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random musings of a crazy cat lady

Monday, August 29, 2011

Hella easy crock pot burrito chicken

Today's recipe is that much sought after but rarely achieved combination of extremely easy, healthy, cheap and tasty. I've made it twice in the last few weeks. It comes out a lot more tender in the crockpot than when I've cooked it on the stovetop. It's good in burritos or by itself with a side of beans or rice.

Crock pot salsa chicken
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/2 jar of your favorite salsa (I like the green kind)
any other seasonings you want

Cut chicken into large chunks. Put in crockpot. Add salsa.* Cook for about 4 hours or until chicken is soft and cooked though. It will be almost pull-apart tender.

Makes about 4-5 servings. Keeps well for tasty leftovers.

You don't need to cover the chicken with salsa - it will be too watery if you do. It's not a problem if it is, but I'd rather save some of the salsa for the burritos.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Irene and Ilene/Old Biddy is old

As you may know if you've been watching the news, Hurricane Irene and an earthquake passed through the east coast this past week. The earthquake was more of a curiosity than anything else. The interesting thing is that they can be felt from much greater distances here, due to a lack of fissures in the earth to dissipate the force. So it's not unusual that people in Detroit felt an earthquake in Virginia, but it is highly unlikely that people in SF would feel a similar sized earthquake in LA.
Hurricane Irene took aim at the I95 corridor. I'm not a big fan of hurricanes or tornados - I kind of prefer natural disasters for which I don't get advance warning. We're far enough inland and north that there isn't much danger of us getting anything hurricane force, but we do get the edges of things that hit Boston or NYC. Fortunately for everyone, Irene did not hit with nearly the force that was anticipated. At the moment we're getting a lot of rain and wind. I'm using it, and my sore back, as an excuse to be lazy.
I am getting old. I have noticed that if I run hills or do a vigorous downhill hike, I am prone to tweaking my back later that day or the next day. It's not a problem if I just run flats, but here in Ithaca that pretty much limits me to the track or the treadmill. I did it on Monday, and then retweaked it worse on Friday. It hurt to walk and I had a pronounced lean to my left. So in my case, Hurricane Irene really should've been called Hurricane Ilene.
Cowdude and I were supposed to go to the New York State Fair yesterday. Due to my trip to CA later this week and the bad weather today, yesterday was the only day we could've gone. (Cowdude may have to do booth duty there next weekend.) I was really looking forward to it because I like state fairs, and because I was curious to see Cowdude in his element. Unfortunately, walking long distances and sitting for long periods was not in the cards yesterday. So Cowdude came to my place instead and we had a relaxing evening and waited out part of the hurricane. He gave me an extremely good massage and popped my back, which got rid of the lean and a lot of the pain.
While I welcome the massages, at the moment I'm not crazy about this getting old business. I like the wisdom, maturity, and better financial situation, and I accept the wrinkles, slowing metabolism, and grey hairs as part of the process, but I really don't like the aches and pains. Between my bad knees, carpal tunnel syndrome, this back thing, and the tendinitis in my shoulder,* I can't swim, run, play soccer, or do certain yoga/pilates/weight training exercises. Not coincidentally, I have gained a few lbs since moving here, and feel like I'm in a catch 22 situation where I need to lose weight to help with the back/knee issues but that is a lot harder with most of my preferred exercise options not possible at the moment. I was in a similar situation before and immediately after my knee surgery. It's too early to tell, but I hope that physical therapy will help to at least get me back into the pool, which was what helped me to get over the hump and get back in shape after knee surgery.

*Note to the unaware: All my health complaints are due to exercise or work. None are from lying around being a slug. Not that it matters one way or another, but sometimes I wonder how I would be physically if I had not exercised very much after childhood and not stayed in the lab after graduation. I suspect I would have be less physically sore but might be more at risk for heart attacks, diabetes, etc. So it's dammed if you do, damned if you don't.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Hands Pants Syndrome

Dear Freshman Guys of Cornell,
Please keep your hands out of your pants while you are walking around North Campus during daylight. You will not impress any women that way. Really. If you need to adjust your trousersnake, at least put your hands in your pockets or do it from the outside of your pants.
Old Biddy

Classes start today, and so North Campus is once again full of freshmen when I am walking to the parking lot in the evening. For reasons I do not fully understand, there seems to be an epidemic of guys walking around with their hands in their pants/shorts. Really. Now I am an Old Biddy, but I am also a veteran crotch watcher and certified kilt inspector, so I know this is a new thing. The question is why. Is it related to the cut of this year's fashions? Have they perhaps been watching "Jersey Shore" too much and picking up bad habits from it? Is the class of 2015 especially well-endowed? Is there a new, highly itchy STD going around? Are they copying famous rappers even though they are a white boy wearing pants which are in no danger of falling down? Inquiring minds want to know, but in the meantime, please keep it in your pants, and keep your hands out of there.
I am apparently not the first person to notice this, as a quick Google search informed me.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Late Summer Musings

I've only experienced one Ithaca fall, and five Boston falls, but in my limited experience there isn't an extended "Indian summer" phase like there usually is in CA. Of course, it is quite possible that I just didn't notice it, since I am calibrated to think of even the slightest shift as a change in season.
In any case, it feels like fall now, even when we get a fairly warm day. We had a few weeks of relatively hot weather in July, but then something shifted about two weeks ago and it started feeling like fall. The air is different and I can see the leaves turning at the top of a tree outside my office. Classes start this week.
It has now been a year since I first started corresponding with Cowdude, although there was a month in there when we each assumed the other wasn't interested, due to one of my messages getting lost in cyberspace. I am not sure how a year in cowdude/old biddy time translates into normal couple time, so it's hard to calibrate. I like him a lot, but the schedule/distance thing sucks at times. We need to have the "where is this going" conversation soon, preferably before the semester gets too crazy. I'm still in that intermediate zone emotionally and am in no hurry, but it would be good to figure out if we are on the same page or not. In any case, I trust him and don't think I'd bear him any ill will if we want different things.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Dear Talbots: Thank you

Dear Talbots,
Today I received your catalog in the mail. Although I am a bit too young, too cheap, and too much of a slob to be part of your core target audience, I do occasionally frequent your store due to the fact that there isn't very much good shopping in Ithaca and when you put stuff on sale you don't mess around. I appreciate that. I also appreciate the fact that you actually put pockets in skirts, and carry larger sizes.
Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised to see that there were some models in there who were larger than a size 2 and some who were older than me. Note to all retailers - this did not make the clothes look any less attractive, and did not make me any less likely to buy them - probably the opposite. Models do not need to be size 0 to model clothes. As with all your other clothes, I will wait until it's on sale and then buy it, but that's just me. Keep up the good work with the catalog models.
Old Biddy

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


You can't change thermodymanics - it's the law. You can, however, add a catalyst to lower the activation barrier and speed up the reaction. I've spent my career looking for new kinds of catalysts for chemical reactions.
It also works with cats. Rugrat is still playful but at age 14 the activation barriers have gotten higher, especially during the winter. I bought lots of cat toys, but she wasn't interested. She was so bored that she would yowl for attention at random times and would watch TV whenever it was on. With the advent of spring the yowling ceased but she was still bored.
With the advent of Lucy, however, that changed. At first, she just watched Lucy play and run around. After a while, though, she started to join in. Toys that were not interesting to her before suddenly became the most interesting things in the world. This led to a few skirmishes, when Lucy would chase after the toy at full speed and get a little too close for comfort. Ultimately, though, that became part of the game, and gives Rugrat an excuse to swat Lucy and chase her under the couch. Luna's more consistent with the toys - things that were interesting before are still interesting, but she too likes to chase Lucy and let her know who's boss. For her part, it's all a big game to Lucy.
Anyway, I had expected Lucy to keep Rugrat entertained, and for them to be buddies, but I hadn't expected her to be as much of a catalyst as she is.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Crankypants August continues

If the Discovery Channel can have "Shark Week", then I'm going to claim Crankypants August, because I am sort of cranky these days. I could've have used those extra few days of vacation last week but instead I got fussy lab equipment and 'memory leakage' in some of the software.
Anyway, I'm cranky at my lab equipment, and at lab equipment, software and computers in general. It needs to work, but right now too much of it doesn't. None of this is my fault, but I tend to second guess myself nonetheless. It tends to go in phases, and at the moment it is acting up, which makes me write cranky blog posts. Consider yourself warned. I may delete some of the posts after a few days, and will not publicize them on Facebook unless they're funny.
Anyway, I am cranky at T. This is unusual since I haven't wasted any energy being cranky at him in a while. However, it is Crankypants August so my tolerance is low. I am tired of having T tell me all summer via IM that he's been meaning to call me. The first few times it didn't make an impression, and I didn't comment one way or another on it. After all, I haven't called him either and I don't plan to. But now it's starting to piss me off. He's welcome to call, but if he keeps telling me that he's been meaning to without actually calling it starts to make me feel like this is some sort of obligation that he doesn't really feel like doing and/or he is trying to make himself feel like he is such a nice guy for staying in touch with me. Last year he did a few courtesy calls, but I think they were strictly that. When the calls went to my voice mail and I called back later, I inevitably got his voice mail and no return call. I suspect this is more of the same, but there is no reason for it. I'm 3000 miles away and I have moved on, but nonetheless I don't like feeling like I'm the courtesy/obligation call.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

F*&K You New York Times "Trend" articles

Dear Parents of College-Bound High School Students,
For the sake of your own sanity, I recommend avoiding reading any NYT trend pieces about what extreme measures prep school kids are taking to get into college.
Old Biddy

Dear everyone else who does not make >$500,000/year,
Avoid all the NYT trend pieces about what really rich white people in Manhattan are doing. It will make you all ragey.
Old Biddy

Don't get me wrong, I like to read the NYT, especially on-line or when I can get it for free on campus. I know they cater to a mostly NYC, mostly financially secure crowd. But do we really need more front page trend pieces about how rich people are spending their money? I'll use high school kids and their parents as an example, since I am far enough removed that it is easy to see the irony in it without getting jealous or freaked out. There are similar trend pieces for single people, retired people, etc. There are elements of truth in it, but it may not be particularly widespread. Unfortunately, it's like rubbernecking a train wreck, and I inevitably read them and feel sort of dirty afterwards. So I am channeling this into blog fodder. Anyway, back to the mythical NYC prep school kids. Their parents are now sending their kids to camp via private airplane, hiring pricy tutors for their kids who are already going to pricy prep schools, or arranging super-duper extra special summer activities for their kids to improve their chances of getting into college, usually with the help of counsultants who will arrange things for a fee.

In the typical article, 90% focuses on the expensive activity and why people think it's necessary, and 10% is about how not everyone can afford to do this and 'maybe' it's not really necessary. It's so far over the top that it's usually comical, at least to an old biddy who doesn't live in NYC. For instance, in the article about the kids going to summer camp via private planes, one parent interviewed complained about how pervasive it was and how that completely ruined the summer camp experience, and then in the next line, the article said they now send their kids to camp in Europe. Uh WTF?
Summer camp is one thing, but articles about the college admission process must freak out parents of high school students. Apparently, hiring tutors for 15-20 hours/week is quite common* even for kids who are doing well, as is paying counselors to help with the essay or arrange for extra-enriching summer activities guaranteed to increase your chances of getting into Harvard or one of my fine alma maters/employers. Apparently, the days of working a typical summer job are over, and even the cushy internships at your parents or parents' friends investment banking firms aren't helping your chances. (No surprise to the latter part.) Once again, a token paragraph or two is devoted to 'maybe this is not necessary', including quotes from college admissions people, who, quite shockingly, suggest that this is not necessarily any more helpful than a summer job at an ice cream place or doing sports.
Uh duh - I'm sure these things look better than just spending all summer hanging out at the mall, but they don't necessarily look better than working a regular summer job to save money to go to college. But if I were average suburban middle class parent with a kid in high school, I might be freaking out. So avoid the NYT until your kid is in college.
I think that the New York Time should hire me as a writer and I will do smack-downs of their trend pieces. My first one will take on the college admission process. Here's a basic synopsys.

Parents of High School Kids Need to Chill Out
by Old Biddy, Ph.D.
If your kid is in a good high school, either public or private, and has great grades and test scores, and has suitable interests/hobbies outside school, they will get into a good college. They may not get into their first choice, or your first choice, but they will still get in somewhere good. The extra tutoring/admissions counselors/summer activities 'may' help a little bit for one or two schools, or it may not, but it's not going to make or break their chances, because, shocking as it may seem, not everyone can afford to do these things and college admissions officers actually know this. Shocking as it may seem, they may not even want to admit a whole class full of rich kids from Manhattan. Your kid might get a leg up over another rich kid from Manhattan who spent the summer at the Hamptons tanning, but it's not going to guarantee anything against the applicant pool as a whole. Your kid might actually have a better chance if you moved to Kansas or Montana and sent them to public school.
If your kid does not have great grades or test scores, here's the good news. They may still do very well in life. The not so good news is that college is actually a lot harder than high school, so you may not be doing them any favors if you pull too many strings and get them into a really competitive school.

Stay tuned for when I take on other types of NYT trend pieces.

* We get a lot of kids from NYC here and apparently the private tutoring is really common. A lot of them automatically hire a tutor now instead of going to office hours or waiting to see how they're doing in class. It's good for the grad students, since they can charge big bucks for this, but it is a step change from when I was in school and everyone just went to office hours for free.