Frack That

Things I would rather do than write my thesis:

1. Re-watch Battlestar Galactica and finally watch the last season.
2. Learn Japanese with the Rosetta Stone program I have.
3. Write fiction for funsies.
4. Blog more.
5. Get perfect scores on all my super-awesome Lego PS3 games.
6. Re-learn how to knit.
7. Teach myself to play the guitar.
8. Learn how to mix delicious drinks.
9. Cleaning my apartment to a more ocd-alicious state.
10. Research laser eye surgery.

This is just a short list of the things I would rather do than work on my master’s thesis. If you had a big project you didn’t want to do, what would you do instead? Let me know and I’ll make a super awesome new list with all the cool new things.

Excellent. Rock on. Thesis on.

 

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Air Flight = Self Awareness

In the month of September, I spent much of my time in an airport or in the air. This has caused me to learn several new things about myself. Strange and disturbing things. It’s now October, and I have no idea where September went, hell, I don’t know where half of October went. But, the things I have learned about myself are listed as following:

1. I am not a morning person. I don’t like to get out of bed before the sun rises. I did that consistently for about 2 weeks. Brain power is low if there is no sun for my to charge with. I’m like a solar panel. I need the sun to be up to function properly.

2. I do not have the patience I used to think that I did. I have evidence to support this, which is listed in my next personal discovery.

3. When I am required to stand in lines, I very quickly degenerate into hating everyone. There were nuns (I’m serious) in one line I had to stand in and I hated them. Children asked questions, I hated them. Adults moved to slowly, I hated them. Colleagues made inane comments, I hated them as well.

4. I have a lot of hate. I should see a shrink.

5. I tell myself I am OK with air travel, but I think that’s the denial talking. I hate turbulence, especially when you get that first unexpected drop. That’s always alarming. I’m not a fan of the landings either, because I can never figure out how they stop the plane. I know, breaks, but we were traveling so quickly – how can we be sure the inertia will be stopped? An object in motion…
Evidence: During a flight that had turbulence, I may have flailed in a rather alarming fashion on the first drop. In my defense, I was asleep and it startled me. I flailed, then gripped the armrests like Kate Winslet clung to that door in Titanic. Yeah, Strain, that’ll save you if the plane FALLS OUT OF THE SKY.

6. I am really skilled at making myself go to sleep on planes. I pretty much put my head back and will myself asleep. I think it helps that the sun usually isn’t out when I get on the plane. Please refer to self-discovery #1.

7. I like the movie Battleship. Saw it on an in-flight movie, found it entertaining.

That about wraps up my list of self-discoveries fueled by air travel. If pushed, I could probably think of a few more, but I think most of those would relate back to #4, so we’ll skip it.

What then, do you, dear reader, have to look forward to for my next post? I have no idea. Suggestions welcome.

World Travel, Interrupted by Tires

As previously mentioned, I have a new job. I’m excited about it and I’m excited about the places I will have the opportunity to visit. It’s really nice to have a job. In the interests of keeping it, I won’t be sharing any details about the job itself, just the travel related things, or particularly funny stories I can edit down to “safe”. But anyway, some of this travel is going to be international. This is fan-freaking-tastic to me, because the first time I did international travel was in 2011, 26 years old, and I went to France with J*Rock and another fine lady that I now work with. So – yay, going to see the world, one job at a time. So far, as you can see from my previous post, I’ve been to New York. I’m doing some more domestic travel this month. In fact, September is going to be the month of travel for me. I kinda hope every month isn’t this busy.

This coming week I will be going to Washington state. This is exciting because I have family there and I’ll get to see them after I finish the work things. The week after that, I’ll be in Georgia for three days. The week after, I’m in California for the week. I’m going to be tired. But I should have plenty to blog about. I’ll try to remember to take my camera hook-up with me so I can download and post pictures of stuff faster. Oh yeah, I originally had a trip to Japan for October planned, but it got cancelled. That bummed me out. But now I’m scheduled to visit the Netherlands in November. Insane.

Because of all this upcoming at some point world travel, my friend that works here with me suggested I enroll in the Global Online Enrollment System, which is through U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The idea is basically that if you are an American citizen and not a crazy person, you can apply to skip the long lines in customs. You get to use a kiosk and skip all the stuff that takes so long to go through. So, I thought to myself, “Self, this seems like a good idea.” I signed up and paid the fee, whatever it was, and I think they do a background check to make sure you aren’t a home-grown terrorist. Then you have to go to an airport and do an “interview” before they’ll enroll you.

I did all this online and then picked a date, online, that I would go to an airport on, which happened to be Dulles. So on Tuesday, I’m on my way there – I left work early and avoided the major highways so that I would be on time. Because the kicker is, I work/live in the Alexandria area and Dulles is about 30-40 minutes away, depending on traffic. Hi, yeah, welcome to DC, everything depends on the traffic. At about 15 minutes out, I notice my tire, or possibly the road, is making a strange clacking noise. I think we can just pare that right down and say, what wishful thinking on my part, that I would assume that the ROAD is making a CLACKING noise. But wish I did.

I turned from the clacking road onto a highway with a higher speed limit. I had not gone any higher than 40 miles per hour when I heard something fly off my tire – definitely not the road – slam into my undercarriage and boom, all the lights on my dashboard go, “OHWHATTHEFUCKISTHAT.” So I pull over, flashers on, and think, “Well hellacious ass. I have someplace to be.” The front right tire is flat. Flat like Keira Knightly’s chest. (BURN.)

Readers, do not judge me. I do not know how to change a tire on a car. I have the fear that if I try it, I will do irreplaceable damage to the car, and at the time I was driving the newer car, not my car from high school. What if I jack the car up and it collapses on my hand or foot? What if I do it incorrectly and the tire falls off as I drive away and then everything blows up like in Die Hard? What then?! So I called my husband. Hot Husband, or HH, as you may recall, is not a handyman. For further proof of this statement, please see my post Panic! In the Bathroom. HH does have a AAA account though.

However, upon calling AAA for me, HH found that I am not on the account and as long as he is not physically present at the scene, AAA will not help me. The nerds. HH starts his attempts to find a tow-truck company that will come change the tire for me. In the meantime, I am calling the GOES office to let them know I may not be able to make it. This is particularly amusing for me because the GOES website is a hardcore place. BRING ALL THESE DOCUMENTS AND DO NOT BE LATE OR WE WILL NOT SEE YOU sort of thing. So I was worried about trying to reschedule. But on the phone, they were all like, “Oh yeah, we’re open until 7, so just show up if you can!” Alright then.

HH wants to know my location, which is no big deal, I’m on such and such road and just past this exit, which by the way, has no number. He wants a mile marker number to tell the tow truck service persons, but alas, there are NO NUMBERS ANYWHERE on this stretch of highway. I swear. I keep a look out for these things, in case I am ever taken or if, gasp, I get a flat tire. HH insists that there must be numbers. I promise there are not, but get out of the car to see if I can find one anyway. It is at this moment, as I am walking away from my car, that a police officer pulls in behind me.

My first thought is, “You’re not supposed to walk on highways, Strain, its illegal. You’re in trouble now.” Thankfully, this officer was not going to be that guy and instead checked with his dispatch for me and when there were no tow trucks available for an hour, put the spare on. Watching him, I’m pretty sure I could replicate the process next time, and there will be a next time. I swear this is the fifth tire issue I’ve dealt with since moving here. When I lived in WV, my biggest tire problem stemmed from the time I accidentally clipped a dead skunk and my tires stank for months. Sometimes I still smell it – and that was close to five years ago. I digress. My main point is, thanks to the kindness of that police man, I was still early for my appointment with the customs officers. Thank you, nameless Police Officer, I appreciate you getting your hands super dirty for me.

The appointment itself took about seven minutes and then I drove home like a little-old-blind-lady; slow and panicked. I think that’s way too much effort, don’t you? Now I have to get a new tire. Curse the debris.

The Big Apple

I’m in New York right now. What are you doing there, you may ask? An even better question could be, where is that update you promised me nearly two weeks ago, Strain?! Why do you continue to lie to me about your blogging? Why do you make statements that you then don’t fulfill?! Yes, yes, I know. Calm down, all two readers that follow me and care about my thoughts (I appreciate you). WHY?!

I got a job. I’m an analyst for a defense company, which is cool because I’ll be using information I learned in school. So exciting! I’ll be helping to develop exercises that deal with plans for CBRNE (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive) issues. That’s a very pared down and simple explanation of something I’m not sure I know yet, so we’ll roll with it. I will be doing some traveling. Which is why I am in New York. It has been seven days since I started this job, but I’m traveling.

I have never been to New York, so this is several new experiences all rolled into one for me. So far I’ve seen a man with pens (like you write with) sticking out of his ears, a lady with a super beard, and attended a professional meeting. The last one was the weirdest for me. It’s so strange that I’m adult enough to be involved in a planning meeting and stuff. So strange. I realize that people younger than me have jobs and do important things, but I’ve taken a while to get here. And I’m fairly used to people to weird things on the street.

So, while I am here in the Big Apple, I hope to see the Central Park Zoo and I would like to visit the memorial for 9/11. I’m not sure of any other site-see-ey things I’ll be doing, but I do know I’ll be learning a lot about my job and the stuff I’m supposed to be doing while I’m here. Also, I’m hoping to do something with my thesis. So, onward, ever onward. I should have some recipes and pictures soon, but I’m going to hop off for now. Later!

So Many Things

As a friend of mine said to me several months ago: “You are the worst blogger.” Preach it, son. I have so many things to write about and so many pictures to post. I have food you need to see and stories that need to  be told. Today is not that day. Tomorrow probably is. I swear. Big stuff going on around here, I’ve been so distracted. But I’m going to try to make a come-back. Tomorrow. YES. See you then.

Bits

I’m not dead. I thought it important to put that out there. I am the worst blogger ever. But you know what? Man, I’ve been truly busy. And I’m not done yet. But I am going to find time to start blogging again. Give me a day or two to stop putting off things and kicking myself for doing that. I really do want to blog and I really want to make people laugh. So. Return to me, and I’ll do what I can.

I have missed you. 😀

The Delicious Magic of Polenta

Holy crap you guys, let’s not even kid around about how delicious polenta is. If you were unaware, polenta is made from cornmeal, either white or yellow – and in most recipes I have used – it comes in a tube. However, you can buy it in a box and make polenta that is more like cream of wheat. But grainier and with more flavor. I really like it, but I also really like cream of wheat and I’m told that makes me weird. So be it. I get to eat delicious meals with delicious polenta.

The recipe below comes from a new cookbook I got – it is, surprisingly, not a Cooking Light cookbook. Yes, I have expanded. To a vegetarian cookbook from Good Housekeeping. “Family Vegetarian Cooking”. I was worried because my very first recipe out of this book was a total bust (there was much tofu). But the one I want to share with you is particularly awesome!

Good Housekeeping – Family Vegetarian Cooking
Polenta Lasagna (Pg. 151)

I always use more cheese than called for. Oops.

1 tbl. olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
28 oz. tomatoes, canned (I used diced. Worked well.)
2 tbl. tomato paste
2 tbl. chopped fresh basil
1 tsp. salt
10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
2 tbl. grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
24 oz. pre-cooked plain polenta, cut into 16 slices (Look for the tube.)
4 oz. part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded

1. In a 3-quart saucepan, heat oil over medium heat until hot. Add onion and cook until tender, about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds longer. Stir in tomatoes with their juice, tomato paste, basil, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, breaking up tomatoes (depending on what kind you used) with side of spoon; heat to boiling over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set sauce aside.
2. Meanwhile, in medium bowl, mix spinach, ricotta, Parmesan, pepper, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt until blended.
3. Preheat oven to 350. Grease 8-inch square glass baking dish.
4. Arrange half of polenta slices, overlapping slightly, in baking dish. Drop half of spinach mixture, by rounded tablespoons, on top of polenta (mixture will not completely cover slices). Pour half of sauce over spinach mixture; spread to form an even layer. Sprinkle with half of mozzarella. Repeat layering.
5. Bake casserole until hot and bubbly, about 30 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes for easier serving.

Makes: 6 main-dish servings
Calories: About 270
Nom Rating: 5 out of 5 NOMS!!!

Try it out and then get back to me. I’ll have more stuff soon, so check back!