Monday, October 20, 2008

Time for a shockingly good recipe

I may be unable to purchase a new computer - for once it's not lack of funds, but a working credit card, sigh - but I can still make a really really good soup.

I nabbed a five star recipe for Acorn Squash Soup off one of my favorite cooking sites, and because it wanted food items I didn't have and it skipped a few steps I think are necessary to make the soup, I had to wing it at times. But since this is one of the best soups I've had in a while... which isn't really that long, I eat a lot of good soups... anyway, I thought I'd share my version.


Winter Squash Soup
Ingredients
1 butternut squash
1 small onion, chopped
1 stick of celery, chopped
2 tbsp butter or margarine
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp chicken bouillon cube ground up
1/2 tsp dill
1/4 tsp curry powder
dash cayenne pepper (according to your taste)
2 cups chicken broth/prepared bouillon
1 1/2 cup of light cream (12 oz if you must)
salt and pepper to taste - easy on the salt
bacon bits for the top (best if you chop and fry some bacon yourself)

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Remove stem from squash and chop in half lengthwise. Remove seeds. Place both halves cut side down in a baking dish that has about a cup of water in the bottom (to keep your squash from adhering to the pan). Bake the squash for 45 minutes or until soft. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. Scoop the squash from the skin and set aside.
2. In a medium sized pot, saute the onion and celery in the butter. Add the flour, bouillon, dill, curry and cayenne. Stir until blended. Add the broth and cream. Bring to a boil. Cook and stir for two minutes. Add the squash.
3. Blend by any means necessary. If you have an immersion blender, now is the time to use it. Be wary of the large chunks of squash that tend to shoot around the pot. You can also use a blender, processing in batches, if you must.
4. Heat the soup through. Now add salt and pepper to taste. Remember, there may be bacon in your future, so easy on the salt.
5. Serve, garnish with bacon.


If you aren't cool with curry... well, I'm sorry for your loss. You could probably have this without curry. I don't know why you'd want to, but you probably could.

The Danish Boy pointed out that this would have made a great sauce and I have to say, he's probably right. If I used half and half in order to make it thicker, skipped the bacon, but added some cooked chicken in step 4, I could probably serve this over rice for a nice hearty meal. I might see if I can swap out the squash for potatoes, which are cheaper and I can quickly boil up instead of bake, cutting down the prep time for this meal considerably.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The five stages of grief


I am slowly coming to terms with the loss of my mac. It was a lot more traumatic than I'd anticipated and I think my husband was a little shocked at my complete breakdown on day three of the Mac crisis.

The crisis is now reaching epic proportions. I cannot seem to be able to buy another Mac - my credit card seems to have become as unreadable as my hard drive. I now need to order another credit card. And somehow get that mailed to me since Bank of America doesn't like to mail credit cards overseas.

Also, did you know that in times of extreme stress, you sweat a lot more than normal? And that you can smell, like, twenty times as bad as you would on a normal day, even if you had forgotten deodorant? Talk about a week I would not like to relive. My clothes and the Danish Boy would very much like to avoid another week like that one as well.

I'm still a little shellshocked, but according to the Kubler-Ross stages of grief, I may be coming to acceptance and recovery.

Oh I went through all the other stages. Denied that my computer was dead, denied that it would bother me, denied that I was really upset about it. Denial was hand in hand with panic that first night. "This is NOT happening!" was a constant refrain. Then after being told that it was unlikely that they would be able to get my data and even if they did, there was no guarantee that the computer would last much longer, I just said, "Oh, well, then I guess I should get another computer then." I went home, figured out how I could buy another computer with my credit card and picked out my new computer as if I didn't have a care in the world. Then there was the anger. I was mad that I hadn't backed up my data (still in denial about how it wasn't really the data that bothered me) and that I had only turned off the computer on that fateful day in order to save two kroner on energy costs (still pretty mad about that actually). I moved right into bargaining after that. "If the Mac guys can just get the data off the computer, I'll be happy," I said. This wasn't in the least bit true, it turns out. I haven't had word on my data yet, but I doubt I'll be really happy, even if they do. By day three of the crisis, I had entered depression, which ended in hysterical sobbing, much to my husband's shock.

It's now day 5. I still wonder if there was any way that I could have fixed it. That I could somehow get my Mac back. On one level I know it was on it's last legs. The fan ran constantly, the heat coming from the computer made it too hot to touch sometimes and it was getting harder and harder to reboot the computer after installing the standard updates. It had a long life for a laptop. Especially one that had been dropped that many times (the power cord didn't quite fit right after I dropped it last year), gone to so many foreign countries, had coffee, beer, and indian food spilled on it, been broken in half in the airport (never did get any money back for that), and hadn't been properly cleaned in years... okay, ever.

But like a faithful pet that has to be put down after a sudden trauma, I wasn't ready to lose my Mac. It was one of the few things I walked away with in the divorce. It was my link to the outside world while I am stuck in a small office, trying to have brilliant thoughts. It was my means of contacting friends and family while I'm thousands of miles away. It wasn't just a computer, it was a piece of my soul.

Someday (hopefully soon, this PC is killing me) I will have a new Mac. It won't replace the Powerbook G4, and I don't expect it to. I miss you, my Mac. Thanks for everything.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Too much anxiety... need diversion!!

Your result for The Harry Potter Husband Test...

Mrs. Lupin

Your perfect HP man is Remus Lupin.

You like a nice, kind guy with a bit of a fierce streak and you don't mind if he comes damaged. Sure, he may take some convincing since his self-esteem's so low, but once you win him over, you know he's yours for life. Unless of course he has an attack of "I'm not good enough" and runs away, but luckily he's also good at making friends who will push him back into line if necessary.

(Art by Gold-Seven http://gold-seven.deviantart.com/ Used with permission.)

Take The Harry Potter Husband Test at HelloQuizzy

Things to do while waiting for my Mac

Your result for Are You a Jackie or a Marilyn? Or Someone Else? Mad Men-era Female Icon Quiz...

You Are a Doris!

mm.doris_.jpg

You are a Doris -- "I must help others."

Dorises are warm, concerned, nurturing, and sensitive to other people's needs.

How to Get Along with Me
  • * Tell me that you appreciate me. Be specific.
  • * Share fun times with me.
  • * Take an interest in my problems, though I will probably try to focus on yours.
  • * Let me know that I am important and special to you.
  • * Be gentle if you decide to criticize me.

In Intimate Relationships
  • * Reassure me that I am interesting to you.
  • * Reassure me often that you love me.
  • * Tell me I'm attractive and that you're glad to be seen with me.

What I Like About Being a Doris
  • * being able to relate easily to people and to make friends
  • * knowing what people need and being able to make their lives better
  • * being generous, caring, and warm
  • * being sensitive to and perceptive about others' feelings
  • * being enthusiastic and fun-loving, and having a good sense of humor

What's Hard About Being a Doris
  • * not being able to say no
  • * having low self-esteem
  • * feeling drained from overdoing for others
  • * not doing things I really like to do for myself for fear of being selfish
  • * criticizing myself for not feeling as loving as I think I should
  • * being upset that others don't tune in to me as much as I tume in to them
  • * working so hard to be tactful and considerate that I suppress my real feelings

Dorises as Children Often
  • * are very sensitive to disapproval and criticism
  • * try hard to please their parents by being helpful and understanding
  • * are outwardly compliant
  • * are popular or try to be popular with other children
  • * act coy, precocious, or dramatic in order to get attention
  • * are clowns and jokers (the more extroverted Dorises), or quiet and shy (the more introverted Dorises)

Dorises as Parents
  • * are good listeners, love their children unconditionally, and are warm and encouraging (or suffer guilt if they aren't)
  • * are often playful with their children
  • * wonder: "Am I doing it right?" "Am I giving enough?" "Have I caused irreparable damage?"

  • * can become fiercely protective

Take Are You a Jackie or a Marilyn? Or Someone Else? Mad Men-era Female Icon Quiz at HelloQuizzy

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Disaster

Last night my Mac, my beautiful, wonderful, trusty Mac, which has had horrible things done to it, survived and continued to march along side me, died.

Some sort of catastrophic failure of the hard drive. The guy at the Mac store could see the hard drive when he tried running my Mac through another Mac, but couldn't access the data. Or the drive, for that matter.

I've sent it off to try to recover the data, because that's about all that can be done with it. It would require too much work to repair and replace all the bits that might need to be replaced, since it's not particularly clear what all happened for this failure to occur.

I'd really like the data... my last two weeks of work on my dissertation wasn't backed up. Stupid, I know. Back in the days when I used floppies, I always kept my papers on disks, not the hard drive, but lap tops lack disk drives these days, you have to keep things on data sticks and I haven't become used to saving data to these devices. At least the rest of my dissertation is backed up, not only on my husband's PC (which I'm currently using, sigh), but on a data stick and a hard copy (print out).

So it's time for a new mac. I probably won't be able to get a MacBookPro, like I'd love, but I don't really need all that extra power and bells and whistles and... oh, I wish I could have one!!

Friday, October 10, 2008

If I'm neither tough, nor idealistic, can I at least be cynical?

I used to think Americans were tough and idealistic. We take a hit and then get right back up and proclaim the American dream. But then I travelled to Israel. Those people are tough. In Chicago, the mobster's creed was "if he sends one of your guys to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue." In Israel, it's "if he sends one of your guys to the hospital, you send him to the morgue, his family to the streets, and several completely unrelated bystanders to the hospital." So America - not so tough, not so hard. Maybe not cuddly, but certainly not so hard. But we still had the claim to idealism, right?

Nope, because now I'm living in Denmark, the most idealistic country on the planet. They voted themselves the happiest people in the world because they live in Denmark, obviously, and Denmark is perfect and wonderful. It's like they're living in a Danny Kaye movie.

Denmark is so idealistic and, shall we just say, a lot naive, that they're pretty sure they only have 1,000 to 5,000 illegal immigrants in the entire country of 5.2 million people. The Danish Boy has been working hard on various stories around immigrants, both legal and otherwise. A year ago he went to Morocco to talk to immigrants preparing to cross the sea and illegally enter Europe. There were a lot of them and they were not about to give up and go home even though death or deportation was likely. Now Denmark may be a long way from Spain, but several of the immigrants the DB spoke to were talking about going up to Germany. Denmark is pretty close by. If there are no North African illegal immigrants in Denmark, I'll take up missionary work in deepest Africa (where I can tell them all about this great little country that doesn't believe in illegal immigrants). Meanwhile, the DB has located a number of au pair girls from the Philippines, who are working extra illegal under-the-table hours and some that have over stayed their visas. When he spoke to various ministers of parliament, one said she'd like to ask Danes to not hire illegal labor, because it's wrong, and one said that they should increase the minimum wage, because if the girls were making more money, they wouldn't want to go out and make more money.

Just about everyone he's spoken to insists there's no problem, because Denmark doesn't have illegal workers. That one researcher has shown that there may be between 1000 and 5000 comes a shock. I laugh because those numbers are seriously low but the interviewed MPs seem to think that those numbers are too high. The friendly MP who wants to ask Danes to hire legal help also thinks that these people would be caught very quickly by the government when they went to get health care or something. But I can tell you, having been here for quite some time with only questionable legality, you are not going to catch them. If I started working under-the-table and made enough money to pay the doctor fees for non-residents, no one would turn me in; Danes love cheap labor, doctors like getting paid cash, no one is going to run a check on me unless I do something stupid like hold up a 7-11 with a hand gun.

I also laugh at the Danish identity card, which I am sure any computer geek could crack and reproduce for illegal immigrants. This is one step beyond what my DB is willing to accept. He's sure that the CPR system is unbreakable. But if computer hackers can get into the CIA, the FBI, the Dept. Homeland Security, then what (other than the fact that these hackers may have never heard of Denmark) makes Danes think it's so perfect?

It's really a mind boggling notion - the CPR system is perfect because as far as they know, it's never failed. But Danes aren't looking to see if it might have, because they truly believe that the system is perfect and therefore it can't have failed.

I really wish I was a computer hacker and had a criminal mind and some black-market connections. I could make a small fortune selling identity cards to all the illegal immigrants that I know are out there.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

My life is a choose your own adventure...

Except in my case, it's not so much of a choice. But then, those "choose your own adventures" rarely were. Given the option of talking to the creepy old man or the ugly woman, I always wanted to "stay quiet, listen, and then pick the more rational of choices" which for reasons that escape me, was never actually an option. You had to pick a door to go through and were given no clues to help you choose. It was "You go through the left door - turn to page 60" and "You go through the right door - turn to page 72." On page 60 was a tiger that ate you (leaving me to wonder, what, was it the world's most quiet tiger? How come the previous page didn't say "There are two doors, the left one smells slightly of cat and you can hear heavy footsteps and some faint purring?") and meanwhile on page 72 you find a man holding a knife to your throat and your two options are to "Laugh and say you've entered the wrong room - turn to page 48 or Try out a judo move - turn to page 23" when I know very well what my decision would be, to HOLD FREAKIN' STILL!

Can you tell how much I didn't really like Choose Your Own Adventure novels? I used to just read them front to back or just look for the funny deaths. Sometimes I would work backwards from the ending I liked best (often a hilarious death) to see what moves had placed you there. I was certainly not fond of being forced to chose between two options without any hints as to the result or discussion on the matter.

And that is where my life seems to stand.

There is so much going on in my life, dissertation, economic, residency... that I cannot plan beyond the next event. And I don't even know what that event will be. With this many variables, I also can't make plans for all eventualities because there is just so little that I can know or control about the future of many of these things.

So the page in my life right now reads: Page 29: You've decided to continue working on this dissertation! It's hard work but it's going well. Suddenly everything changes!
Did you get residency? if yes, turn to page 7, if no, turn to 25.
Did you lose your home? if yes, turn to page 193, if no, turn to page 8.
Did you finish your dissertation? if yes, turn to page 49, if no, turn to page 9.

On page 7 I get the choice to continue working on my dissertation (page 75) or get a job (57), or do both (36). To work on my dissertation takes me back to page 29 to either enter a continual rut of flipping between 7 and back again until I can reach page 9, or perhaps I'll get lucky and lose my home so I can turn to page 8, if I get a job I may or may not still lose my home (pages 193 or 8) and I may or may not be able to finish my dissertation (page 49 and 92) so I may or may not be able to get a good job (100 and 121), if I do both, I die of exhaustion (on page 36). On page 25 I have to chose between Mälmo and California, on 193 I chose between California and Ebeltoft and on page 8 I am returned to waiting for residency and dissertation writing.

How can anyone plan for anything when your life is reduced to this?

The Danish Boy has to pick what job he wants for the last 6 months of his internship and we have no way of knowing which is the best option. Any of his choices could put us in the room with the tiger. Or they could lead us into a room with the treasure, the bad guy knocked unconscious on the floor by the bowling ball I accidently dropped on page 12 and we all live happily ever after.

Why is it that life is so often reduced to book metaphors?

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Chores I deplores

I hate doing laundry. Absolutely hate it. There's the sorting and the piles and the going back multiple times to change loads out and put new loads in and then there is the folding of the dry laundry and the putting of the laundry away... I really hate it. Yes, in normal life I'd only have to wash my clothes once a week. And in the lovely life I used to have, my husband did the laundry for me. I would fold and put away, but then he helped me with the dishes... sort of.

Well, now things have changed. We live with roommates which means no using the timer to start the laundry an hour before the husband comes home. I've got to get the laundry done and I've got to get it done before people come home and want to do their laundry, or worse, take up the space on the drying rack.

Originally I had been banned from the machine for a certain pink incident but now I have to do the laundry if we ever want clean clothes. This is difficult for my husband to grasp. He says things like, well, just take the load out and I'll sort it before bed. Yes, I say, meaning that we'd get one load done in a day, and there would be no room on the line for our clothes now that everyone else has also done their laundry. Do you want clean underwear or not?

I finally got sick of the whole thing and started doing my own laundry. No one died and I think the DB is starting to relent. He's not nearly so upset about my accidently drying his black shirts as he was 5 years ago. I think he's starting to learn that if your black shirt gets accidently machine dried twice in 5 years, it is not worth your marriage to make a big deal out of it.

Of course my relationship to clothes is: if you can't take the heat, you don't belong in the closet. I don't read most of the tags in my clothes. Though often I will if I am debating buying something. Dry clean only gets returned to the shelf unless I really love it or I think it can handle the wash. I separate into darks (cold water wash), whites and underwear (hot water wash), and colors (everything else in a warm water wash). I sort by what the article looks like (color) and ignore it's pleas regarding fabric and wash-inside-out-ness. Yes, I have in fact put wool in the dryer. Once. So's my husband ("how was I supposed to know it was wool" because I call it my wool knit hat perhaps? Eh, it survived. I'll probably dry it myself someday), you wanna make something of it?

I am slowly learning the little signs they put on labels. The X over the box with the circle in it, that might represent a dryer to those who are into symbology, means don't dry. I think. Items that have this symbol are not going into the dryer.

There is a website for all this. http://www.textileaffairs.com/lguide.htm

But I can't remember all that and I am not taking my computer into the bathroom. Maybe I'll print it out for myself.

This does not solve the other problem. The washing machine is Danish. It doesn't use these symbols. It has words like "Kort" and "stortskraeling" or something. It also uses Celsius rather than Fahrenheit and has no such thing as Permanent Press. Not that I know what Permanent Press is, but I know it is very good to wash everything on this cycle and dry everything with this cycle. It is the best cycle.

But at least I'm getting clean clothes again. Clothes that are dried the civilized way, in a tumble dryer. Even if they shouldn't be tumble dried. The husband will also be getting his clothes cleaned. And if he's lucky, his black shirts will not accidently end up in the dryer, but on a line.

In return I've asked him to wash the dishes if I've cooked. Because he's getting out of all the chores these days and it's a bit unfair.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Change is good for the something something.

The time is once again to change the format of the blog. Why? I mean, I just changed it. What's with all this CHANGE anyway? Isn't anything sacred anymore? Why does everything have to change!!?!!

Because otherwise things would be boring.

Learning, for instance, is part of change. Everything we learn changes us in a way, either a small way or a great way. So even if we could freeze ourselves at this very moment, never to age, and freeze the seasons so that nothing would grow, nothing would die, and nothing would change... it still would change the very second someone learned something new.

It was a crazy thought I had. And unlike my dear husband, the philosophy nut, I have steered clear of the very people who have probably pondered this particular thought before me and thus have articulated it better. Screw them, the ponces.

(Here's something for you to learn that will change you in a little way: ponce is a man who lives off of the earnings of prostitutes. Like "pimp" only with a much more negative connotation, since rap has glorified the P-I-M-P.)

Meanwhile, the season changes from summer to winter. The Danish Boy says "This is the season we call 'fall.' It happens between summer and winter," in response to my declaration of seasonal changes.

But this is not fall. Fall is a lovely few weeks were the days get shorter and the weather gets crisp and cool. Frost may appear on the ground in the morning, but is burnt away by the sun in the afternoon. The leaves change color, slowly, and gently drop, one by one to the ground. Fall is not a horrible few weeks in which it suddenly begins to hail, the leaves change colors overnight and are summarily bashed to the ground by the ensuing downpour and hurricane force wind that comes out of nowhere to freeze your butt cheeks off if you lean against the wrong thing. Denmark has no fall. It goes straight to winter from summer, without a by-your-leave.

It's freezing cold. We tuck ourselves under our winter duvet (heavy, stuffed with down) and I still have to keep the heat on in our little room because my nose runs and my eyeballs feel like snowballs stuck in my skull. And in typical Danish fashion, my dear husband is so hot, he's on top of the covers while I shiver in my flannel pjs curled up into a ball. Thankfully we know that if I am cold, no one sleeps, whereas if he's just slightly too warm, but I am just fine, everyone sleeps a full 8 hours.

No one else in the apartment seems to agree with my temperature requirements, so I go from room to room turning up the heat when I am there and down again when I leave. I spend most of my time in my office since I am dissertating (at the moment, reading this horrible article that I am sure will be very important for me, I have taken lots of notes, but it is written in such horrific classical scholarshipness, with quotes in other languages and WAY too many words that I despair), so it is not so bad.

So with change in the air (along with the cold) and a horrible confrontation with my worst fears (no, not spiders... academic writing... it makes me feel so dumb) I needed to do something to take my mind off it all. Enter my new banner. I made it myself, you know. I discovered I had an old version of Photoshop hiding in my Mac OS 9, which is part of my partitioned hard drive. I was actually contemplating getting rid of OS 9 and the partition to make room on this side of the computer, which runs on OS 10.4 and is simply running out of room, when I read that this would reformat my drive. Since that sounds like it would erase my computer entirely, I decided ehhhh, no, I would not worry about OS 9, it could just sit there and rot.

Thank the computer gods I did, because that is where I had put Photoshop, way back when I first got the computer and all the programs were still running on 9 because 10 was still just too new. For the Mac people of the world, this was a dreadful time of change and adaptation. But I digress. The partition in my computer has been put up in such a way that I can actually run OS 9 programs in OS 10.4. It looks a little weird, but it works marvelously.

Have I mentioned how much I love my computer? I love it.

So it is due to the brilliance of my Mac (and associated Adobe programs) that I could create a brand new banner for my blog. And upload it.

Change is good. Learning computery stuff to make change - html, photoshop, partitioned hard drives... very cool.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Dissertating once again...

There's nothing like writing a dissertation to make you doubt your intelligence. My theory chapter is starting to look like it could be a chapter in the next Ian Hodder book, which means I'm either a genius or rambling insensible jargon in increasingly complicated clauses.

The Danish Boy says it makes sense to him and it reads well. This is the joy of being married to a former archaeologist who has read a lot of theory. I am, however, wondering if he is a bit biased. Or perhaps he's simply wise enough to know that he should be nice to the woman who makes his food. It's not supposed to read well anyway, it's supposed to be academic, which is latin for "impenetrable use of jargon in complex sentences containing multiple clauses." Or maybe that's the German definition of "academic," I can never remember.

Anyway, without counting catalogue and appendices (I am really not sure if I want to include all of them, it seems a bit over the top if you ask me) I had 80 pages single spaced.

Whoopee! I exclaimed. Until I discovered that when I made it double spaced, as I need to for final publication, I did NOT have 160 pages. I had 149. Grumble grumble.

So... so far I have used 149 pages to answer the question I posed in the beginning of my dissertation. I could probably answer that question in 3 pages, but brevity is the soul of wit, not dissertations, which are not in the least bit funny.