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  • Musically Challenged

    I found that I needed to explain to one of the monkeys what "liner notes" were. I went to the LP collection and pulled out Bruce for visuals.

    Ah, the memories!

    Released in 1984, Born in the USA was a must-have for any fan-girl. My parents didn't disappoint. Centered on the piano they bought me for Christmas, that album made us girls scream with joy.

    ...Wait, they bought you a piano and all you could do is scream for Brucie-boy? WTH....

    That got me looking through the other LPs on the shelf, because I wanted to show the girl more 80s gems, like my Europe LP. Only it wasn't there, and I remembered that it had gone missing during one of our many moves prior to me joining the military.

    And then I remembered: I had just bought the CD!

    And then I remembered: it was in the basket in my van when my van was stolen.

    The van was returned while the basket and its contents were not. With the loss of that basket, so went my music history, the weird and wonderful me through the past 24 years. The first two CDs I ever bought, Depeche Mode's Violator and Nine Inch Nails' Pretty Hate Machine. The last two CDs I bought before the theft, Incubus and Foo Fighters. Just about everything in between.

    There was so much awesome in that basket. I cried more for the loss of that basket than I did when the guys at the detail shop found mystery panties jammed into the back seat--for that, I just told them to shampoo the seats again like they were erasing a crime scene.

    By the way, they complied. Those seats took days to dry out!

    Other music lost that crazy night in January, which is itself a story for another day:

    Disturbed: the entire CD collection
    Nonpoint: their self-titled release
    So much Christmas music:
           Josh Groban
           Harry Connick, Jr
           British Christmas 3-disc extravaganza
           USAF Heritage of America band
    Halestorm: 1st CD, autographed by the band at the concert I attended
    Chicago's greatest hits 82-89
    Take That: Pray
    Josh Groban: Closer
    Southern Culture on the Skids: Dirt Track Date (bought that 13 years ago)
    Etta James greatest hits
    Def Leppard: Hysteria
    Sarah Brightman: Time to Say Goodbye
    Delovely, the soundtrack
    "The Ultimate Brit Mix"
    Ella Fitzgerald's greatest hits
    Europe: The Final Countdown

    There are probably others in that basket that I will some day remember that I'm missing. Le sigh.

    Mmmmm Mmmm!

    The Beav blogged about his favorite letter, inspired by his friend, Devyl. Inspiration is contagious, and so I asked for my own letter. He chose for me the letter M, and so here is a list of my favorite M words. There is no requirement for length, so this is not just some list I filled with chaff in order to complete it--it's my list, full on.

    The Magnificent, marvelous, mad Madam M!

    1. Mister: oh, yeah! I adore this guy. Not only is he my best friend, he always accepts me, encourages me on my many adventures/hair-brained ideas, and turns me to jelly with with just a look. We are each other on so many levels, and yet we have kept our identities intact. Mister is my hero.

    2. Mad: sometimes, this is me. I am so off-the-wall crazy, the only way I can be described is "mad"!

    3. Magnanimous: this is one goal of mine. To generously and genuinely give and expect nothing with grace, would be so fantastic. I'm almost there...Almost there...Stay on target!

    4. Monkey: oh, come on! They're so damn cute! It helps that they're mine, but I must say that my monkeys are the bestest!

    5. Mountains: everyone must visit a mountain range at least once before they die. Their serenity and strength are so centering, it's indescribable. One must. And that brings me to...

    6. Majesty: I'm one for frugality. But sometimes, one must look past the wasteful spending and just enjoy the pomp and circumstance.

    7. Movie: my favorites, I love to quote. Sometimes this fails, because I watch some more weird stuff. But almost always I can find a movie quote to fit a situation. I grew up watching movies as an escape from my unhappy life, and so they were almost always the silliest or geekiest films around, almost always non-standard fare. These days, my filmography is much more varied, and yet the quotes are a constant.

    8. Moonshine: I love the cosmos, and watching the moon and stars is one of my favorite treats. When the moon is full, it shines down on us with such a unique beauty, bringing light to the deep dark and then I feel safe again.

    9. Mandy: One of the saddest songs in the Barry Manilow must-play list. I swear, I can't turn it off, and it always makes me cry.

    10. 'Murrika: That sound certain politicians and media talking-heads make when they try to say, "America." It always makes me giggle and smirk while at the same time destroying piecemeal the portion of my soul that desperately wants well-educated, selfless, civic-minded people in charge of our government.

    11. and finally.... 'Murrika! Heck yeah!! My all-time favorite place to be. This country is awesome! Its founding principles are without peer. All 'Murricans should love this country as I do, should rise up to protect this country when its enemies and its elected officials are trying to destroy it. Protest, people! That's what got us our own country in the first place.... Let's keep it the best place on Earth! In the cosmos!

    Sweetcorn and Zucchini Casserole

    This is my all-time favorite vegetarian dish, from a cookbook I bought in England. It is not suitable for strict Vegans, and it can be tarted up with meats to please the omnivores. I have adjusted the measurements from UK to USA.

    2 tbsp oil
    1 small onion, chopped (I like to use reds for colour)
    4 ounces zucchini, sliced or cubed
    3 ounces canned sweet corn, drained
               *peas, green beans, or mixed veggies can be substituted
    3 ounces cooked pasta (spirals are my favourites)
    Oregano, salt and pepper to taste
    2 tsp tomato puree

    1 tbsp margarine
    1 tbsp flour
    5 ounces milk
    1 1/2 tbsp white wine (or substitute)
    1-2 ounces cheddar, grated

    breadcrumbs for topping

    Cook the pasta and drain. Meanwhile, saute onion until soft then add zucchini and brown lightly. Add the vegetables, pasta, seasonings, and puree. Once blended, pour into a prepared baking dish. Preheat oven to 350F.

    Melt the margarine then whisk in flour (this is a roux, and the base of any good gravy). Whisk in milk and wine, then blend in cheese. Once melted, pour over pasta blend. Top with breadcrumbs. Bake for about 20 minutes or until bubbly.

    For the meat-eaters, add cooked chunks of chicken, turkey, ham, leftover steak, crab, or shrimp. I've never tried it with fish.

    Happy eats!

    Conversion Therapy

    In an effort to assist my fellow cooks, I am sharing a handy chart given to me by the "local liason" at a military base where I was stationed in the 90s. With this chart, you can look up any British recipe and quickly transform it into American measurements.

    In England and Europe, many gas ovens are temped out in "marks," with 1/2 mark being a low-heat slow roast and 9 being "baked to a crisp." They also use obscure measurements like "dessert spoon" and strange ingredients like aubergines and sterilised milk.

    For the record, a dessert spoon is "the big spoon" that comes in a traditional place setting of two spoons, two forks, and a butter knife. An aubergine is an eggplant, a courgette is a zucchini, and sterilised milk is nothing more than homogenized and pasteurized milk. The British don't do this as a rule, so, if you're in England you'll want to shake your milk bottle a little to mix the cream back in before you chug it straight.

    Gas Mark   Degree F   Degree C

    9                     475            250
    8                     450            225
    7                     425            "Hot"
    6                     400            200
    5                     375            "moderate"
    4                     350             175
    3                     325             "moderately slow"
    2                     300            150
    1                     275             "slow"
    1/2                  225            125


    Plain Flour = All-Purpose Flour
    Icing Sugar = Powdered Sugar
    Demerera Sugar = Light Brown Sugar
    Castor Sugar = Granulated Sugar

    Things to note:

    UK Pint = 20 ounces!!
    1 lb of flour = 4 cups of flour
    1/2 ounce of butter = 1 tablespoon
    1 ounce flour = 1 heaped tablespoon or 2 level tablespoons

    Smarty Cat

    Many people think that cats are dumb. They supposedly can't be trained to do anything other than use a litter box. They're not fun like dogs.

    I disagree.

    We have a cat who is smarter than most dogs I know. Sure, dogs can be trained to do all sorts of fun stuff, but my cat learns.

    After we trained her to play "chase," she figured out that she could double back and scare us half out of our minds. She discovered that it takes just one claw in the the elbow to wake a sleeping human. She knows that she can bite as hard as she likes when the glove is on, but does not bite so hard when the glove is off.

    And now, she has learned that a puking sound gets a swift reaction out of the humans, and has figured out how to fake it.

    This morning at 0-dark-30, she started scratching the bedroom door to be let out. I ignored her. And then she started wheezing like she does when she's going to chuck a hairball or her dinner. I was up in an instant. Almost right away I noticed she had stopped. I looked around for the evidence, couldn't find any, and went back to bed. Very soon, the hurling began again. I hop up, she stops, and then I realize that she is absolutely determined to get out.

    So I let her out and check for signs of hurling. There are none. If cats are supposed to be dumb, mine is a flamin' genius!

    And this, my friends, is why we don't wish for bad things.

    I have this person in my life whom I've come to hate more than hate itself. I'm usually very cautious with my ill feelings, because I know that normally, they simply aren't justified. "Hate" is such a strong word, a forever word, and one shouldn't just bandy it about. I don't hate collard greens--they don't agree with my palate. See how nice and inoffensive that is? But this guy... 

    I kept my mouth shut, because I love the person who picked him. To judge him is to judge her, and I can't do that. So I try. I try to find some way to redeem him. He keeps at a job he doesn't like because it pays well enough. That's something, right?

    But then he gets accused of something terrible, and we circled the wagons to protect our own, as you do. Then the other shoe drops: the accusations were all lies. His reputation has been completely destroyed, his marriage is definitely over, his family is torn into enemy camps.

    I now find myself feeling a little bit sorry for him. Bad things should happen to bad people, absolutely, but he didn't deserve so much bad. Tossed out because he's a jerk, sure. But this? Never.

    My internal conflict is haunting what little sleep I find.

    Grammar nazis: not sure if I used "whom" correctly. If you discover I'm wrong, please comment and I'll edit.

    Lack of Awareness

    A friend on Facebook announced to the world this morning that this week is "Feeding Tube Awareness Week."

    What. The. Actual. Fuck.

    Seriously, though, this is a thing.

      See? I told you!

    In fact, there's a plethora of feeding-tube awareness-raising claptrap out there for your benefit. I give you....

    Shirts!      Stickers!     Totes!

    Discrete bag storage hats!                                                     ....and flair!
    (Ok, that one is pretty damned awesome)

    I realize this is a thing, and that the children and adults (and their people) affected by nutrition issues might be a little sensitive. But do we need a whole entire week dedicated to awareness of their problem? Consider that I've lived in seven (7) of these United States and a foreign country in my 40 short years on this planet, and I have never once come across someone in public with a feeding tube.

    However, I'm no Scrooge. If they want their week, fine. Let's face it, it's not the most eyebrow-raising thing to get a special mention on the Awareness Calendar. Other events include:

    • National Certified Nurse Anesthetists Week, in January. Yes, it's that specific.
    • World Salt Awareness Month, February. You've got too much, not enough, or just can't handle it.
    • The end of March kicks off Root Canal Awareness Week.
    • April 16th is National Healthcare Decisions Day. I swear, I am not making this up.
    • May plays host to "Melanoma Monday!"
    • In June, Lightning Safety Week follows on the heels of Men's Health Week, which I doubt is a coincidence.
    • July would be pretty damn awesome with its Everybody Deserves A Massage Week but it's also Cord Blood Awareness Month, which is kind of gross.
    • August has some stuff, but nothing that makes me go, "Wha...?"
    • September 21st is World Alzheimer's Day, but I'll probably forget about it.
    • October hosts "Drive Safely To Work Week;" the other 51 weeks can get bent.
    • November is National Alzheimer's Awareness Month, because you forgot about World Alzheimer Day in September.
    • December is rather boring, being hijacked by Christmas and all.

    Today, however, is Hug Yourself Happy Day, because I said so.

    **Source: http://www.awarenessdepot.com/awarenesscalendar.html

    ...and the joke's on me

    Turns out that stolen debit card number wasn't a scrape, upload redirect, or outright theft of my daughter's card while shopping.

    The card used to steal hundreds of dollars from me was actually my card to The Girl's account (it's a joint account) and the only thing I can figure is that it was in basket between the front seats where I kept my CDs.

    They bought lots of hats at Champs and cheap costume jewelry at the mall, lots and lots of who-knows-what at Family Dollar and Dollar General in a part of town where I wouldn't ever use my card, some breakfasts and lunches at some crappy fast food places, and even tried to set up recurring payments for their burner cellphone. (PS--thank you, VZW prepaid, for denying the card. I don't know why you did, but you did, and for that, I can't thank you enough.)

    The detective on the case of my stolen car couldn't be bothered to pick up his damn phone or even set up his voicemail correctly, so I was transferred to a different detective for the credit card fraud. Detective #1 did nothing concerning my stolen car, even leaving it up to a beat officer to contact me when the car was found in a neighboring state. Detective #2 found store security video footage of the same woman using my debit card several times at the same location by the end of the first day of his investigation.

    While I have little hope that anyone will ever give up this girl (snitches get stitches here), I at least have my faith restored that there is at least one person who will actually work to earn their taxpayer-funded paycheck in this county.

    If this is a joke, it isn't funny.

    So my car was stolen Saturday. It was finally found last night, and we'll be coordinating with our insurance to get it back from South Carolina and repaired or replaced. My identity was compromised, and I had to jump through those hoops. As a precaution, my workplace had to change its locks. Good fun.

    But wait! There's more!

    At some point while shopping at the mall two weeks ago, my daughter's debit card was scraped. We've had nearly $800 stolen from us.

    I work at a bank, and I don't constantly monitor our accounts. Bad form, I know, but that's how it is. But today after work, some paranoia caused me to take a second look, and I noticed an overdraft sweep out of my account. In a panic, I check the other accounts and see that my daughter's account is sitting on empty, when it should have had at least $300. Further review shows that it's actually almost $200 overdrawn. This will be swept from my account tonight to cover it, leaving me with a big hole in my account.

    It didn't register with the fraud department because the thieves did not use the scraped numbers outside of my metro area. Except that The Girl doesn't even know where these businesses are, there's no flag unless we are vigilant. The girl wasn't checking her account because she wasn't using it.

    Super double bonus: Her account is tied to my account which is tied to my savings account for overdraft protection....

    This could have been a major disaster.

    My advice: log in and check your account once a day. Be vigilant. She only used her card twice, and that's all it took to rob her blind. The sooner you notify your bank of fraud, the faster they can fix it and get your money back.

    Also, don't leave your work keys in your car.