Serious Eats for One Month- Fettuccine George

Did you ever have one of those days where you wanted to rip someone’s head off and hurl it through the window?  When the injustices were stacked so high against you that you felt you couldn’t take a breath because you might scream?  When the stupidity level was so far off the charts you needed to go into the next room to see them?

Every time I meet with my team, I feel this way.

We just finished up an auditing project, one to raise the accuracy of our database and our floor plans.  My grade was better than I thought- my plans needed a little cleaning up since I’ve been so busy this past year- but it was a good exercise in standardization and mastery.  Yes, I do my needlepoint and Christmas cards and plan bridal showers and weddings at my job, but I never shirk my responsibility and my work never suffers for it.  I’m good at what I do, I know how to budget my time and I know how much I can get away with.

Some of my teammates don’t understand that.  If one gets a grade of “F” (fail) on practically every aspect of the audit, do not have the audacity to tell us (US!) that you’re too busy to do your walkthroughs.  We see you on the internet watching soccer, reading the paper and ordering parts for your hot dog truck business.  Do not tell us (US!) that you can’t get your reports done on time (they’re due on the 15th of every month, it’s been that way for years) because you’re “in love”.  Don’t try to baffle us (US!) with your bullshit.  It may work on your business managers, your move managers and your project managers, but We. Know. Better.

What we don’t know if what you have over your boss.  The same boss that will joke about you being on the internet (or phone…or late…or just not there).  The same boss who, when learns about your failing grade will take certain aspects of your responsibilities away and make someone else responsible for them.  The same boss that gives your day to day work to someone else to “save her job”.  You know something about this person, you must.  Why else are you still employed?

So when you have a day like this, seven hours of banging your head on the table and drawing “stupid” buttons to press whenever the stoopid gets too thick, you need to go home and either a) drink heavily, b) break every dish in a fit of rage c) eat all the Halloween candy or d) make comfort food.

I chose “d”.

It was quick, it was easy and it was delicious.  It was the Lighter Fettuccine Alfredo recipe that didn’t taste light.

Lighter Fettuccine Alfredo

Ingredients:

  • 5 ounces grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for sprinkling
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest (optional)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound fresh fettuccine, or 12 ounces dried fettuccine
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic (about 1 medium clove)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Minced fresh parsley or chives

Procedure:

Combine cheese, heavy cream, egg, cornstarch, olive oil, and lemon zest (if using) in a large bowl. Season lightly with salt and heavily with black pepper and whisk to combine. Set aside.

In a large Dutch oven or saucepan, bring 2 quarts of water and 2 tablespoons of salt to a boil over high heat. Add pasta and cook, stirring frequently to prevent sticking, until cooked but still very firm (not quite al dente), about 45 seconds for fresh pasta or 1 minute less than package directions for dried pasta. Drain pasta into a colander set over a large bowl. Transfer 2 cups of cooking water to a liquid measuring cup and discard the rest. Transfer pasta to the now-empty bowl. Add the garlic and butter and toss to coat.

Whisking constantly, slowly add 1 1/2 cups of the pasta cooking water to the bowl with the cheese mixture. Transfer the cheese mixture to the now-empty pasta cooking pot, scraping the bottom to make sure you get everything. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula, until mixture comes to a boil and thickens, about 45 seconds. Season sauce to taste with more salt and pepper as desired. Transfer pasta to sauce mixture and turn to coat. Just before serving, stir in more pasta water to thin the sauce out as necessary. Serve immediately, sprinkled with minced herbs, black pepper, and cheese, and drizzled with additional olive oil.

I followed the recipe exactly and it was delicious.  Redemption from the enchilada escapade.

Now to have a beer, smash a dish and eat a Kit Kat. Because I have to do this all again tomorrow.

Advertisements

All Was Right in the Universe

Even though we got banged again with another winter storm, yesterday turned out to be a pretty good day.  It was one of those days where everything clicked and things ran smoothly.  At least for me.  And that usually doesn’t happen.

We’re averaging one snow storm a week this past month.  Storms severe enough to close the schools and make me throw the covers back over my head and take a sick day.  Commuting in this mess is nearly impossible- buses get stuck and the LIRR just can’t handle anything over a few pretty snowflakes.  When I see the forecast includes snow, my dread level rises.

I found out a few weeks ago that more than half my team at work can remotely log in to their desktops at work and work from home.  One guy on my team lives and commutes from the Poconos.  He’s always snowed in and always working from home.  Holy snowflakes, where can I get in on this?  I approached (threatened) my team leader about getting approval to do the same and two weeks later I’m sitting in my craft room in my jammies and slippers logging on and doing work during the latest ice storm.  School was closed for Zombiegirl and I’m answering emails.  I was able to log on for once without a glitch or a call to the Help Desk.

Technology is a wondrous thing.

I didn’t have to deal with the four hour commute, the constant distractions and the overpriced lunches.  No overcrowded third-world bus.  No annoying co-workers on their personal, long-winded phone calls.  Zombiegirl went to a friend’s house and I was able to get tons of work done.

Of course, routines have to be run to get calculations from our database.  These routines take anywhere from a few minutes to an hour.  And since my sewing machine is located right next to my laptop…

I finished so much sewing!  I was a multi-tasking whirlwind- emailing, plotting to my plotter in New York, sewing seams on little skirts, making phone calls, running updates, knotting tutus, cleaning up My Documents of eight years of drawings and pdf’s, ironing burp cloths, yadda, yadda and yadda.  I also had an additional four hours that usually gets eaten up by my commute.  I actually started work early and ended later than usual.

I finished the sewing project I was working on and got more done workwise than if I had trudged to work.  And I didn’t even put on big girl clothes!

The day flew by.  At 2:30 I excused myself to take lunch, walking all the way into the kitchen for a sandwich.  At 2:36 I was back at my desk reconfiguring one of our branch floors and making a little baby headband.  I only lost connectivity once- my wireless connection isn’t very good in the back bedroom I call my office.  Other than that little glitch, the workday was a huge success. 

Not so much for MR.  He’s really having a hard time lately.  Besides his wrist, and looking for a job, he thinks he may get a red-light ticket for making a right on red on his way to a meeting yesterday.  He was in the right, but saw the flash.  He stormed and stomped all afternoon while I was basting and formatting.  Poor baby.  We met, dated and married each other while working at the same company.  I don’t think we’d be able to do that now…

So now I eagerly await the next big snowstorm.  I have a house to clean.

Twenty-Three?

Okay, give up?  Want to know what 23 is? 

January 1, 2011, or 01/01/11, or 010111 is twenty-three in binary.

Wait, what?

I was introduced to the concept of counting in binary by my evil Facility Manager, Ducky.  She would flip me, her assistant Facility Manager, the secretary, the chair, the Xerox machine- anyone that pissed her off- the bird on a regular basis and yell “Fore!” when she did it.  Being that she was a golfer, I always assumed it had something to do with her game.

I finally asked her about it.

It wasn’t “Fore!” she yelled out viciously, it was “Four!”  Seems she was taught by someone in a bar somewhere how to count the binary on her fingers.  For those non-geeks out there, binary is the method of counting using only zeros and ones.  Each digit in a binary number system represents a power of two. The first digit on the right represents the 0th power, the second represents the 1st power, the third represents the 2nd power, and so on. So the number 1 in the decimal system is represented also as 1 in the binary system. The number 23, by contrast, is represented as 10111 (16+0+4+2+1).

23.

Anyway, that someone in a bar somewhere taught this nut how to count to 31 on one hand using the binary system.  Since I’m just getting over being sick (and tired) and just not all that interested to put the time into explaining when there are much better sites out there to do so, look at this site.  It explains all…

Fun, huh?  Of course, Ducky never realized what she started when she taught me and then I went home and taught the girls.  Seems she didn’t know the true potential of finger counting binary- her limited sight let her see only to 31.  If she wasn’t too drunk, I’m sure she would have remembered her tutor mentioning that you could count to up to 1,023 both hands!  When I showed the girls, I transitioned to the other hand for 32 but got it all wrong, so I did a little internet research and found a website and a really nice man to explain the jump from one hand to another.  His email back to me:

Hey, Susan-

If you only made it to 59, you didn’t progress to 32 for the pinky of the left hand (if you’re right-handed). If these are fingers (palms facing you):

 |||||  |||||

       ^

this is the pinky of your left hand and its value is 32 (since the right hand starting from the thumb is 1 2 4 8 and 16. After you get to 31, all the fingers of the right hand make a fist (representing zero), and the pinky of the left hand comes up (just the pinky) and then you got through 1 to 31 again on the right hand.

 Here’s 32 with both hands

 —-|  —–

Notice the pinky of the left hand is the only one up.

Here’s 42:

—-|  -|-|-

which would be the 32 pinky and an 8 and a 2

Here’s 518:

|—-  –||-

which is 512 + 4 + 2

Here’s 1000:

|||||  -|—

512+256+128+64+32+8 = 1000

Hope this helps!

Johnster

The girls caught on immediately and could go on and on counting.  My limited brain and I grasped the concept but couldn’t keep up with the lightning finger speed of my nine and eleven year old daughters.  They would quickly flip up the middle finger, giggle and yell “Four!” and race on to 31 and beyond. 

Thanks, Ducky.  You’ve given me binary, so every time I see a 0 or a 1 I think of you.  Whenever I flip someone off, I definitely think of you.  When I roll the dice, I often think of you, but that’s a story for another time.

Happy Anniversary to Me and My Job

Today I celebrate my 13th year as an indentured servant  at my place of employment.  The company I started with is a far cry from where I finally ended up.  In 1997, I was hired as whore, slave  Chief Architect, drafting plans with a pencil and straight edge and calculating allocation costs with an architect’s scale.  I implemented a CAFM (Computer Aided Facility Management) system which I still use today. I was a big fish in a little pond appreciated and received gifts at Christmas from our vendors and our Business Managers and we partied every week.  Being in Facilities, we were given lunch by the catering company and we were big shits had some clout in the building.  My best friend was an Afghanistan nut guy that sat outside my office.  On my first day, he offered to buy me coffee.  He showed me how to work the coffee machine and asked for a quarter. He said the quarter slot in the machine didn’t work, and he collected the money.  I paid him for a week before I realized no one else was paying for coffee.

I’m so stupid naive.

Yet life in Facilities was good.

Then the world caved in we were bought.  By the Swedes.

Management changed within our department.  Our beloved leader was relegated to a minor position and a new department maniac head was installed.  I’ll call her “Ducky”.   She had no experience in Facility Management and ruled with an iron fist micro-managed everything.  When she wasn’t sending me suggestive emails she was drinking the vodka she stashed in the freezer in the conference room.  She forbade discouraged us from accepting gifts from vendors, yet she went on golf weekends and drank the booze given to her by our contractors.  I loathed liked her quirkiness- we often played practical jokes on each other- yet she was the only boss that ever made me cry.

After she secretly taped her boss singing Irish shanty songs and playing them back to co-workers, management and his daughter, she was booted out on her ass let go.

I rejoiced was heartbroken because I knew I’d have to train another boss.

The next boss was everything Ducky was without the booze.  He was a tyrant who told me at the end of the year I owed him sick days.  He demanded we travel to NJ once a week for meetings.  (Traveling to our office in NJ entailed taking a train, a bus and a boat.)  While meeting with him for my yearly review, he trashed talked about my co-workers and never really got around to discussing my work and where I was headed.  I never received a raise or a bonus under this megalomaniac manager.  I had little to say about anything our team was doing and I was a little fish in a big pond got lost in the big picture.  My executive Director didn’t know my name and called me “Autocad Lady”.

Finally, I ended up under Mr. C.  He was a Project Manager before he became the Director and we were friends prior to me now reporting to him.  (We used to go to lunch a few times a week to the vegetarian Indian place on 23rd St.)  He has an architectural background so he appreciates what I do and the trials and tribulations responsiblities that go along with my job.  I’ve been serving under reporting to Mr. C. for the past few years.  In that time he’s acquired an ass-licker assistant that does all the strategic planning that I used to do.  I used to consider us arch-enemies rivals, but I’ve come to respect and like the guy so I can’t contemplate running him over with a bus complain too much about having my duties reduced. 

It gives me time for other things.

In the 13 years I’ve been here, I’ve managed to ruin run two side businesses and have done countless projects for the church, Girl Scouts and Youth Group.  I’ve made Christmas cards, wreaths, worked on my cross-stitching and surfed the internet from beginning to end.  My time is basically my own because I’m awesome good at what I do.  I’m fast, accurate and you don’t have to beat tell me twice how to do something.  I learn from any mistakes I never make.

I was recently fired as a bank employee and rehired as a consultant working for the same bank.  With this new company, I’ve been given adequate raises and bonuses.  I’ve been given more  responsibilities and am whored out relied upon by Business Managers, Project Managers and vendors alike.  Being fired was probably the best thing that happened to my financial situation me in my career.

Over the last 13 years, I’ve seen so many people come and go I feel like I’m the pivot on which the revolving door turns.   Some have moved on to bigger and better things.  Some have just moved on.  Some were helped out of the building.  Yet here I sit shackled as people flow in and out of my life.  As with any business, there are secrets and stories and drama.  I know many.

Am I happy?  I’m happy I’m employed, yes.  I could do without the two-hour commute each way and getting dressed up every day is a pain in the ass.  (I would much rather telecommute in my pajamas.)  As for job satisfaction?  That sense of inner fulfillment and pride achieved when performing my daily work?  Um. Not much.  I appreciate it when the people I deal with tell me I’m doing a great job but really, it’s soul sucking just a job. 

What I really want to be is a balloon sculptor an Acupuncturist.

So until I can come up with $60,000 for school, I’ll be grateful I have a job in this depressing economy, and hopefully I’ll be employed for another 13 years.

Smash my head in with a hammer, please?

My Wet Bum

I currently split my time and responsibilities between two high-rise office buildings in Mid-town Manhattan- 1285 Avenue of the Americas and 299 Park Avenue.  (Okay, stalkers, try and find me!)

When I first got the job at 1285 AoA back in 1997, I called my parents to tell them the good news.  When my mom heard where I was working, she told me she used to work in the same building (when it was Equitable Life) some 40 odd years before.  Before she had me.  When she left, they gave her a silver charm of the building.  What a weird gift.  She gave it to me the next time she saw me, but the bastards stole it when they robbed our house. 

Circle of Life, people.

I stayed at 1285 AoA until they “fired” me, and when I came back in consultant mode, they gave me the added responsiblity of 299 Park Avenue as well as 101 Park Avenue.

I am now responsible for well over 1 million square feet of space and tracking close to 3,200 employees.  To be fair, I offered to split my time between the two largest buildings.

Let’s compare:

At 1285, I sit in a modified storage area on the interior of the building.  There is a hotel desk in front of me, and I’m sequestered behind a five foot wall.  My plotter (which is a really huge printer for printing out floor plans) sits behind me.  When I’m plotting, I can’t hear you if you’re on the phone with me.  Plus it gives off a LOT of heat.  But then again, I can just turn around and grab the plans out of the bin.  My wall affords me enough privacy to surf the web, do my cross-stitching and/or take a nap.  Most people have learned to knock first and I am an expert at hiding the “evidence” of my non-productiveness.

This “office” of mine is located next to an elevator shaft, so I get spotty cell phone service.  It also shares the same wall as the men’s bathroom of the other tenants on the other side of the building.  So on a quiet day- which, granted, are few and far between- I can hear talking, grunting, swearing and flushing.  Yeah, ew.  We are on the 3rd floor so at least if there is a fire, or a black-out (shudder) or if the apocalypse hits, it won’t take me long to get downstairs.

This “office” is also located in the reception area of our suite.  I am constantly barraged with people “stopping by” on their way in or out, or on their way to the bathroom.  The reception area also sports a Receptionist/Help Desk person.  I’ll be nice and won’t say anything about her except she’s on the phone CONSTANTLY.  Our company doesn’t need all that Help, if you ask me.

Our team occupies our suite.  Again, I’ll be nice and won’t say anything bad about any of them, except for the plant-hating phony-ass pig bitch.  She deserves to be whipped to the ground by her skinny pony-tail.  Her, I hate.  This team definitely has it’s share of wackos, though.

Between 1285 and my train (1) lies Times Square and a multitude of Theaters.  Y’all know how much I hate matinée day.  Thank goodness I changed my route- I now take the F train to Jamaica- I can pick up the train in the station underneath 1285.  Trés convenient.

At 299 Park Avenue, I sit in a modified cube farm with my team on the 37th floor.  My walls are four-foot tall in the front, with a few overhead cabinets between myself and the person next to me.  I can see everyone walking around, but space is respected.  If one wants to have a personal conversation with someone, it’s done mainly in the aisles or the hallways.  I do get to hear intimate details of the guy sitting next to me, but most of the time I have my headphones on.

My cubicle is in the back right of a 6-pod set of cubicles.  It’s a little bigger than the ones in front of me because I SIT AT A WINDOW.  If I tilt my head a little, I CAN SEE THE EMPIRE STATE BUILDING.  Big deal, you might say.  Hell yes, it’s a big deal!  I’ve gone 13 years at this company not knowing if it’s raining, hailing, snowing or if the apocalypse has hit and we’re the only ones left.  I can gaze at the East River if I get stressed, or watch the clouds when I’m bored.  Which I don’t do often.  Really.

It’s a short walk to the copy room where my plotter is located.  I usually grab water when I go pick up my plans so I’m constantly hydrated.  And the water cooler is much nicer.  Instead of the bottled Poland Springs crap we get at 1285, this is good old-fashioned NYC tap water- triple filtered.  Plus my area is filled with plants.  And a tree.  And I didn’t have to bring in my own, plant-hater bitch!

A HUGE perk at 299 Park is the cafeteria.  I never liked the cafeteria when I ventured over to Lincoln Harbor for meetings.  In recent years they’ve revamped their menus and the food is really good.  Expensive, but good.  They’re combatting costs there, too, by offering up $5 lunches.  Mostly burgers and sandwiches.  But they have action stations like stir-fry, noodle bowl and my favorite- pear, walnut and goat cheese melted on crunchy flatbread.  On my non-Chiptole days, I dream of this lunch.

Our team is great- not a nut-job amongst them.  And the mail delivery guy is sweet, not an obnoxious mooch.

Coffee is crap at both places.  At 1285, we brew our own in a coffee pot at my desk.

The walk is a little further to 299, but at least I don’t have to deal with the polyesters in Times Square.  I do get to push my way through the throngs at Rockefeller Center and the brats at American Girl Place.  I’ll take them over the suburban theater-going housewives any day.

So you can probably surmise I like being at 299 Park more.  You’d be correct.  I haven’t told you the REAL reason I like 299 best.

Within the last two-three years, the landlords at 1285 remodeled all the bathrooms on the multi-tenant floors.  That would include our floor, number 3.  Pretty color, nice lighting, automatic toilets… which I am convinced are possessed.  And evil.  If you make the slightest move, they flush.  And it’s not a quiet, low flush.  It’s a huge, shit-your-pants type flush which sprays little drops of (urinated?) water all over your backside.  Go to wipe your butt off, and it flushes again.  The only time it doesn’t flush is when your done doing your business.  Then you actually have to push a little button.  And whoosh!  Water all over the seat, so it seems like you sprinkled when you tinkled.

Gracious.  I think they installed bidets instead of toilets.  I’ve actually fallen over and injured myself on the toilet paper dispenser because I’ve jumped up so fast to avoid the spray.  And stepped on my pants and lost my balance.  It’s like a caged match of the UFC- me versus the toilet in a bathroom stall.

At 299, they do things the old-fashioned way.  You finish, you flush.  Handle, not button.  No tempermental toilets waiting to catch you with your pants down.

The flowers are a nice touch, too.

We’re Only Safe in Rockville Center. And Freeport.

Once again, I breathe a chilly sigh of relief as my train arrives safely at the station.  These past few weeks have been brutally hot and nerve wracking.  Everyone is snapping at each other.  Irritable.  Cranky.  An official heat wave has been declared on Long Island.

Descending down into the subway station literally takes your breath away.  The air is close and stuffy, with the tangy smell of sweaty bodies mixed in.  Your clothes dampen and hug your skin.  The hot rush of air ahead of the train as it pulls in makes you swoon.

Then… sweet relief as the doors open and the blast of chilled air ices the damp clothes and causes you to shiver.  It’s not like it was 20 years ago when I was riding the subway into work.  You almost never got onto a C train if you could help it…not only were they old and decrepit, they almost always lacked air conditioning.  The narrow bench seats allowed for a few riders to sit the long way into Manhattan while the rest of us stood, grasping swinging triangles of slick metal- two or three hands to a strap, oftentimes sliding and resting on each other.

Thankfully I am tall, and never suffered the “armpit in the face” much.  I was usually upwind of the unwashed.

My calculated time in the heat per day is approximately an hour and a half- a little more if I go out for lunch or to the library.  I spend most of my day on the business side of chilly.  I usually need a sweater or long sleeves to be comfortable at work and on the commute.  The bus is arctic, the train is frigid and the workplace is polar.

Home is where the heat is.  Advantages of having three 30 foot oak trees on our property are few, but they definitely cut the heat and keep the house a little cooler than our neighbor’s.  But for days and days of hot and humid weather, it feels like the heat is infused in the walls and the floors and the furniture.  Our only relief are the small air conditioners in our bedrooms.  Excuses are made to spend time in our rooms before bed.  Our rooms are clean.

My worries don’t lie with the heat.  I breathe a sigh of relief when the train pulls in because once again I’ve survived the commute under the river and through the tunnels.  The lights haven’t gone out and the train didn’t stop.  We were not plunged into darkness and uncertainty. 

My work day ends and the lights stayed on and our computers did not flicker and our phones did not cut out and I am grateful.

As I leave the elevator that delivers me safely to the ground floor of my high-rise office, I say a silent prayer of thanks that again, the lights have not gone out and the elevator did not stop.  I did not plunge 37 floors into darkness and uncertainty.

I cross the streets warily, watching to make sure the traffic lights haven’t winked out and the neon in Times Square is still blinking.  I descend the stairwell to the subway station not minding the heat and the smell and the electric mood of the passengers.  I clutch my water bottle and touch my granola bars with crossed fingers hoping this won’t be the day the lights go out.