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Chet Gets Frugal

Posted by LizardBreath
on 12.31.11

Sherry (you all remember Sherry, right? Used to blog at Stay of Execution, and then with Megan at Rhubarb Pie) pointed me to an interesting blog by a twenty-something who's living in Austin and trying to pay off about $100K in debt from a Harvard MBA in ten months by living cheap and working two jobs (but not doing porn. He's considered it, but no): No More Harvard Debt.

Financially, of course, it's perfectly sensible: he's making quite a lot of money at his primary job, so it really is practical for him to do this in a way that it wouldn't be for someone who's not. But the kind of 'quite a lot' of money he's making is the kind that most people who make it fritter away invisibly, and it's impressive seeing someone not do it. Socially is really interesting -- while the dude is managing okay, he seems to have no idea at all how people without a lot of money have fun. He's still spending weekend nights in bars with his friends who are making more money, ordering Coke and spiking it with cheap whiskey out of a flask: cooking his friends dinner and drinking cheap whiskey with them in the comfort of his own home doesn't seem to have occurred to him. And (while he doesn't seem like a terrible person overall) he's awfully flummoxed by how he can possibly date if he can't spend money on the women he's dating: he's still living larger than most people in the country, even at his maximum level of frugality, and there are plenty of perfectly respectable people out there who are familiar with not having buckets of money to throw around on dating.

Anyway, living cheaper is something I've been thinking about for this upcoming year (we're not horrifically extravagant, but man does takeout add up. I have to start getting out of work earlier to cook dinner more. And I have a tendency to think of expenditures under about a hundred dollars as unimportant and not worth keeping track of, and that's not something we can afford to do and save properly). So an interesting read for the beginning of the year.


 

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Where I Went Wrong

Posted by Alameida
on 12.31.11

I shouldn't have said this:

I'd a million times rather feel like this and be in decent mental health than be back to having some kind of psychological breakdown and being suicidal, so, bring it on, bacteria. Bring. It. On. I don't give a fuck. You can't hurt me nearly as bad as I can hurt myself, punk-ass microscopic rods. You're going to eat horseflesh.

Because that just never works unless you're a Russian general facing a land invasion, you know? Even if Poland is there. (Remember how he was obsessed with how Poland was helping?) I mean, I'm still right about the mental health vs. physical health thing, but it's clear I should have been knocking on wood superstitiously rather than going on about how bacteria can't hurt me. See, it turns out they hijack part of you into becoming little factories for them, and then that's kind of a drag. Fucking little rods. Oh well, it's way less serious than real typhoid.

God, I really hate that man. One forgets, sometimes.


 

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Penelope Trunk

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 12.30.11

From time to time Penelope Trunk has registered on our radar. Conversation usually degenerates into a debate as to whether she's a lying liar who's too boring to discuss, or is she merely exaggerating, and aren't her stories butty? Her shtick is to overshare crazy details about her life, and then give pat career advice, especially if it up-ends conventional wisdom by extrapolating from some shred of science. Also she (claims to) have Asperger's. (Lying liar or basically honest?)

Oudemia sends this link along. Apparently she is now blogging about physical abuse in her marriage.

Trunk has created a public account of what sounds like ongoing spousal abuse by a man whose photo is on her site and who would probably be relatively easy to identify -- Trunk herself has a high enough public profile that she worries about getting recognized at a women's shelter. She never mentions calling authorities, but what she's written seems like evidence enough for them to pay a visit to the Farmer. Hers is the rare blog post that appears also to report a crime.

In my uninformed opinion, I'm not too disturbed by her accounts. There's a difference between a marriage with fights that become violent, and Battered Woman Syndrome. Definitely it sounds like the marriage is awful and should end. But when you invoke SPOUSAL ABUSE, it tends to register like "evil abuser who dishes it out" and "meek abused recipient", because sometimes that really is the roles. I don't think that's the case here.

That last paragraph was written in about two seconds with kids badgering me, so it's not exactly phrased well, and I've got to go right now.


 

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Timing

Posted by Stanley
on 12.29.11

I kinda liked Bob McDonnell. He was a Republican governor in a purple state who was just getting things done, without being controversial. Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli was the zany one.

Nothing to see here, just raising the state speed limit to 70 MPH (popular!), passing budgets by talking to Democrats (popular!), and generally having a well-coiffed mop. (The man has nice hair, it must be admitted.)

He's on anyone's shortlist for VP.

So why not release the hounds on abortion clinics on the last business day of the year, right after Baby Jesus Birthday, when no one's paying attention to the news?

That's politics.


 

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Guest Post - Shearer

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 12.29.11

The NYT had another article about the experiment to make a more dangerous form of bird flu virus. I don't see such experiments as having a favorable cost/benefit ratio and I think they should be discouraged. I have a bad feeling about this.

From Heebie: I recently read some snippet where they created mosquitoes that have a gene that makes them self-destruct. Then they introduced them into the wild. The tampered mosquitoes bred with regular mosquitoes and it seemed to be working, "it" being something about fighting dengue fever. I know mosquito-borne diseases cause tons of horrible deaths, but this seems like a sequel to Jurassic Park. Scientists and their hubris and unintended consequences and all that.

In general I think scientists are wise and cautious. But still, what if the dinosaurs test every inch of that fence and find that self-destruct gene.


 

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Leave me alone

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 12.29.11

I'm curious about the emotional lives of people who live in the poorest, densest parts of the world, like the slums in cities of India where there are layers and layers of shanties. Do people have a way of finding privacy every now and then? Is privacy a Western concept and I'm revealing my narrow world-view? Is the density of people traumatic, like a war-zone, or just hard, like a well-functioning family dealing with extreme poverty, or just a fact about life, like it is in Manhattan? (Obviously additional factors, like abuse, can transform it into a traumatic zone.) But the density in particular: what kind of toll does it take?

The other day I took a shower because I felt like being alone. We're in a big house, in the middle of Montana, and I needed some personal space. I'm probably fragile or something.


 

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The 1986 Bengals

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 12.28.11

Interesting article which follows up on the members of the 1986 Bengals, to see the tolls of an average group of NFL players 25 years later, and a few factoids about them.

In the hard copy magazine, there is a roster, annotated with quotes:

"A couple times I was hit and went to the wrong huddle."
- Larry Kinnebrew, running back, age 52

"I have arthritis in my spine as a result of one hit." - Joe Kelly, linebacker, age 46
"I don't have any problems. Do I feel lucky? I feel normal." - Ray Horton, cornerback, age 51

44% of the players report memory loss; 35% blame their memory loss on football. Basically there is a gigantic range of aftermaths, from completely debilitating to very mild aches and pains.


 

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Except I'm Not Tired of Shrimp and Grits

Posted by Alameida
on 12.28.11

NYT article on people in S.C. and elsewhere working to preserve southern foodways. I have always been annoyed by the Alice Waters-style assumption that everyone who doesn't live in California subsists solely on iceberg lettuce, spam, and miracle whip (though I reserve the right to maintain ignorant stereotypes about the middle of the country, where I have never been, airily waving a hand at hypothetical jelled salads from Utah and Minnesota and suchlike). Naturally, Low-Country food is delicious. Who lives on the coast where there's shrimp and oysters and crabs and doesn't eat good food? And there is also, may I remind you, grits, and biscuits and cornbread?! Especially when 90% of the recipes are Flippanter signature mumble from West Africa mumble anyway. Swiftly moving on. People living in crummy trailers in Metter, GA grow and put up their own food, and trade it for venison or local bacon, and they eat like kings. Kings, I tell you!

You should buy some Carolina Gold rice from these people and experience the wonder. And Christ, these people are reaming you for the rice cooker; maybe you can do better elsewhere, but you still need one. I've eaten plenty of steamed rice in expensive restaurants throughout Asia and let me tell you: Carolina gold rice is better. So much more flavorful, I can't begin to explain. You do have to eat Hopping John for New Year's day (along with greens and cornbread) to have good luck and mad cash in the coming year, so you may as well start getting ready now. I scoff at the article's claim that everyone is using converted rice and canned black-eyed-peas, and I double-dog scoff when someone claims dried black-eyed-peas are starchy and inferior. Are fresh peas better? Yes. Are pigeon peas better? Yes. Does that make black-eyed-peas bad somehow? Hells no.

Hopping John: (my dad claims it comes from French "pois pigeon," which is as likely as any other folk etymology, plus he's my dad. Also, this is a poorly-written recipe which makes a staggeringly easy thing look hard. I blame febrile confusion.)
1 bag pigeon peas (they're available at your local Dominican-run market; Indian people eat the fuck out of some pigeon peas but sell them split, which is deprecated.) Or black-eyed-peas. Or hell, small kidney beans, though this is going to end up red beans and rice technically. There's another kind too, small and light brown with darker flecks, but I can't remember what they're called. Any damn beans you want. Check that they're fresh; they have expiry dates. Pour them into a baking pan and pick over them so there are no rocks in there. I found a harrow-tooth one time!
a couple of smoked ham-hocks, or the rest of that ham you cooked at Christmas, with the bone cracked
2 cups Carolina Gold Rice I'm Not Kidding (naturally I don't import it all the time and will be using basmati.)
1 big yellow onion, 1 piece celery, 2 bay leaves

1. Dice the onion and celery and fry in some rendered bacon grease (or butter) at the bottom of a big cast-iron pan (tall, like a casserole dish. My fevered brain can't think of what these are called. Dutch oven or something.)

OK, you know what should have gone up there: some rendered bacon grease or butter

2. Soak the beans overnight and rinse them off. This should be #1. Fuck it. You know what else? You can bring the beans, covered with 2 inches of water, to a boil, and leave it for an hour, and use that. Don't tell anyone I told you.

3. Put the beans and the ham and the bay leaves into the pot containing the onions and cover with a good 2 inches of water, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook till tender. This will depend on the age/size of the beans. An hour, say. If it starts getting dry, add water. Because...

4. When the beans are pretty much done, put a lot of water in the lower part of the rice cooker and bring it to a boil. In the upper part of the rice cooker, fry the dry rice briefly in some rendered bacon grease, damn it's worth it people, or butter. Or Crisco. Add bean water to the rice in the ratio of 1.5 to 1. Bring to a boil and place atop the lower section, and steam the rice for 20 minutes. Then fluff it with a fork and let it steam with the burner off 10 more minutes. Eh, 5.

5. Take all the meat off the bones and discard gristly bits. Add the rice to the beans and put the meat back in. If you have done this right it will be dry and fluffy.

Damn, people, eat! Get to the table! Get your Tabasco sauce out!

Health Update: despite a huge shot of antibiotics in the body's biggest muscle, and the rather curious choice of painkillers containing 500mg acetaminophen, 30mg caffeine, and 8mg codeine, I feel worse than ever and spent the afternoon lying in a darkened room doing nothing. But I'd a million times rather feel like this and be in decent mental health than be back to having some kind of psychological breakdown and being suicidal, so, bring it on, bacteria. Bring. It. On. I don't give a fuck. You can't hurt me nearly as bad as I can hurt myself, punk-ass microscopic rods. You're going to eat horseflesh.


 

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Mashup

Posted by Alameida
on 12.27.11

I love mashups, and I think that the Girl Talk album All Day was probably the best of the past year, maybe better than Adele's 21 (OK it was released in November 2010 but I enjoyed it a lot at the start of 2011.) It has some hilarious moments (notably the opening, with War Pigs), and it really does need to be listened to as a single track to be truly appreciated. And I know I've mentioned that the best Beyoncé song ever is a DJ Earworm mashup of "If I Were a Boy" with Tom Petty's "Freefallin'." The girl has some serious pipes, but I just hate the production of all her music ever. Setting it against the restrained guitars allows you to appreciate it, and makes the song genuinely moving. Seriously, listen to the whole thing; when she gets to "it's a little too late..." at 3:02 shit gets real. That said, here is the formidable DJ Earworm's traditional yearly mashup of all the hits of 2011. Which almost uniformly sucked, yet the mashup's OK! Most of all, one is reminded of how much one hates the odious, yet ubiquitous, Katy Perry.

UPDATE: that's off-center because something Ogged something. If someone wishes to correct that for me it would be welcome. Here is a comprehensive diagram of "All Day" showing which songs are being sampled at which time, helpful if you've fallen in love with "Ice-Cream Paint Job." (The way he says "steering" as "sturing" when he says "and the steering wheel's wood like a baseball bat" makes me feel all homesick for America and shit.)


 

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Lech would be proud.

Posted by Stanley
on 12.27.11

This is really something.


 

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Peep-Toe Shoes: Professional

Posted by Alameida
on 12.26.11

Now, let's just go ahead and preface this with an admission that, as much as I may have considered and uniformly correct opinions on all such matters, one is forced to admit that it could be argued that I have never had a real job for some values of "real," perhaps the relevant values under consideration. Because neither teaching people Latin as a graduate student in California nor selling vintage furniture in your quirky store is a "job" job, such as might be poignantly mocked on "The Office," or in Dilbert cartoon before we all realized that Dilbert guy was a fucking tool. Nor is seasonal work pruning Christmas trees. Nor selling meth and heroin to young Ivy Leaguers. So, yeah, sure. Point taken.

Witt, from comments below (don't bother looking, you might read Shearer by mistake and he's trying to be provocatively racist, but it's just falling flat, and frankly is making me feel kind of sad thinking that this is how he spends his holidays, all alone, trying to convince another human, anyone, to interact with him.)

Right, so: More interesting things to talk about! I met an FBI agent recently who was wearing peep-toe shoes. I regret to announce that my immediate and very sexist reaction was "How unprofessional."

Furthermore, despite additional reflection (and interaction), my reaction did not noticeably improve. So! Wardrobe signaling among US law enforcement professionals: any value?

That said, peep-toe shoes are totally professional and what??!! Really I just...they're not my favorite shoe personally but the idea that they are unprofessional seems ludicrous. I want to set aside the sexism question to some degree, and assume Witt didn't actually persist in thinking the agent less competent than her male counterpart (Feds come in a pack of two.) But...that's pretty much what she's saying. Really though?

Having said that, naturally there exist some shoes, such that if a woman wore them to a reasonably formal professional workplace I would get judgey. Flip-flops, for example. Or, I used to have a pair of boots that were pumps inside but very thick black nylon otherwise, and had to be held up with a garter belt, above the knee. (Just imagine Catwoman.) Those? No. Boots that aren't under pants generally? That's going to be iffy unless you're a creative, and even then everything else you're wearing has to be mind-numbing in its aggressive, Thatcher-like sexlessness. A definite NO for the FBI agents, that's for sure.

But peep-toe shoes? Christ, are pumps with a medium heel the only type of footwear women are allowed to have? Must they wear pantyhose for God's sake? I thought only female staffers in the offices of elderly Southern senators were stuck with pantyhose (even in the summer.) Are sling-backs too sexy? OK, no mules, granted. D'Orsay pumps? T-straps and a chunky heel? What if there is toe cleavage, such as Mr. Blahnik is famed for? May the sole be red or is that ostentatious and unbefitting a public servant? Do any acceptable flats exist? Not ballet flats, surely; this is the fucking FBI, not Funny Face. Any adaptation of traditional male footwear? Brogues were hot recently? Done in a feminine way? No? Could we get some solidarity up in here? I see a size 8 black pair of closed-toe pumps with a medium-height heel stamping on a woman's face, forever.


 

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HYAMLC

Posted by Stanley
on 12.26.11

Some people think it ill-advised for me to undertake a cover version of this festive tune.


 

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Damn.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 12.25.11

I'm writing recommendations for a student who is exceptionally qualified for grad school, and who I'm really rooting for. After submitting five recommendations, I realized I failed to italicize any of the names of the journals (there are three) that appear in my recommendation.

I'm feeling disproportionately upset over this, on the off-chance that it should actually weaken his chances, because people raise their eyebrows because it makes the entire recommendation look funny. (I stared and stared at the recommendation, because it looked funny, but I couldn't put my finger on it and didn't ask anyone else to take a look at it.) My own advisor was once appalled that I thought the phrase was "flush out the details" instead of "flesh out the details", and would someone like him overreact subconsciously to a letter with errors like this? Possibly. Bleagh.

Furthermore, I'm trying to drum up all the credibility I can muster, because they probably haven't heard of Heebie U, and we don't offer graduate classes, and I need to come across as as much a member of the professional group as possible. Bleagh.


 

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Have yourself a merry little meetup.

Posted by Stanley
on 12.25.11

A particularly turgid commenter writes in:

Dear Mineshaft,

I will be in NYC with my small nuclear family for the next week or so. We'd love to be the excuse for a meetup. Best days are Wednesday and Thursday. The only restriction on venue is kid-friendliness.

Fuck you clowns,

TJ

Allow me to be the first to suggest Fresh Salt.


 

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