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about HAL...

Wednesday, August 27, 2014
..the name of the computer that ran the operations of the space ship in the movie "2001: A Space Odessy". I have been thinking of Hal a lot recently, since a computer has begun to generate the schedules of all the associates at my work place. The actual designation for the system is Oasis. I am sure it is an acronym, but don't know what it really represents. I've decided to call it Hal, but have to explain the backstory to everyone who gives me a strange look.

I honestly don't recall much about the movie. I thought it was about twenty years old, but when I went to - you guessed it: google! - I found that it came out in 1968. Meaning I have apparently misplaced about twenty years... 

It was a big deal when it was first released and has been on late night TV over time. The thing I remembered best (and might possibly not be all that accurate in my remembering) was that at the end of the movie, the last thing you saw was the great void of space, tiny pinpricks of distant suns glowing in the screen. And  the astronauts drifting off into oblivion as a result of Hal taking over the mother ship and deciding that humans were no longer essential.

Does that give you an idea of what I am thinking about the Oasis scheduling system we are being shoe-horned into? Not only does it determine who works when, it tells you what time you are scheduled for taking a lunch break. From what I understand the computer has a wealth of information to base the needs on. Including years of sales records, weather records, customer count, day of the week, items in weekly ad., a mountain of trivia all compiled to determine how many cashiers are needed at any given time. How many baggers and stock-guys are needed and the hours they will be expected to be in greatest demand.

I am trying very hard to reserve judgment, but I will am currently leaning towards the possibility of  not being a happy camper. Which does not sit well at all with our corporate philosophy, so I will put on my game face and go ahead and cowboy up.

you have already heard....

of completely unlikely things you should be thankful for. Some of which are so taken for granted in our country, we do not even stop to consider what our lives would be like otherwise. What daily activities would be if we did not have all the promises found in the US Constitution.

There are people in the world who cannot get in the car (they don't have a car, to begin with), and travel at their convenience. They can't go places that involve crossing over state lines: the passage would be denied, or they would be suspect, have to explain to the authorities their reasons for travel, and have paperwork to prove their plans. Without the documentation (and often even if they do have the necessary stamps of approval), they could be detained, locked up or disappeared.

I know there are heartbreaking, horror stories of bad things happening to people who do not deserve misfortune, living here in America, daily.  And people who live here, in the US who are struggling with unemployment, housing problems, medical issues. But we do have a whole lotta things to be thankful for.

I just put a load of dirty clothes in the washer, added some detergent and turned it on. Can people in third world countries do that? How far to walk just to get potable water to prepare a meal or provide a drink for a thirsty child? How many of them have clothing to spare, that they can let it pile up and sit around in a basket for several days? How many of them have to walk great distances to get to the water source they use for cleaning garments and the same water for bathing, as well as food preparation? Every time you turn the handle at the sink or shower, or flush: wow! potable water comes out, and goes down the drain - what a blessing. As well as a monumental waste when you think of how desperately other people are in need.

End of Sermon.

the chemical composition...

of dust bunnies, when googled, was disappointing. I was serious, and the answer was not. It seems they are a product of static electricity and felting.  I was surprised the info., when googled, was not more scientific sounding, with lots of chemical symbols scattered about.  With various symbols from the atomic chart inserted here and there, to look very informative and obscure.

I know there are human skin cells involved, as that is what I sweep up in the bathroom, especially in cold weather when skin is dry and sheds due to friction.  And a lot of pet hair and dander if one should deliberately have small canines/felines in residence. I have not had or wanted animals in the house, but since January, and the cat moving inside, I seem to clean the floor much more often. It's a wonder she is not completely bald, as much black fur as I continually pick up, sweep, and vacuum. 

I woke up this morning about 5:30, probably as a result of having gone to bed too early. But I read quite a bit, before finally being able to get my eyes to stay shut. Then when I awoke, I decided to be productive. So got up and swept: kitchen, hallway, bathroom, living-dining area, laundry room. Then I decided while it was trash, cat hair, dust bunny free, I might as well mop."'Yes, the floor is clean enough to eat off of."

And while I was on a roll, swept off the screened in porch. That only gets partially swept when the lint from the dryer gets embarrassingly piled up. Actually moving furniture to sweep all the stuff that has not be moved, cleaned around in a couple of years. Did I say 'I hate cleaning'? That's probably all I will get done for several months. Oh... and I cleaned bathrooms before I dashed off to work Tues morning.

what's cookin'?

Friday, August 22, 2014
... a recipe from south Georgia. I know the origin, because the 'title' on the card I found in my file is for 'Ocean Pond Tomato Casserole'. Ocean Pond, a well known fishing and eating spot in the far reaches of Lowndes County, is located just about as far south as you can go without being in FL. Plus it's in my mom's handwriting. So we can assume it was printed in the local newspaper, and such a well known, well loved, tasty dish, it was in great demand all over south GA.

I need something to take to a monthly pot-luck supper. In perusing recipes, looking for something tasty and relatively easy (perhaps I have those two adjectives in reverse order?), I thought this would be good for a make and take. Just a few ingredients, and for the person who rarely eats animals, a good filling all-vegetable dish that might provide leftovers for another meal or two.

Now that the decision for what to prepare has been reached, I think I might go ahead and make double. To leave one at home for the guy who won't be going to pot-luck, but likes to eat on a regular basis.  Along with a little ham steak and a couple of biscuits: there's a meal!

Ocean Pond Tomato Casserole

1 can Hunt's special tomato bits and pieces,  un-drained
1 can (1 lb.) diced tomato, including liquid in can
1/3 cup diced bell pepper
1/2 cup diced onion
1 cup diced celery
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp. sugar (I used splenda instead)
3 slices bread, crumbed

Mix all ingredients, saving a bit of bread crumbs for topping. Cook for 30 min. in 350 oven, uncovered. Sprinkle with reserved bread crumbs, and cheese, if desired. Bake 20 min. more.

Confessions: I did not measure, but diced up a large bell pepper, two onions, two stalks of celery, to make two separate casseroles. Put two cans of diced tomato (whatever spices/flavorings strike your fancy/tastebuds) in the dish, add the diced veg. plus crumbs, etc. All kinds of yummy things come in the can with diced tomatoes anymore: garlic, rosemary, basil: your choice for deliciousness.

another majik mox...(on the way, with recipe)

Though I have found it to be quite amusing, I have not been consistent with sending surprise packages to TN. Not dutifully looking for interesting recipes, or doing the shopping, to say nothing of paying the postage to ship boxes with canned good. Foolish to pay ten bucks to ship five dollars worth of food? Well, yes. But amusing,  none the less.

I have just let it get lost in the shuffle lately. Though I know the recipient is a busy person, who often works long hours, and often not planning ahead for an evening meal. I have a Southern Living book, borrowed from a friend, that has lots of easy recipes for hurried/harried cooks to slap a meal together based on what's in the cupboards.  And always on the look out when I sit in waiting rooms, reading old magazines for a casserole, or one pot dinners that sound tasty and simple, with relatively few ingredients.

The man at the postoffice took the box on Monday, and assured me it would be it delivered to Chattanooga by Thursday. So I 'll write about it, and wait to publish until after it arrives, so it will be fun to peek in the mailbox to see what's there. Same sort of thing that continues to motivate me to do all that corresponding, because I know what a happy little surprise it is to open the mail box and find a card or letter, whether the news enclosed is trivial or not.

When I put stuff together in the box (including a $10 BI-LO gift card to purchase the fresh produce I could not ship), I decided to add a little can of ham, for the guy who would likely not think too highly of a meatless meal. At my house, I would probably add some hamburger or browned sausage crumbles to the pan, after I had dipped out enough to make a meal for myself.

Mediterranean Pasta with Zucchini
(prep. time 13 min.)

8 oz. penne or ziti pasta, uncooked
1 - 14 oz. can diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, oregano
1 - 15 oz. can chickpeas, drained
1 medium zucchini
2 Tbs. sliced ripe olives

Cook pasta according to directions, omitting salt and fat.
While pasta cooks, combine tomatoes and remaining three ingredients in a large skillet; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer, uncovered for five minutes. Spoon mixture over tender, drained pasta. Makes 4 (two cup) servings. The additional info. printed on that same page in the cookbook, designed to make this a complete meal, suggests serving with pita bread and fresh pears.

I have not actually made it, but thinking I will do it for supper tonight, and add a bit of meat to his part. I usually have some cooked hamburger in the freezer, but noticed 'veggie crumbles' in frozen section at the grocery yesterday, so might try to slip some of that in instead of animal.

PS: the box arrived in TN on Thursday, so I knew it was time to post the blog to share and not reveal a surprise. She said they might have it for dinner.

that's the way...

...the world is going, whether we like it or not. The thing no one seems to consider is what will happen when the system is disrupted beyond recovery. How all that stored information will be accessed when the grid is no longer functioning. How frighteningly dependent we are as individuals, and as a society on electricity. How calmly we continue to assume those wires and cords will continue to supply the juice to run all our appliances and devices.

For whatever reason, be it natural events (some of which we have brought on ourselves through lack of concern and respect for our natural resources) or deliberately sabotaging the environment, there will come a time when we will see undesired effects. Honestly, I am Not a doomsayer, but convinced that we have become far too dependent on technology. Plus convinced we all make so poorly considered assumptions of an unending supply of electricity to power all our gadgets. (That being 'said' as I sit here, after dark, with the lights on, in a cool comfortable house, typing on a computer!)

We seem to be storing a tremendous amount of valuable, irreplaceable information/knowledge in ways that it could easily disappear. When the time comes that we don't have the electricity to run the devices to retrieve it. What to do? What to do? Is this why I continue to be a faithful library patron, with an affinity for the printed word, ink on paper?


at loose ends for a couple of days. Deliberately not planning anything, due to the expectation that I would be going out of town. That did not come to fruition, so I will have to devise plans for my own entertainment. Which is usually not difficult. I could spend the day in the house cleaning and not get it all done. I could spend the day in the yard, picking up trash and planting things and not get it all done. Or I could just fritter the time away, and get nothing done. Which sounds like a much better plan than the others! So much for productivity...

I was lying in bed last night thinking about some things that need planting, and decided that is what I  will do. Plus we've had several thunderstorms with lots of wind that have caused limbs to fall.  I could easily spend all day with my wheelbarrow getting stuff picked up, to roll tree trash up the driveway and dump near the street for city pick up.

Some of those unlikely asparagus starts I planted a few weeks ago are at least three feet tall: a complete surprise. I did not expect anything to happen there, much less such remarkable results, amazing growth.  Followed the planting instructions, digging a trench and putting in good rich dirt to replace the red clay, and have kept them watered. But the idea of putting them out at such a completely wrong season caused me to have no expectations whatsoever. I know they take a couple of years to mature, but I am amazed that they even came up out of the ground.

If I'd had any idea of such amazing growth, I'm sure I would have put far more effort into their environment! I did get that zero-fertility red clay out, and put good dirt in. But I thought there were only three 'starts' in the pack. And there were eight. Apparently several of those did not come up, but still, they should be spaced out better. Expecting only three, I did not have enough space prepared for so  many, so they got kinda' stacked up, forced to accept less than ideal growing conditions. A classic example of what my mom would call: "20/20 hindsight." The crystal clear vision we tend to exhibit when the situation that needed better judgment is long past. 

I don't recall specifics, but I am sure the day they got planted was hot, buggy, muggy and by the time I did that hard clay digging, and was ready to plant, I was tired and desperate to get back in the house away from ravenous mosquitos and heat. So they did not get that 'perfect situation' I now wish I had devoted my time to creating: bigger, deeper, longer trench with lots of good dirt - but honestly - my expectations were so low, I was amazed anything at all came up.

Four of the five tomatoes I planted at the same time are still alive, to create great optimism about the likelihood of a fall crop. Hopefully they will start producing before the first serious cold/freeze. I think they are all Big Boy and Better Boy, so we will see what happens there...

I have some daisies in pots that need planting. And will put out behind the house where some holly ferns grow. The ferns are in a very shady area, but I think with some decent dirt and a bit of attention, the daisies planted along the edge, in the sun, will like being there and hopefully thrive. Several rescue mini-roses, that need to go in the ground, while it is wet enough to dig. I put some out early summer, that have done remarkably well: a testament to that good homemade soil combo. I create, mixing things together in the wheelbarrow and storing in five-gallon buckets. (The secret ingredient is probably Osmocote, time release fertilizer, in little pellets that dissolve when they come in contact with water.)