Come On, Google Reader!

I read a bunch of blogs, and use Google Reader to consolidate them all onto one page. But while Google Reader has its good points, it’s also kind of an idiot in a lot of ways.

A huge portion of its idiocy comes from the “recommended sources” section — it sees what blogs you read, then recommends other blogs based on (I believe) what other Google Reader users read. But I wish it wouldn’t recommend:

– Blogs I already currently read (at the exact same address)

– Blogs I used to read, but unsubscribed

– Blogs that haven’t been updated in over six months (bonus points for blogs like one of today’s recommendations, which had an “I’m closing down the blog” post as the most recent item)

– Blogs it has recommended before, and I’ve already clicked “no thanks”

How hard is it to keep track of stuff I read now? Or things I’ve already turned down? I mean, if cookie technology has made it to the point where banner ads can target products I browsed weeks ago at Overstock, surely Google Reader can have some sort of memory for what I’m reading.

Also, when I decide I don’t want to follow a blog anymore, I go to that blog on the left-hand list and pick “unsubscribe” from the choices. Dearest Google, that doesn’t mean I then want to go to the main feed page for that blog. Why do you take me there?

So hey, out there in the internets — is there a better feed consolidator than Google Reader? Has someone developed a magical site that pays more attention to its users?

This Is Why 90% Is Not 100%

So you may remember that when we visited the vet last time, he proclaimed that, looking at the swelling around Commie’s eye (which was unresponsive to anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, and steroids), he was “90% sure it’s cancer”. Here’s how Commie’s eye looked back on the 9th:

His eye wasn’t visible anymore behind the swelling and growths. So we watched, and waited, and cuddled, and loved him up good. And he stayed the same for a while. Then, a week ago, we noticed some changes.

Good changes.

REALLY good changes.

This is Commie today:

I mean, seriously, look at that gorgeous eye! On that gorgeous boy! The swelling has been decreasing significantly every day for the last week, and we’re cautiously hopeful that it wasn’t ever cancer at all, but some mysterious irritation or something. Either that, or he’s a miracle cat who went into spontaneous remission.

Although if it’s the second, he’ll never let us hear the end of it. He already has a god complex around this house.

At any rate, he’s looking so much better, it’s amazing. And the times of more sleeping and resting are done — he’s being his old butthead self, pestering us and swatting at Trouble and behaving totally normally.

Of course, he still had to be a booger during the photography.

So thanks for all of your thoughts and kind words, everyone. It’s really meant a lot to us. And for who knows what reason, this cat is, for now, awesome!

Home, Work, Life

I think this item stuck to the fridge describes my January perfectly:

That’s right. The week before I lose my job, I get to go do jury duty. And it’s not even on a workday, so it’s stealing away one of my weekend days. I’ve been called for JD four times in my life, while Scott’s never been called. Where’s the fairness, I ask you?

So yeah, I’m losing my job. You may already know that the game show I host at Disney was on a three-year contract with the corporate sponsor, and that contract expires on February 5th. Right now there’s nothing else in the acting/entertainment areas available for me, so as of the 6th I’ll be unemployed. I have an appointment to interview with a casting rep, to see what other Disney jobs I might like, but that’s not until the 10th. So hopefully my unemployment period will be a short one (if you’re rehired within 30 days, you don’t lose benefits and seniority). Cross those fingers!

We’re all moved out of the old apartment, and turned in the keys yesterday.

I documented all of the clean-ness. I shouldn’t have to do that, but a previous landlord back in Seattle has made us a bit gun-shy about trusting apartment management. We’ll see if we get our deposits back — the cat deposit is pretty much toast, because of the barf stains on the carpet. Why do all cat foods have to be dyed in such crazy colors? Can’t they make cat food in the color “apartment carpet beige” so the barf is easier to clean?

Meanwhile at the new place, I was able to sit out on the deck in the mid-70s weather yesterday. (Of course, today it’s raining all day. I feel bad for the vacationers. But at least it’s mid-60s and rainy, instead of Seattle’s mid-40s and rainy.) Trouble came out to join me, while Commie just sat in the doorway and sniffed the air.

He’s still doing all right, by the way. No significant changes.

The new apartment is coming along. We still have a few boxes to unpack, but most of the boxes are empty and ready to be broken down. Wall art still needs to be hung. With luck, I’ll only have to do one day of jury duty, and can spend the next day getting most of the rest of this crap squared away.

I’m in a reading void right now — I still have a list of 10 or so books from December that I need to write up. The library warned that an address change would take a week or so, so I waited that out before ordering some new stuff. Nothing’s been delivered yet. I think on my way to work today I’ll scout out our new library building, which is apparently over on the other side of Unversal. Maybe I can pick up a couple of things there.

I’m also doing great with Gluten-Free January. I’m staying low-carb for the most part, although I’m not avoiding French fries if they come my way. I also bought a single-serve bag of these:

But haven’t eaten them yet. I’m kind of scared to. Although Archer Farms (a Target house brand) made a really kick-ass lemon-pepper potato chip a few years ago, so I should trust in their flavorings. Any snack food that needs both yellow #5 and yellow #6 must be a delicious orgy of yellowness.

Bunless Burger: Five Guys

Previously, I had a bunless burger at Fuddrucker’s as part of our moving weekend feasting. And it was a delightful thing.

I’ve had bunless burgers at other places: Burger King puts everything into a little bowl, Red Robin wraps it in lettuce leaves, even the noisy and hideous T-Rex restaurant serves theirs on a plate with decent fixings.

So I decided to try going bunless at Five Guys Burgers & Fries. At least I can still have the fries, which are always fantastic. No gluten in those little fellas.

What a disappointment. Two foil-wrapped bundles, one with lettuce and pickles, the other with a cheese-covered patty. The patty was small and falling apart, and most of the cheese stuck to the foil. I had to scrape like mad. They also gave me little side cups with mayonnaise and onions. I ordered the burger with ketchup and mustard as well, but I didn’t get those. I guess because both can be found on the condiment rack next to the pop machine. (That’s right, Florida, I still won’t say soda. Suck it.)

I scraped my cheese, put it back on the burger, threw on mayo and ketchup, then cut off a piece. The cutting action immediately sliced through the tissue-thin foil and revealed the tabletop underneath. For the rest of the burger, I was very, very delicate with my knifework.

So overall, a great disappointment. I’d say they’re not used to doing burgers without buns, but “no bun” is a programmed option on their cash registers. I’ll just have to go elsewhere for a bunless burger, and only hit Five Guys if I’m either desperate for their fries (I loves them, I do) or if it’s February or beyond and I’m willing to risk the bloat and gas from eating the bun.

The Ides of (Gluten-Free) January

We’re halfway through the month, and I’ve kept it gluten-free. Even when eating out, there’s almost always a viable option or two (or more). And since we moved last week, there were a number of eating-out nights.

Logan’s Roadhouse was easy — a nice steak, with grilled veggies and a crouton-free salad. Plus all the free peanuts you can eat.

We discovered a brand-new location of the sandwich chain Jimmy John’s near the new place. I’d heard about them before, but there weren’t any in Washington, and the nearest Florida location was many miles away. We tried their “unwich” (all the sandwich fillings, wrapped in lettuce leaves and then wrapped in paper so you eat it like a burrito). Fantastic! My only problem is that they don’t have pickles as sandwich toppings. They have cucumber slices, which isn’t the same thing at all, and they have a full dill pickle as a side. Next time, I may ask them to slice a pickle and put it on the sandwich. That would be perfect.

We also discovered a salad place, Greens & Grille. It’s a local two-spot chain where they make a salad to your specifications, then throw on some grilled meat. It’s tasty, but it has its problems. Number one is that a salad can run you over ten bucks. Number two is that the place is really cold, with metal chairs. Shiver! Hopefully it’ll be more pleasant in the summertime, but when the outside temperature is mid-40s and the indoor feels maybe ten degrees higher, it’s not a pleasant dining experience.

But my friends, I haven’t been completely low-carb while I’ve been gluten-free. We did Fuddrucker’s one night, and I got my burger without the bun … but with those awesome wedge fries. We also went to Moe’s (one of many burrito places, and the closest thing Florida has to the magnificent Taco Del Mar) and I had a naked burrito bowl — all the fillings, but without the wheat tortilla. That means rice, beans, and even corn chips.

I will admit, I’m burned out on eating out for a little while. It doesn’t help that a couple of days ago, I had some upset stomach issues that I’m pretty sure were food-related. That’s no fun. But our new fridge (and much larger freezer) are now stocked with meats, meats, meats, cheeses, meats, and some fruit and veg.

So healthwise, how is gluten-free January treating me? Just fine! Besides the stomach upset, my energy levels have been normal, and I’ve been relatively free of any bloating or gas (even after eating beans and rice). My weight, which I maintain between 130-133, has been bouncing around from 130.4 to 130.8 the last few days. Even with me eating the occasional potatoes, rice, beans, and corn.

Jambalaya Soup

File this one under both gluten-free and low-carb.

I can’t believe I haven’t posted this soup before. You know how there are some recipes you make all the time, and love, and you don’t even have them written down because you know them so well? This is one of those. So I’m going to give approximations on things like spices, since I’m used to just dumping in what looks right.

This soup originated as an actual jambalaya recipe. But when we went low-carb, we couldn’t do the rice part anymore. So I tried it without the rice, and it’s still just as awesome. I’m sure there are some jambalaya-ish things I’m leaving out (chicken, for one, because I’m just not a big fan) but since it started as jambalaya, the name remains for me.

This is the first big thing I’m cooking in my new kitchen. So much room! I got my mise-en-place all ready, then had to take a panorama photo of everything. My shorty soup pot, herbs and spices, some canned goods, and some chopped fresh stuff. Onward!

2 tsp olive oil
1 6-pack beef brats (or the sausage of your choice)
1 medium onion, diced
6 stalks celery, diced
1 Tbsp chopped garlic

2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp basil
1/4 tsp parsley
1/4 tsp garlic powder
2 bay leaves

1 can tomato sauce
2 cans/1 tetra-pak beef broth

15-20 raw shrimp

Heat up the oil on medium, then toss in the brats. I chop the sausage into little half-moons; I think that’s a nice size for a soup spoon. Let the brats render out some of their oil.

Toss in the onion, celery, and garlic. Let it reduce down some. Then throw in all the dry spices. I made educated guesses on the amounts for all of these, except the bay leaves. Those are easy to measure. If you’re nervous, go with half of my stated amounts, then taste and add more. I just eyeball and taste, eyeball and taste. You could also toss in some cayenne pepper, or some smoked paprika, or even some Tabasco for a little extra kick. I like to do a little shake of the garlic Tabasco. Next, add the liquids: two cans of broth, one of tomato sauce.

I used the larger tomato sauce can, which is 15 ounces. You could also do two of those little 8-ounce cans. The cans of beef broth are 14.5 ounces each, or you could do the 32-ounce box. It’s all close enough.

Let it simmer. It could simmer for 10 minutes, or an hour. Up to you.

But whatever you do, make sure the simmering is watched over by a quartet of tiny luchadors.

A couple of minutes before you’re ready to serve, add the shrimp. I get the raw tail-on ones from Coscto, thaw them in running cold water, then chop off the tails and cut the shrimp into 3 or 4 pieces. Again, nicely sized for the soup spoon. They only take three or four minutes to cook in the bubbling broth, then you’re ready to serve.

We do big ol’ mugs for soup. This really hits the spot on a cold day! Depending on bowl/mug size, you can probably get 5-6 servings out of this batch. Which means at least a couple of delicious soupy lunches later in the week.

Cat Update

So the cats are settling in to the new apartment really well. They’re such great cats.

The little deck is apparently fascinating as heck, but it’s been breezy here the last few days. So they’re anxious to go explore, but neither one likes being out in the wind. Hopefully we’ll have a still day soon, so they can really explore and enjoy all of the outdoor smells.

As for poor Commie, he’s doing pretty well. Still eating, drinking, purring, cuddling. His eye continues to look worse every day, and he had some bleeding a couple of days ago. But it doesn’t seem to be hurting him at all.

We had some couch-cuddling time earlier today, and he held still long enough for a picture:

I know, right? The front half is sealed shut and grown over, and kind of scab-encrusted. The back half is massively swollen and leaking some pus (the pus is something new today). We haven’t seen his actual eye for at least a week. What you can’t see from this front-on angle is the swelling all around, up on the brow ridge and below the eye.

So onward with the watching and the cuddling and the loving. The vet guessed “a few weeks”, and we’re at just about four weeks since that visit. Here’s hoping “a few” becomes at least “several”.

Moving Weekend

What a way to start 2011 — moving the house. Or, well, the apartment. At any rate, we moved all of our stuff from one off-white box to another off-white box.

Our reasons for moving were manyfold, but the primary one was the fact that we were paying too much at the old apartment. The market is soft here in Orlando, and everyone everywhere was lowering their prices. Our complex, however, offered to generously keep our too-(damn)high rent the same for another year, so we generously decided to move elsewhere.

Here’s the new living room, pre-move. We hit IKEA first and got a new couch, since our old one was old and hurtin’. Guess that’s what you get for buying a $180 loveseat. Although we loved that loveseat, so we just replaced it with a fresh $180 loveseat. For the record, it’s the Klippan with a discontinued zebra-print cover. I’m glad we bought an extra cover when they were closing them out, because it’s all solids and one weird cross-stitchy pattern right now.

We moved a ton of stuff on Thursday, with help from our fantastic friend John. Between him and Scott, it was like having two powerful gorillas hauling most of our stuff. Of course, I mean “gorilla” in the nicest possible way. We’ve been really gung-ho about throwing out or Goodwill-donating as much as we possibly can, because we’re total packrats who live in a thrift store in a Russian submarine. We left even more stuff at the old place, which will be sorted through during next weekend’s cleaningfest.

The last step was bringing the cats. They mewed pitifully all the way, then found a dark place to hide immediately. I anticipated their yearning for a dark place, so I cracked open the door of the linen closet for them. The first night, they were pretty disruptive, what with the meowing and scratching at boxes and constantly hopping up and down on the bed, but last night they settled in pretty well.

Most of the living room is now set up, as well as our desks. IKEA again, here’s my Expedit desk. I’ll fill the cubbyholes with books and such as we unpack them, but I’m guessing someone will insist that I leave one cubby open for her. And yes, that’s a screenshot of Bioshock as my desktop background. Bloody splicers.

I’m still going strong with gluten free January, and even though we ate out for several meals, there was always a great option. Here’s what I had at the always-tasty Fuddrucker’s. The lettuce is hiding the truly embarassing number of pickles I piled on the plate. They have some really good pickles.

Our moving-mate John introduced us to a new place, Greens & Grille, and I’m seriously sorry that you probably don’t have one in your neighborhood. It’s like a salad place meets a Mongolian grill — you pick what salad veggies you want, from carrots to artichoke hearts and anything in between. Then they toss it, grill up some fresh meat of your choosing, and it’s totes delicious.

We’re headed back to work today, after a 3-day break, so it’ll be interesting figuring out our new routes to and from Disney. Already it looks like I have three exits to choose from when coming home, so there will be some experimenting.