Funny about Money

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

March 10, 2017
by funny
6 Comments

Coming Out of the Coma?

It looks  like the comatose state is starting to recede. As we scribble, I’m swiggling the first snarfle of cheap (or any) wine I’ve been able to stomach in a week. The fever is gone, apparently once and for all — yesterday it came back, but by this a.m. my normal cold-fish state was restored. The cough is getting a little better, though any cough at all comes under the heading of “undesirable.” Or…how about as “deplorable”? {chortle!}

Y’know, we have got to design a Special Funny About Money DEPLORABLES T-shirt. How can we live without such a thing? I could give it away as a prize…uhm, gift…to everyone who buys one of my politically incorrect books. Or a Speed Queen Washer. 😀

One of the Choir Ladies says she’ll bring over some frozen meatloaf. Mirabilis! Has ever a better comfort food been invented than meatloaf?

In the meantime, I ran down to Sprouts, whereinat I found a box of chicken broth that really is low-sodium: 3% RDA, a far cry from the 24% spotted at AJ’s, that Emporium of All Things Gourmet and Effete. So just now a pot of corn chowder is heating. It’s ridiculously easy to put together: basically a matter of dumping stuff into a pot and turning on the gas. Thought about not pureeing it, but then decided a) I don’t feel all that bad that I can’t stumble over to the blender and b) as I recall, this was a particularly tasty brew, and I’ll betcha blending it had something to do with that.

Gerardo & his crew came by this morning to beat back the rainy season’s weeds. He said he and his wife have had the same epizootic and described exactly the same progress: three days knocked flat on their backs. He said he recovered faster than she did. Looked at that wiry little guy and thought Dude! You would recover from a train wreck faster than any of the rest of us would. That is one tough, powerful fella.

Muy macho.

Unfit for paying work, I’ve been dorking with the draft of a new noveloid. I seem to make a great deal more progress with Spider Solitaire than I do with drafting. So along about mid-morning, I set a goal to discover how much I could write in one hour.

The answer?

Six paragraphs…

…of dialogue.

Ohhh well.

Next: Let the current prospective client know she should send her material over if she so chooses; then eat this chowder; then go back to bed. And so, away!

March 9, 2017
by funny
7 Comments

Lunch

Turkish lentil soup

So sick have I been that I haven’t eaten at all in about three days. That’s literally true, except for a bowl of ice cream that upset my stomach and a few bites of pasta that upset my stomach. And possibly it explains why I feel a bit weak in the knees?

Tried making open-faced melted cheese on stale bread this morning. Yech! That didn’t work…

Ooohkay, so it occurred to me that maybe some soup would be good. I could weave down to AJ’s, the local gourmet emporium, and pick up some of their prepared soups — they package up whatever is left over from their lunchtime soup & salad bar and sell it in individual containers.

But like all commercially prepared foodoids, it’s usually oversalted. The mouth already feels like a blowtorch has been running in there. The last thing I need is to pucker up with a megadose of salt.

Why not actually MAKE some soup? It’s pretty easy…

So I raided the cookbook and came up with three likely proposals:

  • Broccoli with cheese. That looks pretty easy to make.
  • Lentil soup with spinach. Also very easy, plus you can use frozen spinach. Plus I could add some of the chard that’s run amok out back because I haven’t been able to eat it.
  • TFL’s corn chowder. A ridiculously easy dish: onion, a package of corn, a can of tomatoes, 2 cans of low-salt chicken broth, cilantro: mix together.

And it was off (unhappily) to AJ’s.

Got most of the ingredients. But…what I didn’t count on is that even low-sodium broth is NOT low-sodium…1/4 of your RDA a salt-free product does not make. And the only variants of that on AJ’s shelves came in cardboard boxes — which in my experience flavor the contents with…uck! Cardboardy-plasticky flavor.

Buying some chicken legs was out of the question: AJ’s is too tony to sell packages of chicken, and the price for junk chicken there is over $7 a pound. I want the soup, but I don’t want it that bad.

As usual, the city of Phoenix has all the streets around the ‘hood dug up, blocking me from getting into the corner Alberston’s easily. But then I realized I have a giant package of Costco chicken thighs and legs — boned and skinned, unfortunately, but if one just MUST make this recipe, there it is: one could spend half of one’s fevered afternoon cooking up chicken broth.

Ugh.

Back at the Funny Farm, decided on the lentil soup for today, because it requires the least amount of moving around to accomplish. It should be good:

  • 1 pound (2 cups) lentils
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped onion
  • olive oil
  • salt to taste
  • package of frozen spinach (or about 1/2 pound fresh)
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • large dollop of butter, if desired
  • 9 cups water

Lentils that you get in packages these days no longer need to be cooked an hour to soften them. So (contrary to the original, ancient recipe), you need only simmer these about 20 minutes before moving on with the recipe.

Wash the lentils in a sieve (probably don’t even need to do that these days, but it can’t hurt). Place them in a soup kettle and add the water. Bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer until they’re softened. Meanwhile, cut up the onion, place it in a frying pan with a generous dollop of olive oil, and gently cook until softened and just starting to brown.

Place the cooked onions in with the softened lentils and allow to simmer about an hour (so says the recipe: I’m giving it a half-hour or 45 minutes). Then add the frozen spinach and cook until it defrosts and flavors mix — maybe another 10 or 15 minutes. I’m going to add the fresh chard at this point, too.

Add the lemon juice to the finished soup. Then serve it up in a bowls with a dollop of butter each.

I may add some cumin to this: it sounds a bit on the bland side. We shall see.**
_________
**“Bland” is an understatement. I think…it’s hard to tell, because I still can’t taste anything. Did add cumin: bland. Added some Madras curry powder: that seemed to perk it up a bit.

What I really wanted was the corn chowder that I can’t get any decent chicken broth for. This is crazy easy to make, and you can add any kind of veggies to it. Therefore (think I), it ought to be good for what ails you.

  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 large can tomatoes (I plan to use a box of Pomi tomatoes, which are far superior)
  • 1 package frozen corn
  • 2 cans low-salt chicken broth (good luck with that! If you make your own, 2 cans = about 4 cups)
  • grated orange zest
  • splash of orange juice, if you have it
  • olive oil

In a large stew pot, cook the onion and garlic in olive oil over low heat until softened. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer for a few minutes to blend flavors.

Allow to cool. Spoon into a blender, a little at a time, and whirl to a smooth consistency.

You can serve this with chopped cilantro and a spoonful of yogurt or sour cream. It’s as good cold as it is hot.

I’ve not made the broccoli and cheese soup, but it looks restorative. Check this out:

  • 1 package frozen broccoli or 1 bunch fresh broccoli, separated and tough ends removed
  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 quart milk
  • 1 cup grated Cheddar cheese
  • salt & pepper to taste

Cook the broccoli in water until just tender.

In another pot, melt the butter, add the flour, and stir until smooth. After cooking for a few minutes, ad some of the milk, a little at a time, stirring constantly until smooth and thickened. Add the cheese and cook over low heat for a few minutes until melted. Add the broccoli and heat well.

The recipe doesn’t say to use the whole quart of milk, but since that’s the only liquid and the chef thinks the soup serves four to six, I assume that’s what’s meant.

Try these out. I think the corn chowder, which I invented, is in the 30 Pounds cookbook; the others are from a mystery source that I photocopied and stuck in my recipe binder.

Image: Lentil soup, DepositPhotos, © spaxiax

March 9, 2017
by funny
6 Comments

Puzzled

What strategies do you use to relieve your brain when the synapses go numb during especially tedious, ditzy work?

“Tedious” and “ditzy” pretty much describe my work from beginning to end.  There’s a point at which I find myself unable to keep concentrating without taking a break. Make that many points.

Online computer games do it for me. Though they also can be tedious and ditzy, they are at least different tedium and ditz. Do you use online computer games for this purpose? Or any other easily accessible (read “free, don’t have to sign in”) activities on the Web?

Early on, I discovered Bookworm, a repetitive little word game that requires minimal cogitation. Things are always moving on it, which improves considerably on lines of type on a book page.

It’s kind of a boring game, but when you’re already bored stupid, it relieves the tedium.

There’s always Mah Jongg, of course…it’s impossible to go wrong with Mah Jongg, in the Eye-Glazing Distraction Department.

I happen to like this layout, which is “traditional” in the American/digital sense and easy to read.

The Washington Post has a lot of these things on its website. Unfortunately, their designers, like all computer designers, can’t leave well enough alone. Eventually some programmer comes along, changes them around and wrecks them.

Spider Solitaire is an example. It was a wonderful game, but a few months ago WaPo took down the really neat version and posted a totally dorked-up variant. Luckily, there’s a site called “Great Day Games,” whose proprietors mourn(!) that their games can no longer be updated. You can find the old WaPo version of Spider Solitaire there, lhudly sing huzzah.

This is one of the great anaesthetic computer games of the Western World, along with Mah Jongg. Either of them will ease your pain almost as quickly as a bourbon and water.

The Post’s daily crossword is pretty good — better than most, but not as good as it used to be. It used to be far and away superior to any other crossword I’ve seen on the Web: it was challenging but (eventually) solvable. Alas, however, they caught their crossword editor allegedly plagiarizing clues from other puzzle-makers. How exactly you can be said to “plagiarize” a crossword puzzle clue escapes me — you can’t copyright a list, after all, and a crossword IS exactly that: a list of clues. However, a great flap ensued. They fired the guy. Whoever took his place does OK, but it’s nowhere near as good as the old criminal WaPo daily crossword.

Still…it passes the time. And numbs the overheated brain.

Ah, but the Queen of Online Computer Games — nay, the Emperor of Online Computer Games — is The New Yorker‘s endlessly amusing, gently time-killing jigsaw puzzle based on old covers. For the brain-banged screen gazer, it’s a gift from God.

Just look at that thing! (Click on the image to see its full glory.) Doesn’t it bring to mind a real crossword puzzle, scattered all over the tabletop? It actually works almost like one, except it doesn’t take three days to put it together. With a little strategy, you can complete one of these in about 25 minutes. Or less: I put the one above together in 23 minutes.

The trick is to think in terms of shapes first, not colors, not images. Sort the pieces roughly by shape; begin assembling the outside of the puzzle (as above), and then you can click on a button marked “show edges.” This will hide all the pieces that are not edges, making it simple to construct the outside lines.

Next, assemble the remaining pieces in groups according to their shapes. I call them “innies” and “outies”; and there’s a variety called a “club,” whose shape includes a clunky oval shillelagh.

These are pure innies and outies:

Note that on the left-hand side, an “innie” has an indentation and an “outie” has a knob. And note the occasional spines, and also that some have hook-like appendages, pointing (one could say) up or down. So the top shape is an innie with (starting at the top, counterclockwise) a knob/upward-facing hook/downward-facing hook/knob/spine/knob/spine. This is useful information.

There are innie and outie clubs:

Note that some of the pieces — a lot of them, actually —  have little decoration. The topmost innie is all blue, and the bottom outie club is almost all army green with only a tiny fleck of some other color. But once you realize that all you really need to know is the shape, you can proceed with élan.

Group the pieces together by their shapes, as in the top jigsaw image. There, the plain innies are along the top, followed by the innie clubs, then the outie clubs, then the plain outies.

Notice, too, that the assembled exterior gives you a jagged edge all the way around the interior. Your challenge now is to find pieces that fit into those jigs and jags. Each piece will fit in only one place, so you can’t make a mistake.

For example, here…

…you can clearly see that whatever fits in there is an outie with a left-facing knob, a downward-pointing spine, and a downward-facing knob. Only so many pieces fit that description…especially if you have a general idea of the color in that part of the image.

Here you need an innie with two left-facing clubs. Piece of cake!

And finally, note that a few pieces have characters on them. Most issues of The New Yorker published the masthead with the name in the center, the price on the left, and the date on the right, at the top. And many had the artist’s signature at the cover’s lower left or right. Pieces with parts of letters are easy to fit together.

And what a nice little flush of triumph you feel when you succeed in putting the thing together!

Heh! How strange is that image, anyway?

After you’ve finished, you can peek inside that issue, briefly. If you’d care to subscribe online, you can pay to read every issue the magazine has ever printed.

I love this puzzle so much and am so vividly reminded of how much (back in the William Shawn day) I used to love The New Yorker that I think, despite the fact that Condé Nast now owns it, I may subscribe to the hard-copy edition. It still has a lot of great writing, as long as you don’t read what passes for their humor, which can be annoyingly metro-elitist.

Got any other suggestions?

Images:

Bookworm: © PopCap
MahJongg: © Free games.Ws
The real Spider Solitaire: © Arkadium, Inc.
Washington Post crossword: © WashingtonPost.com
New Yorker jigsaw puzzle: © Condé Nast

March 8, 2017
by funny
7 Comments

Miseries

This is the worst cold I’ve had in years. Picked it up at Costco — must have rubbed my face or eyes or something after touching a cart handle or product that was smeared by another sufferer. Y’know, you try to train yourself to keep your hands away from your face…but it never does any good. 😀

At any rate, I’ve been out of it for several days and still am nonfunctional. Last night I had a temp of 101, and since my normal temp is only about 98.2, that’s pretty high. And miserable.

Thank God I got out of the jury duty gig! That would’ve been beyond horrible.

Obviously I’m not going to choir rehearsal tonight. I probably won’t be able to sing on Sunday, anyway. And I’m not going to the weekly business group’s meeting on Thursday. Or, probably, to the lecture I’d planned to attend with some friends. Dayum!

I apparently have some kind of hypersensitivity to rhinoviruses. They can make me radically sick…which is what’s happening now. This isn’t the worst head-and-chest virus I’ve ever had, but it’s close. What will happen next, we know from experience, is two to three weeks of spasmodic coughing, sometimes so extreme I can’t breathe at all. That is the worst part of these things, which overall are pretty obnoxious.

And that’s why I hate it when people go out in public when they’re sick. Please stay home if you have a cold or the flu. Some people get a whole lot sicker than others do.

Haven’t been able to eat in two days. A piece of bread hurts too much going down. And there really isn’t much in the house to eat. I did get some ice cream while I was performing yesterday’s can’t-get-out-of-it errands (“stay home,” says she, after spreading her germs all over Sprouts).  That with some nuts over it is about all I’ve been able to get down. This morning I ate a banana, though: yuck! Everything is tasteless. A tasteless banana is…uch.

And so…back to bed!

Image: DepositPhotos, © sararoom

March 7, 2017
by funny
0 comments

Comin’ Up Roses Today!!!

It is a CELESTIAL miracle! After dragging myself out of the sack, sick as the proverbial dawg, I called the County Courthouse and learned that my “group” of jurors was not selected today! And, said the talking robot, that means I’m excused from jury duty for the next 18 months.

Thank. You. GOD!

Then, it got better. Yes: believe it or not, better.

WonderAccountant finished my involved tax returns yesterday. So those were sitting on the table needing to be shipped off very soon. And they have to be sent return-receipt-requested — drop those things in the mail with just a stamp on them at your peril.

I was worried that if they stuck me on a jury, I wouldn’t get free to go stand in line at the post office for 45 minutes until after the March 16 deadline. But yesterday I just felt too damn sick to go up there and do battle with the unwashed masses and the hapless, outrageously overworked P.O. clerks. Mailing something in person from our P.O. is an exercise in masochism.

Anyway, perked up by the news that I wasn’t going to have to drag to downtown Phoenix and sit around a waiting room for six or eight hours — and already showered, combed, painted, and dressed — I decided to take the tax returns over. Also volunteered to buy a roll of stamps for WonderAccountant — why should more than one of us stand in line till the chickens come home?

So: drive into the parking lot…and…there are TWO CARS in there!

Holy mackerel! That’s unheard of.

Went inside and there were only two people ahead of me, both of them already up at the counter being waited on by a crew of…two postal clerks. As usual.

I could not believe it. Got up to the counter in a matter of seconds.

A-n-n-n-d…another mirabilis: The other guy at the counter was one of those ninnies who thinks he has to select a SPECIAL STAMP to grace his recipient. Yes. An EXTRA SPECIAL STAMP.

Have you ever gotten in line behind one of those? People are stacked up in line out the freaking DOOR and the ninnie is going, ohhh well that one’s nice but maybe it’s not perfect…do you have one with a bunny rabbit wearing a pink ribbon? On and interminably on.

For a change, I did not get behind this one.

Got out of the P.O. before he decided which work of art should go on his letter. By the time I got back out to the parking lot, there were ELEVEN cars parked and a flow of new ones y-cumin’ in. And naturally, one of the prospective patrons decides to drive in the wrong way. She blocks the traffic as she tries to back and fill and figure out where she wants to go.

I swear to God: they always get in front of me! Every time. Well…except for the merciful remission at the stamp counter.

But despite the bellyaching, the worst of the symptoms subsided after I’d been up about an hour and stood in a hot steamy shower about 15 minutes. Felt incredibly awful upon rolling out at 6 a.m.: agonizing cough, throat so congested I couldn’t even croak out a “no!” to the dogs, headache, and a fever. But there was nothing for it: I had to go downtown (so I thought) and sit around praying for an escape.

I now feel pretty awful, but at least I can utter a few intelligible words. Haven’t taken my temp again but think it may have dropped closer to normal.

This epizootic is probably bronchitis: I’m wheezing, and I don’t have asthma. Last time I was visited by an episode of wheezing, the doc said it was bronchitis, and he walloped me with a stiff round of prednisone.

Prednisone rips up my gut. The result of that episode was the first really serious flare-up of GERD. It took over six months to get rid of it. No…I take that back: I only got rid of it pretty much once and for all about three months ago. So it took two years to get rid of the side effects of the drug I was given for the last occurrence of severe chest congestion.

As you can imagine, I’m not in any hurry to race back to the doctor. I do not want to go through that again. And my Christian Science roots tell me this bug likely will go away on its own.

What doesn’t kill you goes away. Right? 😉

Image: DepositPhoto, © Kuzmafoto

March 6, 2017
by funny
4 Comments

Jury Duty on a Cold

Damn! I’ve got a nasty, spit-uppy cough. Yesterday I thought it was an allergy — no sore throat, no fever, and rather little head congestion make this a very atypical cold. A month or two of steady rain has caused everything under creation to burst into bloom, and now the spring winds are starting…so it was reasonable to think the early symptoms were allergic, not viral.

Not so much today: now I can’t speak for the laryngitis and I’m coughing and gagging. Fortunately I still have some codeine cough medicine from the last time this happened — about three years ago. But how I’m going to get that into the courthouse escapes me. I’m afraid if I try to take it with me, they’ll confiscate it. Given how hard it is to get a doctor to prescribe codeine in the present paranoid atmosphere, I’ve hoarded the bottle in the fridge since  2014, and I don’t want it taken away from me.

Plus I can’t drive after I’ve had a swig of that stuff. Knocks me into the middle of next week. In theory, though, I guess I could hide it in the car — in a container that doesn’t show the Rx — and then walk the half-mile to the car and swallow a dose of the stuff over the lunch hour. That, however, would entail a mile-long walk over the lunch hour, leaving no time to bolt down the miserable cheese sandwich I’m planning to drag with me.

You’re not allowed to weasel out of jury duty on the day before you have to show up. So tomorrow as dawn cracks I’ll have to get up, try to clear out the throat and chest, and traipse downtown through the rush-hour traffic, there to spend the entire day in the company of strangers, doing nothing.

It’s like being put in prison for a day, for no offense.

Well, on the good side, at least I finished the client’s book. Two people have sent inquiries about their projects — one looks rather promising. But I have yet to start those, so will not feel blindsided and bamboozled if they stick me with a trial.

While I still thought this was an allergy, not a bug, WonderAccountant and I went out for a great lunch and then to a concert of the Phoenix Chorale. It’s a multi-Grammy-winning group…they put on some great performances. Yesterday they had a splendid guitarist and a wonderful pianist, along with the usual crew of outstanding vocalists.

Oh well. To add to the general entertainment, in a half-hour I’ve got to go get my eyes checked. It’s been two or three years, and the glasses no longer are doing the job. Especially at night…if I’m not in familiar territory, I really can’t see well enough to drive at night. At the very least, I’ve got to get new progressives…but probably need to ask about cataracts and macular degeneration. {sigh}

And so…<glug!>…AWAY!!!!