Funny about Money

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. ―Edmund Burke

February 5, 2018
by funny
4 Comments

Down the Tubes by 1200 points…

Did I tellya so or not? The biggest sell-off in history, for cripes sake. I hope you were braced.

My financial guy hasn’t had a word to say…he’s probably still dodging flying bricks down at his office. We’re pretty well diversified, but IMHO diversity ain’t much help when everything, everywhere is skateboarding toward Hell. Any of us who has any money in the market at all has lost a fair amount of our proverbial shirt.

Well, one good thing about it: this time I can’t lose my job. One bad thing about it: I don’t have a job to lose. 😀

As The Economist‘s Leo Abruzzi observed a few weeks ago, it’s time. Surely another recession is no surprise to careful observers. I will say that a vast, brain-banging market crash is a bit jolting…but with the regime that we have in charge of the country, I suppose it’s not surprising, either.

We have 3½ years before we can clean out the White House. Even if Trump is impeached — one would not like to see  harm to happen to another human being, but one would welcome a successful move to evict the man — we would still end up with Pence and Ryan. Unlike the present incumbent, Mr. Pence is not a freaking fool. And that makes him far more dangerous than the Orange Buffoon. Ryan is smarter than Trump, but he also is a bat-sh!t extremist who would like to drag this country back into the 1950s, socially and culturally if not militarily and economically.

He and Pence are peas in a pod that way

You could reasonably argue that America has not faced such great existential danger since the start of the Civil War.

Even if we manage to clean some of the crazies out of Congress in the 2018 mid-terms, it will not change the fact that our leadership and our nation are dysfunctional to the point of stalling out.

Meanwhile, we proles face a more immediate danger: How we are going to eat, what we are going to do if still more jobs are lost to us, and what chance do we have of attaining to or surviving through retirement if most of our savings go down the toilet?

At this point, it sure as hell doesn’t look good for yours truly: without a job and now too old to get a job, I depend on my savings and Social Security to live. SS covers less than half my living expenses. And the government forces me to take a “required minimum drawdown” from my IRA, which means enforced selling of shares at a time when I can’t get what they were worth a week ago. Fortunately, I don’t have to take that until later this year…but if memory serves, it took one helluva lot more than 10 or 12 months for the economy to recover from the Great Recession.

Mean-meanwhile, if my son loses  his job, he may very well lose his home. My house is paid for, but his decidedly is not. I can no longer afford to help him with the mortgage payments, which he took over quite some time back. If his father can’t fill the gap, he could very well be magnificently screwed.

What to do? If you still have a job, hang onto it but don’t assume you can do so for long. Make nice to the boss, rise and shine, but stash every spare penny into savings, build a side gig if you don’t already have one, and pay off as much debt as you can.

And for godsake, VOTE IN THE 2018 ELECTIONS.

In case you missed it:

“Trump was pitching the economic benefits of the GOP tax law in Cincinnati as the drop in the market intensified. The Dow fell 500 points while Trump touted rising wages and accused Democrats who refused to applaud him during the State of the Union of being ‘treasonous.’

“All three major cable networks showed the falling stock ticker on screen during Trump’s speech, and Fox News cut into his remarks when the Dow’s drop on the day hit 1,000.”

—Sylvan Lane, “Dow Falls More Than 1,000 Points in Biggest Daily Point-Drop Ever. The Hill, February 5. 2018

 

February 5, 2018
by funny
0 comments

Sautéed Shrimp in Bed with Curried Spinach

Long as we’re talking about spinach

The other day I made the most amazingly delicious dinner: sautéed garlic shrimp over a bed of curried spinach. Ridiculously easy to make, it takes advantage of the cost-saving scheme to freeze fresh spinach, or it can be used on ordinary grocery-store frozen or fresh greens. You could no doubt use kale, chard, or other kinds of greens in this recipe. Try it out:

You need:

  • Enough spinach to serve your diners
  • Enough shrimp, peeled, to serve the same
  • Olive oil
  • Butter (plenty of it)
  • Fresh garlic (one or two cloves, to taste)
  • Herbs to your taste (I used tarragon, but about anything you like is nice)
  • A palmful of pine nuts, if you have them on hand
  • Curry powder*
  • Lemon juice
  • 2 frying pans

Defrost the shrimp and spinach, as necessary. Finely chop the garlic.

Melt the butter in one frying pan. Pour enough olive oil into the other frying pan to coat the bottom surface.

Place the spinach in the frying pan with the butter and sprinkle a small amount of curry over it (or a large amount: to taste!). Stir to incorporate the butter richly with the spinach, and allow this to cook over medium-low heat while you fix the shrimp.

Heat the olive oil over a medium to medium-high burner. Add the garlic and, if you have them, some pine nuts. Cook briefly and then add the shrimp. Sprinkle some tarragon or other herb over it, and cook until the shrimp turn pink and are cooked through. (Don’t overcook.) Squeeze the juice of a fresh lemon over the cooked shrimp.

Distribute the spinach on the dinner plates. Then place the shrimp atop the spinach, distributing them evenly among the diners. Pour the juice left in the shrimp frying pan over the servings.

With a salad or some crusty French bread, this makes a very fine dinner.

*Curry Powder

Commercial curry powders are often very high in salt. If you’re trying to keep your sodium intake under control, you can get a salt-free curry powder from Penzy’s in two versions: sweet and hot. The hot is a little much for my taste, and since I grew up in the Middle East, that is tellin’ you something. The sweet is very good and can be heated up to the extent you like simply by adding as much or as little ground red pepper as desired.

Alternatively, you can make your own, creating a highly excellent spice combo:

  • 3 tsp turmeric
  • 3 tsp coriander seeds or 3 or 4 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp whole cardamom seeds, hulled (i.e., get the ones that are not inside the papery pods, which are a nuisance)
  • 2 to 4 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp ground fenugreek
  • about 1/4 tsp whole cloves
  • 1/2 stick cinnamon
  • 1 tsp dry, ground ginger
  • 1/3 tsp yellow or black mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp whole white peppercorns (black would probably do)
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Measure the ingredients into a blender jar. When everything is loaded into the blender, turn the machine to high and pulverize the bedoodles out of the stuff. It should be reduced to a fine, fragrant powder, with no chips of seeds left. An old coffee grinder that you will not use again to grind coffee beans does the job handsomely.

I’ve bought many of these spices at Penzey’s, an upscale gourmet store, because I didn’t want to drive all over the city. However, if you have some time on your hands, many of the ingredients can be found much more cheaply at Asian or Mexican ethnic markets. Many, too, are packaged by American companies and retailed at ordinary supermarkets and through Amazon. So, by way of stocking up frugally, take a few days and seek out these goodies at decent prices. Try to get whole seeds, which make a much more fragrant, vibrantly flavored product.

February 4, 2018
by funny
2 Comments

Cutting the Lifetime Supply Down to Size

It’s sitting there on the kitchen counter waiting for me to get up and do something with it: a vast, nay a freaking bushel-sized bag of fresh spinach from Costco. Get up, it calls. Get up, get up, get up!

Okay, I will…whenever I finish this post.

Buying a lifetime supply of fresh, crisp spinach would seem counterproductive for an elderly broad who lives with two beings that do not eat leafy greens. To speak of, that is.

But in fact, it’s a very neat thing to do for yourself.

I dearly love spinach, but the grocery stores where I shop — including Costco — have pretty much ceased selling frozen spinach. Canned spinach…well, dunno what it is, but it ain’t spinach. So this leaves buying and cooking fresh spinach, which is a bit of a PITA when you’re tossing a fast dinner for one on the table.

But if you don’t mind getting the PITA over in one swell foop…it turns out that fresh spinach cheerfully lends itself to freezing.

The trick is to blanche it first. “To blanche” means to drop a veggie or fruit into boiling water very briefly and then immediately drop it into cold water. Or, in this case, pour it into a colander and cool it off under running water from the kitchen sink’s cold tap.

This procedure is absurdly easy.

Get yourself a big pot — in the case of the CC Lifetime Supply, the largest in the house. Fill it about 2/3 or 3/4 full with plain water, place it on the stove, and bring the water to a boil. Place a colander in the sink.

When the water is seething at a good clip, simply drop the spinach (or any other veggie you please) into the water. In a few seconds, a green veggie will turn brighter or deeper green (spinach, chard, kale, and the like will also wilt). Forthwith, pour the veggies and water into the colander, allowing the hot water to pour down the drain. Immediately turn on the cold water and chill the hot veggies down to room temperature or cooler.

If you have another large pot, fill that with ice and water, so is to give yourself a big potful of ice water. Flip the veggies out of the colander into the ice water — this will preserve the bright green color better than cooling with tap water. Actually, if the colander will fit into the pot, just set it directly into the ice water, and then you won’t have to fool with gathering up the blanched leaves.

Now you need to get enough spinach to feed an army into the freezer.

Spread a few layers of paper towels on the kitchen counter. Spread the spinach on the towels in a single layer, and then top with some more towels. Pat these around to absorb water, then roll up the spinach in the layered towels, hold the package over the sink, and wring it, as you would wring out a wet dishrag.

Unroll and distribute the blanched spinach in serving sizes. Place these in Ziploc baggies or refrigerator containers and stick ’em into the freezer.

Now, to serve all you have to do is defrost some of it (I place the baggie or plastic container in some warm tap water; alternatively you could zap it on a microwave’s “defrost” setting), melt some butter in a pan, and warm the spinach in the butter. Add flavorings to taste: nutmeg is good. Tarragon is good. Curry is awe-inspiring.

Mmmm! Baked spinach in cheese!

February 2, 2018
by funny
0 comments

Incommunicado

Now HERE’S the magical mystery wonder balm…

I’ve been incommunicado for a week or so with an episode of back pain SO colorful that I could barely hobble down the hallway. You know it’s bad when I don’t even feel well enough to write a blog post while perched atop a heating pad on the bed…

Don’t know what I did to bring this one on…only thing I can figure is maybe it was trying too fast to get up to a three-mile daily walk, by way of beating back the fat and the blood pressure. Whatever happened, it damn near crippled me. Yesterday it finally began to subside a little, and today it still is better. So I guess it’s not my body telling me it wants its hip replacement now, not later…

So…did the Magical Mystery Wonder Herbal Balm work on this? I have no idea. Maybe: the pain started to ease a day or so after I started smearing it on morning noon and night. But in the past the infallible cure has always been tincture of time, which, after about ten days should be kicking in right about now.

The blood pressure, interestingly enough, is also subsiding! It actually has dropped in spite of my not having any real exercise at all for the past 10 or 12 days. The only motion I’ve been able to manage — and that, painfully — has been the physical therapy routine I learned the last time this happened. And that’s not what you’d call aerobic. 😀  So far this week the average has been 126/83, and that’s WITH a spike into the 140s caused by a few moments of truly bracing pain.

So. I’m beginning to feel some hope that I can get the numbers consistently into the low 120s and high teens — without benefit of drugs — within about six weeks.

It’s interesting that this is occurring in the absence of daily exercise, because in theory a major factor in bringing down BP through lifestyle change is getting a decent amount of mild but real exercise. Apparently, though, weight loss is far more important: managed to drop 3.5 pounds since January 15, and the decline in BP measurements has closely tracked the drop in avoirdupois. When you think about it, 3.5 pounds ain’t much — on a serious diet, you should be able to lose 2 pounds a week without feeling very deprived.

Another factor may be getting off the sauce: I decided to teetotal as part of the BP Reduction Project. I can’t really see much connection, though, between the moment of climbing on the wagon and the moment of BP drop — in fact, one evening I went over to my son’s house and had two or three glasses of wine by way of back pain analgesia, and the next day, all day, the measures were in the teens. Intrigued by this development, a few days later I had one (count it, 1) bourbon & water at about the same time of day, and found exactly no difference the following morning.

So…hm. I figure the operative factor is mostly the weight loss. In theory, getting rid of even five pounds can drop blood pressure measurably.

Today I can walk, and I think I can sling a leg over the back of a bicycle, so after traffic dies down I probably will pump up the tires and go for a bike ride. While it’s not weight-bearing exercise, at least it IS moving around. Sort of. And it gives you a chance to ogle the neighbors’ houses, anyway. Weather is beyond gorgeous here during the day — this is the time of year for bike rides.

Heh heh… I may have to jump off the accursed Water Wagon, too. In amongst the endlessly contradictory research reports about blood pressure and cardiovascular disease comes this latest gem of wisdom: Booze is good for you! Your fevered brain is less fevered on 2½ glasses of wine a day.

Well! If they’d bothered to ask me, I coulda told ’em that. 😀

January 29, 2018
by funny
8 Comments

Ouch!

The honored Back has been out of commission for a week, taking a hip with it. This, I think is the worst back outage I’ve enjoyed since Anna the Ger-Shep was a pup, when she put me in the hospital by charging a passing mammoth pick-up and trying to bring it down by the oil pan — dragging me with her. Yesterday I was in so much pain I could barely walk around the house.

This predicament is not helped by the allergies to aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen… Nor, we might add, by the stress-inducing blood-pressure conundrum.

So crippled up have I been that I’d pretty much decided this must be It: the osteoporosis in that hip has decided to assert itself, so now must be the time for a hip replacement. Holeeeee shit! Just what I need to make my life fun.

This conclusion: especially because if I did anything to hurt myself I don’t know what it was. Or it wasn’t very credible. The pain started after I walked three miles one afternoon: two alone, and one with Ruby the Corgi, who goes right along at a fast clip. But that puts us into the “not very credible” zone (not to say the Twilight Zone…): I walk three-mile stretches all the time and never induce any back or hip pain. That is the proximate event…but we have no evidence that it was the cause.

WhatEVER! Yesterday I was seriously crippled up.

That didn’t stop me from accepting a last-minute dinner invitation from my son last night. Managed to get the pooches into the car, but he had to get them out and, later, put them back in.

And herein lies the interesting development:

Over dinner last night, I fell off the accursed Water Wagon with a resounding thud. Lost track of how much box wine I swilled, but it was plenty. At least three glasses, but when you’re refilling a few drops at a time, it’s kinda hard to judge.

By the time I got home, the back hurt a little less. Yes, I had done a set of physical therapy exercises at his house, whilst he was cooking. But…they haven’t helped one little bit over the past week or so. So there’s no reason to think they would have helped then. Probably the grape-derived anaesthetic was what did the job.

Meanwhile, let us say I happened to acquire a little jar of herbal pain-killer. You’re supposed to rub the stuff on your bod’ to evince a magical mystery rheumatiz cure. Right.

Welp, any port in a storm. So I smear this stuff on around the sore joints.

This morning, I roll out of the sack, spend an hour or so fiddling with the dogs and killing time, and then take my blood pressure — an annoying procedure scheduled twice a day. I expect to spike high, because alcohol does jack up your BP.

But…..lo!

Now, I’ll say: yesterday the BP was relatively low (not on target, but not alarming) throughout the day: Average 128/79 despite one reading of 136/84. But still: that was after three weeks of booze-free living. And…in the absence of the, uhm, analgesic herb.

It’s unlikely that said herb’s active ingredients will be absorbed into the bloodstream through the skin. Human skin is fairly impermeable. Although nicotine is absorbed readily, most chemicals that we come in contact with — detergent ingredients, for example — are not. Nevertheless: an average systolic below 120? And two readings at 116/7n? Shortly after ingesting a different chemical well known for its capacity to inflate blood pressure score?

To coin a phrase: holy sh!t.

Throw open the Hypochondriac’s Treasure Chest (i.e., the Internet) and google the active ingredient + blood pressure. And damned if there isn’t a study — in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, which has an impact factor of 12.5(!) — showing that the stuff did in fact reduce blood pressure in a small test group. The authors theorize that the result was caused by the ingredient’s tendency to reduce stress.

Yeah.

The back is somewhat better this morning — still hurts, but walking up the hallway no longer requires bracing oneself against the wall. The fact that it’s getting better suggests (maybe) an injury, rather than crumbling bones. This morning after a hot bath, I rubbed a bunch more of the magical  mystery cream into the hip joint and lower back, and also into the mastectomy scars, which are fine during the day but in the wee hours hurt enough to wake one out of a sound sleep. If the active ingredient actually does absorb through the skin, presumably by this evening I’ll be relaxed enough to reproduce those figures — preferably without benefit of the vino.

In herbi veritas?

January 25, 2018
by funny
3 Comments

Well, i KNEW i had something worth writing…

But damned if I can figure out what it is…

Several quiet days here at the Funny Farm: no serious drama going on in the ’hood, no excitement to belly-ache about — at least, none that’s not going on in Washington, precincts that have become too tiresome to consider. 😉

A new client sent a paper he intends to deliver at a conference this week. Very interesting piece. The guy’s senior faculty in a decent university’s “Communications” program — that’s what we call “J-school” these days. And so he has something to say, and that something happens to be on a subject I enjoy reading about. So that was a day and a half of pleasurable reading for pay.

The flu continues to make its rounds here in Lovely Uptown Arizona. Friends and foes are dropping left and right. But so far I’ve managed to evade it, for reasons I do not understand. Either I’m one of the 10% to 30% who happen to be protected by this year’s flu shot, or the theory that keeping your hands scrupulously clean works.

If the latter is true, here’s the key: Get yourself a plastic box full of the harshest kitchen counter sanitizing wipes you can find in the store. Place it in the car, and also install a plastic bag or small waste basket for used wipes. Then: every single time you go anywhere and climb back into the car, pull out a wipe and rub it thoroughly over your hands; then wipe down the steering wheel and your car keys and key fob.

Et voilà! If you’ve picked up any bugs on your hands, that ought to kill off a fair number of them.

As soon as you get home, wash your hands well with soap and water. If you have to unpack groceries, be sure to wash your hands again after doing so — you can be sure any cashier or grocery clerk with a sore throat or a runny nose will have smeared bags and boxes and packages with germs.

This amounts to a fair amount of obsessive hand-scrubbing. But presumably after you’re back in the house, you can go about your business without removing any more skin from your paws.

In an office? I dunno. If you have to work in one of those accursed cubes, there’s not a helluva lot you can do to protect yourself. The guy next to you is coughing his viruses in the air, and since the boss is unlikely to let you sit in front of the computer with a gas mask on, you really can’t do much about that. But I think it’s still probably worth hiding a box of counter wipes in your desk and wiping your hands every time you have to leave the cube and move about the infected area. Which will be just about everyplace in an office or school.

Got kids? Forget it. Just get used to the fact that you’re gonna catch the flu. What doesn’t kill you makes you better.

Otherwise, rather little of any constructive import has been going on. I’ve not written a damn word on the noveloid in progress, nor have I updated the Plain & Simple Press Blog (b-a-a-a-ad human!).

No, that’s wrong: The Kid and I met at the Great Desert University the other day and applied for a DUNS number. That has so far not been forthcoming. Whenever (if ever) it gets here, we will then be able to get ourselves certified as a woman-owned small business, which will put us in a preferred category for certain federal contracts. We pledged to look for state contracts, too…but so far I have not managed to elevate myself off my derrière long enough to find out about that. I think probably it will be best to get that DUNS number before spending a lot more time on this effort.

Planning to go to the scribbler’s group this weekend. O’course, I made the same plan last month, but at the last minute did not feel well enough to take on the endless drive to the far west Valley. This month the presenter will be going on about using Word’s “Styles” function to format your manuscript. Well…I already know how to do that, thank you very much. But I do have a book MS in progress that I could play with during this workshop. Or just use some of the draft noveloid MS.

My idea for the nonfiction thing, which is essentially complete and will be easy to put together, is to market it in hard copy. But really. When you come right down to it: why? None of these books is making much money. In any given month, Funny about Money generates about 15 times as much income as all the P&S Press books combined. And it’s a fraction of the work. My plan right now is to “publish” bookoids for free through separate, dedicated websites. Then if anyone wants to buy the whole combined damnfool thing, they can download it for a modest fee from that site. Or for the same modest fee at Amazon.

This, of course, requires me to explain what I’m trying to do for the blogging empire’s website wrangler. And trying to make sense of that in writing? More work than I feel like doing just now.

Can you get spring fever in January?