Sunday, February 21, 2010 eposide saved from disaster

Last week, while browsing the meat counter of the local food store, I came across a perfect brisket, just like my Mom would use for making pot roast. OK, a little on the small side, but still, exactly the same cut as my Mom would buy.

I loved my Mom's pot roast. She taught me how to make it, I even have the pot we used when I was a child. So, it was impossible to NOT decide to make pot roast. So I splurged, paid a small fortune the small brisket, added carrots and potatoes to the shopping basket, and this weekend, found the time to cook.
Here's how it goes:

1. Trim the excess fat off the brisket, if necessary. Leave some on, but, if your cut of meat was
like mine, there as a rather thick layer of fat that I preferred not to have.
2. Lightly score the meat on both sides and season. I used garlic power, paprika, pepper, and
3. In a dutch oven, brown the meat on both sides in olive oil and remove from the pan.
4. In the same pan, add roughly chopped onions and cook until translucent. Add some minced
garlic and cook for a minute or two, then deglaze the pan. I ended up using rice vinegar, but if
I had red wine, I would have used that. I also threw in some mushrooms, for extra flavor.
5. Add some type of liquid, beef stock, water, wine, something with flavor. I used water mixed
with Better with Buillion mix and a splash of soy sauce (which almost turned the dish into a
disaster - more about that below). And, the secret ingredient...ketchup! The liquid should be
enough to come at least half way up the meat.
6. Add a few sliced carrots, a bay leaf, and bring everything up to a boil, then reduce to a simmer
and cover the pot.
7. Cook for about an hour and add sliced potatoes.
8. Cook for another half an hour.
9. Remove the meat and cut it across the grain. Return to the pot and simmer gently for another
half hour.

It almost turned out to be a disaster. The bouillion mix that I was using had a lot more salt than i expected. When I tasted the gravy, I was horrified. Bleah! I added more water to dilute the saltiness and let is simmer for a while, but I figured the meal was doomed.

And yet, I was wrong! Maybe it was adding the potatoes (which some say helps fix over-salted foods) or the extra water. In any case, after letting the pot roast stay in the fridge overnight, I had it for dinner and it was delicious. OK, slightly more salty than I might like, but more than edible. The meat was delightfully tender and full of flavor. The vegetables were cooked perfectly. Yum! I'm looking forward to my leftovers for lunch.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

New Management coming to my place of business

For most of the time that I've been at my current job, I haven't had a manager. Shortly after I arrived, there were some organizational changes and the manager that hired me decided to leave to pursue off-shoring opportunities (which we eliminated here).

Since then, the management work was divided up among two other senior members of the Engineering and Product Management groups. Lucky for me, they just left me to do my work. No one-on-one meetings, schedules, status reports. Nope, I just got to manage my own time and work.

It's been lovely. Although, I suppose part of what I liked was that I wasn't really accountable to anyone. Not that I didn't do my job -- but I didn't have to explain why I took more time to do something or why I shifted my tasks. I just did what I felt was best for the product.

But now, a new VP of Engineering is on the way. I had no input into the hiring of this person, so I have no idea if the new manager has ever managed technical writers, what this person's expectations are, or even if our personalities are compatible. On the plus side, the CEO asked me to send one of my documentation deliverables to him since she had asked to see some of the documentation. On the other hand, this request came AFTER the job offer was accepted, so, I suppose it wasn't a big enough point of interest to happen during the interview process.

I'm a bit anxious about this change. In my previous jobs at start ups, the managers that I had were, in general, somewhat awful, if they were Engineering managers. If a documentation manager was there, my experience was somewhat better. Most Engineering managers are clueless about the role of technical writers and they either have ridiculous expectations or provide no support at all.

The people who have met the new manager seem very enthusiastic about the new person, so I have to trust that to some extent. I'm assuming, though, that the subject of the technical writing role was not a big topic of discussion (really, you'd think the new manager might want to meet the one and only writer here).

So, I don't know what I'm in for. It would be nice to have someone in authority to help support the need to get documentation reviews built into the process. I have no authority and all I can do is ask...which usually doesn't result in much, as far as a repeatable process. And, I suppose what I'm anxious about is whether I'll live up to the new manager's expectations, whatever they might be. At one point, I had a certain level of ambition about achieving personal goals at work. Now, I'm just happy to do a decent job and keep the stress levels down.

Change at work...I'm trying to be optimistic, but I'm a bit worried.

is it time for a 3rd political party?

Centrist Democratic politicians are leaving their hallowed halls. Five, so far, are not seeking re-election. Senator Bayh says the lack of bipartisanship in Congress was a big reason for his desire to get out.

Makes me wonder if all these disenchanted politicians are missing an opportunity to start a true, third party that might actually have a chance of getting seats.

Personally, I'm disgusted with both parties. The constant voting on party lines (really, are all our politicians a bunch of sheep, willing to follow the lead "ram" all of the time?), the party of NO who refuses to participate in any legislature that is led by the other party. The other party who doesn't seem to be much better (but at least they TRY to get some of the people's work done).

In the last state election, I voted against the party of NO (but they won), but I had no great fondness for the candidate I voted for who seemed to think negative smears against her opponent would get people smiling. It didn't.

In the meantime, health care reform languishes in never, never land. Unemployment is too high. (OK, on the plus side, the automotive industry is starting to come back...possibly thanks to all the issues that Toyota and Honda are having...someone's bad luck is someone else's good luck, eh).

I'd love to have another viable party in the mix. The Dems/Repubs constant bickering is annoying and non-productive. I'm not enrolled in a specific party although I do tend to vote Democratic. While I might be attracted to some of the Republican's view of fiscal conservatism, their ties to the religious right make them an untenable choice for me. But every year, the choices seem to get worse and worse. A third party, that actually had a chance of having an impact would put some excitement and energy into the political process, I think. With a group of centrists looking for a place where they can still serve their country, is it not possible for them to unite and perhaps, truely make a difference?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Bullies -- boo, hiss.

Lots of articles in the local papers about bullying in schools these days. The triggering event was a a young woman who committed suicide after relentless torment from her classmates. Lots of stories are now coming out about the horrors that children are enduring from their so-called peers (who aren't really peers, they're beneath contempt). In one case, a child was fighting cancer and the kids at school were mean as dirt, even after having counselors explain why this child looked different. One father reported that he hired two "young toughs" to protect his child from his tormentors.

Having experienced this type of thing as a child myself, I can tell you that you never, ever forget the misery of having people gang up on you. Makes you wonder how parents raise their children. In one interview, a former bully admitted that he tormented others because it made him feel better about himself...more powerful, superior. So I wonder, was he not getting unconditional love from his parents? Were they bad role models? What leads children to take enjoyment from causing obvious pain and suffering to those around them?

Or, are children just horrible animals that we have to hope will learn some compassion as they mature? I find that a difficult premise to accept. There's something about our social groups, our social standards, or the way we care for each other that's lacking the kindness, the healthy balance, the compassion that an enlightened society should bestow on all its members.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

When pants get too short...

Weird phenomenon that seems to be happening lately. My pants keep getting too short.

Now, if they were just getting tight, I'd accept the fact that I've been gaining weight (and I have, a bit) and deal with it.

But, it's the LENGTH of the pants that seems to be an issue. All of a sudden. I don't get it. I'm a relatively short person. Although my shoes do tend to have about a 2-inch heel (or more), I'm still short. I don't expect to have to buy pants that are made for taller people. I'm not growing taller!

Lately, though, after a wash or two, the pants are just too short. That is, any new ones that I've purchased. The older ones are maintaining their length. The dryer is old but honestly, could it suddenly be shrinking all my clothes? Mind you, so far, it seems to be just pants that are affected. Shirts seem to be maintaining their size as well.

Could it be the clothing manufacturers doing something with cheaper fabrics to keep costs down? I hate that they've adjusted the sizes so that I feel like I'm buying ridiculously small sizes that I haven't worn since I was very young (yeah, I lost a bit of weight a couple of years ago, but not THAT much to warrant the tiny sizes that fit me now).

Or, maybe the manufacturers are making pants that are shorter and I'm not noticing it? Whatever the case, I feel like I need to buy the long versions of pants, now.