30 January 2010

It runs in the family*

It seems that the cat has a possible theater career ahead of him ...

Some friends and I started a tradition on Facebook called Foto Friday. The rules are pretty simple: take a picture on Friday and post it to your news feed and you're in! No pictures of, or pertaining to, the men's room are acceptable for Foto Friday. Anything else is generally fair game, although our offices do seem to figure in a pretty high percentage of the shots taken.

I wanted to take a non-office Friday Foto and I had a decent idea. I would take a picture of Pekoe and his (by the end of the workday) empty food bowl. So I brought the camera home from work and after the initial writhing through my legs to express his joy at my return, Peek and I headed into the kitchen. I took an establishing shot of the tragically empty bowl:

I then took a nice shot of Pekoe looking mournfully at me while standing next to the tragically empty bowl. The camera told me to change the batteries and shut itself off. Oh, well. Okay. I feed Pekoe and then went to the computer to download the images, but alas! The second shot didn't save because of the low battery.

New batteries were added to the camera and then Pekoe was informed that, as we had lost the original image, we would now need to recreate "Sad Pekoe at the Empty Food Bowl." So, to his obvious confusion, I picked up his food bowl and dumped all but a few crumbs of the contents back into the airtight plastic container that keeps the cat food reasonably fresh and reasonably unavailable to strew all over the kitchen.

I set the bowl down and like a trooper he resumed his previous position and looked up at me on cue.**

Note how he has arranged to show off his lovely green eyes to best effect, to minimize any "devil cat red eye," and yet to very clearly express "What's the with empty bowl? We feed cats here!"

And yet ... the director in me reviewed the shot (if Peek and I had been filming, I would have been "reviewing the dailies" or something like that) and decided that we needed one more take.

Pekoe had already wandered off to sniff and bat at things, two of his major occupations, but when summoned to the set, promptly hit his mark and was ready to go.

As can be clearly noted in the second shot The Artist built on his previous character choices for Starving Cat, adding in layers relating to his previous life as a stray. There is just a hint of the dichotomy between being grateful for being fed every day and fearing dependency on another for his basic needs.

I swear he takes direction better than some far more experienced human actors I've worked with.

All the material we needed was now safely in the can, as it were, so the food was replaced in the bowl and the The Artist was rewarded with a couple of Pounce.***

*Okay, just to clarify, I do not regard myself as Pekoe's "Mom." His staff, maybe, but not his mom. Or any other family member. But the title just seemed more euphonius than "It runs in the human/animal companionate relationship."

**The truly discerning (or truly anal, decide for yourself) will notice that the arragement of food particles lacks continuity from the establishing shot. I was working from memory. I did the best I could.

***Which is about as much as I been paid for theater in the past year, come to think of it.

28 January 2010

Exactly what I would have said

My next theater project is a show called The Laramie Project about the murder of Matthew Shepard. I'll be playing Officer Reggie Fluty, the first responder on the scene. Providence company member Beth is playing Marge Murray, Reggie's mother. Beth is only a few years older than I am,* so last night at a play reading I was chatting with her husband, David**, and we had the following exchange:

Me: So how many times do you think I can call Beth "Mom" before she just slaps me?
David: I dunno. Try it and see.

*This happens in theater (and in the movies) all the time. Sometimes we play the parents of people who are older than we are. It not how old you are - it's how old you can play.
**Yes, of course, he is named David. Of course.

26 January 2010

Dimes and Quarters

They walked up to the bar, uh, and, as you know, paid for a pitcher with dimes and quarters, uh, which is something that I mean you don't forget. You don't forget that. Five-fifty in dimes and quarters. That's a freakin' nightmare.

Now Henderson and McKinney, they didn't seem intoxificated* at all. They came in -- they just ordered a beer, took the pitcher with them back there into the pool room, and kept to themselves. Next thing I knew, probably a half hour later, they were kind of walking around -- no beer. And I remember thinking to myself that I'm not gonna ask them if they want another one, because obviously they just paid for a pitcher with dimes and quarters. I have a real good feeling they don't have any more money.

Matt Galloway in The Laramie Project

*Thanks to Patrick for the correction.

20 January 2010

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

Last year I resolved to make one new recipe a month during the year, using the cookbooks that take up an entire baker's rack in my kitchen. Somehow that didn't happen,* although I did make some fresh peas at one point and had to look up how long to boil them.**

But a new year doesn't require new resolutions, just renewed resolve...

I had bought some Brussels sprouts at the local farmers' market which I had recently learned was now year-round. I had needed to pick up a pound of ground bison meat for some chili I would be making for the office chili cook-off and the Brussels sprouts were just a happy surprise. I rinsed them when I got home the day I bought them and popped them into a bowl in the fridge. I ate a few raw now and again (crunchy and yummy!) as I was doing other things, but tonight I decided it was Time to Cook the Brussels Sprouts.

One of the reasons that I love Brussels sprouts is that my Mom made them beautifully. She'd cut the stems off, make little Xs in the bottom, boil them in just enough water to cover, drain them and replace in the pot, add butter, salt, and pepper, and then cover lightly with a wax paper circle for a few minutes. They were the definition of "crisp-tender" and sooo tasty.

I knew the basic premise, but - again - needed specifics.

As I also had some bacon that was also reaching its Use It Today point and figuring that I could accomplish several things at once, I pulled out the cookbook that is upper left in the bakers rack: The James Beard Cookbook (1959. Well, 1967 in paper).*** It had been Mom's and several of the recipes have her mark, i.e., the date of the first time she made the recipe. Mr. Beard eschews both the Xs in the bottoms and the wax paper circle, so his recipe is a trifle simpler than Mom's but I think her Brussels sprouts are still the best. Also, the next time I make this I think I won't boil them as long as Mr. Beard suggests as the sprouts were softer than I prefer. But all in all? Pretty darn tasty.

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon
The James Beard Cookbook, page 446 & 447

1 quart or 1 pound of Brussels sprouts
Salt & pepper
4 tablespoons of melted butter (not necessary for the bacon variation)

Trim the stems off close to the sprouts and remove any discolored leaves. Put the sprouts to soak for 15 to 20 minutes in water to which you have added 1 teaspoon of salt.

In a kettle put enough water to cover the Brussels sprouts and add 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring this to a boil and add the vegetable. Do not cover. Cook gently until just tender when pierced with a fork. This should take about 15 minutes.

Drain well and seve with melted butter and salt and pepper to taste (skip for bacon variation)

Some people like a dash of vinegar or some lemon juice added.

With Bacon

Prepare as for Boiled Brussels Sprouts (see above), and while the sprouts are cooking, fry 6 slices of bacon. When crisp, remove and chop fine. Drain off all but 4 tablespoons of the bacon fat. Return the chopped bacon to the pan and add the cooked and drained sprouts. Season with 1 tablespoon of grated onion.

I added the BSwB to some gluten-free rotini pasta. It was, in all, a lovely dinner that I look forward to making again some time.

Next up? The Molly Goldberg Jewish Cookbook.

*I also resolved to walk to work on days when a) the temperature was above 40 degrees as I was getting dressed and b) if I didn't have to be somewhere immediately after work. That one worked out rather well, so I'm repeating it again this year as well.

**About ten minutes, up to 15 for larger peas.

***All of the books in my home are filed alphabetically by author except for cookbooks which are by size, smallest to largest. If I am able to stick with this project, the one on the bottom shelf right is my Provence the Beautiful Cookbook**** Technically, the cookbook to the absolute left is another James Beard cookbook dealing with Hors d'Oeuvre and Canapes, but that sort of book is usually rather thin on recipes for Brussels Sprouts.

****By which, I assume, was meant a cookbook about Beautiful Provence, rather than a beautiful cookbook, although as it is a coffe-table type book with lots of food-porn illustrations, it's certainly a darn fetching book.

Just a suggestion

I am sorting and mailing out the W-2 forms for 2009 today. The ones for current employees will go to their offices and the ones for former employees will go to their homes.

And quite a few of them will come back to me because some of the former employees have moved and their forwarding orders have expired. I always tell departing staffers to make sure that we have an address for them that will get their W-2s to them, but who really thinks about a former employer or a once-a-year form while going through the whole "do I really like this enough to pack and move it" and "why do I have so much crap and why is it so heavy" process that is moving.

So if you moved during 2009? Make sure your former employer has your current address. Sure speeds up getting that refund.

19 January 2010

A nice compromise

I was a Girl Scout. My elementary school was somewhat haphazard about sponsoring scout troops, so I was involved in scouting about every other year. But I absorbed a fair bit about lanyards and uniforms and campfire songs. And I sold cookies. Back in the old days we went door-to-door because, as my mother put it, "I'm not taking any cookie order forms to work. This is your project and you are responsible for it." So I went door-to-door taking orders and a few weeks later I went door-to-door with my little red wagon (truly) and delivered the goods.

Girl Scouts no longer go door-to-door because it's just not safe. It probably wasn't safe back when I did it, but we didn't know that. Instead the order form appears at the office. And Celiac Disease or no, as a former Girl Scout, I am morally obligated to pay those cookies forward.

Luckily for me, my very good friend, the Gleeful Gecko, believes in the Girl Scouts and their cookies. And has a birthday coming up. In a division of labor that works for both of us, I will buy the cookies and he will consume them.

It's rather a pity that I can't deal with all of my moral obligations as easily.

18 January 2010

Cup of Brown Joy

When I say "As-sam!" you say "Love-ly!" AS-SAM! LOVE-LY!
When I say "her-bal" you say "No thanks!" HER-BAL! NO THANKS!

Thanks to The Linguaphile for the link.

Matching donation

I got this e-mail this morning from our Human Resources Director:
I am sure you all are aware of the devastating earthquake that rocked Haiti last week and the growing need for resources needed by the Haitians to recover and rebuild. Many of you have responded by sending aid through your charity of choice, and [the company] will join you in that effort by matching your donations. If you have made a donation towards the Haiti recovery effort, please contact me. I will co-ordinate the Haiti Relief matching fund donation.

One of the many reasons I'm glad I work here. I've texted money to the Red Cross and now and I think I'll send a bit more to Doctors Without Borders for the immediate relief and Engineers Without Borders for the long-term recovery.