Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Joke's on Me

The other day as we were walking to lunch, listening to my brother Jeff fumbling to come up with the punchline to a joke he was telling, I was again painfully reminded of my family’s complete inability to remember jokes.

I have five brothers and sisters, and you would think that at least one of us would be able to tell jokes, but we can’t. We can make sarcastic comments that are fairly funny, and there was a very late night conversation between my oldest brother (who was going through EMT training at the time) and my youngest brother (who has always been a bit of a hypochondriac) about a medical condition called upper sphincter blowout which was probably the only time I laughed hard enough that I was concerned about physical injury. But if you want us to recite a joke you’re out of luck.

Every once in a while one of us will forget that we can’t and try, but the joke inevitably trails off to a disappointed conclusion as we either a) mess up the punchline in such a way as to render the entire thing useless, or (more likely) b) stop and try to remember what the punchline involved.

I have exactly two jokes that I can remember, and both of them involve math or numbers. (*)

The reason I’m fairly convinced that there’s a genetic basis for all of this is that I remember when my sisters were young. Jojo the Enforcer was about five years old and had the best memory for non-joke things that I have ever seen. My brothers and I would cheat during games of Memory, and Jo would still win. KB (or Karen-poo as she introduced herself the first day of kindergarten) was still eating her meals in the highchair, but she had an amazing vocabulary for a three year old.

Now, the joke that they were trying to tell was from a Bennett Cerf book. The book version is: “What time is it when an elephant sits on the fence?” “Time to get a new fence.” As you can imagine, this is humor that appeals to little kids.

Here is the routine as told by my sisters: “What time is it when it’s time to get a new fence?” “An elephant!” And then they would dissolve into laughter. Sometimes they’d leave off the part about the elephant because they were laughing so hard. They told this joke at least once a day for about two years. And laughed every time.

Oh well. On the plus side, nobody in my family will bore you with an endless litany of blond jokes. At least we've got that going for us...

• Joke 1: Why was 6 afraid of 7? Because 7 ate 9. (Say it out loud. I have to think about which numbers are involved for a few minutes before I tell this.)
• Joke 2: A Polish man is on the left side of an airplane flying near the Grand Canyon when the pilot tells the passengers that there is a good view on the other side of the plane. The man goes to the other side to look out the window and the plane crashes. Why did the plane crash? Because the Pole was on the right side of the plane. (This is an engineering joke. I can’t even remember why it’s funny.)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Instant Communication (or lack thereof)

Snippets from the first day back at work…

I spent the day trying (unsuccessfully) to log on to Outlook to read my email. The rest of the day was spent trying to get specifications for the project for which I was hired, talking to everyone who came by to say hello, instant messaging my boss (rvan) since I couldn't email him, and going out to lunch.

Actual instant messaging text:
You should be able to see this, you dork.
This message cannot be delivered to all recipients; one or more recipients are offline or do not want to be disturbed:
Are you paying attention now?
Tofu eater.
Speak for yourself!
***-****-**** is the IT support line
Okay, thanks.
Do I dial 9 to get out?
Only if you want it to work.
[Two lines of actual work information edited to avoid publishing trade secrets...]

The IT support people are supposed to call me back between 9 and 15 minutes (and that was almost 20 minutes ago...)
And why did I save calling them as a last resort?
You so smart!
It's the soy.
Hey, do I have voice mail?
[Admin assistant] is supposed to set up telecom for you. She might need reminding.
Yeah, that would be a no, not yet...
Delayed success, not pending failure.
[Gives web page that has some information about current project]
The explanation is in your email inbox.
Is that a joke?
Many things around here are jokes but aren't funny.
Try this:
Try this, what?
What what?
You wrote "Try this:"
An imposter, I would surely never type that.
Liar, liar, pants on fire...
So do we have an ETA for the XYZ/123 and primary usage data?
Don't ever trust management.
Don't bring the Basque separatists into this. It was an honest mistake.
Is that a yes?
[Person responsible for getting data] has either left or is stuck somewhere else, like in Michele's office. I'm trying to run it myself.
I just realized I have no drawers or filing cabinets. I better never need to store anything...
Overheard cabinets.
Overhead cabinets.
You overheard the cabinets say what?
Keep your drawers shut.
Thanks Jamie Spears

I’d just like to point out that I get paid for this stuff…

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Almond-Rice Stuffed Peppers

And now, for a little cooking interlude...

I happen to like this recipe (from the Sunset Vegetarian Cooking book), but the people who wrote the book have entirely too much time on their hands. I, however, am a little pressed for time and frankly, some of the stuff they say to do is just ridiculous. This is my signature dish (yeah, that sounds a little pretentious – let’s just say that this is what I cook as the vegetarian alternative every year at Christmas).

Note: I live alone. (I know, you’re shocked.) Therefore, I’m the only person who has to eat what I cook. It’s possible that not everyone has the same tastes as I do. Your mileage may vary.

1. Go to the store. Hint: it’s a good idea to check if you have rice before you go so you don’t end up with a third unopened bag of rice. (But there’s a rice shortage or something, so maybe that’s not a bad thing.)
2. Cook the rice. Don’t you hate it when you get to the step in the recipe that says “Add 2 cups cooked brown rice.”? What, you couldn’t have warned be about this ahead of time? Brown rice takes about an hour to cook, which sucks if you’re on a tight schedule.
3. Feed the cats. (Skip this step if you don’t have cats.) I really can’t stress this enough. If you feed them before going into the kitchen, you have at least an hour to get everything done before they wake up from the food coma. This is especially important since this recipe has cheese.
4. Wash all of the dishes you need. Okay, if you cook more often than I do, you may not need to do this. Let’s just say that everything I need to use has a patina of dust.
5. Clean out the fridge so you have somewhere to put the leftovers. And so that you can wash the dishes that held the leftovers that have since gone bad in the fridge. Yes, this is disgusting. But necessary.
6. Crank up the music. I highly recommend the Music Genome Project at You tell it what music you like and it comes up with a playlist that it thinks you might like. I started with Split Enz. (So I like 80’s music. Sue me.)

What the original recipe calls for:
- 3 large red or green bell peppers
- Boiling water
- 2 cups cooked brown rice or wheat berries
- ¾ cup chopped almonds
- 2 green onions (including tops) thinly sliced
- 1 large tomato, peeled seeded, and chopped
- ¼ cup parsley
- 1 ½ cups (6 oz) shredded Cheddar cheese
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- ½ tsp Worcestershire
- ½ tsp dry basil
- Garlic salt
- Pepper

Let’s break this down a bit:
3 large red or green bell peppers – This should just say 3 large red bell peppers. As far as I’m concerned, green bell peppers are disgusting. I’m not sure why you would put a bunch of effort into making a dinner and ruin it with green bell peppers. However, I realize that other people have different tastes, so knock yourself out.

Boiling water – What, am I assisting in a home birth? You don’t need this.

2 cups cooked brown rice or wheat berries – Frankly, I’m not really sure what wheat berries are. Sounds like a breakfast cereal, and that would really not be appropriate here. I use brown rice. Now, I’m not a big brown rice fan in general, but it really does work better than white rice here. But, hey, I’m not a food snob, so if you want to use Minute Rice (Hi Mom!), be my guest.

¾ cup chopped almonds – All they had at the store was whole and sliced almonds. Chopping nuts is time consuming and messy, so I just used a bag of sliced almonds.

2 green onions (including tops) thinly sliced – Not much to say here, other than my definition of thinly sliced is probably not as thin as the authors’.

1 large tomato, peeled, seeded, and chopped – WTF!? Are these people on crack? Do you know what’s left after you do this? About 1 tsp of tomato mush, that’s what. Just chop a damn tomato and put it in. Seriously.

¼ cup parsley – I used a rather large bunch of parsley for a double recipe. I didn’t measure it, but I suspect there was at least two cups. No, my math skills are not defective. I think the parsley makes this recipe taste good, and it cooks down quite a bit. I still don’t get the sprig of parsley at the edge of the plate, though.

1½ cups (6 oz) shredded Cheddar cheese – I’m a big fan of cheese, but this is a little excessive. I probably used half of this.

2 eggs, lightly beaten – I used Eggology egg whites. Mostly just because I’m lazy, but also because that stuff lasts for four months in the fridge and you can freeze it. I usually just use eggs, though.

½ tsp Worcestershire – I think it’s interesting that a vegetarian cookbook uses this, since I have yet to find a brand of Worcestershire that doesn’t have fish in it.

½ tsp dry basil – I wasn’t measuring exactly, but I used extra because my dry basil is a little… old. All of my spices are. In fact, I can’t actually remember the last time I bought new spices. (I do dust off the spice rack every once in a while, if that counts.) I remember thinking that I should throw out the spices and buy new ones when I was packing to move to Louisiana. That was two years ago. Whatever.

Garlic salt – Once again, I failed to realize that I don’t own any garlic salt. I used some really old garlic powder (see above) and plain salt. That should be the same thing, right?

Pepper – Yes, I have this!

Cut peppers lengthwise through stems; remove stems and seeds. (Okay, so far.) Drop pepper halves into boiling water; boil, uncovered, for 2 minutes, then plunge into cold water and drain well. (I don’t do this. The peppers get baked in the end. I’m not sure why they should be boiled and baked. Maybe you need to do this if you’re trying to make green bell peppers edible.)

Stir together rice, almonds, green onions, tomato, parsley, 1 cup of the cheese, eggs, Worcestershire, basil, and garlic salt and pepper to taste. (Or, in other words, mix everything together.) Mound mixture into pepper shells. Place peppers in a shallow baking pan; sprinkle tops equally with remaining ½ cup cheese. If made ahead, cover and refrigerate.

Bake, uncovered, in a 375 degree oven for about 35 minutes (45 minutes, if refrigerated) or until filling is piping hot. (Piping hot!). Makes 6 servings.

That’s it. Pretty simple if you don’t complicate things by torturing tomatoes and boiling the poor peppers. They freeze pretty well if, like me, you live alone.

I’ve also made this with those little bitty bell peppers for an appetizer at a party – if you’re going to do that, don’t cut the mini-peppers lengthwise. Cut off the top and scoop out the insides and then stuff them that way.

See, I do have a kitchen.


So, a few weeks ago I had to go to a strip mall and pee in a cup.
This was a traumatic experience for a few reasons. First, the place closed at 4pm, which means that I had to hustle to take a shower, get dressed, and drive the five minutes to get there before 3:30. As I was thoroughly enjoying unemployment, that was already asking a lot of me.
Second, I had to pee in a cup. Now, those of you that are of the male variety are thinking, yeah, so what? Well, let me tell you, once again, you guys have it easier. If you’re a guy, you don’t have any logistics problems -- you just unzip, aim, and whiz, you’re done. The female equivalent, however, is equivalent to landing a jet on an aircraft carrier. In high winds. Backwards. We’ll just say that there’s a very good reason the technicians wear gloves to handle the cup afterwards.
As a veterinarian, there aren’t many things that gross me out. Animal blood, pus, maggots – I’ve dealt with them all, occasionally at the same time. I’ll put on gloves to make the cleanup easier, but it doesn’t bother me. Heck, if someone else is dealing with it, I’ll eat donuts during the procedure as long as I’m out of the splash zone. I’ve been peed on, pooped on, bled on, and had anal gland secretions fly through the air onto me. Aside from being a great excuse to change out of the uncomfortable nice clothes into a comfy pair of scrubs, those things really don’t impact me much. But human secretions? Even my own? Give me a barf bag and stand back.
Why, yes, I am single. Why do you ask?
Anyhow, the reason I had to pee in a cup was to prove that I wasn’t taking any illicit substances before I could get hired for my new job. You know, the job where I sit in a cube and surf the net all day. Um, I mean, program. Ironically, at my last job, (the one where I made life and death decisions and had to have good eye-hand coordination at all times, the job where I had fairly easy access to drugs, yeah, that job) I was never tested.
In any case, I passed the test. But I might need some valium to get over the trauma…