My political platform: Bringing back capes, gloves, postage stamps, anti-hypocrisy and flexible work options!

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It’s another one of those random days where random thoughts are weaseling their way into my brain too fast to keep track of them.

I’m not sorry we loved, but I hope I didn’t keep you too long.

First of all, I overthink. All the time. All weekend in between working and then taking breaks from that work to do other work, I was beating myself up over the realization that it is always just when you ease into a comfort level, feeling like you can let your guard down, that you are at your most vulnerable, a victim to be gutted. You know, gutted and chopped into pieces, not unlike a poor, hapless young giraffe minding his own business in a Copenhagen zoo (and see below). Trust me.

In other news (or non-news), what the hell is wrong with Fox News and other conservative talking heads? I cannot come up with words – nothing that has not already been said. They have started blabbing about how free healthcare disincentivizes working. Who says it best? Why, Jon Stewart, of course!

http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-february-6-2014/terror-on-bulls–t-mountain

Writing (oh so seamless the segue) about disincentives to work and purported laziness, I was heartened to see a series of articles from Virgin on the future of flexwork (Richard Branson is a big supporter of flexible work solutions). Three cheers! It’s one thing for me to bang my own pots and pans on the subject of flexible, remote and virtual work (only I hear the ceaseless clanging – and maybe a handful of other folks who happen upon this blog). It is another thing entirely when someone as respected and well-known as Richard Branson puts his weight behind this flexibility.

The website covers different aspects of flexible work – which can include remote work, shared locations, next-gen workspaces and enabling “intrapreneurship”. Be still my heart.

Of course, another aspect of flexible work, as I have learned since the dawn of my professional life, is doing the most flexible kind of work there is (and that means you will get a lot of flexibility but you are going to have to be equally flexible in kind – and sometimes to your own detriment): freelancing. I find these days that when I apply for jobs that are not ideal for me but my skill set matches some other need a company has, I get calls on occasion offering me freelance projects, and I cannot complain.

On a slightly tangential note, I will never get used to how potential employers in Scandinavia, in formal interview settings, often use the word “shit” in interview conversation. This must be a failure to understand that “shit” is not quite the casual profanity that they imagine it to be. (It makes me laugh.)

As for the music and magic of hypocrisy, who embodies it better than my favorite punching bag, Marissa Mayer of Yahoo! disaster fame? The Virgin remote work segment highlights the hypocrisy and head-scratching quality of Mayer’s decision to end distance-work options for her employees (“How odd that the head of a tech company that provides online communication tools doesn’t see the irony in that statement?”). Mayer has become the lightning rod for this issue, really. One article I read questioned the fairness of piling all the blame on Mayer when other large corporations scaled back or eliminated their distance work options at the same time (e.g. Best Buy). The hypocrisy of it – the real rub – is precisely what the Virgin article on supporting remote work points out – a tech company supposedly at the forefront (or wanting to believe it is still at the forefront) of innovation and online communication is taking the workplace back to horse-and-buggy days when most of the tech world is, I don’t know, driving a Tesla or taking a high-speed train.

Another nod to hypocrisy, even if not an entirely matching overlap, is the recent decision of a zoo in Copenhagen, Denmark to kill a perfectly healthy young giraffe in its care and feed it to the zoo’s lions. I posted something about this on my Facebook wall, which sparked an immediate argument between two people who are strangers across the world from each other. One argued that those of us who were lamenting the giraffe’s senseless death were hypocrites who cannot handle how nature works when it’s shown to us with transparency. While I can appreciate the argument on its surface, the bottom line is – this happened in a ZOO, not the wild. This took place, apparently, in front of zoo visitors (the killing and the feeding pieces to lions). Yeah, if a family went on safari somewhere or were out in the wild, maybe “nature” and its transparency would be expected. In the zoo? Not so much. The zoo has defended its decision and now is paying an unfortunate price (I saw on the news that the zoo’s employees are receiving death threats now).

Back to the flexwork thing – all the articles come down to one thing: trust. Flexwork is possible when you have trust and no need to micromanage. You would also think we could trust a zoo not to kill a juvenile giraffe, and maybe once upon a time, people would have thought Marissa Mayer would not take a giant tech company back to Little House on the Prairie.

On your marks, get set…

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Go!

“Nothing tortures you like what could have been…
But I don’t know anything about you anymore.”

-Robyn Hitchcock, “Harry’s Song”

Sometimes things that start as fun end up being agony. They may even start out with a bit of agony, but if you have a bent toward self-torture, as I sometimes do, you stick with these things through the agony just because you feel you have to see it through to ask, “Can this get any worse?” In the midst of the moments of unhappiness punctuating everything, the agony is unfelt. Later, the agony of the moment is suddenly remembered and felt acutely.

I feel a great need for silence and solitude, but some part of me is not content with that. Disturbing this silence willingly, I spontaneously jumped up and traveled away from my quiet refuge to do the very opposite of what my nature dictates. So far, so good. I want to ring in the new year going against the grain.

While I often do feel uncomfortable in large crowds, in noisy surroundings, I imagine that there are times when I take the shortcut – that is, shutting everyone and everything out – and in turn shortchange myself. I imagine I have always been this way – my mother tells me that even as a baby, I liked to be surrounded by people and activity but I did not want to be a part of it. I wanted to observe it, doing my own thing. This has not changed. I look back and also realize that my multitasking, impatient nature has also shortchanged me. I recall activities I did in second grade (when I was 7) that I hurried through as fast as possible because I wanted the sensation of being finished. It was for this reason that a puzzle-building activity I completed was sloppy and my handwriting was the most dismal thing in the world. This continued all through my education, from reading the entire seventh grade social studies text within the first week of school and completing all the assignments that same week, to rushing through my BA degree in 2.5 years instead of 4. From the earliest moments, I felt this need to rush through things, devour more things – and I now think I was, as I still am, running away from something. But what was I running toward?

It is not as though the road I took was “the easy way” – in fact, in many cases, it was much harder than if I had plodded along slowly, at a normal pace.

All these years, I made many decisions and have landed somewhere where I am basically content. At least I was before 2013. I think 2013 has been the worst year I can remember having. After the useless and painful parts of 2013, I can only hope that 2014 will be a better year – for me, and for everyone.

Happy new year!

Mocha mousse bars idea and … Kahlua floods

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Sitting here wasting hour upon hour, not wanting to do a damn thing. Watching season 8 of How I Met Your Mother after overdosing on two seasons of Scandal. I am a total television junkie. I don’t own a TV but I have five or six computers. That’s good enough for my individual viewing habits. But then I do this every time I have a Christmas break – if I have no plans or guests. Now I am considering making a new recipe. I will report back if I really do it.

Mocha mousse bar recipe

Crust:
1/2 cup butter
1 cup flour
2 tablespoons powdered sugar

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Prepare a 9 x 9 baking dish with a foil sling. Cut the butter into the flour and powdered sugar and press into the baking dish. Bake 18-20 minutes or until light brown. Set on a wire rack to cool.

Ganache:
6 tablespoons heavy cream
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips (50 or 60% cacao)

Place the chocolate in a medium bowl. Simmer the cream in a medium saucepan. When the cream reaches a simmer, pour the cream over the chocolate and let it stand 1-2 minutes. Whisk in until a smooth ganache has formed.You should do this while the shortbread is baking.

Set ganache aside until crust is finished and has cooled for a few minutes, and then pour it over the crust. Place the chocolate covered crust in the fridge to chill until the ganache is set into a firm layer.

Coffee Mousse:
1 3/4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
2 tablespoons water
4 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
3 tablespoons Kahlúa
2 cups well-chilled heavy cream

Prepare a bowl of ice water as an ice bath. Place 2 tablespoons of water in a small saucepan and sprinkle the envelope of gelatin evenly over the top. Let it soften for 2 minutes. Add the sweetened condensed milk and instant espresso powder. Heat the mixture over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the gelatin is dissolved and the mixture is smooth, about 2-3 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat, whisk in the Kahlúa, and then transfer the saucepan to the ice bath. Cool, whisking frequently, until the mixture is cold and thick.

While cooling, whip the chilled heavy cream to stiff peaks. Stir about 1/3 of the whipped cream into the cold espresso mixture, and then pour this mixture into your remaining whipped cream, folding it in gently. Pour this mixture over your chilled ganache. Chill the entire dessert until it’s set up nicely (it will take a few hours). Lift the bars out of the pan, slice into 9 servings.