Friday, August 26, 2011

A Bitter Sweet Message From YARP

New from the Yummish Advanced Research Projects (YARP) test kitchen:
Mmmmm... Lemony...
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup salted butter
  • 1 cup powdered sugar, split
  • the zest of one large lemon (1-2 tsp)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice

Cream together salted and unsalted butters
Add ½ cup powdered sugar and cream together
Add lemon zest and vanilla, mixing well between each
Stir in flour

Shape dough into balls, approximately 2”
Place on non-stick cookie sheet
Flatten balls to 1/4” thick rounds, using a glass with a smooth, flat bottom
Chill for 1 hour

Squeeze lemon and stir juice into remaining powdered sugar, a small amount at a time until a thick paste forms. (You may not need all of the lemon juice.) 

Bake dough at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until golden at the edges.
Using a spoon, drizzle tops with lemon/sugar icing.
Yield: about 18

Today's exercise: Get your bake on!

Next: A report from the Yummish Council's Las Vegas retreat. For real-time updates and pictures, follow @TheYummishFaith on Twitter.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Brief Visit with the Tea Party: A Special Message From The Senior Council Member

by Jim Strider, Senior Council Member and creator of the term "Yummish."

In my ongoing efforts to understand the thinking that drives Tea Party supporters, I had a small insight.  Preface each Tea Party or "conservative" anti-government assertion with the notion that -

"The primary activity of politicians is to extort money from corporations in exchange for favorable regulations."

That fundamental assumption makes much of the anti-government hullabaloo much more comprehensible.

Historically, I have been more aligned with the converse notion, which you hear from Michael Moore and company -

"Corporations bribe government officials in exchange for favorable regulations."

In truth, these are two statements of the same thing.  For this condition to endure, corporations and politicians cannot be in conflict, one "extorting" or "bribing" the other, they have to be in collusion.  As long as the arrangement continues to work for both sides, it will not change regardless of the damage done to the rest of us who are not highly-paid corporate executives, wealthy investors, or politicians.

I think it is obvious at this point that the paradigm under discussion parallels the "war on drugs".  Both sides (the law industry and the drug merchants) make substantial money at the expense of the relatively powerless people in the middle.  The real "trade" is between those two sides, with the masses (us) as the resource pool from which wealth is drawn and upon whom power is exercised and confirmed.  Both the law industry and the drug merchants promote falsehoods, dividing the rest of us into misguided "pro" and "con" camps, to ensure that their profitable paradigm endures.

Similarly, the "liberal" vs. "conservative" argument is a distraction to prevent us from recognizing how we are being used and from acting in our own best interests.  Many people know this, but most who do are among the wealthy or powerful who benefit from the situation and who are too selfish, greedy, or ego-driven to endorse change that would benefit a greater number of people.  Those of us with less power or wealth who recognize the problem, obviously, have neither the power nor wealth to adequately fight the propaganda so incessantly imposed upon us by the media machines of the wealthy and powerful.

Those media machines are designed to confuse us.  They seek opportunities to divide us as a people and distract us from the myriad ways in which they both compromise our civil liberties and game the economic system in their favor.  Their tools include fear, distraction, saturation, and "spin".

Fear enables the infringement of civil liberties.  (Airport "security theater", warrantless wiretapping, habeas corpus.)

Distraction encourages people to vote against their best interests.  ("Taxation" or "environment" as single-issue platforms.)

Saturation, or repetition, can lead people to believe assertions that are, in fact, false.  ("There is no consensus in the scientific community regarding climate change", "Sarah Palin banned books from the Wasilla library".  [Both are false.])

The two notions that opened this essay embody the insidious quality of "spin"; the statements about "extortion" and "bribery" are not entirely untrue, but are presented in such a way as to hide what is true and to create a false conflict.

Why do you think "class warfare" is a taboo topic in the media, instantly shot down and disparaged at any mention?  You can be sure that both the corporate and government elite want to avoid that topic above all others.

There is so much more to say about what can be done and about the obstacles to change that protect the status quo, but I am at work and my lunch break is almost over.  (This is a small example of one of the typical obstacles for "us", actually.)

I think it is worth sharing the small insight that makes some aspects of the Tea Party comprehensible to me, a "liberal".  If you consider yourself a "conservative", try it the other way around.  Preface each "liberal" anti-corporate sentiment you hear with the notion that "Corporations bribe government officials in exchange for favorable regulations."  You might find that you and I are not completely in opposition after all.

This message brought to you by The Cocktail Party

Friday, August 19, 2011

University: Adversity, Diversity, and a Little Perversity

The second ugliest hat I've worn.
This coming Spring, my degree – a Bachelor of Arts in, of all the practical and well-considered fields of study, Theater – will turn 15 years old.*

It's true that, in whatever drawer I have stashed it, the actual piece of paper has lain dust-covered and undisturbed the majority of that time. It is also true that I can no longer tell you jack squat about Richard Burbage, have no clue when to use a Leko versus a Fresnel, and am no longer able/permitted to strip an actor down to his underpants in the theater wings in under 10 seconds.**

That doesn't mean that I don't use much of what I learned in college every single day.

The professional skills I gained in college include, but are not limited to:

  • Critical thinking and logic
  • Project planning/project management
  • Research and data analysis
  • Effective communication, including writing

More importantly, the nearly 4*** years I spent in college empowered me with skills to be, not just a better employee, but a better person. After the relative homogeneity of high school, I learned to work alongside and even appreciate people whose life experiences were vastly different from mine in nearly every way. I learned how to successfully rise to new challenges and how to gracefully grow from my defeats. I was forced to challenge my own assumptions and was (eventually) rewarded with a greater trust in my powers of reasoning.  

The Kathy & Mo Show: Parallel Lives
The lessons I learned in the classes I attended were important and valuable. They taught me that there were “more things in heaven and earth” than I'd previously dreamt of in my ignorance. The lessons I learned from being in those classes – handling heavy course loads, challenging professors, irritating classmates, impossible and conflicting demands and deadlines – have been equally important in my life.

Many of us like to reminisce about the fun parts of our college experiences and it's true that the parties and play times have their role in the overall experience. More than that, what I chiefly remember about my college experience is my progression from a shy, insecure, self-loathing total spaz to outgoing, outspoken, self-assured, self-loving total spaz. 

At times, the experience of higher education can seem like a hurricane of adversity, diversity and perversity. When it's passed, though, you'll be amazed at all you gained by going to University.

Today's exercise: Be kind to college students... and avoid Telegraph Avenue. It's back to school time!

Next: Either a list of my favorite literary mash-ups or a very special guest blogger.

*Thus shattering my delusion of being still in my “early 30s.” Damn you, Mathematics!

**At one point in my college career it occurred to me that I had seen every single person I knew in their skivvies. Just one of the many (dis)advantages of doing your work-study in the Costume Shop...

***Yes, I graduated slightly ahead of schedule. Yes, I am bragging. (Only magna cum laude, though. Damn you again, Mathematics!)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

My Bucket List: Random Thoughts on Buckets I Have Known

Bath time with Bucket Head, 1978
As a small child, I would sometimes wear a plastic toy sand bucket on my head, often while playing in the hot sun on the beach. I mention this by way of explanation for the rest of this post.

I call the round cushioned cat bed in the living room the “cat bucket.” Even I'm not sure why.

Riverton, WY, 2006
My most unnerving bucket experience: hot air ballooning in Wyoming. To get your heart going, there's really nothing quite like floating across the wide western sky, with no real means of navigation, in a wicker bucket topped with flame. My second: the bucket of every Ferris wheel* I've ever been on.

Of the many brain buckets I've owned, the Shark EvoLine is my hands-down favorite. The slide-down tinted visor is just so very Top Gun.

Shooting pool and drinking bottles of beer from a bucket full of ice...

Seat belts in cars: Safety device
Bucket seats in cars: Birth control device

Champagne chilling in a silver bucket...

Key West, FL, 1986
If I ever own a boat, I intend to christen her “The Bucket,” so when I inevitably run her into something, I can sing the old song as she sinks. Advanced planning *is* the key to a successful boating experience.

I bear on my conscience the violent death of many buckets-full of minnows. On a related note, I can hella cook a fresh piece of halibut.**

I have eaten many “buckets” of chicken in my life, most of them out-of-doors in the Indiana sunshine. Summer vacation!

When I lived in Oklahoma, I regularly ate roasted peanuts in the shell out of a silver galvanized bucket at local steak house. When I lived in Alabama, I often ate spicy crustaceans, corn on the cob, and red potatoes out of a silver galvanized bucket while sitting on a friend's pier. I regret neither.

Today's exercise: When thinking of all of the things you've yet to accomplish from your Bucket List, don't lose sight of the myriad interesting experiences you've already had.

Next: Something “back to school” themed... Will be profound, I'm sure...

*Me + heights = :-(

**You will eat the skin... and you will thank me.

Friday, August 5, 2011

International Beer Day

“Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”
 - Benjamin Franklin, Philosopher, Founding Father, High-Heel Wearing, Skirt-Chasing Party Animal

While perusing the interweb's all-knowing authority on everything, Wikipedia, I recently discovered that in 2007 the nearby town of Santa Cruz, CA was the sight of a true Yummish Miracle – the inception of International Beer Day

Celebrated worldwide on August 5, the purpose of International Beer Day is :

1) To gather with friends and enjoy the deliciousness that is beer.
2) To celebrate the dedicated men and women who brew and serve our beer.
3) To bring the world together under the united banner of beer, by celebrating the beers of all nations and cultures together on this one remarkable day.

We'll drink to that!

If beer does not suit your particular senses or sensibilities, as with any Yummish celebration, you should feel free to customize the concept to match your tastes. Perhaps, like Jesse Avshalomov you'll even be inspired to start your own international holiday. Soft-Centered Cookies Day! Smoked Salmon Nigiri Day! Cheese That Smells Like Feet Day! Whatever it is, we Yummish will be happy to celebrate with you.

However, before you dispense with the idea of beer entirely, consider giving this quick and easy recipe a try:

Beer Bread:

12 oz. Beer (Guinness is a nice choice, but any type/brand of beer works)
3 cups self rising flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 stick butter, split

Grease loaf pan well with ½ stick butter, softened. Discard any extra.
Mix together beer, flour and sugar.
Spoon dough into loaf pan.
Bake at 375 degrees for (about) 50 minutes or until golden.
Pour remaining ½ stick of butter, melted, over bread.
Return to oven for 10 minutes.

Today's exercise: Celebrate!

Next: Whatever I dream up while in the depths of a beer binge.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Go With the Flow

It's a familiar admonishment: “Just go with the flow.” But if you've ever tried navigating down stream, you know it's not always as easy as it sounds.

Simply finding your place within the flow can be a challenge. There are many currents and eddies hidden in a river that, at first glance, appears to be flowing in a single direction. Get caught in one of these and you may find yourself beached on the shore, being dragged along the rocky bottom, or spinning endlessly in a mini maelstrom. If you are fortunate enough to find the right current, that doesn't guarantee smooth sailing. You must continually adjust, as the water's course is altered by terrain, time and clime. Even then, it can still lead you through rough waters.

Attempting to “go with the flow” is not an exercise for the faint of heart.

Should you choose to try to “go with the flow,” you may find that you do not end up where you'd originally been planning to go. When you truly “go with the flow,” in fact, you give up the concepts of “planning” and “destination” entirely. You accept that you are not the pilot of your own ship, but a passenger on this river of life. You surrender your will, your desires, your ego to the “will” of something greater than yourself.

For most of us, actually letting go of our “plans” is terrifying. It is comforting, empowering to believe that we actually have some measure of control over how our lives play out. In truth, however, we are truly all adrift on the flow of history like so much fragile, human flotsam.

It is true that some people will find themselves in an enviable position in the current of events, manage to maintain it, and, thus, appear to have “achieved their goals.” Many of us, though, find ourselves navigating more challenging waters, alternately finding and losing the drift over the course of our lives.

To “go with the flow,” is to embrace your fate rather than rail against it. It is letting go of expectation, blame, recrimination, and pride. It requires you to be more accepting of failure and success in others and in yourself. It means recognizing that none of us is truly in control of his own destiny. It is to understand that there is really only one ultimate destination in the course of our lives and the ride is all that matters.

Today's exercise: Go with the flow.

Next: Maybe something in honor of International Beer Day on August 5. (Yet another reason to love Santa Cruz, CA...)