Okay, So I’m a Sap

Filed under:Cool,Television — posted by Anwyn on September 30, 2007 @ 8:46 pm

It always gets me a little when pro sports guys, especially the equipment-clad NFL players, hug each other or take a minute to say something private to another guy after a game. Especially between members of opposing teams.

I guess it’s just a little heartwarming to see right up front in our culture the camaraderie teams engender for their participants. Puts me in mind of my TV Quote of the Week, from Bones. Übergeek Zack has returned from an attempt to make it in the military–he’s been shipped home from Iraq because he “failed to assimilate” and was “detrimental to a military team approach.”

Cam: You’re very good for our team approach.
Zach: The army psychiatrist told me that I should question why the Jeffersonian is the only place that I can fit in.
Cam: All due respect to the army psychiatrist, but that’s a hell of a lot more than some people get.

Ask and Ye Shall Receive

Filed under:Blogging,Food,Heh — posted by Anwyn @ 5:37 pm

1) Docweasel asked for my contact info. It’s now in a page linked off the sidebar until I can figure a better way to display it.

2) Karol asked for recipes. My “signature” dish, so called because I’ve made it enough never to screw it up and it’s a yummy, nutritious meal, is pepper steak. I’m making it tonight, in fact.

–1 lb. beef for stir-fry (if your grocery store packages this already sliced into strips, so much the better. If not, get something in a sirloin-class cut and slice it perpendicular to the grain into two-inch strips)
–two or three cloves garlic, chopped
–one white or yellow onion, chopped
–two or three bell peppers, various colors, sliced into thin strips
–two roma tomatoes, quartered
–olive oil
–salt and pepper
–soy sauce, approximately 1/4 cup
–2 tbs. cornstarch
–1/4 cup water
–rice prepared according to box directions

Start your rice simmering according to box directions.

Heat a large skillet or wok over medium high heat. Add approx. 1-2 tbs. olive oil. When oil is hot, add chopped garlic. When garlic is sizzling (if garlic begins to brown, turn the heat down!), add steak, salt and pepper to taste, and stir-fry until well browned on all sides. Remove beef and garlic and any liquid from frying to a bowl, add 1/4 cup soy sauce and set aside. Return pan to the heat and add a bit more oil, enough to stir-fry the onion and peppers until crisp-tender (they will be lightly coated with oil and take on a more intense color, but not brown or soften noticeably). Return beef to pan and add a dash more soy sauce. Soy should mix with beef broth and come to a boil. Lay quartered tomatoes on top of the mixture, cover the whole thing with either the pan lid or aluminum foil and turn heat down till the mixture is simmering enough to steam the tomatoes, about five minutes or until tomatoes look cooked. If there is not a reasonable amount of liquid in the pan, add water, soy sauce, or both and bring to a boil again. While the tomatoes steam, add 2 tbs. cornstarch to a bowl, add the 1/4 cup water, and mix well with a fork or a whisk until liquid is smooth.

When tomaoes are well steamed, add cornstarch mixture to the pan and stir. Sauce should thicken.

It’s done! It can sit on the very lowest “simmer” setting for a while without hurting it if your guests are late or you forgot to cook the rice, as I’ve done many times.

Serve over rice. Enjoy! When I make it tonight I’ll try to measure the soy sauce and update.

Update: If all goes well, 1/4 cup soy sauce is about all you’ll need, and I’ve updated the recipe accordingly. If, however, you cook the beef till the liquid boils away, you’ll need to add some water (1/8-1/4 cup) to your mixture after returning the beef to the pan, with maybe a dash more soy sauce. Mine is simmering and steaming the tomatoes right now, which means I’m live-blogging a recipe, which makes me some kind of serious fusion geek, I think.

3) nk asked for the tank/bra boobage pictures in order to judge whether it’s a traffic-stopping look or not.

Well, you don’t get everything you ask for.

Groping Towards a Right Understanding

Filed under:Language Barrier,Priorities,Wacky Oregon — posted by Anwyn @ 2:13 pm

In S. Renee Mitchell’s Oregonian column a week ago, she strongly disapproved Mayor Bloomberg’s “Opportunity NYC” program, which will pay poor adults to do things like attend parent-teacher conferences and hold down full-time jobs and poor teenagers to pass their school certification tests. The bulk of her column is overflowing with unintended irony–she sees and remarks on the incentives and motives that keep some poor people poor, sometimes for generations, and objects strongly to fostering a “gimme” mentality, but reverts right back, like a rubber band relaxing back into place, to the major bugaboos of the liberal attitude toward the poor as victims of a corrupt “education, banking and government systems that stubbornly keep people under poverty’s thumb.”

We can’t throw money at the poor here and magically expect those whose lives are the hardest to more closely resemble those whose lives are the easiest. Giving cash incentives won’t automatically end high-interest loans, reduce their vulnerability to crime, or jolt them out of the depression that often comes with living life every day on the edge.

Tell it to LBJ. If money is the difference between the poor and middle class and wealthy, then how is it that throwing money at the poor won’t change that gap? Obviously, what Ms. Mitchell comes so close to here but never quite hits on it is that it isn’t just money–it’s working for that money, understanding that nobody will give you money if you don’t work for it, and spending the money on appropriate necessities and luxuries for yourself and your family. And by her own statement, then why shouldn’t welfare systems heavily involved in “throwing money” be abolished? Ms. Mitchell speaks of her children as “not entitled to be lazy” as long as they’re under her roof. There is no more effective incentive for adult citizens not to be lazy than to have to work to eat because nobody “throws” money at them, and arguably none that will work at all if that one doesn’t.

And Ms. Mitchell clearly knows this. After describing her own childhood poverty, she states:

Eventually, my parents educated themselves out of abject poverty, but I’ll never forget the experience of never having enough. You can’t buy the kind of inner fire that stems from trying to escape a cycle of constant lack.

Incentive. And yet with her very next sentence Ms. Mitchell demolishes the idea she was so blithely tripping toward in the previous:

Productivity and self-reliance increased my self-respect. But over the years, I’ve encountered some low-income parents who share those values and some who don’t.

So now earning your own way is a value that can either be espoused or discarded. Tell me, Ms. Mitchell, what is a societal solution to the problem of those who choose to discard it?

While in Orlando, I wrote about an innovative — and expensive — Walt Disney World pilot program to get rid of all of the excuses that multigenerational welfare mothers had about why they didn’t work. Disney offered decent-paying jobs, as well as classes on budgeting, parenting and goal-setting. The participants received free rides to and from work, free child care and a chance to save for retirement.

An excellent experiment in incentivizing. Take away the excuses of those people who may not even recognize them as excuses, and see what incentive comes out ahead:

After a few weeks, I revisited one of the mothers I had interviewed for my article. She told me that she had quit her Disney job — and the opportunity to give her four children a better life — because she missed watching her afternoon soaps.

Implicit in this pathetic and disgusting story is the certainty that whatever assistance this person was receiving from sources that did not require her to work was sufficient to allow her to 1) feed herself and her children some amount of food and 2) watch television, which apparently are all she wants out of life. How can there be anything appropriate to do for that person other than to give her the incentive to work that her current source of subsistence does not? While I doubt that Mayor Bloomberg’s program will do the trick, certainly the current welfare system doesn’t either.

Poverty starved that mother of her productivity, integrity and self-respect. A hustler at heart, she wanted the most money for the least amount of effort. So, a job opportunity wasn’t appreciated in her household, where children were considered as excuses not to work.

Exactly backwards. She didn’t become a hustler because she lost her self-respect to poverty. She is a lazy sort of hustler who found out how to get something for not much and decided her self-respect and poorer lives for her children were a reasonable price to pay for the opportunity to go through life lazy and idle. Whatever sort of subsistence she’s on, and I have to assume it’s welfare, possibly supplemented by things like church food pantries and assistance programs, it’s been enough to incentivize her hustler mentality to remain on top, as well as setting a bad example for her children that one hopes they will find enough education to counteract.

Sadly, I doubt there’s any amount of money this program could afford to pay that would make people already not inclined to hold down full-time jobs do otherwise. But Ms. Mitchell’s closing comments about “the system” fall right back into the mindset that people have no choices or cannot be motivated by things that are implicitly important to them. Implicitly important to the mother in the story was her desire not to work, and whatever system she’s on is feeding it. At the worst, Mayor Bloomberg’s system will probably be indifferent in its effects, since if people are “getting by” on welfare they will not be inclined to get off their butts for a couple thousand more. At best, it might actually give some struggling families a leg up. Regardless, the contradictions inherent in Ms. Mitchell’s own mindset are the contradictions inherent in welfare systems nationwide. Returning to a right understanding about human nature and the factors that work to influence and incentivize it, rather than blaming a system that, surprisingly enough, works perfectly well for a vast majority in this country, is the only way we will stop “throwing money” and throw out the most insidiously enabling aspects of the welfare system instead.

image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace