Wednesday, October 24, 2007

And the beat goes on...

Suntimes headline:

Man wins $2 mil. for false arrest
'THEY RUINED MY WHOLE LIFE' | Chicago Police allegedly framed suspect in case

Former Marine disarmed a drunken, belligerent, off-duty Chicago cop. Suddenly, he's up on attempted kidnapping charges. The court says he was framed by the cops, so he gets $2 million in Chicago tax dollars.

The part of this article that needs a little more explanation is this:

"Tuesday's verdict comes a week after another jury found other Chicago Police officers guilty of assaulting a teen with a screwdriver, resulting in a $4 million settlement against the Chicago Police Department. The teen was represented by the same firm."

Sounds kind of scary, eh? Like they were smacking this kid with a screwdriver, or maybe even stabbing him. That was sodomy. $4,000,000 worth of sodomy, courtesy of Chicago's finest.

So $6 million just this week has gone to cleaning up the messes made by our boys in blue. While one of my favorite blogs certainly makes a good point about people filing false complaints against the CPD, the fact is that there are probably more than a few completely power-crazed, insane, violent people on the force.

By "more than a few" I mean more than you would find in your average group of non-cops. Every group of people has a population percent that includes power-hungry, crazy jackasses. The CPD seems to just have more than its fair share.

If Daley is really going to turn this mess around, the discipline has to start now. And yes, bring in someone from the outside. Don't put someone who already owes favors all over town in the top spot of a corrupt system.

Relax, Daley - I meant the new chief, not you.

Monday, October 22, 2007

A flow chart to your friendship

CTA Credit Card Theft

One of the many Chicago-centric blogs that I persue on a regular basis has spilled the beans on a little CTA-related scandal. This is from Second City Cop:

"From the comments - shouldn't this be front page news?

* OFF TOPIC: On Thursday a CTA employee was in Area 4 under arrest for identity theft. She was charged Friday with felony identity theft for stealing the credit card numbers of riders paying for their monthly fare card with credit cards. Gave the numbers to her boyfriend and they then went and bought all kinds of nice things for themselves. While she was up in Area 4, we had a "reverend" arrive and demand to speak to her. The bosses told him no, so he then pulls out his CTA identification. He's a CTA board member, and he got her the job. The best part, Huberman himself called Area 4 and asked that this be handled quietly. Did not want any bad publicity since he's now asking for more money for the CTA from riders and taxpayers. After the holy man/CTA board member started making more waves about talking with his wayward subject phone calls were made to the CTA bigshots by Area 4 bosses. They told the CTA to get this guy out of Area 4 or this arrest was going on the 24 log and there would be a press conference. He walked out shortly after that and it was not put on the 24 log which is for 'newsworthy events". A CTA employee stealing from riders gets charged with a felony while the CTA is asking for more tax money and that's not newsworthy?

Hey media? We could use a break from our scandals. How about picking on CTA for a bit? Of course, if this is true, we'd have another scandal on our hands for not putting noteworthy news on the 24 hour report and covering for the west side reverend association.

Seems like the reverends are at the forefront of a number of scandals. Hmmmm."


Basically, this is why I don't sign up to give the CTA my credit card number. Why give information like that to a company that's basically about to have to file bankruptcy? Sheesh.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Lemon Bars

Or Look! Something Worked! Maybe This Cooking Stuff isn't Bullshit After All!

I love lemon desserts. Cookies, cake, lemon bars, lemon, I don't know, pudding, whatever. Damn, that is tasty stuff! So, lemon bars.

Make some dough - butter, flour, sugar. Done. Mash it into the bottom of an 8x8 pan. I only have one shitty disposable one, but it's better than none, so....done. Lemon sauce mix: gotta get some finely grated lemon peel and some lemon juice. Got a lemon. This is where it got fun.

I don't have a zester or a fine grater. I have one grater and it's basically standard size. But it grated that peel up pretty well. I was making this while the oven was heating and while the squash was burning, so I was a little distracted and didn't get a shot of the grated peel. Cry me a river.

I needed three table spoons of lemon juice. Oops! I don't own a juicer thingy. Like the rolling pin thing, I improvised. I took the top from my pepper shaker:

Cleaned it really, really well, and used it as a juicer thingy:

And it was full of pulp and seeds, so I grabbed a coffee filter and filtered that stuff out.

The trick is when you're draining it, you press it (don't squeeze it) very gingerly with your fingertips so the filter doesn't break. Then you have some fine lemon juice:

It doesn't look like much, and I don't know what you're supposed to get from a lemon, but I got the three table spoons I needed with about half a table spoon left over. I drank it in victory, and regretted it immediately.

I couldn't cook this with the squash because it needed a 325 oven and currently my possessed, crazy ass oven was at about 425...ish. So I put the lemon mix in the fridge (it had eggs in it and I didn't know how long that squash was going to screw around in the oven before I could get the lemon bars in, and I didn't want it to go bad.)

I put the dough in to cook, it came out fine. I'm setting the timer for half what's recommended, then checking on it to see if my oven has vetoed my food.

I poured the lemon mix on the decent dough bottom, and it came out okay:

I wasn't expecting the dull crust on top, but when I cut it open, it was nice and custardy. Also, when I cut into it I realized I'd forgotten to grease the pan. Oh well.

It's also pretty sweet, but that might just be me. They were pretty good, though. If I can tone down the sweetness of it and buy a real 8x8 pan, I'd make these more often. They're pretty easy and quick.

And I'm basically really proud of myself for thinking of that juicing trick.

Acorn Squash

Or, It Turns Out My Oven is Possessed by the Ghost of Julia Childs's Jealous Sister, Melba Childs, Who Could Never Get Her Creme to Properly Brulee, and is Taking Her Sister's Taunts of "Mebla Can't Toast" Out on My Fucking Oven

I got an oven thermometer because obviously, given the nut bread fiasco, the knob on the oven doesn't really know what goes on in my oven.

So I set it for 425. Took about 45 minutes to get there. I put the damn squash in, 15 minutes later, the oven was at 510. I'm going to just throw some pictures up here because I know you're smart enough to figure out how this went down, and I'm pretty excited about the lemon bars that I still want to post before I get to bed.

I wasn't at all surprised to discover that the squash wasn't cooked all the way through and the brown sugar hadn't quite dissolved. It was way too sweet. It was okay, though. I guess. Maybe I just can't take sugar like I used to. Maybe that's what being 30 and feeling 45 means. I love acorn squash, though, so I'll try a different recipe in the future. Also, I had to quadruple the stuffing mix (walnuts, raisins, brown sugar, butter) to get enough to fill all four squash halves.

Walnut-Filled Bread

AKA Where You Goin' With That Flour?

OR What a Colossal Fucking Waste of Time

Look, I got this hand mixer on Tuesday, and I was basically trying not to spend any money til Friday when, you know, I was planning to get some money. So I chose the one thing that I had to buy the least amount of shit for. It was this loaf of bread with some walnuts baked in, and you braid the bread. I just needed some yeast (about $2) and some apple jelly (about $2).

I apparently also needed a fucking Pope-sanctioned miracle, a stove that doesn't suck, and a team of cooks to make sure I didn't fuck this up.

What I got was a 4-hour long ordeal that I never want to go through again. This is gonna be quick, kids. I've been putting off posting this for four days because I'm still pretty pissed about this.

Look! Very active yeast! (Very active yeast reminds me of very active politicians [feel free to insert your own fucking joke here. I'm serious. I hated this stupid bread. I hated it so much that I can't even pretend to make jokes when I'm typing about it.])

The apple jelly I bought was very interesting to the 16 year old who rang up my order. She was pretty impressed with how you could see right through it. The people at that store are pretty nice to me, even though I give them every reason to think I'm an escapee from the psych ward that's not too far from here, so I'm not going to make fun of her. Anyhow. Jelly:

And look, I used the mixer on the dough:

And the dough would not stop sucking up more and more flour. Every time I put the damn flour away I had to get it back out to make the dough not be a sticky, runny mess. I fucking hated it. Serious. Here is the before:

And the after:

I was pretty pissed off by this point, so after I let it rise for the prescribed amount of time, I tried to cheer myself up:

Apparently I succeeded in pissing off the dough. The dough and I were not friends at this point, we were mortal enemies locked in combat to the fucking death.

Anyhow. Stuffed it with the walnut stuffing:

Ran out of walnut stuffing:

And improvised:

(If you have to ask why the fat girl who is trying to quit smoking has a seemingly endless supply of Reese's peanut butter cups, you should be commended on your ability to navigate The Internet all on your own.)

Braided the nut-filled bread:

Made the other two strips of nut-filled bread into my first initial, in my futile attempt to make the bastard shit dough bow down and obey me:

The balls of dough are the ones with the Reese's cups inside.

So I set my oven for whatever the book said, and set the timer for 20 minutes. The book said to bake it for 30, but cover it with foil for the last ten minutes, so I set it for 20 "no-foil" minutes. This part basically still pisses me off.

I came back 20 minutes later and my bread looked like this:

Fuck you, dough. Fuck you. You too, stupid oven. You conspirital bastards. Fuck.

So anyhow the Reese's balls were gross, the nut bread braid was gross, and I threw the whole thing out. Damn. The bread was cooked through, but it tasted gross. It tasted like if you have a mouth full of stale, generic white bread and a mouthful of rotten walnuts. Fucking nasty. It looked good, though:

But damn. Damn.

Lesson learned: A "scant" tablespoon (of the nut mixture) means a not-full tablespoon. Also, dough is an asshole.


So I got yelled at - again - for being rude to the guests. I thought some lady was asking me my name, and I said, "It's Meg." Apparently that's not what she was saying. I don't speak mumble-ese so I got written up.

My district manager - the tool with the goatee - says that I come off as mean and rude. So I smile more at people. Sometimes it's a maniacal smile because the guests do shit like walk off when I'm trying to give them directions, or ask me where the bathroom is and then act like "Straight ahead, it's on the left" is the stupidest answer they've ever heard. But I smile, so whatever.

This morning this lady comes in - obviously a crazy cat lady, with the pet products show across the street - and she wants to use the code to get into the computer room. I explain to her (with a smile on my face) that the code is only for after hours, and from 7-5 I'll let her in, she can check in at my desk and I'll walk her down there.

She comes out of the computer room to get a note pad and pen (not a big deal at all), and I get up to walk her back down to let her back in (not a big deal at all), and she says "Oh, well, I know the code, I can use that," and rattles off the code. I said, "That doesn't work during the day. From 7-5 I'm happy to let you in there." And then she says that she thinks I'm mad at her. She seems to take it as a personal affront that I stand in the doorway a second to make sure her computer is logged in and ready to go.

What the fuck? What the fuck did I do to this fucking bitch to piss her off? I apologize profusely, not because I'm actually sorry but because I don't want her to complain about me. She's the kind of bitch with nothing better to do than write mother fucking complaint letters. Fuck.

So she comes out of the computer room, and I apologize again. I said, "If I seem a little rude, I apologize, please let me know what I did or said so I can improve my customer service." And then she sees that I have my human genetics book out, and suddenly she wants to dote all over me with, "Oh, you're going back to school! Oh, isn't that wonderful? I'm so impressed! Oh, you're getting your degree!"

I would put up with this shit from my mom, because I love my mom and I know this is how she talks, even if it gets on my nerves. This lady was way over-doing it, and she was actually kind of doing it like you would talk to a child: "Oh, you put your shoes on the right feet today! It's that wonderful? I'm so impressed! Oh, you're growing up!"

And I had to sit here and be patronized by this stupid bitch for seven or eight minutes like this. She was cutting into my Friday morning appointment with Kathryn Tucker Windham, and I really wanted to quit talking about going back to school for some shitty associate degree that won't mean much more than my 10-year-old GED when it comes time to find a new job in February.

I was disgusted with myself. It made me feel gross and dirty, sitting here letting her speak to me that way instead of sending her off with my usual firm but polite, "You're all set. Let me know if you need anything else, here's my card. Have a great day!" And the more she talked the more I felt bad for her. I was getting paid to talk to her, I wasn't really interested in anything she had to say. And sitting here acting like I did give a shit was basically lying to her, but I had to do it so I could keep this shitty, thankless job until February.

I'm disgusted with myself now. If my shitty fucking bank decides that I can actually have the money I deposited last week, I think I'll take a cab after work to pick up my car instead of waiting til Tuesday. I could use a nice, relaxing drive right now.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Quiche Lorraine

So I was reading this article about feeding yourself on $15 a week. He mentioned quiche. I've never had a quiche before, but my friends speak highly of it. I wouldn't know a quiche from a bag of caviar. But I had some eggs, and my handy dandy Betty Crocker book, so I had a go at it.

First up was the crust. Flour, salt, shortening, water. Easy! And so:

I don't have the fancy tools that normal people have, so sometimes I have to substitute. Here, I substituted the "cutting shortening into flour" trick that I watched my gramma do, and my mom showed me eons ago:

Lo and behold, after adding some water and getting kind of nervous, it became dough:

Now, like I said, I don't have the nifty tools other people do. Here, I substitute a pint glass for a rolling pin:

Worked pretty well, eh?

Well, I had to roll all that dough back onto the glass to lay it on the pie pan. That wasn't going to work, the glass was way too short. So I substituted again:

And now the crust is trimmed up and looking fine:

And I used the leftover crust to make some, um, cinnamon sugar squares or something. I don't know. It seemed like a good idea at the time:

While the oven was heating (because God forbid I should remember to turn it on before shit is ready to go in it), I started cooking the bacon. I can't fry bacon, I have some sort of deficiency. So, I substitute. I love my George Foreman grill:

While the bacon was cooking and the oven was heating, I mixed the eggs, milk, and, um, something else. It called for a dash of nutmeg, but it's cheaper to buy spices bagged instead of in a jar, so I got the bag. You can't get a dash from a bag, so I just took a teeny pinch. Like so:

And the oven's heated (you can tell when it stops making the popping noises. Also, there's sometimes a "fwoomp" noise.) So, in with the pie crust and cinnamon sugar squares. Meanwhile, the bacon's done!

So I take the bacon drippings and cook the onions til they're soft but not brown. I was going to stop about three or four minutes before I actually did. I was worried I might start browning 'em. But I figured, hey, I kind of like brown onions, so I'll keep cooking 'em. Most of my problems with cooking comes from worrying about over-cooking, and as a result, under cooking. I digress. Onions got cooked. Bacon got crumbled into the egg/milk mixture. Cheese and flour were added, and though the onions looked like they might be a bit much for the amount of mix that I had, I threw them in there anyway. Would Betty Crocker lie to me?

Ding! The crust is done. I don't want to get crazy here, but I think that looks like a damn fine crust:

The cinnamon squares, however, looked pretty shitty. They tasted even worse. Lesson learned: don't be putting the sugar on some dough and blithely throwing them in the oven. In the future, maybe put some butter on there and then sugar 'em when they get out. These were basically gross.

So one thing led to another, you know how it is. The whole shebang went into the pie pan, and it looked like it could actually be something resembling dinner.

Betty Crocker suggested that I use some foil to cover the crust so it doesn't burn. Well, the most important ingredient when I cook is "holy shit, please do what you can to not fuck this up," so the crust was foiled.

Now, my oven is kind of, well, bockety. The numbers on the knob are mostly worn off, and I don't think they actually correspond to what's going on in the oven anyhow. So I set it for what I hoped was 325, and set the timer for 35 minutes. It was supposed to cook for 35-40 minutes, or until a knife inserted near the center came out clean. The timer went off, I checked on it, it was still in a fairly liquid state. I set the timer for five more minutes and checked back on it. I did this about six times. For serious. It took an extra half hour.

But lo and fucking behold, it was a quiche.

It was a little undercooked. I think I need to get one of those oven thermometers. But it was fantastic, cheese and onion and bacon bits - holy crap,it was the best thing I've eaten all week. It more than made up for the mashed potato casserole from last week. I'm going to try it with tomatoes next week, but first I have to figure out how to roast 'em, since that would just add to the liquid. I think it might be good with some bell peppers, too, but I don't want to get too crazy here.

I'm getting my hand mixer this week, so there will be some mad crazy frenzy of whipped things forthcoming. That's fair warning.

Stupid hat

So it's October in Chicago, and despite our high of 88 today, winter is going to be on us quicker than TMZ on Britney's panties, so I decided this year I'd be prepared. Instead of struggling from place to place playing chicken with frostbite. A nice scarf, a cute hat, some gloves. You know, winter stuff.

Since I quit smoking, I'm knitting like a crazy woman these days. So I figured I'd start with making a hat. Nothing fancy, just an easy peasy knitted hat. So I got my old copy of Stitch n Bitch, found a hat pattern, and got to work.

This is what I ended up with:

Which is fine for a newborn, but it's too dinky for my noggin:

So, I tried again. This time I added 20 stitches, so it was 84 instead of 64. It was a bit of an improvement:

But still looked kind of silly:

After all, I'm a pretty far cry from your average skate board hero.

So I'm trying it again, this time with 100 fluffy blue stitches and little more attention to detail on the stars. Third time's the charm, and all that.

Deep down inside, though, I think I could totally pull off wearing that dinky hat.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Vanilla Pudding

Last night I decided I wanted some kind of dessert to reward myself for having to choke down the mess I made on Monday. I flipped through my handy dandy Betty Crocker cookbook and found that I had the ingredients for vanilla pudding.

Oh yes. It was pudding time.

Seemed pretty straightforward, didn't need a double boiler or anything fancy, just some eggs, flour, sugar and vanilla extract. So, I got to work.

Now, I know you folks think I'm screwing stuff up all the time, that maybe I'm not following directions or I'm taking shortcuts. This isn't the case. So I took pictures of each step so show you what was going on. Some of the pictures were re-created after the pudding was done, because there's a time for stirring the pudding and there's a time for taking pictures, and those two don't always coincide. Some were taken as I was cooking, because there are some things that can be done one-handed, and done well. Amiright, fellas?

Fist up: dry ingredients. Flour, sugar. Easy peasy:

Add three cups of milk:

Cook until bubbly, then cook for two more minutes. I don't really know what they mean by bubbly. The reasoning was, if they wanted it boiling or simmering, they would have said that. So I figured they meant when the little bubbles come up around the edges, like so:

Add one cup of this mix to two beaten eggs.

Done. Add this mix back into sauce pan. Got it. So, add one tablespoon of butter or margarine and 1 1/2 tsps of vanilla extract:

Pour it into a bowl and chill for four hours.

Yeah, that looks pretty gross. But it doesn't really look any worse than the picture in the book, so it must not be so bad.

Well, as we all know, patience is just another virtue that I don't possess, so I took a taste of it before I got it in the fridge. It wasn't very tasty. Kind of bland, really. I didn't have anything interesting or appropriate to put in it, so I broke up and melted a Reeses cup and cooked it in there.

It didn't taste any different at all, so I put in two more. I was feeling pretty good about this idea, but it still didn't really taste different, so I just put it back in the bowl and back in the fridge.

Two hours later I decided to try some.


I got about halfway through what I had there in the bowl and started getting sick to my stomach. Way, way too sweet. Still didn't taste like chocolate at all, or peanut butter. It tasted like sugar free, fat free, generic pudding mix that might have passed its expiration date.

The good news is, I put some Parmesan/Romano cheese stuff on the mess I made on Monday, and it tasted fine.