A day at Keeneland

When I was 12 my aunt bought a house on historic Third Street in Lexington.  An old friend of hers lived down the street and had a daughter my age, Cecy.  They introduced us and we’ve been friends ever since.  Fifty years!

Cecy has lived in West Virginia for 30 years but comes to town occasionally to see her brother.  This weekend she brought her great friend, Bozena, and got tickets for us all to go to the races at Keeneland yesterday.  We lucked out, as it was the first nice day in something like 10 and it turned nasty again today…

Politics: by now I hate everybody

It usually doesn’t happen quite this early.  But in Kentucky there are either some invitation-only elections that none-the-less require lots of advertising or all politicians are now permanently campaigning.  I mean it.  We’re literally never without campaign ads as of the last couple of years.

Vitriolic, ugly, melodramatic, nasty, disgusting campaign ads.  It used to be that it was a little later than this before I hated everybody but they’ve been at it so long  I’ve been hitting the mute button while swearing and gesturing at whoever is on the ad for quite a while now.

It’s particularly nasty here.  My friends in other places have assured me it’s nasty everywhere, but I’ve lived lots of places and it’s never been as bad as it is here. They also tell me it’s gotten worse everywhere.  But  I really noticed on my Michigan visit in September that it just didn’t seem as ugly.  Can’t speak for anywhere else recently.  I even lived in Chicago for many years and I swear, as awful as politics there are, it did not seem as ornery as this.

Good thing for the democrats that I vote a party ticket.  If I had to see the individual names, I’d recognize them and I wouldn’t vote for anybody.

Bogus surveys, Time Warner…

English: building entrance at 4200 Paramount P...

English: building entrance at 4200 Paramount Parkway in . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There’s a big fight brewing here between the City of Lexington and Time Warner Cable.  I don’t think of Lexington as a place that would be the first to do…  well… anything… ever.  But the City is stepping up to the plate in Time Warner’s deal to sell the outfit to Comcast.  And apparently they’re first and hitting harder than other cities that are starting to follow suit.  Kudos Lexington!  [you can check out the story here] There were clauses in the original agreement with Insight that gave the Lexington government some power to fine the company for poor service and look out for local customers in a few other areas.

They’ve never been enforced and were lost in the shuffle of transition from Insight to TW, but the City is refusing to sign off on the new agreement unless these clauses are reinstated.  Apparently I’m not the only local customer who thinks that Time Warner sucks (see post).  Since they took over about 1-1/4 years ago my bill has gone up about 35% — no new or extra services mind you — and their service has been reduced to…  I don’t know, other than the folks they pay to give you the runaround on the phone, is there any?

Anyway, TW is responding that their customer surveys indicate high levels of satisfaction.  [Independently conducted research indicates TW rates LAST in customer satisfaction in the nation.]  Here’s the thing.  Their surveys ONLY address the behavior of the specific tech or customer service agent with whom you speak.  And you don’t have to take it.  The agents all mention it and tell you that the questions will be about them and how they dealt with you.  And they’re very polite and kindly while they lie to you or hand you meaningless double talk from their scripts or tell you you have to go to the office and wait in line for an hour because they can’t be bothered to send a truck.  So I doubt that most people (who even bother to take the surveys) are going to say anything bad.  And you don’t actually get an opportunity to say, “Time Warner, you suck!”  Or “quit instructing your agents to lie to me.”

This is an aspect of modern surveys that has been bugging me for a long time.  My graduate work in sociology occurred at the time when the sea change from research conducted in person started shifting to “quantification.”  Though my work didn’t get into the numbers side I had to take a few courses in both statistics (here, I sucked) and how to construct a survey that gives you real data.  I may not have been great at it but I learned enough to have a very good sense of when a survey is so poorly constructed as to provide meaningless data.

For quite some time I took part in Harris Polls.  At first I thought it would be interesting.  Then I continued because I kept giving them feedback that the questions never provided an answer for someone like me — your out-of-the-mainstream, health-food-eating, yoga-practicing, old hippy type.  And that since I had to answer every question I often answered with a lie; which makes the results pretty much bogus.  I know I’m not alone.  In fact I represent a significant segment of society [note:  in statistics/survey speak, significant doesn't mean majority but more like big enough to have an impact on results].

Since they asked for feedback I actually imagined that at some point they might try to at least offer option “(e) none of the above” so that I wouldn’t be forced to pick the least not true option for most questions instead of one that was actually true for me.  Or in some way try to create surveys that weren’t set up to reach a foregone conclusion.

Eventually I kept taking them because I earned enough points that I wanted to collect enough to get some really good computer speakers.  As soon as the speakers arrived, I quit.  And I’ve been by and large resisting consumer surveys ever since.

Is everybody — or anybody — really fooled by a song and dance like Time Warner’s, claiming favorable results from completely meaningless surveys?  Or fast food surveys that prove people like fast food but don’t provide any questions for people who don’t eat in those places or like that food?  Come on Time Warner.  Quit spending multi-millions on advertising designed to make us believe you give a crap and bogus surveys; lower our bills and give us some service.  Sit up and take notice of the real opinion of your customers.  Otherwise, Roku and a Hulu/Netflix subscription are calling.

Cashew/Nut Pudding

 

 

Not long ago I attended a cooking class about a particular healthy eating theory.  The theory didn’t suit me or what I can eat, but one of the items was a pudding-y dessert with cashews as the base.  Since I can’t have wheat or dairy and have been substituting ingredients in desserts for years, I was intrigued by the idea of desserts that just don’t use flour or dairy products.

I didn’t receive any of the materials for the class for some reason, so I started doing research;  began looking in the land of cashews.  Found a variety of recipes and figured out that, as with many recipes, there are wide variations and theories on how to make a pudding from cashews.  Some people soak them.  And the soaking theories run from half an hour to overnight–plus one who then freezes them for a while.  Some don’t add any liquid other than some melted coconut oil, vanilla and agave syrup.  Others put some sort of liquid in.  Most use dates but some claim other unsulfured dried fruits can be used, especially apricots.

I’ve now found out that you can use many kinds of nuts and some seeds.  So if you are a type O with cashews on the list of foods to avoid, you can use almonds or hazelnuts instead.  I tried one of the no soak/no added liquid versions first (the fewer steps the better for me).  It came out so thick and grainy that I added liquid.  Still had trouble with the grainy factor so the next time I soaked the cashews as well; and then more liquid the next time.  I didn’t much care for the version I made with apricots; I think dates are much more helpful for both taste and texture.

I tried quite a few recipes and wound up putting several ideas together and then tweaking:

CASHEW PUDDING

2 cups whole, raw cashews (or almonds, hazelnuts…) and water to cover

2 Tbs melted coconut oil

3-4 Tbs agave syrup (or honey or pure maple syrup)

1/2-1 c. unsweetened almond milk (or water or some other nut or bean milk)

5-6 dates

3 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. vanilla

Soak the cashews for at least an hour.  Drain.  Place all ingredients in a food processor or heavy duty blender.  Pulse or blend till smooth  Refrigerate for at least an hour.  It really does taste different after chilling for a while.

With 1/2 cup of liquid it comes out pretty thick, as you can see in the above picture.  I kind of like it that way but if you’d prefer the slightly looser texture of a regular pudding I think you probably want the whole cup — possibly 1-1/2.

Makes 5-6 servings.

Yummy and SO delicious and SO easy to make!  After every serving I could eat more.  Even though this is touted as a good-for-you dessert, I imagine the fat content with all those cashews is pretty high, though, so I don’t… .  I’m going to experiment next with leaving out the cinnamon and adding cocoa powder.

I’ve been experimenting with avocado chocolate mousse recipes too–WOW!  As soon as I try another tweak or two I’ll post a recipe.

I admit it. I’m a coffee snob

When I saw the Daily Prompt today, “Upturned Noses”, I knew I had to write one.  I mean they even put coffee on the list of possible things to be snobby about.  And I am.

It started back in college.  Northwestern attracted students from places far more cosmopolitan than my little town and by the time we got near the end, the early days of the gourmet coffee craze were underway.  Once my friends introduced me to the wonders of coffee by the pound from specialty shops, I started down the coffee snob trail and …  well, really, I’ve only gotten worse.

Sucking down as many cups of cafe creme as I could during a college summer at the Sorbonne helped it along.  Then I attended law school in Seattle in the days when Starbucks was just a local place with a couple of shops and really good coffee.  Years later I moved to San Francisco and was instantly introduced to Peets–also just a local chain at the time, albeit one with many shops in the Bay Area.

When I moved to Marin I also found my way to Spinelli’s, located in a nearby Corte Madera shopping center.  About the time I left California for Kentucky, Peet’s started going global and Spinelli sold his stores to Tully’s.  The Peet’s that I ordered by mail started tasting like something burnt had been scraped off a grill into it and I began casting around for something better (I still get pretty good coffee if I go to one of their shops…).

About that time I also made my first trip to Italy.  Our wonderful guide, Roberto, taught me about Italian coffee.  That it’s always a blend using coffee from several regions (in the world).  He brought a handful of beans out from the kitchen of a ristorante in Chianti and showed me that each of the three types had a different roast.  Hence the fabulous taste of Italian coffee.  And I wandered farther down the coffee snobbery trail.  Now I generally drink blends only and I study the info on each blend pretty carefully before I decide.

I got a Gaggia espresso maker and for some years used that.  Somewhere along the way I tried a stove top espresso maker and I’ve been hooked on that ever since.  I even take one on trips so that I can make my own stuff if there’s a stove top available.

A few years later California friends told me that Sal Bonavita, former owner of Peet’s, and Al Spinelli, former owner of Spinelli’s, had combined to form a new coffee outfit.  I ordered some and fell in love!  Bonavita left and the name changed to La Coppa.  I mail ordered often and on every visit I’d come home with four or five pounds in my luggage.

I also loved hanging out at their shop in Mill Valley.  They’ve closed the shop and for a while I thought Spinelli must have retired but just found out you can still order on line.  Espresso Speciale and Mill Valley Blend are both incredible blends to savor–and never over-roasted; none of that burned taste here.

I know coffee has its down side so I’m careful not to drink too much.  I try to hold it to one cup a day — unless I’m in France or Italy, where I fling myself into a cafe seat several times a day…– and I want it to be the best cup I can get.

Dear Turner Broadcasting… #DontTouchTCM #TCMParty @TCM

Originally posted on Paula's Cinema Club:

Yesterday, Will at Cinematically Insane posted about layoffs at Turner Broadcasting. Around ten percent of the workforce across the corporation’s channels will be cut, including at CNN, TNT, TBS, Cartoon Network…and my beloved Turner Classic Movies (TCM). TCM is basically the only channel I watch on a regular basis and certainly the only one to which I’ve devoted hours and hours of time for more than three years now.

To those who don’t have the classic movie addiction, it may seem crazy that a TV channel showing old movies can make friendships, get people through unemployment and illness, and generally become a way of life. But it can and it does…and that’s why any possible changes make TCM fans a little nervous and a lot protective.

So what are we going to do? How about write a letter to the CEO of Turner Broadcasting, asking him to leave TCM…

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Time Warner Cable sucks — Get a Roku

Yep, that’s me the peacemaker, spitting mad. When my DVR quit functioning last weekend it turned out that the outrageous monthly fee we pay for various Time Warner services does not entitle us to have a new box delivered and hooked up.

English: Photograph of Roku XDS player with re...

English: Photograph of Roku XDS player with remote. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So I spent an hour standing in line today while carrying a big cable box in order to get a box that works.  You heard me.  An entire hour.  Since you can’t get service any more the line is long.  Virtually no seats provided.  No rolling carts or something to put the heavy equipment on as you move through the line.  Only five windows in the whole space with 40 people standing there at all times and only three of the windows were open.

When I got home and hooked it up, I got nothing.  Before this I had cable, just no DVR functions.  Now there’s nothing.  Although the other TV in the house has cable at the moment, when I call in the automated voice tells me there’s an outage in my area so I can’t talk to anyone.

I’m not sure why TW feels no heat from Roku and the streaming services, Netflix and Hulu.  But I’m well aware that I can buy a Roku for $50 and get an $8/month subscription to Netflix or Hulu and watch pretty much everything I can see now.  My hesitation has been wondering whether my elderly mother will be able to work a Roku (since she can barely use a cable remote).  But I think I’m about to find out.  I hope the streaming services take the cable companies DOWN!

Virtually in Bali

bali femme préparant les offrandes pour la fêt...

bali femme préparant les offrandes pour la fête du temple (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’d love a virtual world that could take me to Bali.  The exotic scents of amazing flowers and the incense from little altars of offerings.  Birds flashing by wearing amazing hues of green, red, blue, yellow.  The loving, smiling faces of the Balinese people.  And I get there in a blink.  No 20-hour plane journeys.  Or knees that won’t straighten when I try to stand up at the end of the longest flight.  Or unbelievable jet lag.  Or guys with uzis in the Jakarta airport.  Just the sights and smells that say, “Bali” without the pesky travel.

#MicroblogMondays.  The prompt was Armchair Travel — where would you choose to go on a virtual journey.

Yapping and whining…

English: Chihuahua puppies

English: Chihuahua puppies (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Something few people know about me is that I’ve always been interested in floor plans for houses.  As a child I’d go to a house and later hang out creating a better lay-out.  If I’d had ANY affinity for higher math I might have been an architect.  And I love to go look at houses.`When I first found House Hunters on HGTV, I was thrilled; getting to see inside all kinds of houses, wow!

Over time I’ve quit watching very much for a variety of reasons.  But the biggest one that’s sending me away lately is the whining and the yappy voices.  I’m not sure if the producers find the whiniest people they can or whether they just edit out everything but the whining, but man it’s a BIG turn-off for me.  They also seem to select 98% women who talk like they’re five years old.  Yappy little voices like chihuahuas.  Yappy chihuahuas whining and whining…  “You can’t play basketball in the bathroom, it’s too small.”  “I wanted quartz, not granite.”  “I don’t like blue [and I can't even imagine that you can paint a wall a different color.  It's like permanent marker and you have to live with it forever].”

It’s so rare for the show to feature people who are accepting of what they see (and I want to kiss their feet when there is someone like that!), that I gather people actually like watching all that whining and yapping?  Really?  Can someone please tell me how and why that’s appealing?

See this old post on Sassy blog for more about voices.

Chihuly Garden And Glass | Seattle

yogaleigh:

I’ve been a big fan of Chihuly for a long time, so I loved being able to enjoy him through these great pics of the Chihuly Gardens — make sure you hop on over to her blog so you can see all of them!

Originally posted on :

chihuly-0I didn’t know a lot about Dale Chihuly until an upcoming trip to Seattle came up in conversation.

“You have to go to Chihuly Gardens,” almost everyone told me.

That was enough for me. I added it to my list, most of which only included local cafes, a few bookstores, but not many tourist attractions. I was told that it’s the most incredible place and that even photos wouldn’t be able to capture the pure depth, art, awe and size of these glass sculptures — both of those statements are absolutely correct.

In this garden museum that hides in the shadow of the Space Needle, I was introduced to Dale Chihuly and the concepts of his glass-blown sculptures. We walked beneath draping chandeliers constructed with dozens of individual bulbs of hand-formed glass in vibrant colors. We oohed and ahh’d as walked entirely around a sprouting garden that reminded of…

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