Tips: Fat Free Cream Cheese

Fat free does not taste the same as fatty. Fat free cream cheese in particular has a strange flavor to it. Like a soft bland cheese instead of a slightly sharper cheese. I can only think of it as a sort of anti-umami.

There are times when fat free is necessary. The issue is how to fix that bland flavor, to make the fat free cream cheese taste better. I tried salt, all sorts of spices and flavors that should have added the necessary bite. After lots of experimentation I finally hit on it.

To make fat free cream cheese have the correct level of umami sprinkle dried chives on top.

Know Your Seasons

Imagine needing a surgery like mine but not having to get it done ASAP to ensure job security. Check your inner clock and ask yourself “when are the big cold seasons in the area?” In Oregon January is the month of the miserable head cold. Sinus pressure and recovering from ear related brain surgery sucks. If I could have chosen a date based on nicest post-surgery healing I think I would have gone with June or July.

Also I have little pity for the other people saying “Day 12 of stupid head cold” on my social networks. I may instead be overdoing the self pity.

Capabilities and Activities

The other night I chose to see a dance performance instead of playing D&D.

The other night I was invited to go to a dance performance with a friend who offered me a ride in contrast going to play D&D at a house I’d never been to that was at least an hour public transit ride away.

The other night I sat passively at a dance performance with a friend who would leave if I needed to rather than going to play D&D which is a highly interactive and creative story telling experience often with multiple voices overlapping and at least an hour public transit ride home after.

As I post openly about what I do with my time I worry about one of my D&D friends seeing that when I cancelled on D&D because I didn’t feel well enough that I then went to a dance performance. It makes me feel lame in that teenager way of saying “that’s lame.”

For each thing I choose to turn down and each thing I choose to pick up as I recover from surgery I do a careful measure of my capabilities. How much effort goes into transportation? How easy will it be to leave abruptly if I need to get away quickly? (This one is huge for me.) What level of brain or body wellness is required to do this? Sometimes my information is inaccurate and later I find out I could have gotten a ride or something like that.

Anyway, this is my disclaimer. I plan on being very active but I also plan on declining a lot.

Links: Free eBooks

Two years ago I got myself a Nook at Barnes & Noble. I liked the simple screen that didn’t light up as well as the fact that it didn’t play movies or do anything but attempt to “be a book.” I could talk more about “Why a Nook and not a Kindle?” I could talk about the concept of what a book is: “I wrote a book,” “I published a book,” “I printed a book,”I read a book,” “I own a book.” The point of mentioning buying a Nook is more about why I bought a non-paper way to read books.

There are thousands of free books online.

Project Gutenberg alone has 44,558 ebooks available for free. Want to read Pride and Prejudice? Walden, and On The Duty Of Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau? Babylonian-Assyrian Birth-Omens and Their Cultural Significance by Morris Jastrow?

The Project Gutenberg volunteers have scanned 44,558 books (as of now) that have gone out of copyright and are freely available. Some of which are out of print. Some are required reading for classes. Wouldn’t it have been great to have been able to do a word search on every time the word “ghost” appeared in Wuthering Heights? (The answer is eleven if you count variations like “ghostly.”)

ManyBooks is another site with free eBooks. There are others. I’ll add them over time. Though I think I will go ahead and add Baen eBooks right now as they took a revolutionary step by adding some of their printed works to the online world for free. Books like Time Traders by Andre Norton. And yes, I have bought eBooks from them as a result.

Side Note: Here’s an interesting article on Baen’s Free eBook collection past and present.

Review: Being Moved at Headwaters

As I get better I am getting out more. As getting out more tires me less I know am I closer to being able to make it through a whole work day. In case anyone was wondering why I’m doing things here and there but not yet back at work. Brain surgery stuff aside let’s talk Butoh.

At the turn of the last century a woman named Isadora Duncan planted the seed of modern dance with the concept of “naturalistic movement.” The idea being that instead of stances, postures, poses and patterns the dance should be a flow of emotions and nature. Her work was met with shock and horror by many of the Victorians of the time.

Butoh holds a similar place in Japanese culture. It is avant garde performance art sometimes called “anti-dance dance” where the object is not grace but experience and expression and often the awkward or shocking is paramount. It reminds me a bit of the Jim Rose Circus but with much less Discordianism and a greater sense of Art.

Saturday night I went to see Being Moved at the Headwaters Theatre with my friend Molly. The long title is “Meshi Chavez presents Being Moved | Ten dancers were chosen to embark on a journey of self inquiry, transformation and creation… a butoh workshop performance”

The performance was split into two parts, the first was four students who had partaken in a workshop with Meshi and the second (post intermission) was a performance by Meshi.

To begin I want to say that Lisa DeGrace, Adrian Hutapea and Roland Toledo did an amazing job with the music. Having had some experience with electronica, sampling and noise manipulation in the 1990s I admire what they did for this performance. I would gladly go to a concert just to experience any of those three in combination again or with others.

I spoke to a Japanese friend afterwards about having seen a Butoh performance and she stated she didn’t like Butoh. She said the goal seemed to make one feel awkward or uncomfortable.

To me the performers with their strange body shape movements and angular inclinations were both inhuman and the perfect expression of what it is to be human. I kept thinking “This is what it is to be human.” There were moments of intense emotion, feelings expressed by the dancers that seemed to dig through my own experiences and bring to surface personal regrets. There were also moments where I felt myself pull back and think “this is ridiculous, this writhing, this shapelessness, this not-dancing.” The push and pull of entrancement and judgement had its own interesting effect on my mind.

After the intermission Meshi performed. The curtains were drawn and he appeared almost larva like. I did not know if Meshi was male or female, beginning as female, moving to “it” and then becoming male. The sense of beauty vs the ridiculous was even stronger with Meshi. Most profound for me were the echoes of earlier performances. It was as if the teacher were echoing experiences he had learned from his students. I found it incredibly touching.

The first portion, the student performances, made me want to write poetry, which I did on my phone during the intermission. The second portion, Meshi’s work, made me want to dance again.

There are certain things I consider great or beautiful but I do not know if I would recommend. The movie The Pillow Book is one. The book Surreal Numbers is another. I found beauty in the performance and am glad to have seen it. I would have to know a person well to recommend going to another similar work. That said, when Meshi performs again in March I will probably attend.

We’ll call this one “special interest.”

Review: Zell’s Cafe

I eat at Zell’s sporadically, generally getting delicious brunch items like scrambles or omelettes while my friends get things like German pancakes or French toast. The food has been consistently good since I first went there about ten years ago and the little scones that come to every table like bread in an Italian restaurant make it a magical place for me. Tiny little magical scones!

I decided to write a review now because I had lunch there today, got something totally different, and also have always wanted to write reviews.

Today at Zell’s I got a small salad and a cup of chicken noodle soup. The salad was good, everything a salad should be which is one of the things I love about Zell’s; that consistent level of quality.

The chicken noodle soup was excellent. It not only was everything a chicken noodle soup should be (falling apart perfectly cooked chicken like grandma put in, both dark and white meat, celery, onions and parsley) it also had an additional savory flavor that put it over the top. That flavor, as the chefs on the tv show Chopped say, elevated the soup. Somehow I got both the traditional grandmother’s soup I craved with just a hint of a flavor that made it something more. It could have been tarragon. It could have just been that they let everything cook together for the perfect amount of time. Either way I’m glad I got the soup.

That’s why today is the day (besides all the personal wanting to write reviews parts) that I’m writing a “go eat there!” review of Zell’s Cafe.

Go eat there!

Woman in Computer Science

In the United States certain professions have gender attached. You can be a nurse or a male nurse, a teacher or a male teacher, a chef or a female chef, a computer programmer or a female computer programmer. I’ve known men who worked as librarians, teachers, and speech language therapists and they are all minorities. They go to conferences with hundreds of people and see maybe two or three other men. The male teachers in particular have their motives questions. Why would you want to work with children? (Are you a pedophile?) I am lucky not to have to deal with that question. There is a rudeness to it that hurts my soul.

I am a female computer programmer. I get asked if I wouldn’t rather be a project manager or the person who knows about tech but acts as the go-between for customers and “real” programmers instead of programming. I end up doing a lot of documentation (because it is important) and then worry that I will end up on the Docs team instead of coding where I love the work.

Ignorance and minorities go hand in hand. Not ignorance on the part of the minority but ignorance about minorities. It can range from hostility and stereotypes to the more “innocent” sort of ignorance that I now call Can I Touch Your Hair?

Every type of ignorance deserves its own response and each response is based on an individual’s strengths and weaknesses. In the land of computers people are often shy, introverted and have a history of being bullied. Men and women alike with years of high school under their belt where they were the ones who were beat up or had tampons thrown at them. Some grow aggressive, some quietly submit, some educate. I call these categories Malcom X, Uncle Tom, and Martin Luther King. I try to emulate Martin Luther King.

Being on disability as I recover from brain surgery gives me a lot of time to think. I remember back to a moment in time when I brought up how differently women write their resumes than men. We were looking to hire a new team member and we were comparing two candidates, one an over qualified male and the other an under qualified female. My male team lead said, “Since you’ve brought up the gender differences would you mind if I asked how I could tell if a woman was exaggerating her abilities or lying about something on her resume?”

The question really threw me off. I didn’t know how to answer. Instead I walked through her resume and showed him where she had chosen to do projects like move databases from MS Access to MySQL (a smart move) because she was bored with what she was being given. Her history looked a lot like mine.

We ended up hiring neither and kept looking for someone closer to the middle ground.

Now here in the future I feel haunted by this moment. I feel like I missed the chance to educate him on something about women in computer science. Women will only put on their resumes what they absolutely know they can do and have had actual experience with. We know walking in that our skills will be judged from the get go and there will be no time to “learn it on the side after I get hired.” We can’t afford to exaggerate on our resumes or, at the very least, we feel we can’t.

I wish I could go back in time and say, “She seems like a real go-getter. Let’s hire her.”

Baby Quilt Re-Begun

Three years ago I started a baby quilt, had a design somewhere and cut the blocks. I decided to knit a little hat and coat for the baby instead. The pieces are still cute even if I can’t remember the pattern I had intended to build them into. Today I created a new pattern. I’ll need to cut seven more yellow squares and four purple but it’s going to be gorgeous.

Cutting quilt blocks is going to have to be another day. Recovering from brain surgery, any surgery, is about pacing.