Daily Archives: April 15, 2011

15 posts

Photo Phriday: Want to hop in the sack?

Welcome to the almost-but-not-really Tax Day edition of PhotoFriday. I’m Pssshwhatever and I’ll be your host for this week’s installment, which is all about handbags. Or your bed. Whichever.

I have a weird fashion industry job that I shouldn’t really be able to get paid for doing, and in my particular case, that means handbags indirectly pay my rent. And then sometimes they make it difficult to pay said rent, as was the case the month that I made the inadvisable purchase of the Celine tote that you see at the top of the page. So ladies, show us your handbags – your favorite one, the one you carry everyday, the backpack that you take to class. Surprise us.

Menfolk: You’re not excluded either. Show us your wallets, briefcases (I’m going to be extremely impressed if any of you actually own leather briefcases) or laptop bags. Hell, even your gym bag, if it’s worth showing. I will kindly ask that you not show us your balls. (Sorry, Gooch.) That’s not the kind of sack I’m talking about.

Or, alternately, show us a different kind of sack – your bed. That is my extremely cheap Target (it’s Dwell for Target, thankyouverymuch) comforter in the background; I felt it only right that as your host, I go for the double-whammy.

A note on posting images:

Upload your picture to a service like Flickr, Picasa or TinyPic and make sure that you have it set as a publicly viewable file. Right-click on the picture (or for Mac users, do the two-finger tap) and select “Copy Image URL” or whatever similar option the menu gives you. Then, paste that URL into the designated space of the code below:

Or, if you would rather have something that you can actually copy:

[img src=”IMAGE URL HERE”]

Replace the [ with a < and the ] with a >.

Et voila, y’all.

Opening Weekend: Rebel Yell

The return of Ghostface! I wasn’t aware the Wu-Tang Clan had put out another album, but there you have it. No, really, this week’s movies are not about the Wu-Tang Clan; they’re about the resurrection of a long-thought-silly teen slasher franchise. Wes Craven is really a genius. He’s like a pack of lulling Sirens from The Odyssey. Yes, that’s what he is. He can literally lead teens on film to their deaths like no one else today. And Scream 4: The Screamiest Ever looks successful! (Well, almost.) This is a magnificent feat. Freddy Krueger is cashing his last unemployment check as we speak.

Scream 4:

The reviews so far have defied expectations, or at least are better than Neve Campbell could have hoped for.

In Scream 4, Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), now the author of a self-help book, returns home to Woodsboro on the last stop of her book tour. There she reconnects with Sheriff Dewey (David Arquette) and Gale (Courteney Cox), who are now married, as well as her cousin Jill (played by Emma Roberts) and her Aunt Kate (Mary McDonnell). Unfortunately Sidney’s appearance also brings about the return of Ghostface, putting Sidney, Gale, and Dewey, along with Jill, her friends, and the whole town of Woodsboro in danger.

What you can expect: In a rather effective ode to the original, Scream 4 brings back some of the chills and thrills that surprised many and opened the door to the slasher movie once again. Wes Craven, teen-gore master, is undaunted at his attempts to connect the next generation to the “pick them off one by one” horror genre. This time he uses everything in his arsenal, which is basically new technology and media. Naturally. If you’re going to make a teen slasher film, you have to get teens where they live, and that’s in their iPhones. Not totally sure what new areas there are to be explored within this formula, but unsurprisingly, Craven manages to pull it off. He must have a teen spy working with him, or he understands the youth better than most. He should write a book. Perhaps The Anarchist’s Guide to Raising Teenagers.

What could annoy: Aside from the fact that there’s a “4” after the title of this film…I’m placing my bets on Courteney Cox and David Arquette. No real reason in particular other than they were always a bit of a weird, annoying couple to begin with, and I very much wished their characters dead in the original movie. I just can’t fathom how they’ve survived this long. Which may not be a difficult question since after filming this movie, Cox effectively took a knife and slashed the remains of her marriage to Arquette.


Pretty good reviews for the bird-brained animated feature.

From the makers of the hit ICE AGE series comes RIO, a comedy adventure about taking a walk on the wild side. Blu is a domesticated Macaw who never learned to fly, living a comfortable life with his owner and best friend Linda in the small town of Moose Lake, Minnesota. Blu and Linda think he’s the last of his kind, but when they learn about another Macaw who lives in Rio de Janeiro, they head to the faraway and exotic land to find Jewel, Blu’s female counterpart.

What you can expect: A colorful animated comedy. With plenty of famous voices including, Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, Jamie Fox, Tracy Morgan, and Will i.am — this movie is overstuffed with acting and performance talent. While the story isn’t as moving or heartfelt as some of the Pixar releases we’ve seen as of late, it’s still a formidable bit of escapist fun for viewers who want a lot of party with their animation.

What could annoy: It looks a little bit like a colorful migraine, and some of us can only take that Black Eyed Peas thing in small, nearly miniscule doses. An entire movie of the Peas doing their thing could be harmful. All in all, the kids should like it. The adults, well, I dunno, ear plugs?

Indie Picks:

The Princess of Montpensier

Speaking the international language of love and the critics agree.

France, 1562. Against a background of the savage Catholic/Protestant wars, Marie de Mézières (Mélanie Thierry), a beautiful young aristocrat, and the rakish Henri de Guise (Gaspard Ulliel), fall in love, but Marie’s father has promised her hand in marriage to the Prince of Montpensier (Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet). When he is called away to battle, her husband leaves her in the care of Count Chabannes (Lambert Wilson), an aging nobleman with a disdain for warfare.

The short and sweet: Sprawling costume drama. Action, adventure, love and war. Basically a bodice ripper in movie form. Harlequin is taking notes.


The Double Hour

This art-house offering is getting rave reviews.

Guido (Timi), a former cop, is a luckless veteran of the speed-dating scene in Turin. But, much to his surprise, he meets Slovenian immigrant Sonia (Rappoport), a chambermaid at a high-end hotel. The two hit it off, and a passionate romance develops.

The short and sweet: Critics are throwing words around like “noir” and “psychological spookiness.” Here’s to hoping it lives up to the hype. Who doesn’t love a well-constructed psychological thriller? It’s said to have many twists and turns, which, done right, can lead you to Mulholland Drive, Les Diaboliques or The Vanishing. Done wrong, you get Body of Evidence starring Madonna or Sliver starring Sharon Stone. Feh.


Flashback Friday: Of Angst and Flannels

Bursting onto the music scene from one of the least angstiest places in the world, Seattle, grunge took over the airwaves like the smoke from a campfire when the wind shifts. It was angry, intense and generally listened to in darkened basements filled with blacklights. Just me? Okay, then.

Kurt Cobain is the undisputed King of Grunge. He died when his wife Courtney Love killed him at his own hands and despite Pearl Jam’s attempts at dominance, Nirvana’s instant classic album (and cover), Nevermind, really signified the entire genre.

Maybe this is post-grunge but I like the lead singer’s voice, so screw it.

#Crasstalk COW-Art Within Art

For as long as I’ve been a member of the various commenting communities from which we all spawn, my feeling has been that best internet comments are a form of art.  They require a certain element of timing not unlike a comedian’s, as well as an element of wordplay and the ability to draw a picture with words akin to a skilled writer.  Great comments don’t just happen, they take skill, and sometimes, even a a little bit of a set-up.

We saw many examples of this throughout the week around here.  Why?  Well, obviously, because we have some of the smartest, funniest folks on this here internet.

One example comes to us from Thursday evening’s Open Thread, courtesy of Homoviper and CaptainSnarky:

Sometimes, our nominations come from within the same thread in which we announced our last winner.  It’s very meta:

However, as I mentioned above, commenting is indeed an art form at times.  Our winner this week elevated the art of commenting to a discussion of an artistic act during and artistic event.  That’s so meta, it just has to win.   From last night’s Open Thread, our winner is Dancing Queen!  Take a bow, dear! Just don’t stay bent over too long!

On a side note, thank you again to everyone who’s been sending along nominations.  If I could, I’d include every nomination I get into the COW post, but you all don’t have the attention span for that, and you know it.  Please keep them coming to [email protected].

Escaping the Bounds of “Regular” Employment in IT

Let me tell you a tale of a former IT worker. He started out as a Novell server administrator, then moved on to Windows NT, then moved on to Solaris, and AIX, and Linux, and Mainframe, and middleware, and webmaster, and finally became a first line manager while also doing technical work.

What started out as a fun 9 to 5 job soon became 8 to 5 and then 8 to 6 and then 7 to 6 and then hey I’m bored on a sunny Saturday summer afternoon, let me blow into the office and get some stuff done while no one is using the system.

And then there were Easter weekends spent relocating server farms from one building to another, and Fourth of Julys spent on conference calls with the customer, and New Years Eves spent on conference bridges with dozens of people making sure everything ran as the clock ticked over.

And then there were plans with friends canceled at the last minute, and parties he never got to go to, and lunches not taken, and vacations that were basically a Blackberry and a laptop taken to another state where he worked four hours a day instead of ten or twelve. Some vacation.

None of this extra time worked was ever compensated. He never got comp time or overtime pay. It was just expected that he would put in the hours because it was a part of the job.

And then, when he thought things were really moving along, after about 15 years of constant advancement, his employer pulled the rug out from under him and laid him off. In the middle of the worst recession, ever.

What to do, what to do? He picked himself up, inventoried his skills, and talked to some guys who used to work for him when he was a first line manager. These guys were contractors, and they had the life. They did not work overtime, because they were paid for overtime. They did not worry about making sure that silly, pointless annual reviews were completed. They did not worry about process and procedure. They came in, did what they were hired to do, and they went home. The end.

So he learned the ins and outs of being an IT contractor from people who had been in the business for a good number of years… and now he passes their advice on to you.

First and foremost: Are you a corp-to-corp contractor, or are you a W2 contractor? This is a critical decision. If you are a W2 contractor, you are an employee of a recruiting or consulting firm. You will have taxes taken out of your pay, you will probably have access to health insurance and a 401(k). You will not earn paid time off for sickness or vacation.

If you are a corp-to-corp contractor, you are responsible for errors and omissions insurance, you have to pay all the taxes that a W2 employer would pay, you do not have access to any group health insurance or retirement plans and yes, you also do not earn paid time off, because you are treated as a corporate entity, not an employee. So why would a contractor choose to be a corp-to-corp contractor? Money. Plain and simple. A recruiting company looking for a contract employee will usually offer two rates: a W2 rate and a corp-to-corp rate. A junior system administrator role, for example, would probably pay $42 an hour at a W2 rate and $55 an hour at a corp-to-corp rate.

If you think you want to hang with the big dogs and be a corp-to-corp contractor, consider that the following is a list of a few of the many items you will be responsible for: computer hardware and software; office equipment and furniture; business stationery and marketing materials; web site hosting and design; costs of incorporation; marketing and advertising; car and other business travel; business entertainment; telecommunications services; accounting, legal and other professional services; and ongoing training, professional books, subscriptions, and memberships.

Scary, huh? There are people with an eye for business who can keep track of all these things and still knock out great technical work, day in and day out. If that’s not you, look for a W2 consulting gig.

You’ve decided what type of contractor you will be and have taken the appropriate steps. Now: what skills do you have to offer? Take a look at your last few positions, or your duties over the last few years if you only had one employer. What could you call yourself a “subject matter expert” in, what topics did people come to you first for answers when they had a thorny problem? Do you have any certifications or special training? Things like these will dictate how you market yourself.

If you specialize in one thing (database administration, web design, security, etc) then it gets even easier to find the right job. Employers looking for hired guns like specialists, because they (think they) know what they are getting.

If you are a generalist, you’ve got a bit of an uphill climb. Do you work on multiple platforms? Can you handle database administration and web design and system administration and network design and implementation? Look for contract gigs in all of those areas, and tailor your resume for each gig you apply for. Yes, it’s more work, but them’s the breaks. You’ve got lots of skills, and the employer who picks you will be grateful for them.

Once you have landed your first consulting job, there’s things you have to do outside of work hours. First, you have to keep prospecting for new business. Keep reaching out to contract firms, recruiting firms, former co-workers. Anyone who could possibly get you a job. Second, you have to have some sort of filing system. Get a filing cabinet and start organizing receipts, contracts, work orders, legal papers, anything related to your consulting gigs. Setup regular backups for your computers and follow the backup schedule with the fervor of a true believer. Oh, and be sure to occasionally do restores, too, so you can be sure that your backups are actually backing things up.

Time management — it’s critical! You’re billing by the hour, and more likely than not, you’re working from home or at a remote location. You must develop the discipline to work during the hours you’re billing, and not “clock out” to go shopping, corral the kids, watch a movie, etc. Work hours are sacred, and not to be interrupted, because as a contractor you have lost the ability to tell your employer “my dog ate it” or “I got backed up by other stuff and I’ll have that done next Tuesday.” That ain’t gonna fly any more. You have to be better, faster and smarter than the “regular” employees.

Just so you know, sound time management will pay you back handsomely, because while you’re working like a demon during work hours, you’re also not working during non-work hours. If you are not on the clock, you are free as a bird. This is the wonderful part of the consulting gig. At the appointed hour, turn off that laptop and run for the hills! Enjoy your ability to completely divorce yourself from your job while the “regular employees” you work with suffer working unpaid overtime until they drop. Just don’t rub their noses in it, mmmkay?

Next up — mind your technology. Are you still using Windows 95? Of course you aren’t. Make a plan to keep your technology and your skills current. You can take a tax deduction (check with your accountant on the rules around this — you DO have an accountant, right?) for training and other job related expenses. Schedule time every month to visit vendor websites, in-person demonstrations, and networking groups. Budget hardware and software upgrades, and participate in beta test programs so you can see what’s coming before the general public, and your client base. Buy technical books and read them. If that’s not for you, look for classes in your field at your local community college.

Once you’ve established yourself as an IT consultant, you are free to pick and choose your assignments, concentrating on areas you find interesting and challenging. While you’re chewing on that, consider these questions to determine whether this is something you want to do.

  • Do You Thrive in a Constantly Changing Work Environment? Consultants are on the move, from client to client, working in a variety of organizations. To succeed, you must be able to quickly adapt to your changing environment and get up to speed.
  • Can You Handle the Pressure of Constant Deadlines and Commitments? More often than not, consultants work on time-sensitive projects and are constantly pressured to deliver, deliver, deliver. Can you handle the stress?
  • Do You Have Strong Team-Building and Leadership Skills? Teaming is the preferred method of operation in most companies today. Virtually no one works independently. Rather, you are engaged as a consultant to either participate on a team or lead it. Do you have the required management, leadership and communication skills to work with a team?
  • Are You a Talented, Confident, Articulate and Self-Motivated Marketer? Most consultants, other than those employed with the largest consulting firms, must sell their consulting services to build new client relationships. Regardless of your specialization, you must be an astute marketer who can quickly communicate your knowledge, expertise and value to prospective clients.

So there you have it. You can go the W2 consulting route, and have a company pimp you out, or if you are the Gordon Gecko type, you can captain your own ship through the choppy waters of business.

Or, you can remain an employee, put in extra uncompensated time, and be under-appreciated.

The choice is yours.

Life, Death and Violence: A Study of April 15

Tax man got you down? Of course he does, man. Of course he does. You work so hard for that dough and then it all goes away, man. It all goes away and if it doesn’t? Then bam! Straight to Alcatraz. Al Capone killed 937259023475 people, and what is he arrested for? T-A-X-E-S.  So file those forms today or request that extension lest you end up the Birdman of Crasscatraz. Damned Big Brother. Like a monkey on our backs, and that’s an actual monkey, not a pinko Commie pre-human version Chim-PAN-zee*, man. You got a problem, man? Then you better take it up with the muscle and today’s Life, Death and Violence Crush Object™ Tobias Sørensen.


Wanna Try?

From WCRS Detroit and Public Snark International, it’s Life, Death and Violence, brought to you by pencils. Pencils: damn they’re sharp! Don’t use a pencil on those forms, though. The IRS doesn’t accept pencil. Pen only. Black or Blue. What an awful day to be sponsored by pencils really. If only the IRS did tax forms by ScanTron!

Today on our program: Inconveniences. Happy Least Favorite Day in America™ everybody!


(Inconvenient, but fun, and hey, at least it doesn’t last forever)
  • 1894: Nikita Khrushchev: Led to rapid baldness due to the stress of his jealousy over his predecessor’s magnanimous mustache, the lovable fat man of the Soviet Union caused many an inconvenience for the glorious post-war American government, not to mention his people (and several dogs), whom he shot into space on rockets made out of string and bubble gum, hurtling to the stars, hurtling to their deaths. He also banned Doctor Zhivago, regretted banning it, forced the author to decline his Nobel Prize and let his people become the most detestable group of people known to man: Tourists.
  • After being charged for war crimes over the mistreatment of his cordwainery, Khrushchev was removed from office and given a pension where he grew depressed, wrote a memoir, smuggled it to the West, drank some vodka and died of a heart attack while wondering if it was stiflingly hot in Africa. Speaking of stifling heat:
A Swedish Tourist Tours the Fields of Russia



(Inconvenient AND Permanent)
  • 1865: Abraham Lincoln: What an inconvenient time to die, man. At the theater? With your best hag? By the hands of a failed actor? Gee, whiz. America’s First Gay President had to deal with other inconveniences though, including but not limited to: That inconvenient Civil War (right when cotton and tobacco prices were dropping!), those bleeding hearts inconveniently fighting over his suspension of habeas corpus (damned human rights), and Mary Todd’s insanity (listen lady, it aint gonna happen!)!
  • All highly inconvenient, but, Abe gone done fixed e’rything and then to be inconveniently shot? By a failed actor? At the theater? Oh, wait, already said that. His stovepipe hat, though? Very convenient, IFYOUKNOWWHATWEMEAN**
  • We’re pretty sure he revolutionized armor though, and even if that’s a blatant lie***, it’s just an excuse for this:

Union Soldier Circa 1864



(Never ever inconvenient, except for those who die, in which case it’s a little inconvenient)
  • 1912: The Titanic sinks. Lots of (famous!) people die. How inconvenient.  The real tragedy, however, will not occur for another 85 years.



  • 1635: Tobias’ ancestors defeat the Romans in the 30 year war.
  • 1755: SamJo pubs the English Dict.
  • 1817: Some guys with French sounding names found the American School for the Deaf in, ugh, Connecticut, but fail to solve the core problem: How will they hear the television ads?
  • 1896: Olympics are over. Hope you’re in good enough shape four years from now!
  • 1923: Insulin is released to the public, but the real question is, will the deaf hear Wilford Brimley telling them they need insulin?
  • 1947: Jackie Robinson becomes the first black baseball players after joining the Brooklyn Dodgers. Bed-Stuy Do or Die.
  • 1983: TOKYODISNEY!
  • 2002: Plane crash
  • 2011: There was a suicide bombing in Indonesia today.****

That’s it for today, folks! See you on Tuesday! And remember, Swedish men are never inconvenient.

*We are aware chimpanzees are apes, not monkeys.

**Sex Toy Storage

***It was a lie

****UPDATE: Insensitive comments were made, removed. Sorry.

On Being Bullied

Author’s Note:
I’ve added some links throughout this post to bring a little levity to a serious subject.

There has been much in the news in recent times regarding the increase in bullying in schools. My heart goes out to the children of this generation, because with text messages, Photoshop, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube (among many others), the possibilities for being tormented have drastically increased since I was in high school. This is my recollection of being harassed and intimidated in a time before technology made life utterly unbearable for the bullied.

When I was fourteen, I attended a progressive high school in New York City for my freshman year. While I loved the unusual format and variety of the classes, I was something of a social outcast and a hermit. When I did interact, I usually hung out with other socially inept nerds who were also good students. But mostly, I ensconced myself in self-imposed isolation.

Unbeknownst to me, I had a stalker, a girl in my grade who would follow me around and try to make friends with me. My intuition said to avoid her, but I quickly learned that this was not appeasing her at all. Stacey got progressively more aggressive as a result of my ignoring her, to the point where she scrawled “Witch! 666!” all over my hall and gym lockers. She repeatedly tried to take pictures of me undressing in the locker room.  I received several late-night phone calls from her where she would whisper in sinister tones that I, the “stuck-up bitch” was going to “get what I deserved.” Things came to a head in gym class, when she hurled a basketball at my stomach with such force that I spent the rest of the day under observation in the nurse’s office.

Fortunately for me, my mother became aware of what was going on. (I was too mortified to tell anyone.) She made an appointment with the Assistant Principal and calmly informed her that she was going to sue the school system if my tormentor was not expelled. My mother’s ire was effective, and Stacey was indeed expelled. I later learned that her entire motivation for trying to get my attention – including her extreme tactics – was because she had an unrequited crush on me. I had been completely clueless that this was even a possibility.

As a result of the trauma I’d endured at my Brooklyn high school, I moved in with my grandparents to their house in Sullivan County (roughly 75 miles north of NYC).  For my sophomore year, I enrolled at the local school, which — given the much smaller population — was a combination of junior and senior high school, which encompassed grades 7 through 12. Given the lack of stimulation of the rural area, many of the students entertained themselves with drugs and promiscuous sex. It was tremendous culture shock to be around so many decidedly non-serious students. One of my 10th grade classmates, a charmer named Butch, was eighteen years old at the start of the school year.  He would routinely serenade the class by pounding on his desk and singing the chorus of “White Lines”, a cautionary song about cocaine abuse.  (Butch had clearly missed the cautionary part.)  His disparaging nickname for me was “Goody Two Shoes.”

I befriended my teachers and a couple other nerdy/smart kids in my class, and I thought I was doing fine.  In fact, I was doing fine, until I encountered the wrath of a classmate who appropriately shared a name with the killer car in the Stephen King novel. Christine was a pretty and popular but less-than-bright girl who hated me on sight. She scorned my big city background, my large vocabulary, my comparative innocence — I didn’t drink, smoke, do drugs or have sex — and my fondness for the lone Asian kid in our class (who was one of only a handful of minorities in the entire school). In addition, Christine openly mocked my favorite light pink hooded sweatsuit that I wore to gym class. This quickly earned me my second nickname: “The Pink Panther.”

One day, in the soccer field during practice, she kicked the ball and deliberately hit me in the face, resulting in a déjà vu visit to the nurse’s office. The gym teacher chalked it up as an accident, but I knew it definitely hadn’t been one. It wasn’t until Christine pushed me down a flight of stairs that the administrators finally acknowledged there was a problem. (Thankfully, they were stairs with a landing in between floors, so I was bruised but not seriously hurt.)

My grandparents took me out of school, since expelling Christine only solved part of my problems with the school.  My teachers helped me out by arranging a home-school program for me to finish out the school year. In the summer, I returned to Brooklyn, and I nearly kissed the ground there when I arrived. The experience taught me that it was far better for me to live in a challenging but intellectually thriving place than to try to retreat to rural isolation. After that point, I was fortunate in that I never had another problem with bullies or mean girls.

I have tremendous compassion and empathy for all the kids who have to deal with unprovoked attacks on a regular basis just to get through the school year. I hope that some of these children are fortunate enough (as I was) to have parents and family members who are advocates and supporters. To any of you who’ve dealt with similar difficult circumstances, I hope that it’s helped you and in some way made you a stronger person.  As always, you are welcome to share your experiences and thoughts in the comments.

In closing, the following clip is a beautiful, gently cathartic song designed to raise your self-esteem. (You may be crying by the end of it.)

“How could anyone ever tell you
you were anything less than beautiful?
How could anyone ever tell you
you were less than whole?”

Toiling for a Tool? Ten Telltale Signs

Do you own your own business? Does your father speak like Mr. Bottomtooth on Family Guy, and let you draw a (no show) paycheck – from the company that amazingly bears the same last name as yours, while you spend the Summer banging chicks all across the European Continent as your Eurail pass hangs out of the back pocket of your Gap chinos? Well this post isn’t for you, Bunky. Move along. I’ll wait a sec….

Now, if the rest of the unwashed masses (me included) are ready, here are ten easy ways to see if you are toiling for a tool.

1. Does your micro-managing, vinyl-shoe wearing boss hover around your workspace and see if you are sending personal emails or taking personal calls and generally being unproductive? Tool.

2. Does your boss ask if you have finished Project X, as you are walking out to a much-needed, Wednesday liquid lunch? Tool.

3. If your boss likens your productivity to that of a sedated tree-sloth, during written review time, on letterhead, and makes you sign it. Tool.

4. If your boss mentions to you, in the break room – in front of the mouth-breathing HR Temp – that this is the fifth time this month you’ve been late, but never compliments you for taking the goddamn red-eye back from the mind-numbingly, soul-crushing conference she made you attend against your will, so that you don’t miss another workday? Tool.

5. When your boss is leaving at 11 a.m. on Thursday for a long weekend of cough syrup, TV Dinners, and masturbating until the sobbing starts and he dumps the vague outline of a Powerpoint he has to have for his ass-kissing meeting with Corporate at 9 a.m. Monday. Yes, he’s a tool.

6. Upon being reduced to throwing yourself under the warehouse forklift and jeopardizing “Slow Dave” the driver’s retirement in order to secure the afternoon off because your boss requires 946 hours prior notice. Tool.

7. When look forward to hunkering down in your basement and devoting every one of the precious few hours you have to yourself, at night, after work, searching the internet for: odorless, tasteless, easily purchased, fast acting, nervous system crippling, sphincter bleeding, sweet sweet poison for your boss – when you should be sleeping. Tool.

8. After enduring another closed-door conference call to your one and only new perspective client this month – in which you luckily closed some new business, no thanks to Mr. Has-No-Clue who insisted he “sit in” and now you can eat this month and by the skin of your teeth and sheer will, you barely survive the olfactory assaulting, gag-inducing aroma of those sense-stultifying, Sansabelt pants he’s worn for the third time this week and he has the nads to attempt a high-five and a “bro hug?” Tool.

9. If you refuse to talk about your personal, weekend business with your boss, which may or may not include: using your home-made trebuchet to hurl cat-eye marbles at Mitzy, your patient, but struggling goldfish; wearing neoprene; huffing modeling glue; abusing the On-Demand porn privilege with Comcast (to the point of a warning call), but she sees you as the perfect sounding board for an opinion of her newly e-bay purchased, Civil War Reenactment costume she is currently modeling before you. Tool.

10. If your boss waits until you are in the communal commode to take his “morning squirt,” which he does whilst humming the entire theme to Rocky, while you, once again, and hopefully this time successfully, evacuate the four pounds of government cheese you had to subsist on this past weekend and have been painfully carrying around in your lower intestine. Tool.

Hopefully, this will help you identify the tool you work for.


Some of you may hear me sing the never-ending praises of my favorite kitchen tool on a regular basis. It is a gift to newcomers and experts alike. It does not discriminate. It could care less if you know your amuse bouche from your ass; if you can shop, chop and read, you’re good to go. See, the magic pot only has four settings; off, warm, low and, of course, high (for those in a hurry). But, its capabilities are seemingly endless. Who knew you could make good lasagna in a slow cooker?

Some helpful tips for using and abusing this ’70s culinary masterpiece:

1. If the recipe calls for veggies, I try to add them as late as possible to preserve the nutritional content. If you want to get fancy, you can blanch the vegetables before adding, but this seems to defeat the “one pot” philosophy.

2. If you are increasing/decreasing the size of the recipe, don’t forget to alter the time accordingly. You laugh, but no one likes brown mush (I learned from experience).

3. Dry beans contain phytohaemagglutinin. I have no idea what this is, but it’s toxic, so all dry beans MUST be pre-boiled for ten minutes before adding them to the recipe. You don’t want to poison the dinner guests. Although, if you do, this appears to be the way to go.

4. Remove all fat and skin from any meat in your recipe. The fat melts and, trust me, it’s not pretty nor does it taste good.

For more helpful hints, this is a great site.

Now, for the GOOD part….. Recipes!

This is one of my favorites and is also very simple.

Soy Braised Chicken
Serves 4| Hands-On Time: 10m | Total Time: 8hr 00m
2 medium onions, sliced
4 garlic cloves, smashed
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 bay leaf
black pepper
8 skinless, bone-in chicken thighs (about 1 3/4 pounds)
1 teaspoon paprika
1 cup long-grain white rice
1 large head bok choy, cut into 1-inch strips
2 scallions, thinly sliced

In a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker, combine the onions, garlic, vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, bay leaf, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Place the chicken on top and sprinkle with the paprika.
Cook, covered, until the chicken and onions are tender, on low for 7 to 8 hours or on high for 4 to 5 hours (this will shorten total cooking time).
Twenty minutes before serving, cook the rice according to the package directions.
Ten minutes before serving, if the slow cooker is on the low setting, turn it to high. Gently fold the bok choy into the chicken and cook, covered, until tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Serve with the rice and sprinkle with the scallions.

This recipe for beef tacos is just, well, yummy! I added guacamole and home made salsa to the agenda and eliminated the sour cream. Also, chipotles in adobo sauce have a distinct smoky flavor. If this is not your thing, you can substitute green chiles or fire roasted ones and add some red or green salsa.

Chipotle Beef Tacos
Serves 6| Hands-On Time: 30m | Total Time: 8hr 30m
3 pounds beef chuck, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 large onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 to 3 tablespoons chopped canned chipotles in adobo sauce
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 bay leaves
kosher salt
4 cups thinly sliced cabbage (about 1/3 medium cabbage)
4 radishes, halved and thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, plus lime wedges for serving
12 6-inch corn tortillas
sour cream, pickled jalapeño peppers, and hot sauce, for serving.

In a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker, toss together the beef, onion, garlic, chipotles, oregano, bay leaves, and 1 teaspoon salt.
Cover and cook until the beef is very tender, on low for 7 to 8 hours or on high for 3 ½ to 4 hours (this will shorten total cooking time).
Twenty minutes before serving, heat oven to 350° F. In a large bowl, toss together the cabbage, radishes, cilantro, lime juice, and ¼ teaspoon salt. Wrap the tortillas in foil and bake until warm, 5 to 10 minutes.
Transfer the beef to a medium bowl (reserve the cooking liquid) and shred, using 2 forks. Strain the cooking liquid through a fine-mesh sieve into the bowl with the beef and toss to combine.
Fill the tortillas with the beef and slaw. Serve with the sour cream, jalapeños, hot sauce, and salsa.

And lastly, a little something apple.

Apple Brown Betty (Crocker)
3 cups apples – peeled, cored and diced
10 slices bread, cubed
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted

Place apples into the crock of a slow cooker. In a medium bowl, toss together the bread cubes, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and brown sugar (you can also add nuts here). Place on top of the apples and drizzle with melted butter. Cover and cook on Low for 3 hours, or until apples are tender.
Top with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

PLEASE share your favorite slow cooker recipes in the comments!

ALSO, here are some great links…..

RealSimple– A great selection!
One for every day of the year– (LCL- Did you bless me with this link?)
Great Vegan recipes– You don’t need to be a carnivore to enjoy the Pot!

Happy CrockPotting, people!

Recipes/photos courtesy of RealSimple.com and Allrecipes.com