Friday, February 06, 2009

RQ Cooks- Hot Gazpacho

We don't actually know what to call this soup. I made it cause we had a bunch of avocados that needed to be used and we were tired of tacos. Hot gazpacho was the best we could think of. But it's really good and not at all ketchupy like a lot of tomato soups.

You need:
One large can of whole tomatoes
4 cups of chicken stock (we've been using Better Than Bullion no Chicken stock- this is the AWESOMEST stuff ever)
1 large onion - roughly chopped
2or 3 carrots- diced (you will be blending the soup so you don't have to be perfect with the onion, carrot and garlic when chopping)
3 or 4 large garlic cloves diced
veggie oil
red pepper flakes
salt (use sparingly if you use salty stock)
pepper (I used lemon pepper)
bag of frozen corn
4 avocados (cubes)
cilantro, scallion, tortilla chips, cheese and/ or sour cream for garnish

Heat oil in a large stock pot. Throw in carrots, onions, garlic and sweat for about 10 minutes. Then throw in toms (plus can juice), stock and spices. Bring to boil, then simmer for 15 minutes. Blend everything in a food processor of blender till smooth and return to pot.

Add corn and cook for a few minutes till corn is cooked. Add avocados. Serve and garnish.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

They don't pay me enough

Every year there is a new student who drives me bat shit crazy. And after 5 years, the students have been, without exception, dudes.

I have had a student who would come in, have me explain the same things to him over and over and over again until I sat down and basically did the work for him. This is the only student I have ever yelled at, because it was painfully obvious he was trying to get me to do his homework for him.

This quarter my "problem student" is just sooooo obtuse I feel a bit like slicing my wrists every time he comes in the lab. Last week I had to explain to him that objects on the screen are not life size, just like on TV. Today it was 20 minutes explaining to him that he can't get rid of a blank document because there is nothing to get rid off. He just kept staring at the screen saying "but I don't want it" and trying to select the page to delete it. He wasn't trying to exit the program. He still wanted to use it, he just didn't want there to be a page there. (The program is a CAD program, but imagine someone who wants to type up a document in word and then gets pissy because he has to open a new document to do it).

That is all. I am now off to find any reasonably sharp implement with which to gouge my eyes and eardrums out.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

In which I break out of my normal behavior patterns

I am not the type of person who asks for advice. I will vent or rage or gossip, but I rarely ask for other people's opinions on what I should do. Instead, I mull things over, I research and I generally only talk about things once I've already made up my mind to do it. I do, however, ask for help once I know what kind of help I need.

But this time I am going to ask for advice and suggestions.

I need a new career. I need some kind of career path that will make us middle class with minimal investment in education/ training as far as time and money go. There is a strong possibility that my current job will end in the near future and even if it doesn't I need a living wage and benefits (which I don't get here).

I thought about nursing (cause after the Kid goes to college I could take a nursing degree anywhere in the world) but the older I get the more squeamish I get. I've been known to hide my eyes during the gross parts of House.

Skills- well I've got 15 plus years of office admin experience. But I have maxed out my potential as admin extraordinaire and am tired of the pink collar ghetto. I also have experience in health and welfare benefits management (which I quite liked because of the technical knowledge required regarding health care law). I am good with technology but not an uber geek. I am more of a fast learning end user and pretty good at teaching it (see last 5 years of employment as lab rat). I've also done a good bit of writing/editing/proofreading on the side. I like proofreading legal briefs quite a bit, despite the fact that I never edit blog posts. (Plus I need a good grammar book, I can never remember when you use colons vs. semi-colons)

Have almost got my AA (one quarter to go and no financial aid money left- fuckles).

I have near super power levels of deciphering bureaucracy speak, legal rules and regulations, etc. I once nailed a bank manager for not following federal banking rules for making deposits available. He said it was the first time in 12 years that he'd been wrong about it.

So peeps- what do you think I should be when I grow up?

(ETA: During the writing of this post Ruth and I have been emailing back and forth about my not finishing my degree in poly sci for the same reasons mentioned here. Even just getting an under grad degree in poly sci ONLY qualifies me to be a cab driver. Ruth thinks I'd do well in economics (I am geeky enough about it) but it might be a bit like going to law school- too many douchebags to make it tolerable).

Structuralists make a comeback

And damn it's about time.

I was reading this piece by Robert Reich in Salon and let me just say that reading lines like "But structuralists like myself don't believe that the economy can fully recover unless these underlying problems are addressed." makes me giddy. Hang on with me peeps. It's time for another round of Red Queen gets all deep and philosophical on ya.

I am a structuralist. Structuralism is a not currently popular philosophy that posits that everything has a structure including human relationships, language, politics, etc. and that by changing the basic structure, you change society. It's pretty basic really. Politically it went out of favor with the rise of the neocons and the neolibs (though that fact that those two belief systems exist is proof that we need changes to the structure now just as much as we needed them during the 60s and 70s). We don't get to be the post modern society (post racist, post feminist) until we deal with the fundamental flaws of how we distribute power and resources. And that means changing the structure. (Dear favorite anthropology proff who looked at me in horror when I told you I was a structuralist- I"m STILL RIGHT!)

In the early 70s, with the Cold War raging and two super powers holding proxy wars on nearly every continent, Immanuel Wallerstein developed World Systems Theory as a way of explaining power and dominance on a global scale. It was a way to explain and prove the flawed structure we use for distributing power (political) and resources (economics). But Wallerstein's theory of core, periphery and semi-periphery actors doesn't just apply to nations on a world stage. It also applies to domestic systems. Look at domestic economics and you have the core (the rich) the periphery (the poor) and the semi-periphery (the middle class). Look at the nuclear family structure and you have the core (the father) the periphery (the children) and the semi-periphery (the mother). Same thing is true of corporate structures, you have the core (the board, the CEO, etc) the periphery (average workers) and the semi-periphery (management). What this kind of system does is insulates the core by making the semi-periphery responsible for keeping the periphery in line. The semi-periphery does so in the hopes of one day making it to the core (see Gramsci's theory of cultural hegemony which explains that people do things in the best interest of the power class because they believe it is "common sense". This explains all the blue collar workers who vote Republican because they think taxes are a bad thing, when higher taxes will give them greater benefits).

But back to Robert Reich and the structure that is our current economic system.

As late as 1976, the richest 1 percent of the country took home about 9 percent of the total national income. By 2006, they were pocketing more than 20 percent. But the rich don't spend as much of their income as the middle class and the poor do -- after all, being rich means that you already have most of what you need. (Emphasis mine)

I call this the gallon of milk theory. Say you 10 families with $10 in their budget for milk and one family with $100 in their budget for milk and everybody buys exactly as much milk as they are going to need. The family with $100 to spend is still only going to spend $10 on milk, otherwise they'd have a fridge full of yogurt in no time flat. The middle class and the poor spend more money on more goods than the rich ever can or will. So making sure that the middle class and the poor have enough money to spend on those things is better for the economy overall and in the end better for the wealthy too, as they make more money off more sales and are less likely to have their heads chopped off in French Revolution style uprising.

But that is not how we've been running the economy for the last 35ish years. We've been running on the trickle down theory, that if you give to the rich it will eventually trickle down to the poor. But a better structure would be to give to the poor and middle class, through higher wages and universal benefits for healthcare and education so that money can bubble up to the rich. The more people that can afford a safe and comfortable life, the more stable our entire economic system is and the less cyclical it becomes (that's also basic Keyenesian economics- the it's government's job to temper economic cycles by taxing during booms and spending during busts).

So how's Obama doing on changing the structure? So far, I am not impressed. The bank bailout was money to the rich without a single dime going to help homeowners facing foreclosure. Healthcare has been backburnered (and was never really health care but a more convoluted version of the private system we have now), and half the workforce was basically overlooked in the stimulus bill. For every 10 to 20 construction jobs created there may be one or two new secretarial positions.

The structure is broken. We will never recover economically if we don't attend to that first. It is the individual American workers and families who must come first, not business or banks. When American families can afford both cereal and milk for their kids, and don't have to worry about an emergency room visit being cause for bankruptcy, then things will be on their way to improving. But anything that doesn't take care of people first will do no more good than the Bush tax rebate checks did.

The new structure must be built on people first, business second.