Saturday, July 31, 2010

Printers' Ball Poster (Poem: Serenade)

I was unable to attend yesterday's Printers' Ball, the annual free Chicago literary extravaganza summer event that the Poetry Foundation sponsors, but I did participate in a way:  artist Jenny Beorkrem, the founder of Ork Inc., a poster design company, and I collaborated on one of the posters that was displayed at the event.  As part of this project, I selected one of my oldest and most straightforward poems, "Serenade," which I thought would be design-worthy, and this is what Jenny came up with.

The first image is the mock-up of the poster. Jenny wrote that she wanted to play with abstraction (though not because of Seismosis, which she looked at, she told me, after completing her design), and, I imagine, to convey some of the poem's rhetorical, lyric and narrative movement.  The refrain literally--as opposed to just figuratively--pops out:

And here is the final (my name was inadvertently left off the bottom, but the poem is copyrighted, so...):

If any readers attended the Printers' Ball, please do let me know how it turned out!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Do It Once...

There are things that we do repetitively and they waste our time. Sometimes we can streamline something and save time. The goal is to manage your time and make your time more productive.

For instance, if you have multiple email accounts and you spend too much time going to the different email services to check your email you are wasting time. It's inefficient. Get a program that will show you all your email in one place or filter by individual accounts. Or can you forward incoming emails to one central email account? I do this. I have 3 email accounts and I have two forward incoming email to my main email account.

Another automation that I do with my email: I set up some folders and after I check the email, I go ahead and drag it to the correct folder or delete it. I have my email account set up to daily permanently delete any emails in the Delete folder that are over 2 days old. I never have to worry about cleaning out the "Delete" folder.

Are there other things you can automate? If you can think of ways to stop duplicating and start automating, you can save time.

Here are some suggestions:

* Don't write a check, spend money on postage and walk to the mailbox to pay your bills. Your bank will have a bill paying feature online. Or you can use Quicken and pay your bills within your Quicken software. Using Quicken allows you to enter the transaction one time and it will not only schedule your bank to pay the bill but enter it into your checking account. You can even schedule bills to come out every month and you don't have to do anything (except work to make the money to PAY those bills, LOL!)

* Record your TV shows on DVR so you avoid commercials and you are watching only the shows you are interested in and not channel surfing.

* Maximize your car time. Pray. Take your mp3 player with you so you can listen to praise & worship music, or listen to a book (including the Bible) on mp3 or CD. You can be learning as you drive.

* Maximize your waiting time. If you know you are going to be waiting somewhere like a doctor's office or for little Suzy's dance class to be over, you can make that time productive. Take a book, write a letter, pull out your Bible, update your schedule, etc.

* Always put things back where they belong. Don't waste time looking for your pocketbook or car keys because you always put them in the same spot when you come in. Don't waste time looking for the scissors or the duct tape because you always put it back where it belongs. Have a place for everything and keep everything in it's place. People spend, on average, 6 minutes looking for their keys in the morning. Don't waste that time!

I hope I've given you some ideas. Time management is the key to efficiency. Getting more done in the same 24 hours. It means making choices, being open to new ideas, planning ahead, automating repetitive tasks, discipline. If an Efficiency Expert came into your life, how would they advise you? Are there things you can cut out of your life? Are there better ways of doing things? Can you learn new behaviors? Can you tighten up your daily activities?

Think about it and see what you come up with!

By the way, there is one task that is repetitive and it's driving me crazy! When I go to the grocery store I have to pick up the item from the shelf and put it in my cart (1). Then I have to pick up the item and place it on the checkout counter (2). Then I have to put the items in the cart to go out to the car (3). I have to place the bags in the car (4). Then I have to unload the items and take them to the kitchen (5) and then I have to unpack and put them up (6). I'm handlng these items 6 times and I keep thinking there has to be a better way. If you have a suggestion, please comment!

David and Preston

My cousin, David, with his son, Preston, at the beach. The photo files are too small for good quality. But I love these photos and I wanted to try a different technique. So these beach photos are in a sort of collage using Adobe Photobrushes. I like the result.

Tea With Tucker!

Elaine did this video with her Pomeranian, Tucker. Tea with Tucker is hilarious!

Slow News Day In Iran

There are plenty of slow news days in the US, especially during the summer. That's when we tend to hear more about things like Lindsay Lohan's nether regions than we do during other times of the year, simply because there isn't a lot going on. (Fortunately, we're spared from that this time around, as Lindsay is still holed up in the Lynwood pokey and should be for a few more days now.) But it must be a really slow news day in Iran. How else would you explain their wacky leader, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (pronounced "I'm a dinner jacket") speaking out about Paul the Octopus. Wait. The what now?

Paul. The Octopus. That is correct. If you're unfamiliar with Paul, allow me to familiarize you. Paul is an octopus. It's right there in his name. According to the folks across the pond at
The Telegraph Paul "...became an international star after predicting the outcome of all seven German World Cup matches accurately." The way I understand how that worked was someone would put a little octopus treat into two different containers, each one labeled with the flag of the country that was playing in the match. Whichever treat Paul selected was assumed to be his pick for the winner of the match. Paul not only selected the winner once, he selected the winner seven times. (Granted, I don't think that Paul knew what in the world he was doing other than getting himself a little snack, but that's what happened.)

I'm a Dinner Jacket felt the need to mention Paul on more than one occasion when he gave a speech this past weekend in Tehran. Some of his anti-Paul points were:

He "...accused the octopus of spreading "western propaganda and superstition." It is unclear how an octopus does that. I am also unfamiliar with any sort of western propaganda involving octopuses. Octopi? Octopussies? You know what I mean.

He " that the octopus is a symbol of decadence and decay among "his enemies". If "his enemies" include the German soccer team, then he may have a point. Granted, there is no evidence indicating that this is what the deal is. I get that. You get that. Dinner jacket does not get that.

He says that Paul " a symbol of all that is wrong with the western world." I don't know if it's a symbol of all that's wrong. Have you paid attention to the western world lately? There's an awful lot of things that are wrong. I highly doubt that they can all be symbolized by one octopus. Please. Even symbols have limits.

And finally, this nutjob said, "Those who believe in this type of thing cannot be the leaders of the global nations that aspire, like Iran, to human perfection, basing themselves in the love of all sacred values." Hey, valuing an octopus that can predict the outcome of sports events where betting and subsequent winning can be involved sounds just like the sort of thing that I'd like to base myself in. Who said that just because we like a tricky octopus that we aspire to lead a nation? Why can't we just want to watch some soccer and eat some hot wings? OK, fine. I don't really want to watch soccer, but I do enjoy the hot wings. Can't we just do that? And have the octopus get his treat? Seems reasonable to me. Then again, I'm not some crazy dictator of one of the sand lands, so what do I know? Probably not much, but I'd like to think that I'd be able to talk about something other than the alleged evils of an octopus which may or may not be able to predict the outcome of soccer matches.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Moving Away

Jenny (our niece), Kyle and Brett moved away. I did this scrapbook page about their moving away. They moved 16 hours away, close to his parents but too far away from us. Boo Hoo! I used the cloud and rain to indicate our sadness to see them go.

They Didn't Ask For Signs

I think I love Arizona Governor Jan Brewer. Seriously. This video rules. Way to call out the Federal Government! Nice.

But He Got His Burrito!

How fitting that on the 20th anniversary of the oft-abused Americans With Disabilities Act, some jackass wins a lawsuit against Chipotle because he was (wait for it) deprived of the full Chipotle experience. We're just doomed. So incredibly doomed.

Here's the scoop: According to the
San Francisco Chronicle (which is so liberal it probably wets itself every time one of these rulings gets handed down) "...the law entitles wheelchair users at a restaurant to the same view as everyone else at the food that awaits them - in this case, burritos, tacos and the rest of the fare at Chipotle Mexican Grill." Does it now? Does it really?

KGTV-10 in San Diego says that "...the wall at the counter was too tall for people in wheelchairs to see over, to pick out their ingredients and to see their food being prepared." OK, look...I'm not trying to be a callous hard ass here, but are they serious? And when I say "they" I'm referring to a one Maurizio Antoninetti and his attorney, a one Amy Vandeveld. There are other names that come to mind, but that's what I'm going with.

Do you really need to see your food being prepared? Plenty of other restaurants feed you God only knows what without you witnessing the preparation of said food incarnation. Those restaurants are probably just fine for folks in wheelchairs. And again, don't get me wrong, as I'm not dismissing those in wheelchairs as people who are not entitled to the same rights as others. That's not it. I know people in wheelchairs and I know that it sucks. But the people who I know that are in wheelchairs realize the inherent limitations of society in general. Not seeing what goes into your burrito as it is going in there would seem to be one of those inherent limitations.

By the way, it isn't like Chipotle didn't try to accommodate these folks. In fact, "...a trial court had ruled against Antoninetti, saying Chipotle's policy of showing samples to people in wheelchairs was enough." See? They weren't ruthless about it. They were what? Accommodating, that is correct. But unfortunately, this case ended up before (and I'll use the words of Dr. Michael Savage) the 9th Jerkit Court of Shlemeals, who disagreed and overturned that verdict. Of course they did. Apparently, it is very important to see your burrito being made. I don't know why that's important, but to some, it is.

According to KGTV, "I just wanted Chipotle to understand it cannot treat people in a wheelchair in a different way than everybody else," he (Antoninetti) told 10News from Italy." From ITALY?! Well, good to know that he's using his settlement money wisely. But the point here is that they weren't treating people in a wheelchair differently. They were doing what society must (and should) do for folks with disabilities. They were accommodating them. Why is it that the businesses have to be accommodating, but the folks with the disabilities don't? Why is it that the businesses are supposed to recognize the limitations of those with the disabilities, but the disabled folks are not supposed to recognize the limitations of the businesses? I don't get it.

I suppose that the Americans With Disabilities Act was a good thing. I know that only the best intentions went into drafting and enacting that law. And it's something that I am totally in favor of. But can you seriously say that it's a good thing that this Chipotle case dragged on for five years, ended up costing hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and making a couple of lawyers rich? I'm not so sure that would be considered "good". And by the way, according to Chipotle, "We respectfully disagree with the court's ruling. However, the matter is largely moot because several years ago, independent of this lawsuit, we retrofitted all our California restaurants with a new counter design that eliminates concern regarding wheelchair accessibility." And yet the lawsuit continued. Are we really to believe that it was all about the alleged "equality" for Mr. Antoninetti? I'm not so sure that it was.

If you click on the link above for KGTV, there is a video that accompanies this story. In the video, you will see Chipotle employees holding up samples for the person in the wheelchair to view, carrying the man's food to his table, making sure that he has everything that he needs, etc. He received excellent attention despite not being able to see his burrito being made. He appeared to be able to get around just fine inside the restaurant. He appeared to be in most hospitable atmosphere that one could hope for. And yet that wasn't enough for him. Or for his attorney. So they sued. Nice. I'm kind of surprised that Chipotle was willing to lower their counters and didn't just opt for the having no one be able to see their burrito being made so that this ONE guy wouldn't flip out. That would have solved the problem, too. All or nothing. Sounds like a really good way to ruin a perfectly good society. Way to go, sir. You jackass.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


We forget that butter used to be made by hand in every kitchen. We are so used to going to the grocery store and picking up nice, neat boxes of butter wrapped in their little 4 oz quarters.

But making butter was a regular kitchen chore that our ancestors had to do. Every morning they milked their cows and then processed their milk into milk, butter, cream, cheese, etc. In making butter they used what is, today, obsolete technology. Butter churns, butter paddles, butter molds (or presses), butter dishes... all are obsolete now.

Have you ever wondered why old butter dishes were usually round or large deep rectangles? We are used to our modern butter dishes.

That's because we usually use butter quarters. But, in the old days, they made their butter and then used butter paddles to scrape it out of the butter churns.

Then they filled butter molds with the butter...

...and popped the butter out into butter dishes. These butter molds were usually round or large rectangles. So the butter dishes needed to be round.

Butter churns came in many types and sizes. Depending on how much milk you wanted to process into butter. If you had a small family, then a jar type churn is all you would need. If you had a large family, you needed a larger church. If you were making butter for sale in the local general store, you wanted an even larger churn. Here are some butter churns.


Today, making butter is simple and easy (with modern appliances). You can churn the butter from cream in a blender, food processor, or mixer.

All you need is a machine or device that will agitate the cream so that the fat globules in the cream are destabilized. This causes the fat globules to start to clump. This clumping first enables tiny air bubbles to be trapped in the cream forming a relatively stable foam that we know of as whipped cream. When the agitation continues, the fat globules begin to clump so much that the air and fluid being help in place cannot be contained any longer. The foam seizes and the fat network begins to break down into large fat clusters that we call butter. In this example, I'll use a standing mixer to produce almost a pound of butter.

Start by pouring heavy cream into the bowl of a Kitchenaid mixer, blender or a food processor. 1-2 cups heavy whipping cream for food processor or blender up to 2 quarts in Kitchenaid mixer.

Here is what I did:
4 pints (2 qts, 64 oz) of heavy whipping cream
2 (4 tsp) Tbsp salt
2 gallons ice water for washing the butter

Using Food Processor: Fit food processor with plastic blade, whisk, or normal chopping blade. Fill food processor about 1/4 - 1/2 full. Blend. The cream will go through the following stages: Sloshy, frothy, soft whipped cream, firm whipped cream, coarse whipped cream. Then, suddenly, the cream will seize, its smooth shape will collapse, and the whirring will change to sloshing. The butter is now fine grained bits of butter in buttermilk, and a few seconds later, a glob of yellowish butter will separate from milky buttermilk. Drain the buttermilk. Add 1/2 cup (100 mL) of ice-cold water, and blend further. Discard wash water and repeat until the wash water is clear. Now, work butter to remove suspended water. Either place damp butter into a cool bowl and knead with a potato masher or two forks; or put in large covered jar, and shake or tumble. Continue working, pouring out the water occasionally, until most of the water is removed. The butter is now ready. Put butter in a butter crock, ramekins, or roll in waxy freezer paper.

Using Kitchenaid Mixer: Start the mixer with the whisk attachment on low speed (to avoid splatter) and progress to medium speed as the liquid begins to thicken. At this stage, the cream drips in long thick strings.

The heavier it gets, the more you can increase your speed to avoid splatters. Just a short while longer will bring the whipped cream to what is known as soft peaks. I.e. the peaks that form will have a drooping tip.

The next stage that the cream enters happens very quickly. The cream begins to form stiff peaks. The peaks that are forms will stand up straight without drooping. Just past the stiff peaks stage is where the cream just begins to crinkle up and stick to the sides of the bowl. The color of the cream also takes on a very pale yellow color. This is when the cream is about to seize and become butter. It's a good idea to put a dish towel over your mixer (even if you use the splash guard) because it happens quickly and will begin to sling the separated butter milk.

The mixer should churn the cream into butter. This happens quickly and rapidly - the cream suddenly seizes and buttermilk floods out while pellets of yellow butter form. You'll want to slow down your mixer at this point to prevent slashing the buttermilk all over your kitchen. The amount of liquid that is expelled as the butter begins to mash together into a larger lump is considerable. At this point, it's best to remove the buttermilk (you can reserve it for use in baking recipes - use as if it was whole milk, not buttermilk because it's not real buttermilk) and keep mixing a bit longer.

The butter should be washed to remove as much of the butter milk as possible. This can be done by placing the butter in a bowl with ice cold water and kneading the butter. When the water discolors, pour it out and more cold water. Not washing the butter will result in butter that will go rancid because of the buttermilk.

At this point, the butter can be wrapped and frozen or refrigerated for storage. But why not keep working it a little? Continuing to whisk the butter at high speed will start to beat in some air making the butter a little lighter and smoother.

Additional ingredients can be added to make new kinds of butter. Salted butter can be made by whipping 1/4 teaspoon table salt to every 4 ounces (115 g) of butter. Add herbs or honey, etc.

How to freeze: Keep the butter wrapped in it’s original packaging and freeze in sealed freezer bags (air removed). You could also wrap the blocks of butter in a layer of aluminum foil instead of using bags. The extra packaging probably isn’t absolutely necessary since the original foil wrapping does a great job of protecting the butter, but I prefer the extra step just-in-case.

To thaw: Take out a block of butter the night before you need it and allow it to thaw overnight in the refrigerator rather than at room temperature. You’ll find better results this way.

How long can it be frozen for: Store it in the freezer for six to nine months, though I’ve found a few references stating freezing butter for up to a year still gives good results.

Tip: Make sure to freeze the butter as soon as possible rather than wait until it’s close to the expiration date.