Tuesday, December 11, 2012

crock pot

So, I have this crock pot. It's a 5-quart Rival Crock Pot that I got from my mom, who isn't sure, but suspects she may have gotten it as a wedding gift in 1982. Either way, it's almost certainly at least as old as I am, and quite possibly older. It looks basically like the one at the right, just with a different floral design and color scheme.

It's a lovely crock pot, big enough for parties but not so big I can't use it for just Aaron and myself. It still works perfectly; in fact, the only drawback is that its plastic lid has been dropped and broken and superglued back together so many times that it just won't hold together anymore. After a combination duct-tape-and-superglue application failed to last more than a week, I gave up and started substituting a frying pan lid. It doesn't fit perfectly, but it keeps the thing covered, and laying a towel or some hot pads over the top keeps most of the heat in. It's not an ideal situation, but it has lasted me several weeks, so I was content to go on like that.

Then I got the bright idea to check online and see if they sold replacement lids. Unsurprisingly, that model, being two or three decades old, is no longer available, but surely, I thought, they might make a current one that's the same size, or close enough, that I could get a lid that would work. I couldn't find specific dimensions for the current models, so I emailed the company and explained the situation, and asked if they could recommend a lid of the right size.

The rep emailed me back and said very sorry, model no longer available, etc., but if you like, we will send you a comparable replacement unit for free. Okay, I replied, sounds great, as long as the lid fits, I don't care if it matches the pot. So I gave my name and address and waited.

Today, I got a box in the mail. They didn't send me a lid. They sent me a whole brand new crock pot. This crock pot, to be exact. A thirty dollar crock pot, for free, just because I emailed to ask about lid sizes. Not quite sure what I'm going to do with two crock pots, but I'm certainly not complaining. Thanks, Rival!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Recipe win!

I made up the best thing in the world today. It is autumn in a crockpot. I am posting the recipe for anyone interested in copying, and also so I don't forget it.

Autumn in a Crockpot

2 chicken breasts
1 medium butternut squash
2 medium sweet potatoes
2 stalks celery
2 medium carrots
4 green onions
2 chicken bouillon cubes
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste

Chop chicken breasts, squash, and sweet potatoes in 1-inch cubes. Slice celery, carrots, and onions. Place in crockpot. Add water to cover and bouillon cubes. (Alternately, use chicken broth instead of water and omit bouillon cubes.) Add garlic powder, parsley, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Cook on high 4 hours.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Happy National Coming Out Day!

So, to begin. Hi. I'm bisexual. Some people already knew that. Some may not have. For those that didn't, it's not because I'm purposely keeping it a secret. I've been "out" since high school. But I am by nature a very private person, and for a lot of people, it's not a topic that comes up in conversation very often. It's not something you bring up immediately when you meet someone; and unless I get to know a person very well, or if a related political topic comes up in conversation (which, let's be honest, talking politics with people you've just met is rarely a good idea), it just isn't going to come up.

The fact that I'm bi, but in a long-term relationship with a man, is also part of the issue. If someone were wondering, for whatever reason, about my orientation, and the topic of my fiancé comes up (which is much more likely), then they just assume that I'm straight, and unless they state that assumption outright (and why would they?), then I have no reason to bring up the topic to correct them.

For a long time, I felt kind of bad, almost guilty, about all that. I've read about very light-skinned black people back in the Jim Crow days who would "pass" for white and escape some of the discrimination aimed at black people — it felt like that was what I was doing, even if unintentionally. Here I was, queer as a three dollar bill, but "passing" for straight, getting the undeserved benefit of all that tasty straight white privilege (can you hear the liberal guilt?).

It got worse when people talked about coming out as a political statement, as a necessary step toward equality — come out, they said, let people know you're there, because the more LGBT people someone knows personally, the more likely they are to support LGBT rights. It's harder to "otherize" someone you know personally. That is all true, and it made me feel like I wasn't doing my part to shed light on these issues — to further the cause, as it were.

There was one time, and only one, however, where the topic did arise, and I failed to speak up. There was a related news item on TV - it may have been when Massachusetts first began allowing gay marriage; I'm not sure - and a gay couple was interviewed briefly, talking about how happy they were about having their relationship legally recognized. Another party in the room with me, someone whom I care about deeply, someone who I know for a fact is generally a wonderful, kind, loving person, made a disgusted comment; I don't remember the exact wording, but I know the word "abomination" was involved. I froze. I was, in fact, dating a girl at that time, and was out to most of my friends. A dozen things buzzed through my head, but I didn't say any of them. I was scared. I didn't know what would happen if I said something. I wasn't surprised that this person didn't approve (this person being very conservative and religious, I would have been surprised if they had), but I was startled at the apparent vitriol in the remark, and I didn't say anything. I regretted it later, and still do, truth be told. It was an opportunity lost. But it did teach me that not saying anything is not an acceptable response*, and since then, I have always spoken up.

There is also the question of marriage. In a lot of places, same-sex marriage is still not legally recognized. The fact that the person I'm engaged to is a man means that particular bit of discrimination doesn't directly affect me. Again, looked at from a certain perspective, I'm "passing." There are some straight people who say they refuse to get married until same-sex marriage is legal in all states, because it's supporting a discriminatory system. When I first got engaged, I thought about that. I seriously wondered if I was wrong to want to get married when my friends in same-sex relationships couldn't. Again with the guilt.

Over time, I've come to realize that it is not my fault that people assume things. People will always make assumptions about all sorts of things, because it's easier than asking, and a lot of times, those assumptions will be wrong. (An interesting side note: I was talking with a female friend recently who is also bi, but she is dating a woman, and so of course, everyone assumes that she's a lesbian. Being bisexual leads to a lot of invisibility, from both sides.) Other people's assumptions are not my responsibility. As far as marriage goes, my refusing to get married will not change anything. Marriage is not a business you can boycott to pressure it for change. Yes, there are plenty of people who make money off the "wedding industry," but a) it's not a hegemonous group with a great deal of lobbying power, b) the ones looking at it from a financial perspective already support gay marriage, because yay more business, and the ones that don't generally won't be easily swayed by a boycott, and c) that's getting awfully indirect anyway. Is the system unfair? Yes, of course it is. But I don't have to sacrifice my own happiness in order to work toward greater equality and more happiness for everyone.

My responsibility is to live my life, be true to myself, and do my best to leave things a little better than how I found them. I can't change the world singlehandedly. But when an opportunity arises to do my small part, I take it. So happy Coming Out Day to all my friends, be you queer, straight, or anything in between, and the next time someone says something negative about non-straight people, I hope you'll think of me, your friendly neighborhood bisexual, and maybe question what they're saying, even just a little.

*Of course, this doesn't apply when a person's safety or livelihood is in danger. Luckily, I have never personally had to deal with such a situation.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

On coincidence, creation, and really pretty flowers

[Note: Please know that I'm not trying to disparage or put down anyone who does believe in a god or gods; I'm simply articulating my own viewpoint and why it appeals to me personally. Any friendly counter or debate is, as always, perfectly welcome.]

When two old friends who haven't seen each other for years meet on a street corner because they agreed ahead of time to meet there and catch up, there is nothing particularly striking about it. However, when the same two friends randomly bump into one another on the same street corner, without any prior arrangement, it suddenly becomes remarkable — that's the potential stuff of romance novels or Hollywood movies.

In the same way, if you are working from the premise of an omniscient, omnipotent being who can just point a finger and go "BAM! Universe!" then in a way, everything about that creation loses some of its enchantment. Of course things are amazing — if you are an all-powerful being who can make things however you damn well please, why would you bother making anything lame?

On the other hand, when you start from a premise of more or less random chaos, and then look at the world we have now, it's quite frankly astounding. Think of all the processes that had to come together in exactly the right way at exactly the right time to create the trees and plants in a tropical rainforest, the adorable housepets we film and put on YouTube, the gorgeous array of stars in a clear night sky. Think of all the physical, chemical, and biological machinations going on for thousands and thousands of years that took us from being apes poking things with sticks to being modern humans with complex societies, brains capable of speech, extensive abstract thought, and unparalleled potential for creativity and innovation.

If your favorite flower exists because an omnipotent being said, "Hey, we need some more color up in this place — ZAP — new flower!" then of course it's lovely, because why would it be anything otherwise? An omnipotent being has no reason to create mediocrity. But if that flower exists because somewhere down the line, a dozen or so generations ago, two different random species happened to be growing next to one another and got cross-pollinated, creating that exact shape, shade, and scent that makes the flower so beautiful to you — isn't that amazing? The wind could just as easily have been blowing the other way, and then the flower wouldn't exist. Isn't that something to appreciate and be thankful for?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Laura Ingalls Wilder is rolling in her grave.

Somewhere along the line, this clown named T.L. Tedrow decided he should write stories about Laura Ingalls Wilder (of Little House on the Prairie fame) as a grownup. The series is called The Days of Laura Ingalls Wilder and it is, in short, a whole lot of garbage. I picked the first one up at the library on a whim, because I am a huge dork and absolutely love anything related to the Little House books, and was appalled at how terrible it was. This evening, I spent a not insignificant amount of time writing a review on Amazon of said book (which certainly doesn't deserve to have this much thought dedicated to it), and since this is my blog and I can do what I want, I will now post this review for your edification and entertainment.

My review of Missouri Homestead (The Days of Laura Ingalls Wilder, Book 1)

I picked this up at my local library expecting something like the other spin-offs of the Little House series (the Martha, Charlotte, Caroline, and Rose Years books). I grew up reading and loving the original series, and I'm also a fan of historical fiction in general. Coming from that background, I was sorely disappointed and even upset by the liberties Mr. Tedrow has taken with this material.

First off, while I understand that historical fiction is by necessity "fiction," this book completely disregards the things we *do* know about the characters. Almanzo calling Laura "Laury" instead of "Bess" is particularly jarring. Also pointless and irritating was the name change of their farm from "Rocky Ridge" to "Apple Hill." Worse yet, Tedrow seems to completely ignore nine books' worth of existing characterization and turns the thoughtful, determined yet caring Laura into a headstrong, domineering harpy. "Demanding" indoor plumbing, indeed! Almanzo is similarly flattened, being presented as little more than a dimwitted hillbilly. Their relationship is turned into a cheap sitcom caricaturization in which their interactions seem to consist entirely of bickering.

Tedrow's own characters, the "Youngun" children, are absolute fluff. The simple fact that they have rhyming names - Larry, Terry, and Sherry - should clue you in to the level of thought that went into these caricatures. (Also, "Youngun"? Not a name. Just sayin'.) He clearly added them to add easy appeal to younger children, but they end up being just the comic relief, and have no bearing on the main plot.

Even worse is the character of Maurice Springer. I'm not sure why he's there at all, honestly, as he does nothing to progress the plot. It's also problematic that, as the lone black character in the books (apart from his wife, Eula Mae, who is little more than a name on the page), he seems to exist primarily to aid and abet the Youngun children in their hijinks. Whatever that is, it's not progressive.

Speaking of the main plot, it's paper-thin. Laura is writing a column for the local newspaper (which, to Tedrow's credit, she actually did do) and gets tangled up in a plot by some unscrupulous lumbermen to make it look like a fungus is attacking trees in the area so that they can cut down more of them. The bad guys as characters have all the nuance and depth of Snidely Whiplash; even for a children's book, I was disappointed. It read more like a cheap Nancy Drew knockoff than a Little House book.

In short, if the author hadn't requisitioned the Laura Ingalls Wilder name, this book would be mediocre at best - a useless but mostly harmless piece of juvenile fluff. As it is, I honestly think it's an affront to Laura's name, and the author should be ashamed of himself for trying to ride someone else's coattails, instead of writing a story that's actually worth reading.