taking a page from Boy on Top and requesting questions for me to answer. We'll call it, "Answer Week". How does that sound?

24 April 2008

Question Week: Day 4

Am I the only one who washes the tops of canned goods before opening them?

Or do you all play Russian roulette with your diced tomatoes and garbanzo beans?

23 April 2008

Question Week: Day 3

Now we're nearing TMI land. But don't worry -- I'll try to keep us from crossing the border.

If you've been visiting here for any length of time, then you know that I like to make summer skirts.

If I go on a walk, however, I find that if I wear a skirt then -- well, there will invariably some chafing. Always unpleasant, sometimes irritating.

Is this just me? Do others find that for comfort one has to change into shorts rather than a skirt, when taking a walk?

I thought I had read something somewhere about a product that takes this chafing into account, but I can't find mention of it anywhere (and don't say "baby powder" -- 'cause that don't cut it).

22 April 2008

Happy Earth Day!

Question Week: Day 2

This wasn't the question I planned to ask today, but:

Does anybody else cringe when they see this picture???

Photo from the New York Times

The President of the United States on "Deal or No Deal"? To me, this seems similar to the decadence at the root of the fall of the Roman Empire.

21 April 2008

Question Week: Day 1

I can't believe I forgot to mention here that Impera was spending the week in Iowa, and traveled all by herself, with a connection in Chicago. Anyway, she did. We weren't worried -- both the Consort and I traveled alone as kids, and she's thirteen -- almost not a kid any longer. I picked her up at the airport last night, and I think she was pretty tired. I know she had a great time, but I think she needs 24-48 hours to recuperate from all the fun and sleeplessness.

This week I have to get down to work -- I sorta took last week as my Spring Break as well. But I didn't want to ignore the blog, so I decided that there were several questions I've been asking all of you in my head during the course of my days. This week, I'll be writing them down here. Perhaps you'll answer?

Today's question is:

Often, Netflix sends me an email to ask, "Has Yyyy movie arrived yet? Did it arrive Tuesday or Wednesday?" They say it's to improve customer service, but Ithink it's so that they'll know whether to slow up shipping the DVDs to us (if they get here too promptly, you see).

So, I just ignore these emails. I figure that's better than out-and-out lying.

If you happen to have a Netflix account, do you receive these follow-up emails?

Do you tell Netflix how quickly you get a DVD once it has shipped?

Am I being paranoid? (This last one can be answered by anyone, of course, not just Netflix members)

19 April 2008

A Day at the Beach

Last day of Spring Break. Trixie and I went down to the beach, and we had a blast. Impera comes back on Sunday (did I mention she has spent Spring Break in Iowa? I'll have to check my recent posts).

We saw cute dogs staying mobile, ate a crazy snack, and found some lovely treasures.

You can see more of the photos in the flickr set.

15 April 2008

When You Hanker for a Bowl of Brown

Sometimes, I get a hankering for brown food. You know, broth, soy sauce, sauteed mushrooms, soba noodles, tofu (OK, that's more golden, but work with me here). Add it all together, and you've got yourself a tasty (and healthy!) brown meal.

1/4 cup oil
1 lb tofu, 1-inch cubes, patted dry
8 oz sliced mushrooms
grated ginger (1.5 tsp? 1 Tbsp?, whatever you like)

1 head broccoli, florets only,* cut into bite-sized portions
8 oz (or 1 lb, if you're me and like to cook for an army) soba noodles (buckwheat noodles)

4-8 cups broth (depends on how much noodlage you have)
1/4 c. soy sauce

Heat the oil. Saute the tofu, in two batches. When golden, remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Saute the mushrooms until they release their juices; remove from pan and set aside. Add the ginger (you may need a dash more oil at this point), saute for a minute, then return the tofu to the pan and stir up. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat a pot of water to boil, add the soba noodles, and cook according to package directions. In a stockpot, heat the broth to boiling. Add the broccoli, turn off the heat and let sit until the noodles are done. Drain the noodles and rinse under cold water.**

Plop the noodles into the broth, add the soy sauce, tofu/ginger, and mushrooms. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.

Enjoy your bowl of brown!***

If you have leftovers, let me share this genius (genius, I tell you!****) method the Consort recently came up with: Strain the noodles and vegetables from the broth and store them in the fridge in separate containers. No more soggy noodles!

*Yes, you can use the whole thing. I use the stalks in something else. i like the aesthetic of florets only in my bowl of brown.

**Why not cook the noodles and the broccoli together, in the pot of broth? Good question. But the package directions frightened me. They always insist on a rinsing of the noodles under cold water. I don't know what would happen if I didn't rinse the noodles before eating them. i don't dare test it out.

***In George RR Martin's Songs of Ice and Fire series, a "bowl of brown" is what one finds to eat in the streets of Flea Bottom, the dangerous and poor district of King's Landing. My bowl of brown is much better. Believe me.

****Don't tell me if everyone already knew about this method. It's new to us, and that's all that matters.

14 April 2008

Conversation Out of Context

"Have you been drinking tea?"

"Not recently."

"You're getting over a cold, you need to drink lots of fluids-- go fill your mug with some tea."

"Mom! I'm going to die!"

"OK then, after you die, go fill your mug up with tea!"

13 April 2008

Dear New Hampshire,

I'm sorry that after a couple of beautiful days the forecast has taken a turn for the worse:

It's just that I've finally completed my mittens, and it would be fun to wear them for a few days before packing them away until next winter.

I'm sure you understand.

Best wishes,


PS: And this way, we have a chance of breaking the snowfall record -- we only have 3 inches to go, right?

09 April 2008

How About a Slice of This with Your Coffee?

Hazelnut brown butter cake with chocolate ganache

This is a cop-out post, because I put this up on flickr the other day, but my inspiration has hit a dry spell.

Anyway, if you haven't already read what I said about this recipe, you can find out here. (Also, when the owner of a food blog with almost 1,500 subscribers leaves a little comment on your photo, you kinda want to show it off. )

07 April 2008

How to ... Cold-Brew Coffee

So, yes, I drink coffee from time to time. I don't use it to wake up; I make my coffee pretty weak, as you'll see. I usually have it halfway through the morning, after I've had a pot or two of tea (black or green). Just to "mix it up" a little in the drinks-during-work department. Also, I drink my coffee like a baby: with sugar and milk. Since I drink my tea "straight up", my coffee is a sweet mid-morning treat.

We always have coffee filters in the house, but I've tried to reduce the number of them that I use. It just seems like such a waste of paper. Sure, I could buy a french press pot, but again, I like the coffee weak, and, why should I spend money when I can make my coffee concentrate for free? Another perk? Cold-brewed coffee is lower in acidity than heat-brewed coffee. No more sour stomach!

There are many places online to find cold-brew directions. Here's my take on the process. (Note that I make this in small batches -- partly because I'm mostly the only one to drink coffee, and partly because our fridge is often filled with other large containers. You can increase your batch size according to your useage/spaceage.)

First, grab some coffee. Organic fair trade is best, of course! (Let me pre-empt any reactions by saying: This coffee grinder was actually bought as a gift for the Consort, who wanted a spice mill. I've appropriated it, but we didn't buy it for coffee. That use only came later.)

Put 4 tablespoons of ground coffee in a clean jar. My jar size is 2 cups. (That's the general ratio: 8 cups water for 1 cup of ground coffee.)

Add a bit of water and make sure the grounds get good and wet. Coffee grounds are rather powdery, so if you forget to do this step, the grounds will float to the top and it'll be a pain to mix them in. Trust me. I speak from experience here.

Now you can fill the jar with water.

Screw the lid on, and then place the jar in a cabinet, away from sunlight. I think the real directions say to let it cold-brew for 12 hours, but I find that I always forget 12 hours usually comes when I'm ready for bed, and I'm too tired to do anything kitchen-related it tastes richer after 24 hours. So I let it sit 24 hours (because by then it is the next morning and, hey! I feel like having a cup of coffee! -- so I remember that the jar is sitting in the cabinet).

When you take the jar out, you'll notice that all the grounds are up at the top.

The original calls for you to strain the liquid with a fine-mesh sieve. I don't have a fine-mesh sieve. (But I do have two sieves! two sieves layered = one fine-mesh sieve, right?). I also like to use my canning funnel to prevent spillage. You don't need this. Probably most people don't need this; I'm just messy when it comes to pouring liquid from one jar to another. A long-handled spoon also comes in handy (as we shall shortly see...).

It's helpful to break up the grounds with a spoon before you pour it out. This prevents the grounds from coming out in a big clump and making a mess on the counter (and from having some rather rich words fill the air [yep, experience talking again]). When you break up the grounds, you'll notice some bubbling; this is normal, no need to freak out or worry about fermentation.

OK. Go ahead and strain it. You can let it sit a few minutes to get all the liquid out. I find that giving it lots of time does not produce much extra concentrate. Maybe I'm just impatient. Probably I'm just impatient. Yep. I'm impatient.

The result will look suspiciously like coffee. But stronger. You can now place the jar in the fridge to store it until you want to make a cup of coffee.

Boil some water in your kettle, take the concentrate out of the fridge, and pour your preferred amount into the bottom of your cup. The beauty of using cold-brew concentrate is that each person can make their cup as strong or as weak as they like. For example, I think a normal person would use 1/4 cup concentrate for a regular-sized coffee mug. Me, I use 1/4 cup when I use Impera's mega scrabble mug. But that's what I like: a nice steaming cup of dishwater.

Go ahead. Try it. Make yourself a cup of non-acidic, non-paper-wasting, non-electricity-using, sweet, cold-brew coffee. Mmmmmm.

You'll smile, too.

(Darn, that last picture isn't as clear as I thought it would be. That's a mug of coffee in the foreground. See? I'm offering it to you.)

04 April 2008

Orange-Yogurt Muffins

3 large oranges
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups flour
1.25 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
3/4 cup plain yogurt
3/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 375 (190 C). Butter your muffin tins.

Grate the zest of the oranges (you can use a vegetable peeler, then chop fine). You should have about 1/4 cup zest. Combine the zest, 1/4 cup sugar, and water in a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat and boil 2 minutes, stirring. Add the butter and stir until melted (about 1 min. more). Put aside.

Toss together the dry ingredients (don’t forget the other 1/4 cup sugar!). In a separate bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients with the orange mixture until smooth. Stir in the dry ingredients, until just blended.

Spoon into the muffin tins, about 3/4 full. The batter will make about 13 muffins. That’s an awkward number, so distribute as you see fit. Bake until a knife inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, about 15-20 minutes.

Cool in the tins for 3 minutes, then remove.

Orange glaze: combine 1/2 cup powdered sugar, a pinch of salt, and 2 tablespoons orange juice. Brush the still-warm muffins with this glaze.

03 April 2008

For Every Action ...

...there is something online.

First you have to read this: Easter Story Cookies.

Got it? Don't say anything yet. Just, try to absorb what you just read.

OK, now -- only after you've checked out the first link -- go read this: BDOS Cookies.


02 April 2008

Word Wednesday: Dear FedEx

Dear FedEx,

I was tracking a package online the other day, and as I was glancing down the Detailed Results list (and, as an aside, can I just say that I don't understand how a package can be picked up 25 minutes before its details are transmitted to FedEx?) my eyes caught the following advertisement,

and my eyes reacted with the visual equivalent of the auditory cringing that usually follows the sound of nails scraping down a blackboard.

That is, they melted into a pool of burning acid.

Now, I realize that the skill set necessary for advertising executive types is not the same skill set necessary for novel writers. But, "Find locations even easier"? What the heck does that mean?

See, there are words called adjectives. An adjective is the part of speech that modifies (or, describes) a noun. And, as all of us from our generation know, [we] find it quite in-ter-es-ting, a noun's a person, place, or thing.

Then, there is another set of words which we call adverbs. An adverb is the part of speech that modifies a verb, adjective, or, even, another adverb (how incestuous, I know!).

Yeah, it can be tough, what with both of them starting with "ad". I understand. But here's a clue: adverb ends in VERB.

So, back to your ad:

Easier, my friend, is an adjective. Go on, look it up. So, are you saying that we will find locations that are even easier? What is an easier location? We could spend lots of time discussing what exactly makes an easier location, but it would be a waste of our time, because you know and I know that what you were trying to say was that using your Web interface simplifies the act of searching for a location.

Here's another clue: If you get your thing in action, you're a VERB.

Put those two clues together, and do you know what?

How we find a location necessitates an ADVERB.

How will we find a FedEx location?

More easily.

More easily.

Even more easily.

I understand that sometimes, when done adeptly (adv.), a grammatical "twinge" is just the thing for a successful (adj.) ad campaign.

But this isn't one of those ads. This one is just lazy (adj.).

01 April 2008

It's That, or Early-Onset Alzheimers

I think Trixie has played a series of April Fools jokes on me. It took me 5 minutes to find my keyboard, and I still can't find my pencil cup (full of the pencils I need to do my editing).