Thursday, June 3, 2010

Egregious in a Sentence

Today I used egregious in a sentence and scared myself half to death. It’s not as if I walk around throwing big words into the air in the hopes I’ll impress someone with my superior knowledge and command of the English language. Instead, I’m far more likely to lapse into the vernacular of the day and say things like, “What’s the haps?” which I’m not even sure means anything, but at least it’s short.
But there I was, looking over some numbers with a client, and I as I looked I said, “Well, I don’t see anything particularly egregious here,” and then realized what I’d said. I followed up with, “Wow, I actually used egregious in a sentence correctly.”
I wasn’t even sure I knew how to pronounce it up until the time I pronounced it.
My client looked a bit stunned too.
Look, here’s the thing. I’m the anti-accountant. I’m the one who uses small words and doesn’t try to overwhelm people with my vast store of knowledge, which is only vast if you compare it to the store of knowledge my dog, Ash, has. He’s smart, but his knowledge of words is restricted to the basic necessities of his life. Walk. Play. Toy. Ball. Snack. Ride. Potty. Tell him he’s egregious and he’s likely to lick you to death, thinking you said, “What a nice doggy!”
Most of my problems with words have come about because I read them somewhere, starting from when I was too young to read, and I never heard the actual words, so I never knew how to pronounce them. We didn’t believe in big words in my family. It went against our philosophy, which was something along the lines of, “we’re not smart enough to use big words, except for those of us who think we’re smarter than everyone else.”
I wasn’t allowed to be smarter than everyone else, by the way.
Later on, I heard the words I’d read and could use easily in writing, and was astounded by the pronunciation. No one had told me!
So now I’m not likely to use big words in conversation. Of course, the fact that I can barely carry on a conversation with little words may be partly to blame. But what does it mean when I start tossing in words like egregious? Am I going to turn into a smartass know-everything who goes around smacking people with big words?
Do me a favor. If I do, please tell me to knock it off. I suppose an egregious here or there won’t hurt anyone, but if I start sounding like I’ve been reading the dictionary in my spare time, which actually is not a bad hobby to have, then I’ve started down the slippery slope to becoming unbearable.
And once one has become unbearable, there is little hope left. 

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Hell's Kitchen, Episode 1

Hell’s Kitchen returns, promising: “This is the one you’ve been waiting for.”
Wasn’t that what they said last year? I know they need to keep outdoing themselves in order to keep our interest, because the public is fickle and easily displeased, and we want more drama, more surprises, more hysterical cooking, but I’ll believe it when I see it. Not that I’m expecting to be disappointed. I’m sure there will be yelling this season, lots of it, and bad cooking, and maybe even some good cooking from the chef wanna-be’s, all of them eager to prove that despite their limited experience, they can cut the mustard.
If only that was all there was to it, cutting mustard, but alas, risotto seems to be a major sticking point for many of them, and that's just the beginning.
We begin, as usual, with previews of fighting, screaming, temper tantrums, and one aspiring chef saying “I like winning,” as if that’s news. Really? Because I’m pretty sure that no one else there does. The contestants are often quite enlightening that way. “I love to cook,” one of them will say, because we might not have known that otherwise. Still, what else would they say? What would you say?
I would say nothing because I’m not going to be on the show, which solves that problem nicely.
“I’m here to win Hell’s Kitchen,” one says, because, y’know, a lot of people are there to lose.
One contestant, who is quite taken with herself announces “I’ll look better doing it,” (assuming she has to look good to make it) and then she falls down. How. . . cute. This is what happens when one wears heels in the kitchen, so one can look good when one falls down.
We start off with a signature dishes – I like signature dishes. There’s no telling what we’ll be subjected to here, and surprises are always fun, aren’t they? This time, the first contestant, a homemaker who’s written a cookbook and has never worked in a restaurant, goes up alone, which should have been our first clue, since they always go up in pairs, boy and girl. Chef Ramsay says the veal scallopini she presents looks bad, then tastes it, acting as if he’s going to say it’s bad, then pronounces it quite good. He then hugs the contestant and gives her a kiss on the mouth.
This is unusual. She returns to the line and he follows her, and they kiss some more. Rather unprofessional, wouldn’t you say? But surprise surprise, it’s his wife, disguised with a mousy brown wig. She’s not really going to compete, which I think would be really fun, and then she leaves.
The guy who speaks with a heavy Italian accent because he thinks women like it, despite having been in the U.S. for 20 years, does not make his own pasta. What the? Premade pasta? It is not a hit.
Benjamin comes after the Italian guy, and he makes his own pasta. Ha! Take that Italian guy!
Northern India food? Northern? A disaster!
Jamie had a toothpick in her food and Ramsay declined to try it.
The guy who has a large Hells’ Kitchen tattoo on his torso (suckup!) comes up with brie stuffed with lobster, and, surprisingly, Ramsay says it’s delicious. I don’t care who you are, but when you have to show how much you want to win by getting a tattoo, there’s a pretty good chance you’re a lousy cook.
Based on my somewhat limited experience, of course. I myself have no tattoos.
Again surprisingly, seared ahi in mint leaves works. Who would have ever guessed?
The chicken wings with a half bottle of Tabasco does not, perhaps not as surprisingly, make much of an impact, other than that made when one is desperate for a drink to wash it down with.
Sadly for the women (the red team), the men win. Could this be the start of another season of the men proclaiming their superiority? Men love to do that. So do women.
The aspiring chefs go upstairs to study their recipes. They need to know how to prepare whatever’s on the menu in Hell’s Kitchen, and they need to know by the next day.
Then the alarms start to go off. Each time, everyone must go downstairs to watch a video Ramsay has made of how to prepare (fill in the blank). Lobster risotto first, which is always the high point of the show. “You’ve burned the risotto!” “This risotto is hard!” It’s fun to see how many different ways it can be screwed up.
The video lessons continue through the night. This is new – let’s see how they do with no sleep! People with sharp knives and no sleep are bound to make an impact.
The red team (aka, women) have to serve breakfast in bed for the guys just because the red team lost the signature dish challenge. They are unhappy about this and the men are quite happy.
And then Hell’s Kitchen opens. The lights! The cameras!
Raw scallops, seasoned badly. Stacey thought it was going to be easy, as aspiring chefs so often do. I’m sure she cooks just fine at home, in her own kitchen.
Meanwhile, the Italian guy keeps burning the starters. Repeatedly.
The “perfect” potatoes are either undercooked or overcooked.
Crab in the lobster risotto!
So far, we’re having nothing but disasters in the kitchen. Is nothing coming out right?
And Ramsay does his first ejections of the new season! “You you you out!” Such authority! There was too much laughing going on, and how can someone not know the difference between crab and lobster?
Mikey serves raw halibut. Again and again. Does the halibut trick him by whispering, “I’m done, I’m done,” in the sort of hypnotic trancey voice only halibut can do? It appears so, for Mikey just can’t get the hang of actually cooking the halibut.
Does anyone really want to eat in this “restaurant?”
Two guys are thrown out of the kitchen next.
And then another from the red team is ejected.
And more raw halibut. Halibut apparently presents quite a challenge and Mikey too is sent away.
One important lesson to keep in mind should you dine at Hell’s Kitchen: Eat first, and eat well, because it may be your only chance to eat. Unless you eat afterwards – you can always stop off somewhere on your way home. McDonald’s is bound to be open.
Finally food is leaving the kitchen. Only by sending half the aspiring chefs away were they able to finish service.
The losing team is, of course the red team. Who couldn’t see that coming? They “sucked” as Ramsay says.
And now the time we all look forward to: elimination!
This is when the team members get to attack each other in order to save themselves.
Stacey was the first nominee, and then, before announcing the second one, we cut to commercial. We always cut to commercial at this time because we’re supposed to be eagerly waiting the announcement. We’re supposed to be hanging on the edge of our seats, but frankly, this is the first episode and I’m not all that invested in it yet. Maybe later. But right now, I’m not taken with any of the contestants. They’re all blank slates, and any one of them could go without affecting me at all.
Fran is the second nominee. She was kicked out of the kitchen before she had a chance to really screw up other than not knowing the difference between lobster and crab. “I was a kosher chef,” like that’s an excuse. Really? She thought she could just show up and it wouldn’t matter that she doesn’t know the difference between crab and lobster? Given how often lobster appears at Hell’s Kitchen you’d thinks he would have prepared for that eventuality. Then again, I’m a crab expert, I like to think, so the idea that someone can’t tell the difference is beyond me.
Stacey said she could care “more than you can even imagine.”
And then Ramsay makes his decision: Stacey, the private chef, is out. How humiliating, not to even make it through the first episode. We see her trudge away, defeat in every step.
Next episode: shocking events have Ramsay in a rage! Like when is he NOT in a rage? This is standard operating procedure for the Chef so it’s not as if this is anything new. Yet, I’ll tune in, because I want to see what invokes his rage this time. I want to see people, some of whom I wouldn’t trust to make me a bowl of cereal, try to cook their way to acclaim and greatness. And I want to sit at home and say, “Cripes, people, even I could cook that!”

Travelling by Train - in reverse

Do not look directly into the sun. I’m a little slow to catch on to these sorts of things. I’m not sure if it’s a character defect or if it’s just because I don’t believe everything I hear. At least until I look directly into the sun, and then I remember, “Oh yeah, I’m not supposed to look directly into the sun, am I?”

But it’s so bright and pretty at 5:30 in the morning when I’m sitting on the train and I have a full window view of the rising sun.

I haven’t slept. Traveling by train is better than traveling by air, but on planes I fall asleep. On trains, not so much, not even when I get on said train at 9 pm and travel through the night. The first night I couldn’t get comfortable, and kept moving around. The second night, 48 hours later, I’m perfectly comfortable in my spacious two seat space, but I still don’t sleep. Instead I sit up, or lay down, or sprawl in some sort of way across my two seats, listening to a book and playing mindless computer games. I always play mindless computer games when I’m otherwise occupied. I have trouble doing just one thing at a time.

The sun is bright today. Did I mention that? I’ve been watching it before it appeared, when the sky just started to lighten, and then turned purplish on the horizon, and then the purple and pink spread to the undersides of the clouds, and the world was lit by a color combination I rarely see, for I am not a morning person and rarely see a sunrise. Usually by the time I get up the sun is well established in the sky and the only way I can look directly at it is to look directly up, and why would I do that?

I like bright sparkly things though, and the sun seems to fall into that category.

Now we seem to be turning away from it, which gives me a whole new color palette to admire. We’d stopped in some small town, and now we’re on our way again. I can tell we are because the scenery’s moving, and I’m pretty sure it’s us and not the scenery itself. Wouldn’t that be cool though, if the scenery came around to us instead of us having to go to it? The logistics of such a thing are beyond me though.

We’re crossing a river, a broad stream of placid water, so that must have been Pasco we just stopped in, which isn’t all that small. Not that I would know, never having spent any appreciable amount of time there, though I occasionally drive through it.

This is about where it started to get dark going in the other direction, and now it’s the part where it’s light out. How weird. Now I can see everything I see the first time, but in reverse, and I’m on the right side of the train to be on the river side, a fact I made note of as soon as I got on the train in Whitefish. This was important to me, so things are working out in my favor. Not only that, but I got a bulkhead seat, or whatever they’re called on trains, so I have extra room to stretch out my damaged leg.

The sun’s in my eyes again. Annoying, but I don’t move to change the situation, so I must not mind. How many chances will I have to look directly into the sun at this place? Might as well do it while I can.

The train theory didn’t work exactly like planned. The train theory was that if I traveled by train, instead of by car, I would be safer. Each trip to Montana has an exciting event attached to it, whether it’s running over wildlife or blowing tires halfway through the trip. Everyone sighed with relief when I said I was going by train this time.

I had a very scenic first part of the trip. Then a dark part of the trip, which wasn’t as scenic because I couldn’t really see anything in the dark, but it was still better than driving. And the train even got in early, which never happens when I drive – I always show up later than planned because I always have an incident on the way.

And after I got off the train, and for all that day, I noticed a pain in my knee, or right below it, to be exact. I’m not unaccustomed to knee pain, having bad knee genes (honest, it’s been verified by a laboratory) and a history of falling down the stairs onto my knees. Okay, it was just that one time, but my knees have never been quite right since. But this pain was different.
I worked somewhat diligently that first day, despite the knee pain. No big – I have knee pain often, and it works best to just ignore it for the most part and go about my business. I emptied my Mom’s closet, putting all her clothes into big garbage bags to donate. I emptied her dressers, both of them, and wondered where my stepdad kept his clothes, because all I found were hers. I kept a few items, just because.

I found more boxes of correspondence and pictures, and these slowed me down, for I had to take a closer look. I save all the correspondence, and the pictures are saved in a big box for other family members to take a look at.

I worked in her office, cleaning out the closet, and filled another bag with purses and shoes. The purses were spotlessly clean, which made me think my mother either never used them or she’d developed some pretty fabulous cleaning skills once she grew up, which was right after I did.

I told my stepdad to just relax – this was all overwhelming to him, and I was there to do it.
At the end of the day we went out to eat, then watched some TV before bed.

I slept badly, despite having slept little the night before. So when I work up the next morning I felt bad, and I went back to sleep. I’m sure by the time I actually got up and made myself presentable stepdad was starting to wonder if I’d died too.

But a funny thing happened after I started moving around. I found that I couldn’t. Move around, that is. The pain in the knee was worse, and after sitting at the table having some cereal and answering some email I got up, and it was then that I screamed.

Fortunately stepdad had gone outside to get a start on mowing the grounds, which are extensive, so he couldn’t hear me.

You know the kind of sudden pain that comes upon you so suddenly you find yourself screaming out loud and then cussing, and then tears spring to your eyes?

That kind of pain.

I’m starting to think Montana just doesn’t want me. Conspiracy theories are starting to form. Couldn’t they just send a nice letter asking me to stay away?

I called charming husband, because I didn’t know what to do.

Then I called and made a doctor’s appointment for Wednesday, when I was scheduled to be back in town.

Then I called the consulting nurse for any suggestions. She was very nice, and asked a lot of questions, and then asked some more, some of which I’d already answered. Then she asked me some more, checking off my answers very carefully.

Then she told me I might die, and she wanted me to be seen today.

I said, "But I'm in Montana," and she said, "We can find someone for you to go to there."

"But it's just my KNEE," I responded, "Do you really think it might kill me?"

"It might be a blood clot," she said, "Especially with your history."

Huh? What history? It’s not like I’ve ever had one before. 

Look, I've been through this before. "You might have a blood clot," they tell me, "and you could just drop dead." I never HAVE a blood clot, though I appreciate their enthusiasm for my impending death. Just a bit too much enthusiasm, if you ask me though.

Never tell a hypochondriac she might have a blood clot. She’s likely to panic, especially when you (meaning consulting nurse) then tell said hypochondriac how easy it is for people with blood clots to have them move and kill one, and she’d seen it happen before, and she just wasn’t comfortable telling me to wait because I might DIE.

I’m opposed to dying. It would interfere with my to-do list.

So when stepdad came back in a few minutes later I told him I needed to go to see a doctor. He whipped into action, and drove me to the urgent care clinic.

I did not have a blood clot. I only have tendinitis in my patella.

I used to think patella was a type of pasta, but apparently this is not the case.

For the rest of the day stepdad was very attentive. He gave me an icepack, and then when that started to defrost he filled a ziplock with ice cubes and insisted I put it on my knee. He made me lunch, and insisted I not move. When he dropped off to sleep while we were watching Law and Order I snuck into Mom’s office and attempted to put things to rights, since I’d left a mess the day before, having meant to get back to it and finish.

When he discovered I was in there he told me to stop working and to get off my leg.

Since I was useless I decided I might as well take the train back a day early, because I wasn’t going to be all better by the next day. Stepdad is a really wonderful guy, like the father I never had (don’t tell my Dad I said that) and he would have happily waited on me for another day, but I didn’t think that was fair to him – I came there to help HIM, not to have him wait on me.

So at the end of the day I took him out to dinner (well, he drove), and then we went to the train station. He wouldn’t even let me carry my own bags to the train, and wouldn’t give them to me until I got on the train, since I had to go up two steps.

All of which leads me to watching the sun rise while on the train.