Friday, December 31, 2010

2010: An Eco-Disaster Odyssey

Here's a link to a little timeline I created highlighting some of the more devastating eco-events of the past year.

http://www.life.com/timeline/18851#index/0

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Launch Of "Ringy Dingbat"

Not to detract from this blog at all, I decided that if I'm to continue my masochistic pursuit of work in the customer services field, I have to have an outlet to vent from lest I go even crazier than I already am.

I literally stumbled across another blog site, tumblr, which I guess encourages a briefer more spur-of-the-moment theme than epic blogzillas like this one here on Blogger.

So I inaugurated Ringy Dingbat as a forum for my quips, snippets and thoughts on my past and (assumable) soon-to-be current experiences in the call center world.

Like I say in my first text post there, follow if you like, but as you know, it ain't all so pretty.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Death-mas

Time once again to scan the news articles and see what lovely things have been happening today, the day of "the Lord's" birth...

Oh my, once again, it's not so good:

Suspected Suicide Bomber Kills 45 in Pakistan

Nigerian Villages and Churches Are Struck in Deadly Attacks

Earthquake measuring 7.6 hits Vanuatu

North Korea Says U.S., South Korea Drill ‘Inviting Nuclear War’

Christmas church bombing wounds six in Philippines

Thousands flee Ivory Coast for Liberia amid poll crisis

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Real Old Lake Mary

'Twas just before Christmas, when all through the town,

Not a soul in Lake Mary was wearing a frown;

The City Hall palm trees were decked out with care,

In hopes that the wealthy would still like it here.

But just around the corner, in the heart of the city,

Sat a scary little bar, that wasn't so pretty;

"Been here sixty years," Jack said in a flash,

"We don't take no credit cards, just good ol' cash."

The beer was on tap and served nice and cold,

All the patrons around were a sight to behold;

No Yuppies, no kiddies, no soccer moms here,

"And, fuckin' A, there better not be a damned queer."

Though no Harleys were parked outside in a row,

The night was early yet...give it an hour or so.

George Strait was playin' loud out the old jukebox,

'Cause everyone in here's been to the school of hard knocks.

Through the thick haze of smelly cigarette smoke,

Ole Jerry rolled on in and to us he then spoke;

He told tale of when, not a long time ago,

Lake Mary was a backwater that just wouldn't grow.

Back then, bars like this were all the town had,

A place to get drunk so you wouldn't get mad;

But the anger felt by the old Cracker folk,

Only grew like a fire that the New Ones would stoke.

These new carpetbaggers, Jerry said with a frown,

Were down right set on transforming this town;

They wanted the lakes and hills, but no Crackers,

And drove up land values with their millions of smackers;

They bought out the growers and sharecroppers too,

And tore down the shacks so they could start fresh and new;

Mansions and condos all costing a-plenty,

Were joined by posh stores so you could spend every penny.

Soon the charming quaintness of Lake Mary faded,

And all the oldtimers became poor and jaded.

Now they all gather, here in this dive,

Trying to keep the rebel spirit alive;

They drink to Old Florida, and its slow easy pace,

Slinking far away from that materialistic rat race.

Jerry took a long swig from his cold mug of beer,

And told us that he wanted to welcome us here;

To the old hag slumped nearby on her stool,

He yelled "Come 'ere, Darlin', these folks is cool;"

Now y'all get ready...y'all look over here,

Take a gander at Ol' Mary, there's nothin' to fear."

With a smile on her face and a twinkle in her eyes,

She yanked up her shirt to show us our prize;

Her wrinkled breasts hung there, for all folks to see,

But none others were phased. Just my buddy and me.

"You may be newcomers, but still I will call,

Welcome to the real Old Lake Mary, y'all!"

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The New Boatswain's Call

Per Congress' decision yesterday, the U.S. Navy will now need a new boatswain's call. You know - the shrill whistle call used for mostly symbolic ceremony now, but still very important in military protocol.

It'll be for fabulous new recruits of a certain, ahem, orientation, coming aboard ship for the first time (openly, that is)...





Watch those portholes, boys! Thar be new semen, I mean seamen, coming astern!! ;)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

SCRAPBOOK: 2010: A Blog In Review






















SCRAPBOOK: Mom's Home Cookin'

Alright, I know...everyone boasts that their mom was the best cook in the world. But really, my mom knew how to get it done! Seriously, it's a miracle I wasn't a fat kid since her cooking was fantastic, and unfortunately not too kind to your waist.

Now that she's gone, none of these dishes get made (unless I make them) since I doubt my sister or brother either have the inclination or the recall to recreate them. And my father? Well he can't even make spaghetti and that's the only thing he would ever make if mom wasn't able to fix dinner.

Like a method-trained actor, mom required a precise regimen of preparation, exact scripting (in the form of hand-written recipes on index cards) and lots of time. So she wouldn't have done very well on any of these reality TV cooking competition shows, to be sure.

As the years went by and she became more experienced with these recipes, she'd dare to venture into a small amount of experimentation; a little dash more of this here and a slight substitution for that there. But she clung to those index cards steadfastly most of the time. She feared failure immensely and I think she thought that if she wavered too far from the tried and true, she'd let us down.

Well playing it safe worked for her and since the dishes came out great each time, who's to say it wasn't the right way of doing it.

Here are some of my personal favorites. She had a vast box of cards though so it was hard to pick just twelve. BTW, I've recreated many of these dishes and unfortunately that collection of index cards is long gone so I have to fly by the seat of my pants, working from the memory of watching her make them and enjoying the results.

Stuffies


Like any seafood, in my youth I turned my nose up at these. But now, I think back to the uniquely spicy yet smooth flavor of these giant stuffed quahogs...a quintessential Rhode Island appetizer...and I now long for those with watering mouth.

Clam "Chowda"


Hardly any New Englander would pronounce this hearty seafood stew any other way. And in Rhode Island, it was specifically the red (Manhattan) variety. My mother would pull out her biggest "chedron" (stock pot) and brew up a batch huge enough for an army barracks.

Clam Cakes


What better to go with the chowda, yet another Rhode Island staple, clam cakes are fried dough fritters made with clam and clam juice infused batter. Oh man, thems good eats!

Dynamites


Let's really get regional here...dynamites (loose hamburger, green peppers and onions in tomato sauce simmered for hours and stuffed into torpedo rolls) are known only in the Woonsocket area and are an essential summertime cookout treat. My mom's backyard parties wouldn't be without them.

Baked Beans


Slow-cooked goodness in a crock. What cookout would be complete without them. And like the dynamites, family members from all around would be drawn to her shindigs if they knew these would be on the picnic table.

American Chop Suey


Not all mom's recipes were so New England oriented. Who knows where this one came from? Certainly not Chinese, but not very American either. Likely some mutation of Italian influenced pasta bolognese, but ghettoized for a plain old weeknight meal that was cheap and easy to make.

Pork Chops and Rice


Like I mentioned, mom was religious in her execution of most recipes and this one had some stringent rules. It had to be made in an electric frying pan, the rice had to be Carolina long grain, the canned tomatoes had to be whole and then hand-crushed, and the mixture had to sit in the pan long enough for the rice to be slightly burned on the bottom.

Roast Beef and Spaghetti


Mom used to tell us that a friend of hers suggested serving slow-cooked roast beef Au Jus over spaghetti and her conventional culinary mind was all in a tissy. "What, not with boiled potatoes?" as was the French-Canadian influenced norm. She tried it on a whim and we all loved it so it became a family favorite.

Galumpkis


This is an Americanized spelling and we actually mangled it more by pronouncing them as "go-umpkis", but no matter how you say or spell it, it's just simply Polish goodness in your tummy. The tradition in our family was to have these at Christmas. These would be served alongside the other Polish heritage, and even more labor-intensive dish next in line...

Pirogis


Essentially big ravioli-like pasta pockets stuffed with potatoes and cheese served boiled and smothered in sauteed onions and butter. Probably something like 1000 calories each but who cares! They're so good...beeeeeeeeep (the sound of the heart monitor indicating heart failure).

Blueberry Torte


Now it's time for dessert. First up, this cheesecake like concoction. One of the few recipes my mom got from a cookbook. She usually stuck with dishes passed on to her from family or friends.

Jewish Coffee Cake


This one was passed on to her from a friend. Don't think they were Jewish so who knows where it originated from but this had to be my favorite of all her desserts. And mom hated making desserts, but with this always moist cinnamon-apple laden item, you'd never know it.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I Used To Complain About The Heat

Gee, it seems like just a short time ago I was complaining about the still lingering summer-like heat and humidity here in Florida. Well, I guess I got my relief.

Temps tonight are set to potentially break records with the low likely to be in the upper 20s. That's Fahrenheit, folks! Yup, well below freezing. With wind chill (huh? "wind chill"...I haven't heard much of that term since living up north) they say it'll feel like the temperature is in the teens!

Okay, let's get this straight. Though I hate when the dog days of endless 90's drag on in the summer, I don't want to deal with the fact that I am highly inconvenienced since I live in a house without central heat and I have no winter coat. So now nights are spent sleeping fully-clothed bundled under multiple comforters and going out means running to the car and turning on the heater.

Too bad the air is so dry...otherwise we might see some fluffy little flakes flying around. That'd be something!

I guess I feel bad for tourists down here from more northern climes...NOT! Suckers! They thought they'd escape to a tropical paradise, huh...joke's on them!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

SIMS CREATION: TV Memories Series: "Dallas"

Howdy, Y'all! Welcome to Southfork Ranch, home of the wealthy Ewing family. Y'all remember Jock and Miss Ellie, Bobby and Pam, Lucy, Sue Ellen and, of course, J.R. 'Course you do. It wasn't like it was all just a dream, or somethin'...



Sunday, December 05, 2010

The Return Of Mr. Jingles

Well, of course, it's not him. He's quite dead as you know. But one of his brethren is currently trying to hold out against our cold snap and is living in my walls.

That's right...I got mouse problems again.

I knew I would. In addition to the assumed gap in the soffit on the "alley" side of the house, there's a big ol' missing piece of fascia on the right front corner. It's just a wide open door for all sorts of crawly critters.

So now I sit here all alone in the creepy middle of the night...and there is definitely the sound of something going "bump". And "scratch".

I guess it's time to get some traps out again.

And sharpen my forks.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

SIMS CREATION: TV Memories Series: "All in the Family"

Another '70s show, another Norman Lear creation. What can I say, those shows were great. They were when sit-coms not only made you chuckle, they made you think. What?! Would Americans want to think about issues such as politics, religion and racism during their evening pablum? They did then. How about now? Hmm...with current offerings such as "Dancing with the Stars" and "Jersey Shore"... I think not!

Here are Edith and Archie Bunker, their daughter Gloria and her husband, the "Meathead", Mike.

"...Those were the days!"


What A Similarity A Year Makes

Last year around this time, I wrote some brief yet quite cryptic posts (here and here) alluding to some stressful crisis I was enduring. I still want to stay vague about the issue that so vexed me but suffice it to say that soon after the new year, the issue resolved itself and was soon fretted over no more.

Now, again in early December of this year, I'm faced with a very (and I do mean VERY) similar problem looming on the horizon. Not the same thing at all, but, again, very similar.

Like that issue, if I divulged to people like Ric my troubles, I'd likely be shunned. It is, in all honesty, quite embarrassingly bad. Oh, I know you must be dying to know what it is...but I can't go into it. Not now. Maybe not ever.

The stress that last year's dilemma caused me was very intense. This new issue is actually worse so the potential for an even higher degree of stress is there. Hopefully I'll be able to get through it without literally dropping dead of a heart attack.

If the posts on this blog suddenly seem to stop for an extended amount of time, that may be the reason.

Is it a coincidence that all this comes to me right after I put up a SIM CREATION post remembering the work of Redd Foxx? A man who struggled with alcoholism and addiction and was beleaguered by financial and legal issues. A man who ironically dropped dead of a massive heart attack of the likes he'd famously feigned in his role as his Fred Sanford character.

All I know is this whole thing makes my recent gains in mental health due to a daily regimen of eating better, drinking less and taking St. John's Wort pretty moot.

I may as well just give up, look skyward and shout up there to "Elizabeth" that I'm comin' to join her.

Friday, December 03, 2010

SIMS CREATION: TV Memories Series: "Sanford and Son"

Earlier this year I created my version of the classic "I Love Lucy" set, including, of course, Ricky and Lucy, with Sims 2. Now, using Sims 3, I decided to recapture the look and feel of some of my favorite TV shows. As you can see, I've started with "Sanford and Son", replete with grizzly but lovable Ripple-guzzlin' ole Fred, his well-meaning but hapless son Lamont and his despised "holier-than-thou" sister-in-law Esther.

Click on a picture for a larger view.




Monday, November 29, 2010

SIMS CREATION: The Breakers

The little quip I wrote in the previous post got me thinkin...yeah, let's do it. Let's build The Breakers in Sims 3.

I have all the graphics options set to HIGH but it still looks very similar to Sims 2, if you ask me. The people (Sims) look a bit more "chunky" and objects now appear to be 3-D modeled in monochrome first, then a "skin" is applied. This allows for endless user-created skins for all sorts of things. And surely, if you check out the Sims Exchange, users have re-colored everything...but it usually looks user-created. Kinda amateurish.

But I digress. Back to my mansion. It's about half furnished and painted, with the exterior completely done. It could use more landscaping, I think...but the original doesn't really have that much in the way of trees and flowers. The "katibo" look of The Breakers is partially achieved through its dramatic positioning in relation to the rocky cliff and ocean below...and that gorgeous back lawn. My version is happily positioned as similarly as I could get.

I've included here a front and back pic, along with a snapshot of the real thing for comparison.





Sunday, November 28, 2010

SCRAPBOOK: New England Memories

Despite the fact I haven't been to New England since the 20th century, this time of year always gets me thinking back to my formative years there and the fond, and sometimes not so fond, memories of that special place. Let's face it, the Holidays and all the nostalgic traditions associated with them pretty much originated here.

So journey with me now, if only through the eyes of other photographers from whom I've stolen. (Actually, I'm getting better at that...these are all labeled "free use" by their respective owners.)


The holiday we just celebrated a few days ago got its purported start here, of course, good ol' Plymouth, Massachusetts. Decades ago when grand marble public monuments were all the rage, some committee decided to erect this edifice around the famous stone. It's kinda weird seeing just a plain ol' bolder in the sand housed and protected by this huge ornate thing. It was built just a few years before the Great Depression. I wonder how many homeless people during that time looked at this and thought "Why can't some committee build simple houses for people rather than a mausoleum for a rock?"

This is also the spot where, a long time ago, I cursed "God" in a display of my firm atheism in front of my Jehovah's Witness boyfriend. Needless to say, that relationship didn't last long.


Winter in New England can be rough, but looking at a picture of the prettily frosted trees isn't. Especially when you're fanning yourself on an 80 degree evening in Florida. Here is North Conway, New Hampshire. Linda, her BF at the time Bill and I went to visit her cousin here many decades ago.


Time to warm up and head over to Lake Champlain, Vermont. Without any real spiritual conviction (but just because it sounded Thoreau-like) I once claimed this region the "land that God kissed" making reference to the geographic shape of the lake which, on a map, looks like an impression giant lips would make. Also, because the area is gorgeous. The verdant green undulating hills surrounding a pristine cobalt lake under a cerulean crystal clear sky. Takes your breath away.

I enjoyed a most pleasant day in this area (albeit the New York side) a few years ago on my way to Montreal.


Here in Florida, and I guess elsewhere in the US where there are lots of farms and orchards and ranches and such, counties annually hold fairs to show off the products and people of the land. New England's counties are merely boundaries on a map so they don't organize fairs, and the states are somewhat small so they all get together and put together a big collaboration known as the Big E.

Part state or county fair and part regional expo, each state contributes to this annual event held in West Springfield, Mass. showcasing their wares at the permanent pavilions and hundreds of pitched tents, roll-away kiosks, fried junk food trailers and trucked in carnival rides.

It's great here though sadly I'd only visited once in the late eighties. More likely, back then, if I was hankerin' for carny atmosphere I'd go closer to home and head on down to Rocky Point.


If I were to plan a "revisiting the old haunts" vacation back to New England, I'd have to include a visit to my favorite of all the Newport mansions. The Breakers, built in the Gilded Age as a summertime "cottage by the sea", epitomises that lost era.

Looking at this shot reminds me of summer walks along Cliffwalk, sailing in the bay, cool jazz concerts on the lawn of Fort Adams State Park, lobster at the Chart House on the Wharf. I wonder if I could recreate this house in Sims 3? I wonder if my graphics card could handle it?


The mid-eighties were all about hanging out in Boston. Small town Rhode Island was too constraining for me, I needed a city to stretch out in. And invariable, many a visit to Beantown included a stop over here.

The place for shopping, eating and getting together with good friends for drinks and merriment. (Yes, I actually had those then, both good friends and merriment!) Fanieul Hall is a bit touristy in hindsight but even though I made my way to the city every weekend at one point, the buzz and energy of the crowd drew me back again and again.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Oh, Hello Blog

Yes, I've been quite neglectful. I wish I could say it was because my life is suddenly so very interesting and fun-filled. Nope. It's just the same old dynamics: endless leisure time thanks to unemployment and newly-acquired video games.

The newest game purchased is actually the oldest of the recent 3. Sims 3 came out about a year ago I guess, but I held off on getting it because I was still handicapped by the crappy on-motherboard video card. When I upgraded that card in August, I forgot to revisit the option of buying Sims 3.

The jury is still out whether it's worth the $40 expense but I guess it's okay. Not stunningly different than Sims 2 but it is a little more fun to actually play. The sims in Sims 2 needed so much micro-management it became tedious and un-fun. I'd gotten to the point where I used the game only as a construction set, building house after house without ever playing with the sims who lived in them.

Of course the new version is a bit heavier on my graphics card and CPU so I don't know if I'll be recreating any grand mansions like I did with Sims 2. It disappointingly came with a scant few objects in its vanilla inventory too. Luckily the version I got came with an expansion pack for free along with free Sim Points to use on the website to buy new objects.

Still playing Civ 5 every now and then as well. I like looking forward to earning achievements on Steam.

Fallout: New Vegas is on hold for now. I got to a point in the game where it isn't so much of a challenge anymore.

Unemployment will continue for another month and a half but I will lose the $25 stimulus bonus or whatever it's called in December. Bummer. BTW, is this how unemployment is designed to work? Exhausting the funds completely and THEN look for a job? I don't think so.

Started seeing a doctor at the free clinic. Not as bad as I thought it would be. It wasn't exactly the swanky designer decorated offices like my former cardiologist's in Heathrow but it's no Appalachian Emergency Room either. Got Metformin back and, most importantly, refilled Lisinopril. Being without that for a week and seeing my BP spike to 177/108 definitely drove home the fact that I'm on these pills for the rest of my life.

Had T-day dinner over at Ric's Thursday. It was alright. Ric's been cordial enough (for Ric that is) but I sense he's going through some of the same feelings about me that I've had, and occasionally still have, about him. We've grown so apart. Our mutual interests are down to practically just the most common like we both breathe oxygen and live on planet Earth.

His mom and sister were down from Indy. Let's just say I don't think either of them care too much for Ric's new roommates. They made a good show of course but I sensed a bit of snobbery on their part. Spending a day with a group of dysfunctional people makes me appreciate the stability and comfort of solitude.

Well, it's been a long night of sitting at the computer so I think I'll turn in. Sun's up and it's gonna be in the 80s again today. I hate Florida sometimes.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Post-Election Day Blues

I went out in the rain yesterday afternoon to go to the church that is my designated poling place (no, amazingly, I didn't burst into flames upon entering the building) and cast my vote. Well, of course I voted Democrat but as we know, a lot of good that did. Not surprisingly, Republicans made giant gains all over. Our Senator-Elect (although the appointed incumbent is actually a Republican so no gain in the ratio overall for the Florida seat) is one of those Tea Party Republicans to beat. He opened his victory speech last night by thanking...yup, you guessed it...God. Oh brother, one of those freaks.

Cali though, gotta hand it to them, they don't step in tune with the rest of the weeble nation, they set the trends, not follow them. They put Jerry Brown back in the Governor's Mansion. Oh baby! You can hardly get more liberal than Jerry Brown! 'Course that was in the 70's, maybe he's bent a bit more to the right in the past few decades. But don't get me wrong, he's not the tax and spend liberal most Republicans revile, he's socially liberal but a down right minimalist when it comes to government spending. Good for California, it's what they need after the past few years of that cigar-puffin', Hummer-drivin', muscle-head Nazi-lovin' Kennedy-cunt lapper. Oh I'm too harsh. I guess 'Ah-nold' wasn't all that bad.

Here in the ol' Sunshine State though, we seem to have elected that Lex Luther wannabe, Rick Scott for Governor, the only one of the four self-made multimillionairs (Whitman for Governor and Fiorina for the Senate in California and McMahon for the Senate in Connecticut, are the losers) to have won yesterday. (There may have been more that could have been defined as "self-made multimillionairs but these 4 made the most news with their high-profile corporate positions, political inexperience and gobs of their own personal millions.)

The saddest loss yesterday though, IMHO, was Alan Grayson. Sadly, I don't live in his, or what was his, district so I couldn't cast my approval vote for this great man who is unabashedly anti-Republican, anti-bullshit. He holds nothing back when talking about the atrocious Bush administration, the Republican resistance to the Heathcare Reform and all other Right Wing Kooks out there. 'Course some would say this "maverick" approach makes him look a bit kooky too. But I love him, and will miss his brand of shoot from the hip statesmanship.

In homage, here's a couple of clips of him, just being himself, and telling it like it is. Alan, we're gonna miss ya!



Friday, October 29, 2010

Crazy Good Cinema

Turner Classic Movies is one of my favorite channels. They seem to never waiver from a level of excellence in presenting to the viewer exactly what they expect from a network so named. The movies shown are a cut above, always. Unlike the similarly named American Movie Classics channel they stay focused acutely on their genre. Not that AMC is not quality, but they diverge in an effort to reach a broader audience, I guess, offering original series programming as well as just theatrical movies, like the acclaimed series Mad Men, of course. TCM though, stays the course. Perhaps this means a lower viewership but the programming doesn't suffer for it.

Case in point, I just got done watching one of my all time favorites, "The Other", a sublime psychological thriller from the early 70's.

I'm not sure if its broadcast was scheduled because of the upcoming Halloween holiday or the recent passing of its star, former child actor Chris Udvarnoky but it was a happy find as I channel surfed and recognised it immediately. This was probably my 7th or 8th viewing.

I read this following excerpt on a movie buff blog and thought it summed up the shocking ending of this film perfectly:

The final shot of The Other is absolutely horrifying: Mulligan’s camera tracks up to the bedroom window of the Perry house, where an unscathed Niles is staring down below at the ruins of the burned barn. “Niles!” Aunt Vee calls. “Wash up, now! Time for lunch!” We hear the echoing whistle of Holland over the soundtrack, and then Mulligan freezes the frame on Niles’ evil, ensnaring face. He is not the innocent child he once was. He never will be, ever again. The boy coming down to eat lunch at the Perry table is not a boy any longer, but a monster.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Patrolling The Wasteland Again

Even though I'm spending every spare minute playing "Civ 5", I couldn't pass up the opportunity to grab a copy of the newly-released "Fallout: New Vegas".

So now I'm dividing my time between the two games and allotting time for little else.

With my unemployment checks running out next week (gulp), I really should be spending at least some time looking for a job. But through my slick money management wizardry, I've stepped out a budget that only requires additional income after mid-December. So, at least according to plans, I don't need to start work until late November or so.

Money doesn't buy happiness. Freedom from needing money does. And even though computer games like the two new ones I'm devoting all my time to cost about $50 a pop, it's a one-time fee. After that, life is just the low cost heaven of mearly paying rent and buying just enough groceries and sundries. Everything else is superflouous.

Many would call my lifestyle a waste. But I say being a mindless drone day after day toiling away at a despised job only to be constantly living in fear of not being able to "get ahead" and failing to "make ends meet".

Here in the Wasteland, the ends always meet...

When I log off the computer at 5 am, catch a few hours of z's and prepare to do it all over again when I wake up. Thus is the life of a super slacker like me. Fighting through virtual battle after virtual battle, struggling to accumulate wealth, status and honor. But only in a video game.