Monday, April 30, 2007

Time Flies

Look, I know I said I like my job now and all, but can't the weekend last just a little bit longer? I like my days off, too.

It seems as though summer has decided to take up residence, quite suddenly. Last week it went from being kind of gray and chilly all day to, almost overnight, being warm enough that I don't even need a sweater when I leave for work in the morning. Come on, Nature, you've never heard of transitions?

(Oh wait...this is southern California. Heh, how silly of me. I should have remembered that seasonal transitions don't exist here.)

So yes, summer's suddenly here and the weekend's suddenly gone, and yet somehow my cold still lingers. WTF, I say.

Speaking of no transitions, we took the Sig out to the range on Friday evening, and I shot like a damn superstar (yep, I'm a big ol' piece of humble pie, I am). I wish I'd saved the targets. I didn't think they were all that much better than the last time we went shooting, but I looked back at the blogrecord of the event, and yes indeed, they were all that much better. Oh well. Maybe you can just take my word for it? The Sig and I, we're deadly. Watch out, paper, with circles on it! We're comin' for ya!

In other news, we made dinner over at Max's last night. We had artichokes, lamb, and "improvised Rice-a-Roni." It was not the best-looking meal we've ever made. Not by a long shot. Here, check it out:

The lamb looked - oh, how can I say this delicately? - more like something that should have been taking its leave than making an entrance. It tasted absolutely fantastic, mind you, but it wasn't a pretty thing. As for the homemade Rice-a-Roni (a mixture of white and brown rice, orzo and Israeli couscous, with some onions and garlic)...well, it was affectionately dubbed "rice gruel." The orzo and couscous cooked even faster than expected, and we expected some fast cooking, so by the time the rice was no longer crunchy, the pastas were a bit oversoft. Again, it was very tasty, if not exactly attractive. The artichokes were the surprise winner of the evening. They were cooked (shhh...) in ziploc bags in the microwave. Who knew that would work so very well? Not us. But it did, and how. Yay for the magic of microwaves!

Tonight we finally got around to watching The Guru. It was amusing. The protagonist comes to America from India with hopes of becoming a movie star, accidentally auditions for and is cast in an "adult film", and subsequently is catapulted to fame as "The Guru of Sex." It's a comedy - not some kind of doing-porn-and-meth-while-hooking-on-the-side-just-to-get-by Lifetime original movie. Not brilliant cinema or anything, but I enjoyed it. I'm glad we finally managed to sit down and watch it, because now Netflix can send us some more MacGyver!

And now it's time for bed. Hope the week is good to you all.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Open Letter to Rhinovirus and Pals...

Dear Sirs and Madams,

Your two-week stay in my upper respiratory tract was not pleasant for me. Truth be told, I was quite pleased when you took your leave of me. I have enjoyed the past four or five days without you. Sleeping through the night, rather than waking up coughing seventeen times...this is my preferred situation.

Now today, all day long, I have felt you scratching at the back of my throat, knocking on my forehead. I know what you're trying to do. You won't get away with it. You are not welcome here. Get out. Get the hell out. Go far, far, far away and don't come back.



Wednesday, April 25, 2007


A coworker and I were walking back to our office from the break room this afternoon. The area of the hallway right in front of the QC labs smelled quite vinegar-y. The following exchange ensued.

Me: Somebody must've spilled some acetic acid in the lab.
Coworker: Yeah. Either that.....or somebody ate a salad.


Well, the underwater stuff didn't turn out at all, which isn't a huge surprise but is still a pity. I put the stuff from my digital camera up on Flickr for now, so cruise on over there and take a look if you'd like.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Sunday Divezors

I had trouble getting out of bed this morning, even though I'd slept for a perfectly reasonable nine hours. My shoulders and legs are sore, as is the spot on my forehead right between my eyebrows. My fingertips are still sensitive after being pruney for about seven hours straight. Which can only mean one thing - yep, Tom & I went diving yesterday.

The Peace headed out to Anacapa bright and early yesterday morning, with us aboard. I was battling a mild sinus infection, but it wasn't bad enough to keep me out of the water. The conditions were pretty good for the most part; it was chilly out but not unbearably so, and there wasn't much in the way of chop or surge. The boat got pitched around a little bit when we passed over the wake wave left by a giant oceanliner, but it was otherwise generally smooth sailing. Boating. Whatever.

We got to our first dive site and plopped into the cold water. The visibility was less than ideal - ten, maybe fifteen feet at best - due to the great bounty of plankton the reef had been generous enough to bestow upon us. Seriously, it was like swimming through giant clouds of algae. Anyway, the site was called Landings Cove, so-named because it is the place where ferry and supply boats land to drop off hikers, campers and, well, supplies. The site should have been called Sea Cucumber Cove, however, given the fact that it was infested with the things. I have never seen so many sea cucumbers in one place before. There were also the usual array of starfish, sea urchins, striped bass and garibaldi, and we saw quite a few lobsters as well, a couple of which were pretty enormous.

After a long-ish dive (I think we were under for about 45 min), we were trying to make our way back to the boat but couldn't seem to find the anchor line. This isn't a huge surprise, what with the excessive murkiness and all, so we decided to ascend where we were and do a surface swim to the boat. During our 3-minute safety stop, Tom got my attention and pointed upward. I looked see the silhouette of the boat directly above us. Not so lost as we had believed! It was hard to tell the bow from the stern by sight alone, so I took a look at my compass and headed in what I thought was the right direction. I was wrong, though, and we had to do a little surface swim after all, from the front of the boat to the back. Oh well. ;)

There was a steaming pot of clam chowder waiting for us in the galley. I'm usually not a fan of the stuff, but it was goooooooood. Bellies freshly warmed, we got ready for dive two.

The second dive was at a site called Fish Bowl. A fellow Haven's Reef diver, J, went with us, which made me a little nervous because I have a hard enough time keeping track of Tom sometimes, let alone a third person, and in crappy viz no less. If we hadn't all had our flashlights, it would have been damn near impossible to stay together the whole time. See, you can't swim too close to other people, especially if there's a little bit of current or surge, because you end up bumping into each other or knocking into the reef/rocks/what have you. But you can't get too far apart if the visibility's bad, or you'll have a hard time finding each other again. Anyway, it all worked out okay. We swam away from the anchor line on our way down without following it all the way to the end, so we ended up swimming over sand for about the first half of the dive. We eventually found the reef though and followed it on our way back, checking out all the creatures and such along the way. J said he saw an octopus under one of the rocks, but I missed it. Again, at the end of the dive, we were getting ready to make a free ascent, not quite sure where the boat was, but then Tom spotted the anchor line a short distance away, so we followed that up instead. Two for two with good luck on the day. Yay!

Lunch followed the second dive: green salad, pasta salad, chicken, corn, baked beans, and a remarkable layered pasta dish with spinach, tomatillos and lots of cheese. Hell yeah! While we stood on the deck with our lunches, the sun ducked behind some clouds, and it started drizzling a little as the boat rumbled off in search of another dive site.

There were a total of four dives scheduled, but Tom and I knew before we even got in the water again that dive number three would be our last for the day. There comes a point where you just can't get warm enough between dives to be anything approaching comfortable underwater, and we have thus far tended to hit that point after three dives. That'll probably change in the summertime, when it's not quite so chilly both underwater and above, but for now, we're pretty happy just doing three and calling it a day. Plus, you get extra time to pack up your gear - and get in the hot tub! - while the boat's anchored and people are on the last dive of the day.

Our final dive, then, was at Portuguese Rock. I will pull photos off my digital camera within the next couple of days to show you how beautiful this site was above water. Also, this was the only dive on which I took the underwater camera (figured I'd at least try to get a few pictures, even if they didn't come out well because of all the plankton), so if I get anything good from that roll of film, I'll post that in a few days as well. Anyway, this was actually the clearest and calmest water of the day. I saw a fairly good-sized spider crab, whom I freaked out a little bit when I pointed my light at him. He started snapping his claws and jumped off his rock to swim backwards, away from me. I felt bad about chasing him off, but it was actually pretty funny to watch. We saw some absolutely gigantic starfish, and like the sea cucumbers of the first dive, they were all over the place. There were also some really neat rock formations in the reef, with lots of nooks and crannies for critters to hide in. We got cold pretty quickly, but it was a great end-of-the-day dive. Par for the course, we located the anchor line midway through our ascent and never once had to make some kind of surface swimming trek back to the boat. I now fully expect our next trip to be chock full of such things, to counterbalance our fabulous luck this time. ;)

Back on board, we packed up quickly and made a bee-line for the hot tub. It took a little while, but our frozen extremeties did thaw eventually. All that was left to do was to get dried off and into warm clothes, to fill our bellies with brownie sundaes, and to settle in for the long trip back to harbor. Another day's diving adventures were complete.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Butternut Squash Risotto

It's been a while since I did any foodblogging, so I figured I'd write about the tasty risotto I made for dinner Wednesday night. I decided to try something a little creative, and it seems to have worked out nicely.

I started out by dicing about half an onion and sauteeing it in olive oil. Once it started to get soft, I added some butter (couple of tablespoons, maybe? I didn't measure) and a little more than a cup of Arborio rice (the last of what we had on hand) to the pan. I stirred the rice around for a few minutes, until it started getting just a bit toasted. Now, normally at this point, I would deglaze the pan with some white wine or beer, but as we had neither, I used some lemon juice instead. I've been known to kind of get a little overzealous with lemon juice in the past (we had some very lemon-y chicken breasts a while back), so I tried to be conservative. I didn't use more than about 1/4 cup, but again, I didn't measure. That cooked off quickly, and it was time to start the liquid additions.

I believe tradition dictates that risotto be made in broth or stock of some sort. However, there was a box of butternut squash soup in our cupboard that was just begging to be used in some way other than being put in a bowl all by its lonesome and consumed. There was also a bag of frozen butternut squash cubes in our freezer, and a risotto made with the soup, containing chunks of squash, seemed almost inevitable. It would have been a crime for me not to have tried it. So I did.

Since the butternut squash soup was a little on the thick side, I also used about a cup of chicken broth to get the risotto started, spread out its little rice pores or whatever, so it could soak up the soup. (Actually, we didn't have just broth, so I strained a can of chicken noodle soup and used the liquid from that. Improvisation, my friends!) In hindsight though, I don't think it was really necessary. The soup on its own probably would have been fine, but whatever. No harm, no foul. In went the broth, and once that cooked down a bit, in went the soup. I kept stirring, cooking down the liquid, texture-checking, adding more soup, stirring, etc. for about 15 minutes and then tossed about two handfuls of frozen green beans into the pan. At that time I also put about a cup of squash cubes in the microwave to thaw, and then added them to the pan. A few pinches of kosher salt went in last, and that was that. Dinner was served, and it was delicious.

I know I'm not a culinary genius or anything, but I was such a kitchen idiot in my youth that I get a kick out of making stuff up as I go along and having it turn out all right. This was one of those meals that just worked out, so it made me happy. :)

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Getting there

I've had this cold for a week now, and I'm finally starting to sort of feel somewhat better. It was pretty rough there for a few days.

I want to go to the doctor. They can't do anything for you; it's just a cold. But I feel really bad. Sucks to be you. You're mean. Oh, go back to sleep. You're hearing voices again. Okay...

Work's still going well, even if I have been the most unpleasant cubicle-neighbor ever this week. Alternately hacking like an old man and then squeaking like a pubescent boy and then depositing a bucket of snot into my Kleenex (TM)...jealous yet? Yeah, you know you want to sit next to me. Anyway, yeah, the job's good. I got to go tour the packaging facility (located twenty or so miles away from the building in which I work) this week, and I have come to the conclusion that automation is magical and incredibly cool. I felt like I was walking through one of those Food Network shows about how popsicles are made or something like that. Only instead of vats of fruit juice we were starting out with giant bags of vitamins, and at the end we got nicely shrinkwrapped sets of 3 vitamin-filled bottles instead of delicious frozen treats. But the same principle applies - products can go from raw goods to neatly packaged consumables with minimal human intervention. It might have been the DayQuil talking, but I found it all quite fascinating.

My office mates play a little game they call Paycheck Poker, where they take the last 5 digits of the check number and treat it as though it were a hand of cards. Example: Check number 2009870968833 yields you two pairs (-68833 = pair of 8s, pair of 3s). Everybody puts in fifty cents, high hand wins the pot. Simple, clever, amusing, yippy-skippy.

Except when we got our checks today, I had no idea what they were going on about. Everybody started excitedly ripping their checks open and chattering back and forth.

OfficeMate1: What did you get, [OfficeMate2]?!
Me: (thinking) Geez. That's kind of rude, isn't it?
OM2: Aw, I didn't get anything.
Me: Well now that seems unlikely.
OM3: I got two 7s.
OM4: I got two 3s and two 2s.
OM1: Ha! I win! I got three 8s!
OM2: Dang. I would have had four of a kind, but they're zeros so they don't count.
Me: Buh? (opening my check and looking for a little additional game card or something...finding none) Huh. Maybe I didn't get one because I'm new.

Eventually, of course, I came to understand what they were all going on about. But I'd never heard of such a thing before. Does anyone else play this game on payday?

The thing that continually impresses me about this new job is how civilized everyone is. This afternoon we had our first biweekly department meeting since I've been working there. A meeting agenda was sent out a day in advance, specifying how many minutes (maximum) will be spent on each topic. Four "meeting roles" were designated - Leader, Facilitator, Timekeeper and Notetaker. Item number two on the agenda was "Recognition of Team Members," where people say nice things about the work their coworkers have done in the past two weeks. Everyone was pleasant and encouraging and stuck to the topics on the agenda, and while I know that sounds almost creepy in a Stepford wives kind of way, it was actually very refreshing. Plus, the meeting was over twenty minutes early. What a welcome change from the place I came from, where meetings would run over by forty minutes because people were too busy arguing about stuff that was completely unrelated to the main focus of meeting. If we had "meeting roles" at that place, they would have been Accuser, Exaggerator/Ass-kisser, Side-conversation Leader and Scapegoat. I like my new job.

This weekend, I have lots of thesis writing to do. It'll require me to stay inside and relatively immobile, which will hopefully help me make my way toward nonsickliness, so that's good. And it will mean that my thesis will be that much closer to done - also good. Hope the weekend will be similarly good to you folks. Enjoy it. :)

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Beware of the blob

I am a giant bolus of snot wrapped in a human-shaped shell. I am thoroughly disgusting.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

So this is what it's like (part two)

Gone are the days of waking in the dark after a scant six hours of sleep, only to drag myself off to a job I despise. This hasn't exactly been a controlled experiment, so I can't say for sure whether the dramatic improvement on my mood these past two or three weeks has been due to having a job I actually like or to getting a full 8 hours of rack time each night. (I suspect it's a combination of both.)

I now work in an office - one that's not made of cinder blocks and used for storing hazardous solvents - with what so far seem to be perfectly civilized individuals. I've spent these first two weeks acquainting myself with a whole variety of new processes and software programs, as well as developing a new and expanded vocabulary (different industry, different buzzwords!), and it seems that my long term duties at this place will be both challenging and interesting. This is a welcome change from mind-numbing drudgery in a toxic environment, surrounded by savages and lecherous creeps.

So yeah, aside from the sad news last week, life's been pretty grand. I've continued to be good about hitting the gym four or five times a week (which, come to think of it, probably also has contributed to my good mood of late), for more than a month now. While I still don't much care for running, I can maintain a 6 mph pace on the treadmill for about half an hour, which I have to admit makes me kind of proud. I'm also very much enjoying the aerobics classes I take during the week, especially cardio-kickboxing. It's not quite as satisfying as actually hitting and kicking things, but it's a close second. Also, I've been playing Morrowind on the Xbox off and on, which can be a pretty fun game. My character is an Argonian (giant lizard race) who can perform magic. Not something you see every day.

Oh yeah, and these two videos have been amusing me greatly.

Tomorrow we're off to the great green north for the weekend. I wish it were under happier circumstances, but it will still be nice to visit with people we haven't seen since the wedding, and some since even longer ago. Silver lining, or something. Anyway, that's all I've got. Have a lovely weekend, all, and if you're doing the Easter thing, may your hearts be merry and your tables full of delicious foods.