Thursday, August 30, 2012

Memory Lapse

As happens almost every year, I moved from one office location to another. Because of construction, I had to store everything but those items I used on a daily basis.


When I finally had the opportunity to move into my new office a few weeks ago, I discovered two boxes of my office supplies had disappeared. People who know me know I have something of an office supply fetish, so I invest my own money in having supplies that actually work as opposed to those that often come in the public sector where the cheapest bid wins. In those two boxes was a couple hundred dollars’ worth of materials. Because everything was stored in an unsecure location, I figured someone decided they liked my office supplies as much as I did.


I let the appropriate people know and whined to everyone else for the following three weeks.


Today I got a call asking if my box had a certain couple of items. I confirmed that it was my box.


When I asked about them, I was told where they were found.


Then I remembered that was exactly the place I put them so they would not be “stolen.” I hate when that happens.


Finding the right hiding place proves to be a challenge – especially when the best ones are so good they are forgettable – especially two months later.


After work, I quickly incorporated the found supplies into my office arrangement. I will stop whining and pretend nothing happened while I happily staple with my good stapler and hole-punch with my good hole-punch. Maybe no one will notice – except those who read about it.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Cooking with Julia

One thing few of my friends know about me, is that while cooking a meal, I often mentally give myself reminders in my best (internal) Julia Child voice. When I want to do something special, her voice lends a degree of authority and confidence to what I am doing. Watching her show today (and knowing about her spy-connected work in World War II), I consider only a powerful person who transformed cooking in the United States. From her pioneering show on PBS, entire networks have flourished.

 In addition to the everyday (gourmet) cooking style she presented (even including mistakes in her shows), she recaptured the idea of cooking quality foods at home in a time when “box” foods were the wave.

Beyond just demonstrating the cooking techniques, she also had that particular voice. Although she was a California native, her voice presented as something foreign and unique. No matter how mundane her cooking seems today in that flood of cooking her success inspired, she stands unique in the history of food television.


         Perhaps one overlooked trait that Child brought to television was her sense of humor. Whenever she would forget the technical word for an item, she would substitute a description, “the thing that [blahblahblah].” Her unscripted dialogue included lines that sometimes required her to bail herself out. A favorite from her “omelette party” episode was:

“Oh, here comes my mother-in-law, I’ll give her a liver omelette."

Which led to a lengthy explanation that mother-in-laws were too much maligned, but then, she did not have one herself. Too often people find humor in the datedness of the show. Stopping there misses the wit of the brilliant woman.

 Maybe we have learned that we cannot cook like Julia and remain healthy, but we have to give her the props she deserved for changing the way we think about cooking at home. Many of us now have a vocabulary of cooking terms much broader than was in the American lexicon in the early 60’s when she started her show. She made us believe that we could cook gourmet meals at home, not rely on a professional chef at a restaurant. Few people have had such an impact on our culture.

 The next time you eat at my house, or eat something I prepared, remember that Julia voice in my head giving me directions.


Friday, August 10, 2012

The Circle of Life

The circle of life
Of a pen.
Of a waiter.
In a moderately priced cheap restaurant.

When I arrived home tonight and began pulling the day’s collection of stuff from my pockets, I realized, to my horror, I had stolen the waiter’s pen.
My first thought was, “I should drive back and give it to him.”
My second thought was, “I gave him a very good tip.”
Which was followed by, “Does that make me elitist?”
I honestly considered driving back across town to give the waiter his pen back. It was a nice pen, and I am the pen guy.
In meetings I have the pens arrayed in their rainbow order (I get called out by some co-workers if I don’t) so that I can color-code my notes. As a very visual (and hyperactive) learner, color coding helps me remember what I write. Whether I ever look at it again or not, when asked a question about the meeting, I can mentally scan my notes for certain color text and recall what was discussed.
I am also a pen-snob. I like only certain kinds of pens based on their size and the feel when writing. My handwriting can indicate that I should have been a doctor, but with the correct pen, my writing actually presents a certain elegance on the page. Such is the writing I imagine when I mentally glance across the pages to refresh my memory.
Within seconds, I decided that the waiter had most likely snagged the pen from some poor soul who had left it on the table after signing the credit card receipt, so I did not drive back and leave it there. It will be a pen that will be set out on my desk that some student will take shortly after the start of the school year.
That is the way things work.
It is the circle of life.
Of a pen.
Of a waiter.
In a moderately priced cheap restaurant.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Chick-fil-A and Me

I have been surprised by the breadth of reaction to the entire Chick-fil-A story. What I expected to be a minor news story in a limited, targeted media swath has turned into all out media war on both sides. In the middle of it all, the core message behind the boycott has been lost. Instead of a business’s donation to documented hate groups, which is the central issue, the message has been co-opted to be about free speech.


Dan Cathy, the president of Chick-fil-A can say whatever he wants. It is his right as a citizen and a businessman. We too much value the fundamental rights to put a muzzle on anyone who speaks out with an unpopular opinion. Without such speech, little that we take for granted today would exist.


However, Mr. Cathy’s donation of over $2 million to groups that have been identified as hate groups moves the conversation entirely out of the free speech realm. His support of groups that spread information that has been proven false with the expectation that if they scream it loud enough, often enough, it will become true, moves from speech to harmful action. Such libelous statements are not protected and enter the arena of behavior that can be challenged in a court of law. Those who naively assume that the reaction comes solely in response to what he said need to actively research the history of where Dan Cathy’s donations have gone. He can speak his beliefs as much and in whatever forum he chooses, but he does not have the right to act in a bigoted way that supports a direct harm to any person.


I started my personal boycott of Chick-fil-A long before any of the current media frenzy began. Friends of mine (a heterosexual husband and wife) went through the process to open their own franchise. After recounting the prayer meetings and challenges to their faith they had to endure to be considered for a franchise, I decided I could not support such a business. Though they are long-time church members, the level of questioning my friends faced approached that of an ordination panel for a minister. Such requirements of Chick-fil-A cross the boundary from Christian-based to theology-driven. Those who clamor for freedom of speech may wish to consider the nature of that theology before they rush out for the next chicken sandwich.


Some people will continue to support and some will boycott. Whatever stance they take should be based on a fully informed decision, not the reaction media frenzy or political ideal they imagine they support. The Twitter and Facebook feeds have been filled with too many uninformed statements by people who did not check what they had to say before saying it.


So, speak out, Mr. Cathy, all you wish. You lost my business years ago and as long as any profits from the company make their way to proven hate groups, you are doing nothing to win back my business.