Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Tough Cooks to Cope

In the last year or so, I have found myself cooking when feeling vulnerable emotionally, and communicated my cooking choices here. Today, I am not cooking to cope perse, but because I love to love my family and friends through wonderful food. I have had my eye on an apricot scone recipe for some time now, and decided that today was the day to make them.

Also, in need of cleaning out my refrigerator without throwing food away I will be making a turkey chowder recipe that will help to feed my family without waste. In particular, I am planning to use the few slices of bacon, mushrooms, celery, carrots, and turkey, along with wild rice and leftover gravy, before they begin to spoil.

There is such comfort for me (aka The Tough) in cooking delicious and wholesome food for my family/friends that I like to indulge regularly in this pursuit. Cooking to cope has provided me with an outlet for distress as well as the calming that comes from focusing on a recipe such that it will produce wonderful food. I highly recommend 'Cooking to Cope' for anyone who loves to cook real food. 

There is a distinction to be made here when it comes to 'real food'. Have you ever looked at the weekly grocery store ads and noticed how much food there is being sold that does not really qualify as something to eat that will nourish and provide energy for a body? The unbelievable prevalence of processed food in every area of a grocery store is, in my opinion as well as throughout the medical community, responsible for many maladies such as obesity and some autoimmune conditions, and a general state of malnourishment. If one or more of the ingredients on a food label is as long as your arm, it is probably not food and your body may not know how to break it down. Artificial flavors and colors are at the top of the list of food-products to avoid for me when I am shopping. Food for thought! 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

CBS: Watch the Casey Anthony Case on your iPhone? I think not!

What do I see when I log in to my home page this morning? The above-referenced headline from CBS: Watch the Casey Anthony Case on your iPhone. It might be that I am in the midst of the post-sinus-surgery-crankies, but..... somehow I doubt it. If anyone has time to spend watching a trial on an iPhone, keeping in mind the size of the iPhone screen, they have far too much time on their hands. I am somewhat familiar with the case, as everyone in the western hemisphere with any electronic device must be, and me from logging into my home page, it is yet another desperate and unbalanced woman, in desperate trouble, for the whole world to see. What would possess anyone not connected to the case to voyeuristically log in and watch? What is it about American society that we cannot help but consume time watching misery for others when it pales in comparison to those fighting for their lives across the world, from the 'safety' of our iPhones? Those in straitened circumstances need our attention and compassion much more than anyone from the outside of the Anthony Case can command. And, with many of our troops around the world in peril, they need our immediate and constant attention and compassion as well as energy and intelligence applied to get them home. The only excuse I can imagine from CBS, is that it sells advertising, This is hardly an excuse, but it is a reason. What it says about our societal values is far more disturbing than the headline suggests. 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Introducing Dot!

Introducing Dot! Dot is an outlier data point, and with that comes a different perspective on anything, and potentially everything. Dictionary .com defines an outlier as: "[a] data point on a graph or in a set of results that is very much bigger or smaller than the next nearest data point."

During my brief sojourn as an experimental scientist, I was regularly confronted by Dot, and had to explain Dot if possible. Dot as an entity is, almost by definition, an irritant and something that must be explained empirically whether as an anomaly, or true data point that is part of a societal trend, or any other kind of data set. Over time I have begun to see Dot differently, and suggest that the view from that standpoint could be both valuable and instructive. I look forward to considering questions, data sets, and current events from Dot's perspective, and hope you will too.  

Monday, June 6, 2011

Eminent Persons and their sex lives

Is anyone else absolutely sick to death about learning of other peoples' sex lives and indiscretions? I feel confident that I am not alone in my irritation at having my sphere of life and activity besmirched by the sordid details of the sex lives of others. There is a solution to my irritation over these events of course, which is to dial down every media source that would befoul their sites and/or airways with such topics. I used to be a news-maniac, continuously seeking out news about current affairs (not the sordid variety) both local and not, and could never have anticipated that I would run away from news in general. As someone who works primarily from home, and who relies on radio and online news sources, I have sequestered myself from the commercial news media to a great extent. I now feel that I need to further withdraw from sources that will, and also those that might, report on such stories as those featuring Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Arnold Schwarzenegger, John Edwards, and the like (not leaving out the semi-distant escapades of Bill Clinton, that have relegated him to a quiet corner of world affairs that his brain-power could have so easily served from a much more significant platform. I wonder if he feels marginalized by his inability to control his behavior?). It may be that I will organize my online news array into the following categories: 

Will report on something smutty (100% chance of seeing something distasteful): DO NOT click on anything!
May report on something smutty: Proceed with caution
Might report on something smutty: Still a risk, but not a significant one
No news at all: I have a bag over my head while working on the computer to avoid seeing anything distasteful 

I am also an avid listener of my local NPR station, mostly for company, but also for headline news. Even NPR has and does report on breaking smutty news stories such as the one wherein a congressman of some variety (House or Senate) photographed his private part(s) and uploaded said pictures onto YouTube. I ask you! How many of us want to hear about that? Why is it that the wealthy and/or powerful (I suspect that they go together) have to misbehave to such an extent, such that we are all bombarded with their private, but not any more!, behavior. 

My appeal to the news media: I know that scandals, and especially those related to sex, sell ads on which your income is based. Aren't you sick to death of it too? Can't you dial it down a bit? Those of us who are very interested in keeping up with local, regional, national, and global news, would be very grateful to be able to avoid learning about someone who has exposed himself on the world stage for international critique. I am appealing to all of your best instincts that do not include anything sordid. Please! 

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Global Warming?

With the events unfolding in the mid-west and Gulf states, tornadoes in particular, it seems to me that these tragedies leaving hundreds of people dead and significant damage in the wake, are an excellent example of the how global warming is progressing worldwide. Because heat is energy and vice versa, these atmospheric events, like tornadoes, are natures' response to the build up of heat in the atmosphere. While tornadoes are familiar to those living in the middle of the country, the increased frequency and magnitude of these atmospheric storms is what is news. Many expect that global warming, and its cousin climate change will be felt almost exclusively at the poles. And it is a correct assumption that we are seeing the first and most dramatic response at the poles at least initially, it is not the only dynamic at work here. When we mess with the feedback loops that are the planet's weather patterns, we can expect those patterns to be disrupted. The imperative for the global human population is that we cannot predict with any real accuracy what the response will be on global weather, and atmospheric and oceanic systems; there is simply no precedent for changes that are proceeding at the rapid pace we are seeing, such as the melting of the polar ice sheets, and/or the thawing of permafrost at the poles.

As has been the case for a couple of decades now, the question is not whether global warming and the resultant global climate change are occurring, but how we will respond with behavior changes to help mitigate the changes that will play out not for us ourselves alone but for future generations, and the generations of all of the Earth's inhabitants. I had a student several quarters ago who expressed his opinion about whether global warming was actually occurring by stating that he lives in Ohio, and it is very cold there (during the winter). His response meant to me that he was either too lazy or too stupid to read and educate himself about the issue regardless of the fact that our course material covered the issues very well. We no longer have the luxury to choose either of those perspectives (stupid or lazy), but must act to help mitigate some of the detrimental effects on global ecosystems. It no longer really matters how global warming began, except for education, data collection and modeling purposes, but what our response will be to our credit or discredit. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

When the going gets tough....

The old saying that begins with the "When the going gets tough..." has been swirling around my brain for the last few days. Not that the 'going' is getting tough, or at least not very tough, but when I am feeling challenged I like to cook. This has become my therapy in recent years. While I used to view cooking therapy in terms of butter, sugar, and chocolate (not always chocolate, it could be pumpkin, apples, strawberry-rhubarb, etc.), I have now added soup to my therapy list. Soup, as a category of food, has an aura of comfort around it. Who can think about soup without reminiscing about the best bowl or cup you have had. Within the last few months, I have made the following soups for my sweetheart, family, and friends: 

Lentil (curried and traditional)
Split Pea
Turkey and Pasta
Turkey Chowder
Cheesy Potato Soup
Salmon Chowder

After a hiatus from Lentil and Pea soups for a number of years, they have come flooding back into my menu planning thoughts. And, well deserved too. I have also been thinking about a recipe for white bean/pasta/ham soup that dear friend gave to me many years ago. When I make her soup recipe, I think about her in the warmest way. Isn't it amazing how food translates to love? We have a large-ish extended family, and many friends in the area and I have felt absolutely compelled, and maybe even mandated to cook for everyone. The time for such endeavors has been hard to come by, but when the rewards of cooking wonderful food for family and friends are so magnificent, the time has been made even if it is in-and-around grading papers, developing the next unit of coursework. Even when I am terribly busy I find that a simmering pot of soup on the stove fills the air with good smells and warm feelings. 

So, for those of you who may feel bombarded with soup and/or cookies (cookies; another post!), please allow me to love you through food! There is only so much love and warm feelings that a wife/mother/grandmother/daughter/friend (among other status categories) can contain without bursting. Please and thank you! 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Bursting out all over!

With Spring busting out all over, the birds are singing (loud, I might add), the pollen is accumulating on car windshields, and color is beginning to explode, it seems to me that the yearly renewal of life in so many forms is well underway. Last week when I was walking with our dogs, we saw a fair number of cherry and/or plum trees beginning to bloom. This week, there are several blooming trees per city block. Along with some azaleas, and lots of forsythia in their grand and exuberant display, it is more than enough to begin to vanquish the stodginess of winter.

Along with the spring renewal in the environment, I am finding myself in a perpetual state of bursting with feeling. Whatever the cause may be, such a level of feeling is a sure sign of life, and engagement with it. I am beginning to tire of this heightened level of feeling, and am having to try extra-hard to keep from smothering those nearest and dearest to me. My own level of feeling reminds me of a character in Lily Tomlin's one-woman show, The Search for Intelligent Life in the Universe. The character, Chrissy (if my memory serves me correctly), is overwhelmed by her feelings and about which another character within the show marvels, having been a person who at times has felt too little. While I am not entirely comfortable with feeling about to burst, I suspect it is much preferable to feeling too little. Until I can identify the source of this situation in order to dial it down a bit, I will continue to try to find constructive ways in which to release it. Just like the flowers and trees, it is a likely a season.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

More Apparent Beauty

In my neighborhood at least, the signs of Spring are becoming more and more apparent. Included in these signs are the first bits of early Spring color, the crocus flowers, and daffodils that are up in some parts of the region, though not in ours. New arrivals in our neighborhood include forsythia and cherry blossom trees. We can see a massive forsythia plant or grouping at the top of our hill. When this color begins and expands we are treated to a few weeks of glorious yellow color that is magnificent in its splendor. I am sure that I am not the only one to look forward to this bloom all year. I have now seen a few early budding cherry trees, that are preparing to burst forth and treat us to their display.

It is my considered opinion that the bursting forth of color in early Spring is an event that soothes the soul and gives hope for longer, and more clement weather to come, and to the promise of summer. How many of us are impervious to color and beauty? It goes back to my earlier theme of loveliness as a component for therapy in troubled times. Who can enjoy looking at the amazing splendor of the tulip color and crop, and not be at least temporarily relieved of our worries? Let us take a good long look, and return often to treat ourselves and to help us step back and see what nature has in store through spring renewal.

As is my custom, I took our two office dogs out for a walk this morning. It is a beautiful morning and others, both human and canine, thought so too. The office dogs are prone to maniacal behavior when confronted with people/dog combinations that is not really a threat to anyone, but is a statement all the same. We encountered three sets of people/dog combinations (who had the nerve to enjoy the beautiful morning outside), and a number of dogs behind their fences, to whom the office dogs felt the need to remonstrate. While the benefits of tired dogs are substantial, I may need a few days break to recover my resolve to provide the opportunity to walk and exercise in the fresh air for all three of us.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Wednesday Walk

Today, the dogs (aka 'the boys' and/or F&G, or the Office Dogs) went out for our regularly scheduled walk. It was POURING down rain, and we were all soaked upon our return. However stormy the weather there are definite signs of Spring emerging. On our walk today, I noticed that there was a significant quantity of worms out on the sidewalk; surely a harbinger of Spring. Also on our walk we have been passing an evergreen tree whose (is a tree a who?) new growth is yellow. The more we pass this tree, the more yellow it becomes. It is lovely.

Loveliness is a quality measurement of something lovely, and as such is a spectrum that provides quality of life for its viewers. Whether a little lovely, or very lovely, loveliness is a balm for me that helps to soften the sometimes jagged edges of daily life. How could we live without it, I wonder. Though loveliness is most definitely in the eye of the beholder, I suggest that it is one of those features that can soothe a savage-beasty, whether it is an irritant or annoyance, or a major calamity. I also suggest that promoting loveliness can help to make the world go round (so to speak).

Though not lovely per se, our dogs are often very energetic and even maniacal when on the walking path. Three young ladies were waiting at a bus stop this morning when we happened by. F&G as some of you know, show their enthusiasm for getting acquainted by lunging and emitting a sound very close to a growl (no doubt it is the strain of lunging). However, these young ladies did not know that F&G merely want to make their acquaintance so that they can progress to being their very best friends forever. Perhaps it was the lunging that was off-putting. We did manage to get past them, and move on our merry way. Oh, to be so misunderstood!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Office Dogs

The Office Dogs, doing what they do. 

Rescuing our youth, one at a time

Like many of my colleagues in higher education, I am accustomed to students whose math skills require remedial attention in a college environment. Increasingly I am alarmed to find more and more students with fundamental math and writing skills that are in desperate need of remediation. I am more alarmed that I have been in past due to the level of math skills absent, not just poorly understood, but missing altogether. However, math is not the only basic skill that is missing. Many students are unable, or mostly unable, to write a sentence with a capital letter to begin, and a period at the end. Assignments are sometimes submitted using the jargon and language that has been developed for texting, and for popular social media venues. In addition, many students do not read textbook assigned chapters, or instructions prior to submitting assignments. There is seemingly a huge disconnect between what we need to know to compete in the global workforce, as well as enough education to read and interpret a newspaper, choose from a menu, keep a checkbook in balance, etc. and what we do know. This is very scary considering what it takes to make a living in a difficult economy.   

Having been a product of the U.S. public education system myself, and having had to work to through my own educational deficiencies in the past, I can attest that those who find themselves unprepared with respect to a quality education can indeed triumph in higher education given time, persistence, and encouragement. 

However, I am increasingly afraid for our future generations given that we are not fixing our education system in this country nearly fast enough, if at all. My own K-12 education was sub-par at best, and with the current indicators from my perspective discouraging, it may be that the state of our education system is dire. We can no longer wring our hands and say that we might well lose a generation of children if we were to take the drastic steps to tear down our education system to its foundation, and begin again with a new model, because we have already lost a few if not several generations to an abysmally inadequate system.

I propose that we begin by rescuing our youth, one person at a time. By this I mean that I will pledge myself to helping each student individually, if at all possible, to begin the process that is bridging the gap between what they do know, and what they must know. Because I am very fond of all topics mathematical and scientific, this may be an opportunity that holds at least as much benefit for me, as it may for those who need the knowledge and the ability to apply it. Nothing feels quite like the learning process, and that is a good thing! 

Monday, February 14, 2011

Purge Pollution Pledge

I pledge myself to doing my part to purge my environment of pollution and waste. I pledge to take the following actions, but not limited to these actions, to clean up my space and the general environs around me: 

• I will strive to keep the area around my home clear and free of garbage
• I will be prepared to clean up the public spaces around where I may be, as appropriate
• I will proactively look for other ways that I can avoid polluting as it may relate to my lifestyle
• Do my best to set a good example for others to begin a life-long approach to reducing our common footprint on the environment

It is my intention to take a holistic approach to my impact on the environment. 

Holistic (adjective): Characterized by comprehension of the parts of something as intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole. (

By walking the two office dogs, I see a circuit around my neighborhood. It never ceases to amaze me how much trash and garbage has been dropped/dumped into almost every nook and cranny. After not walking over the weekend, I went out today, a Monday, to find that our route had been visited by a few days worth of trash. I am impressed by the notion that all it would take to clean up my neighborhood and yours, is a pocket of time (30 minutes, 15 minutes, how ever long it takes) regularly devoted to picking up trash and disposing of it as appropriate. 

I will, will you?