Monday, October 29, 2007

Out with the New, In with the Old....

I know, I know. Sounds counter-intuitive, doesn't it? Our culture is driven by its eternal search for the newest and the best, the shiniest and the coolest. Well, here at the Nerdly Nest, we're pulling back a few decades and seeing how it works out for us.

What am I rambling about? Well, as the dust in my hair, the ripped fingernails, three splinters still jammed in my hand, and a filthy pair of jeans headed towards the wash will tell, I just spent my morning ripping up our living room carpet in the hope I can salvage the wooden floor underneath. I'm going to polish the lovely (and 90 years old) oak floor with some beeswax when we get the edging finished, and perhaps in the spring we'll sand it and seal it with polyurethane. Until then, it will be swept and kept healthy with wax... and if I have my way the rest of the house's carpets are doomed as well.

Now, why would I go ripping up carpet for an old beaten up wooden floor? Aesthetics aside, it comes down to the health of the house AND our own health. The cheap carpet the previous owners (headed for a date with a recycling firm) nailed onto the wooden floor boards is, first off, tacky as a plastic yard flamingo. Off white, crushed pile, stained and worn... it was time to go. Impossible to get really clean, daily vacuuming and spray on dirt busters did little to help. My allergies just got worse, and the Prime Geeks asthma seemed to increase the longer he stayed in the house. Our cats had placed their votes as well, showing their displeasure in truly unsocially accepted behavior. After countless attempts to get it clean (going so far as to buy a carpet steamer) I called it quits. The Prime Geek thought there might be a wooden floor under all that muck... but hadn't gotten around to actually looking. So, one evening last week I was found with a steak knife in one hand and a reckless attitude firmly installed... ripping through the carpet (in the center of the room, of course. If you are going to do a thing, do it big.) to have a little look-see for myself. Success! A pain to remove, but there IS something worthy of working on under the indoor/outdoor crap.

With a rip and a heave, and several trash bags later the carpet was off this morning. Another back breaking hour washing the floor down with Murphy's Oil soap on my hands and knees (if I'm gonna do it, I might as well do it right) and our floor is almost finished. PG will have to do some time on the edging, and I foresee the need to get working on a few rag rugs to toss around the room. Luckily I have more than a few bags of scraps to use.

Bit by bit, we'll free this lovely old home (1917) from the ghosts and specters that weigh it down. The old carpet is going, the nasty gas fake fireplace is being demoed this week and a soapstone wood burner will soon heat our home. I hope to get as many of the old features restored in our lovely lady, to bring her back to her glory from before.

But before that?

I gotta get a shower.

Maybe two. The crappy padding under the carpet was disintegrating as it was pulled and I think I breathed in more than I threw away.


Friday, October 26, 2007

Cleaning out my Closet *

Okay... part of the pantry and fridge, I'm not feeling brave enough to face the actual closets today. But, as I'm heading out of town tomorrow and will not be home until Sunday afternoon (leaving the Prime Geek to fend for himself until I return) I thought I would be a kind and caring wife and make something he can snack on until I return. He's perfectly capable of caring for himself, but there are things that need used up, and somehow men seem to lack the gene required to recognize the difference between “Needs Used” and “Able to Vote, and Looking to Expand it's Borders”. So, a rummage through the odds and ends of what we have, and a soup pan on the stove with enough to keep body and soul together until I return. As I've had a few requests for recipes from these rummages, I'll give this one a shot and see if anyone else likes my quickie potato soup.

The first item that needs used up is simple. I have two open boxes of potato flakes, and only one pouch in each. They could just be consolidated into one box... but that would still leave dinner in question. Now, food purists carrying the banner of fresh is best might be horrified to know that I keep such evil items in my cupboards. And, while we ARE trying to eat closer to the earth and eliminate many overly processed foods from our diets... potato flakes are always gonna be a cupboard staple in this house. Used to thicken stews, tossed into baked goods, and last ditch efforts to ratchet down overzealous spice endeavors, they are a great item to keep close at hand.

While I am enough of a good Irish lass to appreciate a solid spud, and I know the value of a good tater when it's baked, roasted, fried, or simmered in a stew.... instant works better in some applications. And, to be honest, there seems to have been several crappy harvests in the last few years. If my options are green and soft potatoes or a box of the instant.... I'll use the instant every time. (Hey, cheap, decent flavor, and shelf stable almost as long as plutonium... what's not to love in a pantry pal?)

Start the potatoes as the box requires (dumping in a gratuitous amount of garlic powder, black pepper, and a bit of cayenne to give it some heat.... leave it to come to a boil and rummage the fridge for the rest of the soup.

A quick shuffle through the shelves turns up an almost empty milk carton, just a few glugs left to pour into the soup... a carton of chicken stock from last nights dinner, there's almost 3 cups of that left. Odds and ends of several cheeses – a handful of mozzarella, an end of some fresh Parmesan from our trip to Amish country, a wedge of Velveeta lurking in the back in its foil wrapped shroud.

Alright. Yes. I have Velveeta in my refrigerator. Don't judge me. I can see that container of Rocky Road you're trying to hide. AND the jar of pickles that's been in yours since last November.

Yet again, no real recipe here folks. Just use mashed potatoes, instant or last night leftovers, thin it out with milk and broth (or water and veggie juice if you must) toss in whatever cheese you have and season to your families preferences. Shots of hot sauce and Worcestershire are at your discretion. If you get ambitious, try adding some cooked leftover chicken, and/or last nights cooked veggies. Its a quick and simple meal that can be reheated over and over again (just add a touch of milk or broth to thin it out each time) AND if it congeals completely by the end, pat it into thick pancakes, dredge it in a few more potato flakes and some seasoning and pan fry in a little butter.

Isn't recycling tasty?

*Great. Do you have any idea how embarrassing it is to get an Eminem song stuck your head when you're a 28 year old housewife?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Prime Geek Speaks

So this post is going to be, in the vein of Monty Python, Something Completely Different. I say that primarily as I am not the me that you have come to know and love, I am The Prime Geek. Yes, I am guest-blogging. Or, after reading this, you might say I am guess-blogging. Sometimes, it’s not far from the truth… And why, you ask, has my shadow fallen upon the pages of Naturally Nerds? Because we made a bit of a change in Casa del Geek-o, and I am primarily responsible for it. Oh, the Nerd has mentioned it, several times actually, but since I’m the one who did it, I get to tell the world. This may or may not be a one-time thing, there may be other times that I lend a literary hand. We’ll just have to see.

A few months ago, the Natural Nerd hollers out from her office “my computer sucks!” At the time, I was enthralled in an episode of Heroes, Stargate, Justice League Unlimited, or Robot Chicken or some such. I believe my exact response was along the lines of “I know” muttered under my breath as I summarily returned to the tube. Loving spouse and uber-geek that I aspire to be, even I cannot wrest The Beast into behaving, and I know this. This does not stop me from being asked to try…

“Can you fix it?” echoes invariably down the stairs.

“OK” I reply. “I’ll get the bullwhip and the stool, you find my top hat.” The wife, however, did not find as much humor in that statement as I did, it would seem.

As near as I could tell, her computer had decided that (a) playing some video files were OK. It liked doing that. Even some web-based streaming videos were good. But others, oh no, others were BAD. Very bad. They would only play with the “G” from “RGB” enabled. Everything looked like Hal Jordan’s home videos. Not good. The Beast also decided (b) that it must have had a headache, because it randomly started muting. Everything. Did I mention randomly? Seen those insipid commercials about cell phones cutting out mid-conversation? Yup. Like that.

Now, in an effort to solve (a) I reinstalled every codec I could think of. No luck. I reinstalled the video driver. No luck. Spare monitor? Yup, no luck there. I even went so far as to replace the video card. You guessed it, no luck. Frustrated, I moved on to (b), thinking I might get lucky there. Again, drivers, codecs and hardware later, I still felt no love from The Beast. As a desperate last-ditch effort to salvage what I could, I backed up all the Nerd’s music, videos, musings and any other document I could find, wiped the hard drive, and reinstalled the OS. I’m willing to bet you can all tell me what happened next; problems (a) and (b) were still present. Constantly getting problems like this at work is why I’m going bald, people. I do not need them at home.

“Hun, it’s time to get a new ‘puter.”

Now, at this point, I feel that I need to stop and explain what you’re going to read next. The Nerd can be a bit… excitable… at times. When faced with something she can’t quite grasp, or doesn’t want to grasp, her brain kicks into overdrive, the turbo spins up, and drops about thirty pounds of boost into the engine that is her brain, in an attempt to gain mental traction. Her vocal processing unit, unfortunately, only came with the standard four-speed gearbox and donut tires. What follows is my meager attempt to put into writing what I think I heard. I’m absolutely certain that I’m only about 60% complete/accurate, but here goes.

“Idon’tneedanewpooter,mypooterisabsolutelyfine,thankyouvermuch.AndmyCOMputerisfineitdoeseverythingIwantittoexceptplayingvideosfromYahoobut itdoesplayfromYouTubeanditdoesmywordprocessingfineanditdoesmyemailfineexeptforwhentheinternethangsanditplaysmymusicmostofthetimeanditputssongsonmymp3playerand…”

At this point, the little tape recorder in my head went “click” and while I am sure that she continued her computer’s capability compendium, I was unable to capture and comprehend any more. Time to switch tapes.

“You’re getting a new computer. I just got a big raise, and it’s time to put that to good use. I’m buying you a new laptop.”



“You’re getting a laptop. You’ll love it.”

“But… But…”

“You. Will. Love. It.”


While I will admit that the discussion was a wee bit more prolonged and drawn out than that, the Nerd eventually did relent to my superior Geek knowledge (BRUHAHAHA!), and let me buy her a laptop. If you’ve been reading this site, you know she grudgingly admits that she loves it. We ended up actually buying a pair of very respectable little Acer’s, with 1.8 GHz AMD Dual Core proc’s, 160 GB HDD’s, built-in WiFi and Bluetooth, and DVD/RW combo drives. Pretty nice units, actually. They came with Vista, and I put 4 GB’s of PC5300 DDR2 RAM in each. It’s the last bit that really makes them stand out. They are truly a desktop replacement. And that brings me to why this story appears on this website.

The Beast ran on a 350 watt power supply. That’s peak rating, mind you. In practice, my Kill-A-Watt tells me that it actually drew a nominal of 260 watts. This is for a piece-o-merde mid-range desktop from about seven years ago. Toss in a CRT monitor and you have another 90 to 120 watts in usage, and a peak draw of up to 400. Throw in a pair of speakers and a printer, and we have an average draw of 430 watts, give or take.

To put that in perspective, that’s more juice than our entire house’s worth of CFL light bulbs. Two or three times over.

Being a geek, I of course have a high-end gaming PC as well. This runs on a 750 watt PSU, and pulls a nominal of 420 watts. I do have a flat panel LCD, so I’m a little better off there, but again, when you toss in al the extras like speakers, printer, external hard drives, and everything else, that PC has a typical draw of almost 750 watts. We’re typical users, and have things running in the background that require time, so these computers are left on nearly 24/7.

That there’s a ton of energy, y’all. In our little slice of the world, we pay $.11/Kilowatt hour. That figures out to be in the neighborhood of $75 a month.

Enter the laptop(s). In addition to its decreased form factor, and all the added desk space that it brings, leaving aside the portability issue (which the Nerd has already touched on) these things come with a 90 watt power supply. Of which they only draw about 60 watts under normal usage. Combined, they cost us just under $5 in electricity each month. That $70 saved each month is over $800 a year. I don’t know about you financially, but that’s a mortgage payment for me right there, with a little extra for good measure.

We currently have about 45 watts of solar electricity production with about 200 Amp hours of storage. Just enough to go camping with, basically. The Nerd has already made some sqwakings about me writing up a rundown on that setup, so look for it here sometime in the future. I’m mentioning this because these laptops could be run off nothing but our own solar production. To be more comfortable, I’d want to double or quadruple our production, to get in the neighborhood of 180-200 watts, so that we could leave them on 24/7 like we do now, but that’s about $1000 in solar panels that I don’t have yet. In a year or so, when you can build solar photo-voltaic for about $1-2/watt, I will be revisiting this idea, as well as expanding on it.

And what happened to The Beast? No, it did not end up in a landfill somewhere. I reformatted it (yet again) and am using it to brush up on my Unix and OpenBSD skillz. It gets run a few hours a week, and spends the rest of its time in the corner under my desk scowling at my toes. I kick it occasionally for good measure, ya know, just to be sure.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Wonderful Problems

Yup. You read the title right. I'm stuck in the middle of a half a dozen or so quandaries, and I feel pretty lucky to have each of them. What, don't believe me? Think I'm merely attempting a Pollyanna attitude? Ahh... yea of little faith. Observe -

Mountains of fall produce sit around me in various states of preservation. Piles of apples, mounds of pumpkins, acres of food waiting to be used and put away for the needs of the winter and spring. Should I make apple cake; rich and just a touch crisp, juicy to the point of dripping? Or should pumpkin bread be first up in the oven; hearty and healthy with its load of spices and whole wheat, with just a touch of sin lurking in the middle with its white stripe of cream cheese?

Cold weather at last means REAL food for a change. No more feeling like I should use up the piles of greens which seemed to follow me home all summer in yet another endless salad. No... time at last for hearty beef stews, made all the thicker for a generous helping of Honey Brown beer poured in at a critical moment. Chilies, chowders, and casseroles now can rejoin our weekly menus. Back to REAL food... just what to prepare first?

Birthday money finally all spent... but what to work on first? Tackle the mountain of fabric it garnered? Make the flannel pj's first.... or do I want my blue cammo fleece skirt to be first cut out? Maybe I should get my new scarf finished.... the time to wrap up is coming fast. Do I make the new curtains for our bedroom? Or should I go play with the sari silk I picked up at an unbelievable steal? Silk or wool, fashion or function.... what to do, what to do.

After a month of highly unfall like weather (I'm sorry, as someone who lives firmly in the Northern Ohio Snowbelt... I should NOT be contemplating using our air conditioner in October!) the temperature finally dipped last night, along with a lovely steady rainfall and a deep rich fog. Yes, honestly, I AM happy about that. Blame a youth spent reading British authors like Sayers, Christie, and Marsh. I might have been born in the States, but my soul belongs on some fog covered heath. I love cool, crisp, foggy autumn. So... as I snuggled into my recently beflanneled bedding, I faced a serious decision. Close the window and use just the one blanket.... or leave it open and pull out the comforter.

Choices, choices, choices.

While I dither and decide, the Prime Geek has decided to try HIS hand at this blogging 'thang. So tomorrow (AND Wednesday; like myself, he has a tendency to ramble a tad....) a special treat. A change of pace from the natterings of a Natural Nerd to the gabblings of a Greening (against his will at times) Geek.

Hold on tight!

To the few that care, it's pumpkin bread, beef stew, new skirt AFTER the scarf is finished and a nice cold breeze with a heavier blanket. There. I CAN be decisive. Sometimes. I think. If I have to. Maybe.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Rub a Dub Dub

Blank stares. That is what my simple statement was met with. Unrelenting disbelief that I had strayed so far from my newly greening roots. Within moments I was pelted with reactions ranging from outright condemnation to quiet cajoling to return to my senses.

Who knew confessing to a love of hot baths would be the start of such trouble?

Yes, I'll say it again. I'm a natural nerd and you can't make me take a cold shower. Isn't gonna happen, keep walking.

I know, I know. In a day and age where monastic simplicity is the new wave of fashion (oddly being sold from magazines offering Zen in ten easy payments), admitting to a perceived luxury is taboo. How wasteful. How thoughtless. Blog after blog are joining the cold shower movement, one Canadian writer (who I admire very much) has even gone so far as to research and decide to implement a Navy-style shower. Cold water, turned off, soap up, sluice off quickly, and leave the stall. How.... clinical.

When did enjoying life become verboten? For me, a bath is far more than the act of simply getting rid of the days dirt and dust. It almost always involves a book, something to drink kept near at hand, sometimes candles.... and often a towel shoved under the door to keep desperate kitty paws and toy mice from reaching out for my attention (hey, we all have our crosses to bear!). Its my chance to relax, unwind, let my overly active brain just chill for a few minutes. Frankly, most of my best writing comes out of a hot tub (For did the Great Pratchett not explain the phrase “Eureka” is merely Klatchian for “Where's my towel?”) and a bit of a soapy soak.

Where did being environmentally conscious mean we had to embrace a medieval hermit's lifestyle? Why is pleasure in the small things in life a bad thing?

Allow me a moment to present an argument skipping the shower train and sinking back into your tub.

A five minute shower uses roughly 12-15 gallons of water. Which means... the normal shower uses about 30. Let's face it, a minute or two is poured down the drain dickering around with the temp, if you have long hair it takes at least 5 minutes just to get IT rinsed, and that's after you soap up. You could... as the Prime Geek is wont to do, suggest buddying up for potential water conservation. But, frankly... it takes twice as long, somebody gets shafted in the warm water department... and if we're all honest adults here ultimately you end up preforming certain acts that require the use of a second shower for both parties (a long spiral of cause and effect will occur if the attempt to “share” is implemented at this point. That way lays madness.... fun madness. Madness I don't mind wallowing in once in a while... but madness all the same.). Hardly a savings to be found. And you run the risk of scaring the cats. Or breaking the soap dish.

A full tub of water? To capacity the big boys will hold 40 gallons MINUS the space taken up by your average adult. So... we're back to the 20-30 gallon range here. In other words, about the same as your “saving” shower. Toss in the capacity for relaxation – mental AND physical, the only quiet moment a lot of people get to themselves, and I think it seems to be a pretty good use of 25 gallons of water (we have a shallow tub.) But wait... there's more.

Hot water? In cold weather, don't send it back down the drain right away... that's a standing humidifier (electric free.... thank you very much) just begging to be used. Hot warm water also equals hot warm air... which means you can ratchet the temperature down a few degrees when you head to the bathroom. A hot bath before bed is not only relaxing, but if done right, means you are warm and toasty as you slip into bed... which means you can spin the thermostat down again. Another savings to be had. Warm body, cool house? Means if anyone else is sharing your abode, they are going to be searching out the one warm and toasty item in the house to cuddle up to. Wow, look at that. With the simple implementation of hot bath you've - humidified your house, warmed the floor which holds the bathroom, lowered your energy costs in heating, AND caused energy sucking lights to be turned off as you head for a serious cuddle.

Sounds like a brilliant environmental plan to me.

Monday, October 15, 2007

A Little Something Different

Today on Naturally Nerds, I'm going to go in a slightly different route. Today is Blog Action Day. An attempt by those fighting the green fight to try and see how many voices can be raised in one voice towards one goal. Across the nation (and the globe, I really feel like I should be writing this with a Coke Classic in one hand and a high pitched children's chorus singing backup in the next room) thousands of blog writers are switching from usually scheduled programming to talk about the state of the environment, what you/they can do to make a difference, some protests, some quiet contemplation.

Me? As in most aspects of my life, I seem to be slightly outside of the herd on this one. But that's fine, less risk of being trampled in the crush – granted it also means I don't have the protective cover OF the herd... and I run the chance of the herd being headed my way if I make too big of a wave, but all in all, its how I prefer to stand. So, today I'm not gonna rant about the inevitable doom and gloom of the planet. Not going to rally a good chant to Momma Earth (can't stand the scent of patchouli anyway, and have never been a big fan of fringed vests), and I'm not going to scold or sermonize.

I'm going to make one small observation, and one small idea. The rest? Well, if you are reading this blog you either are here because you already think some changes need to be made - so there is no need to tell you things can look a little grim... or you're here strictly for the random (hopefully entertaining and sometimes humorous) interjections of a subculture Valkyrie who may one day be forced to post a picture of herself got up in chainmail undies to get better ratings. In which case ranting and raving will only make you roll your eyes and look for your nerdly fix elsewhere.

So here we go. Ready? My premise for fixing the world, the deficit, the political system, global policies AND the size of my rear – Moderation in all things, including moderation.

I know. Earth shattering. All the worlds ills knocked down into one fortune cookie sound bite. Nifty, huh?

Hear me out. We didn't get into our collective mess overnight. There was no shotgun blast of pollution that rang out at midnight and turned our perfect Eden into a smog filled Hades. Didn't get here all at once, not going to fix it tomorrow. Get rid of your car, become a vegan, join a monastery where you live on soy tea and mung beans and live a life of duty tending cows and abandoned pigs, wear only a paper loincloth, and refuse to take longer than a 1 minute ice shower in the creek once a week to get clean......

And we're still in trouble. For each hermit living in the woods on nuts and berries there are a thousand people just trying to make it to Friday so they head to the basketball game and grab a beer.

Running around screaming the sky is falling isn't going to work. You either overwhelm all those around you into a catatonic fit Рending in a Sex, Drugs, and Petroleum waste fueled Ragnar̦k as everyone decides to party before they burn.... or you get tuned out as a hysteric. We've seen this for years. You cannot change every person completely overnight, and frankly I don't think we should try. Every day brings us closer to new advances, new understandings. What is the cure-all today might be the cause of the disease tomorrow.

So. Moderation. Don't give up the T-bone on your birthday... but take the time to shop around and find a butcher who sells local meat, humanly raised. If reading the paper while you drink your coffee is the only way you can start your mornings... toss a box by the trash to bundle the paper afterwards (and look around for a fairly sold coffee.) Drive to work? Fine, but how about slipping on a pair of tennis shoes when you want to head out and grab your lunch instead of grabbing the keys. Better for the air, cheaper on your wallet, and hey.... that walk everyday means you don't have to always pass up that chocolate milkshake on the way back to the office! Don't beat yourself up when you forget your water bottle at home and grab a soda instead. Learn to LIKE your veggies, and maybe try your hand at a hanging basket of tomatoes on your stoop. Make the small steps, each and every day... and I think in time you will find you have done quite a bit to help us fix the planet. Every tiny adjustments makes a difference, every little step helps to reshape your world.

Learn the baby steps. Yeah, you likely won't win a Nobel Prize for slowly working moderation into your life, but you will learn how to live a little lighter on this big green planet. Moderation in all things, including moderation.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have a squash to pop in the oven for dinner and while the oven is on already I think I might just make a batch of cookies! After all, I have to try and practice what I preach.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Belated Blogging

No good excuses for falling off the green trail this week, just another birthday come and gone to lay the blame on. I have spent my week with visits from family (thanks for heading up Mom) to a wonderful few days with the hubby just horsing around. I highly recommend having your spouse take a short vacation over your birthday as it gives you a darn good reason to sleep in past noon at least once without it being a weekend! I'm not sure how I feel about being 28 yet... inside seems more or less the same as 18, but my knees HAVE noticed the passing years. But at least I can comfort myself in the knowledge that however old I become, the Prime Geek will be older.

A good birthday all in all. I'm resolutely ignoring the hovering 30 that seems to have gotten a tad closer with the passing of a year. A new laptop, credit cards completely paid off, more knitting items then I should admit to, and a "spend $200 on what you want" offer on the boards from a wonderful Geek. But presents aside, there are some larger reasons why this birthday was such a good one.

First year as a Married Nerd... and while I don't base my value on my relationship to a man, this particular relationship has given me more stability, confidence, and joy than I imagined possible. First year in my own home... no more apartments, no more wandering, no more wondering where I'll be staying in a month, a week, a day. The address may change over the years, but knowing I'll be waking up next to PG has given me a stability I never dreamed I would achieve.

Looking back over the year, I find some real changes in myself. Still frenetic (although finally trying to learn how to sit still for at least a moment once in a while) still the same scattered Magpie personality.... but a lot more confident in my choices AND in my changes. I'm not sure where this is all heading, but for a change I'm positive that no matter where this path leads, this is one gypsy lass that is going to be facing the future with a grin and a wonderful partner at her side.

And..... just IMAGINE all the trouble I can now cause with HELP!

We return to the Nerdly grind in the morning where we will attempt to discover if it really IS a savings to be had in sharing a shower..... or if a nice long bath is the more environmentally friendly (if not NEARLY as much fun) route.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Garbage Bowl Blues

As much as it pains me to admit, I am an avid Rachel Ray fan. I have my tivo set to record her daily offerings of 30-minute meals, on days when I have projects to work on that require little concentration I can be found tuning into her talk show... I even own several of her cookbooks and have been known to pick up her monthly magazine offering. Now, in my defense, the main reason I keep up with the perpetually perky Ray has less to do with her actual recipes, and far more to do with her laid back cooking style. “Once around the pan” and “just a palmful” are measurements I can get behind. Most of her meals can be guidelines, rather than precise rules. Even my beloved Alton gets too far into grams and ounces for this free-spirited cook to handle on a daily basis. Don't like coconut milk? Use evaporated. No chicken in the fridge? Go ahead and use pork. She understand that circumstances can change in an instant for the home cook, that the contents of our pantry is not always planned to the tiniest details... that in short, cook are usually just people who want to eat. Preferably something tasty and isn't going to entail two trips to the store and a sink full of dishes before all is said and done.

I also have to admire how she has managed to create her own personal empire on little more than a love of food and a determination to reach her goals. We're talking about a women who must have Martha Stewart starting to sweat a bit. Her merchandising juggernaut is fast approaching Stewart's level – running the gamut from books and pans, talkshows, cooking shows, travelogues, and spinoffs, foods and even a new word for the dictionary* - all done with a far friendly manner then Stewart's firm “Do what I say and you too can be almost as perfect as I am” demeanor. She appears to be on a one women mission to take over the world... and frankly there seems to be nothing to stop her.

All that aside though, there is one teeny tiny thing that is beginning to drive me batty. Well, other than her slightly disjointed conversational style... but that could be fixed with the simple act of someone replacing all cups of coffee past her 20th or so with decaf. I have watched her cooking shows for years and always found myself slightly gritting my teeth as she cheerily tossed everything into her handy dandy garbage bowl. While being able to corral all your scraps into once place DOES make a lot of sense, just chucking willy-nilly everything from apple cores to tin cans into one place just seems.... well, wasteful and more than a tad thoughtless. At this point Rachel has a HUGE platform, millions watch her, read her, heck... I know more than a few who try to dress like her. One small extra step and she could have all those faithful viewers being a tad more responsible in their own daily life.

I know, I know. Way to nitpick. She has a million things going on in her life... and I'm focusing such a tiny thing. But... I do have to wonder. How many extra cans would hit the recycling center each year if half of her viewers made the switch? How many acres of land would end up being renewed... if only half the viewership carried their garbage bowls out the compost pile? How many tons of trash would never make it to the landfill if just of quarter of her fans took these steps a few times a week? I think part of my problem is that is IS such a small step. She already has a garbage bowl on the shelves of Target and Wallyworld... spend the extra five cents on a plastic lid and help start a movement towards responsibility. The shear busyness of her life would be the beacon for others to follow. If she can make the switch while running her mega-business, then surely it should be easy enough for others to do the same. Its her very pervasiveness in American's lives that could make such a difference.

So. What to do? I have to admit, I'm gonna do the nerdly thing... there are several e-mails in various stages of polishing that will be sent on their way to the Rachel empire in the hopes someone hears. I don't know if it will do much, but maybe if more of us ask, she might end up seeing her way to joining the cause.

What do you say.... wanna help me tilt at windmills? If you do, there are several options available. If, like me, you still find technology a rather cold way to converse, send her a note by snail mail at :

Rachael Ray
132 E. 43rd St.
PO Box 543
New York, NY 10017

or if you are more in tune with the Prime Geek's love of all things techno her webmaster's email is

So, if you think there is a good reason to rethink the garbage bowl dump.... do me a favor and let her know.

*I don't care HOW many people voted for the dratted thing. EVOO IS NOT A WORD!

Friday, October 5, 2007

It's Official

I am nerdier than 96% of all people. Are you a nerd? Click here to find out!

Think this is why I never dated in highschool? Honestly, I took the dratted thing to prove I WASN'T as nerdy as a few other people I could name.

Crap. Think I can demand a recount? Just because I game old school D&D, own a pair of elf ears AND a chainmail bikini....

Ya know, somehow I think the above admission isn't helping my case as much as I hoped.

Oh well. At least the Prime Geek is further gone then I am.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Vista Views and Laptop Love

I honestly never thought I would have an opinion one way or the other in the controversy that seems to be raging over the new Vista system that is being implemented on new pc's covering the country. I've heard the fights from both sides... and while I didn't really care one way or the, I will confess my leanings were against the newcomer - if for no other reason then I dreaded having to relearn all my VERY basic computer skills. By sticking with Windows XP, I knew where my stuff was, how to access it, and even how to branch out a tad bit into unfamiliar waters without worrying I would cause my computer to first implode.... and then possibly melt into a puddle of steaming goo. Ever since watching Tron as a child, I've viewed most computers with a fair amount of distrust and distaste. My relationship with the Prime Geek didn't help matters any. In efforts to “improve” my computer in some esoteric manners that only he could fathom (Yes, honey, I'm sure it went faster after you rebuild the widget and formatted the whosit to bypass hyperspace.... I just never really saw much difference.) I would be rendered first computerless while he cackled and rebuilt... then the inevitable return with nothing where I remembered it being. The computer might have been better in some way... but as all I use the dread machines for is writing and surfing the web.... it all was a bit beyond me.

But then.... my computer finally died. Even the Prime Geek's mystical skill with all things sparking were of no help. Granted... to be fair, it HAD suffered through two small electrical fires, one cat peeing on the works, at least three lightening strikes, and numerous drops from varying heights over its eight year life. I fought hard for another tower based computer system. It was what I knew, and I've always secretly viewed those people who jaunt off to coffee shops to work on their great American novel as posers of a sort. Call me old fashioned, my view of the writer at work came straight out of Little Women. Give me a garret, a stack of paper, a quill pen and I can write the world. Force me to work with battery life, mocha shots, and a crowd of black turtleneck wearing semi-intelligentsia's.... and I get cranky. I like the deep strokes of good keyboard, I like my monitor to be both large AND slightly above my line of sight. I, frankly, didn't want anything to do with a laptop. The Prime Geek insisted if I was going to take the next few years and try and see if this writing thing was ever going to be more than a oddly frustrating and sadly consuming hobby I needed the mobility of a laptop.

In the end, I was beaten. Quite simply.... he bought the dratted thing and was going to be the one to maintain it, so my ability to argue was somewhat limited. Also.... if all I could come up with was a slightly whiny “But I don't know how.....” I just had to accept I was beaten and adjust to the fact I was getting a laptop and was going to have to just suck it up and learn Vista.

The laptop arrived and within an hour, it was set up in front of me and I was told to get on with it. Now, a few days later, I have come to a few conclusions.

One. Vista? Not really all that big of a deal. Now, the Prime Geek isn't one to let things stay as is... no no, the lad is always chasing after the bigger and the better. So before the laptop was even turned on, he installed the full complement of memory possible in the computer. With that installed, the huge lag time everyone seems to loathe isn't an issue. Vista takes almost of full gig of memory? Not a problem... I've got an extra three to run after that. With one move, the biggest complaint was taken care of. Any other complaints can be answered by simply restating the rather sad truth. I use this as a typewriter, a way to surf the web, a cd player, and a source for crossword puzzles and endless games of Majong. I have few other requirements or needs. Thus, no matter all the other options available, this is fine.

Two. The whole laptop thing? Better than I had dreamed possible. Yup, the simple fact of being able to switch what room I'm working in is wonderful (Happy hon?) As any writer can tell you, simply getting up and walking around can help jog things loose. The ability to get up and leave... and still be able to work is something I can get behind fully. I don't have to put off working on material because I have to head out of town for the day, no more transcribing barely legible notes scrawled on a napkin from a cafe... I can work wherever I need to. Nifty.

Lastly? Perhaps having a wireless internet connection isn't such a great idea. The ability to answer e-mail or watch YouTube where I once simply had a moment of peace and..... shall we say singular concentration might be a sign of the end of our civilization. If I put a microwave and a small fridge in there I might never have to leave the room.

One the other hand, it does free up a lot of space as I no longer have to carry three or four books into the smallest reading room* with me.

Now, I realize with this blog posting I'm veering a tad away from my nerdly roots and beginning to stray into the path of geekhood.... but let's face it. YOU try sharing a bed and a bathroom with the Prime Geek and not subconsciously absorb a few techno odds and ends! Tomorrow it's back to the Natural Nerd grind.

*As described by the Great Pratchett.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

In Praise of Child Labor – Or, Anyone got a couple of 10-year olds I can borrow?

While my family pulled up stakes often enough for my brother and I learn the importance of placing maps to the loo next to our beds – one blind stumble down a set of stairs you forgot you had is all it really takes – one thing remained constant. When the leaves began to turn, we would be found either in the garden with dad pulling up veggies, or helping mom steam up the kitchen with her canner. Either fresh from our own garden, or brought in from the local U-Pick farmstead, the kitchen would be full for weeks of food in varying stages of “puttin up”. This do it yourself approach to food completely spoiled our taste buds for the pallid and pale canned tins of fruits and veg our neighbors seemed to always be serving. It was never hard for me to understand why my classmates hated any and every green veggies their parents would try to shove down their gullets. Mushy, gray, and tasteless, the only hope was the the thick covering of either butter or cheese they spread over it. I'm sorry, but green beans should be, well... green for starters.

It was simply how the summer would end. Dad would take us (big brother and I) out to the garden patch or the local farmer's market first thing in the morning, we picked until the sun beat too hotly down onto us.... then it was into the kitchen with mom to start the long process of stringing, cutting, slicing, boiling, canning, and freezing. Vital grownup duties would be solemnly handed out, long would we argue that we didn't need the peeler, we could use the paring knife safely. How loudly the best jobs would be fought over.... a baby could wash fruit but it took a steady and “mature” hand to man the blanching process. More than a few summer nights ended with my brother and I sitting on the back porch shucking corn or snapping beans, arguing over who did the better job, who did it faster, who could get more done.

Fast forward to today. After three years of exile in a tiny kitchen with no freezer space and only a tiny apartment stove – in other words, far too underpowered for a canner – I finally have a real home. With a real kitchen. And plenty of putting up toys to play with. So, back to the joys of preserving the harvest, right?

Well, while the garden didn't work out this year (hopefully the compost will help for next) I had found a few local orchard and farmer's markets to fill my horn of plenty with. A weekend spent in Amish country with my parents, and I was two bushels of apples richer. While getting them placed into the car, I will confess to a slight hesitancy.... there did seem to be rather a lot of apples going into the car. But joy of joys! Fresh local apples, grown so locally I can practically guess the name of the picker within three tries. Apple butter, applesauce, apple bread, dried apples – a real favorite. Apple slices to freeze, apple fritters, joy of joys.... apple cake! Sure, there were a lot of them, but thats good, right? Should be a breeze, heck... I started working on apples when I was barely four, its a snap.

Three days later and I will admit the smell of apples now sickens me. Only 2/3's of the last bushel to go, and I am seriously thinking about simply... shall we say, enriching the compost pile a tad. I've peeled, I've boiled, my house resembles nothing so much as a applesauce factory... on a bad day when the cleaning crew has walked out. And still the apples come. I swear, they are following me. I even found on sitting bold as you please on the back of the toilet this morning. I think they might even be breeding. Its the only answer. There is no way I willingly and knowingly brought this many of the wretched things into my home.

In desperation, I called my mother and asked her how she coped. What secret was I forgetting that made the job go by so quickly? There had to be some vital step the years away had made me forget.

Once she stopped laughing, she told me.

“Frankly, we never would have gotten it done without the two of you kids. Your brother so anxious to prove he was a grownup, you so desperate to show you could do whatever he could do... Child labor dear. Never can without it.”

So. Anyone got a few spare ten years olds laying around? I promise to have them home in time for dinner.