Force it through a sieve!

December 9th, 2016 | Posted by Mush in Admissions | Food | Recipes - (2 Comments)

In which I’m astonished at the texture!

I like to read recipes. I have liked to do so since they were in actual books rather than on the internet.

I especially like to read old recipes. The oldest through the newest, to see what’s changed and what’s the same. Ancient recipes, medieval recipes, 20’s recipes, 70’s recipes. War time recipes, Southern recipes, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean and Indian and Ethiopian, I like to read recipes.

Well, even in the first version of The Joy of Cooking I ever owned, which was an 80’s version, they sometimes directed you to “force it,” whatever it was, “through a sieve.”

In fact, a surprising number of older recipes direct the cook to force “it,” the soup or sauce or whatever, through a sieve, before adjusting the seasonings and serving.

I have never in my life forced anything through a sieve, because I assumed that modern blenders obviated the need.

I WAS INCORRECT AS FUCK.

Here’s the scenario:

Yesterday, I made broccoli cheddar soup in the electric pressure cooker. I used a bag of cheap, frozen broccoli, because it’s been so long since I’ve bought cheap, frozen broccoli that I’d forgotten why nobody ever buys cheap, frozen broccoli: the bags are always half-filled with stems rather than florets, and the stems are woody as fuck. Every. Single. Time.

Once cooking was done I opened the Instant Pot, removed the liner, and carried it over to the counter, where I proceeded to blend the soup with the immersion blender. Super excited to nom down a bowl of homemade soup! Ladled some into a bowl, toasted up some whole wheat homemade sourdough, and sat down at the table.

Delicious!

Except, um, a little fiber of stem. Kind of unpleasant, but not a big deal–

And another. And another.

And another!

Aaaaand basically this soup is inedible, because after every spoonful you’re taking bits of what basically amount to centimeter-long hairs out of your mouth.

UGH!

Later that evening, I blended it again, well past what your typical broccoli cheddar is like, far into cream soup territory.

Tasted it again.

Same fucking thing: tiny little hair-like fibers in every mouthful!

So there was only one thing left, before throwing out the whole pot: force it through a sieve.

sieve

Turns out something that thick will not go through a sieve on its own, hence the word “force.” Turns out you use the back of a big spoon (I used a small ladle) to push it through. Doesn’t take too long, once you find the right spoon.

And then, OH. MY. GOD. The texture! Not only is that stupid stem fiber gone, but they are not fucking kidding about this forcing-it-through-a-sieve bullshit. What comes out is silky smooth and luxurious and amazing.

How have I never done this before?!

Moral: If it says force it through a sieve, then fucking force it through a sieve.

Even if you’ve used modern blending equipment. Just do it. It’s so worth it!

Traveler’s Notebook

December 8th, 2016 | Posted by Mush in Admissions | Nerd | Travel - (0 Comments)

In which, yet again, I become what I judge. This time was quicker than usual! (It took twenty years for me to end up fat and the owner of a fake Christmas tree, but only weeks to end up with a Traveler’s Notebook!)

Behold. My Traveler’s Notebook.

Traveler's Notebook

This object has totally captured my imagination. I’m not really sure why, as it’s just a piece of leather and some elastic, a tin clamp, a waxed thread bookmark, paper, and accessories, but I adore it. (No hyperbole. Sometimes I just sit and hold it and look at it.)

So elegant and clever. So satisfying. The smell of the leather, the feel of the paper. The thoroughly modern faux-rusticity.

You feel as if, should the world end, you’d carry this with you always, and scribble in it with the smallest and most cramped hand to save what little paper was left. Future feral generations would marvel at the even-cut edges, the fineness of the paper, the way the leather was treated. The impossibly complicated dried-out old plastic-and-steel pen, and the precision-milled pen clip. It would be scarred and bent, but beautiful, and you’d have put all you knew in it for them.

IMG_20161208_142718

(Of course, what will really happen is that when this journaling generation goes, there will be millions upon millions of these things, stuffed with inspirational stickers and craft paper flowers and tabs and clips and cutesy drawings and a personal, woman’s-eye view into life way back in the teens, unearthed in boxes in grandmas’ houses and glutting the antiques market and whatever will pass for eBay by then. If they come back in style, like Polaroid cameras have now, people will probably buy them and gut them and re-use the by-then antique leather covers.)

I got the notebook itself (a “fauxdori,” made by a company called September Leather) for free, using points from my Chase Amazon card. (I can’t tell you how much I’ve spent on accessories since it’s completely embarrassing.) I soon restrung it with a Midori repair kit, even though the original elastics were just fine, to make it look more like a Midori.

Notebooks

I’ve purchased hand-made inserts, official Midori inserts. Pencil boards, kraft folders, pens. Colored pencils, brush pens, a couple of stencils. Book darts, washi tape, a repair kit, double sided tape, pen holder clips, and Midori post-its designed to fit inside.

"minimum"

And, if all that weren’t enough, I also bought a passport-sized Midori, plus a few accessories for it, too.

Pens

I use the little one as a wallet. It’s the most expensive wallet I’ve ever carried, and it’s not even a wallet! But it does hold one’s passport perfectly, plus money and cards.

I looooooooooove it.

The big one, the standard size, is my daily journal. And sketchbook. And spiritual journal. And place for lists and to-dos, and a catch-all for random bits of paper, and post-its dispenser, and pen holder, and it just looks cool and feels cool and is fun to handle.

Traveler's Notebook

It’s really nice to journal by hand again; I haven’t done so regularly since high school. It’s different than writing online or even typing, and I’m enjoying it very much. My wretched handwriting is slowly improving, and I’ve begun to sketch and doodle, too — something I’ve never really done.

Sometimes I sketch things from books I’m reading; other sketches are scenes from what I’m watching on TV. I have no talent for art but it’s fun, and feels better than wasting time scrolling endlessly on social media.

Matilda

I discovered the Traveler’s Notebook by accident when looking up Bullet Journaling. And here’s where the judgement comes in.

In August, I posted this innocuous entry about the chores I’d done that day, and Jinjer, whom I blame completely for my journal obsession, told me about the world of BuJo and posted a handy link.

I clicked.

And fell down the rabbit hole of modern planner obsession. Just like standing in front of a Franklin Planner display back in the day, only seemingly infinite. Instagram hashtags, Pinterest, endless blogs and YouTube flip-throughs. And eventually I stumbled across the Midori Traveler’s Notebook, a refillable Japanese stationer’s flagship product, and that was that. Had to have one. Had to have two.

The judgement thing was that, at first, as I looked at all the stuff, at the endless pictures of piles of planners and journals and pens and stickers and stamps and tapes and myriad other stupid meaningless and often plastic accessories, I thought, “Gross. Wasteful. Needless. These people could bullet journal with a Bic and a two dollar spiral notebook!”

I came across online stationery and pen stores, and thought, “How fucking stupid and pretentious can anyone be? Nobody needs a two hundred dollar fucking fountain pen.” But before two months were out, I’d placed my first Jet Pens order, and read through maybe half of their lovely, clever tutorials, learning several useful things.

Full disclosure: I did buy a fucking fountain pen, but it was under two bucks. I just wanted to see if I, as a leftie, could write with it. Turns out I can, but I have to hold it upside down, in order to pull rather than push the nib. I’m not super fond of it because I prefer superfine pens, and it writes medium-to-heavy.

Fauxdori Traveler's Notebook

So my knee-jerk reaction was a negative judgement, and I ended up turning into what I’d judged. In almost no time at all.

Do I need not only one but two relatively expensive journal solutions? No, I could write online here, or in a private local document. Or if I simply had to go analogue (which I felt I did, as there appears to be evidence it’s good for brain plasticity), any pen and pad of paper would do. It’s just typical Western gluttony and wastefulness (even if it does stimulate the economy (which I’m not confident is wholly good no matter what they say)).

Do any non-professionals need special paper types, wide varieties of writing utensils, or other accessories? No, not at all. I’m no artist, or famous diarist, or world traveler.

But do I really need most of what I have? No. And I’m ashamed of it, honestly, but not enough to force privation on myself. I focus instead on my gratitude and good fortune, most of the time.

Much of my adult life I couldn’t have afforded to buy these things on a whim; I would have put them on wishlists and eventually forgotten about them. Now that I’m in a spot where I can drop sixty bucks on a glorified wallet I don’t need, well, I did. So I’m just like everybody else and I use my discretionary income to buy shit I do not, in any way, shape, or form, need, but only want.

I love this thing

It feels weird. It’s strange that when my life is at its most abundant and comfortable, I’m mentally so Spartan in outlook. I frequently feel a sense of melancholy about how normalized my relative wealth is, when so many are still suffering heartbreaking lack. I have so much, from hot running water to grocery delivery to the luxury of enough free time to make my own bread and pickles and salsa and soups and sauces and hats and socks. Other people are literally shooed off of the park benches they’re trying to sleep on.

Oh, well, enough pontificating. The positive outcome of all this is that not only do I have a couple of objects that give me great pleasure every time I use them, and a new habit of offline analog time, but also I donated an equal amount to the local food kitchen and shelter just so I could stand myself! True story.

In which there’s an image.

Gosh, I haven’t!

Well, here it is!

fuck yeah presents!

Universal basic income

December 8th, 2016 | Posted by Mush in Introspection | Reading | Work - (0 Comments)

In which I ponder the cuddle-the-baby or ignore-him-when-he-cries approaches.

I’ve been reading a lot about Universal Basic Income lately.

What is it? Well, the basic idea is that everybody gets enough income to keep them just out of poverty even if they never do anything at all.

In the U.S., it would be the equivalent of about $1,000 per month.

Everybody. No matter what. If you’re wealthy, you’d probably just shove it in your IRA or something; if you’re not, it would keep you sheltered and fed and off the streets and off welfare. It would put a lot of social services out of business. Homelessness would plummet, for instance.

Would people “abuse” it?

Well, let’s consider abuse:

Is deciding you don’t want to work abuse? I don’t want to work. Working sucks! With the exception of a couple of jobs that stimulated me and were interesting for awhile, I generally have never enjoyed work. Nobody truly likes going to the same place every day and doing the same meaningless shit over and over (especially not while being abused by the public). Most humans do not enjoy pretending to be total twats for money, just to align with the inhumane dictates of some company that doesn’t give a shit whether you live or die and which will fire you at the drop of a hat no matter how faithfully you perform/conform.

Is using that money to buy drink or drugs abuse? Well, if you’re addicted, you’re going to get those substances anyway. With basic income, you’d get them with your own money rather than other people’s. Probably a measurable reduction in theft. If you’re not addicted, you might party for awhile, sure, but that sort of life is pretty boring, so eventually you’d stop and look around for something fulfilling.

Many people object to the idea of giving everybody money because they think it would encourage laziness and slovenliness, but I think those objections reflect the objector’s personality more than anything else. Just because you’d drop out and let your place go to shit if you got free money doesn’t mean everybody else would.

And I think a lot of people would drop out, briefly, especially those in the bottom classes, and let the pizza boxes pile up. Daytime TV ratings might explode for awhile, sure. But so what? Eventually, people who are not disabled physically or mentally will get up and go do something. It’s human nature. And with basic income, that thing wouldn’t have to be degrading jobs at fast food restaurants or big box stores. That thing could be going back to CC to get qualified to work in a nice restaurant’s kitchen, or learning how to finally write that novel, or volunteering full-time to rebuild the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. With universal income, if your circs sucked, you’d be free to reject them, leave, begin again elsewhere. You could find your correct place in society, eventually.

People in good, satisfying jobs would probably stay put. But people in shitty, demeaning jobs would probably migrate out of them, forcing employers to retool those jobs to be less shitty and demeaning in order to attract workers. Right now, and for the last thirty years, it’s been an employer’s market. They’ve lowered wages and worsened scheduling, benefits, and other work parameters to the point where most jobs below a certain level are really, really awful. I know this because I’ve worked them; if you haven’t, you can shut the fuck up. “Random scheduling” doesn’t sound that bad until you’ve done it for a year. Closing at eleven followed by opening at six followed by no schedule certainty for years on end will exhaust you: physically, mentally, emotionally. It’s bullshit, because it serves no purpose. We’re not at war; we’re not fighting for our lives and our way of life, we’re just making the rich richer. This is not sacrifice-worthy, noble employment. It’s theft.

Ignore-him-when-he-cries people think that by ignoring requests for attention, we’ll raise strong, self-dependent kids.

Cuddle-the-baby people think that by answering every need, we’ll raise confident, self-assured, unafraid children.

Obviously both approaches can fail and create selfish, self-serving monsters. Both approaches are imperfect, because they choose law over what’s actually on the ground.

I say the law was never meant to presuppose every possible nuance; you have a brain for that. React appropriately in the moment. And in the moment, machines are taking jobs, and a lot of industries are dying. Considering the lay of the land, it’s not possible to bring back all those dead manufacturing jobs. Not to mention that so many of the jobs that are left are poor quality and don’t pay shit. (If you’re working full time and still on welfare, something’s very wrong.)

It’s not like we don’t already have the wealth needed; if everybody had income, no matter what, we’d have a much healthier economy.

I believe that the more I learn about it, the more I’m very much in favor of UBI.

Ceramic Christmas Tree

November 21st, 2016 | Posted by Mush in Admissions | Introspection - (0 Comments)

In which there’s a pretty thing.

Ceramic Christmas Tree

I’ve had this thing on my wishlist for pushing a decade. It’s a fairly close replica of the one my great grandmother had, which now belongs to my uncle. Ten years is a long time to covet something that costs less than forty bucks, and I finally just went ahead and bought it.

It arrived today and it’s wonderful and pretty, and I’m so grateful that I can just buy something like this and have it show up on the steps a week later. But it’s not a $40 meal to be digested and forgotten about, it’s another box to keep in the storage space and to have to carry the next time we move and I basically always feel guilt about accumulating things because I know at some point in the future I’ll be moving it or donating it or throwing it away or somehow trying to get rid of it, to deal with it, so I can take myself and the few things I really need someplace else because that’s how it’s always been for me.

I’ve owned entire sets of furniture that are gone now. Record album collections, dishes, waterbeds and sideboards: all gone. A table my maternal grandfather made: gone. An heirloom ring, a handmade doll, 99% of the books I’ve ever owned: gone. Leather coats, good winter boots, cast iron pans and whisks and 6×8″ woven rugs and a samovar and high school annuals and pictures in frames.

Once in a dorm building in Albuquerque I just threw shit into the incinerator shaft because I couldn’t get rid of it any other way. Good shit. But I couldn’t keep it and I didn’t have the resources to sell it or donate it. Once in a farmhouse in Iowa I had to walk away from things I wanted because they were ruined or wouldn’t fit into the Jeep. Once in an apartment in Portland, I abandoned a baby grand piano because I couldn’t afford to move it and I couldn’t find anyone to donate it to.

Everything ends up being a burden. Everything ends up being a burden. Everything ends up being a burden.

But before it does, it’s frequently beautiful and brings joy.

In which I’m disappointed but not surprised, considering how many said they’d be voting their ‘consciences’ in this election.

I have several hundred Facebook friends; they are disproportionately musicians and cult members, and a lot of them announced they’d vote third party.

I really, really wish they hadn’t.

capture

So, to those of you who voted for anti-vaxx Jill Stein: congratulations! You voted for Trump! Ditto Johnson and all other third party voters.

Now, it’s quite normal for the country to vote republican after having had a democrat in office for two terms; it was very, very likely the republican candidate would win. Which is why it was particularly important we voted for Clinton this time, even though she wasn’t an ideal candidate.

Buuuuut we didn’t. So the republican candidate won.

Sadly for us, this time the republican candidate happened to be a spoilt little rich boy who does things like build hotels that fail, and host pro wrestling events and reality TV shows. And now this man will have his tiny little finger on the button.

RIP health care, gay marriage, help to refugees.

What’s wrong with ‘Westworld.’

November 4th, 2016 | Posted by Mush in Uncategorized - (2 Comments)

In which I keep lecturing people about what’s wrong with this show and they don’t want to hear it, so I’m going to blog it for my own amusement!

I’ve heard it’s possible that HBO will lock in as many as five seasons of ‘Westworld,’ an episodic TV reboot of the 1973 movie of the same name.

Five seasons of this? It’s well-acted and well shot, but it’s rife with fail. In the opening credits you see the creation of biologically printed robots; in the show itself you see technicians pulling rubbery skin onto metal skeletons. Which is it? Are they biological or mechanical, or both?

And how does keeping humanoid robots so life-like they look exactly like humans naked help to dehumanize them to the staff, rather than merely degrade them like prisoners or slaves?

The plot itself is interesting… if you like sappy, emotional Westerns with no science fiction whatsoever, and only a mere nod to game-playing in the “hidden level” sub-plot followed by Ed Harris’ Man In Black character.

All these robots can pass the Turing test, but they’re fodder for human guests to fuck and fight and maim and rape and kill. They bleed. They appear to understand freedom enough to want it. The whole show is gratuitous violence and weepy scenes of robot subjugation. It fails spectacularly to do what sci-fi does best, which is ask important questions:

If you can build robots so subtle they can pass as human, are they human?

What is consciousness?

Where’s the line between a very convincing machine and a self-aware AI? How do you design a test to find it?

Is it moral to build a device, giving it the capacity to feel and understand pain, just so you can hurt it?

Is what they feel actually pain, when they’re just robots? Can they feel, as we define feeling, or is it all programming designed to mimic feeling? How can anybody tell the difference?

In which there’s another rant about politics.

Absolutely do not vote third party. It is TOO LATE to vote your so-called consciences.

You want to fix democracy? Then why didn’t you third-partiers do it last year? The year before? The five years before that, or the decades before that?

I’ll tell you why: because you did not give a fuck about politics then. Not enough to participate. But now, suddenly, you’re all, “Oh, I have such strong FEELINGS about how corrupt this all is, and I absolutely must be true to myself and vote my CONSCIENCE!”

Because you’re privileged as fuck. Privileged enough to feel entitled to WASTE A VOTE. A vote — a right so important that human beings have DIED TO GET IT FOR YOU.

You will fuck this election up. You will put a shallow, incompetent man into the Oval office, and you will do it because you do not understand that your rights come with responsibilities. Responsibilities you have failed to carry out. You’ve stood with a bucket of water in your hands watching the building burn down and said, “Not my building, not my fire.” But now, suddenly, you care? You care so much that you just have to cast a meaningful vote that represents who you are?

You are being idealistic, ignorant children. You lost your right to vote your feels each of the billion times you did not participate in your own government in the past decade. You are dabblers. You are passers-by. Yes, you have a constitutional right to bitch and moan while doing nothing, but you also have a duty to use your vote wisely. Yes, there is corruption, but your vote is still a vote. And nobody cares about who you are or how you really feel; you’re an adult with a vote. Use it to keep your country somewhat intact. It’s your duty.

If the orange man of reality TV and pro-wrestling fame should, God forbid, win this fucked up disaster of a presidential election, I will blast every one of you “vote third party!” nerds with the most enormous goddamned THIS IS ALL YOUR NAIVE, RIDICULOUS, IDEALISTIC, DUMB ASSED FAULT rant you have ever seen. It will make those times your mom was so mad she nearly de-manifested seem like a pastel Easter basket on a gentle Spring morn. If you decide to use your enormous privilege to FUCK THIS UP, I will be incandescent with actual, genuine — not fake-internet — rage.

DO NOT VOTE THIRD PARTY IN THIS MOTHERFUCKING PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION. Jesus Christ, can’t you people tell how desperately important this is? If you really wanted a viable third-party system, YOU WOULD HAVE BUILT ONE LONG BEFORE THIS HAPPENED. But you didn’t. Your lack of participation, along with my own, is WHY WE’RE HERE NOW.

So STFU and vote for the bitch, and once the huckster’s been safely gotten rid of, YOU MAY MOTIVATE YOURSELVES TO FIX THE SYSTEM THEN, and with my blessings. THEN, you may participate your asses off. THEN, you may feel all the feelings and vote all the consciences you want. Then, you may go to local, county, state, and federal events, you may write letters, you may vote however you wish, and you may participate to your hearts’ content.

But if you do it in THIS presidential election, you’re a naive, selfish, childish, wasteful, and privileged idiot.

In which there are a variety of reversible, seasonally appropriate motherfucking handmade placemats!!!

When your mom is psychic:

IMG_20160923_161114

You buy a table and you think, damn, some placemats sure would be great.

AND THEN YOUR MOM SENDS YOU A BOX OF THEM RIGHT OUT OF THE BLUE, AND THERE’S, LIKE, DIFFERENT ONES FOR MAJOR HOLIDAYS AND SEASONS AND STUFF, AND SHE MADE THEM HERSELF, AND NOW YOU’RE LIKE FUCK SEPTEMBER, IT NEEDS TO BE OCTOBER ALREADY SO I CAN USE THE HALLOWEEN ONES!

Place mats

They’re like little blankets for your table, really.

On the table earlier this afternoon

September 21st, 2016 | Posted by Mush in Life - (1 Comments)

In which there’s a snapshot.

Wednesday afternoon

A cardamom mocha latte, served pretentiously in a Ball jar with a copper-riveted saddle leather cozy.

A box of chakra stones I received in the mail today. I’ve decided to take up the study of chakras because I’ve always thought they were ridiculous, a mental state that conflicts with my personal experiences with Mother over the years.

A copy of Herodotus’ The Histories, which I bought and started years ago and rediscovered on the shelf the other day and decided to start reading again. It was printed in 1960. It’s 56 years old, this paperback, and rather delicate.

A plastic spiral notebook I got as a prize when I worked at The Home Depot. It contains lists of extensions, department numbers, SKUs, and ex-coworker’s phone numbers, as well as more recent notes I’ve started in anticipation of the traveler’s journal knock-off I bought myself for my birthday. My handwriting is so rusty it’s nearly illegible.