Monday, August 20, 2012

I'm perpetually cold. All the time.
My primary doctor claims it's caused by my deteriorating thyroid, but I don't have any of the other symptoms. So I blew off my doctor, told her to stick her stethoscope where the sun don't shine and put on an extra pair of socks. I know it started a couple of years ago when I lost a lot of weight. I've read that a lot of people -women in particular- suffer from cold after weight loss because... well, to be honest, we're losing blubberesque insulation. We transform from crooning whales to chirping dolphins. Since then I've become more active. Probably more active than when I was younger.
I run, walk or do some form of cardio every day. It's not so much a workout routine as something to keep boredom away. Despite all my activity and my awesome metabolism and my drive to go outside and DO something rather than watch television all day, I'm insanely cold. Nights in the fall are pretty bad, but only because winters are worse.
I tend to sleep with socks on, flannel pants and as many comforters as I can pile on. Even then, I vividly remember nights where I lay shivering for an hour under a mountain of blankets and countless layers of socks and long-sleeved shirts under short-sleeved shirts under sweatshirts. I just can't get warm and at that point I get scared. How would I survive if I were to be displaced somewhere further north?! I would most certainly die from hypothermia and be as blue as a Smurf until a group of adventurous aliens abduct my corpse and attempt to explain to their elders just why the human race suddenly diversified to include primary colored skin pigmentation.
I've come across a few things that help remedy this problem. They certainly will not help everyone, because they do not always work for me; some nights are worse than others.

1) Jumping rope/Jumping jacks right before bed
    The point is to raise your body temperature to a point that is normal and healthy for you. You don't want to get sweaty, but be vigorous enough to spike your metabolism. Take deep breaths to bring oxygen to all your muscles and you will feel your arms, legs and chest begin to warm- Why? Because turning oxygen into energy makes friction which causes heat. Everyone knows heat rises, so the heat from the expired oxygen moves from the muscles up to your skin. Yay, science!
   When I do this, I start out wearing as little as possible (e.g., t-shirt and shorts) and run through a minute of jumping rope/jacks. Then I throw on my heavier layers and dive into bed, always making sure to tuck the ends of the blankets under me so the cold air from the outside sneaks in when I shift position.
2) Bed Buddy
    This part can be as PG13 or NC17 as you want. I usually call in my dogs and, being Golden Retrievers,  they snuggle in as close as they can on either side- another reason why it's good to have more than one dog: you're the hotdog and they're the bun! However, since they are dogs and not people, they might switch rooms in the middle of the night. For me, this isn't a problem. I have trouble falling asleep in the cold, not staying asleep in the cold. I'm sure that if you have dogs and want them to stay by your side throughout the night you can train them, shut your door or strap them to the bed against their will. After all, if you freeze and die in the middle of the night because they decide to wander off, who will give them bacon for breakfast? Of course a healthy alternative would be your partner but if you're easily distracted and one of you is feeling frisky, sleep will be the last thing on your agenda.
3) Easy Layers
    If you have trouble getting warm, but stay warm once you hit a certain level of temperature, it's best to wear layers that are easy to take off in your sleep. Otherwise, you'll wake up to a puddle of sweat. Socks are easy to push off if you're either half-awake or completely asleep (I once found four pairs of socks I thought had been thrown away tucked into the foot of my bed and have no recollection of putting them there myself). T-shirts are easy to pop off or lift up to get ventilation. Don't forget about layering comforters and blankets so if you push the top layer off, you'll still be able to stay warm without suffocating. And never forget about popping your arms out from under the covers to get some air.
4) Hats
    Hopefully your mother has told you before I have, but you should really wear hats when you go outside to play in cold weather. Fall sporting events usually feature entire stadiums of vibrant-themed hats, skiers wear hats and so should you. The more skin that is exposed is more surface area prone to heat conduction- when two surfaces touch and transfer heat. Heat automatically moves toward colder areas (just look at weather patterns) and cold slips right in once heat is gone. So if you're outside and it's fall and the leaves are falling and the air is crisp with that smell that reminds you of snow... you are capable of losing up to 40% of your body heat through the exposed surface area of you head. The face, scalp, neck and ears are all vulnerable. So if you wear a hat outside and stay warm, what's to stop you from wearing a hat to bed?
    OK, so it might not be terribly sexy, but it could be fun! Also, pick a style of hat that isn't stifling. No faux fur hats that might irritate your skin, no stylish hats with loose string or fabric that might get caught around your neck, in your mouth, on any jagged or sharp edges near your bed or caught in any piercings-ouch! A knit cap might be plain, but it will probably do the trick.
5) Liquor (21+, please)
    Not a fan of snuggling/hat hair/fussy layers/aerobics? Liquor has been known to bump up your internal temperature since before the colonial days. My own Gran has admitted to spiking her children's hot toddies with rum after a day in the snow! Not only that, but as a depressant, liquor will also increase the "sleepy" feeling because it slows down the nervous system and help suppress any early-night cold spasms you might have.
    Listen to me, though: a shot per night will do! I'm not saying it's OK to down a fifth of Wild turkey just so you can feel your toes.
    Pour a thimble of whiskey into your evening coffee or tea-preferably decaffeinated- or whip up a spiked milkshake. Pies, cakes, bread puddings or snacking cookies infused with bourbon, scotch, rum or brandy will do, too. They may be fattening, but the warm factor will carry on through the your pre-bedtime activities such as brushing your teeth and right when your head hits the pillow, the liquor will hit you.

This isn't scientifically proven in any way, nor is it endorsed by any health-guru such as Dr. Oz or whatever quack they have on TV now. But these remedies are cheap, easy-to do, and they usually work.
I still get cold spells, but I'm working on it: During the day I drink hot-hot-hot green tea, hot chocolate or cider. The afternoons are spent doing cardio or aerobic or light-weightlifting and when I spend evenings outside I always make sure I have multiple layers ready. I keep a blanket in my car for star-gazing, sweatshirts and hoodies by my bedside and I always keep my warmer socks on hand throughout the year, regardless of the summer weather. Do what you can do, that's all I can say right now.

Monday, August 13, 2012

English 102

I remember back in college when my professors would write up loud comments about how irritating my use of passive voice was. I never understood; it's how I used to write. In my short stories, or almost-stories, my characters were thrown about in unknown worlds with unforeseen circumstances and consequences: they never knew who or what or why things happened. It just did. 

I have since learned that passive voice has its place. While effective in certain scenarios, it does not hold up to a long-term style of writing or speaking. In fact, passive voice should be just that: a passive, neutral tone that does not assume nor take part. It's a method of delivery that's most useful in accidents (that BP oil spill years back) and scientific texts where direct human interaction with the topic is frowned upon. In both cases, the person writing the document means to refrain from being personally involved with the words on the paper. There is no direct correlation between the human element and the facts of the topic.

Now, seeing how passive voice is used to manipulate the tone of the matter for the purpose of eliminating the error-prone mistakes humans make every day, I realize that passive voice isn't a gimmick one should use so lightly. When used incorrectly the results can be rather infuriating.

Well, for me they are.

I have a co-worker... let's name him Ben. Ben is a college drop-out who refused to let the system get the best of him. While I admire the fact that he managed to squeak into a business such as the one we work in without having a Bachelor's degree let alone an Associate's, he is a tad uneducated in the finite details of writing/speaking in a professional atmosphere.
Don't get me wrong, I'm glad Ben found a job and I'm glad he managed to work everything out to his level of satisfaction. I'm just terribly annoyed at his use of passive voice. I'm not sure if it's be accident because, like me, he was unaware or if he's doing it be design. Either way, I cringe every time I hear it happen or read one of his e-mails.

Well, what could happen to make the office darken and tremble like Mordor's ashen sky with violent spurts of molten lava arcing out and over the land? Just you listen to when he tries to explain something.

"The document wasn't making any sense."

I'd like to verify that this could be a valid statement. Our job is to interpret the engineer's
applications, take their notes on how to properly work it, and turn those notes into a readable, fully-functioning document that average people can understand. It's called tech writing, and while the engineers at my workplace are very good at what they do tech-wise, they are not writers. If they were, I'd be out of a job. It's entirely possible that the document was filled with equations or diagrams from CAD, or that the foreign terminology perplexed him.

However, I'd like to paint the rest of the picture for you: Ben's got a nervous tick and his right hand will start tapping whenever he's particularly distressed. Ben also has a grainy, weak voice that tends to break when he's frustrated. He's a whipcord thin child of a man with nervous eyes and he rarely looks the person in the eyes when he speaks to them. Also, I looked at the document after the fact and I can verify that none of my possible explanations mentioned above were present. American-English was used and, while it was riddled with fragments, it was comprehensible. Now combine all this together and repeat after me:

"The document wasn't making any sense."
            Just what about the document didn't make sense?
"Well, the python command was wrong."
            Did you know the command was wrong?
"I kinda knew it, but I used it anyway."
            So you purposefully entered an incorrect command?
"Yeah. The document was wrong."

And here it is. "The document was wrong".
Not, "The engineer gave me the wrong command" or "I used the wrong command". Oh no, it's the document's fault. An inanimate object made Ben enter the wrong python code into the terminal window for the application and crashed the GUI. And because the document was wrong, it's automatically the document's fault for not making any sense. In the transit between the originating engineer and Ben's laptop, the document decided to not make sense.

Really? In an environment such as this, where the engineer is next door and can probably hear this conversation and the bossman is looking down his nose in astonishment, Ben had the gall to drum up this crap.

When a public announcement is made, passive voice can be used to protect the identity of a person or corporation. But when you're in a room with your boss and he's looking for a valid explanation as to why the laptop is suddenly unusable, he's not going to appreciate the subtle cleverness of passive voice. He wants to know who to talk to and who needs to get their act together and start pumping out finished products so the money can start rolling in to pay all the monkeys in this office.
Ben is definitely one of the poo-throwing monkeys. Also, you can't reprimand a document. 

I'm making a big deal out of this, aren't I? Except in reality, I'm not. This happens every single day and Ben comes up with lame excuses by utilizing the no-blame concept of passive voice. I understand that he made a mistake. Everybody makes mistakes. I made a big one just last week and ran about trying to cover my bum. Ben refuses to take any blame whatsoever. Why were the outside lights left on over the weekend? Because they were on after he left. Why weren't the blinds closed for the night? Because they were open when he arrived.
And to top it all off, when things get too heavy for him- and it doesn't take much- he throws his hands up and squeaks out "I don't understand! Please, tell me what to do!"

Is it that hard? Please, I'm dying for someone to tell me that's it's actually very hard to walk next door and say "Help".

Monday, August 6, 2012

I have a secret. I enjoy listening to Carly Rae Jepson's "Call Me Maybe".

I doubt anyone would call me a teeny-bopper; I have enough classic rock on my computer to keep me busy for a few days and I even have a good day's worth of not-so-mainstream hard rock/metal. I enjoy Ska on a regular basis mixed in with true oldies such as Roy Orbison and Hank Williams Jr. So why would I stoop to listen to some Canadian songwriter whose akin to the Beiber-epidemic?

I don't know why. But I know I've done it before (Hanson's "Mmm-Bop", anyone?)
To be honest, I don't listen to the radio. I don't care to keep in touch with today's Top 20 because I don't respect any of the artists out there. I look back at music the way I look at books. My interest is mostly retrospective and I find joy in going through my mom's records from when she was in college rather than watching MTV. When I first heard about Carly Rae Jepsen, I was severely dehydrated, hot, and covered in an insane amount of purple.

Wait, what?!

I ran the Color Run (the happiest 5K on the planet) whilst I visited a friend who lives in Philadelphia, PA. There was a dance party in the streets afterwards and pounds of colors were thrown into the crowd, thus covering every single person in orange, green, yellow, pink and purple. It was during this dance/street/rave-in-the-streets where me and my friends were gulping down bottles of warm water and sweating rainbows that I heard Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe". I remember the girls screaming the words and the guys groaning at having to hear the damn song one more time. I was a virgin to it, however, and the upbeat  tune caught my attention. I went home, downloaded it and it's now on my Ipod. I've probably listened to it 5 times this past week, mixed with my Psychostix, Disney, Gershwin and Metallica. I enjoy it, but on my terms. If that song pops up on Random and I'm not in a happy-go-lucky-my-life-is-awesome-because-it's-Canadian mood, I skip it. The reason for Ipods, personal CDs and MP3 players is so that people aren't subjected to the monotonous playlists of current radio stations where the top 15 songs are on constant repeat and sandwiched between commercials and bouts of talking radio-hosts. If my Ipod tries to impersonate the radio, I turn it off. Try and tell me what to listen to? I don't think so!
And so as much as I like the song, and as often as I listen to it, I do limit myself. Just because I'm infatuated with its naive cuteness doesn't mean everybody else is. But the song isn't restricted to just the radio and my Ipod. Oh no. Have you seen the memes? My personal favorite...

 Anyway, the point of this is to say that I have quirky tastes and I'm not really ashamed to admit that I like something that's already over the hill. Yes, I still listen to Hanson from when they were cool in the 90's. I still listen to the Spice Girls, too.

 Spice up your life!

 Ahem. Do yo have any guilty pleasures?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Bake Me Something

Here at work - I won't bore you with details about what I do and where I work and such - we recently underwent an audit. The stock and administrative assistants raced to Hell and back trying to get this place in order for the occasion. They did a fantastic job and we passed with flying colors. So to thank them, I baked a cake.

And it was good.

Dark cocoa-flavored with a hint of coffee to deepen that aroma and taste of the chocolate. There was no butter, so this wasn't a dense cake, and it was slightly spongy in texture without being chewy. I paired it with a strawberry-infused SMB (Swiss meringue butter cream) and everyone raved over how delicious and silky the frosting was. I got compliments, like always, and the cake practically disappeared in under 20 min, like usual. I walked into work today and I *still got comments on how good the cake was, which has happened before. I received an e-mail from a co-worker who was out yesterday, heard he missed out on cake, and practically begged me to make one again as soon as possible. This, too, has happened before. And as I sat down at my desk, someone walked by my office and called out, "You should open up a bakery."

I have heard this too many times to count. Nearly every single time I bring in a baked good- gluten free, egg less, vegan, cookies, cake- I hear this. And it doesn't happen just at work. Oh, no, it happens everywhere. My friends have said as much, my family agrees that I have a collection of yummy recipes, and even my picky grandmother enjoyed the lemon pound cake I made for her. So I'm sitting here, thinking back to all the compliments and reviews, and I can't help but think... Yeah. I should.

But the harsh truth is, I'm not that good of a baker. I've gotten lucky with most of the recipes I find. They were already wonderful and moist and delicious without me. I pluck them out of cookbooks and food blogs and change the ingredient list before I'm halfway done the trial run. I'm incredibly picky, as well. If I make brownies, I can imagine just how gooey and chocolatey they should be. If they don't reach that level then I never make that recipe again. If I don't love it, I don't share it. Which means I eat a lot of the failures myself with copious amounts of sobbing. It's hard being so picky. I have no head for money or numbers or any kind of figuring such as how much equipment, supplies, ingredients, space, building, a lease, electricity, convection ovens and employees would cost. Hell, I wouldn't even know how much flour to buy. I purchase ingredients as sporadically as I bake, and sometimes I do a lot of specialty buying/baking such as almond flour for my friends with Celiac disease, or dehydrated blueberries for my killer blueberry cheesecake, or mango for yogurt-pops.

Then again, there aren't any local bakeries that I'm fond of frequenting because their products just aren't at the level that I crave. There's a French-Asian bakery about 20 min away but it's pricey and considerably... well, French. I like macroons as much as the next person, but I tend to shy away from the red-bean paste and pistachio flavored shells. There's a traditional bakery/cafe not even 5 minutes further down the road but they serve Hershey's Ice Cream instead of home-made soft serve. Their coffee is from a Folgers can. Their donuts look like Krispe Kreme rejects. I'll pass.
I know there's potential, and it's been my dream for a few years now to be able to have a baking business of some kind. I've tempted the idea of operating from my own kitchen, but I'm completely clueless as to how to make it work. As I said before, I have no head for money, so I would undoubtedly go bankrupt in the first few months. Also, there's the difference of baking for a party of 10 and baking for a crowd of 50. The quality degrades with the increased number of sales and customers, plus the time limits allowed per baked good.

I'm ranting, I know, and I'm probably nonsensical about the whole thing, too, which is another reason why the idea wouldn't work. Did I mention I kind of crazy? No? Oh, well, guess I wanted to surprise you. So for now, I'll bake for friends and friends' boyfriends and holidays and co-workers. I suppose that's enough for me. Maybe one day I'll make a food blog and actually take pictures of my creations, post said pictures on the internet and get gratification that way. I'm not original in my idea or discovery of such a release, but I'm OK with that.